et's fast forward to about a month from now.
You're playing in a tournament. Could be an FNM. Could be a Magic Online Daily Event. Could even be a Standard Grand Prix. Doesn't matter. You've forgotten. Your mind is too busy toiling with is the situation.
On turn one, you led off with an Avacyn's Pilgrim, and your opponent matched you. Turn two you play a Loxodon Smiter, while your opponent continues to mirror you in lockstep and musters one too. On turn three you trade off Smiters, but it's okay—you have another Smiter. Your opponent untaps, plays a land, and says go.
Now we're on the fourth turn. And you must make a crucial decision: do you attack?
Your opponent has four mana up. Your Smiter is more than enough to break through a potential Restoration Angel—but that's not what you have to factor in. That's not what you're worried about.
No, what you have to worry about is something a lot more precarious. Something that could cause your Smiter to head straight to the garbage bin. You're worried about the advent of something dangerous. You're worried about the Advent of the Wurm.
This card has many things going for it.
First of all, it's a four-mana 5/5 with trample. While we do print four-mana 5/5s these days, those stats are certainly a good start toward playability.
Second of all, it's an instant! Not only is it a good size for its mana cost, but it can come down in the middle of combat and muck with your opponent's plans. Is your opponent not playing many creatures? You can still just land a 5/5 at the end of your opponent's turn! Your opponent can't just Supreme Verdict your creature away before you get to attack. Even if he or she has the Verdict, you get to attack... and then if your opponent Verdicts and you Advent in response, your opponent is going to be in deep trouble.
Third, it creates a token! This means it works great with populate—and for that matter, any cards that interact favorably with tokens. There are plenty of great options to interact with tokens in Standard—and a 5/5 trampling token is a pretty powerful token to boost up even further.
Today, we're going to look at a deck that can take advantage of Advent on all three of those axes! Let's take a look at Peter Maurer's token-heavy take on Bant:
Peter Maurer's Bant Tokens
The Battle Plan
There are many kinds of beatdown decks, and token-based decks are a particularly unique breed. Instead of beating down with many different kinds of creatures, they attack with vanilla (or French vanilla) facsimiles. Usually, the reason to play tokens are enhanced by some specific cards—and this deck definitely has plenty of those in the form of populate, Intangible Virtue, Favorable Winds, and Master Biomancer.
The game will often start out with some token generation in the first few turns. Then you add cards like Intangible Virtue into the mix, and they all become gigantic threats.
To make matters more difficult, many token-making cards generate multiple tokens—and sometimes at instant speed! Even if your opponent manages to clear your board, the existence of enchantments like Intangible Virtue and Favorable Winds mean a single end-step Midnight Haunting can reestablish your entire board presence. When you can trade one token-making card for your opponent's mass removal spell, you know that means you're in good shape!
And, of course, with the Advent of the Wurm it means that even if you're lacking the cards to enhance your tokens you can still threaten a 5/5 an instant speed. It's not just the small ones your opponent has to be worried about anymore.
Let's dive into the individual cards that make this deck and see what can stay—and what is safe to cut off.
Master Biomancer works well with token production. Each token you put onto the battlefield while you have a Biomancer picks up two (or more, if you have multiple Biomancers!) +1/+1 counters, which turns a Midnight Haunting's pair of piddly 1/1 Spirits into some formidable 3/3s. If you have a Biomancer on the table and start making tokens, you're going to be in great shape.
The problem, however, is doing that. Unlike your enchantments, Master Biomancer falls when your opponent uses his or her mass removal. You have to play tokens after Biomancer to get the effect—and he already costs four mana. Four mana also conveniently being the cost for Advent of the Wurm, which I'd prefer to leave mana up for a lot of the time.
I love Master Biomancer. I created it, and it's become one of my favorite cards in the set. However, I don't think he fits as quite as well in here now that the Advent of the Wurm is upon us.
For three mana, you pick up two 1/1 fliers. While a Wind Drake—2-power for three mana—is certainly nothing to be crazy about, in a deck built to use the tokens often they will grow much larger. At the point where you're getting a pair of 2/2s you're in pretty good shape, and anything larger is phenomenal. Plus, it's an instant so you can wait to cast it and avoid Supreme Verdict or mess up combat. You wouldn't want a deck full of Midnight Hauntings, but it carries enough weight that I'm happy keeping all four.
