GW Tokens won Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad in the hands of Steve Rubin. After that, it was no surprise to see it as the most popular deck at Standard Grand Prix Toronto the following weekend.
What has come as a surprise is GW Token’s level of success despite the target on its head, and the amount of hate for the deck. Even after dominant performances at both the Pro Tour and Grand Prix Toronto, it fought through hostile fields to put 3 copies in the Top 8 of GP New York and 2 copies in the Top 8 of GP Tokyo.
Typically, a deck reaching this level of hype and popularity (especially early in a season) is short-lived. A deck becomes popular, and players begin to choose strategies and sideboard cards to foil it until things balance themselves out. This doesn’t seem to be happening with GW Tokens. This deck has cemented itself as the format’s best deck, and you’ll be seeing a lot of it in the coming weeks.
Player of the Year Mike Sigrist used GW Tokens for his 15-0 run in the Swiss rounds of GP New York. 15-0!
Looking at his deck list, it’s not a mystery why GW Tokens is a powerful deck and why it’s difficult to hate out. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar was one of the best single cards to survive the rotation. Archangel Avacyn is almost certainly the best card printed in Shadows over Innistrad. Round things out with another cheap planeswalker, the most efficient early-drop creatures in Standard, and a consistent mana base, and you have a killing machine.
How Does GW Win the Game?
It’s fairly obvious on paper why all of the best white and green cards go in GW Tokens, but slightly less obvious how the games actually play out when you shuffle things up. Part of the reason GW is so difficult to beat is that it attacks from a lot of angles at once and is adept at stealing games, even from opponents who are able to neutralize the first wave of attack.
Plan A: Planeswalkers
The easiest way to win a game of Standard is to put Gideon, Ally of Zendikar into play when you’re even or ahead on the board. The card is simply so punishing, and unloads damage so fast that it often makes games feel completely noncompetitive.
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is no slouch herself. She comes down early, ticks up to a high loyalty, and protects herself by making chump blockers. Combined with efficient creatures, removal, and of course, her partner in crime Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, she can help GW get very far ahead in a game very quickly.
If you want to beat GW, the first thing you need to do is be prepared for a fast planeswalker curve-out.
Plan B: Secure the Wastes (and Westvale Abbey)
When Plan A fails, Secure the Wastes is the get-out-of-jail-free card. Many Standard decks cannot beat Ormendahl, Profane Prince. Even without Westvale Abbey, Secure the Wastes can combine with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Nissa to output tons of damage, or can simply finish off a weakened opponent by sneaking through the last few points.
Plan C: Archangel Avacyn
This one comes up very often against weenie creature decks like Humans or Collected Company decks. GW Tokens plays the full 4 copies of Archangel Avacyn, and transforming her is often an important part of the game plan. They can use Hangarback Walker for 0 or Evolutionary Leap to trigger Avacyn at their convenience, or they can simply navigate their combat steps in a way where the opponent has no good choices.
Even against decks without small creatures, Avacyn is still a hard-hitting flash threat. You’ll want to come prepared to beat her.
Plan D: Good Old Fashioned Beatdown!
Let’s not forget that even with all of its tricks, this is still a GW creature deck. Sylvan Advocate comes down early and hits hard in the late game. Even when Gideon, Ally of Zendikar doesn’t stick around, he’ll leave behind a Knight token or an emblem. When Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C all fail to come to fruition in a nice, clean way, GW Tokens will take pieces of all of them, and find a way to put together 20 damage.
What to Do
You’ll have to be prepared for all 4 of the above plans if you want to consistently come out on top against GW. Let’s go into a bit more detail on how to do that.
- Don’t let the planeswalkers survive. The best thing to do is to have a mix of your own creatures to fight on the board, as well as some direct answers like Ruinous Path. Duress and Transgress the Mind don’t hurt, either.
- Don’t wait around for Secure the Wastes to kill you. Board sweepers and answers to Ormendahl are a good start, but that won’t completely counteract this devastating spell. It’s even better to put a stop to things before the GW player even untaps with the tokens. Virulent Plague, Duress, Negate, and Hollowed Moonlight are a few good options.
- The same goes for Avacyn. You really don’t want to take a hit and answer her at sorcery speed every time. Ultimate Price, Stasis Snare, and Clip Wings are great. Grasp of Darkness will sometimes work, but watch out for Gideon, Ally of Zendikar making an emblem.
- Protect your life total and make sure you don’t fall too far behind on the board.
- Good cards against GW include: Eldrazi Displacer (answers Ormendahl and gives you control over the battlefield), Virulent Plague (Secure the Wastes, Hangarback Walker, planeswalkers), Clip Wings (Ormendahl, Avacyn), Dragonlord Silumgar (great against Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and can swing a game in your favor when it goes unanswered).
- Good deck choices include: White Weenie (be faster); 4-Color Collected Company (dominate the board with Eldrazi Displacer), Grixis Control (play carefully, and don’t leave yourself open to any of their angles of attack).
What Not to Do
- Don’t play a creatureless control deck. The combination of flash threats and planeswalkers is too much to overcome. You need to be more proactive.
- Don’t overdo it on spot removal or on board sweepers. The name “GW Tokens” can sometimes be deceiving. Unlike other tokens decks, you can’t simply load up on board sweepers and expect to win. You’ll need a diverse answer suite if you want to be prepared for everything they can throw at you.
- Don’t be helpless against Tragic Arrogance or transformed Archangel Avacyn. Being fast against GW is a good plan, but they come prepared with big spells that can quickly swing a game in their favor. If your deck wants to have a lot of creatures on the battlefield, you’ll need a plan against those cards.
I hope that this will help you get your footing against the best deck in Standard. It’s a lot to take in, but if it were easy to beat GW, then I likely would’ve been writing about an entirely different deck today instead! If you can successfully walk the tightrope and neutralize all of their angles of attack at once, then you’ll be able in great position to do a lot of winning in Standard over the next few weeks!