The Magic: The Gathering World Championships is in full swing and today as I was watching coverage of the Modern portion, I realized that it might be time to dig up the old BW Tokens deck. As some of you may know, BW Tokens was a deck that I piloted a few years ago to a couple of Grand Prix Top 16 finishes. The deck was very solid and I always felt comfortable taking it to GPs up until the point that Bloodbraid Elf got banned from Modern. Bloodbraid Elf leaving changed the format quite a bit. Combo decks became more popular and Birthing Pod variants began to define Modern, two matchups that are pretty bad for BW Tokens. I decided to retire the deck because it just couldn't compete with the way the format was shaping up.
When Khans was released, Modern got another overhaul, this time with the printing of one single card: Treasure Cruise. Treasure Cruise is insane in Modern. With access to every fetchland, one mana cantrips, and cheap burn and Counterspells it's very easy to Cruise for only one mana. If you take a look at results of Magic Online events, GPs, and other premier Magic events, it's pretty clear that if you're not casting Treasure Cruise in Modern, you better have a very good reason for it.
Take a look at the World Championships. Practically every deck is some form of red/blue: UR Delver, Temur Delver, Jeskai Control, Storm, Scapeshift (utilizing Dig Through Time instead of Treasure Cruise), Pyromancer Ascension, and UR Burn. After seeing the archetypes present at Worlds and the absence of Birthing Pod and non-storm combo decks, it really made me want to play BW Tokens again.
UR Delver is at the top of the format and it's a deck that Tokens shines against. Delver's goal is to play a threat and protect it, and then gain card advantage off of Treasure Cruise as a way to always stay ahead of your opponent. The problem is that Delver's threats, Delver of Secrets and Young Pyromancer, match up very poorly against tokens. UR Delver also has a hard time keeping up with all of the threats we are producing. Each card we play produces between two and four tokens, and spells like Lightning Bolt aren't very good at stopping them.
For reference, here's my first BW Tokens article that will give you an idea of how the deck came about, and my second one on changes to BW Tokens based on metagame shifts.
Here's my current BW Tokens list
DECKID=1223113Explanation of Card Choices
You need to play a lot of cards that make tokens and Spectral Procession and Lingering Souls are your best options. Raise the Alarm and Gather the Townsfolk are much worse, but you need to play them. Raise the Alarm has its uses. As an instant it allows you to play around countermagic or Ambush an attack involving a Young Pyromancer. Gather the Townsfolk is your worst token producer but sometimes you just need a way to make more tokens cheaply. Sometimes the fateful hour ability is relevant but more often than not you are casting this on turn two.
Our anthem effect of choice is Intangible Virtue. Honor of the Pure may seem better because we have actual white creatures in our maindeck and sideboard, but I prefer the Virtue because it allows you to race effectively. With Virtue on the battlefield your tokens can play both offense and defense and you never need to ask yourself if you should attack. The answer is always, "Yes, you should attack" when you have Virtue but it's not always clear with Honor of the Pure.
The only creature in the maindeck is Auriok Champion. I have always had mixed feelings about this guy in BW Tokens. It was great back in the old Modern format when Jund decks were playing Bloodbraid Elf and Dark Confidant. It's amazing against Burn because it stops Goblin Guide and gains you more life than they have burn spells. However Auriok Champion is embarrassing against decks that don't care about how much life you gain, like most combo decks and Tron. In the current Modern metagame I think Auriok Champion is awesome. Everyone is playing red creatures and burn spells and the lifegain from this guy can be very valuable. It even throws off math against certain combo decks like Scapeshift.
Our discard consists of three Thoughtseize and two Inquisition of Kozilek. My original build played four Thoughtseize and three Tidehollow Sculler. Tidehollow Sculler is very poorly positioned in the current metagame due to the amount of cheap removal spells being played. I also found myself taking way too much damage when I was playing four Thoughtseize. I think the mix of three Thoughtseize and two Inquisition is fine because you don't need to play eight discard spells due to the redundancy in decks and drawing discard late game is usually terrible. Playing five spells generally means you have a good chance of drawing one in your opening hand.
Zealous Persecution is one of the most powerful cards in the deck and it's very well positioned in the current format. It's great against one of the most played two-drops in the format, Young Pyromancer, but it also kills so many other important creatures in Modern: Delver of Secrets, Snapcaster Mage, everything in the Infect deck, most creatures in Affinity, mana creatures, and tokens. It also pumps your team for a turn which can potentially win you games.
The next card I'd like to talk about is Relic of Progenitus. It may seem weird to include a graveyard hoser in your maindeck. However given what the format looks like right now playing Relic is actually a great choice. It keeps all of the Treasure Cruise decks in check and stops Snapcaster Mage. If you happen to be playing against a graveyard deck like Goryo's Vengeance or Dredge, you may be able to steal game one where you previously couldn't. Generally you want to just use the Relic to Remove one card a turn and then cash it in for a card only when you need to or you're about to play a second one. We do play Lingering Souls so you want to be sure you flashback your Souls before you pop your Relic.
