First of all, we would like to thank Marius Haussmann for his collaboration!!
my name is Marius Hausmann and i call myself a semicompetitive German magicplayer. Semicompetitive, cause i won or top8ed at several bigger tournaments, including winning the German Legacy champs 2011 and made money-finishs at several Legacy Grand Prix. There are thoose guys who call Legacy (the greatest format ever in my opinion) a casual format and they are surely right at some point, since there is not (yet ) a Protour in this format.
Still, there are Grand Prix’s in Legacy and the format has to offer a diversity of cool decks like no other. While most articles keep talking about blue decks featuring 4 Brainstorm, 4 Force of Will and 3-4 Ponder (fill up the rest with goodstuff at will…) i’m going to take you away (for a while) from the declared “strongest colour” in Magic the Gathering to take a look at a deck, that features another colour (or even 2) without using any blue stuff. Despite this fact, i think the deck can at least be considered Tier 1,5 if played right and in certain metagames it even might become a complete Tier 1 choice: Death and Taxes.
So the most important question at the beginning: Why play a nonblue deck, when blue IS the strongest colour in Magic the Gathering?
To be honest, this question is only relevant, since Wizards admitted the mistake of printing Treasure Cruise and Dig through Time and banned theese two complete overpowered cards in Legacy. Before the ban, any nonblue deck in the format had quite a hard stand and the unhealthyness of the format could be seen when abominations like monogreen-Ancient-Tomb-into-Choke decks were created to have a chance against theese cards and often even this was not enough.
But back to question, why play a deck like Death and Taxes if you have the option to go for Brainstorm-based decks? (Budget / money is not a reason: In all considerations i make in this article i’m going to assume that someone making a deckchoice has (in theory) access to all cards he or she wants to play.)
Cards like Brainstorm or Ponder can indeed provide you with a lot of card-quality (NOT real card-advantage) but they don’t have to do this always. For example: Brainstorms are only really efficient if coupled with some shuffle-effects (especially fetchlands). I’ve seen more then one player who did not find a fetchland to shuffle away situational useless cards and died a horrible death, even knowing his next two-turn-draws. Of course theese situations occur not too often in well-teched decks but they happen and you really have to, ähm, “ponder” well, if you keep a hand with only one land and a cantrip.
While blue offers great library manipulation and combo-cards too (Hello Show and Tell!), even combined with defensive stuff like Force of Will, the colour lacks any sort of cheap and efficent removal (assuming that you want to really get rid of something and not only bounce a creature via Bumerang). So most blue control-decks (aka Miracles) or aggro-control-decks (aka Team America / Canadian Threshold / Shardless BUG (i still refuse to call it Sultai, sry guys^^) have to splash one, most of the time even two colours to get access to lovely removal like Swords to Plowshares, Lightning Bolt or Abrupt Decay. I know, many do not care and even splash three colours (aka BURG Delver (thanks God there are no four-colour-shards)). This results in having an extremely dangerous manabase, which may be easily disrupted by one or two Wastelands. Yep, i know, dear miracles-player, your deck can feature a solid manabase, most unfair removal (Terminus) AND the best maindeck combohate (Counterbalance) in one deck. So just enjoy your obvious best deck in the format as long as it is legal!
This is in my opinion the most important downside of decks with around eight cantrips: Casting cantrips costs you ressources and time. Neither Brainstorm nor Ponder provides you with a clock, which your opponent has to handle. You look at your deck for a better clock like Tarmogoyf or Counterbalance (or the right combocard in stormcombo-decks which use the cantrips of course as well), while your opponent might just play a Goblin Guide, a Goblin Lackey (which even might be uncounterable thanks to Cavern of Souls) or, considering Death and Taxes, a Mother of Runes or an Aether Vial. Let’s assume you are on the play with your tempo-based-blue deck, then you might daze the enemy first-round-drop or play a removal on it in your turn, if the threat is really dangerous. In case you dazed, your enemy is one turn further then you, cause you had to bounce a land. In case you played a removal, your second turn might only have been good do get rid of the turn-one-threat your opponent just played (and he might keep up with an even more dangerous turn-two-threat). Now let’s assume you are on the draw and your opponent started with a big threat like a Goblin Lackey or a Aether Vial: Even having two or three cantrips in your hand might not help you to get out of this critical situation, or you might have to pull the kill switch with a Force of Will, generating card-disadvantage. To illustrate this, a little example from a Legacy-tournament three weeks ago: Julian Knab (probably the best and most successful elves-player in Europe) plays against a BURG-Delver-deck. The match is 1:1. While Julian just playes elf after elf and generates card-advantage via Wirewood Symbiote plus Elvish Visionary, the BURG-player has a solid hand, but his cantrips find only more cantrips and the wrong manasources (thanks to his greedy four-coloured manabase). When he is finally able to cast a Sudden Demise for two, Julian has already drawn seven or more cards and easily wins the match in the following two turns.
