Last week I wrote about Haunted Humans and how I believed it would be a good choice for Grand Prix Minneapolis. As it turned out, there were two decks in the Top 8 that were distinct hybrids between Haunted Humans and UW Delver. So while Haunted Humans did not break into the Top 8, there was evidence to suggest that such a deck (or at least something similar) was reasonably positioned to do well in the event. Also, I ended up not going, which may have skewed the data (joking). (Naw, that definitely skewed the data! :D - Frank)
This week I am going to talk about BW Tokens. Since most of the decks in the format are either Block Constructed decks ported over to Standard or old Standard decks with minor AVR improvements, I figure tuning a deck that was deemed too powerful for Block Constructed may be a good avenue to explore. I'll offer two different versions of Black/White Tokens, each of which I believe is viable.
Current Standard Metagame
In Grand Prix Minneapolis we had the follow decks in the Top 8:
1 UR Delver
1 Architect Aggro
1 Wolf Run Ramp
1 Delver Humans
1 Solar Flare
1 Esper Tokens
While Haunted Humans per se didn't do well, there were plenty of humans and quite a bit of haunting in the Top 8. Josh Utter-Leyton chose to go the route of Lingering Souls instead of Moorland Haunt while Rick Stout played a deck similar to the one Sam Black piloted at Grand Prix Orlando - a mix between Mage-Blade and Haunted Humans. The fact that these two decks flourished leads me to believe something like Haunted Humans, if not Haunted Humans, is well-positioned enough to win in the current metagame.
While Grand Prix Minneapolis was going on, there was an SCG Open in Orlando also taking place. In that tournament my prediction for the weekend came true as Wolf Run took home the title. Not only that, but three of the four decks in the semifinals were Wolf Run! The other five decks in the Top 8 included:
With Wolf Run Ramp performing well this weekend, I would expect its numbers to rise this coming weekend. Then people will remember the deck exists and come prepared to beat it. Until that happens, however, I would consider going a route other than Haunted Humans, at least for next weekend. I would recommend taking another look at BW Tokens.
Individual Card Breakdown
There is some room for variation when building BW Tokens, mostly depending on how aggressive you want to be. In Salt Lake City I ran a streamlined aggressive version sporting the following early drops:
If you're not committed to the aggressive plan, you can afford to play Evolving Wilds on the first turn. This gives your deck better mana but also forces your other cards to do more work in the midgame. In a world of Wolf Run and/or control decks, this slower approach is superior. Speaking of high end cards, you have some options in that regard as well:
If you're running the aggressive version, you want to top out at no more than 4 four-drops, and Hero of Bladehold is pretty much always the best one, though Divine Deflection certainly has its merits. If you're running a slower version, you need to run more of these high-end cards to make up for the fact that your opponent will be at a higher life total than they would be against the more aggressive version. Of these, I think I like Elspeth Tirel the best, but they each are reasonable options.
The anthem effects and three-mana flying token generators are pretty much untouchable. You have to run all 8 copies of each because that's the major game plan of the deck.
The removal spots in the deck are also somewhat fluid. The number 4 generally feels correct since you often need one removal spell each game, and when you draw 2 or 3 it's usually fine. When you start drawing more than that, you become susceptible to all sorts of different threats that no specific removal spell can handle all of at once. The removal options are as follows:
Even in the more controlling builds, I don't advise running too many copies of Day of Judgment maindeck. It's a fine sideboard card, but there are too many times (on the play) and too many decks (control, ramp) where you don't want it in your deck. One or two is reasonable though in the less aggressive builds. Ditto for Gut Shot in the more aggressive builds. The other 3 are all reliable options right now. Oblivion Ring is the most versatile, but also the most expensive and the most fragile. With the rise in popularity of Grand Architect decks and hence Wurmcoil Engine, as well as Golem Tokens in Naya Pod, I think straying away from Go for the Throat would be wise. Doom Blade is efficient and only bad against Zombies, which I do not expect much of. It also can't kill a BatterskullGerm Token, which sometimes comes up. The only reason I would not run 4 Oblivion Rings in this spot is because we really want to be playing a token producer at three mana. So the 2-2 split between Oblivion Ring and Doom Blade is reasonable.
You want between 23 and 25 lands in the deck, depending on how aggressive you are and how many Sphere of the Suns you're running. I ran 24 in my aggressive build in Salt Lake City, with the 25th in the sideboard, and I was happy with that number. The only time I wanted 23 lands is against Delver decks post-board when I don't have any four-drops left in the deck. A good main deck configuration is 24 unless you're a slower build without any Sphere of the Suns main deck, in which case you would want the 25th land main.
Here's how the less aggressive version's mana base would look:
…and any card you are running between 1 and 3 of main deck.
Timely Reinforcements is generally our best sideboard card against aggressive decks such as GR Aggro, RDW, Haunted Humans, or Zombies. If we're not gaining both bonuses, it means we're not dying (and hence winning). If we are gaining both bonuses, it generally means we're adding 6 power to the board and gaining 6 life, which is pretty backbreaking against any aggro deck. The only card we then have to worry about is Sword of War and Peace. So between Stony Silence, Oblivion Ring, and Timely Reinforcements, our aggro matchups look pretty strong. The only downside is that in the more aggressive version, we sometimes get into a race situation where we have to slow things down and make some odd lines of play in order to get Timely Reinforcements to work (but it's still fine). In the less aggressive version, Timely Reinforcements is almost always ridiculous.
