While I think my deck for #PTAKH ended up in a pretty good place, there are certainly a lot of other options to explore for the archetype. Justin Cohen helped with the deck some, but I mostly encouraged my teammates to work on other things, so it wasn't a deck that's been fine-tuned by a lot of people. There are a lot of things I didn't explore and a lot of cards I had to make judgments on pretty quickly with only a few games.
As I mentioned in my previous article , I started with a W/B version and then added green for Catacomb Sifter and Cryptolith Rite, but I think I should have rebuilt from the ground up with green at some point, rather than just changing a few cards around to use the best cards. If you're willing to get away from Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, which is entirely reasonable, the mana can be shifted to base G/B, splashing white, and you can consider cards like Loam Dryad or Blisterpod.
Today, I'd like to focus on brainstorming other cards and directions the deck can be taken in and why we might want to consider various possibilities.
The deck is tight, in that all the cards work together and they work well, but in a lot of places, there are other cards that accomplish something similar. For example, Blisterpod is similar to Sacred Cat in that it's a cheap creature that I can sacrifice to make a token, but it doesn't cost an extra mana to get the token. The token can even let me cast Anointed Procession on turn 3. So, let's get to the options:
The biggest weakness of this deck is needing to take turn 4 off to cast Anointed Procession. If you can do that on turn 3 instead, it's a lot easier not to fall behind, and Loam Dryad generally plays well with a lot of other cheap creatures that aren't good at attacking and blocking, which this deck has. The problem with Loam Dryad is that I always want to play it in decks with eight other one-mana creatures, and whenever I do that, I feel like I don't have enough room for cards that payoff the extra mana I'm making. While it likes to go in the same deck as Cryptolith Rite because they work well with the same other cards, it does have the problem of being the worst creature you could draw when you already have Cryptolith Rite in play.
This one's actually pretty exciting. Every mana is very important, so not needing to spend a mana to get the token out of this is a big deal. It makes it cheaper to use it with an early Stockpile to go wide. And if you play Yahenni, Undying Partisan, you could do something like turn 1 Blisterpod, turn 2 Hidden Stockpile, turn 3 Yahenni, turn 4 Anointed Procession, sacrifice Blisterpod to make two Scions, trigger Hidden Stockpile to make two Servos.
This plays a lot better with Sacred Cat than Blisterpod, since a big part of the advantage here is that you might put cards that are active in your graveyard there for free, but this is also a good way to find your best cards, like Hidden Stockpile, Cryptolith Rite, and Anointed Procession. It's clunky enough to scare me, but it could also facilitate a delirium package, as Ishkanah, Grafwidow is actually a great token-maker (why yes, I would love to get twice as many Spiders).
I played one Ayli for a while, and it was nice to be able to exile things, since I'm often at a lot of life and have plenty of tokens around, but I also didn't like having a real creature that didn't generate other value for my opponents to target with Fatal Push. Overall, I could easily see playing one, especially if you have a Traverse the Ulvenwald package, but it seemed better to concentrate on my core engine rather than other cards that could potentially play well alongside it, and I'm inclined to think that's still true. These kinds of things are often too cute.
I think this card is a big mistake with Anointed Procession, because Anointed Procession is your finisher, and you don't want another card that only functions as a finisher and only when you already have Anointed Procession; you'll already win almost all of those games, and Zulaport Cutthroat just allows you to get more awkward draws.
This card actually played pretty well, especially against Mardu. It's a good way to attack Planeswalkers since it's basically always indestructible, and having a free sac outlet is pretty nice. Again, this just got cut to make room to maximize my synergy rather than because it had particularly disappointed me.
Bontu takes too much mana to attack and block with, but Hidden Stockpile allows you to shave a mana off that and Yahenni lets you do it for free. This is an even better way to attack Planeswalkers. The deck supports the card well, but I don't know that the card supports the deck; and I think we care more about what our deck is doing than what a single card can offer. Basically, Bontu is looking to play the Bontu game, which we could do, but I think the Procession game is better, and Bontu doesn't help with that.
This one is going kind of the perfect amount deep to excite me. When we were building our B/G token deck for PT Shadows Over Innistrad, I was really impressed with Ulvenwald Mysteries. It ended up not being great for us, but that was mostly because our primary weakness was Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, which was also good against Ulvenwald Mysteries. Thankfully, Kalitas isn't seeing as much play at the moment, so I don't really see that being a problem. Ulvenwald Mysteries is really exciting with Anointed Procession because the first Anointed Procession is already kind of mulitplying the effect of Ulvenwald Mysteries by four rather than two, since you get twice as many Clues, and they each lead to twice as many Human tokens. Add Cryptolith Rites to go off in a big way.
