Too-Specific Top 10 - Tokens, Activate!

(Bennie Bracks, Zoologist | Art by Eric Deschamps)

Token Time

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Pegasus Refuge is the only card that can make 1/1 Pegasus tokens without the need for white mana?)

Streets of New Capenna has a huge focus on three-color pairings, but one of the most interesting legends from this new plane is actually one of the mono-colored commanders.

Bennie Bracks, Zoologist is a man of very particular tastes. He wants you to have a lot of tokens, and he wants it to happen on a regular schedule. The problem is, that schedule isn't just on your turn, but also on opponents' turns. We must therefore ask, what's the best way to make tokens on other players' turns? You could throw out the odd Raise the Alarm, but that seems unsustainable.

Let's instead focus on a completely different means of accruing value over time.

Top 10 Mono-White Activated Ability Token-Makers

Mono-white decks don't draw tons of cards, but they do excel at activated abilities. Mono-white has tons of cards that can use activated abilities to create tokens, often without even needing to tap, so you can conceivably use it over and over again. Of course, that kind of repetition gets fairly broken with a large or infinite amount of mana, so there are often other caveats on those cards.

Some cards frontload those caveats, like Luminarch Ascension and its quest counters. Others tack it onto the backend, like Twilight Drover, whose +1/+1 counters can be removed to create tokens, but who must first witness tokens die before it can accrue any counters in the first place. Others have caveats throughout the entire process, as we see with Hoofprints of the Stag.

If we want to make a terrific deck for our Zoologist, why depend on this kind of shoddy reliability when we could just have it all?

Criteria: White and colorless cards with an activated ability that can make tokens at instant speed (unlike planeswalkers) and doesn't require any additional cost or criteria outside of mana to do so (like tapping, removing counters, or sacrificing anything). As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Blaring Recruiter

(624 Inclusions, 0% of 493,657 Decks)

I don't mean to go on a tangent for the first card of the list, but - who is this guy recruiting to the fighting arenas of Battlebond? For those unfamiliar with the "Martial Magic" sport of Kylem, as portrayed in the Battlebond set, the basic concept is that a team of two enters an arena and fights another team of two. So when Blaring Recruiter and Blaring Captain begin to fight, isn't it against the rules to bring in more people? Who are they adding to their team, someone from the crowd? I suppose this goes for Regna, the Redeemer, too. Just feels shady.

Oh yeah, the actual card - this is a four-mana 2/2 that makes 1/1s for the same cost as Mobilization. It's a little more worth it with Blaring Captain in play, but since she's priced at four mana as well, it all seems like a lot of mana for minimal payoff, unfortunately. "A fine pair of Limited cards", one might say.

9. Master Trinketeer

(978 Inclusions, 0% of 493,657 Decks)

I'm not gonna lie, I absolutely love everything about Servos, Thopters, and Master Trinketeer. Four mana might seem steep to make a 1/1, but they're 2/2s as long as our favorite Dwarf Artificer sticks around, and they're also artifacts!

The options for triggered abilities when artifacts enter or leave the battlefield aren't all that plentiful in mono-white, but there are a few notable ones (and plenty more in Boros). With that in mind, I would suggest that the mono-white artifact decks of the world kindly take another look at this kindly old Artificer.

8. Sacred Mesa

(1,127 Inclusions, 0% of 493,657 Decks)

Alright, let's talk about Sacred Mesa. Sure, sure, you have to sacrifice a poor Pegasus every upkeep, and it necessitates a lot of mana, something white isn't usually very good at, but there's no denying that two mana for a 1/1 flyer is a pretty great rate if you can get it, hence why this used to be a white staple in the format.

I would submit that we've swung too far away from the simple strategy of "I'm going to make evasive flying tokens until you do something about it, holding onto my full grip while I do so". Provided there's not a combo incoming, it creates an impactful board state, and in the case of a board wipe, you just play out the cards in your hand you've been holding onto instead (or keep on making Pegasi if they don't manage to remove Sacred Mesa). In short, making a ton of 1/1 flyers isn't going to win you ultra-cutthroat games, but for everything else, it might just do the trick!

7. Drogskol Cavalry

(1,389 Inclusions, 0% of 493,657 Decks)

This card's placement on the list is the reason I'm so surprised to see just how far Sacred Mesa has fallen. Why would you pay seven mana for the right to pay four mana repeatedly to get a 1/1 flyer when Sacred Mesa would give you four tokens for the same cost?

Okay, okay, I know the answer is that people are playing this Spirit Knight for its Spirit lifegain trigger in a Spirit deck, but does that really make the seven-mana cost any better?

6. Spawnsire of Ulamog

(1,726 Inclusions, 0% of 1,101,784 Decks)

Ah, Spawnsire of Ulamog, the Rule Zero Eldrazi win condition!

I have to say, I don't think this card should this be restricted to decks where people have Rule Zero'd with their group to allow them to grab 42 Eldrazi from outside the game. With those Eldrazi Spawn sacrificing for half the mana needed to activate Spawnsire's token ability, it's just not that hard to put a ton of tokens down quickly, or even go infinite with the likes of Training Grounds or Parallel Lives.

Worth some thought, at least.

5. Mobilization

(1,710 Inclusions, 0% of 493,657 Decks)

I know I'm showing my Pegasus bias here, but in the great battlefield of "Which is better, Mobilization or Sacred Mesa?" I've always come down on the side of Sacred Mesa. With that said, there's a reason that at least one of them used to be in pretty much every mono-white list in Commander, Mobilization included. In the early turns, it can be downright troublesome to have to keep on sacrificing a Pegasus token every upkeep, and there's no worse feeling than plopping down a Sacred Mesa on turn three, paying four mana to feel like you got your money's worth, only to end up sacrificing it all on turn five because you got busy with other problems and now have nothing to show for it.

