This article follows the progression of my core-set-only Core Token Control deck. I start by explaining how I created the experimental, untested deck (in preparation for the core only alpha for Epic Card Game Digital). Then, I plan on updating this article with an analysis of how the deck performs, in addition to explaining any changes I make to it (assuming it performs well enough to update).
In anticipation of the Alpha hopefully coming out today, I have gone ahead and posted the decklists and taken pictures of the other 4 core-only decks I have made. Whichever deck generates the most discussion (based on comments below) will be the one I write an article for next.
As I update the deck list, I’ll update this picture and written list (currently prototype deck list).
I’ve warned against Human Token Swarm decks for a long time, even though they haven’t shown up much in the competitive meta, yet. Therefore, I really wanted to create a human token deck, especially since I think The People’s Champion is a strong card, even though it hasn’t fit into many of my decks.
Going into this, I new it would be a difficult deck to make without access to Revolt, Insurgency, Paros Rebel Leader, Rabble Rouser, etc. I had also tried to make this deck multiple times previously, giving up each time.
Knowing that I largely couldn’t build the deck how I wanted to, due to a lack of supporting cards, my gather cards list ended up large and all over the place. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted a decent Good core for the The People’s Champions. From there, I was basically positive I wanted Courageous Soul + Secret Legion, Inheritance of the Meek, and Noble Unicorn (amazing Good alignment card).
(Human) Token Cards
For a deck that tries to build up human tokens, buff them, and attack for a ton of damage in one turn, these are the other cards in the core set to support this strategy directly (The People’s Champion, Courageous Soul, Secret Legion, and Inheritance of the Meek being worthwhile and already included): Dark Leader, Rally the People, Standard Bearer, Deadly Raid, and alternatively Drinker of Blood. As frequent readers know, I really dislike all of these cards.
Dark Leader is a 4 toughness body, that produces an extra 2/1 in stats every other turn while boosting humans by 1 offense and making them gain Evil in addition to their other alignment. While this can help non-Evil human loyalty effects like High King or Time Bender, and if you have Dark Leader in play, you can play Courageous Soul into The Risen, but none of those effects are worth a card slot to include, or a gold to play.
In order for Rally the People to be better than Fireball at dealing direct damage to your opponent, you need to hit with 4 of your champions already in play. Sure, you get an extra human when you play it, but that human can’t effectively gain blitz that turn (since if you play it before Secret Legion it doesn’t buff those human tokens created). You can also recall it, but if I don’t want to play it for free, why would I spend a gold to return it to hand? With the recall effect on a free card, it can be used to double buff champions already in play, but that still seems awful. One redeeming quality of it is that it does buff Lord of the Arena just enough to let it break Sea Titan in combat. While a certain guest blogger, might find it “really good” in this type of deck (taken only slightly out of context– 01:14:20), he’s wrong. Or at least I think he is, if anyone wants to convince me otherwise, the best way to do so is to beat me with it.
Of the few times I have played Standard Bearer, it is occasionally been surprisingly powerful. A static +2 offense buff can make certain champions (particularly human tokens) a lot more impactful. However, it only buffs Good champions and core set only doesn’t have enough ways to continuously produce incidental Good champions. Due to that, I feel Standard Bearer doesn’t offer enough for a gold expenditure. For it to be worthwhile, you need to already be decently far ahead, and it still gets sweeped up by all 1-cost board clears.
I do not like Deadly Raid. Many other people do. Using it to buff a bunch of tokens increases the value of the +2 offense buff, but it does little else and still leaves you vulnerable to board clears. Unblockable is nice and can get you past a stalemate, but stalemates frequently don’t last long in Epic anyways. (I’d much rather use it to make my one Steel Golem unblockable than 6 human tokens.) Think of it this way, it gives you the same offense boost as Rally the People, Recall, Rally the People except you trade unblockable for 2 human tokens, but at least you can draw 2 with Deadly Raid.
Drinker of Blood is interesting. It allows you to partially clear the board while gaining you health and losing your opponent health. This followed by Flash Fire can wipe out your tokens and convert them each into 4 health swings. Surprise Attack this in and then on your turn Zombie Apocalypse followed by Flash Fire/Wither, pretty nasty. One problem with this is that Drinker can frequently be dead in hand until you draw your combo pieces. Without immediately comboing, it can get bounced or banished for no effect. For these reasons, I don’t usually like it.
