Welcome everyone to the Deck Spotlight series, where we are going to be traveling down the meta highway once again. Today we have Token Mage, an aggressive Willpower based deck. The thing I like a lot about Token Mage is that it reminds me of a Magic: The Gathering deck, especially White/Red Aggro. You have your token producers, creatures with power higher than their Magicka costs, burn spells and anthems. A lot of these cards and the strategy as a whole is fairly straight forward, but it still requires a good mind for sequencing and spacing threats to optimize damage, so there is a decent amount of skill involved. Of course there are always the Marked Man into Ring + Pit Lion into super aggro draws, but for the most part Mage requires more decision making than other Token lists.
The most common Tokens deck is Crusader, and over the past while Token Monk has been popping up (Poor Token Spellsword, you will be missed), so the question is; why Mage? The primary answer for me is burn spells. Mage gives the ability to have reach, particularly Lightning Bolt and Camlorn Hero, that can push through damage in clutch moments. Crusader has Charge creatures or Shield Breaker to give beats, while Monk has movement abilities, but simple burn spells are just so much cleaner. Burn spells don’t get stopped by Guard creatures or sudden Prophecies, they say “I go face” and move on.
Intelligence also gives Tokens access to a decent amount of card advantage. Ayrenn is a great example of this, being a good threat and drawing an action. The best part is, these actions are mostly either token creators or more burn spells. Playing Ayrenn and drawing a Scouting Patrol and then getting to cast that for free is really good play, and that’s not even her best possible outcome. In a late game scenario, you can cast Lightning Bolt, play Ayrenn, redraw that Lightning Bolt and send it upstairs again for a massive burst of damage. To a smaller extent, Wardcrafter offers a sort of card advantage in that it takes two hits to kill, or Wards a friend so it can win out in combat. Now, to be fair, Mage doesn’t have access to as much card advantage as Crusader does, but it’s hard to compete with Crusader’s Assault and Ulric’s Housecarl. So as a result, Token Mage picked up Barbas. As a base, Barbas is a 5 Magicka 3/3 Charge, which is fairly poor in an aggressive deck, but with his ability to draw Daedra he offers a lot in the card drawing department. Plus, when you get to chain Barbas into another Barbas, it feels really damn good.
Other Potential Inclusions
So right off the bat, a lot of people’s Tokens decks look different. Some people like Grisly Gourmet, some people hate it, for example. So for me, there are a couple cards I have skipped out on for mostly personal reasons. The one I want to touch on first is Daggerfall Mage. The reason is simple; it’s just too slow. The card drawing potential of this card is massive and can snowball games just on its own, but in a Tokens deck you want to try and snowball games anyways, so taking 4 Magicka to suit up a creature and draw a card is just too slow and grindy too me. What Daggerfall Mage does is it gives Mage a fairly decent mid-game to overwhelm opponents and offer as many threats as possible, which I do like.
Haafingar Marauder is another card I’ve passed on. Haafingar Marauder does one thing in aggressive decks; end games. This card is a beast in closing out games. In addition, and something I’ll touch on later, it makes your Ramp Scout match-up virtually unlosable. Marauder also had a pseudo-Summon effect in that it can give value as soon as it hits the board, given that you break a Rune immediately. My issue with Haafingar Marauder is threefold: It doesn’t help this deck not lose to Ice Storm (That is, unless you manage to get an item that boosts toughness), it is a little costly at 5 Magicka in an aggro deck, and it has the word “random” in its text box. These issues are really small, and aren’t deal breakers at all, just reasons I don’t include it personally.
Legate Rikke is the final one-of I haven’t included. And again, I have no real issue with this card. Most of the creatures that cost 2 Magicka and under are all Imperial, so you can play Legate Rikke into one of these cheap creatures for immediate value. I’m sure Rikke could slot in over Barbas or cutting one of the less-important cards like a Grisly Gourmet.
The other very simple inclusions for this deck would be the third copies of Cloudrest Illusionist and Imperial Reinforcements. I trimmed on them both to add in two copies of Grisly Gourmet. My reasoning is fairly simple, I would just rather have three-drops than four-drops in my aggro deck. If Legate Rikke would be added, I would want the last Imperial Reinforcements for sure.
The main reason to play Token Mage, and Tokens decks in general is their Ramp matchups. These Tokens decks beat up on Ramp, with a constant stream of pressure and the ability to hit the board really fast. Ramp also was a horrible time dealing with wide boards, and nobody goes wider than a deck with token producers. Ramp Scout in particular plays essentially zero Prophecies, so you get to go to town on them and not worry about a rogue Prophecy ruining your day.
While Ramp is technically a control deck, other control decks can be much, much more of an issue. Ice Storm is the bane of Tokens, and to a smaller extent board clears like Dawn’s Wrath or Immolating Blast. Control Mage is very good against aggressive decks, so watch out for them. Any Control Sorcerer or Control Battlemage brews could also be this deck’s downfall.
Token Mage’s midrange match-ups are also pretty good. This deck preys on midrange decks like Assassin or Sorcerer, as you can get underneath them and they have no way to sweep your board. The two things midrange strategies have to defeat tokens are Skaven Pyromancer and Goblin Skulk, as they are cheap enough to hit you before you’ve fully developed and they can pick off more than one of your creatures. So by default, Midrange Archer is the worst of all the midrange match-ups, even though it is still favored for you.
In terms of aggro mirrors, Token Mage has a couple of advantages, but a couple of downsides. One advantage is Wardcrafter. It lets you fight for the board early and protect the creatures you really care about like Hive Defenders or Bruma Profiteer. As noted earlier, the burn is very helpful in closing games quickly and can win you damage races very easily. Its downsides are that your creatures just aren’t as big as other aggro deck’s creatures. Orcs get to play with big beaters, Goblins start out small and get bigger, and Token Crusader gets to play with Rift Thane. So if you want an advantage in these matchups, you need to hit the ground running and try to snowball quickly.
So there we have it. Token Mage in the pocket, out of sight. Throughout the past month or so I’ve always had Token Crusader in my arsenal, but I swapped to Token Mage about a week ago and I couldn’t be happier. This deck is far more up my alley than Crusader with the Lightning Bolts and Ayrenn, so my bias can’t recommend it enough. And as an even better selling point, this deck obliterates Ramp decks. I had a game versus Ramp Scout where I went nothing turn one, turn two Priest of the Eight (Which didn’t draw a card) that got blocked by a Dark Guardian, turn three Camlorn Hero and I still won easily. That is maybe the rockiest start I’ve ever seen this deck have; no turn one, bad turn two that gets blocked, good/average turn three, and it wasn’t even close. So if you’re sick of seeing Ramp decks on the ladder, this is your solution. Plus you know, this deck does other things than just pick on Ramp.
Well that does it for this week’s Deck Spotlight, thank you all for reading. Next week I’ll be doing a Halloween special, so we’ll be going way, way off the deep end. So with that, I’ll catch you next time.