While this deck may be titled "Bant Tokens" (Bant referring to the name for the green-white-blue shard in Shards of Alara), it's actually a bit of a misnomer due to Lingering Souls's black flashback cost. Peter has added in a few lands that produce black mana just for the potential to flash this back, with the base bonus of just having four sorcery Midnight Hauntings.
However, I actually really want to tighten up the mana base a little to play some Gavony Townships, which are fantastic additions to a token strategy. (Also, they sound like my name so I subconsciously like them.) They are essentially a repeatable Glorious Anthem—on a land, so it doesn't take up any spell slots. While losing Lingering Souls is a cost to pay—it's one of the most powerful token-generating cards—getting an incredible effect in the form of a land is worth paying that iron price. As a result, the black splash will have to go.
So, the question changes a little: is it worth just playing what amounts to four sorcery Midnight Hauntings?
My answer is no. There are plenty of strong cards worth playing in this deck, and you don't really want a hand full of Midnight Hauntings. There are other spots on the curve worth hitting, and if you're at four mana I'd much rather have Talrand's Invocation. I'm going to cut it to help fill out the other cards in the deck.
Throughout most of Magic, creating tokens means a card generates multiple, usually relatively small, tokens. Why make Call of the Conclave when you can print Watchwolf? It's just more confusing and unnecessary. It didn't really add a lot that's beneficial.
However, with Selesnya, we changed up our tone because of the populate mechanic. Suddenly, there was a very good reason to have token-making cards like Call of the Conclave and Advent of the Wurm. That gives the token-based deck something it didn't have before: big, cheap creatures that are also tokens!
Call of the Conclave is a good example of this. A two-mana 3/3 is pretty good. Add in the fact that it's a token and can be pumped by everything that affects tokens, and it sounds fantastic. I definitely want to play all four.
Everything I said about Call of the Conclave mostly holds true here. While Selesnya Charm produces a little smaller token than Call of the Conclave (although the Knight is vigilant!) the massive versatility of the card combined with its instant speed makes it incredible here. Whether you need a token, a combat trick, or to get that pesky Angel of Serenity off of the table, this card does all of that. Peter was absolutely correct to play four, so let's keep it that way.
These two-mana, upside Glorious Anthems are part of the reason you would go down the token route. These are fantastic cards with big and small tokens alike, and both vigilance and flying are fantastic abilities for your tokens to have.
While Favorable Winds can be a little redundant with the Spirit-producers, it's strong enough with the huge Selesnya tokens that I want more. In fact, since these are some of the strongest cards in the deck, I want to up these numbers to the full four of each. These are cards you always want to draw a lot of; even an opening hand with three can be pretty exciting. With Master Biomancer gone, I'm looking to go into full anthem mode: eight combined copies it is!
Azorius Charm is such a versatile card. In a deck like this one, where you're looking to use tokens to race your opponent, it especially fits well. A lot of the time, you'll be able to keep mana up for Advent of the Wurm or Midnight Haunting, and then still have this as an option depending on what your opponent does. At the same time, it's not dead in control matchups since you can cycle it away. I like the flexibility this Charm provides enough to keep the two copies, and you could potentially consider a third depending on how many decks its Time Ebb effect is strong against in your local metagame.
This card is neat in that you can either use it as removal or target your own creatures to upgrade a dying token. However, while it's a cute removal spell or a mediocre way to upgrade your creature, neither is stunning. Most of the time, I'd rather just draw another token producer. This card can safely go.
The key to populate cards to me is that they need to be reasonable to play for their effect, since often another token-making card would accomplish the same effect. In this case, it isn't really worth it for me. Fog isn't usually what I'm looking for, and so I'd rather have another token producer here.
However, I think I'd rather have it in the sideboard. It's not going to be stellar against every deck, and because of all the instant-speed token making, the deck is already well positioned against sorcery-speed board sweepers. This is definitely something I'd look to in the sideboard, but I'd rather have more copies of efficient token makers in the main deck.
Sometimes you just want to punch through. While a neat tempo tool, the combination of the third Azorius Charm and more Favorable Winds should help the creatures in this deck punch through plenty. I feel safe cutting these.
While a big anthem is awesome when it's on the battlefield, most of the time it's just going to be a win more. There are numerous six-mana cards a deck like this could play. But with the addition of the heavy hitter Advent of the Wurm and Gavony Township, I think this deck will be in a good position to create huge creatures without this card potentially dead in its hand.