=> So a good clock might sometimes really be better or at least equal to durdling around. And here we finally come to Death and Taxes, which has some really good early threats AND can durdle around quite a lot in the midgame (in a way that brings you tons of fun!)
- Conception of the deck and decklists with cardchoices
When we talk about Death and Taxes, we first have to consider the role of the deck in the current metagame. As mentioned earlier, D&T is a deck, that has decent early-game-threats while clearly NOT being an aggrodeck. I even would go so far and say that D&T is much more a control-deck then most blue decks are (except Miracles of course, which is the epitome of a controldeck in the current Legacy). The role of D&T varies in most of the matchups one does play. For example: While against decks like stormcombo (Ad Nauseam Tendrils and TES (The Epic Storm) we are clearly the aggro-deck that tries to get one or two hatebears like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or Ethersworn Canonist online as soon as possible, we try to play a long game against decks like BURG-Delver. The longer the game lasts, the better our threats become: If the game lasts long enough, our Mother of Runes protected, Sword of Fire and Ice equipped Batterskull-token will outrace any Delver of Secrets or Tarmogoyf, while our opponent’s Dazes are useless in his hand in the mid- or lategame. So the conclusion is: Know the role of your deck!
While a decent matchup-analysis will follow later, we should still have a quick look at the current Legacy-metagame and how strong or weak our deck seems to be.
Combodecks: Playing D&T you have to accept the fact, that you will loose some matches against combodecks like One-land-Belcher (a deck that kills with Goblin Charbelcher or Empty the Warrens) or Oops all spells (a selfmill-deck with no lands) that both can kill turn one or two. Since our hatebears cost all at least two mana, theese decks are just too fast for us (unless you don’t want to play Mindbreak Traps, which can help in theese matchups but are quite useless in most other matchups). Lucky for us theese decks are quite inconsistant and are not played too often.
Then we have as said before Ad Nauseam Tendrils, which is normally a bit slower (therefore much more consistant) and allows us to put down a hatebear (= small disturbing creature) turn two (if it’s not discarded). So we really don’t want to play against stormcombo-decks, but most of the time we can fight back at least.
Still in the fraction of combodecks we have Sneak and Show (a blue-based combodeck built around the cards Show and Tell, Sneak Attack, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Griselbrand) which took back it’s place as the best Show and Tell-deck from Omnishow, since this deck lost much of its power with the Dig-through-Time-ban. Sneak and Show is quite a good matchup for us, further informations concerning the matchup i’ll give in the analysis later. Last but not least we find Infect in the combo-deck-section, which in my opinion is a real cool and strong deck too, and so are the matches between Infect and Death and Taxes.
Aggrodecks: Are there real aggrodecks in Legacy anymore? The only 100% aggrodeck without any control-elements in the maindeck i know is Burn, while decks like Dragonstompy rely not simple on beatsticks, but on cards, which prevent the opponent from playing any useful cards (for example Blood Moon, Trinisphere, Chalice of the Void). Some people would consider Goblins an aggrodeck too, but since actual goblin-lists have a similar strategy to our deck (abuse cards like Aether Vial, Wasteland, Rishadan Port) i would classify goblins as one of the <insert number greater then 20> aggro-control-decks of the format.
Aggro-control-decks: No, i’m not gonna talk now about every single Delver of Secrets/Tarmogoyf/Shardless Agent/Life from the Loam/Dark Confidant/Punishing Fire … deck, that might perhaps be or not be present at every bigger Legacy-tournament. In the later upcoming matchup-analysis i will talk more precisely about the matchups between D&T and following decks: Team America, Jund, Shardless BUG, Canadian Threshold, BURG Delver, 4Colour-Aggroloam and any other deck you tell me in the comments!
