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Making Tokens and Drawing Cards with Bennie Bracks


Storm in the Mountains by Albert Bierstadt (1870).

Crested Sunmare by Lucas Graciano.

Draw a card.

These three words are probably the three most important words in Magic: The Gathering.

If nothing else, they help move the game along by allowing us to put those precious little cardboard rectangles from the top of our libraries into our hands. They can even take a legendary creature and turn it from being an OK or mid-range commander into a top tier, high powered commander.

If you're looking at two roughly equal commanders and one of them can draw you cards, you'll nearly always do better if you pick the one with card draw. You'll hit more land drops. You'll be more likely to have interaction or removal when you need it. You're simply going to have more games where your deck does the things it was built to do, even if those things are silly, whimsical or just plain goofy.

Today's column is about a legendary creature in mono-White that draws you cards and can only be described as a bit of an odd duck.

Bennie Bracks, Zoologist

Bennie Bracks, Zoologist is an Elf, but you're never going to try to build mono-White Elves with him as your commander.

He's also a Druid, but you're also not going to get far by trying to build a mono-White Druid tribal Commander deck.

There's very little point in looking at Bennie Bracks as an Elf or Druid tribal commander. Elves and Druids are nearly always in Green, with a few exceptions. Of the eleven other mono-White Elves, only Blaring Recruiter cares about making creature tokens. Of the four other mono-White Druids, only Mycologist cares about making creature tokens. Those two creatures might make it into today's list, but this deck is going to focus heavily on token generation in order to squeeze as much value out of our 99 as possible.

Bennie has you draw a card at the end of each turn if you make a token. He's a Zoologist, but strangely, he doesn't care about whether those tokens are creatures or not. This intrepid Zoologist seems to be just as happy with clues, treasures and food as he would be with Soldiers, Angels and Saprolings. While this feels like bad card design from a flavor perspective, Bennie is clearly a stronger card for caring about both creature and non-creature tokens.

Because Bennie gets just as excited by Treasures and Clues as by Thopters and Pentavites (yes, you read that correctly - Pentavites), I'm going to try to load this deck up with ways to create tokens on every turn. I'm not yet sure whether I'll be looking to build a simple mono-white value engine or I'll have an "I win" button mixed into the deck somewhere, but I can guarantee two things - I will be making lots of tokens and I should be drawing lots of cards.

Instant Speed Tokens

It isn't that hard to make tokens on your own turn in Commander. You can do it in pretty much any color, but Bennie Bracks gives us a lot of incentive to also make tokens on our opponents' turns. The first thing I looked for when working on this deck was instant speed token generators.

Angelic Favor
Funeral Pyre
Expose Evil

Angelic Favor might seem like a terrible card, but I can cast it for free by tapping a creature if I control a Plains. If it resolves, I will create a 4/4 Angel creature token with flying. I do have to cast it during combat and the token gets exiled at the end of the turn. For 4 mana, Favor would be nigh unplayable, but as a free blocker that lets Bennie draw me a card, I think it's worth a try. I like running weird old cards as much as I like powerful staples, so Funeral Pyre also gets a spot in this list. For 1 mana and the cost of exiling a card from my own graveyard I can make a 1/1 Spirit.

I'm running more recent instants as well. Expose Evil can tap two creatures and make a clue token. Eyes in the Skies will make a 1/1 Bird creature token with flying and then populate (create a copy of a token I control). Humble the Brute will destroy target creature with power 4 or greater and also makes a clue token. Recruit the Worthy costs 1 White mana, will make a 1/1 Soldier creature token and has buyback for 3 mana. None of these are great cards, but my premise is that having Bennie Bracks tack card draw onto them makes them eminently playable in this list.

Goldmeadow Lookout
Blaring Recruiter

I'm also leaning on creatures that have abilities that can be activated at instant speed. Pentavus will let me pay mana to remove +1/+1 counters to create a Pentavite creature token. I can then pay mana to sacrifice a Pentavite to add a +1/+1 counter back onto Pentavus. Thopter Squadron is also in the list and has a very similar ability, but is restricted to sorcery speed so it can't be done on an opponent's turn.

