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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Mar 09 2015 1:11pm
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Sometimes the best way to win is to completely ignore what your opponent is doing. While this is an exaggeration it is a completely viable approach to winning games of Magic. The current landscape of Pauper is perfect for decks with a singular goal - attacking opposing life totals. This is due in large part to the preponderance of Treasure Cruise decks. While Treasure Cruise is an excellent and overpowered card, if the three cards drawn do not matter in the context of the game then do those three cards actually exist? 

It is on this foundation that multiple decks are currently supported. Burn, Cloud of Faeries Combo, Hexproof, and various forms of Nivix Cyclops deck on some level try to invalidate the ability of an adversary to do anything that matters. Burn is single minded in its desire to deal twenty; combo is a Rube Goldbergian behemoth that can sculpt a perfect turn; Hexproof wants to invalidate removal; Nivix Cyclops can dodge defenses for one turn of berserk glory.

A new challenger has emerged in the fight against Treasure Cruise. While the strategy has been around for a while, recent printings have allowed the deck to truly thrive. It’s time to gamble on Plains again. It’s time for White Weenie Tokens.  

White Weenie Tokens
Naga_Tsuki 4-0 in a Pauper Daily Event on March 5th, 2015
Creatures
4 Icatian Javelineers
3 Soul Warden
3 Soul's Attendant
4 Squadron Hawk
2 Tireless Tribe
16 cards

Other Spells
4 Battle Screech
4 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Guardians' Pledge
2 Journey to Nowhere
4 Raise the Alarm
2 Ramosian Rally
3 Triplicate Spirits
23 cards
Lands
18 Plains
3 Secluded Steppe
21 cards

Triplicate Spirits

 

While often a fringe strategy, White Weenie Tokens has been pushed to the forefront of the metagame by a confluence of different factors.

First was the release of Battle Screech at common. As a key card for Vintage Masters draft, Battle Screech provides four power across four bodies in one card. While Squadron Hawk, a long time staple of White Weenie, is similar, the fact that Screech contains a full army in one card is incredibly strong. Having full access to the tokens means that one Screech can trade with two copies of Delver of Secrets. Considering the ability to trade with the flying Nacatl for value is something that all decks must consider, the ability of one card to come out ahead against Insectile Aberration makes it a strong candidate for a spot in competitive decks.

The strength of Battle Screech partially resides in the fact that it can be split up across multiple turns. This allows for a deck that would normally invest its mana in a singular threat to then spread that expense across time. As such, Battle Screech has some inherent protection from natural enemies such as Crypt Rats, Electrickery, and Echoing Truth. Those cards, long a barrier to the success of token strategies, are not rendered useless by Battle Screech but they lose some of their efficacy.

The second pillar of ascension is related to the first - the rise of Treasure Cruise. Treasure Cruise has fundamentally changed the way Pauper is played. Whereas before games were largely a one for one affair now they simply progress along that line until someone goes on the boat and then cements an advantage. The advent of Treasure Cruise pushed traditional White Weenie out of the competitive sphere. White Weenie was the occasional best deck but did so predicated on its ability to be the best at trading resources. With Squadron Hawk, Bonesplitter, Kor Skyfisher, and Loyal Cathar, White Weenie could simply use its army to invalidate opposing spells. With Treasure Cruise this is no longer the case as each expended spell is more fuel for Cruise which in turn draws more removal spells. A style of play best showcased in the popular Izzet Control, Treasure Cruise decks overwhelmed normal White Weenie while at the same time pushing out sometimes natural prey in Mono-Black Control.

The most important matchup shift, however, came with Delver. White Weenie was never dead against Delver and a competent White Weenie pilot was often advantaged. It came down to the Plains mage’s capability to manage their resources effectively so that despite Delver’s best efforts the blue deck was always behind on cards (whether real or virtual). Now with Treasure Cruise this is no longer the case. On top of that the new metagame is far more tempo oriented than its previous incarnation making the investment of Kor Skyfisher - a long time pillar for White Weenie - an obligation rather than an opportunity.

It was this decline of Kor Skyfisher based White Weenie that opened the window for Tokens. Kor Skyfisher asks for a progressive play style. Skyfisher was so good because even without a creature to rebuy for value it could come down on turn two at the cost of a land drop. A token deck, however, needs to hit every land drop because its best spells are those that produce power equal to their cost. A Raise the Alarm on turn three is far far worse than the same spell on turn two. As such the tension has kept Kor Skyfisher away from decks going wide with spells and vice versa. However now that Kor Skyfisher is on the outs another flying threat, the aforementioned Battle Screech, can take center stage. While it only presents 1/1 creatures, it can produce four of them, which is one more than the number of cards drawn by Treasure Cruise. As I mentioned last week, while the power level is not the same, it is close enough where casting Battle Screech into a Treasure Cruise deck is far from embarrassing. The shift of white decks from solid creatures to going wide can be traced back to Treasure Cruise gaining ground.

