Oftentimes we look towards the past to find inspiration for today. This works in all aspects of life and while I could give you examples of those non-magic related ones, since I’m on a magic site I’d prefer to talk about those related to magic. With Standard being a crazy, no-holds barged wrestling match of who’s more greedy with their mana or those who’re trying to punish them I feel like that’s not how traditional formats evolve. Generally speaking decks are streamlined by mostly linear strategies or synergies and the game plans are clear cut. I find that to be the most fun way to build and play Magic.
I bring this up because I was reminiscing on an old deck I played back in 2007. The one deck in particular I’m trying to fully recall I played online back when the MOCS was a one tournament a year winner plays in worlds slugfest of an event. I had lost in the finals of this event with a deck many would describe as a pile crap; and to a certain degree they were correct. When other players got to play Tarmogoyf in Standard I was playing Fists of Ironwood instead. For context here is a rough list of what I played, since I couldn’t find the actual list anywhere.
The strategy for this deck is fairly straightforward. You make tokens very quickly and then use Gaea’s Anthem or Overrun to run over your opponent as early as turn 4. This strategy was particularly powerful because back then much of the removal being played was similar to what we see today in a lot of 1 for 1’s. The popular creature of the format was Lightning Angel. Sounds a bit similar to Mantis Rider, huh? This tokens deck prayed on the Lightning Angel deck and is the reason I got all the way to the finals of that event all those years ago. As I reminisce on this I started to think perhaps doing a RG token strategy today might be a reasonable thing to do. There’s a lot of direct removal running around that is just pure garbage against tokens. There’s also a big lack of sweepers being played right now. I know Sam Black has made Bant Tokens quite popular recently thanks to Retreat to Emeria but I think the token strategy is very much unexplored at the moment in general. Let’s take a look at what a new version of this old deck would look like.
Although this is still a work in progress this deck has offered a lot of potential so far for me. I wanted to stay similar in structure to the 2007 list by maximizing mana dorks, anthem effects and token generators. This tokens list has some crazy powerful draws that include attacking for well over 30 on turn 5 through removal.
Before I breakdown the cards in the deck let me list some of the cards I’ve cut from the deck and why after playing some games with it.
Secure the Wastes – This card simply underperformed for me in testing. The biggest benefit of this card is how in the late game you get a large swell of tokens. The problem is this deck is designed to not play the late game so you can never fully utilize Secure the Wastes. Most often I was casting this card for two or three tokens and that’s simply not good enough for the cost.
Dragon Fodder – I’m still on the fence with this card. Originally I had this over Hangarback Walker for the simple reason that I didn’t want anything in the deck besides my mana dorks to be good targets for removal spells like Silkwrap. Everything in this deck is a token or a pseudo two for one like Thopter Engineer. The only way I think this card makes it back into the deck is if cards like Leaf Gilder and/or Rattleclaw Mystic become too much of a liability or the ramp just simply isn’t worth it. It’s much tougher to justify casting a Dragon Fodder on turn two over a mana dork on turn two and is the reason why it’s currently on the outside looking in.
Unified Front – Similar to Secure the Wastes this simply doesn’t offer enough tokens for the cost. If I added a fourth color for “free” to make the spell get a fourth token there might be some justification for including this going forward. The major issue for this card is it’s fighting in a really full slot in the curve with Pia and Kiran Nalaar and Retreat to Emeria. I also believe if I wanted another four drop that makes tokens or anthems there’s something better.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar – That something better is clearly Gideon. In testing so far Retreat to Emeria has been miles away the best card in the deck. With the mana cost being double white on Gideon and double red on Pia I found it to be too stressful and demanding on the mana. This also brought up the same conundrum as Unified Front in that the four slot is already quite full.
Wingmate Roc – Similar to Gideon in that double white is a bit steep for this deck. I could see it being useful in something like a RW token deck however.
Eyeless Watcher – We have another four drop that produces three bodies and just doesn’t quite cut it. If the deck went to the route of playing just Red and Green I could see this being Pia’s second hand man.
8 Mana Dorks – I’m still not sure if these are correct or not. However playing a Pia, Outpost Siege or Retreat to Emeria on turn three is very hard to beat for most decks.
19 Token Makers – Hangarback Walker, Thopter Engineer, Retreat to Emeria, Hordeling Outburst, Pia and Kiran Nalaar and Foundry of the Consuls is half of the engine. These are the cheapest and best token makers available without constraining the mana. It’s nice that there are also some intertwining synergies with Thopter Engineer, Hangarback Walker and Pia.
11 Anthem Effects – Atarka’s Command, Tajuru Warcaller and Retreat to Emeria gives us the other half of the engine. The most questionable of these is obviously the Tajuru Warcaller and I started off playing just one in my deck. With some play testing I quickly found that I wanted more and more and makes a good Overrun impression. It’s also nice that it offers some synergies with Retreat to Emeria as well since it produces Allies.
1 “Other” Effect – Outpost Siege doesn’t quite quantify as an Anthem Effect but is very powerful on the rarely used Dragon’s mode. It gives you sweeper protection and makes combat math very much a headache for your opponent. Obviously the Khan’s mode is still good when you’re looking for a little more card advantage as well.
That gives you a bit of a breakdown on everything in the deck. This is certainly still a work in progress and I’m not claiming to have broken the format. But this deck does offer some raw power and potential that I look forward to tinkering with now and in the future. It’s always fun to look back at successful decks of the past and try to bridge those ideas or strategies into a different format or time period. As a bonus I went ahead and made a rough draft of what a RW tokens list might look like as well.
I’ve just built a new computer with the help of my buddy Jon Lum. I look forward to producing video content starting sometime early next year and starting a weekly stream schedule as well.
Thanks for reading!
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