Goldmeadow Lookout lets me pay 1 mana and taps to create a 1/1 Kithkin Soldier creature token that has the ability to tap down other creatures. The fact that the Lookout has to tap means I'll be limited to doing that once per turn cycle. Blaring Recruiter is an Elf Warrior who partners with Blaring Captain. The latter is in Black and can't be run in this list, but Recruiter will let me pay mana to make white Warrior creature tokens. Repeatable, instant speed token generation is just what this deck is looking for, so the Recruiter fits in perfectly in this list.

Repeatable Token Generation

Instant speed token generation is great, but I also want permanents that can be played once and that will give me a steady stream of tokens as the game goes on.

Smothering Tithe
Search the Premises
Trading Post

Smothering Tithe needs no introduction, and will tax my opponents for drawing cards. If they don't pay 2 mana, I'll get to make a treasure and Bennie will see that token and put a card in my hand at the end of the turn. Many players get very lax about keeping up with Smothering Tithe triggers, but with card draw added in they'll be much more likely to pay their taxes. Monologue Tax is also in the list, but it only triggers to give me a treasure token when an opponent casts theri second spell each turn.

Search the Premises will give me Clue tokens when a creature attacks me or a planeswalker I control. So far these token generators are mostly the kind that will trigger on my opponents' turns. I should be able to handle token generation on my own turn easily enough. Trading Post is a versatile little artifact that can give me a 1/1 Goat token. It can also gain me life, recur an artifact from my graveyard to my hand or draw me a card if I'm able to pay the specified cost. Trading Post taps as part of the activation so I can only do it once per turn cycle, but it's nice that it can serve as a token generator on an opponent's turn.

Court of Grace
First Response
Luminarch Ascension

Not all of my token generators are going to help me make tokens on my opponents' turns, but having a lot of options makes sense. Court of Grace makes me the monarch and will give me an upkeep trigger that will create either a Spirit or Angel. I never expect to keep monarch status for long, but those 1/1 Spirits will draw me cards and that's fine by me.

First Response can trigger on each upkeep, but if it does that probably means I'm taking a beating. It will give me a 1/1 Soldier creature token if and only if I lost life in the previous turn. Losing life isn't something I'll be trying to do, but if I can make a token and draw a card without actually dying in the process, that's not that bad a tradeoff. It might even disincentivize my opponents from attacking me for chip damage.

Luminarch Ascension needs to get four or more quest counters before it can do much of anything, but it will let me pay 2 mana to make a 4/4 White Angel creature token. This card can easily take over a game if I'm able to get it out early and my opponents aren't able to hit me for damage. Being able to make a 4/4 flier and draw a card on the end step for a paltry 2 mana multiple times in a turn cycle is hard to beat.

More Card Draw

If all goes well, I'll be making tokens and drawing cards, but if there's one thing that's better than a bit of card draw in your EDH game, that would be a LOT of card draw in your EDH game.

You might think these next few cards are overkill, but I've played enough decks that left me empty-handed in the mid-game to last me a lifetime. Cards mean you get to actively participate in what's going on, and there's nothing worse than being out of gas and topdecking lands or cards that don't help you rebuild, deal with threats, or progress your game plan.

Pursuit of Knowledge
Alms Collector
Tamiyo's Journal

Pursuit of Knowledge is a bit of a gamble. Instead of drawing a card, you can put a study counter on it. If you have three study counters on Pursuit you can remove them and sacrifice it to draw seven cards. This will pay off nicely if you have set up a token-generating engine that lets you draw on your opponents' turns. Even if you're mixing in a few instant-speed token generators, the chance to turn three draws into 7 cards in your hand is pretty good. Admittedly, I'm biased towards liking weird old cards that nobody will recognize. If you're in a removal-heavy meta and you know this weird card will get blown up before you get to put that third study counter on it, you might want to pass on Pursuit of Knowledge, but I like it enough to be willing to give it a try.

Alms Collector will fit in nicely in a deck that sometimes wants to hold up mana to play spells or activate abilities on your opponents' turns. If you've got four untapped Plains and you're waiting to make tokens, you can flash in Collector in response to a Windfall or just a big X draw spell. Your opponent won't be happy about it, but maybe they shouldn't be getting so greedy with their draw spells.

