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Budget Magic: $95 (36 tix) Modern White-Black Tokens

Shlomo Budget Magic lovers! It's that time again. The fact that Standard is rotating in less than a month has stolen away my drive to brew for the format (although I might make post-rotation lists for Budget Magic at some point). This week we are headed back to Modern to play with a pretty sweet deck: White-Black Tokens! The archetype is in a really interesting place in Modern. It can be very competitive on a budget; non-budget builds have been tier 1.5 at various times over the year, and it even has the potential to be decent as an ultra-budget list because many of the best token makers are so cheap. Apart from being a fun and resilient "go wide" strategy, the flexibility to upgrade and downgrade with ease is one of the main reasons to consider White-Black Tokens in Modern. 

Let's get to the videos, then I'll talk more about White-Black Tokens. A quick reminder. If you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

White-Black Tokens Intro

White-Black Tokens vs Abzan

White-Black Tokens vs Grixis Delver

White-Black Tokens vs 8 Whack

White-Black Tokens vs Soul Sisters

White-Black Tokens vs Ad Nauseam

The Deck

As you can see in the matches, White-Black Tokens is somewhere between competitive and very good against creature / removal based decks. It's extremely hard to fight Lingering Souls and Spectral Procession with cards like Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt. On the other hand, the Ad Nauseam matchup really highlights one of the weaknesses of the budget list. We don't have access to Inquisition of Kozilek or Thoughtseize, and we are too slow to race, which makes these matchups difficult. Duress in the sideboard helps a little, but not enough to turn Storm or Ad Nauseam into favorable matchups. The good news is that these matchups make up only a small percentage of the Modern meta, so we shouldn't have to worry about them too often. If your local meta is infested with uninteractive combo decks you'll want to make some concessions. If you have Inquisition of Kozilek or Thoughtseize, they are easy main deck inclusions; otherwise moving the Duresses to the main might be the way to go.

Token Makers

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In our deck, Raise the Alarm and Gather the Townsfolk are pretty close to the same card (both giving us two 1/1 tokens) since we don't care about creature types. On turn two Raise the Alarm is better because we can play it at instant speed, which sometimes means we can pick off an opposing one-drop by surprise. However, once the game goes long, Gather the Townsfolk becomes the better card, since we can occasionally trigger the "fateful hour" clause of having five or less life and make five 1/1's, which is an insane deal for only two mana. Plus, since we are on a budget we have Caves of Koilos as one of our dual lands and we can use the painland to manipulate our life total to turn on fateful hour

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These three cards are the reason to play White-Black Tokens. They have the ability to create a huge advantage for a small amount of mana. Spectral Procession is the best of the bunch (since every land in our deck can tap for White mana), giving us three evasive bodies for only three mana. Lingering Souls can give Spectral Procession a run for its money. While it is not as efficient on turn three, the ability to flash it back is huge. Not only does it protect against cards like Liliana of the Veil, but it makes four 1/1 fliers for only five mana. Meanwhile, Triplicate Spirits is a bad Spectral Procession, although it's still powerful on turn four when we can cast it by using our Raise the Alarm or Gather the Townsfolk tokens to pay for convoke

These cards give us a ton of redundancy in creating evasive tokens. While they might not look all that scary on their own, once we start playing cards that buff them up, they can close out the game in short order. 

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Promise of Bunrei makes even more tokens than Spectral Procession for the same amount of mana. It can be tricky to trigger, since we need one of our creature to die before we get our Spirits. Despite this drawback, Promise of Bunrei is very good at two things. First, it provides insurance against board wipes like Pyroclasm and Supreme Verdict. If our opponent kills our creature we get to replenish with four tokens. Second, it makes blocking tricky for our opponent. With a Promise of Bunrei on the battlefield we are free to swing with our Raise the Alarm or Gather the Townsfolk tokens, even into blockers. If our opponent kills one with a Tarmogoyf or Endless One we get four to replace it with four more. As such, I don't think of Promise of Bunrei as a token producer like Spectral Procession. I think of it as insurance against some cards that would normally be detrimental to our deck. 

The Buffs

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In a deck that is exclusively token based, Intangible Virtue is the best anthem effect ever printed. Not only does it give all of our creatures +1/+1 for only two mana, vigilance is a huge benefit. It allows us to attack with everything, but still have creatures on defense to chump our opponent's biggest threats. One of the benefits of playing a token deck is that we are really, really good at blocking. 

