GW Tokens in Modern

gw tokens modern

At a recent Grand Prix, Matt Nass sleeved up this list containing two notable GW Token all-stars from Standard (Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar) to a Top 16 finish:

G/W Tokens

Modern Format

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Noble Hierarch
2 Avacyn’s Pilgrim

4 Raise the Alarm
4 Path to Exile
2 Dismember

4 Lingering Souls
4 Spectral Procession

Planeswalkers: 7
4 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

Lands: 25
3 Windbrisk Heights
Gavony Township
4 Windswept Heath
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Godless Shrine
1 Overgrown Tomb
2 Temple Garden
2 Forest
2 Plains
2 Horizon Canopy
2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
2 Creeping Corrosion
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Gut Shot
2 Rule of Law
3 Stony Silence
Timely Reinforcements

Being able to jam a bunch of your Standard format cards into a Modern deck is always fun. It somewhat justifies playing both formats (for example, if you played Voice of Resurgence a few Standard formats ago, you’re probably happy you still have those handy). Of course, it doesn’t always happen that way (see: Siege Rhino).

Aside from the usual Modern staples that you may have from other Modern decks, the deck is not very pricey to construct with the exception of Horizon Canopy, but that can be replaced. You’ll often get a Turn 2 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar which roadblocks many many decks by simply pumping out a plant token every turn. Of course, it’s more important role here is that it buffs your token team by giving them some +1/+1 counters every so often. Who needs Honor of the Pure and co. when you have a planeswalker that gives you that little bit of extra versatility.

Gideon offers another angle of attack against decks that are not equipped to take him down (decks with no Path to Exile / Dismember). Although, with the rise of Nahiri, the Harbinger in Modern Jeskai decks, Dreadbore is now a thing.

gideon ally nissa voice

The 1-2 Zendikar token punch!

The rest of the deck is very unsurprising really, it’s most of what we’re already used to seeing in Black/White Tokens. The only reason the black splash exists is for the Lingering Souls flashback option which comes up a lot. Like, a lot a lot! Windbrisk Heights is a little less exciting as we can’t cast a Zealous Persecution out from under it in mid-attack to change combat math and potentially wipe out some of our opponent’s board. It’s still fine value, since it gives us a free card and if that card happens to be Gavony Township then we can insta-pump our attackers as well in an uncounterable way.

Sequencing your spells for maximum damage/efficiency is very important in this deck. However, unlike most aggressive decks, it actually does very very well defensively. Don’t expect to be favored against a lot of combo decks in Game 1 though as it’s mostly a race and the deck doesn’t pack many answers to those. It’s definitely a nice deck to have in your Modern gauntlet and to try out at some of your local gaming store’s Modern events.

lingering souls alt

Aggro Loam


aggro loam

francis avatar final

A long time ago, back when i played lots of Legacy, Aggro Loam was my deck of choice. You could get so much value from Life from the Loam and powerful lands, especially before Deathrite Shaman was printed.


life from the loam


the little engine that could

With the banning of Deathrite Shaman in Modern there is a window for graveyard decks to become better. Some people have been trying to port the Assault Loam strategy to modern. I’ve seen many different lists pop up online in the Magic Online Daily Events :  some run the same creature package as the old Legacy version (Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf and Countryside Crusher), some splash white for Knight of the Reliquary and Lingering Souls, some lists play blue instead of black and others play Young Pyromancer with Smallpox.

My list combines two cards I’ve always wanted to play in the same deck: Young Pyromancer and Lingering Souls.

This is my current list:

Aggro Loam

Modern Deck

Creatures: 4

4 Young Pyromancer

Instants: 5

4 Abrupt Decay
1 Darkblast

Sorceries: 23

4 Faithless Looting
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Thoughtseize
4 Raven’s Crime
1 Flame Jab
4 Smallpox
4 Life from the Loam
4 Lingering Souls



Enchantments: 3

3 Seismic Assault

Lands: 25

4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Arid Mesa
2 Graven Cairns
2 Stomping Ground
1 Blood Crypt
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Godless Shrine
1 Forest
1 Swamp
1 Horizon Canopy
2 Raging Ravine
1 Treetop Village
1 Pendelhaven
1 Ghost Quarter


2 Duress
2 Anger Of The Gods
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Vengeful Pharaoh
2 Surgical Extraction
2 Syphon Life
2 Engineered Explosives
1 Vault of the Archangel



The wins

The main win condition is supposed to be Seismic Assault + Life from the Loam but in reality I’ve won many more games with Young Pyromancer and Lingering Souls. With Retrace spells, Young Pyro turns all your discarded lands into 1/1 s and with Loam you can get a lot of those tokens. Casting Lingering Souls with a Young Pyromancer on the field gets you 3 tokens, 6 if you cast Lingering Souls from your hand and Flashback it. You can easily build a scary board from scratch with these cards. Every time you Dredge a Lingering Souls you basically get free tokens.

young pyromancergiving value to all your instants and sorceries has never been sooooo good!

The downside of Young Pyromancer is that as the only creature in the deck, it will eat all the opposing creature removal so you have to be careful when casting them. You can wait until you destroyed your opponent’s hand with the discard spells or play it while having some untapped lands to cast spells so you get some guaranteed value from it. Also, they are our best win vs uninteractives decks. If we manage to slow down their combo, we can then kill them with tokens.

The tokens can be used both for offence and defence, Spirit tokens trade with most flying creatures in the format (aside from Restoration Angel and Celestial Colonnade) and chumping with tokens until you stabilize is fine. The Godless Shrine one-of is here solely to cast Lingering Souls from your hand and to activate Vault of the Archangel from the board, but in most games you won’t even need it.

The most powerful interaction in the deck is Seismic Assault + Life from the Loam. These cards together can both control the board and win you the game. Six damage a turn is a real clock and the ability to kill any creature your opponent draws makes it very hard for most decks to win after you’ve assembled the two pieces. This is less true versus Abrupt Decay decks and is the reason why drawing multiple Seismic Assaults isn’t always a bad thing. Seismic Assault puts a lot of strain on your Red mana so I’ve built my mana base accordingly.

Manlands are the last win condition. The ‘enter the battlefield tapped’ drawback often doesn’t matter much. They truly shine on empty boards, a board state that is likely to happen with all the discard and removal. They can also be recurred with Life from the Loam. Also, game 2 and 3 they become better since our opponents are very likely to side in some graveyard hate.


The discard


raven's crimeCaw! Caw! goes the raven 

Raven’s Crime is the main reason to play black in this deck. Combined with Life from the Loam, you can literally annihilate your opponent’s hand. The strong presence of combo decks in the format makes this interaction very potent. The deck also plays 25 lands so Retracing it a few time shouldn’t be a problem even if you don’t start with Life from the Loam in your opening hand. Every time you Loam and cast Raven’s Crime you basically 3 for 1 your opponent until he has no cards in hand. This strategy is very good against control decks as well, counterspells are pretty useless versus Raven’s Crime. If they can counter your Life from the Loam, sometimes this will be annoying if your hand is left with no lands but you can always Dredge it back later. Playing Raven’s Crime makes having access to multiple black mana a must, especially on the first few turns of the game. This is why I run as many black mana-producing lands as I can. Just beware of cards like Loxodon Smiter, Wilt-Leaf Liege and Obstinate Baloth !

A 1-1 split between Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize is best i think. We already take some damage from our lands so just one Thoughtseize. Inquisition is better vs aggro and Thoughtseize is better at taking away things like Cryptic Command.


The removal

I believe Abrupt Decay is a very good card right now. It can kill most relevant creatures in the format and is also is an answer to problematic hate cards such as Rest in Peace. Also, it can safely halt most creature-based combos and it kills random non-creatures too.For smaller creatures we have Flame Jab. Flame Jab is pretty good vs. specific decks, namely decks with mana dorks, decks with tokens and Affinity decks. It is also very useful combined with Young Pyromancer, just throw Jabs to the face and make lots of tokens. Flame Jab can also finish off a planeswalker or bigger creatures with lots of red mana and Life from the Loam.

Darkblast is sort of like Flame Jab, except it is instant speed, fills up our graveyard, can’t be thrown to the face and is harder to use multiple times against large creatures. This is why i think a 1-1 split between it and Flame Jab is the best. It can be a nice surprise with Young Pyromancer, just Darkblast an attacking creature, make a token and ambush the creature ! You can cast it additional times if you use it during your upkeep and then Dredge it. The card disadvantage isn’t that bad since you are filling your graveyard anyway (which is what we’re aiming for). You can do more tricks with it and Horizon Canopy.

Smallpox is a very disruptive spell and it doesn’t affect us as much as our opponents (most of the time). Discarding a card isn’t a problem, we can Loam back sacrificed lands and our only creature is Young Pyromancer  plus we can sacrifice the token Smallpox created. ‘Edict’ effects are good at taking down bigger threats that the deck can’t handle without Seismic Assault, provided we kill small creatures beforehand. On the play we can hit an Urzatron lands if our opponent leads with them and Celestial Colonnade which UW/x players often play first.

The engines


Life from the Loam is the centerpiece of this deck, but it is possible to win without them (usually via Lingering Souls and Young Pyromancer). In this deck, getting 3 lands is the equivalent of getting 3 spells a lot of the time.

Faithless Looting is basically draw 2 for one mana with Flashback since many of our cards operate from the graveyard. You can also Loam and just discard 2 lands. Also, if you draw multiple Seismic Assaults and don’t need them you can ‘loot’ them away. You can also discard Lingering Souls when you don’t have access to your Godless Shrine or Horizon Canopy.


The lands


25 lands is the minimum requirement for this deck since you get lots of value from them. Topdecking a land isn’t as bad as it can be in other decks because you can generally do something with it. The basic lands are a concession to Blood Moon, Path to Exile and Ghost Quarter. If you expect your opponent to play Blood Moon , then you should always search for your basic Forest so you can keep on Loaming. Also sometimes you don’t want to take damage from fetched lands, so having the option of getting a basic is nice.


blood moonBoo! the fun police is in the house

Horizon Canopy can do a lot of work. Firstly,  it is an additional white source which is sometimes useful. Secondly, you can Loam it and still draw your card for the turn. Lastly, with Horizon Canopy as your sixth land and with 2 other Green mana sources:  you can Loam 2 times a turn. Just Dredge and cast Life from the Loam, play Horizon Canopy, Dredge Loam with Canopy’s draw ability and Loam again. With Seismic Assault you get 5 lands to discard to it each turn, which is very useful when you need to end the game quickly. The damage from the mana ability can be an issue so one copy of Horizon Canopy is the maximum we can run in my opinion.

Ghost Quarter is general hate vs. special lands. It helps against Tron and kills Celestial Colonnade as well as other manlands that are found in a lot of decks in the Modern format. The deck is pretty color intensive so we only run one in order to avoid mana problems. Having a recurring way to handle problem lands seems good enough. Against a few decks that run almost no basic Lands you can even cut them off from a color and mana screw them. This won’t happen often as most decks run enough basic to prevent that from happening. In match-ups were Ghost Quarter is useless, we can side it out for Vault of the Archangel.


In Conclusion …

Aggro Loam is a hard deck to classify. It has aggro elements in the form of token beat down (or Tarmogoyf, Knight of the Reliquary and Countryside Crusher in the other version), lots of control elements with all the discard and removal as well as combo-ish interactions with Seismic Assault and Life from the Loam.

The deck is vulnerable to graveyard hate but we have access to Abrupt Decay and Engineered Explosives to get rid of those. Explosives is extra good vs specific deck like Aura Hexproof, Merfolk, Affinity, etc. We have access to 4 colors so we can even kill the occasional Leyline of Sanctity and Restoration Angels, if need be. Ancient Grudge can be an answer to Pithing Needle (on Seismic Assault), Grafdigger’s Cage, Relic of Progenitus, etc. You get extra value from them when they get Dredged. Anger of the Gods can replace some Smallpox vs. Birthing Pod decks. Duress is good additional discard and can replace removal vs. creature-light decks. Combined with Surgical Extraction, we can get free wins when facing combo decks. Syphon Life is here vs. burn, which is probably this deck’s worst match-up. Vengeful Pharaoh is tech vs. creature decks. When it triggers and goes back on top or your library, you can Dredge Life from the Loam and send it back in the graveyard or just discard it to Faithless Looting or Smallpox. Vault of the Archangel can make our tokens trade with anything and the life gain as well.

The worst thing that can happen to us is Surgical Extraction on Life from the Loam, it becomes very difficult (but not impossible) to win after that. Remember, if you have Horizon Canopy on the battlefield, you can play around Surgical Extraction  by ‘cycling ‘ dredging it in response. Just keep Loaming and play Hoprizon Canopy after Life from the Loam has resolved without passing priority. Scavenging Ooze can be a problem but we have main deck answers to that. Just kill it on the spot (if you can) whenever you see it! A trick to kill them with Flame Jab is to cast it on ooze and retrace multiple times without passing priority, your opponent will then not have the opportunity to exile your Flame Jab since it will always be on the stack when the opponent gets priority. Another weakness of the deck is GR Tron namely because of their maindeck Relic of Progenitus.

Life from the Loam is a powerful card advantage engine. If you like playing with your graveyard, then I suggest you give this deck a spin!


Seismic AssaultA fiery fist emerges from the mountain to punch a feathery face

Dragon’s Maze Event Decklist

dragon's maze event deck

The decklist for the single event deck for Dragon’s Maze has been spoiled and it looks to be a decent value without being over the top. The deck actually seems somewhat fun as well. It is a ‘Junk Tokens’ kind of build.

Here’s the list:

4 Evolving Wilds
6 Forest
1 Godless Shrine
1 Grove of the Guardian
7 Plains
4 Selesnya Guildgate
1 Swamp

24 lands

1 Champion of Lambholt
2 Doomed Traveler
1 Geist-Honored Monk
1 Odric, Master Tactician
2 Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage
1 Wayfaring Temple

8 creatures

1 Advent of the Wurm
4 Call of the Conclave
1 Growing Ranks
1 Increasing Devotion
4 Intangible Virtue
3 Lingering Souls
1 Parallel Lives
2 Rancor
3 Rootborn Defenses
4 Selesnya Charm
4 Wake the Reflections

28 other spells

4 Centaur Healer
3 Druid’s Deliverance
4 Pacifism
1 Rogue’s Passage
3 Sundering Growth


Let us analyse the Rares here:


Godless Shrine

godless shrine


Yes, this is where the bulk of the rare value went. At an MSRP of 19.99$ (one that store are very likely to stick to, for a change) this is a great inclusion indeed. Wizards of the Coast is really pushing Modern by practically giving these to us. In the deck, the only purpose of this card is to allow us to flashback Lingering Souls.


Grove of the Guardian

grove od the guardian


We all would have prefered an M13 dual or something else here, but this is a Populate deck. It really didn’t help its value that it was a Pre-release card as well. Still, I’m all for fun when it comes to these decks – so Populate away!


Champion of Lambholt


champion of lambholt


This card is rather good in terms of value and playability. It’s not insane value, but it trades really well. In a token strategy it acts as a kind of lord, but not the generic kind that just gives +1/+1 to your team. I have seen it played in certain Naya Aggro lists or Human decks and it’s actually quite decent.


Geist-Honored Monk

geist honored monk


Ah! Another card that is great for the deck in terms of playability but bad in terms of value. The art on this card is my favorite part.


Odric, Master Tactician




He works well with the fact that the deck will want to spam a ton of creatures. He basically gets to attack and probably make your opponent not block anything allowing you to inflict mass amounts of damage, if not the lethal blow. Not really good in terms of value, but I approve of his inclusion.


Wayfaring Temple

wayfaring temple


This is probably the first card out of the deck and into people’s trade binders. It’s bad, like really bad. I guess it’s in there to educate the newer players that some cards are not as good as they seem. While I understand this, I do not like the fact that it’s in there. They could have put Scion of the Vitu-Gazi in there instead.


Advent of the Wurm

advent of the wurm


Oh yes! take me to Value Town! this is one of the hotter cards from Dragon’s Maze and it’s quite cool to see it included in this Event deck. This and Godless Shrine pretty much justify the 19.99$ face value of the deck by themselves. It fits in nicely in the deck theme as well, they didn’t just toss in a random big rare. Post rotation, this thing will probably go higher in value despite being in the Event deck.


Growing Ranks

growing ranks


Great casual card to put in here. While it’s not really super competitive, it’s not half bad really. In terms of value, we can probably look elsewhere though.


Increasing Devotion

increasing devotion


Probably not great in terms of value here, but it’s a great token genrator. It allows you to overcommit and still have some gas left for the late game, if there is one. This plus Champion of Lambholt can be a blowout mid to late game.


Parallel Lives

parallel lives


Much like Growing Ranks, it does not do much on its own. It’s probably never going to make it in any serious token decklist, but it’s got a great casual appeal (which would explain its 4$ price tag). You can probably shove this in your trade binder and use it to get other cards you want.


That about wraps it up for the ‘Rare Value’ analysis. At this point we’re at about just under 30$ value off of rares. The thing is, the greater part of the value lies in the Uncommons of the deck. Let us see:


4 x Intangible Virtue

2 x Rancor

2 x Selesnya Charm

3 x Lingering Souls


That’s 18$ right there! this is something that a lot of the previous Event decks lacked (all the deck value was Rares or there just wasn’t much to begin with).


Final Verdict

While we are far from getting an insane value out of it, it exemlifies what Wizards sought out to do:

1) purchase deck

2) open it and sleeve it (optional)

3) play it at a local FNM

4) have fun!


The decision to only make one Event deck this time was probably due to the fact that there was always one Event deck that would easily outsell the other. This would cause the retailers to have to ‘overpice’ the popular deck and ‘underprice’ the other so as to not be left with all of the less popular decks. Also, Ready/Willing would have been a perfect addition to this deck.

I think they could have done a slightly better job here, but as someone once quoted:

” Even if Wizards of the Coast put 100$ bills in the boosters, people would still find a way to complain”.