By Carlos

Guess who’s back, and with exciting news?! Now that Andy’s started forwarding me some of the emails he’s been getting asking for help with decks I’ve got a little more material to work with, which ought to make my life significantly easier. The first email I’ve gotten was from Jesse, who’s working on a token beatdown deck, with Rhys, the Redeemed at the helm. Here’s the list he sent me, along with the kind of themes he’s looking to express in the deck:

Creatures

Reveillark
Immaculate Magistrate
Imperious Perfect
Vigor
Benalish Commander
Juniper Order Ranger
Birds of Paradise
Dowsing Shaman
Selesnya Evangel
Tolsimir Wolfblood
Dosan, the Falling Leaf
Luminous Angel
Forgotten Ancient
Seedborn Muse
Wirewood Channeler
Priest of Titania
Titania’s Chosen
Soul Warden
Llanowar Elves
Wilt-Leaf Liege
Mycoloth
Dauntless Escort
Acidic Slime
Elvish Archdruid
Oracle of Mul Daya
Joraga Treespeaker
Kazandu Tuskcaller
Ezuri, Renegade Leader
Rhys, the Redeemed  (General)

Enchantments

Murganda Petroglyphs
Gaea’s Anthem
Doubling Season
Glare of Subdual
Privileged Position
Ghostly Prison
Rite of Passage
Pacifism
Epic Struggle
Hunting Grounds
Mirari’s Wake
Aura Shards
Shackles
Glorious Anthem
Mark of Asylum
Beastmaster Ascension
Awakening Zone

Artifacts

Door of Destinies
Rings of Brighthearth
Everflowing Chalice
Selesnya Signet
Jester’s Cap
Eldrazi Monument
Skullclamp

Planeswalker

Gideon Jura

Instants and Sorceries

Idyllic Tutor
Austere Command
Hour of Reckoning
Reap and Sow
Solar Tide
Overrun
Altar of Bone
Cultivate

Disenchant

Flash Foliage
Decree of Savagery
Sprouting Vines

Lands

12 Forest
12 Plains
Vivid Grove
Vivid Meadow
Saltcrusted Steppe
Urza’s Factory
Temple Garden
Wirewood Lodge
Elfhame Palace
Wooded Bastion
Sunpetal Grove
Oran Rief, the Vastwood

So, the good thing here is that Jesse’s already got a ton of good G/W Staples. Doubling Season, Mirari’s Wake, Eldrazi Monument and other cards like that can be relatively pricey, and already having them means we’ve got a really solid place to start. Here’s where Jesse wants the deck to end up:

  • Aggressive Token Beatdown
  • Moderate Elf theme
  • Moderate Lifegain theme
  • Keep a relatively tight budget, but mention more valuable cards so he can start looking for them.

I want to preface this by saying that I’m not advocating making ALL of the changes discussed here. I’m just providing an overlook of different directions you could go, and how I’d go about making changes to the deck. With that out of the way, let’s get started!

The thing about token decks is that you need a perfect storm of token generation, Glorious Anthems/Overruns, and ramp to pump them out fast enough. So the first thing this deck needs is some ways to draw cards and tutor to make sure you hit a good mix of these cards so that the deck can function efficiently. We can cut some of the cards that don’t do terribly much to make space for some pretty standard card draw/tutors.

-Flash Foliage
-Titania’s Chosen
-Forgotten Ancient

+Harmonize (1.99)
+Regal Force (3.99)
+Primal Command (2.99)

Honorable Mention: Slate of Ancestry (0.89)

Cards Changed: 3

These are pretty pricey, but should be among the most expensive cards in the deck. They’re pretty important, too, so I wouldn’t skimp on them. Being able to draw into the pieces that you need to function is pretty important, especially in a deck that’s so draw-dependent.

Slate of Ancestry is a card I hear talked about an awful lot. Sometimes I’ve seen it be broken, and other times it sits sadly on the table because you can’t get enough token or mana to make use of it. I think this card is REALLY playgroup dependent. If your group doesn’t run a ton of wraths, this will be absolutely insane for you. If you’ve got a tough time keeping your guys on the board, forget it.