I love the one Entreat the Angels. You're seldom going to draw it, and it's awesome to miracle it away. However, with all of these anthem enchantments, I actually think in the way of strategic one-ofs I'd rather have an Increasing Devotion. That card is going to be a lot more effective if you draw it early on (when you couldn't miracle Entreat), and topdecked late game it can actually be a somewhat similar effect thanks to Favorable Winds. I'm going to make that swap.
Some Token Modifications
Now that some space has been created, there are a few new cards I'm going to add in. I mentioned some of them above, but there are a few I didn't.
You ideally want to start making tokens on turn two instead of casting an anthem, and it's important you have enough two-drops to do that. Additionally, two-drops are also important so you can play a two-drop token producer and an anthem on turn four. Call of the Conclave and Selesnya Charm are both good starts, but Gather the Townsfolk is quite a strong choice as well. I want to add four to help up the two-drop density.
Multiple tokens are fantastic for this deck—and multiple large tokens are even better! While it is a little expensive to cast, this along with Advent of the Wurm means you should usually have a strong-turn four play. (In addition to a pair of two-drops, of course.) Even if you don't draw any anthems, this is still going to create 4 power worth of tokens, which is fairly formidable. I don't want to draw too many, but I'm happy playing three.
I love strategic one-ofs, and this one seems like a strong fit here. If it's in your hand you can build around it. Often you can pass the turn with a bunch of mana untapped and make your opponent fear a Wurm—when in reality, you have a Mystic Genesis! It's feels sort of like the dilemma you face when you're pinched between Mistbind Clique and Cryptic Command. You could certainly consider a second, but I'm happy with one to start off.
That brings the full decklist to:
Gavin Verhey's Advent Time with Finn and Jake
You could push this in many directions. Some are more aggro-control based, using cards like Spell Rupture and Snapcaster Mage. If you start cutting anthems, you could even look at Delver of Secrets. On the other hand, you could also go larger with cards like Trostani, Selesnya's Voice and Armada Wurm. But for a solid middle ground featuring Advent of the Wurm, this is where I would start.
How prominent will Advent of the Wurm be in Standard? Well, I can't tell the future—I just work there. But I'm certain Advent of the Wurm is a powerful card that will show up in many places. An instant-speed threat in control? The top end of a beatdown deck? A tokens deck just like this one? I wouldn't be surprised if it showed up in all three. Now that you all know about the card, where it's strongest is up to your playtesting! Have fun with it!
Curious about some of the decks that weren't featured? Check out this list of several that came close!
Atitat Bunnag's Assemble into Madness
Joe Decourcy's GWUB Control
Mark Ian Alloso's Naya Fatties
Joshua Deming's Junk Tokens
Przemek Alchimowicz's Wurms
Ryo Higashi's Fog Control
Izzy Goodman's Bant Hyperaggresive
Kira D'Amour's Let Me Show You The Door
Richard Murphy's Naya Tokens
Tackman's Naya Séance
The Maze of Standard
The first of my Dragon's Maze preview cards is in the books. There's another preview next week—and after that, we'll be starting to look at a new Standard! Here are the restrictions for the deck two weeks from now:
Format: Standard (including Dragon's Maze!)
Restrictions: Send in a Standard deck built around your favorite Dragon's Maze card so far! (You may want to wait to submit until later in the week, once more cards have been revealed)
Deadline: Sunday, April 14, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time
Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template. (You do not need to adhere to the specific numbers below, but it's just how a general decklist should look when laid out.)
4 Other Spell
4 Other Spell
Zac Hill packed an absurd amount of good stuff into Dragon's Maze. If you like Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash, Dragon's Maze has a ton more cards that will slot right into your favorite decks—and some really powerful standalone cards as well. Some of them are simple—like Advent of the Wurm—but that doesn't mean they also aren't incredibly powerful as well. The set is sure to shake up Standard—and I can't wait to see what you all do with it!
If you have any thoughts on this article, feel free to post in the forums below or send me a tweet. I'd love to hear from you!
I'll be back next week with an exciting preview for the Orzhov guild. Talk with you then!
When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he wanted a job making Magic cards. Ten years later, his dream was realized as his combined success as a professional player, deck builder, and writer brought him into Wizards R&D during 2011. He's been writing Magic articles since 2005 and has no plans to stop.