Monday, February 17, 2014

Modern Mondays: Esper Tokens

I've been looking for a new Modern deck to develop and play. Now, I don't approach decks like pro players do. I look at cards I have, figure out what goes well together, and build around that. I was sorting cards and packing up playsets of cards (I count 5 as a playset: 4 for a deck and 1 for EDH) rotated out of Standard. This one caught my eye:

Favorable Winds

I looked at it and couldn't figure out why I never did anything with this when Avacyn Restored was in Standard. I'm trying to amend that now by utilizing it in a tokens deck, well Esper to be specific (see, I like Lingering Souls, which to fully utilize it, I need three colors now).

Let's take a look at this:

Esper Tokens

Modern Deck

Creatures

x4 Doomed Traveler
x4 Blade Splicer
x2 Geist of Saint Traft
x2 Hero of Bladehold
x2 Geist-Honored Monk

Land

x4 Hallowed Fountain
x2 Watery Grave
x4 Godless Shrine
x4 Glacial Fortress
x2 Drowned Catacomb
x4 Isolated Chapel

Other Spells

x4 Beckon Aparition
x4 Intangible Virtue
x4 Favorable Winds
x2 Spear of Heliod
x4 Lingering Souls
x4 Call of the Nightwing
x2 Leyline of the Meek
x2 Entreat the Angels

So, the land should be pretty much self explanatory. I know I should like fetch lands and use them, but I don't have any (I sold the only two I had), and they're too expensive. If I had them, I'd sure I would use them, but I like to use what I have and 4x of each check land and shock land is what I have. So checks and shocks are what we'll use. Drowned Catacomb was included instead of a playset of Watery Grave for versatility. Suppose on turn 4 you want to play a 4-drop. If your fourth land is a Watery Grave, you're stuck losing life to cast a card that may get countered or destroyed after it resolves. A Drowned Catacomb can play off of the other shock lands that will be played which allows for the chance of losing your play for the turn, but you won't lose life in the process.

I'd normally want to drop in basics because of Blood Moon, but I've only played against one person who used it, and even then it was one game in three so I'm not too worried about it. If it's that important, the sideboard can be 15 basic lands. I haven't worked out a sideboard yet.


Anyway, let's check out the engine:

Creatures

Doomed Traveler  Blade Splicer  
Geist of Saint Traft  Hero of Bladehold  Geist-Honored Monk

There is a reason all of these fall in line. White is a major component of this deck and Blue and Black are just supporting actors. Doomed Traveler is the most important turn one play. You have a creature that becomes a better creature when it dies. A 1/1 on the ground is okay, but a 1/1 in the air is better, especially with all the boosters in this deck, but we'll check those out in a bit. Next on our list is Blade Splicer. It is three mana, but you get a 3/3 plus the 1/1, and the 3/3 gets to have first strike (and is a token!). Geist of Saint Traft is limited because it is a 2/2, but it also makes a 4/4 flyer (which sadly doesn't last). He's hexproof, but as a 2/2, attacking to create the token makes him a little susceptible to being taken out. At the same time, with the token boosters, it could be making a 6/6 in the air your opponent can't stop. Hero of Bladehold makes tokens and also boosts all attacking creatures (while attacking with this 3/4, it makes two 2/1 tokens that are attacking as well). Geist-Honored Monk is an easy explanation. It may be five mana, but playing it makes it an instant 3/3 with two 1/1 flying tokens. The goal is to play it while your field is full of other tokens to make it that much more deadly.

Non-Creature Token Generators

Beckon Apparition  Lingering Souls
Call of the Nightwing  Entreat the Angels

Beckon Apparition is used mainly to keep opponents from using things in graveyards since I've seen that tactic in modern often. I've seen people play a Living End deck where they cycle their creatures and then cascade to a Living End. It's fun to watch, fun to play, but not fun to watch you full board go to nothing and all of these giant creatures on the field during your combat phase. Needless to say, exiling graveyard bits and getting a token for 1 mana is nice. Now Lingering Souls (and specifically the art you see above) is amazing. Three mana for two flying tokens that you can then use to make two more? It's the absolute best. This is why we needed black mana with out white tokens and our blue Favorable Winds... Moving on to Call of the Nightwing. At this point I was looking for ways to keep getting tokens and this is it. No matter what, as long as a creature this is ciphered to deals combat damage to an opponent, you're getting more tokens. It may be pretty costly for one token, but they'll add up if the game continues for a while. Now, lastly, we have Entreat the Angels. It's awesome, it adds a lot of flying power to your deck, and if done right, you could easily pop out two 4/4 angels with just four lands in play. Of course, Miracles don't always come when we want them, but there are only two in this deck.

Token Boosters

Intangible Virtue  Favorable Winds
Spear of Heliod  Leyline of the Meek

Intangible Virtue explains itself. Any token deck that includes white must have at least three if not a full playset of these. These are important! Favorable Winds is also important (and the inspiration for the deck) in that most of your tokens will be flying spirits or angels. The horror tokens also take the benefit, but the soldiers and golems on the ground have to live without, but they're a backup force while the spirits are making this deck. You should hopefully have several spirits after the first four turns or else the game is probably going to go badly for you. Spear of Heliod will be there to booster all your creatures and will also be there if there is a pesky creature your opponents keep hitting you with (infect decks?). Leyline of the Meek is here for the chance you can drop it for free. Sure, it's great to have later, but we also have Intangible Virtue for half the cost and the addition of vigilance. Leyline is here only for the Turn 0 play that will immediately give you a boost (Turn 1: Doomed Traveler, Turn 2: Intangible Virtue or Favorable Winds, swing with a 3/3 this turn or next turn).

If you've been playing since Innistrad Block, chances are you have most of these cards already, and if not, each card will probably be less than a dollar in most cases. If you have all the lands (or can make substitutions based on the colors you have), Geist of Saint Traft, Hero of Bladehold, and Entreat the Angels will be the most costly cards to contend with, so for about $50 to $60 you can fill in the gaps and pick up the cards you need (for me, I need a second Geist, Hero of Bladehold, and Entreat, plus the Leylines, and maybe one Blade Splicer, so I'm looking at maybe $30 maximum to finish out the deck).

I'm planning to retire my Modern Orzhov Tokens deck and upgrade to this deck since this seems to be on a higher power level. I'd love to have a Living End deck, but that might just be out of my price range right now.

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