There’s another way you can slightly increase the consistency of your draws. That’s running more consistent mana ramp. Mana Elves and Mana Rocks aren’t THAT good in this format, just because they get wrathed away so frequently. Often, you’re better off playing straight up Rampant Growth than a Signet. With that in mind, let’s tweak the mana ramp a little:

-Selesnya Signet
-Llanowar Elves
-Birds of Paradise
-Joraga Treespeaker
-Sprouting Vines

+Kodama’s Reach (0.39)
+Explosive Vegetation  (0.49)
+Explore  (0.25)
+Skyshroud Claim (0.39)
+Perilous Forays (0.49)

Cards Changed: 8

These should help you ramp more easily and consistently from the midgame into the late game. I haven’t cut the elf-based accelerants yet, but they might follow suit soon enough, depending on how the deck develops.

So the next question is: what do you DO with that mana? Obviously plan A is to make ton of tokens. Here’s the thing that I have with this kind of deck: I don’t like to have heavy mana requirements in both colors. There aren’t many decks in which both Sacred Mesa and Ant Queen generate tokens efficiently.  You’re better off picking a color to be the primary token generation color, and splashing the other one for utility effects. Here’s what I’ve got for token generation:

-Plains
-Rite of Passage
-Kazandu Tuskcaller
-Luminous Angel
-Selesnya Evangel
-Dowsing Shaman
-Benalish Commander

+Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree (0.25)
+Elvish Promenade (1.99)
+Hunting Triad (0.25)
+Mercy Killing (0.49)
+Presence of Gond (0.25)
+Wren’s Run Packmaster (2.25)
+Ant Queen (0.49)

Cards Changed: 15

So, what I wanted to do here is emphasize green mana a lot more. And to focus in on Elves as the kind of token you want to make. This ought to interact more favorably with your lords, letting you cut back on overruns. It also makes your remaining mana elves infinitely better, and that in turn makes your Packmaster and Ant Queen a lot better. Now the question is, what do you do with all those tokens?  There’s a couple of things besides just beating down, thought that is the most important part.

The card I’m most excited about here is Mercy Killing. The card is MADE for this deck. Let’s say you use it as intended, as a removal spell. Your opponent gets a bunch of 1/1 guys, but you have beefed up tokens. Seems good to me. But you can also use it as a token generator and pseudo-overrun. Let’s say Tolsimir makes a Voja token and you Mercy Killing it. Instead of one 4/4 Voja, you’ve now got four 3/3 Elf Warriors. That seems a little better.

-Disenchant
-Shackles

+Diversionary Tactics (0.25)
+Nullmage Shepherd (0.49)

Cards Changed: 17

These are just a little more efficient and on theme. Cheap too!

Now on to the beatdown. How are you going to keep pressure on the board? What anthems are worth running, and which just don’t make the cut? Firstly, we can throw a few more ways to draw cards in here, so that you don’t run out of gas. Second, some recursion, and last we’ll tweak the number and kind of anthems you’re running.

-Glorious Anthem
-Decree of Savagery
-Immaculate Magistrate
-Juniper Order Ranger
-Door of Destinies

+Quest for Renewal (0.25)
+Konda’s Banner (1.99)
+Mirror Entity
+Garruk’s Packleader (0.25)
+Fecundity (0.89)

Cards Changed: 23

Quest for Renewal is a lot like Seedborn Muse, both of which are more effective in this new build that focuses on generating tons of mana, and sources of repeatable token production, limited either by how much mana you can make, or how many times you can untap your creatures. Konda’s Banner is just better than a Glorious Anthem most of the time, as is Mirror Entity. Packleader and Fecundity serve to keep you in longer games, and add to your draw power.

Last, but not least, let’s fit this lifegain Package in here and tweak some of your generic utility answers.

-Soul Warden
-Pacifism
-Ghostly Prison
-Hunting Grounds
-Privileged Position

+Ranger of Eos (3.99)
+Essence Warden (0.49)
+Heritage Druid (0.99)

+Oblivion Ring (0.89)
+Desert Twister (0.39)

Cards Changed: 28

Essence Warden is pretty much a strict upgrade from Soul Warden, since it’s an elf. Heritage Druid helps you make even MORE mana with the newly emphasized elf theme. Ranger of Eos tutors for both of these and your general if Rhys happens to be tucked. Oblivion Ring and Desert Twister are pretty much strict upgrades over the two spot removal spells you were running before. Now here’s the list I’ve got with all of the recommended changes:

Creatures
Rhys, the Redeemed  (General)

