For the next installment of our Battle for Zendikar: Limited Archetypes series I’m going to talk about token strategies. Everyone is perfectly aware that there are Eldrazi Scion in the set, and there are also a couple other interesting token-themed cards in the set. It’s actually difficult to put a specific color to this archetype, but you can expect it to include some combination of Green, Black, and White. I actually foresee in many cases have a white or black splash. It’s worth noting at the front that the order I’m posting these isn’t in an order of power level.
The main reason tokens is the next archetype is that often times in draft you see a couple early picks and you start leaning in a direction. I consider this a fallback option for when Ramp or Converge isn’t coming together but you have some of the pieces. This is both a viable archetype on its own and is what many aspiring ramp/converge decks will end up switching to late in pack one or early pack 2.
This is likely the core of the deck because it provides help in the splashing department and has the largest array of token generators. Importantly for Green it also has a couple reliable ways to pump your team and start converting the tokens into pressure. Cards like Tajuru Beastmaster and Tajuru Warcaller are the primary ways to do so.
Black has a sacrifice theme and that will play heavily into the tokens deck that features Black as a core color. While it lacks premium token generation, the sacrifice outlets provide tempo positive ways to clear out problematic creatures and start pecking away. Bone Splinters being the premiere option here.
White has both some pump and ways to generate tokens. However, if white is one of the core colors in your tokens deck you’re likely to also be more of a curve out Allies deck with the ability to make tokens. Rather than strictly a tokens deck, but if you’re splashing for white you’ve found yourself with cards like Retreat to Emeria and Unified Front. Unified Front being one of the reasons to splash here. Normally splashing for a sorcery speed make three 1/1s isn’t exciting but here Retreat and Unified front provide multiple things. Retreat works as a pump spell and both cards produce Allies, which can get additional triggers off of both your keyword Rally cards and the Rally pump creatures in Green.
Blue gets an honorable mention as a possible player in this archetype strictly because of Ruination Guide. I think that’s a key card that could signal a GU player to start considering tokens more highly. Turning all of your Eldrazi Scion into 2/1s is a big game as they start trading with real cards.
Despite being slightly redundant the core cards here are mostly in green and are the big time token generators. Eyeless Watcher, Call the Scions, and Brood Monitor are all key players that put multiple bodies on the table all along the curve. Brood Monitor seems slow for a tokens deck but the reality is that this tokens archetype is likely to play like a mid-range deck. If you’re in white early Retreat to Emeria is a huge player here as well. It also combos really well with Fertile Thicket which can help you get to Brood Monitor and set you up for a huge pump from Retreat or just a new set of tokens. If you find yourself in black it’s important that you find the removal early. Bone Splinters, as mentioned, is great here and Swamp Surge is a late pick-up that works as a win condition is you’re light on creature pump.
If I were drafting this I would be looking for the Rally pump cards as late pickups as well as Unified Front, Bone Splinters, and cards that are just weak in every other deck like Inspired Charge and Cliffside Lookout, both pump spells that no other deck wants. The key difference in signal cards between this and ramp is that you can pick up impactful cards late in packs. Retreat to Emeria is an interesting one because I think it is likely to float to the middle of many packs, but I could be underestimating how much a non-tokens deck wants that card.
I don’t think there’s a single first pick that makes me really want to be the tokens drafter, but this is a fine option when you start to see that the archetype is open. Keep your eyes peeled for the signal cards in the back half of packs and prioritize token generators, especially the Eldrazi Scion versions so that you always have an out to move back into ramp. I think this deck will manifest with a few different color combinations and that will be one of it’s strengths. In my opinion, BFZ doesn’t boast one clear cut tokens strategy but has the card quality and depth to let drafters build their own tokens deck. This may not be the strongest archetype in the format, but it’s one you’re likely to play against and may end up drafting a time or two.
Thanks for reading, if you have any questions, comments, or a specific archetype request let me know in the comments.