In the many weeks of playing Kaladesh to come, there's one question you can expect to face over and over again. You'll confront it with most Limited decks you build, and you'll probably even encounter it in Constructed. You'll stare at your card, look at your board, stare back at the card, and agonize a bit.
It's a common question in the world of Kaladesh. Your opponent might ask it of you as you cast your spell, buying you a few more seconds to think of your answer to this very important—yet very simple—question: "Counters or tokens?"
Fabricate is quite an interesting mechanic.
It poses a single choice to you every time you cast it—and that single choice can create a big change in the game. I can assure you it's quite relevant; while playtesting in Magic R&D, I've played numerous games where winning or losing hinged on deciding how I wanted to fabricate.
On the surface, it can even seem kind of random which option you might want to choose when. I mean, it's the same amount of power—who knows what might make it matter?
Well, turns out you might know more than you think about which option is the right one to pick.
With the Kaladesh Prerelease just around the corner, I want to arm you with the information you need to try and make the best decision you can at every turn. And while you can practically never have complete information, there are a number of things you can think about to help make the most informed decision possible.
Ready? Let's get right into it!
1. The Individual Card's Abilities
The first thing I would look for when weighing your decision is actually pretty straightforward, but is something you can easily overthink: what abilities does the creature with fabricate have?
For example, let's say the board is a bit clogged and kind of down to a ground stall. You're both playing off the top of your libraries. Fortunately, you draw and cast this friendly Human:
Do you choose counters or tokens?
Well, if the ground is clogged up anyway, the token isn't going to do much—and the extra power on a flier is going to matter quite a bit! I'd definitely want to choose the +1/+1 counter here.
Many of the fabricate creatures in Kaladesh have keywords that make you want to put the counters on them. Sometimes they're relevant, and other times they're not. For example, in the above situation, if your opponent also has a 2/1 flier, it's very likely your two flyers are going to end up trading. In that case, it could be worth making the token to squeeze out a bit of extra value. Think about how much the card you cast is being enhanced as you make your choice.
Evaluating completely independent of any context, a good rule of thumb is that it's usually slightly more correct to put the counters on the creature if you're playing this game more aggressively, and create the tokens if you're playing this game more defensively. Why? Well, let's say you play a Peema Outrider.
You play it and choose the token. Then your opponent plays a 4/4 creature—and suddenly, you can't attack at all! If you had the 4/4, you could have at least traded.
While a similar situation can happen on defense—you make a token expecting to play defense and they play a 3/3 they couldn't attack with if you had a 4/4—the reason I prefer the tokens when playing defense is that it gives you more blocking options and clutters the board, plus makes it harder for a removal spell of your opponent's to push through damage. (More on that later.)
Of course, that's all in a vacuum, independent of other cards and synergy, which isn't how Magic games are played. So let's take a look at that!
2. Synergies with Your Cards
After evaluating the card's immediate impact on the board, the next thing I think about is synergy in my deck. Often, in Kaladesh, this tends to fall on the side of the tokens.
If I have, say, a Gearseeker Serpent in my hand, then I definitely want the tokens!
The fact that the tokens are artifacts is relevant for a number of synergy pieces in Kaladesh, so if your hand or board has something that likes artifacts, the tokens can be a good choice.
But it's more than just artifacts: having cards like Inspired Charge in your hand can also point you more toward making the tokens.
In fact, it's about more than just having these cards in your hand; it's about having them in your deck!
If I know there's an Inspired Charge in my deck, even if it's not in my hand, I'm definitely inclined to make the tokens. If the choice is even close at all, I know that at some point, if I draw that Inspired Charge, having those tokens around is going to make a big difference!
Of course, the opposite can also be true. If your deck has ways to enhance your individual creatures, then perhaps you want one big creature to suit up. Most likely, there's a subtheme of cards that reward creatures with +1/+1 counters on them, and having the counter on your creature can pay off in a big way if you draw something like Armorcraft Judge.
As you build your deck, be thinking about how much you generally want artifacts and spare tokens versus size and counters. I usually like to know what my deck wants as a default, and then weigh the needs of the current board state against my set plan.
3. Avoiding Your Opponent's Cards
Of course, there's more to look at than just your own cards—there are your opponent's cards too!
One big downside of putting the counters on your creature is that it puts your eggs in one basket. If your opponent draws a removal spell for it, then you're going to be out the creature with no tokens to show for it. Even more of a feel-bad is if they have a bounce spell: you could have received so much value out of making the tokens!
If your opponent is pushing to try and deal damage, it can be particularly bad news—which, as I said earlier, is a small part of why I like making the tokens when on defense; it helps ensure you have something left if your opponent aims a removal spell at your blocker.
On the flip side, let's say you play Game 1 and see that your opponent has several three-mana 2/2s. Well, then playing your Glint-Sleeve Artisan as a 3/3 on turn three makes a lot of sense!
If your opponent has a damage-based sweeper card that deals damage to everything, that's another good reason to not make tokens.
As you play against your opponent, keep in mind what they can do to you. And when you shuffle up for the next game, make your fabricate decisions with their card choices stored away in your mental cache.
4. Blocking and Racing
Finally, the last thing it's important to think about is just how blocking might go down, and if you need the tokens to chump block.
First and foremost, if your opponent has a 1-toughness nonflying creature, it is often right to make a token. The token staves off that creature since it threatens a trade. Similarly, if your opponent has menace around, then the token is a nice bonus creature to throw in front of something menacing. (And as you're playing the first game, keep in mind what they play to help inform your decisions for Game 2.)
A cluttered board with more creatures tends to favor the defender. And also, sometimes you just need to buy time to race.
Now, in general, I don't recommend "chump blocking" (blocking with a token and not doing anything but preventing damage) unless you absolutely need to. But fabricate puts you in a unique position to buy lots of time.
For example, if you have a 2/2 flying creature and your opponent has a 6/8 Accomplished Automaton, it makes a lot of sense to make the tokens with Elegant Edgecrafters. That lets you block for three turns while you push through in the air—not to mention, you might even buy enough breathing room to attack in with the Edgecrafters as well!
Fabricate encourages you to think ahead and plan out your future turns wisely. Consider how combat might go over the next two or three turns, and then try to figure out if you want those tokens or the bigger creature.
How to fabricate is a choice you're going to be making a lot over the next many months, and hopefully this article laid a useful foundation for you to build from.
If you're curious to learn more on this topic, or just have some general questions, I'd be more than happy to hear from you! You can reach out to me on my Twitter on Tumblr, or email me at BeyondBasicsMagic@gmail.com.
Additionally, if any great situations come up as you begin to play with Kaladesh, definitely send them my way. I might even use them in a future article!
Have a great time exploring Kaladesh, and I'll talk with you again next week!