The Japan Metagame Diaries: Give me Back my Tokens!

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(Special thanks to my old friend James Miles for this awesome gif! He really brought my idea to life! The picture is from the movie Taken 2, featuring Liam Neeson. Used under Fair Use doctrine)

“I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know what you want, but if you want an instant win, I can tell you I don’t have combo. But what I do have are lots and lots of tokens. Tokens I have acquired over many turns. Tokens that make me a nightmare for decks without sweepers. If I don’t draw my token spells, that will be the end of it. You don’t have to block, but if you do, I will attack you more, I will make more tokens, and I will destroy your life total.”

You Can’t spell Amonkhet without “Token”

What would the world of Amonkhet be like without tokens? Well to me, it would be a lot less interesting. The new set has brought tons of new token creatures into standard, as well as amazing enchantments like Anointed Procession which double the number of tokens put into play from any effect. If more people don’t play tokens during this standard season, I’ll be severely disappointed. We all know what decks will be returning to standard this season (Vehicles, GB Constrictor, some form of Aetherworks, etc), but how will the new cards make an impact? Well, for one I think the hate cards printed in each of the colors are fantastic and should give new and old ideas alike a fighting chance against public enemies 1,2, and 3. I’d like to think that each of those old strategies are considerably weakened now, but we’ll have to wait 1-2 weeks to see how things play out. Until then, I have a lot of fun token brews for you to try out.

RW Tokens

Sram Dunk: 2nd Season
60 cards, 15 sideboard
8 Plains
4 Inspiring Vantage
4 Needle Spires
4 Mountain
3 Westvale Abbey
1 Hanweir Battlements


24 lands

4 Thraben Inspector
4 Hanweir Garrison
3 Selfless Spirit
3 Reckless Bushwhacker
2 Pia Nalaar


16 creatures

4 Servo Exhibition
4 Sram’s Expertise
3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 Stasis Snare
2 Blessed Alliance
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2 Insult // Injury


20 other spells

2 Collective Effort
2 Fragmentize
2 Declaration in Stone
2 Magma Spray
1 Release the Gremlins
1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
2 Skywhaler’s Shot
1 Fumigate
2 Harsh Mentor


Sideboard

 

Sram Dunk is back, and for the most part it is largely unchanged in the mainboard. I feel like it already does what it needs to do very well (go wide and attack with a swarm of tokens quickly). I’ve changed around the deck slightly since Felidar Guardian has been banned. Pia Nalaar is back instead of Thalia, Heretic Cathar, and Blessed Alliance is a much needed instant speed spell against dangerous attackers such as Heart of Kiran or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

The overall strategy is unchanged. You play lots of 2-3 drops early on, throw in something free with a Sram’s Expertise on turn 4, then use a Gideon’s Emblem or Reckless Bushwhacker on turn 5 to cut the other player deep (if not kill them). I’ve only added 2 cards which I’m not entirely sold on but think they’re alright. I moved 2 Declaration in Stone to the side board and in their place I’m using Insult/Injury.

Insult:Injury

Having 2 spells that can help your tokens deal double damage is almost the same as having another Gideon emblem or Bushwhacker emblem on the stack except it gets more powerful the more power you stack on your creatures. In an aggressive deck such as tokens, that’s exactly what you want. The Injury portion can be used as removal later on in the game, but hopefully you’ll be able to cast both sides in the same turn. It’s not amazing if you’re not playing it on the same turn, but 2 damage to a creature and to a player for 3 mana is good. Playing Insult for free off of a Sram’s Expertise then casting a Bushwhacker on turn 6 will make for some interesting blocking situations for you opponent.

I’m a little worried this leaves me open to aggressive strategies since I only have removal for creatures a few turns later in the game (Injury, Blessed Alliance, Chandra, Stasis Snare). I do have lots of blockers in this deck though, so I’m hoping I’ll be fine.

SIDEBOARD

There have been a few changes in the sideboard. First off, without Saheeli Combo I can switch to Magma Spray instead of Shock. This is huge against cards like Scrapheap Scrounger in various aggro decks, and  it’s also very good against Dredge decks that get more powerful with the banning and new cards from Amonkhet.

Harsh Mentor

The card I’m most looking forward to using and punishing Vehicle decks with is Harsh Mentor. It hurts Mardu Ballista decks the most, but also does a good job of adding up damage against Marvel Aetherworks, and is even decent against GR energy (which has quite a few activation effects). My other anti-vehicle cards such as Fragmentize and Release the Gremlins haven’t changed, but adding in both Mentor to this match up will make it harder for my opponent to keep up the pace of the damage race.

Declaration in Stone should be good for tokens, Collective Effort is good against GB decks, but also does well against Cast Out which I think will see more play. The same can be said for Skywhaler’s Shot (great against GR and GB), and the same can be said for the Cataclysmic Gearhulk/Fumigate combo against midrange/aggro decks.