This is a great card, but I don't think it's what we want unless we're really dedicated to Ulvenwald Mysteries. While you do make a lot of Clues if you have Tireless Tracker and Anointed Procession going, the problem with Tireless Tracker has never really been that you don't make enough Clues if it lives. Clues have massive diminishing returns, since the mana to break them adds up quickly.
This was a card that I was really hesitant to take out of my deck. I like that it's a three-mana instant, since the deck, especially without green, was light on both three-mana plays and instant-speed plays, and I like that it offers more removal without cutting into our token synergies at all. I didn't need the three-drop as much when I added Catacomb Sifter, and the removal spell didn't feel right for the format; however, it's a good one to keep in mind if the deck needs more removal for big creatures. It's also great if we move toward a delirium shell as it offers two types that each aren't super common in this archetype. It also gives us a relevant spell in the graveyard if we hit it with Vessel of Nascency or another similar effect.
I avoided this because it costs GG, but I like that if we play this and then Anointed Procession, we can immediately get something (even if it's just an extra plant) out of the Anointed Procession. This also potentially does a good job as a finisher, because it plays well as an early token generator, so it's not a card that would have to be solely dedicated to ending the game, which you're not looking for.
My first build of this deck had 3-4 of these, since it seemed like a card that you should just play with because the opportunity cost was so low, but there are a few reasons I stopped doing that. First of all, a deck that's this reliant on having its cards work well together doesn't want very many interactive cards because they make it less likely that you'll draw your combos that work well together and more likely that your individually weak cards won't be strong enough to beat whatever your opponent has left. Also, I realized that you'll want to cast this to exile something most of the time if you're putting it in your deck, and my four-drop slot was just too crowded, so I'd much rather have Anguished Unmaking. If you're not playing Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or any other four-mana spells in addition to Anointed Procession, then I think it's reasonable to consider this.
This is another card I tried early on. I liked the idea of having a cheap play that gave me a flying blocker to let me to do more things in a turn to avoid falling behind, and it's nice when it's very easy to play because of Hidden Stockpile, but I ultimately decided against it for the same reason as other cards like Ayli--it just doesn't do enough to advance your gameplan.
If you're trying to use this, it might imply some other changes that are only good to support it, like Liliana, Traverse the Ulvenwald, or other delirium enablers, but the point would be to get six or twelve Spiders when you cast Ishkanah, which would really help with a potential weakness to flying creatures. I just worry that playing the support to make this work consistently makes the rest of the deck too clunky.
Sacred Cat and Anointer Priest are Zombies, and this makes tokens that you'd obviously be happy to double, so this is a reasonable card if you feel like you need a bigger play, but I'm not sure why you'd want that really.
Now let's look at some other ways we could build Abzan Tokens:
This deck has a lower curve with more early creatures to try to set up to have plenty of mana and non-token creatures to use Ulvenwald Mysteries. It loses the finishing power of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and instead just tries to use Ulvenwald Mysteries as a more reliable and impactful midgame engine. This take on this deck will be at its best against slower decks that are trying to interact with you, especially using removal.
I'd be most inclined to work on something in this space if I found myself having issues with flying creatures, but that doesn't really seem to be the way things are moving at this moment.
Finally, I want to touch briefly on the idea of playing Hidden Stockpile in Modern. It takes a little more work than Bitterblossom, but with a fetchland it's easy to get the first token right away rather than needing to wait a turn. You also sometimes get to scry instead of losing a life every turn.
My first effort to try to build a Modern deck around Hidden Stockpile suffered from playing too much interaction, which meant that I couldn't get enough of my own synergies together to amount to anything. This is another take:
This deck has a bit of a Dredge shell with Faithless Looting, Cathartic Reunion, and Stinkweed Imp, but it's also happy to just draw and discard its token makers and then play them from the graveyard. This deck is less explosive than Dredge, but in in exchange, it has a robust token game where it can potentially dodge graveyard hate by just playing a Hidden Stockpile/Anointed Procession game (which doesn't care about Rest in Peace, since revolt cares about things leaving the battlefield, not going to the graveyard).
I suspect this deck is too slow to get away with having this few cards that interact with the opponent, but I think there might be a good deck that's trying to do a lot of what this deck is trying to do.