Ranger of Eos
Heritage Druid
Essence Warden

Ezuri, Renegade Leader
Imperious Perfect
Tolsimir Wolfblood
Wilt-Leaf Liege
Elvish Archdruid
Mirror Entity

Wirewood Channeler
Priest of Titania

Dauntless Escort
Acidic Slime
Oracle of Mul Daya
Reveillark
Vigor
Dosan, the Falling Leaf
Seedborn Muse
Nullmage Shepherd

Ant Queen
Wren’s Run Packmaster

Regal Force
Garruk’s Packleader
Mycoloth

Enchantments

Murganda Petroglyphs
Gaea’s Anthem
Mirari’s Wake
Beastmaster Ascension

Doubling Season
Awakening Zone
Presence of Gond
Quest for Renewal

Glare of Subdual
Diversionary Tactics

Epic Struggle
Aura Shards
Mark of Asylum
Oblivion Ring
Fecundity
Perilous Forays

Artifacts
Rings of Brighthearth
Everflowing Chalice
Jester’s Cap
Eldrazi Monument
Skullclamp
Konda’s Banner

Planeswalker

Gideon Jura

Instants and Sorceries

Idyllic Tutor
Harmonize
Primal Command

Austere Command
Hour of Reckoning
Solar Tide
Desert Twister
Altar of Bone

Cultivate
Kodama’s Reach
Skyshroud Claim
Explore
Explosive Vegetation
Reap and Sow

Hunting Triad
Elvish Promenade
Mercy Killing

Overrun

Lands

17 Forest
6 Plains
Vivid Grove
Vivid Meadow
Saltcrusted Steppe
Urza’s Factory
Temple Garden
Wirewood Lodge
Elfhame Palace
Wooded Bastion
Sunpetal Grove
Oran Rief, the Vastwood
Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree

So with that out of the way, what kind of more expensive spells would make the cut?

Gaea’s Cradle
Earthcraft
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary

Survival of the Fittest
Fauna Shaman
Genesis

Garruk Wildspeaker
Elspeth Tirel

Weathered Wayfarer
Deserted Temple
Vesuva
Mosswort Bridge
Windbrisk Heights
Selesnya Sanctuary.

Gaea’s Cradle and Earthcraft are both obviously nuts. They produce absolutely insane amounts of mana in the deck, but you’ll get along fine without them. If you find yourself craving mana for those stupidly broken turns, especially with an active Quest for Renewal or Seedborn Muse, start looking here. Rofellos is a close third, but isn’t really in the same class as Cradle and Earthcarft.

Survival of the Fittest and Fauna Shaman are both insane in green decks. Being able to turn mana elves into token generators and vice versa is a really powerful ability. Especially when you can tutor up genesis to buy back creatures that you want to reuse. Again, this is a really powerful effect, but isn’t necessary when you’re first building the deck.

Garruk and Elspeth both add some versatility to the deck. Elspeth is lifegain, token generation, and has a game-ending ultimate, but is a little pricey. Garruk isn’t as pricey anymore, is another overrun, and helps grind out the midgame with his ability to generate tokens, but he’s really not INSANE unless you’ve got a few more broken lands to abuse with him.

Now, the reason that Weathered Wayfarer and Deserted Temple make it onto this list is because they aren’t so good without the Ranger of Eos and other non-basic lands. Deserted Temple reuses Gaea’s Cradle or Wirewood Lodge, and Vesuva can copy either Deserted Temple, the lodge, or a hideaway land.  The Hideaway lands themselves are AWESOME in G/W, since that color combination doesn’t get a whole lot of card advantage. Sanctuary is there exclusively to bounce the hideaway lands if you whiff or have already activated them.

So that’s my take on the token beatdown plan.  You want consistent and efficient mana ramp so you can explode out of the gates; lots of card drawing and tutors so you can hit a good combination of token generation and overruns. Pick a color or type of token so that you’re not dividing your resources. If you want elf tokens, them go all in on elf tokens – it’ll make the deck more powerful and synergistic. Make sure you aren’t playing too many overruns and anthems. You have to have enough creatures to make those relevant.

And that’s another session of Arcane Lab. Hopefully Jesse found this quick deconstruction of the token archetype helpful. If you like what I’m doing, want to be critical, have some ideas you think I missed, or have another deck you want me to take a look at, hit me up at cag5383@gmail.com – I’d be glad to hear from you!

-Carlos