Controldecks: Apart from narrow decks like Nic Fit (or any other deck built around Veteran Explorer plus Cabal Therapy) we have in this section Miracles (probably the strongest deck in the format, but the most boring too (in my opinion!)) and Lands (i emanate from the red/green variant). Both matchups are quite interesting, since most games last a while and both players can make many decisions, that lead to victory or defeat.
Aggro-combo-control-decks: Well, we have Elves here, which seems to be the swiss army knife in Legacy. An interesting matchup, if we have the right cards in our sideboard, a terrible one, if not.
That brings us to the point, at which you all want the one and only, the best decklist for this archetype. And: It does not exist!
It all depends on your personal playstile and on the metagame you are going to play in. I’m now working on this deck since more then two years and still i have two decklists, that seem equally strong to me. I like them both and playtesting has shown, that really in both lists cards can be changed as your individual preferences are. I’m going to give you some examples for individual choices you can make, so your deck becomes really optimal for your personal playstile.
First, i’m going for the more “straight forward list”, that most players would consider to be a “classic” D&T build.
Deckname: Death and Taxes
Pilot/Deckdesigner: Marius Hausmann
2 Flagstones of Trokair
4 Rishadan Port
4 Mother of Runes
4 Phyrexian Revoker
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Stoneforge Mystic
3 Serra Avenger
2 Spirit of the Labyrinth
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
4 Aether Vial
4 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Containment Priest
2 Council’s Judgement
3 Rest in Peace
1 Pithing Needle
We have a certain “deck-core” in monowhite D&T lists, that have been proven themselves to be necessary to make the deck functional and consistent. Since high consistency and a quite undisruptable manabase are benefits i like a lot about the deck, i would recommend not to go too far from theese choices:
The manabase: While the Wastelands and Rishadan Ports help your deck to massively attack the manabase of your opponent, the three Karakas provide you with a mighty tool: You can protect your own Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or any other legendary creature you play while giving you hilarious outs against enemy fatties like Griselbrand or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. The only downsides are, that they can be hit by Wasteland and you can’t have multiple of them in play. The two (or three, if you like) Flagstones of Trokair have a great synergy with the two Cataclysms in the sideboard and can be ridiculous against narrow decks with stuff like Smallpox. Be aware that the Flagstones will not trigger, when you have a Rest in Peace in play. Next, basic lands are tech! Thats extremely true in this deck, since you are nearly completely invulnerable to Blood Moon and enemy Stifles (still they might hit your Stoneforge Mystics). Some players like to play a one-of Cavern of Souls to fill up their deck with more utility, i personally dislike them, since they are hit by Wasteland and often you need the white mana to cast Swords to Plowshares or a creature that costs WW and has not the creature-type you named mit Cavern of Souls. The same is similar for the one-of Horizon Canopys some players use, since the deck most of the time wants the mana it gets out to constantly use Rishadan Port.
Next we have a core of 20 creatures in the deck, which i would call the “holy cows” of D&T. I would highly recommend not to cut one of them since theese are (at the moment) simply the best choices with the best synergies in the deck: 4 Mother of Runes are exactly what i mentioned at the beginning: A turn-one-drop that is not much a threat of herself, but protects all your other creatures from spotremoval if not handled immediatly – sounds fair to me (or unfair for the opponent^^). 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is even more important. 1W 2/1 firststrike sounds already fair but the taxing ability is what makes the deal. Pay two mana for your Brainstorm / Ponder… Oh, you are tapped out? Then no Force of Will for you… What, you can’t get a stormcount more then 3? Not my problem! While she does slow down nearly every other deck, the ability is not so problematic for our deck that runs 26 creatures and beneath the 3 equipments exactly 8 one-mana spells. About Stoneforge Mystic we don’t have to say much, a two-mana value-searcher that can take the equipment he searched even in his own hand seems quite good. Next we have Phyrexian Revoker, which can win matchups of its own too. Just a few cards that this guy can shut down, which are highly relevant in Legacy: Sensei’s Divining Top, Jace, the Mind Sculptor (any other Planeswalker of course too), Engineered Explosives, Sneak Attack, Deathrite Shaman, Pernicious Deed, only to mention some targets. Be aware that he shuts down mana-abilities too, so Lion’s Eye Diamond might be a great target as well. Last but not least Flickerwisp! On the paper he looks quite unimpressive and when i started to play D&T, i wondered myself, why he’s even in the list, but not for long. The more you play D&T, the more you will love Flickerwisp. He is already good when played at normal sorcery-speed. From flickering out a Delver of Secrets (which returns unflipped) over flickering an own unattached Batterskull which will return with a fresh germ-token until flickering an own Stoneforge Mystic, which searches another equipment at end of turn: (Nearly) nothing is impossible for this guy. Even better he gets when having an Aether Vial on three. He safes any of your permanents from spotremoval at instant-speed, can hold off enemy attackers or even let enemy permanents vanish for your whole next turn (if brought in at end of opponent’s turn). So please just play theese 20 creatures, if you really have to cut one, go for one Flickerwisp or one Revoker.