Mobilization comes with none of that baggage, and while vigilance isn't quite as useful as flying, it's nonetheless a great keyword to see on your tokens, allowing you to swing in every turn without having to worry about a crackback. In short, if you have the mana to spare, or are just into Soldiers, this card is always a great option.

4. Oketra the True

(Helms 91 Decks, Rank #1067; 4,711 Inclusions, 1% of 493,657 Decks)

Oketra the True has never been a popular commander, and as previously discussed, making 1/1 tokens for four mana is not a great rate. Still, there's something to be said for a 3/6 indestructible double striker, even if it requires jumping through a few hoops to get going.

3. Prava of the Steel Legion

(Partners 947 Decks; 5,370 Inclusions, 1% of 424,724 Decks)

1/1 tokens for four mana might not be worth it, but how about 2/5 tokens? Sure, they only get that bump when it's your turn, but those butts sure do make attacking easy.

Whether you pay the four mana for the tokens or not, +1/+4 is a huge boost that makes it exceedingly likely that your tokens will be nigh-invincible in combat, meaning that any token deck out there should be more than happy to see Prava of the Steel Legion, whether it be in the command zone or the 99.

2. Heliod, God of the Sun

(Helms 159 Decks, Rank #886; 9,136 Inclusions, 2% of 493,657 Decks)

While Heliod, God of the Sun hasn't made the same splash as its cEDH cousin, its four-mana activation at least makes tokens with 2 power rather than just 1 power. Even better, they're enchantment tokens! Unlike artifacts, enchantments have a pretty good array of effects in white that care about enchantments entering or leaving the battlefield. In other words, as the jump in numbers shows us, this Heliod is more than worth playing, whether it's to be a hipster mono-white Enchantress build or a token-maker in the 99. In fact, in my opinion, Heliod deserves the#1 spot on our list, over the actual #1 card - but more on that in just a moment!

1. Dawn of Hope

(15,326 Inclusions, 3% of 493,657 Decks)

The meme of "white can't draw cards" has gone so far that people are actually playing this card in 3% of all white decks, and I find this to just be sad and defeating. Don't get me wrong, I understand that those numbers have nothing to do with the token ability, which is just kind of gravy on a mediocre card draw trigger, but that trigger is decidedly mediocre, even if you're in the dedicated lifegain deck. Two mana for a card isn't an awful rate, but only being able to do it whenever you gain life is less than ideal, to the point where I personally would rather just play more lifegain that has card draw stapled to it, like Revitalize, Wedding Ring, or Sigarda's Splendor.

Those are just the recent cards, too! If you go back in time a bit, you can find stuff that people have already stopped playing to play more Dawn of Hope, like Survival Cache, Ritual of Rejuvenation, Renewed Faith, Spiritualize, Filigree Familiar....

Honorable Mentions

There's no doubt that Wizards has played it safe with these activation costs. So, with that in mind, let's take a look at what the more limited options are:

Top 10 Non-Tapping Token-Making Activated Abilities

  1. Luminarch Ascension
  2. Dawn of Hope
  3. Heliod, God of the Sun
  4. Prava of the Steel Legion
  5. Oketra the True
  6. Twilight Drover
  7. Golem Foundry
  8. Custodi Soulbinders
  9. Pentavus
  10. Helm of Kaldra

We've already talked about a good majority of the cards on this list (and it probably would've been the true list if it weren't for the inclusion of Helm of Kaldra), but there are definitely Bennie builds out there that are using a lot of these, so they warrant mentioning. Luminarch Ascension, for instance, will definitely have an entire table targeting you, but it will be for good reason! Golem Foundry is an excellent choice for either the Golem or Servo/Thopter-heavy build. Custodi Soulbinders, on the other hand, should probably just be in every Bennie build ever.

Finally, astute readers of Bennie's card will have noticed that despite this list only having creature token cards on it, Bennie doesn't restrict himself to just flora and fauna, rather drawing cards on any token. So, with that in mind, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a few of the many new Treasure toys that mono-white has gotten lately!

Nah, just kidding, those are all green cards. Totally makes sense for the color of nature to make unnatural mana, right?

Nuts and Bolts

There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.

What Do You Think?

I didn't go into much detail about this above, but I'll hammer it home here: I strongly believe in using activated abilities as a sort of 'replacement' for card draw. Even if you can't get a bunch of cards in hand, repeatable activated abilities can provide you with tons of value without ever risking that you over-extend, and they're often very flexible and usable at instant speed. The more you use an ability, the fewer cards you have to expend from your hand, so even if your efforts eventually get stopped, you'll have a full grip to fall back on. And yes, some of the cards we discussed above are low-power token makers, but there are some really potent activated abilities out there!

This is a philosophy that I strongly believe in, so with that in mind...

Finally, what's your favorite token maker that just won't quit? Are you brewing Bennie Bracks, Zoologist, and if so, are you doing it as a pure creature tokens build or including the dreaded Smothering Tithe? (Note: If you are, prepare the pocketbook, because they're going for $50.00 now, hence why I'm always saying that rares and mythics aren't what will help white dig out of its hole.)

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the table you can always pull some leaves out of to make longer (if you're willing to put in the effort, that is).

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.

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