This deck seems to like to investigate a lot, so if there are going to be extra Clue tokens lying around it makes sense to run a card like Tamiyo's Journal. This could get me Unbreakable Formation if I'm holding back a boardwipe, or Cathars' Crusade if I'm ready to gear up for a push to win. I'm even running the extravagantly mana-intensive Storm Herd because sometimes making X 1/1 Pegasus creature tokens where X is my life total is the kind of thing I want to do. If my Crusade is already on the field, all the better!

Much Ado About Something

All this card draw begs a question: what is it all for? What is this deck actually trying to do?

I'll be the first to admit that this first draft has a very simple and fair game plan. I want to make tokens and draw cards. Winning will be done the old fashioned way - through combat, or possibly by wiping the board and making my own stuff indestructible. I didn't build this list as a combo deck, but any deck that is designed to draw cards effectively could easily be pivoted to being a deck that wants to dig for combo pieces. I'll be digging for Angels and for cards like Cathars' Crusade or Storm Herd if I'm able to make 10 mana in a single turn. You could easily just swap in Walking Ballista, Heliod, Sun-Crowned and a tutor or two if that's your style.

I do think Bennie Bracks, Zoologist could push up into high power with the right approach, but as you edge towards high power and cEDH you have to start looking at better choices for your commander. If it's about landing a comb win, it's hard to argue that Bennie would be a better combo commander in mono-white than Heliod or Oswald Fiddlebender. If you want a token army, God-Eternal Oketra is hard to beat. If you're looking for an equipment build, there are lots of great options. If you're keen on wiping the board and protecting your own stuff, Avacyn, Angel of Hope will give you what you want right in the command zone without needing to draw all those cards.

It is fun to draw cards, and it is a lot of fun to play lower powered decks against each other without constantly worrying about someone hitting their own deck's "I win" button and landing a game-winning combo. Bennie Bracks is a versatile commander for token strategies that provides the thing many of the best Commander players build their decks around: card draw. Having to build around token strategies and having it limited to one card per turn are real limitations, but good deck-builders will find ways to make the most of what Bennie brings to a game.

Final Thoughts

I am confident that playing this deck a few times would lead me to make a bunch of upgrades. My focus was on trying to make a token on each turn, but it's hard to argue that Anointed Procession wouldn't fit in nicely with what Bennie Bracks, Zoologist is trying to do. I also wonder if focusing on a single tribe like Soldiers or Angels might result in a stronger deck than my somewhat scattered approach to token generation.

If there's a build path or a key card I left out of today's list that you would put into your own Bennie Bracks deck, please let us know in the comments. A commander like last week's Urabrask, Heretic Praetor or today's mono-White Zoologist can be a real challenge because you aren't being led by the hand down an obvious build path. You are very free to look at different directions and strategies that work with your commander, but that aren't made obvious by the commander's keywords or abilities.

We here at CoolStuffInc seem to have had a real interest in Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful over the past few weeks. My column about my "Doggie Dargo" deck on April 4th was followed up by Abe Sargent's April 15th "Top Ten Partners for Yoshimaru" and Matthew Lotti's "An Army of Yoshi" on April 19th. I won't pretend to be a trend-setter, but I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't give you a hot tip - you can search for articles on this site using tags! If you look at all of our Yoshi columns using the "Yoshimaru Ever Faithful" link at the bottom of this column (or just click here) you'll see that Paige Smith covered MtG's best boy first with her column "I Will Wait For You" in late February.

My own games with my Yoshi / Dargo deck have me in first place in the EDH League I run. My lead isn't big, but it's nice to have the top spot, if only for the moment. It's free and we play for fun, but the competition to get the top point total at the end of the month is pretty fierce. I've got a shot at keeping my lead and winning the month, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if either of the players in second and third place manage to overtake me. They're very capable, build great decks, and I certainly wouldn't bet against either of them.

If there's a Legendary creature in Streets of New Capenna that you'd like me to tackle next, please leave a comment. I'm guessing I'll turn to a multicolored card for next Monday's column, but if there is someone you'd like me to write about, definitely let me know.

That's all I've got for today. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!

Commander HQ: Decklists and Strategy for Streets of New Capenna's Legendary Creatures!

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