Modern Spotlight: B/W Tokens
Tokens has been a strategy in modern that has always flown under the radar, despite often being a deck that performs better than expected based on the number of players fielding it at larger events. This is one of the most fair strategies in the format and is open to disruption in that it really hurts to lose your anthem effects, but if they cannot interact with your anthems they will have a very hard time dealing with your horde of token creatures.
The biggest advantage tokens brings is that they have a great matchup against the Abzan decks that are emerging as one of the strongest decks in the format as well as affinity which is always a strong contender. Decks that rely on 1 for 1 removal to push through damage will not fair well as they are trading 1 card for 1/3 or 1/4 of yours. Liliana of the Veil also lines up very poorly against the deck, as her -2 is not very good and her +1 risks just having you pitch a Lingering Souls that can just be flashed back anyway. Excellent hand disruption options give you the ability to combat combo decks, and built in life gain thanks to Vault of the Archangel and/or Sorin, Solemn Visitor will give aggressive strategies fits.
Even with the discard options given by playing black, you are probably at a disadvantage against most combo decks. Pulling the last piece of the combo off the top has always been the weakness of discard as opposed to counterspells, and tokens is often not the fastest method of winning the game so they may have plenty of time to assemble their combo. A lot of this deck’s power comes from being able to amass a horde of token creatures and then pump them with an anthem effect, which makes the deck weak to Abrupt Decay if you’re in a position where you need to race. Sweepers are also problematic for the deck, so after game 1 you may run into issues with being wiped out. However, a good hand makes sweepers less good, as a single token generating card can generate a fast clock if you can keep 1 or 2 anthems in play.
Intangible Virtue vs. Honor of the Pure
One of the defining aspects of any tokens deck is whether they want to use Intangible Virtue or Honor of the Pure as their anthem of choice. Usually this depends on how many non-token creatures you are playing, such that Honor of the Pure is much more appealing if you are playing cards like Tidehollow Sculler, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, or Hero of Bladehold. If you are entirely planning to win on the back of token creatures, however, Intangible Virtue has the added perk of giving vigilance and opens you up to better use the token creatures from Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, and/or Bitterblossom.
The Virtues of Bitterblossom
Sorin, Solemn Visitor has really opened up the use of Bitterblossom in this kind of strategy, as losing life to create an army of flying, hopefully vigilant, token creatures is no longer an issue. Below I’ve included a sample list of the maindeck for a Bitterblossom based deck:
Without the sideboard this deck comes in slightly under $500, and is certainly competitive against the mainstream decks you would likely find at a SCG Open/Premiere IQ or GP. You could also shave some of the price off the deck easily by replacing Marsh Flats with Flooded Strand, as the ability to fetch up a Plains is much more important to the strategy. Some of the other dual lands could also be replaced by Caves of Koilos.
Now to take a look at the more traditional build of B/W tokens, which focuses much more on using Honor of the Pure.
This version of the deck shaves over $100 off the price, and could be cut even more with similar changes to those listed above. The other big change that could be made is the removal of Brimaz, King of Oreskos for any number of other cards, such as filling up to 4 copies of Raise the Alarm. Larger amounts of hand disruption make this version better against combo decks, though less good against the long grinds you’ll have against midrange strategies.
White gives you a large number of great sideboard options:
- Runed Halo: Great in that it has very wide ranging applications. Super versatile card.
- Aven Mindcensor: Tron and Scapeshift. Less good now that Birthing Pod is no longer legal.
- Eidolon of Rhetoric: Living End and storm.
- Burrenton Forge-Tender: Stops Pyroclasm / Anger of the Gods.
- Stony Silence: Hurts affinity and tron.
- Leyline of Sanctity: Tons of stuff, from targeted discard to burn to mill.
- Timely Reinforcements / Kor Firewalker: Burn.