Wolf Token Cards
Frequently overlooked, Pack Alpha‘s ability to repeatedly put 2 3/3 wolf tokens into play is better than you think. Wave of Transformation is also great if you go wide with tokens, your opponent loses incredibly powerful champions, you upgrade/trade your tokens for wolf tokens. Wolf Companion can technically produce a wolf token when recalled or banished/recycled from your discard pile, but the +2/+2 effect is really weak. I also usually don’t consider Wolf’s Call a strong card because it is too easy to clear away the wolves at little cost to your opponent.
Evil Token Cards
Plentiful Dead is a great way to continuously pump out incidental tokens, if you have enough Evil cards to make it worthwhile. Infernal Gatekeeper, Demon Breach, Word of Summoning are all playable token spawn cards with The Risen being on the edge (Trihorror is pretty bad because it is too slow and easy to deal with effectively). Unfortunately, demon tokens don’t care as much about going as wide (getting a bunch of champions in play) as human tokens or even zombie/wolf tokens, since demon tokens are big enough to be threatening with only a few of them. In addition, I already have a Core Evil Tokens deck.
Establishing a Core
With all of this in mind, I picked out the most powerful token cards for my human token deck: The People’s Champion, Inheritance of the Meek, (Noble Unicorn), Secret Legion, Courageous Soul, Wave of Transformation, (Forcemage Apprentice), Pack Alpha, and (Fireball). These cards, so far, focused more on generating additional incremental value, mass off-turn capable board clears, and a couple explosive finishers. This realization intrigued me, and after pounding my head against my deck for a long time trying to make a human token deck work, I thought I would try adding in my Good core from Core Incremental Targeted Removal and see how that looked.
A primary aspect of this core is Banishment, High King, and White Dragon. Both Banishment and High King function as great on-turn lead-ins for White Dragon to get the recycle trigger. I also liked the Inner Demons as additional removal + token and as a way to get Guilt Demons into the list. Priestess of Angeline and Watchful Gargoyle also make sense in a Good deck. I did want to skew the Good cards a bit more towards control though.
Inner Peace replaced Angel of Light because it can be recalled and the extra 5/6 body is less relevant in this deck. Angel of Mercy was dropped due to less Good champions. Avenging Angel stayed because it is a great on-turn must-answer gold-punisher. By this point, I had shifted away from a human token swarm one-shot kill emphasis deck towards a grindy control deck. The People’s Champion and Pack Alpha produce the tokens I use to attack my opponent and slow their aggression, while everything else is there to halt their progression.
Since I plan on incidentally going wide throughout the game, I expect to draw out my opponent’s board clears early, particularly 0-cost semi clears like Flash Fire and Wither. Ideally, they will run out quickly which allows my Wolf’s Calls and Secret Legions to function as off-turn gold-punishers to keep my chip damage going. These cards can also be used as on-turn gold-punishers. If I played my Pack Alpha last turn and expended it this turn, playing Wolf’s Call lets me threaten 18 damage: 6 wolves with blitz and +1/+1. Wolf’s Call is also a great punish for an opponent who Wave of Transformations on my turn while my gold is up.
Drinker of Blood
Drinker of Blood can also work nicely in this deck, in theory. If I have significant tokens in play at the start of my turn, either incidentally or after playing an off-turn Wolf’s Call/Secret Legion, I can drop Drinker while my opponent’s gold is up. This makes all of my tokens into 4 health swing bombs if blocked. Answers for this play include: off-turn AoE board clear, bounce/banish Drinker, or Ceasefire/Ice Drake.
My opponent’s off-turn AoE board clear options in core only include: (Plague), Zombie Apocalypse, Inheritance of the Meek, Stand Alone, Wave of Transformation, Fireball, Flash Fire, Hurricane, Lightning Storm, and Surprise Attack -> Angel of Death/Time Walker. Drinker of Blood survives all of the break/damage based ones giving me plenty of triggers. My tokens survive and can still attack after Inheritance of the Meek. Wave of Transformation leaves me with a lot of wolves, but I can’t push any more damage that turn. The only truly awful off-turn board clear for me is Surprise Attack -> Time Walker. It removes all of my tokens and my Drinker. While this is powerful, I don’t expect to see it too often, and they need to have both at the same time for it to work.