BW Tokens

Sacrificial Lambs
60 cards, 15 sideboard
6 Plains
4 Shambling Vent
4 Concealed Courtyard
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Swamp
2 Westvale Abbey


24 lands
4 Thraben Inspector
4 Anointer Priest
3 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
2 Bontu the Glorified
2 Voldaren Pariah


15 creatures

4 Fatal Push
4 Start // Finish
4 Sram’s Expertise
3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2 Hidden Stockpile
2 Anguished Unmaking
2 Anointed Procession


21 other spells

2 Fragmentize
2 Collective Effort
1 Archangel Avacyn
2 Never // Return
1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
1 Fumigate
2 Sorin, Grim Nemesis
2 Transgress the Mind
2 Angel of Sanctions


Sideboard

 

When a new format starts, you can always expect there to be a lot of aggro decks. You’re going to need a lot of removal, and if you can swing it, some life gain. While it lacks the speed and damage capabilities of RW, BW tokens makes up for those shortcomings with synergy. You can still win by making tons of tokens and using a Gideon emblem to swarm an opponent, but BW makes sure that no creature goes to waste. Between Start/Finish’s Warriors and Sram’s Expertise’s Servos, there should be no shortage of tokens at your disposal. Once you have some excess token creatures at your disposal, the amount of ways you can beat your opponent multiplies.

Besides saving all of your tokens from being exiled with Declaration in Stone, Ayli and Bontu are like 2 peas in a pod. They are like best friends helping each other out. Ayli can turn Bontu into a creature at will, and Bontu can help you gain life to get you closer to 30 so you can start using the Kor Cleric’s devastating second ability. Whether it’s protecting your life total, draining your opponent for those final points of damage, or scrying to fix your draw for the next turn, they have you covered.

With all of these sacrifice effects, I figured that Hidden Stockpile seemed like some neat tech. If you and your opponent are at a stalemate, you’ll always have a creature to sacrifice when you need to. If you notice Hidden Stockpile’s text, it’s whenever a PERMANENT leaves the battlefield. Just like Fatal Push (which is also in this deck), whenever you crack a clue from Thraben Inspector, use Evolving Wilds to find a land, sacrifice a token, or even use a Gideon emblem you’ll get a creature. Just make sure this happens on YOUR turn.

Anointer Priest

Besides being the bane of all aggro decks, Anointer Priest is incredibly useful when you’re trying to hit 30 life as quickly as possible so you can use Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim’s 3 mana ability. This deck isn’t going to win by being overpowering, but rather by having more resources than your opponent and winning through attrition. Anointer Priest is a good blocker early on, and you can bring it back when it dies to keep you going. The main strategy of BW tokens is for your creatures to keep trading with your opponent’s while your removal takes out their other threats. Before they know it, your opponent will be surrounded. For added insurance, I have added Anointed Procession and Voldaren Pariah to make sure “the odds are forever in your favor”. The priest might just be overkill, but until I find a better two drop I’m going to keep her in there.

SIDEBOARD

BW tokens has your typical sideboard cards for these colors, namely board wipes and hand disruption (Transgress the Mind), and of course you’d want to have at least 1 Archangel Avacyn in this deck. It’s incredibly easy to transform, but I’m a little worried about her killing  every other creature I have so for now the Archangel is staying in the SB.

Never:Return

Besides being good against Mardu Ballista decks after they switch to a more planeswalker control deck, Never/Return also works well against Delrium or Dredge decks that are looking to bring cards back from their graveyard like Scrapheap Scrounger or Prized Amalgam. The fact that it gives you a token which works well in your strategy is icing on the cake.

Angel of Sanctions

Another card I’m excited about using in this deck is Angel of Sanctions. It’s a catch-all card that hits anything, especially planeswalkers (which I think this deck could struggle with). With Anointed Procession in the main deck, you’re looking at making 2-3 copies when you embalm it. I like this much more than Quarantine Field, even though it can be killed to stop the effect.

GW Tokens

Swarming Armies
60 cards, 15 sideboard
7 Plains
4 Scattered Groves
4 Canopy Vista
4 Forest
2 Shambling Vent
2 Westvale Abbey
1 Swamp


24 lands

4 Walking Ballista
4 Deathcap Cultivator
3 Tireless Tracker
2 Regal Caracal
2 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
2 Archangel Avacyn


17 creatures

4 Start // Finish
4 Sram’s Expertise
3 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
2 Blessed Alliance
2 Collective Effort
2 Anointed Procession
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar


19 other spells

2 Oketra the True
2 Declaration in Stone
2 Fragmentize
3 Cast Out
1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
2 Manglehorn
1 Fumigate
2 Angel of Sanctions


Sideboard

Green/white tokens has been a contender ever since Shadow Over Innistrad came out. When the Saheeli Combo was printed its days were thought to be done, but without having to worry about the combo the deck is now looking to make a comeback. The main benefit of playing a GW tokens deck over a RW or BW tokens deck is Nissa, Voice of Zendikar.

In GW tokens, it’s the +1/+1 counters that are the most important. You put them on Walking Ballista, Tireless Tracker, and with both Nissa and Collective Effort, you can put those counters on everything else. Your creatures become absolutely huge and it becomes a walk in the park to finish off the other player.

