I personally am at the stage of deepening my 4* bench, and have only this week ascended my first two 5* to 4th tier - Drake and Khiona. I have only recently achieved 2 to 3 fully ascended 4* of each colour. Of course I am using my emblems for my 4s. Its a no-brainer that I need to bootstrap to the next level, and it will take months before I can get MN, Onatel, Evelyn, Zimkitty, Quintus, Kadilen and Magni to max. I will in the meantime use my tokens for Grimm, Proteus, Wilbur, Scarlett, Buddy, Sabina, Rigard, Caed, Sonya etc - the ones I use daily. When I get a 5 to max I will refund the tokens and take the loss.
There have to be thousands of players at my level : about half a year along.