We further have 11 cards that can be found in 99 % of all D&T lists (sometimes someone switches the Sword of Fire and Ice for another protection-sword). We have 4 Swords to Plowshares, the best ever printed spotremoval (although Abrupt Decay has become a real concurrent), 4 Aether Vial, which make the difference between a quite clumsy white-weenie-deck and the deck with probably the most tricks in the format, and the 3 best equipments in Magic the Gathering (i know, i know, skullclamp is even better, but lucky for all of us it’s banned in Legacy^^). Be aware that there are no matchups, in which you board out Aether Vials (as some players do in the the merfolk-deck in modern). D&T relies heavily on this card, which allows you to play unfair games with a fair deck (turn one Aether Vial, turn two Rishadan Port, tap your land, turn three Wasteland on your land, tap the other while sneaking stuff onto the battlefield and so on…).
Last we have 6 slots left which can be filled with any good stuff you want. At the moment i’m running two Spirit of the Labyrinth, since they are quite good against Miracles or any deck that plays brainstorm (especially when vialed in in response on a brainstorm), three Serra Avenger (they are really undercosted for what they do and can enter the battlefield with Aether Vial even a turn before they normally could arrive) and the one-of Brimaz, King of Oreskos. Three mana 3/4 with double upside sound great and beneath that, he is legendary and can therefore be rescued with Karakas. At this point some other suggestions, if you dislike my choices in theese slots: Aven Mindcensor is a good choice too, it flies (so it can trade with Delver of Secrets or carry equipments over a stalled ground) and disrupting all enemy search-abilities can be devastating. Think about fetchlands, enemy Stoneforge Mystics or even Infernal Tutor in storm-decks. Other options are Mirran Crusader, which shines against any BUG (Sultai) deck, Mangara of Corondor, which works as a slow, but recurring spotremoval when having Karakas in play, Wryn Wingmare, if you want to go for a harder taxing-plan or even Ethersworn Canonist, if you really hate combodecks.
In the sideboard we have 4 copies of Ethersworn Canonist (i might be the only D&T player who plays the ful playset of them, but it’s by far the most boarded card in my matches). He rocks against Elves, and storm-based combodeck, Infect, narrow stuff like High Tide or Omnishow, and can even be good against Snapcaster Mage or slow massively down an enemy Young Pyromancer. We have 2 Containment Priests, which crush Sneak and Show, reanimate-strategies and are great against decks like Elves, which run Green Sun’s Zenith and Natural Order. Remember, that while Containment Priest is in game, your Aether Vial does not work anymore. As a one-of i play a Manriki-Gusari against any equipments. I think it’s worth the one slot since you can search for it with Stoneforge Mystic and it even helps against Affinity (Cranial Plating) but feel free to cut this card when you think you don’t face any equipments. We have three Rest in Peace, which not only help against any directly graveyard-dependant-deck but also shines against Tarmogoyfs, Deathrite Shamans or Nimble Mongeese. It’s also fine to go for two Rest in Peace and one Relic of Progenitus for diversity but since Null Rod is a card that is boarded against us to shut down Aether Vial and equipments, i actually like the third Rest in Peace more. Next we have two Council’s Judgement, which can deal with any problematic nonland permanent your opponnent might show up with, even planeswalkers. The main purpose of the two Cataclysms is to have high impact cards vs. Miracles, which seems absolutely necessary to have in the current metagame. Last i play a one-of Pithing Needle, which functions as the 5. Phyrexian Revoker, whith the upsides, that it can come down turn one, shut down fetchlands too and (most important) dies not to Terminus.
As i said before, you can make some individual changes in the maindeck and even more in the sideboard. It would go too far to list up all viable sideboard-cards, therefore just some suggestions for certain matchups:
- Kor Firewalker is an excellent option if you face a lot of red decks like Burn or Goblins.