Anointed Procession

Ever since it was spoiled, I wanted to play Anointed Procession in a tokens deck, but which is the best? The biggest problem is casting cost. You need to have a deck that can slow down your opponent to allow you time to cast it, then you need to have a enough token producing effects to make it worth it. This GW deck has a mana creature that can put it out on turn 3, and both Regal Caracal and Ishkanah, Grafwidow are great cards to follow it up with. Perhaps it’s overkill in the main board that would be better served with another Gideon and Nissa, but it deserves a shot at seeing constructed play.

SIDEBOARD

Oketra the True

If there is any token deck that can play Oketra the True, it’s GW tokens. She’s a little too heavy for RW, and in BW you’re sacrificing too many of your creatures to keep her turned on, but in GW you can make TONS of tokens. Ishkanah, Regal Caracal, Sram’s Expertise, and Start//Finish should give you an ample amount of tokens to play and appease the cat god with. I think Oketra the True deserves a chance before we forget about her until rotation. The indestructible and token making makes her great for control match ups, and if she attacks she can hit really hard.

Angel of Sanctions is back again in this sideboard, as well as the other board sweepers, and being a green deck you simply have to play Manglehorn for those Vehicle/Ballista match ups. I’m thinking that maybe Cast Out should be in the main deck instead of those Anointed Processions since it helps with Ishkanah’s and the Cultivator’s delirium triggers if you cycle it, but I feel like I already have enough removal with Blessed Alliance, Never/Return, and pseudo-removal like Archangel Avacyn and Collective Effort (for bigger creatures).

UW Tokens

Never Forgotten
60 cards, 15 sideboard
5 Plains
4 Island
4 Prairie Stream
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Irrigated Farmland
2 Geier Reach Sanitarium
1 Westvale Abbey


24 lands

4 Hanweir Militia Captain
4 Spell Queller
2 Vizier of Many Faces
2 Angel of Sanctions


11 creatures

4 Servo Exhibition
4 Censor
4 Cast Out
3 Drake Haven
3 Gideon of the Trials
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2 Pull from Tomorrow
2 Blessed Alliance


24 other spells

2 Glyph Keeper
3 Fragmentize
1 Fumigate
1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
2 Negate
2 Declaration in Stone
2 Disallow
2 Baral’s Expertise


Sideboard

I have to admit, but the time I got around to brewing my UW Tokens deck, I was pretty much out of ideas. It’s a tough color to brew with. Do you go full on control? Do you go with tempo? How much card draw and counterspells do you need? Well, I tried my best and brewed around one of the most interesting token makers I’ve ever seen: Drake Haven

Drake Haven

In order to make Drake Have work, you need to have lots of discard or cycling effects. This deck has 16 (including lands, spells, and other effects). It’s borderline playable, but luckily a card like Geier Reach Sanitarium gives you chances to use the card over and over again. Drake Haven isn’t a fast card though, so do expect it to do any work until later in the game. What you need to do in the mean time is counter things with Censor or Spell Queller, exile them with Angel of Sanctions or Cast Out, or use Blessed Alliance to stay ahead in life.

Another way to give yourself enough time to start flooding the board with drakes is to use Gideon of the Trials. He prevents all damage early on, and if you have the chance to make an emblem, there are more than enough Gideons (7-9 if you include Vizier of Many Faces) to make sure you don’t suddenly lose to a huge swing of damage. The emblem makes every Gideon a target that must be taken out. While I feel like this deck is kinda weak, I think there are some parts of it that could transfer over into another archetype in the future. I think it’s something to look into if midrange becomes a thing.

 

But wait, there’s more!

It you take tokens out of Amonkhet, you know what you get? Ham. Nah, just joking, there are lots of other strategies that Amonkhet will power up or create. Tokens is just one archetype that I think gets a shot in the arm over the next few months. GW Tokens will probably end up being the biggest winner out of all of the archetypes, but I wouldn’t count out RW (which did well against GW tokens back a few standard seasons ago). I’m also excited to see how cycling/discard effects change BR Vampires and Dredge strategies. RW Humans should be back in full force, and past aggro decks like GR Energy could also make a comeback. As for control, I think blue/white has a chance, as does blue/black thanks to cards like Pull from Tomorrow.

We’ll have to wait until after the SCG Open this weekend and the Big Magic Open next Wednesday and Thursday in Yokohama, Japan to get a sense of what the metagame is going to be like going into the Pro Tour in two weekend. Next weekend there are triple limited Grand Prix so pretty much all the standard information we’re going to get is going to be from this upcoming week. I’ll be attending the Big Magic Open on Wednesday, so if you want to follow me on Twitter, I’ll be @yoschwenky. I’ll do my best to keep you updated on what the metagame looks like, as well what cards seem to be breaking out from Amonkhet. While the cap is around 400 players, I think it’s more realistic to expect between 250-300 players. I’d be surprised if more show up this close to GP Kobe (which is at the end of the month). If you have any requests please leave a comment down below or contact me directly on Twitter. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy these new brews!

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