Greetings. Name’s bones, bones_the_third, Energetic Tuxedo, Brassrain… I go by many names. I’m a huge fan of TESL, having played it for more than a year now, and with recent announcements of a brand new set of developers, a new client, as release on several bigger consoles, I reckon we’ll witness a spike in the playerbase.
Hence why I’ve decided to make a guide on something that I think is a perfect fit for starting players—an archetype that’s easy to pick up, mostly cheap to build, straightforward to play, but also hard to master.
…It’s midrange! Well sorta. It’s tokens. It’s good to keep in mind what midrange is though. Midrange is an archetype that is all about taking over the board and reducing the opponent’s health count, slowly but surely, with cards that are generally good—capable of being relatively aggressive but also trading blows with opponent’s creatures and coming out ahead in terms of cards in hand and on board. Midrange’s average closing turn is between turns 5 to 10, with the extremes being usually faster midrange (aggressive midrange, midgro) and slower midrange (current examples include Midrange Battlemage, Strike Monk).
Where midrange is about playing the best and most efficient threats, tokens is about using synergy and a large number of smaller threats. The best categorization for token decks is actually midrange—midrange that plays a lot of smaller creatures, rather than one big one. What does ‘token’ mean, though? Well, the terminology comes from Magic the Gathering and its cards that generate creatures. Think our Scouting Patrol or Imperial Reinforcements. A Token deck’s side of the board is almost constantly full and relatively easy to refill because of said generators. On top of that, you play one card to put multiple creatures on the board, which is incredibly efficient and, to make things even better, you can just trade one or two of them for a bigger target of your opponent’s while keeping the rest intact! That’s the value part of midrange right there.
The aggressive part comes from the buffs, which are in pretty good numbers—cards like Fifth Legion Trainer, Resolute Ally, and Divine Fervor are a part of pretty much every token deck and a combination of Strength and Willpower known as Crusader also has access to Orc Clan Captain. Well, all those and the fact that you have plenty of people with rocks in their hands attacking your opponent as we speak.
However, with increased average value per card come extra risks. Due to the importance of Divine Fervor, cards that still were at least a bit troublesome for midrange, like Shadowfen Priest or Dushnikh Yal Archer, ascend to an even greater threat, capable of stopping your momentum dead in its tracks. Other buffs are very important too—Fifth Legion Trainer to give plenty of power to your flood of little tokens early on and Resolute Ally to enhance what’s battle-ready, and while not drawing the former or losing it when it was the only thing we played that game is rather sad, in every other case buffs from these two don’t disappear, often giving the opponent a dilemma of “do i kill buffing creatures or buffed creatures?”
Out of four available classes with Willpower, Crusader is probably the most powerful on budget, with only rares, commons, and whatever story mode sends our way, while Monk is the closest to our end product of what we currently recognize as token. Let’s have a gander at both of these decks separately, since despite 80% of the deck being the same, they are different beasts. Granted, the gameplan for both is pretty much the same—start the pressure early, expand your board to its maximum ,and dictate every possible favorable trade. The difference is in cards from the other attribute.
The crusader token deck has a lot more buffs and a lot more creatures to buff, on top of more consistent draw with both Crusader’s Assault and Ash Berserker, so even as an aggressor you shouldn’t run out of cards too fast.
Monk can steamroll the opponent even harder, thanks to the Goblin Skulk. Our beloved gobbo is one of the best cards in the entire game, because, if unanswered (and it happens, trust me) he thins out your deck, draws you cards you can play no matter what and, usually, develops your gameplan, as other cards in the deck go along with the card Skulk finds. Monk also comes with built in big damage from hand in the form of Cliff Racers. Blacksap Protectors, while very much optional, perfectly capture the capability of both aggressive and defensive play, due to them being a Prophecy (potentially for free) and having Guard (absorbing some of the damage).
Obviously, due to the fact that these are made on budget, there’s plenty of room for optimization. I’ll go from ones that are the most important or the most often seen generally to the smallest, niche ones. I’ll mark cards to replace in Crusader with hopefully not too painful red color and in Monk with neat looking green.
Divine Fervor: Yeah, you need three copies. The whole purpose of the deck is to capitalize on buffs by having a lot of stuff on board and our singular support achieves precisely that. Would replace a copy of Khuul Lawkeeper and Imperial Reinforcements or both Golden Saints.
Marked Man: He’s a part of Dark Brotherhood collection, which you’ll purchase sooner or later with gold. The real other half of 1 magicka cards you play in this deck. Replace Stalwart Solitudes in both cases,as well as a copy of Ash Berserker or one Crassius’ Favor.
The Black Dragon: An absolutely overstatted unit that takes the spot of a Nord Firebrand or the other Crassius’ Favor.
Cloudrest Illusionist: Probably one of the best Epic cards in the entire game, used in pretty much every Willpower midrange deck and even some control decks. The ability to freely trade for something or have a decently strong Prophecy is huge. Replace last Nord Firebrand and both Imperial Reinforcements or all of the Imperial Reinforcements. While it looks as if we’re abandoning the token formula by removing the biggest generator available, it’s not the easiest of tasks to get the full value out of Reinforcements and decks that contain Withered Hand Cultist absolutely decimate this card.
Pit Lion: Now that our 1 Magicka slot is 2 cards a piece, Pit Lion is an ideal replacement for Morthal Executioner in both of the decks.
Ahnassi – Replaces a single copy of Imprison as a wonderful card for both aggressive and defensive cases. Overall incredible unique legendary in Monk.
And with that our token decks are for the most part optimized. All that is left for us to do is customize our deck based on the situation of the ladder. Some of the token Crusader decks were playing stuff as hard to grasp initially as Withered Hand Cultist. Others have tried replacing Khuul Lawkeepers with other 3 magicka utility card such as Penitus Oculatus Agent or Grisly Gourmet. There’s plenty of options when it comes to cards that aren’t part of the main core. Hence why I often come back to the world of little men with large rocks.
On the closing note I should talk about the other half of the classes.
Token Mage uses Wardcrafter, Daggerfall Mage and Lightning Bolt as their non-Willpower cards, as well as Ayrenn, the unique Mage legendary. The second and last often discourage newer players from making the deck, however both of these cards are perfectly reasonable early crafts, because they go into pretty much every deck they can. Mage can be played to high ranks without bigger issues, however a major issue comes from the meta we’re in right now. Drain Vitalities and Sorcerer’s Negations come in overwhelming amounts, making poor Daggerfall Mage nothing more than a thought of what could’ve been.
Token Spellsword nowadays is much more expensive and looks different from person to person. Not only that, because of its problematic drawing options and means of closing games being tied to having creatures on board, it’s also one of the hardest to play optimally.
I feel like that should do it from me. Thank you for reading all that and may Kynareth guide you to victory.