While it may have taken an unfortunate amount of banning to get there, Standard seems like it’s in a pretty great place right now. I had a fantastic time playing in GP Memphis. I played against 9 different decks in 12 rounds and almost all of the games had interesting decisions. I played B/W Tokens because I felt like the bad matchups would be on the downswing and the deck is capable of draws that are difficult for unprepared opponents to interact with.
I ended up going 9-3 (12-3 with byes) overall, losing to U/W Approach, G/B Constrictor, and R/G Monsters. Among those matchups, I was expecting to lose to U/W and G/B going into the event, while I thought R/G was a close matchup that could go either way. Over the course of the event, I beat U/W Cycling, U/B Control, U/B Midrange, B/U/G Midrange, Mono-Red three times, R/G Monsters, and a B/W mirror.
B/W Tokens is an engine deck that tries to establish an overwhelming board presence, and answer the opponent’s problematic flyers or planeswalkers with removal. Usually the games you win have you attacking with a bunch of tokens, but the actual attacking is typically a formality after you’ve established control. Let’s break down the important cards that make the deck tick!
Hidden Stockpile is by far the most important card in the deck. Anointed Procession tends to get a lot of the credit because it’s so flashy, but games where you cast a turn-2 Stockpile are the easiest. This is the Bitterblossom to your Faeries deck, and the Stoneforge to your Cawblade. I would almost never mulligan a hand that is capable of casting Stockpile regardless of the rest of the cards. A common trick is to play turn-1 Renegade Map, crack it on turn 2 and play a Stockpile, and then immediately net a token. In the later stages of the game, Stockpile also helps you ensure that you can continue to draw action by scrying for either more engine pieces or removal for problematic threats.
Landing is the secondary card that consistently generate tokens. It’s a bit harder to make work than Hidden Stockpile, and it uses more mana once it gets going, but lifelink tokens can actually be really nice at keeping you alive if you end up facing down something like a Rekindling Phoenix you can’t answer.
Start // Finish is one of the key cards I play that is not completely stock, and I think it is actually essential to making the deck work by giving you a much better chance of flipping Legion’s Landing in games where you don’t have Hidden Stockpile. It’s also worth noting that Finish can help enable revolt if you have Stockpile and need to remove a threat but don’t want to spend mana scrying.
Anointed Procession is a valuable part of the engine that is powerful, but nonessential. I think that a lot of people see it as the lynchpin of the deck, but that designation goes to Stockpile. I’ve had my opponents target me with Lost Legacy in post-board games and choose Procession, only to lose to the Stockpiles a few turns later. That being said, games where you can establish a token maker and Anointed Procession early are usually very easy and it does serve a valuable role in the deck. Don’t forget that they stack up very well (2 in play means four times the tokens, 3 means eight times) and that it works with all tokens including Vraska and Treasure Map Treasures.
One of my favorite tricks with Anointed Procession is to make a “bad” attack with my Servo tokens on turn 4 and hope that my opponent will block and give me a manaless revolt trigger, then slam Anointed Procession and put a pair of new Servos into play immediately.
Vraska, Relic Seeker
Vraska is an interesting card in this deck that is not an auto-include in many lists. I personally think she’s worth the cost because including a single Forest to fetch with Wilds/Map is not so bad and she offers a unique effect. This is particularly useful in post-board games when your opponent is doing more to break up your synergies, and having an individual card of such high power level can be really useful.
This card varies pretty wildly in value depending on the scenario. It’s usually at its best when you are racing against flying creatures or need a card that helps you get your engine restarted after an opposing Fumigate. Remember that you can always sacrifice the original creature to Stockpile if you have an Anointed Procession and want to make 2 token versions to gain a bunch of life.
These are your exiling removal spells and they’re all quite useful. Rekindling Phoenix is a really annoying card for this deck because you can’t effectively blank it with your ground blockers and Fatal Push and Finish are both not great at removing it. This deck is also sometimes weak to planeswalkers and the Oblivion Ring effects help a lot there. There are also a handful of decks (mostly the U/B variants) that are really soft to a resolved Profane Procession, so that card can kind of become a game plan by itself, hence the second in the sideboard.
Your generic removal spells. You don’t want to let yourself get run over early, or get destroyed by creatures with abilities that you can’t just ignore by blocking, and these two get the job done. Fumigate has been losing a bit of value lately with the rise of Rekindling Phoenix and planeswalkers as threats, but I think it’s still worth a few slots because of the game-changing effect it can have. Don’t hesitate to board it out if you think your opponent is going to have a post-board plan of mostly threats that are resilient to it. Don’t forget that Fumigate can help you buffer your life total in the mid-late game when you have things stable but don’t want to die to random Walking Ballistas or Glorybringers.