Zealous Persecution is an absurd card, and after playing a bunch of matches with the deck, my only regret is not playing the full four. There were many games where it was the card I wanted to draw the most. Why is Zealous Persecution so good? Let's count the reasons. First, and most obviously, it's another way to pump up all of our creature tokens and get in a ton of damage. Second, since it also gives all our opponent's creatures -1/-1, it makes attacking and blocking really hard for the opposition. Usually you'd feel safe swinging a Thought-Knot Seer into a two Raise the Alarm tokens, but all it takes is a Zealous Persecution and suddenly you are trading a Thought-Knot Seer for half of a two-drop. Third, and most importantly, Zealous Persecution actually kills a lot of stuff. It can take down any number of Eldrazi Mimics, Delver of Secretss, Snapcaster Mages. Young Pyromancers (and all his Elemental tokens), Eldrazi Skyspawners, Dark Confidants, and most Affinity and Infect creatures. There are some matches where Zealous Persecution is essentially a two-mana Plague Wind, which makes it extremely powerful. Even when it is "bad," it's still giving our horde of tokens +1/+1 until the end of turn.

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Hero of Bladehold is our finisher, and she's a good one as a four-drop that attacks for seven all by itself. When we have some extra tokens laying around, she usually only takes one attack to finish the game thanks to the power of the battle cry mechanic. Perhaps the best thing about Hero of Bladehold is that she is fairly resilient for Modern. Costing four mana means she doesn't get hit by Abrupt Decay and having four toughness means she dodges Lightning Bolt. A fairly common scenario is to play a Raise the Alarm on turn two, a Spectral Procession on turn three, and a Hero of Bladehold on turn four, which means we are attacking for 17 damage on turn five. That's not even counting what happens when Intangible Virtue is in play.  

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Sorin, Lord of Innistrad does pretty much everything we could want. First, he can make 1/1 Vampire tokens with lifelink, which are very good at keeping us alive when things go wrong. Second, the emblem is great, giving all of our creatures +1/+0 forever. Typically, we don't even try for the ultimate, with the most common line being cast Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, make an emblem, next turn make a token, the next turn make another emblem. If this isn't enough to win us the game, we probably weren't going to win anyway. 


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Self explanatory. Path to Exile is the best removal in Modern, killing anything for just one mana. If you have copies, I'd definitely put them in the deck. If you don't have copies you can save yourself a bit of money (in paper, not on Magic Online) by switching to Dismember, which is slightly worse but still very good. Oblivion Ring is mediocre, but I really wanted one catch-all answer to things like Worship and Ensnaring Bridge, Modern is in such a strange and hateful place at the moment. 

Ultra-Budget White-Black Tokens

The ultra-budget version of White-Black Tokens plays about the same as the build in the videos. It loses a couple of the most powerful card in Hero of Bladehold and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. While Honor of the Pure is a fine replacement as a creature buff / anthem effect, the bigger problem is that Hero of Bladehold and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad are not only anthems, but token producers as well. As such, the ultra budget build is more all-in on the token plan, looking to resolve as many Spectral Processions as possible, make the tokens huge with Intangible Virtue and Honor of the Pure, and close out the game as quickly as possible. If you are building this deck on Magic Online, do not substitute Dismember for Path to Exile. While Path to Exile is much more expensive on the paper world, it's actually significantly cheaper than Dismember on Magic Online. 

Non-Budget White-Black Tokens

Craig Wescoe might know little White creatures better than anyone else on the planet, so for our non-budget list of White-Black Tokens, I decided to go with a list he published on TCGPlayer about a week ago. The biggest changes are the inclusion of ample discard in Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek, which shores up a lot of the problems in the combo matchups, as well as the addition of Bitterblossom in the two-drop slot over Raise the Alarm and Gather the Townsfolk. All around, this is a more controlling build of the archetype, with less anthems and fewer early game token generators. In return we get the card advantage generated by Phyrexian Arena and Bitterblossom. Wescoe seems to think the deck is good against Eldrazi, so if you are looking for the optimal build for the next month, this is probably it. 


Anyway, that's all for today. I had a blast playing the deck this week. It is a very reasonable budget choice for Modern. As I mentioned in the intro, perhaps my favorite part of the deck is just how easy it is to upgrade and downgrade. You don't lose a ton by starting off with the ultra-budget version. It shouldn't be too difficult to build into the budget version, with the long-term plan being to upgrade into Bitterblossom and good discard. Similar builds have been good enough for major teams to bring them to Grand Prix and even Pro Tours, and the archetype is very far away from any potential bannings. This is a deck you can enjoy for years to come.   

As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments. ou can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 

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