Oblivion Ring is our all-purpose answer to whatever problematic card the opponent plays. The number one target is Sword of War and Peace, though it does a fine job answering Hero of Bladehold, Planeswalkers, Titans, Huntmasters, various large wolf-like green creatures, and transformed Delver of Secrets. I suppose Unburial Rites targets would also be a good target. The only real drawbacks of Oblivion Ring are its fragility (dies to enchantment removal and other Oblivion Rings) and its mana cost. Three is the spot most occupied on our curve, so having to spend the turn removing their threat with Oblivion Ring generally means we aren't advancing our board at all. Fortunately in the aggro build it means we essentially gain an extra attack while dealing with their threat, and in the less aggro build it means we can start playing our larger threats more immediately like Hero of Bladehold and Elspeth Tirel. I would not run less than 2 main deck, and not less than 3 between the main and side.
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Divine Offering answers Sword of War and Peace or Runechanter's Pike better than Oblivion Ring or Stony Silence because you can hit it at instant speed the turn they play and equip it. This saves quite a bit of damage, while gaining some life in the process. The drawback is that it's not as versatile as the other two. It can't hit creatures and planeswalker like Oblivion Ring can, and it can't proactively stop Ratchet Bomb from clearing your board like Stony Silence can. The question largely comes down to space issues and diversifying your answers. There's not enough room in the sideboard to fit in adequate answers to every problem card, so sometimes it means playing less optimal answers to a wider variety of problems (i.e. Stony Silence can't stop already-attached equipment).
Stony Silence, as far as I can tell, is the best solution to Ratchet Bomb in the format. Since the number they almost always want to blow it for is zero, artifact removal doesn't work (since they just sacrifice it for zero in response). Stony Silence also doubles as reasonable answers to equipment such as Runechanter's Pike and (more importantly) Sword of War and Peace. I don't like running more than 2 since redundant copies do nothing short of provide insure in case the first one gets removed. If I know that the opponent has 3-4 Ratchet Bombs, I want 3 copies, but most people only run 2 copies of Ratchet Bomb if any. So my plan is usually to side in 2 copies of Stony Silence in the dark every single round in hopes of stopping opposing Ratchet Bombs while also picking up incidental value by turning off equipment, shrines, and Birthing Pods. One downside to Stony Silence though, is that it turns off your own Sphere of the Suns if you decide to go that route.
Grand Abolisher is another card from Haunted Humans (in the days prior to Cavern of Souls) that excels against Delver, turning off their counter-magic on your turn, as well as forcing them to use their Snapcaster Mage on their own turn instead of on yours. Resolving Elspeth Tirel becomes much easier when you have Grand Abolisher in play, and it's also nice to know your Lingering Souls is never getting countered - or worse - dissipated. There is a bit of anti-synergy between the Abolisher and Timely Reinforcements, but if you have the Abolisher active, you're probably not in dire need of resolving Timely Reinforcements. I haven't tested this enough to know for sure, but it seems better than Mental Misstep against Delver (in BW Tokens, whereas in Haunted Humans I think Mental Misstep is probably better).
Angelic Destiny is a sideboard strategy for the Wolf Run matchup that I ported over from Haunted Humans. It worked really well in that matchup, but I haven't seen it in action enough to know for sure if it's better than something like Memoricide. I suspect the tokens deck has a better chance of simply fighting head-to-head with Wolf Run in the midgame, given that we are much less susceptible to Slagstorm and Whipflare than is Haunted Humans, but nobody online seems to be playing that deck, and that's where I've been doing most of my testing. I suppose I'll have to test the matchup on my own to find out for sure. As of right now, we'll leave this one as an open question. Has anyone else tested it or would like to test it on their own and explain in the forums which sideboard plan worked better for BW Tokens vs Wolf Run (or if you found some other strategy that works)? Any insight into this matchup would be appreciated.
Surgical Extraction and Nihil Spellbomb are answers to graveyard strategies. Frites is not so popular anymore, but Solar Flare keeps on keeping on. Snapcaster Mage is still the most dominant card in the format, so having some way to interactive favorably against would be very useful. The Spellbomb yields card advantage but requires more setup than Surgical Extraction. Extraction works under Stony Silence though, which is very relevant since we're bringing in the enchantment to answer opposing equipment and potential Ratchet Bombs. Grafidgger's Cage is not really a good option because it shuts off our Lingering Souls from flashing back. The question is whether Surgical Extraction is worth the sideboard space or whether fighting Delver and reanimation decks on a different front is the better approach.
Shrine of Loyal Legions is strong against control decks, unless their plan involves Elesh-Norn, Grand Cenobite. Even then, you could set up a line that involves playing Doom Blade during their end step, then sacrificing the shrine, and untapping to attack for lethal (with an Intangible Virtue in play or whatever). This may be a viable plan, but I'm not sold on it being the best one just yet.
Torpor Orb is excellent against the Birthing Pod decks, especially Naya and Bant, and it doesn't affect us in the slightest. It's still pretty narrow, and you have to get it down quickly. Generic removal may be better, and Day of Judgment is probably better still.
Here are some videos I made that showcase the deck in action:
BW Tokens vs Naya Humans
BW Tokens vs. Mage-Blade (aka. UW Delver)
BW Tokens vs. Esper Control / Solar Flare
BW Tokens vs. BW Humans
Last but not least, here is the aggro version and the more midrange version of BW Tokens I've settled on after testing. I currently prefer the more midrange version, mostly because of Elspeth Tirel, but they each have their merits.
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