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Jeremy sent Matt and I a message on our instant messenger, "Esper, UB, UB, Esper, UB. We need to switch it up you guys!" And he's right. We've been so focused on UB and Esper recently that we seemed to have completely forgotten that there are other colors in the color pie. So! That said, I'm going to be taking a look at Dr. Manatee's best of one (I'm assuming) deck list, GW Tokens.
While playing this deck, I found that there were moments of glory and moments of head scratching. Before we dig deep into it, lets take a look at the list.
In the creature package we are running 4 Llanowar Elves for mana ramp, 3 Legion's Landing for a turn 1 lifelinking Vampire, 4 Saproling Migration and then 4 Hero of Precinct One. A play set of Emmara, Soul of the Accord and 3 Trostani Discordant also make in this list.
As you can see, every creature here, except for Llanowar Elves, has the ability to create creature tokens. We are looking to go wide with this list, swinging in and flipping our Legion's Landing. It is a simple game plan, but an effective one, especially when we are able to anthem our team with spells like Tostani, or a few brand new additions to the format.
We do have some new anthems in the format with 4 Pledge of Unity and Ajani, the Greathearted. Both are spells that not only will gain us life, but will also gain us some board presence by adding power to our creatures on the battlefield. I do like these cards, and I have to say, Pledge of Unity is definitely a card that does some serious work.
We also get another unique anthem in the form of Flourish. This card can produce a lot of power out of no where, but it is 6 mana at sorcery speed. It forces us have a board presence already before we can commit to it. Flower is much more likely what we'll be casting with this split card. Being able to tutor for a land is imperative as an early game play, and it combos nicely
We do see a few pieces of removal in this list. We have 3 Conclave Tribunal and 1 Cleansing Nova. Both of these cards are fine, Tribunal combos with our Emmara, Soul of the Accord, as well as with our Ajani, the Greathearted as it grants vigilance to our creatures, allowing us to fully swing in. Conclave Tribunal is a great way to deal with our opponent's planeswalkers, creatures, and Wilderness Reclamation and Search for Azcanta.
That said, I'm having some troubles with the list.
The list unfortunately doesn't seem to have a fully consistent viewpoint it is trying to run at. Generally, if we want to Hero of Precinct One, we don't want to run so many single color spells. Hero generally just sat out on the field waiting for me to find a spell that would utilize its ability. I think there are better options for the slot, or we should build more around the multicolor theme, if that is the direction we want to go.
For instance, we could use something like Assure//Assemble in order to protect our Hero (or other creatures for that matter). In addition, Assemble can be an amazing late game option for us to create a few 2/2 Elf Knight tokens with Vigilance in order to refill the board. Speaking of refilling the board with Elf Knights, we could also consider Conclave Cavalier. This card is a great body for the mana cost, a 4/4 for 4 is already a great deal, then it is even more powerful with Vigilance and it's death trigger tacked on.
We even have some multicolored removal spells that we could consider. We could play Thrash, for GG we'd get an instant allowing 1 of our creatures to super fight a creature or planeswalker an opponent controls. We could also run Response, for WW we'd get a spell that does 5 damage to target attacking or blocking creature. We'd also have access to another 5 drop in Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves. Not only does this creature create a 3/3 token whenever it enters the battlefield, but it also allows you to have that wolf fight another creature you don't control (and you gain 3 life). Some truly great instant interaction. What these cards all have in common is that they actually are all multicolor, just Thrash and Response are in different slivers of the color pie.
We could also go the other direction and focus on value. Since we are gaining a ton of life in this deck, we should probably consider something like Dawn of Hope. Not only does this enchantment give us early to late game card draw potential, but late game it can fuel itself if you get stuck in a land pocket. Or we could run Spore Swarm a 4 mana instant that gives us 3 Saproling tokens. The basic take away for me is that Hero just isn't cutting it in this deck as it is, it either needs significant rework or to drop the Hero all together in place of some other spells.
My other thing that I felt was a bit of a nonbo was trying to run Emmara, Soul of the Accord with the new Ajani. At a glance, it seems okay, you can buff up your creatures with an Ajani minus activation, so you can get a more resilient Emmara, only to realize that since Ajani grants vigilance to our creatures, Emmara doesn't actually tap to get our token. We have to use our very few and far between convoke cards to allow us to tap Emmara for the value. So, while Ajani is a great card, and could be some real fun in this list, I don't think it is the card we should choose.
Instead, I think we need to dive deep and go back to Rivals of Ixalan and go with Huatli, Radiant Champion. One of the bigger issues with the deck is the apparent lack of card advantage. Huatli gives us the ability to push towards more and more cards with each enter the battlefield trigger of our creatures. And since we are going to have a ton of tokens, plus often having the ability of using Adanto to produce more whenever we want, we have the potential to draw so many cards. Not to mention, we can use Huatli's minus 1 ability to give one of our lifelinking tokens a large buff, swinging in for tons of damage and gaining us a ton of life (or on our Emmara to give her enough toughness to swing in for damage each turn).
Other than that, I feel like our removal was a bit slow. I'd keep the 1 of Cleansing Nova, but we should consider running Baffling End or Seal Away in place of Conclave Tribunal, I'm just not sold on it. It never seemed to do anything for me whenever I needed it. If we want to take out planeswalkers, perhaps we consider going with Prison Realm. It is nice that we'd get a scry off of the enchantment while also temporarily dealing with our opponent's creatures or planeswalkers. The problem is, we just don't have a ton of great answers in the format for our colors, and the ones that we do have can easily be removed by our opponents.
What about a sideboard?
So, lastly let's take a look at if we wanted to bring this into best of 3 and see if we can come up with something for our sideboards. With all of the planeswalkers running around, I'd probably run 2-3 Sorcerous Spyglass, a great 2 mana way to deal with our opponent's problematic permanents that as well as gaining valuable information about their hand in the process.
If you aren't going to run Prison Realm in the main, I'd at the very least consider running a few in sideboard. It really is a great way for us to deal with all of the walkers running around and a way for us to fix our draws a bit. I'd highly consider running at least 3 spread in the main or sideboard.
To deal with our opponent's graveyards, consider running Deathgorge Scavenger. I've had this card do some serious work for me before, chewing up Arclight Phoenix decks or other graveyard matters decks like the emerging Command the Dreadhorde deck.
For artifact or enchantment hate, you can also use something like Sprouting Renewal, granting you the flexibility of a creature or destroying the problematic permanent. Or to double up on graveyard hate, you do also have options with something like Return to Nature. 2 mana, instant speed, destroy target artifact, enchantment, or exile a card from a graveyard.
Lastly, I'd consider running a few Carnage Tyrants in the sideboard along side something like Karn, Scion of Urza or an Ugin, the Ineffable. Carnage Tyrant still has a great place in the meta. After #MTGWAR dropped, people stopped using Consume in place of other spells, allowing Carnage Tyrant to not only skirt past counterspells, but also the 1 piece of removal (other than board wipes) that was designed to destroy it. As far as Karn or Ugin are concerned, both are other ways for us to receive card advantage and to make tokens for our go wide game plan. Ugin also has the added ability of controlling the board a bit with his -3 ability. Both are great options in a list like this, but we would need to be careful with how many Ugin we'd run, as our main deck is only running 20 lands.
I did have fun playing the deck. I sometimes won with a blow out victory and other times I had long board stalls until I finally lost. There were a few nonbos in the original list, but I think with the right amount of tweaking we could have a fun GW Tokens list for either Best of One or Best of Three standard. I implore you to give this list a try, and let us know what you think of my tweaks, and if you have any suggestions to make the list a bit tighter in the comments below.