Hello, hello, hello my faithful readers. It is I, Potatobrain, king of tribal decks, scion of rogue decks, and master of crap rare deckbuilding. I would like to begin today's article by finally revealing my secret origin story. Today you all shall learn how I went from mild-mannered Rami the small-time economics student to Potatobrain, king of tribal decks, scion of rogue decks, and master of... well, you get the idea.
I have come a long way since my humble Magic beginnings six years ago. It was a cold, hard day in Montreal when, after spending many hours playing fighting games with my friends, I noticed that a couple of the guys were sitting in the back playing cards. Curious man that I was, I moseyed on over to observe the game, only to discover that they weren't playing with regular cards! That's right, you guessed it dear readers, they were playing Magic. I asked if I could join in, and was told that I needed to go to the corner store and buy some boosters, as well as a preconstructed deck. So I did, and the seed of the flower that would pollinate the mind of a deckbuilding champ was planted. But wait, heroes, and more specifically, Magic heroes, aren't born overnight. It took me a good six months of playing to fully understand all the intricacies of how the game worked, and then another six months to learn to properly build decks. And you know what I discovered? I am a deckbuilder extraordinaire.
You see, back when I was just a little Magic player, I used the Internet, my friends, past championship decks and present friends' decks for inspiration and as guidelines for building my own. These were great sources of material, and from them I gleaned many important concepts, concepts that I use nowadays to create the mad rogue decks that I constantly harass my play group with. The bad news was it took me over a year to figure out the basics, and a few more years to refine my techniques to the diamond pointed edge they are now at. The good news is I'm going to give you all of the information that's in my head, in a short and sweet form that you can understand and enjoy. That's right folks, I'm just giving away all of this information, because that's how much I love you guys.
So, without further ado, allow me to announce the creation of my very own mini-series, intelligently and eponymously titled "Potatobrain's Guide To Magic: How To Stop Being A Scrub And Learn To Build My Own Decks And Hope To Become As Awesome As Potatobrain My Super Hero From The Future; Hurray, Let's Have Beer!". Let's call it "Potatobrain's Guide To Magic: How To _____" for short, and I'll fill in the blank with each article's topic.
Today’s episode’s blank is TOKENS!
Well, not exactly. I mean, it wouldn't make sense if I said "Potatobrain's Guide To Magic: How To Tokens", now would it? But it involves tokens. Anyway, you get the idea.
So why am I writing about tokens? Well, I was playing a game against my faithful sidekick Sam the other day, and after beating him soundly with around ten Snake Tokens, we had the following conversation:
But the conversation got me thinking: "why did I have so many decks with tokens in them?" Well, that's a pretty loaded question. Let’s make it more general: "why would anyone play a token deck? Answer: People play decks with tokens because they love the idea of having multiple creatures! Some people like to attack with one big Akroma style finisher for the win, and that’s fine; this article is not directed at those people. Some other people, perhaps because they enjoy feeling like a general sending his army out to war, would much rather attack with a swarm of little dinky creatures for the win; THOSE are my kind of people. As for the rest of you that are on the fence about tokens, here’s a grocery list of pros and cons to help you cement your opinion.
...OK, so maybe that last one wasn't really an in-game problem, but people just don't consider how annoying it is sometimes to have to carry around an extra Ziplock bag with tokens whenever you want to go play Magic at your best buddy's house.
Moving on. For those of you that are still around, here are some basic principles for token deckbuilding.
Types of token producers
Currently in Magic there is at least one token producer of every color in every card type except for Planeswalker and Artifact (assuming the card only has one type. None of this blue artifact creature business, I mean what the heck is a Homunculus anyway? Sheesh). So what does that mean? Well, it means that if you say Green Enchantment, I say Centaur Glade, and if you say White Instant, I say Raise The Alarm. The amount of token producers is huge, so I’m going to focus on how and when the tokens are produced.
If they’re not mana-activated, then they’re just plain weird, but also easier to use multiple times because they’re free. Examples include Zombie Infestation and… that’s the only one I could find (this sounds like a great idea for a challenge. Post up in the forums if you find any token producers that require an Activated Ability without mana).
