Do Your Worst - Colorless Tokens
(Mishra's Self-Replicator | Art by Joseph Meehan)
Hello, everyone! Welcome to another installment of Do Your Worst, where we take a popular archetype and find the most unusual home for it! I'm your host, Philomène, and in this column, we'll be looking at decks that should not be – or should they?
Today, we're investigating Token decks! They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they usually focus on creating a large amount of token creatures, pumping them up with anthem effects, and turning them sideways for the win.
Tokens have existed since Alpha (The Hive), and could be considered as ubiquitous as +1/+1 counters in Magic: the Gathering. As such, pretty much every color in the history of the game has been given access to this mechanic in one form or another. Trying to find the worst color for this archetype will not be easy... or will it?
Naya and Simic are the leading colors of the archetype, followed by Selesnya, Golgari and Orzhov. The most popular commanders for this archetype are Adrix and Nev, Twincasters and Chatterfang, Squirrel General, which is no wonder: they have the ability to double up on token production, which is nuts. Newcomer Jetmir, Nexus of Revels is not to be dismissed, however, as he can often win the game when he comes out. Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer hangs in fourth place, in front of Trostani, Selesnya's Voice.
I think we can agree that white and green are disqualified outright. Red is no slouch either, and so we will avoid it as well. Blue being part of Simic is just too synergistic and has received too much support for tokens over the years. Then there's black... which is part of many Golgari and Orzhov token decks! That will simply not do.
No – where we're going, we don't need colors.
Usually, this is the part where I would look for a commander that can guide me through the deckbuilding process. Unfortunately, with only 11 legendary creatures to choose from, I feel like that's a little backwards. Will we be making a majority of Eldrazi Scions, or maybe Myrs, or even green Snakes? Will we want a big Eldrazi finisher, a commander that cares about artifacts, or the little Thopter that could? No one knows. We'll check in later when we know a little more about the deck.
Colorless player quietly accepting her lack of choice in commanders, 2022.
Colorless Is More
So, how can we generate some tokens?
If anyone lets you untap with Mishra's Self-Replicator, you're in for a good time. Each token has the ability to replicate, so the rate gets very good at one mana for a 2/2, and it gets exponential! I've been impressed by this card. Myr Battlesphere is awesome, even if we only have three other ways to make Myrs. Dollhouse of Horrors is surprising if we have some creatures in the graveyard, and we casually have nine Constructs in our deck, so the tokens might get big! Snake Basket is a big mana sink, and Golem Foundry will trigger on almost anything we play, making 3/3 Golems pretty reliably.
Sword of Body and Mind and, if your group agrees, Sword of Dungeons & Dragons, are decent token-generators. Staying with Equipment, Captain's Claws and Helm of the Host might prove useful. Throne of Empires, Acorn Catapult, Retrofitter Foundry, Myr Turbine, and Summoning Station are all pretty slow in addition to being big mana investments, but they do allow us to create tokens each turn.
Now, how can we profit from going wide?
My mind immediately went to Mechtitan Core. Who doesn't want a 10/10 with flying, vigilance, trample, lifelink, and haste? Speaking of haste, Crashing Drawbridge is a fantastic way to get some use out of our creatures immediately. Dolmen Gate can let us attack with impunity. Steel Overseer, Chief of the Foundry, and The Immortal Sun are decent anthem effects, but not as good as Eldrazi Monument or the best card in our deck, Forsaken Monument.
Fifty Shades of Colorless
It's easy to get distracted by all the pretty artifacts, but we have to make sure our deck runs smoothly.
We're going to benefit from having a lot of small creatures, so mana dorks like Hedron Crawler, Manakin, or Ornithopter of Paradise can not only ramp us when we need it, but punch face when they get bigger. We're running a lot of artifacts, so Foundry Inspector and Jhoira's Familiar seem reasonable. Strixhaven Stadium is less a mana rock than a win condition, but it does help us ramp, even if it's going to draw us a little bit of hate.
Skullclamp is a busted card, and we like those! Idol of Oblivion can usually replace itself the turn it comes in and draw us a card each turn. Remarkable! Tome of Legends has a really good rate, so maybe we'll keep this in mind when choosing our commander. Smuggler's Copter isn't card advantage, per se, but card selection is also good. Karn, Scion of Urza is a nice draw engine, and Mystic Forge lets the top of our deck be an extension of our hand. Then we get into some clunky colorless card advantage, like Farsight Mask, Eye of Vecna, and Reckoner Bankbuster.
This is where it gets a little dicey! Brittle Effigy is at least decent, if telegraphed. I will stand by Pit Trap: it deters valuable creatures from attacking you, for a while at least. Spatial Contortion and Warping Wail are the kind of low-costed, instant-speed interaction colorless decks need more of. The sorcery speed on Transmogrifying Wand really hurts and we give our opponents some Oxen, but it's not terrible... right? Introduction to Annihilation, Duplicant, and Steel Hellkite are expensive, but effective.
Gruesome Slaughter makes sense in a deck that wants to make a lot of creatures. For board wipes, All Is Dust and Coercive Portal will do the job, the latter doubling as a card advantage engine.
Ugin, the Ineffable refuses categorization as he is both ramp and card advantage, while Trading Post is just an all-around useful artifact. Shimmer Myr lets us play at instant speed. In the event of a board wipe – which will undoubtedly happen since our only goal is to swarm the battlefield – Spawning Pit lets us rebuild quickly. We have a surprising number of artifacts that tap to draw cards or create tokens, so Unwinding Clock looks like a no-brainer here.
One of the strengths of being a colorless deck is that our mana base can pretty much be all utility lands. At almost no opportunity cost, we can have lands that double as spells when we don't have what we need in hand. Field of the Dead, Cradle of the Accursed, or Springjack Pasture can generate some tokens. Bonders' Enclave and War Room can draw us cards, and the latter costs no life to activate because we have no colors in our commander's color identity! Blast Zone is a board wipe, Scavenger Grounds is graveyard hate, and Tomb of the Spirit Dragon can stabilize our life total for a pretty cheap cost.
I Am (a Colorless) Legend
I think it's clear now that Traxos, Scourge of Kroog is our best choice of commander. Not only does it untap with basically every nonland card we play, it also wears our different Equipment really well, and it plays nice with Tome of Legends. It's just a decent threat all on its own. Sure, Kozilek, the Great Distortion might be powerful and all, but I think Traxos, Scourge of Kroog is more synergistic. There's a case to be made for The Peregrine Dynamo, but we only have seven legendary permanents with relevant abilities in our deck, so I doubt it'll be that useful.
Let's see what we got when we put all of these cards together!
Traxos | Mono-Grey With a Splash of Brown
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
Myr Battlesphere | Art by Franz Vohwinkel
The Road (Color)Less Traveled
To be perfectly honest, I actually started with brewing a mono-black tokens deck for this article, with Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel and Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools as Partners. I just thought I'd share it here for those interested! But I think going colorless makes for a more interesting (and a little worse!) deck.
The main takeaway for me is that there are a lot of colorless cards that create tokens. Colorless decks always seem to gravitate around either artifacts or Eldrazi, and it was fun trying to brew something a little different. At the risk of repeating what has already been said in the community, I do have to say that the limited choice of colorless commanders is a real bummer. Maybe Wizards of the Coast will print a new one in The Brothers' War? This year, we only got The Peregrine Dynamo and Faceless One. Not particularly exciting for our colorless enthusiasts!
So, how would you build a colorless tokens deck? Is Traxos, Scourge of Kroog a good choice of commander? Is there some sweet card or synergy that I missed? Let me know in the comments! I'm Philomène, and this has been Do Your Worst. See you next time!