These are your fetchlands and they’re important for giving you a free revolt trigger with Stockpile in play. For that reason, you often want to not play Wilds until the later turns in your land-heavy hands and don’t really want to crack Renegade Maps until you’re actually in danger of missing a land drop. This is particularly important against control decks who often have to expend a lot of their otherwise useless spot removal on your random tokens, which can actually make it hard to have enough material in play to consistently generate revolt triggers.
You’re playing all these Deserts not because you have some great Camel synergies, but because they’re additional lands that can help you get revolt triggers. Shefet Dunes can occasionally shave a turn off of your clock, but its real use is to help your earlier (typically smaller) token armies take down planeswalkers. Ifnir Deadlands helps by letting you pick off random utility creatures and even sometimes just shrinking down flyers like Glorybringer or Phoenix can be quite useful.
Matchups and Sideboarding
Mono-Red is a pretty good matchup. They don’t interact with your engine at all and have a lot of trouble if their opponents can lock up the ground and gain a bunch of life. The main way you lose is to an unchecked flyer or a Chandra, so post-board you want to cut your slower cards and lean more on 1-for-1 removal to handle their hard-to-kill threats.
U/B Control/Midrange (and non-Constrictor B/U/G)
Another good bunch of matchups. These decks play out pretty similarly so I lumped them together. The specifics might change a little if they’re presenting you with a lot of early creatures that you actually want to kill like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, but the broad strokes remain the same. All of these decks have a really hard time beating a resolved Profane Procession and have few if any ways to interact with a Hidden Stockpile once it gets into play.
From there, the cards you need to worry about are again planeswalkers, and threats that generate value outside of the combat step like The Scarab God. If they’re really prepared for the matchup they might come packing River’s Rebuke, and that card is incredibly hard to beat, but luckily they’ll probably have at most one so your best bet is to hope to fade it.
G/R (or Naya) Monsters
This matchup has felt extremely close to me whenever I’ve played it. You don’t really care about their early explore creatures, which is why I recommend boarding out Fatal Push in favor of cards that fight over Chandra, Rekindling Phoenix, and Glorybringer. The games often come how much evasive damage they’re able to stick so protecting your life total is somewhat important.
One trick to watch out for is when you go to exile a Rekindling Phoenix with Cast Out or Profane Procession, try to do it either on your opponent’s turn, or when they’re tapped out. Their spot removal doesn’t have a ton of targets, and it’s a disaster if they get to kill their own Phoenix in response to an exile effect.
I think Approach is your worst matchup because they kill you in a way that completely ignores the game plan you’re trying to enact. Post-board you get to Lost Legacy them, and if you can resolve it you’re usually in a decent position to win, but overall, if you expect a lot of Approach, you should play a different deck.
The other matchup I’m not wild about is B/G Constrictor. They have a lot of creatures that you can’t really afford to chump-block and ignore between Winding Constrictor, Walking Ballista, Aethersphere Harvester, and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. This matchup feels like it should be more beatable from a sideboarding perspective, but I haven’t found anything super effective. It is also one of the main reasons I continue to have Fumigate in my main deck. Be sure to watch out for Blossoming Defenses! Try to use spot removal on your own turn so that you don’t end up taking bonus damage if they do have it.
The tokens mirror usually comes down to whoever can produce the most tokens per turn by combining Stockpile, Anointed Procession, and Legion’s Landing. To that end, you want to scry as much as possible, and use your removal effects to take out their engine pieces.
There’s also a weird thing where people underestimate how much the other person can beat down and spend too much time durdling with cards like Arguel’s Blood Fast and Lost Legacy, only to find themselves dying to a handful of 1/1s. Keep that in mind when considering how you want to have your deck look in post-board games.
One final piece of advice I have for playing with this deck is to invest some effort in actually acquiring enough of each token to play under “normal” circumstances. It’s obviously unrealistic to carry around 100 Servos on the off chance you make that many, but I think having 4 copies of every kind of token the deck can make will serve you well. Past that you can use dice to represent how many you have and the game state should be quite clear. Also be sure to do some practicing in paper before taking tokens to a big event—it’s a deck with a lot of fiddly mechanical actions and getting at least a little bit comfortable performing them will help you keep a good pace of play in the longer matches.
I hope this was helpful to all you would-be tokens players out there. My next Standard event is (depending on how Legacy goes) GP Seattle, and I can’t wait. Standard is finally in a very healthy spot and the tournament should be a ton of fun! Let me know if there are any other matchups you were curious about in the comments. Happy battling.