Alright, now that we’ve covered the most common ways to produce tokens, how do we get the most bang for our buck?
Why yes, I would like to try your product and make them bigger.
When trying to make one’s tokens bigger, there are three things on should check:
1. Do my tokens have the same name?
2. Do my tokens share a creature
3. Do my tokens share a color?
If your answer to all of the above was no, don’t despair! You can always resort to basic non discriminatory boosting for all your creatures, regardless of age, sex, gender, creature type, and color. Examples include Glorious Anthem and Gaea’s Anthem, Dark Triumph, and Nobilis of War.
Ok, so for those of you that have been paying attention, we have now covered the pros and cons of tokens, the different kinds of token producers, as well as the various lords and boost effects. I guess there’s only one question left to ask before I showcase some decklists: What can I use tokens for besides attacking?
Tokens, like hummus, go well with everything
There are many uses for tokens besides attacking. The most common one is sacrificing them for an effect: again, because you have so many, popping a few for an advantage is no big deal. If you have a producer that can keep making more tokens, it’s even better.
The sacrifice effects I use the most often are the following:
If you’re not sacrificing your tokens, then you’re probably doing one of these:
Phew. Well, this concludes most of the article. Remember, these lists are far from comprehensive, they are merely basic guidelines for when you are stuck and need a little inspiration.
So here’s an old favorite of mine that I showcased in this article, my Batties for Fatties deck. For those of you that don’t remember it, here’s list:
So this deck uses a couple of the principles I underlined above. It produces 3 kinds of 1/1 tokens: White 1/1 Soldiers, White 1/1 Spirits with Flying, and Black 1/1 Bats with Flying. This means that I can’t boost them with specific creature type/color lords, and so I fall back on Glorious Anthem and Orzhov Pontiff to fulfill that job. It contains 4 token producers: Raise the Alarm (an instant), Belfry Spirit (one time comes-into-play ability), Skeletal Vampire and Teysa, Orzhov Scion (both recurring producers). The majority of the tokens produced are black bats, and this creates synergy with Teysa because whenever one of them dies, she generates a white token.
Although it appears to be a strange jumble of cards on the outside, this deck is actually quite a finely tuned killing machine. The main token producer is Springjack Shepherd (comes-into-play trigger), with an assist from Springjack Pasture (constant producer) and Storm Herd (sorcery). The main tokens produced are 0/1 White Sheep, which are then converted into 1/1 White Flying Pegasus tokens. The way it works is simple: I try to get as many White Mana Symbols in play as possible, then play a Springjack Shepherd to make a ridiculous amount of 0/1 Sheep tokens. This gains me lots of life with Auriok Champion. I then sacrifice the Sheep to Springjack Pasture, again gaining lots of life, and convert the mana gained into Storm Herd tokens, doubling whatever my life total was. The tokens are also boosted with Glorious Anthem and Silver Seraph. Now the beauty here is that the sheep tokens can be recurred by using Galepowder Mage’s ability on Springjack Shepherd! Most people don’t expect that.
This one is pretty straightforward: the plan is to make lots of snakes and attack! The token producers are Orochi Eggwatcher (constant producer), Patagia Viper (comes-into-play trigger), and Sosuke’s Summons (recurring sorcery). The synergy happens with Crystal Shard and Patagia Viper, as I play him for two tokens, bounce him with the shard, then play him again. The shard also ensures that I’ll always have a Sosuke’s Summons in my hand. The main booster is in the form of Seshiro, and occasionally if I have lots of snakes, Orochi Eggwatcher’s alter ego Shidako, Broodmistress.
Well folks, that’s about all I’ve got for you today. Hopefully you will have learned enough about tokens to build your own monstrosity. As you can see, there are thousands of possibilities for token decks, from mill to sacrifice to just plain old attacking. The key is finding one that fits your particular style of play, works for your metagame, and annoys the glorious grace of Cthulhu out of your friends. And remember, if you don’t already have tokens in the deck you are currently building, consider adding them, because tokens, like hummus, go well with everything.
Spotlights from 2009: