Archetype Spotlight: BW Tokens (or Orzhov Midrange)

 Welcome in to Archetype Spotlight. This series of post is focused on my approach to building archetypes. Each post will explore the game plan of the archetype, what type of cards will enable, special notes, and how it overlaps with other archetypes. 

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Thalisse, Reverent Medium


Game Plan: You're trying to bring down your opponents life to 0 using strategies that interact with tokens
Key Cards: Lingering Souls, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, Raise the Alarm, Anthems, Bitterblossom
Sub-Archetype: Aristocrats, Aggro, Midrange
Spicy Inclusions: True Stax
Overlaps: Enchantments, Aristocrats, Opposition, Spirits, Life Gain, Discard, Control, Stax
EDH translation: Token decks built around Krav+Regna or Minthara


Black White as a color combination varies significantly from cube to cube and there are many different directions on where to take it. Regardless of which direction, cube designers choose to take Orzhov (BW) the results are similar: A slow and grindy deck that aims to outvalue your opponents and win them with the advantage generated. The color combination lends itself to slower game play since rarely does anything in color combination have an immediate impact. Every move you tend to make will inch you a bit forward or inch your opponent backwards. 1 for 1s and 2 for 1s are staples in these decks. A lot of seemingly symmetrical effects are played in this deck with this deck understanding how to take advantage of them for victory.  This color combination is great for life gain, buying back cards from the grave, disrupting your opponents' game plan, and just surviving.

For my own tradition cube, I have based my Orzhov section on the old modern deck BW Tokens and the Legacy deck Deadguy Ale. Both decks look a lot like each other with some slight differences due to card pool, but their game plan seems the same: grind down your opponent until you win. The deck feels a lot like a control deck or a slower midrange deck. The deck wants to be running efficient removal, such as Swords to Plowshares, and hand hate, such as Thoughtseize, to remove any threat or combo piece before it has a chance to impact the board too much. You are running your own value cards that will push the game in your favor. A big reason for wanting to play the deck is because I wanted to play with Lingering Souls, Dark Confidant and Stoneforge Mystic. As your opponent is starting to gas out, the advantage  generated from these cards should push you into victory. The games with this deck can go long making it weak to control decks since those decks like having the extra time. Against aggro, you should be having a good time since you should be able to out value any play they plan to make. 

I do want to point out that this color combination is somewhat expensive as you can see from the cards just mentions, but price point will not affect my discussion on these cards. While not intentional, I will mention alternative cards that are similar. Also do note that the cards mentioned are a guideline of what kind of cards you want, so don't worry too much on not having the exact card especially since most cubes are singleton. For example Agonizing Remorse is a fine alternative to Thoughtseize.

This deck can be taken up a notch further and turn into a true stax deck. Unlike what the edh community refers to as stax, this deck is based on the namesake Smokestacks and Braids, Cabal Minion. This still has the goal of grinding your opponent, however the addition of these two cards will allow you to start attacking your opponent's resources now too. The effects will at first seem symmetrical, however when you start running recursive threats and 2 for 1, your opponents aren't going to appreciate it. I would be careful about running this in your cube since there are players who do not appreciate this style of play. I am a fan of these decks since traditional cubes are 1v1 and normally games are over once this happens. I would avoid these decks in commander cubes since the games are longer and no one wants to deal with this for 45mins-2hrs.

Key Components

Token Generators
You are looking for cards that generate tokens because that's the name of the deck. You typically have 2 choices of token generation slow generation and burst generation. Slow generation is the generation of 1 token per turn every turn , while burst is multiple tokens generated at a time. Both types of generation belong in the same decks, but they may play differently depending on what other decks they are in. Remember the cars featured below are just suggestions of what you can run in your cube for your BW section, I will not be touching on tokens in other colors.  I include 

Usher of the Fallen is probably one of two aggressive token options that you have available to you. In a vacuum, being a 1 drop 2/1 makes it valid in aggressive decks. This is not as important but the token generation ability is what you want this for. It allows you to save your cards, while advancing your board state. It opens up different routes for how you want to maneuver your turns. As long as this card can generate a token, it has done enough to replace itself. Being able to swing into an x/2 and generating a 1/1 is a swing in your favor in regards to card advantage. This card is strongest when you drop it early or when you have the board controlled. In the latter scenario, you are regrowing your board state by sinking mana into it. 

This card is similar to Raise the Alarm, which I'll touch on next. At the same time you play Raise the Alarm, you are able to generate the same about of bodies and deal 2 damage. The tokens generated are human warriors, two relatively common creature types that are easily found in this archetype.

Raise the Alarm is one of your staple cards for this archetype. Upon first impression, the card is extremely simple looking, but the card offers multiple lines of play. For 2 mana, you are creating 2 1/1 bodies at instant speed. For a token decks, you are getting more bodies to interact with, which is always a positive. Because this card is an instant, this is where it really shine. On defense, this can trade with any x/2 so long as you double block, but remember this is on 2 bodies. With 2 1/1s, the other possible scenarios is blocking 2 x/1 attackers or blocking 1 x/1 and having the extra body stick around. These scenarios get better once you start running either combat tricks or anthems to pump these tokens. Being able to cast it on your opponent's end step is always good as well since you can threaten interaction, just by holding the mana up. Simple but great card.

Legion's Landing is your other aggressive option for this deck. When this card enters the battlefield, it creates a 1/1 vampire with lifelink. The body created is not as power as Usher of the Fallen, however it does have lifelink, which will buy you the extra time you might need against aggressive decks. The frontside has a lot of utility on its own. As stated, Legion's Landing creates the token on ETB meaning if you can blink the enchantment (I.e. Felidar Guardian or Flickerwisp) you will retrigger that effect. The enchantment will also trigger any enchantment triggers you might be running and since you are getting 2 permanents on board, you are creating more fodder for Smokestacks. This card is also legendary, which might matter depending on what other supports you run. What you really want from this card is to transform it to flipside.

When you built up a board of creatures, if you swing, you'll be rewarded by flipping this card to its backside. With Adanto, the First Fort, you will have access to both the token generation ability that works once per turn cycle or an extra white mana. This card is great in board stalls where you can break parity as the game continues. Since the ability works at instant speed, you have the option, just like Raise the Alarm, to hold up mana and watch. Also a solid mana sink, when you are running out of cards or plays and just need to spend it.

One of the best inclusions of the deck and just so happens to be our first black card is Bitterblossom. A card so innocuously powerful that it ended being banned at the inception of Modern. It wouldn't be unbanned until 2014. For 2 mana, you are generating a 1/1 flier for 1 life every turn this is allowed to stay on the board. This effect might not seem like much, but when you examine the applications for the tokens it generates its value becomes clear. If this card is left unopposed for too long, this will be the reason why your opponents lost the game.
The first thing that should be noted is that the creatures do not cost mana to make, which frees you up to spend your mana however you wish. As a creature with flying, this makes the tokens solid attackers since they are able to avoid the grounded creatures and score damage. What makes them even better is that they are the perfect carriers for equipment since the evasion makes it easier to get in those extra hits. You won't have to worry about each token either since there is a constant stream of tokens to replace it all with flying. On defense this card is just as insane since you can block most creatures on the ground or in the air, thanks to flying. This will buy you the extra time you might need, stop any large beater without trample, and make opponent think again about their x/1s. All of the slower decks want access to a card like this. 

If you're looking for a budget alternative Call the Bloodlines is an option. This is significantly worse version of Bitterblossom, however it has a couple of its own perks. This first problem is that it cost a card and 1 mana to generate a token. The second problem is that the token you generate trades flying for lifelink. With lifelink, the tokens are better equipped to tread back some loss ground and get away from having low life, though you can not block fliers anymore. You are able to activate this card every turn if you have the resources for it and this does double as a discard outlet. Overall, it's a very okay card, I would play it in a more budget environment.

Brimaz, King of Oreskos is another one of your premium cards for this deck. On his own, being a 3/4 with vigilance is a very solid defender. He is potent in stabilizing the game and letting you advance your board. With a toughness of 4, he is safe from common red removal like Lightning Bolt and at an MV of 3, he avoids small black mana removal like Fatal Push. His triggered ability is what makes him get out of hand really fast. His ability reads when he attacks or blocks make a token that's copying what Brimaz is doing. This is absolutely insane since it means that at minimum he represents a 4/5 over 2 bodies. If left unchecked, he will start overwhelming the board by himself since you can generate a permanent token for attacks and blocks. With his vigilance, he has the potential to generate 2 tokens a turn. The token themselves are extremely problematic since in addition to not going away, they entered untapped and have vigilance. Any surviving attacking tokens will have the opportunity to defend you. For Brimaz, he now represents a 5/6 defender just from 1 trigger. As with any token generator, start adding anthems and the problem this card creates becomes exponentially worse. 

At the same mana cost, you also have the option of Monastery Mentor, who has to work a bit hard to generate their tokens, but has an inbuilt anthem.  This card excels in creature light decks and does require a bit more build around than Brimaz. Both cards play a similar role in the token deck. In comparison to Brimaz, Mentor is more vulnerable to different types of removal, however has the higher potential to just take over an entire game. This card is great as it turns all of your noncreature spells into token generators and an anthem effect. Expanding further, this would mean instants, sorceries, equipment, auras, enchantments, and planeswalkers. This includes your other token generators like Raise the Alarm and Legion's Landing.  In play, your main goal with Monastery Mentor is to just protect him with any noncreature protection such as Counterspell or Apostles' Blessing. Not only will they protect the mentor, but it will generate a token and pump them as well. On the offense, you can aggressively generate tokens on the precombat main phase to pump your tokens to hit harder. On defense, you can combine this card with removal spells to threaten your opponent's attackers. Either route, the combat math becomes more difficult for your opponents to make an easy decision. 

Lingering Souls is one of the largest reasons to play this deck. Much like Bitterblossom and Raise the Alarm, the card is innocuous at first impressions, but the card is just pure value and the interactions with this card are just over the top. Versus your opponent, this card is always a 2 for 1 in your favor. The flashback and 2 flying tokens are the reason behind this. Refer to the section about flying tokens in Bitterblossom on why they are good. The initial rate for this card is seemingly alright, generating 2 flying bodies will be enough to start applying pressure to your opponents. Depending on the type of removal they are running, they may have to spend a card to deal with 1 of 2 tokens. Even just casting the card creates problems for your opponents and their counterspells. Unless they can exile it on the stack, it'll just end up in the graveyard ready to be cast again through flashback. After the initial cast, you have the option to flash it back at any point later in the game for a reduced cost. At a rate of 2 mana from the grave, 2 flying 1/1s becomes really strong. The flashback portion of this card lets it play into a lot of different strategies. Strategies involving discarding or self mill are perfect for maximizing the value of Lingering Souls. Discard cards like Liliana of the Veil or Collective Brutality become less symmetrical when you're able to cast this from the graveyard. Overall, this card is an absolute nightmare to deal with. Its main balancing factor is that it can be a little clunky to use because of the 3 MV, but normally it's not a huge issue.

Ophiomancer is a less common choice for this deck, but still carries its weight when played. This card is average statted for its cost, but the real star is the trigger ability. This card will generate a 1/1 snake every upkeep as long as you don't control a snake. This will include your opponents' upkeeps as well. Because of this, this card is more often played in aristocrats since you have a token to sacrifice on both your turn and their turn. Since the token spawns on your opponent's turn, it will be able to attack on your next turn. The token has deathtouch making it solid on both defense and offense. Since your opponent will be hesitant about interacting with the token, it plays well in pushing in damage. In the aristocrats deck, you are able to abuse the upkeep triggers by sacrificing the token after swinging with it on your turn to have a fresh blocker on your opponent's turn. Like any other token, it gets better with things that interact with it. This does seem obvious but, make sure to not have another snake on board, otherwise it hurts the efficacy of this card.  This will include changelings that are commonly played such as Mirror Entity. Like Lingering Souls, this is another nightmare to deal with when played well.

Hero of Bladehold is another big card for this deck. This is one of the premier finishers for this deck. This card provides both an anthem and a token, which is going to be a common theme with the 4 cmc cards on this list.  On its own, it can easily take over a game since it represents a minimum of 7 damage. When combined with the rest of your tokens this represents +1/0 per token. In fact, this card will generate its own tokens which makes it exponentially win faster. This card is perfect to play post boardwipe and with a toughness of 4, it avoids the same thing that Brimaz can avoid. This card can be a little clunky since it doesn't have haste (which can rectified with equipment) and doesn't have an inbuilt way to protect itself. These issues are not as glaring as they would be in aggro since you will be able to minimize any threat your opponents put out with either removal or hand hate.

An alternative to Hero of Bladehold is Leonin Warleader. This used to be a budget alternative until circumstances pushed the card up. The warleader is similar to Hero but instead trades the anthem effect for and extra power and tokens with lifegain. Without the anthem effect, the tokens generated can easily be chump blocked since they're still 1/1s whereas Hero's tokens are 2/1s. If you're looking to support a lifegain theme in your cube, this card will crossover into that. Otherwise there's no reason to pick the Warleader over Hero if you have the option of both since the 4 drop spot in white is pretty stable. 

Another premier card choice and my favorite planeswalker is Elspeth, Knight Errant. She is extremely potent in any deck she is in due to how versatile she is. She is one of the few planeswalkers that has a "+ ability" that generates a creature token and there's a good reason for this. Because she +1 to make a token, she is able to tick up while having a token defend her allowing her to use her ultimate or soak in more damage. With those tokens, she can also use them and any other creature as an evasive beater by buffing them with +3/+3 and flying. This would chunk a good amount of life out of your opponents. Unless you are really behind, she almost never feels bad to play thanks to her ability breaking board stalls and generating card advantage through her tokens. Not much else to say other than always play this card.

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is another planeswalker that synergizes really well with this deck. This is because the 2nd and 3rd ability are the most relevant to the deck with one ability being a token generator and the other an anthem. The 2nd ability, let's generate a token every turn, which you want to be doing as much as possible. Unlike Knight Errant ( we got other Elspeths on this list), Gideon does not add loyalty for making tokens, so he won't be able to absorb as much damage. His tokens are better though being 2/2 Knights. They represent a faster clock on their own. If he is able to generate 2 tokens, then he has generated his value. With a starting loyalty of 4, he should be able to generate an average of 1-3 tokens before going down. 

Looking at his 3rd ability, you are making an anthem that pumps your board. The ongoing rate for a universal anthem is about 3 mana if that's the only thing it does or 4 mana if it can do other things. Additionally, Gideon's anthem is an emblem, which spawns in the command zone. This means your opponent has no way of interacting with the anthem once you get it. So your creatures will have a permanent +1/+1 for the rest of that game, which is well worth the 4 mana you spend on him. Finally his 1st ability does come into play dependint on board state. 5 damage is 1/4 of starting life and a lot more based on life totals. This does make him vulnerable to exile removal, so make sure to assess the risk when doing so. Overall, this card is just pure value for its cost and supports tokens by doing what the deck already wants to do.

Similarly, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad has the same functions as Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in BW tokens. His first ability is a plus ability that creates a 1/1 Vampire with Lifelink. As mentioned with Knight Errant, having a plus ability that makes tokens, let's your planeswalkers absorb more damage. The tokens themselves will help stabilize the game by buying you back life and stopping your opponent's attackers. They get better with his 2nd ability, which creates an anthem granting +1/0. This anthem is also an emblem. Using the second ability will not kill off Sorin like Gideon's anthem would, so it is not uncommon to see multiple emblems. Those first two abilities are enough to carry Sorin on his own. The third ability will not come up often, but is devastating when it does. Because this card is similar to Gideon, you are generally playing with them the same way.

If you're interested in making your BW tokens more aggressive, you do have the option of Sorin, Solemn Visitor as an alternative planeswalker in those colors. His 1st and 2nd abilities look like an inversion of his Innistrad iteration. The 1st ability is a temporary buff, which simulates an anthem effect. It also gives your creatures lifelink, which is normally enough to stabilize against aggro. Unlike the emblem ability, it cannot stack up over the course of the game. The 2nd ability creates a 2/2 flier, which is probably one of the stronger tokens in this deck. The second ability sets Sorin in a situation to be easier to pick off since he'll be at 2 loyalty. The third ability creates a stax emblem, which is a power game ender for this deck, but like most ultimates, I ignore them in my evaluations when they are not as feasible to reach. 

I prefer Lord of Innistrad over Solemn Visitor because I like his token generation a lot since it pushes him towards emblems or ultimate. 

Cloudgoat Ranger is an old school staple for many cubes. The card is extremely versatile and fits into many decks. When it ETBs, it creates 3 1/1 tokens representing a total of 6 damage over 4 bodies. This is a strong flicker target since it makes 3 tokens per flick, which will easily overwhelm your opponents. Anthems will at minimum add an extra 4 damage with this card. This can also give itself flying in board stall situations, letting you fly evade grounded threats. This is a card I want to include in my cubes, but the other options are better than this cards. This card is still strong and playable, so don't feel that this will create a poor experience.

Secure the Wastes is one of the strongest token generators in the game's history. It is an instant speed X spell that will generate X 1/1 warrior tokens. This card has been referred to as the white equivalent of Fireball since it will generate the same amount of damage as a Fireball would. Much like Raise the Alarm, this card is great at catching your opponents off guard since it is an instant speed spell. Actually, just refer back to Raise the Alarm on the utility of this card, but now add a scaling factor to it. 
The last card for this section is Elspeth, Sun's Champion. This card is typically one of your top end cards that should be pushing you into finishing the game. The first 2 abilities on this card are good at any point in the game making this card game shifting the moment it is played. It is great to play into any boardstate as it can push you ahead or  level you with your opponent. The first ability ticks up Elspeth, while generating 3 1/1 Soldiers. This will end the game quickly if your opponent leaves this alone as it generates 3 damage a turn. Even if you are not attacking right away, you will still get 3 blockers that represent a total of 3/3. This can block almost any creature and threaten to trade with them, including creatures with menace. This coverage for Elspeth makes her difficult to deal with since each tick up gets her closer to her anthem on her 3rd ability, which will close out the game. Her second ability is a board wipe against any threat that has 4 or more power. This supports her first ability as it deals with large threats that might be able to overcome the 3 tokens you generate from her first ability. These two abilities are normally enough to secure you a win with Elspeth. If you somehow manage to get enough loyalty for her third ability, the game is over. It is an anthem that gives each of your creatures +2/+2 and flying. Generating 3 flying 3/3s a turn is too much for any deck to deal with. This card has a lot of uses outside of tokens since it is great in any midrange deck that can play it well and makes a great control deck finisher. Great card to run in cube, though it's power has been weakened with the larger prevalence of planeswalker removal, which was scarce at the time when the card was printed.


Typically, tokens are played with a variety of other cards that make the tokens stronger. Though mentioned earlier, but not defined, anthems are cards that pump your board making all of your creatures stronger. They are typically enchantments and artifacts with static abilities, however the more powerful ones will be stapled onto creatures and planeswalker emblems. Some of these anthems (Gideon, Sorin, Elspeth, Hero of Bladehold, etc.) have already been mentioned earlier, so I won't discuss them again. Also, that I have been cutting back on anthems as there are many cards that do what they do, but can do other things as well.

Glorious Anthem is the baseline for which all other anthems should be graded against. It's ability is simple in that it grants your creatures a static +1/+1 as long as it remains on board. As a general pump for your creatures, this makes combat more difficult for your opponents as it makes every single creature you generate more threatening. The real winner of anthems are cards that generate multiple bodies, so anything on the token generator list. What makes this card special is that it is the lowest cost variant of a non conditional anthem.

Spear of Heliod is a side grade to Glorious Anthem. When compared to each other their functions are almost the same. The main difference is that the spear is a legendary artifact and has an activated ability in addition to what Glorious Anthem already is. As an artifact, it gets all the benefit of being an artifact such being more tutorable, but it is also more vulnerable to artifact removal. The legendary portion of the card is mostly irrelevant, however it does come into play when you have anything that cares about legendary cards. The activated ability will rarely be used, however it is removal that is supposed to deter your opponents from attacking you. Currently, I am running the spear over the anthem because I run a small artifact synergy package in white and this is slightly better in that build, but you do not, Glorious Anthem is better.

If you are in the market for cheaper anthems, you will find that they are more conditional to use than the static variants just mentioned.

If you want the anthem stapled onto an enchantment, look no further than cards like Honor of the Pure and Intangible Virtues. Both of these achieve the same thing as their 3 mana counterpoints, however they are looking for more specific creatures. 

In the case of Honor, the card only affects white creatures that you control. At first glance, this might seem a bit restrictive to your deck since it does not impact your nonwhite creatures. In a typical BW tokens list, you'll notice that a majority of your tokens and creatures will be white, so the conditional part is less relevant. However, if you ever find yourself in a situation where this isn't the case, this becomes a wasted slot. Outside of the token decks, Honor has a spot in many white based creature decks. My main issue with the card is that the strict limitation to white creatures makes it highly undesirable to a lot of the other decks.

Intangible Virtues was the other option for smaller anthems for tokens decks. The ability on it gives all tokens +1/+1 and vigilance turning them into great blockers and attackers. The card is crazy strong for token decks, enough that it is banned in some lower rarity constructed formats. It works with any tokens. This is great if you support a deep token theme in all colors since it will then become universal in any color, however for my cube, I primarily concentrated tokens into white and thus this is more narrow in my cube. This is a good signpost card if you are looking to create a more on rail draft experience.

Outside of enchantments, you have cards that grant a temporary pump to your creatures through a variety of means. 

If you want to maintain anthems on permanents, one of the best things that you can go for including is battle cry. There are a couple premier cards to run if you want to include this into your cube, namely Hero of Bladehold and Accorder Paladin. Battle cry is triggered by swinging with the creature and it grants all your other attacking creatures +1/0. As with all anthems, the more creatures you have the better. These cards have already proven themselves in aggressive nontoken decks and with their utility greatly expanded in token decks, these cards are great in cubes.

There are combat tricks that you can play that play great in token decks as well. These are great as much like Raise the Alarm, they are able to catch your opponent's off and swing tempo towards you. Zealous Persecution is one of the more premier cards in this category. For the cost of WB, Zealous Persecution reads creatures you control get +1/+1 and creatures your opponent controls get -1/-1. One of the ways you can interpret this effect is that it gives your creatures +2/+2 since this create a 2 point stat shift in your favor. Another interpretation is that this card is a blowout as not only does it pump your board, it weakens and gets rid of X/1s. Getting rid of a bunch of mana dorks can be crippling to green decks and the added damage pushes them closer to death if it doesn't finish the game right there. The added versatility in this card being instant means you can play this card both defensively and offensively making this card solid at any point in the game and useful with any BW deck. Other instant anthem only do the pump, which helps Zealous Persecution stand out. Downplay them though as you can still steal games with them.

Equipments and Auras
Another way to turn a small token into a relevant threat is through the use of equipment and auras. Tokens make great targets for equipment as they are expendable making removal slightly less efficient. This is because tokens should be valued as less than a card, so every card spent to remove them is card disadvantage against your opponent. Once, they're suited up they become a threat that needs to be dealt with depending on what equipment is on them. What makes equipment a strong part of the deck is that Stoneforge Mystic is in white and can find you the right equipment for your deck.

Skullclamp is one of the best choices for this deck as it can turn all of your tokens into card draw. Unlike most other equipment, Skullclamp's power is in its utility combined with a really efficient mana rate to play and equip. This creates one of the most broken cards known to Magic's history. The card has a casting cost of 1 generic and equip cost of 1 generic. Its abilities read, equipped creature gets +1/-1 and when this creature dies, draw 2 cards. This is absurd as the tokens you generate are typically 1/1s. During gameplay, the player will be paying 1 mana to sacrifice their token to draw two cards. On your larger creatures, you can equip Skullclamp to use it as an insurance against your opponent's removal while pumping the damage on it. This puts your opponent in the situation to either to either take a decent amount of damage or let you draw two cards, which is GAS GAS GAS. Thanks to these functions, the card is highly versatile in any deck and excels in tokens. The only reason to not run this card is either you're not running enough creatures or the card is too powerful for your cube.

Bonesplitter's power cannot and should not be underestimated regardless of how simple the design looks. The card cost 1 generic mana to cast and 1 generic mana to equip. The card gives the equipped creature +2/0. The power boost this gives any creature is absurd. At minimum, the equipped creature can trade with much larger creatures, while representing a significant clock on your opponents. You will want to put this on evasive creatures as it will help you squeeze in more damage. Equipment like this is what token decks are looking for. Since tokens are valued less than an actual card, having them being able to trade against your opponent's creatures is advantageous for you. This makes attacking generally good for you. In addition, there are cards that produced flying tokens (Midnight Haunting  and Emeria Angel, both cards I did not mention eariler) that fit the description of an evasive creature you can equip Bonesplitter too. With the low cost to equip, you can easily attach it between your creatures as you need it. The power this card grants is ridiculous for the cost you pay. Its power lets it see play in a variety of decks.

Grafted Wargear has a very similar to gameplay function to Bonesplitter, thus treat this as Bonepslitter except where the differences are mentioned. The card is most expensive to cast since it cost 3 mana, however the equip cost is 0. This grants your creature +3/+2 towards its stats. As mentioned with Bonesplitter, this will let your creature trade with even more creatures and it might even survive some of these trades with its extra toughness. The main caveat is that Grafted Wargear will sacrifice the equipped creature as soon as it gets detached from it. This creates card disadvantage if you are sacrificing your creature cards to move this equipment around. This is where tokens come into play as mentioned several times now, tokens are not a full card, so sacrificing them should be hurting you as much. If you are generating a token every turn, moving the equipment around is not that big of a deal. Because of how smooth this card operates, it is a strong option for any aggro deck and will be a strong roleplayer there as well.

Sword of Fire and Ice is one of, if not, the strongest choices for equipment in cube and Magic in general. It cost 3 mana to cast and 2 mana to equip. It gives the equipped creature protection from blue and red, +2/+2 to stats, and two triggered abilities when the creature does combat damage to a player. When the equipped creature does combat damage, you draw a card and Sword of Fire and Ice does 2 damage to any target. This is a huge swing in card advantage as you draw a card and potentially remove and creature or a planeswalker from the board. At worse, you deal the 2 to the opponent. Do note that the sword is the one doing the damage, not the creature meaning protection spells for the most part will not work on this card (Giver of Runes master race). The protection this card gives is relevant as it stops red burn spells and blue bounce spells from interacting with your creature. A couple connections with this sword and the game should be ending real soon with either the damage beating your opponent down, or your card advantage is starting to become really noticeable. The main thing holding this card back is that it cost a total of 5 mana to get this card going. Once you get past that, it's probably GG.

Sword of Body and Mind
 though not as potent as Fire and Ice, this card is stronger in cube than in constructed and should not be downplayed. Like the other cards in the cycle, it cost 3 to cast and 2 to equip. The equippd creatures gets protection from Green and Blue. When the equipped card connects with a player, they are milling 10 cards and you get a 2/2 wolf. Both parts are potent in cube. The mill portion may not seem relevant, but in the traditional cube setting, decks are typically 40 cards. With players already drawing 7 cards for opening hand, the mill portion represents a 2-3 turn clock against most decks. The wolf portion is important as not only are already supporting with your token deck, but you can also use the wolf to equip the sword should anything happen to your token to keep the aggression going. The protections are not as powerful since the removal found in green and blue are not as strong, though they are getting there, the creatures they have can be avoided. It shares its clunkiness with the other swords.