Erase is usually a strong answer against Drinker and other slow champions, but in this case, it leaves the rest of my tokens free to attack that turn, same with all other non-breaking/damaging targeted removal. Ceasefire and Ice Drake can punish this strategy hard though.
With the addition of Drinker, I filled out the rest of the deck with Guilt Demons, Ancient Chants, an Amnesia, 2 Fireballs, and 1 Flash Fire. (Usually I want Fireballs over Flash Fire for this deck to keep my tokens in play, but 1 Flash Fire is added to combo with Drinker.) And that’s it… … Fine.
When I went back to my deck to find a way to force in a single copy of Amnesia, I realized that this deck probably wants Thought Plucker, which means I have to defend that choice, which I don’t want to do…but I will. Dang you Dixon!
Thought Plucker is an incredibly powerful card. It is an ambush champion that immediately draws a card and forces your opponent to discard. Even better, it repeats this effect every time it damages your opponent + it’s unblockable. If unanswered, Thought Plucker is one of the quickest ways to completely decimate an opponent.
Further, very few cards, particularly in core set answer it effectively: Spike Trap is the best followed by, Unquenchable Thirst, Wither, Forcemage Apprentice, Fireball, Flash Fire, and Lash (Plague honorable mention). For all of the 0-cost answers except Spike Trap and Forcemage Apprentice, to an extent, the non-Thought Plucker player is forced to lose their second card (first one discarded) to prevent Thought Plucker from hitting them. If they are only able to break it by using their gold, they risk getting hit by a plethora of on-turn gold-punishers, such as Final Tasking that Thought Plucker back for probably 2 more Thought Plucker triggers (tribute and dealing damage with blitz).
With the addition of Uprising and Tyrants, players get access to Wolf’s Bite/Blind Faith/etc. which can answer Thought Plucker much more effectively, but without them, Thought Pluckers are real threats, which is why all of my decks are forced to include multiple answers for them. However, Thought Pluckers can also be punished by opponents who include Soul Hunters and/or ally -> recall cards. These cards can either punish a forced discard or largely negate it. Since I believe the best players will have punishes/answers for Thought Pluckers, I usually don’t include them in my decks.
However, this deck naturally addresses the weaknesses of Thought Plucker. I already have a plethora of valuable low defense targets for 0-cost removal: Guilt Demon, High King, Courageous Soul, Priestess of Angeline, Watchful Gargoyle, Forcemage Apprentice, and all of my tokens. Therefore, it is less likely my opponent can answer Thought Plucker immediately, and if they save removal for Plucker, those other cards could go unanswered. Drawing out a Flash Fire to deal with just a Thought Plucker is great because it makes my Courageous Soul -> Secret Legion more likely to connect.
I am also packing a bunch of banish/transform effects that can deal with Soul Hunter: Banishment, High King, Inheritance of the Meek, and Wave of Transformation. In addition, I have 2 Guilt Demons and 1 Amnesia to attack Soul Hunter and ally-recall cards that get discarded (I would like more but I can’t make room for them). In other words, I get access to all of the potential strength of Plucker while shielding myself from a lot of its potential weaknesses.
At this point my deck is complete, but the rest of my gather cards list looked like this:
Drinker of Blood, Infernal Gatekeeper, Soul Hunter, Trihorror
Bitten, Dark Leader, Demon Breach, Drain Essence, Final Task, Inner Demon, Plague, The Risen, Zombie Apocalypse
Corpse Taker, Dark Knight, Guilt Demon, Plentiful Dead, Thrasher Demon, Wither, Word of Summoning
Avenging Angel, Gold Dragon, High King, Lord of the Arena, Palace Guard, White Knight
Angel of Light, Angel of Mercy, Angelic Protector, Banishment, Ceasefire, Divine Judgement, Inner Peace, Resurrection
Brave Squire, Priestess of Angeline, Rally the People, Watchful Gargoyle, White Dragon
Blue Dragon, Djinn of the Sands, Frost Giant, Sea Titan, Winter Fairy
Crystal Golem, Deadly Raid, Erase, Memory Spirit
Amnesia, Forcemage Apprentice, Hasty Retreat, Keeper of Secrets, Muse, Ogre Mercenary, Spike Trap
Bellowing Minotaur, Rampaging Wurm
Flame Strike, Mighty Blow, Pyromancer, Surprise Attack
Cave Troll, Fireball, Flash Fire, Wolf Companion
While I did consider my distributions while building the deck, hence Avenging Angel, Forcemage Apprentice, Amnesia, and Ancient Chant, I didn’t need much of a strictly Distributions phase while building.
