Almost There: Abzan Tokens

Posted in How to Build on March 9, 2018

By Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Paulo has been playing Magic since he was eight years old. At fifteen, he ventured outside of Brazil for his first international tournament, and he's been globetrotting as a professional player ever since.

A while ago, token decks (both Abzan and Esper variants) went through a sudden surge in popularity. That surge was ultimately short-lived, as they were held down by two things: Rampaging Ferocidon, and counterspells out of the sideboard for Temur. Given that the bans in Standard have clamped down on both of those things (hitting the Ferocidon directly and weakening the energy decks that splashed counterspells), perhaps the time has come to give token decks another try.

This is a list that mishka0817 went 5-0 with in a Competitive Standard League:

mishka0817's White-Black Tokens

At its core, this is a control deck with a big tokens element, and the most important card in it is Hidden Stockpile. If you have just one copy of Hidden Stockpile in play, it's good but not great; you get a token every time you sacrifice Renegade Map or Evolving Wilds, and you can pay one mana to scry once a turn. Once you get either a second copy of it or an Anointed Procession, however, you're in business, as each sacrifice effect will net you two tokens, and every turn you can get a scry and an extra token for free. Since you're scrying so much, it doesn't take much time for you to find a third of one of those effects, at which point you'll have so many tokens that the game will spiral out of control for your opponent. It's important to remember that multiple Anointed Processions scale multiplicatively with each other—if you have two of them in play, you get four tokens instead of one. When you don't have Stockpile, you can also win with Anointed Procession and Adanto, the First Fort, which gives you two 1/1 lifelinkers per turn.

While I like the idea of mishka0817's list, I'd rather go a different direction in the execution. My current favorite build of tokens is Abzan, which is almost straight black-white but splashes for Vraska, Relic Seeker. Vraska is a great top end in this build, and it serves as a kill condition and a way to get rid of opposing permanents like Ixalan's Binding, Cast Out, God-Pharaoh's Gift, and even Anointed Procession if you're playing the semi-mirror. In a deck that is mostly synergy based, Vraska offers some welcome power, and it's the kind of card that can win you the game by itself even if the rest of your plan is disrupted, doing what basically The Scarab God does in other builds. On top of that, Anointed Procession works well with both of its abilities (you get double Pirates or double Treasures), and the green splash is mostly free, given that the deck is already playing four Renegade Maps and four Evolving Wilds just to trigger Hidden Stockpile.

After that, I'm a fan of Fumigate. It doesn't seem like having a sweeper would be the best in a tokens deck, but you're not a traditional tokens deck—you're a control deck with tokens. You don't care about destroying your own board, because it's so easily rebuilt with Hidden Stockpile (often in the very same turn), and you can actually use the life you gain from it.

To add those cards, I'd be looking at cutting the Regal Caracals. Even though you get synergy with Anointed Procession, you're not getting your money's worth if they kill the Caracal itself, and you don't want to make spot removal good against you—one of the strengths of the deck is that it's basically immune to it since every creature either is a token or comes back. Besides, I never feel like you truly need it, and Vraska, Relic Seeker is just a better finisher anyway. As a bonus, Vraska isn't vulnerable to The Scarab God. Past that, I'd probably cut some amount of mana sinks. Between Hidden Stockpile; Adanto, the First Fort; embalm; and expensive spells, there's usually no shortage of things to do with your mana, so you don't need to play both Profane Procession and Arguel's Blood Fast.

This deck is very good versus midrange strategies that attack on the ground, as it both runs sweepers and can generate basically infinite chump blockers. It's also good versus traditional blue-black control decks, as they simply don't have the tools to kill you in the late game. It struggles a bit versus fliers (though you have a lot of removal, so they need a critical mass to be able to go over you completely), and it struggles a lot against Approach of the Second Sun builds, since they can kill you through any amount of blockers. Right now, I think the metagame is particularly good for the deck, since most control players have been moving toward blue-black rather than white-blue, so I would give it a try if I were looking for another style of control deck to play. I think this deck is easily good enough to be able to win a major Standard event.

This is how I'd build it:

PV's Abzan Tokens

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