Umezawa's Jitte is another of the God Tier equipments to play with in cube. The way the card functions is so fundamentally broken, it feels like the same mistake WotC made with Skullclamp and we all benefit from it. The card cost 2 to cast and 2 to equip. The card has 3 abilities that you can activate by removing  a charge counters from Jitte. You have the option of giving a creature -1/-1, the equipped creature +2/+2, or gaining 2 life.  You gain 2 charge counters each time you  deal combat damage with the equipped creature. This is where the card is busted. The only thing you need to do is swing with the creature. As long as the card hits something, you will gain those counters. A creature does not need to be equipped with jitte to use its ability, which makes it even stronger. The removal and life gain abilities on this card are the most common uses. With the removal ability, Jitte makes it near impossible to maintain a board state as with enough charge counters you are able to kill anything and unless you give the targetted creature pro artifact or colorless, you can't prevent this from happening. Tokens are amazing with this card as you send them on a suicide journey, just to get charge counters on Jitte, so you can use the abilities on it. If you have not yet played with this card, you're in for a real treat if you like power.

Removal Spells

As a midrange deck, you will be using a combination of hand hate, which we will talk about next, and removal to clear out and deal with any threat to your game plan. As a deck on the slower side of midrange, you're going to need these against faster decks. Your removal package is pretty universal, so I'm not planning to discuss each card 1 by 1 in this section since functionally your removal should be the same no matter what archetype you're playing. You're going to have a ton of viable options since you are in black and white. Unlike some other archetypes, you are not too picky on what kind of removal you run.

In white, you have access to premium removal of Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile. If you are not familiar with either card, for the cost of 1 white mana, you can exile a creature at instant speed. For swords, the drawback is that your opponent gains life, while for path, your opponent may search for a land and put it into play tapped. Neither card is a bad option, though you do need to be careful about Path to Exile since it does accelerate your opponent's mana. Paying 1 mana to exile creatures is a stellar rate since your spells tend to be more expensive and this solves some of the issues. Lastly, there is Portable Hole, which exiles a nonland permanent that is 2MV or less. This is great as it hits any permanent they try to play. The card has two downsides the first is that it functions at sorcery speed since you are playing an artifact, secondly your opponent can remove this to get the exiled permanent back. From what I've seen, this doesn't happen often, which makes the card powerful.  
Because so much power is in the one drops removal past this mana value are pushed out from being played. You still have powerful options. For 2 mana, Unexpectedly Absent is still played in my cube as the only 2 mana option for white. It is an instant that returns a permanent to the top of your opponent's library. This is a great tempo option, but it doesn't permanently remove a card. The tempo gained is huge on this card and does warrant its presence still. At 3 mana, you have your universal options of removal, but they play at sorcery speed. Oblivion Ring and its variants are strong options since they're the grown up version of Portable Hole. They are able to hit any nonland permanents, though like Portable Hole, if your opponents remove Oblivion Ring and cousins, they get their permanent back. The next option is complex and needs its own paragraph to explain it.
Council's Judgment is one of your most powerful options for removal. This card is able to permanently exile any nonland permanent. When you cast the card, both you and your opponent vote on a card you don't control to be exiled. If there is a tie in votes exile all chosen cards with the most votes. In game play, your opponent has to choose the same card as you because if they pick anything else, they will lose 2 cards, making this a potential 2 for 1. Additionally, this gets around hexproof, shroud, and protection since you are not targetting the card, you are choosing it. The only way to stop this card from taking your creature is to counter it. With all this together makes it one of the best removals to exist in cube and there's a very low chance this will ever leave cubes.

Before we move on the black section, there are creatures that have removal stapled on to them. The best options of creature based removal are variations of Fiend Hunter, which is just a creature variation of Oblivion Ring. Fiend Hunter reads when this creature enters the battlefield, exile target creature. When Fiend Hunter leaves the battlefield, return the exiled card. Currently, I am running to variations of that card. Skyclave Apparition is a powerful option as it is able to exile nonland, nontoken permanents that are 4MV or less. When it leaves the battlefield, your opponent creates an X/X blue illusion, where X is equal to the card's MV. The card is great as it permanently exiles cards, which was a setback the other variations suffered from since your opponent could get their cards back. The token your opponent gets isn't normally an issue to deal with. With the way the abilities are worded, if you manage to flick it before the ETB resolves you are able to take two cards, while only giving them 1 token when it resolves. The other card I am running is Palace Jailer. When the card enters the battlefield, you become the monarch and you exile a creature until you lose the monarchy. In play, this mean the card exiles a creature and you draw a card the turn it comes into play, which is just pure value. Since the exile effect is tied to the monarchy and not Palace Jailer, the creature will remain exiled even if the jailer is gone. This also lets you flicker the jailer to exile multiple creatures.

Moving on the black section, you have a lot of options for removal, like every other is a removal card. For the noncreature removal, they all essentially do the same thing: "Destroy target creature with different conditions". At 1 MV, you have Bloodchief's Thirst and Fatal Push. Both of these are great. They both are able to kill creatures with 2MV or less. Bloodchief's Thirst is able to kill any creature or planeswalker if you pay the kicker. This versatility is great as you have the flexibility of cheap removal or universal removal, though the card works at sorcery speed. Fatal Push is unable to kill planeswalkers as can only kill 4MV creatures if a permanent has left the field. The speed and efficiency makes up for its limitations.  