When building BW Token decks I always like to include a "big" card as a finisher. Sometimes you need more than just Spirit Tokens to get the job done. In the past I have played Hero of Bladehold, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and Elspeth Tirel. This time I have chosen to play Sword of War and Peace. I think the Sword can be a game winning finisher against the current field. The protection from red is very relevant and it hits very hard given that your opponent will usually have plenty of cards in hand especially after Treasure Cruising. You can even gain some life which helps with racing. The only downside is that it can be a tempo loss if your token dies in response to the equip but you can easily play around it if you suspect your opponent is holding removal. However you usually won't mind losing one token to a removal spell at the cost of two mana. Overall I think the Sword is a better choice than Hero or either of the Elspeths because it can potentially win a game faster than the other options.
The last card in the list is Path to Exile. It's our best option for a removal spell because it's only one mana and can exile anything. I've seen lists with Dismember or Doom Blade but you really can't go wrong with Path. Usually you won't mind giving your opponent a land and if it matters you can always cast Path in their upkeep so that they won't have the land until later.The Manabase
The manabase was built so that you can easily have access to both colors but you won't take unnecessary damage from shocklands. Seven fetches may seem like a lot but with only two Godless Shrines in the deck you need to play a high number of fetches so that you always have access to one. Seven basic lands means that you should not lose to Blood Moon, something that happened quite frequently with the old manabase.
Fetid Heath is one of the best lands in the deck, but you can't afford to play more than two because it doesn't tap for colored mana on its own. The Heaths allow you to search up a basic swamp on turn one for a Thoughtseize or Inquisition and still have WW on turn two. It also gives you BB for spells like Liliana of the Veil even if your other lands only produce white.
Windbrisk Heights has always been a hit or miss card for me. Sometimes it can be excellent and give you an instant speed Intangible Virtue or a free Path, but other times you might hit a redundant token producer that you don't need, or worse, a land. The great thing about Windbrisk Heights is that it changes how your opponent plays the game. They will live in fear of the Heights for the entire game and do whatever it takes to stop you from activating it, even if it means casting a Lightning Bolt on a 1/1 Spirit Token. We don't want too many lands that come into play tapped so we are only playing three Windbrisk Heights.
We're not playing Vault of the Archangel. It's a great card in a format full of midrange green decks like Jund, Junk, or Pod, but it's not great against decks with Young Pyromancers and Delvers. Right now the green midrange decks are not that popular and while the lifegain is nice, you don't want to hurt your manabase by playing a colorless land. We can consider adding it back to the deck if Treasure Cruise gets banned and the format shifts again because it's still a great card.The Sideboard
Some of our sideboard cards are pretty self-explanatory (Stony Silence is for Affinity), but there are some not so obvious choices that may require an explanation.
Burrenton Forge-Tender is the most important card in the sideboard. It's great against mass removal spells that wreck us like Pyroclasm and Electrickery, it blocks red creatures, and it can Nullify a game-winning burn spell out of a red deck. It's possible that we even want the fourth one if the metagame is entirely blue/red decks.
We play three copies of Liliana of the Veil primarily for combo decks. Combo is our weakest matchup and while we are able to stop it temporarily with our discard spells, our clock is not very fast and we usually give them enough time to draw what they need to kill us. Liliana is a way to shut down combo by forcing them to discard every turn. If they lose a card every turn, even if it's their choice, it means they are not dealing with our threats, not playing lands, or not actively working on getting their combo. Liliana doesn't make the combo matchups great but it does make it much better. Liliana is also great against control decks so it has that going for it too.
We are playing a single Elspeth, Knight-Errant as another trump card for midrange matchups. Sometimes you need a threat that is not a token and Elspeth is a great option. Elspeth provides a fast clock and is easy for us to protect.
Duress made the cut over additional copies of Thoughtseize and Inquisition. I have always liked Duress in this deck because pretty much every card we care about post sideboard is a noncreature spell. We primarily need Duress for combo pieces and mass removal spells. I prefer it over Thoughtseize because we don't want to take unnecessary damage if we don't need to.
What our sideboard is lacking is answers to creatures. We have the combo and control decks down but we are relying on only Path to Exile to kill creatures. Overall I think our creature matchups are quite favorable so we really don't need much more removal in our sideboard and I'd rather devote the sideboard to UR decks, combo, and control. Conclusion
The first season of Preliminary PTQs is upon is and some of the events are Modern. I think that if the format continues to be composed of UR Delver and various Treasure Cruise decks, BW Tokens is a great choice. It's a solid deck that is hard to hate out and it's also very unexpected right now. I'm excited to see it back in Modern and am looking forward to how the PPTQs play out. Thanks for reading and good luck in qualifying for your Regional PTQ.Melissa DeTora@MelissaDeTora on Twitterwww.facebook.com/melissa.detora on Facebook