Below are the break downs for each of my distributions based on my Epic Constructed Process article.
30+ Cards that can Draw/Recycle/Recall/Etc. (32)
Reliable (28): 2 Inner Demon, 3 Banishment, 3 Inheritance of the Meek, 3 Noble Unicorn, 2 Secret Legion, 3 Priestess of Angeline, 2 Watchful Gargoyle, 3 White Dragon, 2 Ancient Chant, 3 Thought Plucker, 3 Wave of Transformation, 1x Amnesia, 1 Flash Fire
Unreliable (2 x 1/2 = 2): 2 Inner Peace
20 0-cost Cards (20)
2 Guilt Demon, 3 Courageous Soul, 3 Priestess of Angeline, 2 Watchful Gargoyle, 3 White Dragon, 1 Amnesia, 3 Forcemage Apprentice, 2 Fireball, 1 Flash Fire
20- On My Turn Cards (19)
Champions (14): 2 Drinker of Blood, 3 Avenging Angel, 3 High King, 3 The People’s Champion, 3 Pack Alpha
Events (5): 2 Inner Demon, 3 Banishment
33+ Primary Alignment Cards (33)
3 Avenging Angel, 3 Banishment, 3 High King, 3 The People’s Champion, 3 Inheritance of the Meek, 2 Inner Peace, 3 Noble Unicorn, 2 Secret Legion, 3 Courageous Soul, 3 Priestess of Angeline, 2 Watchful Gargoyle, 3 White Dragon
3-9+ On-Turn Gold-Punishers (8)
3 Avenging Angel, 2 Secret Legion (3 Courageous Soul), 3 Wolf’s Call
3-9+ Off-Turn Gold-Punishers (10)
3 Noble Unicorn, 2 Secret Legion, 2 Thought Plucker, 3 Wolf’s Call
1+ Mass Discard Pile Banish (1)
3 Drain Essences or Comparable Health Gain (10)
Reliable (10): 2 Drinker of Blood, 3 Avenging Angel, 2 Inner Peace, 3 Priestess of Angeline
3-9+ Muse/Thought Plucker 0-Cost Answers (6)
Reliable (6): 3 Forcemage Apprentice, 2 Fireball, 1 Flash Fire
Anti-Sea Titan/Bounce Plan
Chump Sea Titan and attack past it with tokens. The Sea Titan will eventually get caught up in a board clear.
This deck is a pretty big departure from my preferred style of play, so it is even more experimental than some of my other core only decks. Also, as a player who focuses on midrange decks, a few of those cards spilled in that many other control players might not include.
In addition, this deck seems like it will be very easy to misplay and will require significant patience.
Aside from that though, I just want more discard pile banish. It was really hard to go down to 2 Guilt Demons, but I didn’t see anywhere else I wanted to cut for my Amnesia. On a side note, I do think 2 Drinker of Blood is correct instead of 3. While I see myself finding an opening to play it in most matches, it is frequently a dead/unplayable card for large stretches of a game. Therefore having 3 in hand would generally be an auto-loss.
2x Drinker of Blood
2x Inner Demon
2x Guilt Demon
3x Avenging Angel
3x High King
3x The People’s Champion
3x Inheritance of the Meek
2x Inner Peace
3x Noble Unicorn
2x Secret Legion
3x Courageous Soul
3x Priestess of Angeline
2x Watchful Gargoyle
3x White Dragon
2x Ancient Chant
3x Thought Plucker
3x Wave of Transformation
3x Forcemage Apprentice
3x Pack Alpha
3x Wolf’s Call
1x Flash Fire
As with the rest of the decks, I’ll be interested to see where this one goes.