Doomblade is a classic option that kills any nonblack card for 2 mana. This card has been beaten at that value by Power Word Kill and Infernal Grasp. I still opt to run Doomblade because it's a classic and the artwork is sweet (also I don't have a copy of the other two). Feed the Swarm is not a popular option, however it is one of the few options for black to destroy enchantments, which merits its consideration. 

At the 3MV section, you have Heroes' Downfall, which can destroy any creature or planeswalker. This is a little clunky and has recently been surpassed by a good amount of cards. Baleful Mastery and Murderous Rider, I would consider to be better versions of Heroes' Downfall. The mastery exiles target planeswalker or creature and cost 4 mana, however you can instead pay 2 mana at the drawback of giving your opponent a card. Versatility of choices is what makes this card better. This logic applies to the Rider as well since you can cast the adventure portion to kill a creature or planeswalker and later get a creature. Downfall is still a good budget option but there's way better cards. Dismember is still a powerful option thanks to its flexibility with Phyrexian Mana. The card gives a creature -5/-5, meaning it can kill indestructible creatures. Though it can't hit planeswalker, the flexibility of mana cost is crazy good. With the Phyrexian mana cost, this card can cost between 1-3 mana. In addition, the card can be played in nonblack decks since you can pay with life instead of black mana.

Lastly, black has a ton of symmetrical sacrifice type removals like Innocent Blood and Fleshbag Marauder. They may seem symmetrical, but if you remember, tokens are valued less than actual cards. This means that while you sacrifice tokens, your opponent would have to sacrifice full cards.
Discard Spells

Discard spells are a large staple of playing black decks and this deck is no different. The deck is typically a very fair deck that wants to out value your opponents. The deck has a difficult time playing against unfair decks as the slower nature of the deck, let's these decks eventually reach their game plan. One of your first lines of defense against these decks is to play discard spells. These will let you strip out the cards that you can't deal with and combo pieces. Combining these with removal and you should have full coverage against your opponents.

The 1 mana options are all viable for cubes and you can include any and how many of them based on how you want to play and what budget you are at. Obviously, there are still one that stand above the rest. The top 3 at 1MV are Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Duress. Duress is widely available a common and sees ton of play still. You are able to hit any noncreature, nonland from their hand, which is great since most cubes typically are composed of 40-60% noncreature. Inquisition is able to target any nonland card with 3MV or less. Majority of optimal cube play happens with 1-3 MV cards. This number is more than likely to only increase as newer cards get released. Thoughtseize is Thoughtseize. For the uninitiated, it is able to hit any card at the cost of 2 life. You will want to be playing these cards early because the intent of these cards is to hit any early threat before it hits the board and to reveal any information about their deck. If drawn, these are still viable depending on the number of cards in hand or their deck. 

At 2 MV, you have a lot of variation on how you want your discard. If you want targeted, you have the options of Agonizing Remorse and Collective Brutality. Agonizing Remorse is a universal hand disruption like Thoughtseize but it cost 1 life. There are other options that function similar, which is why Remorse will see less play. Collective Brutality is a modal spell with 3 options: Hand disruption only targeting instants and sorceries, giving a creature -2/-2, or draining 2 life from an opponent. You can pick the additional modes by discarding cards, which synergizes well with graveyard decks and Lingering Souls. The versatility is this card's strong point. One of the most powerful cards at this option is Hymn to Tourach, which discards 2 cards at random. This is able to hit lands, which can completely wreck your opponent's game plan. Even if it doesn't, this card is ALWAYS a 2 for 1 in your favor. There are weaker variants of this card. Whisper of Emrakul is more flexible to cast at 1B, but it can only hit 1 card at random most of the time. It is able to hit 2, but you need delirium active, which will be extreme rare on turn 2. Wrench Mind is another one. Your opponents are able to pick the cards they lose, much like Mind Rot. They are able to lose only 1 card if they control an artifact. 

Also found at 2MV is the creature based hand disruption. Ravenous Rats and Mesmeric Fiend are the primary examples of these type of cards. Ravenous Rats styled cards are neat because they are at minimum a 1 for 1, but because they are also a creature, they can be a 2 for 1 if it trades or removal is spent on it. The actual creatures are not good, which is why these see less inclusions. The variants of fiend do see a lot more play since they essentially are additional copies of Agonizing Remorse. Much like Fiend Hunter, your opponents will get their card back if they remove the creature. Having the body with discard is still strong. The best versions of these cards is Kitesail Freebooter and Tidehollow Sculler. The freebooter has flying and is a 1/2 making it a decent blocker against 1/1s . The sculler has the body of 2/2, which is solid for attacking and blocking early. It's not strong enough to incentivize playing BW, but its an inclusion whenever you are playing BW. Past this point, there's not a lot of good options worth mentioning aside from Liliana of the Veil, which is just a monster of a card that is played for more than her discard.


Aristocrat decks are looking to generate value from death triggers. The deck is made up of 3 components: sacrifice outlets, death payoff, and sacrifice fodder. 

Sacrifice fodder are cards intended to be sacrificed. Tokens fit in great into this deck as they make great sacrifice fodder. As mentioned earlier, tokens are generally worth less than a card and so using them as fodder is not that same as using a normal creature card since you are down a card. Other options are recurring cards like Bloodsoaked Champion.

Sacrifice outlet are cards that let you sacrifice creatures when you want. Cards such as Viscera Seer and Deadly Dispute are awesome since they give you an effect while sacrificing your creature. As mentioned earlier, cards like Fleshbag Marauder would fall in this category.