So how does the deck work? On the surface level the strategy is to produce more tokens than blockers and deal twenty points of damage. The quest for the dome is aided thanks to force multipliers such as Guardians’ Pledge and Ramosian Rally. Highly redundant, the deck has multiple cards that all fill similar roles: Raise the Alarm and Gather the Townsfolk; Battle Screech and Triplicate Spirits; Doomed Traveler and Squadron Hawk. Unlike some of decks listed at the top of the article, White Weenie Tokens can assemble its pieces out of an idea order and still present a potent threat. The high concentration of similar cards is one reason to pick the deck up for your next Pauper event.

The most important skill with the deck is the sequencing of spells. While playing around removal is vital, it is secondary to maximizing damage output. Sometimes, as antithetical as it may seem, it is correct to take a turn off to resolve a Triplicate Spirits if it means a better position on the subsequent attack step. A high wire act if there ever was one, this deck rewards patience while at the same time gives benefit to proactive players.

While waiting if often correct however, this deck can often have problem coming back from behind. Battle Screech can let the deck rebuild a board from nothing but it still requires help. Going back to sequencing, knowing when to hold back a Gather the Townsfolk or its ilk is perhaps the second most important skill to learn with this deck. It is a balance between expected output of damage weighed against how likely it is that you can win a long game.

One card I am not a fan of in the maindeck is Journey to Nowhere. In my opinion this deck is a perfect example of one where you should sideboard Lightning Bolt. The concept, espoused by Sam Black, is that certain decks are so laser focused on their goal that they cannot afford to waste slots on removal, no matter how strong, in the main sixty. While there are certain creatures that must be answered - Fangren Marauder leaps to mind for its size and ability to prolong the game- they don’t appear with enough frequency to necessitate a card that does not advance the game plan. White Weenie tokens goes wide enough that it does not need to remove blockers. So where does that leave the deck?

Harsh Tokens
Proposed Pauper deck by Alex Ullman
Creatures
4 Doomed Traveler
3 Selfless Cathar
4 Squadron Hawk
4 Suture Priest
15 cards

Other Spells
4 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Raise the Alarm
4 Battle Screech
3 Triplicate Spirits
3 Guardian's Pledge
2 Ramosian Rally
2 Harsh Sustenance
17 cards
Lands
16 Plains
4 Scoured Barrens
1 Swamp
1 Esper Panorama
1 Secluded Steppe
23 cards

Doomed Traveler

 

 

Harsh Sustenance was a card that generated a decent amount of buzz when it was first spoiled. The discussion surrounding it was centered on token strategies. Here it serves as an additional Overrun effect but that is only one use. The fact that Harsh Sustenance can act as an expensive Sorin’s Thirst is exactly what the deck wants. The ability to kill creatures while also being a reliable way to whittle away life while also boosting your own health is so much stronger than a Journey to Nowhere. While there are true costs associated with adding a secondary color I feel that the strength of this instant is well worth the tax.

The other innovation in this version comes from long time Pauper mage Deluxeicoff. Suture Priest is a fine Soul Warden pastiche that can also make life slightly harder for Cloud of Faeries combo by forcing them to have a high enough life total to win through their multiple flickers. Suture Priest is not a slam dunk but it can help the fight whilst retaining utility in other matchups.

The sideboard, as currently constructed, pleases me. Beckon Apparition is an on plan card, exiling a key card while not diluting the potential offense. Similarly Sundering Growth can come with a free creature. Journey to Nowhere is a concession that yes, some creatures need to go away. Cenn’s Enlistment is there for the long game and Mardu Hordechief shores up the ground in case you need to block.

As it stands I could see cutting the third Guardians’ Pledge for the third Harsh Sustenance. Attended Knight and Sandsteppe Outcast contend for slots as well. Tokens is only poised to get stronger as more cards that make armies are released. And that’s alright with me, because sometimes you just want to charge ahead with swords raised high, aimed for the throat. 

Keep slingin’ commons-

-Alex 

SpikeBoyM on Magic Online
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1 Comments

Thanks for the article, some by JMason at Tue, 03/10/2015 - 09:18
JMason's picture

Thanks for the article, some useful ideas I can take away. Had not noticed Harsh Sustenance goes with swarms.