- Enlightened Tutor can be used if you want to have a more flexible sideboard with many one-ofs at the price of card-disadvantage.
- Ratchet Bomb might help against tokens or any deck with a high amount of permanents at the same low casting cost.
- Oblivion Ring might be an option against Show and Tell-decks.
- As i mentioned before you might go for some copies of Mindbreak Traps, if you fear fastcombo.
- Sunlance might be a good choice if you face a lot of aggressive Delver of Secrets-decks.
- Holy Light is a mediocre option against tribal-decks and True-Name-Nemesis, since it kills your own Phyrexian Revokers too.
This last sideboard-card (Holy Light) brings me to the second list that i want to present you. How good would it be to have board-sweeper (which monowhite decks lack), that clears only your opponent’s board? Interested? Then the following list might be something for you.
Deckname: Death and Taxes
Pilot/Deckdesigner: Marius Hausmann
Finish: 5. (Top8 splitted)
City, State, Country: Milano, Italy, Europe
Name of event: OvinoX – Legacy Sideevent (65 players)
Date of event: 02.10.2015
So we have a small red-splash here which gives us access to many options, although most WR D&T lists (just as mine) only use 3 differend red cards:
Imperial Recruiter, with provides the deck with a cool tollbox, which you can maximize or minimize as you want (and Imperial Recruiter is a really awesome creature combined with Flickerwisp). I think Fiend Hunter is a must-have due to his immediate effect in the deck, that is much more grindy then classic D&T lists. Magus of the Moon is the main reason to run the red-splash since it provides the deck with some blowout actions in certain matchups, especially since the Magus of the Moon can come in with instant speed via Aether Vial (and if your opponent did not take coloured mana in his pool in response on the activation of the Aether Vial, he has only mountains instead of his nonbasics left). Furthermore a Mother of Runes protected Magus of the Moon can be the game winner even against mana-floating-decks.
In the sideboard there is another Magus of the Moon to help out in the matchups, where the first one perhaps is handled via discard or well-timed removal (credits for the WR D&T build go to Mark König, a great D&T player from Denmark, who used to play 3 Magus of the Moon maindeck). Since i like the idea quite a lot but still there are many matchups where magus is not that great, i think one in the maindeck and one in the sideboard is a solid choice.
Then we have the three Sudden Demises in the sideboard, which are the nuts in certain matchups. They can turn the table against Elves, take out multiple Delver of Secrets at once or – carefully and well-timed played – even win the mirror.
Last some more comments about the choices in the list: Of course the manabase had to be changed a bit to provide enough red manasources and i have to admit, that the manabase of WR D&T is not as solid as in monowhite lists. Still its solid enough, with a certain amount of basic Plains and the Aether Vials. In this version of the deck i even like the Cavern of Souls, cause you play quite a lot humans. In the maindeck the Ethersworn Canonist is a metachoice, it would be without problems be possible to switch him for a second Magus of the Moon or a fourth Phyrexian Revoker. I like the Eight-and-a-half-Tails a lot as a secret-tech against certain grindy decks like Miracle or even Shardless BUG, where he isn’t that bad as a 2/2 for two mana, which can be protected by Karakas. This guy can completely dominate the lategame and even protect your equipments from stuff like Abrupt Decay.
In the sideboard i play a wild mix of one-ofs that too can be easily switched as you like. As a good example you could look at that list, that made top8 at the last big SCG-event: http://sales.starcitygames.com//deckdatabase/displaydeck.php?DeckID=94120
Looking at the archetype of the deck i think it’s a solid choice for any tournament not only in Europe but at the big SCG tournaments in the United States too. Colin Logan has shown that the deck is competitive and strong enough to play in a league with any blue deck. I even think that with more Imperial Recruiters around we would see the WR-lists more often, since they appear to be really strong against decks like Shardless BUG or stuff like Lands. Against Miracles the Magus of the Moon of course is not that strong, but here it’s the Imperial Recruiter, which shines against removal like Terminus.
I hope the article wasn’t too long, since i wrote it not only for the super-competitive players but for all, who want a funny and (in my opinion) quite strong alternative to the mainstream Legacy-decks. As promised i’m going to write a detailed matchup-analysis for the two lists i posted in this article, if you want detailed informations about a certain matchup, just tell me.
So long, stay tuned and keep taxing!
Greetz from Germany