Payoffs are cards that reward you for your creatures dying. Examples are cards like Zulaport Cutthroat and Blood Artist drain life from your opponents as your creatures are dying. These two are particularly great as they can  help you push in extra damage while keeping your life total up from either blocking or attacking. There are other payoffs like token generation and card draw, but these two are the more common options.

The cards do seem kinda dorky on their own, however when played together, you have this beautiful value town package.

Stax Specific

Going one step further with Aristocrats, you can opt to go for a stax build. The general game plan is an extension of Aristocrat where you are taking advantage of your more resilient cards to outlast your opponents. What this will look like is you playing negative symmetrical recurring effects that are not as symmetrical as they appear since your deck is built to handle them. Combining these cards with multiple recurring threats like Bloodsoaked Champion or Token generators and this card is not nearly hitting you as hard as it hits your opponent. 

Braids,Cabal Minion  is one of the 2 pillars of this deck. Braids is a 2/2 creature that cost 2BB, which is not impressive at all, this is made up with its ability. It forces players to sacrifice a land, creature, or artifact at the beginning of their upkeep. The effect will force your opponent(s) to sacrifice one of their permanents first since their upkeep will come up before yours. Braids does not hit enchantments or planeswalkers meaning you can hide behind Bitterblossom , Court of Grace, or an Elspeth to generate tokens after Braids sacrifices herself or to keep generating tokens to feed her. When played correctly, your opponent should be on the struggle bus within a few turns. The card is relatively easy to deal since it is a creature with low toughness, but your opponent has to deal with it.

Smokestacks is the other pillar of this deck as well as its namesake. Smokestacks is an artifact that cost 4 mana. It has 2 clauses for its abilities, the first one reads "At the beginnng of your upkeep, you may put a soot counter on it" and the second one is "At the beginning of each player's upkeep, that player sacrifices a permanent for each soot counter on Smokestack." This functions much like Braids, however there are two main differences between the cards. The first is that it affects all permanents including enchantments and planeswalkers. The second is that you can control the number permanents you sacrifice. As with Braids, you are able to make your opponent feel the effects of this card first by stacking the triggers so that you sacrifice the permanents first (which should be 0), then adding a soot counter. The major downside is that there will be 0 soot counters until your turn, so you will have to wait a turn for it to work. From my own play experience, having 2 soot counters seems to be the sweet spot since its fast enough to have an accelerated impact at ending the game faster, but you can still keep up with it.

Smallpox is an interestingly unique card that excels in this deck. For BB, all players lose 1 life, discard a card, sacrifice a creature, and sacrifice a land. This card is a huge setback to any deck as it reduces your board state, your hand, and attacks your land base. This combines everything we mentioned throughout this post and combines it into 1 card. This card plays extremely well with Lingering Souls as well as everything else mentioned. The only problem I have with this card is there's not enough of it. Liliana of the Veil does a strong impression of it, but there's nothing else that really matches what Smallpox does. It's also a bad topdeck later down the game, but it's amazing at breaking parity in a boardstall.

Cross Pollination

This section will cover what decks overlap with this deck. I will avoid mentioning universal staples as those cards are just good everywhere. Overlap is part of a good drafting experience since it means that players won't end up with unplayable cards.  

BW Tokens is a general midrange deck that leans into tokens to turn various situations into 2 for 1 value plays. As a result, every card in this deck is desired by other decks. Many of the creatures are sought after in aggro because of their resilience and the damage they represent on board. Hero of Bladehold has been mentioned as a curve topper for Boros aggro. Many of the token generators are great in control decks since they can stall long enough for your deck to get going. Nonwhite aristocrats value cards like Bitterblossom and Ophiomancer because of the sac fodder they generate. Reanimator synergizes really well with tokens as the larger token generators, just also happen to be powerful reanimation targets like Abhorrent Overlord or Grave Titan. Incidentally, you will also be playing a fair amount of enchantments, creating more density to support enchantress. So again, this deck is an easy inclusion into your cube because it plays so many powerful cards on its own already.

Translated to EDHcube

This deck is an easy translation into EDH cube simply because it has so many good cards to play. Since it is a multiplayer format, many of the hand disruption cards will not make it since they can only target 1 player. If you still want to run hand hate, cards that force each player to discard like Smallpox are what you are looking for. You can still run the same anthems or you can switch into playing scaling anthems like Jazal Goldmane. The token generators can be the same cards as in traditional cube. The attack to generate token cards (Hero of Bladehold) get more interesting as the tokens created do not have to be attacking the same player. In addition with more players to attack, those creatures have safer swings. As a commander to bring the deck together I lean towards 2 commanders: the partnership of Krav, the Unredeemed and Regna the Redeemer or Minthara, Merciless Soul. Both of these commanders support aristocrat decks as well.

Sample Decks

BW Tokens Build

BW Aristocrats

BW Stax

Final Thoughts
Wow, this one took a really long time to write and its much longer than the one for Boros Aggro. Felt like I overwrote this one with a lot of it coming from the universal card types like removal. Need to figure out to not do it every time because I'll just end up copying and pasting everything. What really delayed this post was with all the spoiler seasons (CLB and 2X2) to go through, I put this off to focus on those posts. WotC doesn't seem like they are going to let up on that, so I do plan to keep releasing more of these post, but they won't scheduled since anything could come up to divert my attention. 

Other than that, thanks for taking the time to read. If you appreciate my work, just leave a comment to let me know you appreciate my work or think I'm utter trash. If you have questions or corrections you can use the contact form or leave a comment on Reddit. If you want to stay up to date with my stuff, feel free to join my email list at the bottom of the post or click here for the link to join. If you are interested in buying any of the cards mentioned in this post, you can support me by shopping at TCGplayer (Click Here).