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BW Tokens Deck Analysis with Videos
Feature Article from Craig Wescoe
Craig Wescoe
5/24/2012 10:10:00 AM
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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
2 Mage-Blade
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:

1 Architect Aggro
1 Naya Pod
1 Mage-Blade
1 RG Aggro
1 Boros Humans

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:

4 Champion of the Parish
4 Doomed Traveler
4 Gather the Townsfolk

Among these, only Doomed Traveler is essential. The other two are more or less a package deal. If you cut Gather the Townsfolk, then Champion of the Parish does not have enough support to merit running him. Likewise, but to a slightly lesser extent, Gather the Townsfolk is not worth running if you don't have the possibility of using it to attack for 3 with a Champion of the Parish on the second turn. There are some alternatives to running the Champion + Gather package, and that is:

Evolving Wilds
Sphere of the Suns

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:

Hero of Bladehold
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Elspeth Tirel
Entreat the Angels
Sword of War and Peace
Divine Deflection

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.

4 Honor of the Pure
4 Intangible Virtue
4 Midnight Haunting
4 Lingering Souls

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:

Oblivion Ring
Go for the Throat
Doom Blade
Day of Judgment
Gut Shot

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 Batterskull Germ 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:

2 Vault of the Archangel
3 Swamp
3 Evolving Wilds
4 Isolated Chapel
13 Plains

(25 total)

And here is the more aggressive version's mana base:

2 Vault of the Archangel
4 Swamp
4 Isolated Chapel
14 Plains

(24 total)

Now let's consider our sideboard options.

Timely Reinforcements
Celestial Purge
Oblivion Ring
Divine Offering
Revoke Existence
Stony Silence
Mental Misstep
Grand Abolisher
Angelic Destiny
Memoricide
Surgical Extraction
Nihil Spellbomb
Shrine of Loyal Legions
Torpor Orb

…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.

Celestial Purge is a strong answer to the undying creatures from Zombies and Chandra's Phoenix from the red decks. It's also a passable answer to Huntmaster of the Fells and Inferno Titan. Given the way the metagame currently looks, I would advise against running these for now, but keep Celestial Purge in mind for times when red decks and black decks crop up again.

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).

Revoke Existence is another worthwhile card to throw in the mix of options alongside Divine Offering, Oblivion Ring, and Stony Silence. Like Oblivion Ring, it has the sorcery speed drawback, though it's less fragile and costs less. It's not as versatile since it can't hit non-artifact creatures or planeswalkers, but unlike Divine Offering, it can hit problematic enchantments such as Oblivion Ring, Honor of the Pure, Angelic Destiny, or Tempered Steel. Also unlike Divine Offering, it exiles the artifact, which is relevant against Wurmcoil Engine.

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.

Mental Misstep is pretty much exclusively for the Delver matchup. When testing Haunted Humans against Delver, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Mental Misstep were the best sideboard cards for the matchup. Thalia is not feasible in this deck because it will hurt us as much or more than it will hurt our opponents. Mental Misstep, on the other hand, fills much the same role in BW Tokens vs. Delver as it does in Haunted Humans vs. Delver. It stops their first turn Delver of Secrets or their later game Vapor Snag. Vapor Snag is better against the aggro version than it is against the non-aggro version since it's so good against Champion of the Parish, but there is still a pretty big difference between connecting with Hero of Bladehold and not. The big question is whether it's necessary to include such narrow hate for Delver or if the matchup is good enough by just bringing in more broadly applicable cards that solve specific problems, such as: Divine Offering and Oblivion Ring for Sword of War and Peace, and Timely Reinforcements to recover from early pressure as we turn the corner. In the aggro version, I would consider Mental Misstep, but in the version without Champion of the Parish, it's definitely not worth it.

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.

BW Tokens (Aggro) by Craig Wescoe
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Doomed Traveler
4 Hero of Bladehold
Creatures [12]
2 Doom Blade
4 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Honor of the Pure
4 Intangible Virtue
4 Lingering Souls
4 Midnight Haunting
2 Oblivion Ring
Spells [24]
4 Isolated Chapel
14 Plains (230)
4 Swamp (236)
2 Vault of the Archangel
Lands [24]
Deck Total [60]


4 Angelic Destiny
1 Divine Offering
2 Grand Abolisher
2 Mental Misstep
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Revoke Existence
2 Stony Silence
2 Timely Reinforcements
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


BW Tokens (Midrange) by Craig Wescoe
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Doomed Traveler
4 Hero of Bladehold
Creatures [8]
4 Elspeth Tirel
Planeswalkers [4]
1 Day of Judgment
2 Doom Blade
4 Honor of the Pure
4 Intangible Virtue
4 Lingering Souls
4 Midnight Haunting
4 Oblivion Ring
Spells [23]
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Isolated Chapel
11 Plains (230)
4 Swamp (236)
2 Vault of the Archangel
Lands [25]
Deck Total [60]


2 Angelic Destiny
1 Day of Judgment
1 Divine Offering
3 Grand Abolisher
2 Memoricide
1 Revoke Existence
2 Stony Silence
3 Timely Reinforcements
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


Enjoy!

Craig Wescoe
@Nacatls4Life on Twitter



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