For those of you unfamiliar, Death and Taxes is a variation on the classic White Weenie archetype for the Legacy format. Unlike traditional White Weenie, Death and Taxes focuses on combat tricks while protecting or manipulating the board. Older builds focused on tricks with stacked combat damage while modern builds focus on disruption and card advantage in the form of tutorable equipment. With the printing of stronger equipment and more powerful disruptive creatures, the deck has become more effective at simultaneously beating down and throwing a wrench in the opponent’s plan(s).
A Sample of Deck Lists
Here are three Death and Taxes lists that have performed well on Magic Online. Each list focuses on different creature curves and sideboards. These creature-based decks are designed for both aggressive and control strategies.
Piloted by JarHorsk, DE #1109406, 4/8/2010
Piloted by Koby, PE #1133674, 4/18/2010
Piloted by Russia, PE #1448403, MOCS Season 7, 8/1/2010
The reason that Death and Taxes is unique when compared to other White Weenie decks lies in the Mangara engine and its usage of toolboxes; all Death and Taxes builds feature creatures that provide a mix of evasion, disruption, and card advantage. And while many of the creatures are lackluster by themselves, when played together or buffed by equipment, they become some of the most dangerous threats in Legacy. This leads to a deck that is less straightforward than most linear creature-based strategies but has far more versatility and a much greater number of outs in any given situation. The way DnT plays out is much more similar to Fish than it is to White Weenie.
Death and Taxes Breakdown:
Creature engine: Aether Vial
Creature curve: (2-2.12 average mana cost)
- Four 1-drop creatures
- Three 1- or 2-drop creatures
- Ten 2-drop creatures
- Seven 3-drop creatures
- Mangara of Corondor and Karakas are combined to create a reusable Vindicate effect. With an active Aether Vial on 3, you can vial in Mr. Anagram each turn to effectively establish a Mangara-lock. (Note: When playing on Magic Online, make sure to hold the “Ctrl” button while resolving Mangara’s ability to maintain priority. Then, you can target him with Karakas.)
- Mother of Runes replaces a vanilla 2/2 creature. Mom’s presence adds a layer of control to Death and Taxes. She can block all day or protect your creatures at instant speed.
- Stoneforge Mystic is a recent addition to lists since Worldwake‘s arrival. This Squire is also Steelshapers Gift and provides an ability to cheat out equipment for the mere cost of 1W, tap. The versatility of this tutor improves matchups single handedly! Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of Light and Shadow replaced two-thirds of the Jittes in the deck to create a toolbox of equipment. These two pieces of equipment give DnT powerful effects not obtainable in mono white.
- In a format where Threshold and Ichorid were once dominant, Jotun Grunt showed itself to be a versatile beater that also preyed on decks with Tarmogoyf. The Grunt’s cumulative upkeep cost is now frequently used to recycle equipment that has been destroyed.
- Flickerwisp is the pinnacle of tricks for this deck- it’s not limited to just reusing enter the battlefield effects, but it can be used for resetting counters on permanents, removing blockers or attackers, and manipulating lord pumps.
It takes time to master all of the different interactions in this deck. If you put in the time to learn them, the end result is very rewarding. The following methods are some general tips that I have found to be frequently true. Of course, they are not absolute and are all relative to the game state.
When your Aether Vial is at 2, do not immediately increment the counters. There are high chances you will draw into a 2-drop before you draw a significant 3-drop. The creatures in this deck are best used in conjunction with Aether Vial. Ethersworn Canonist vialed in response to the first spell cast in a turn will stall your opponent. Serra Avenger and Jotun Grunt become surprise blockers. Jotun Grunt is even better when vialed in against a mill deck and can to stack your draws.
With an active Vial at 3, you can vial in a Flickerwisp with Mangara of Corondor‘s ability on the stack to block and remove a permanent on the same turn. If possible block with Mangara and then activate his ability targeting the second, unblocked attacker. Flickerwisp vialed in at instant speed will rescue your creatures from lethal damage. Alternatively, A Flickerwisp vialed in targeting Oblivion Ring while its first triggered ability is on the stack will exile two targets- one permanently. At sorcery speed, Flickerwisp changes Oblivion Ring and Runed Halo targets when the original targets are no longer a threat. Casting a Flickerwisp to target your own Flickerwisp even allows you to “port” a permanent for one turn.
Tutoring up the correct equipment with Stoneforge Mystic is important! Umezawas Jitte has been used in Death and Taxes lists because of its flexibility. But beware- with two protection swords, you might play Stoneforge Mystic incorrectly. Sword of Fire and Ice is great in the midgame and accelerates your turns while Sword of Light and Shadow is perfect in the late game with an active vial. Ultimately, a combination of the granted bonuses and flexibility of abilities should be your deciding factors.
Rishadan Port, a card that improves the control aspect of the deck, is currently absent from Magic Online. Currently, Mishra’s Factory is used in its stead. Better than Wasteland, Port can target basic lands. With Rishadan Port, focus on denying the colored sources during the upkeep (usually targeting green or red sources).
When aggressive Vial decks are everywhere in your tournament scene/field, do not run bad cards to beat bad decks. Instead focus on shifting the curve of Death and Taxes or adjusting the type of removal spells. Prepare for Pernicious Deed and combo decks that control or are faster at racing your deck. Other faster aggressive creature decks will often appear with efficient creature removal. You can respond to these metagame shifts by changing your curve or removal suite to spells better suited for the expected matchups.
As with any deck, tailoring the perfect sideboard for a particular metagame always pays off. Since DnT is a white deck, the majority of its sideboard cards prevent opponents from winning rather than giving the deck an absolute advantage. This reactive focus propagates through most of Death and Taxes’ sideboard options. Also, Wizards will probably never print new removal or utility cards for white that are not conditional or not at sorcery speed. So, you have to rely on cards that are played only on your turn or when specific conditions are met. It’s probably not a surprise that the best sideboard cards for Death and Taxes are recycled from older builds. Here are some of the choices that DnT has used in the past:
Legacy is full of decks that focus on artifacts or enchantments and the answers to deal with them. Disenchant, the original Naturalize, is used to remove cards at instant speed. Seal of Cleansing and Aura of Silence can used as a floating Disenchant. Wispmare offers its removal effect at an alternate cost and can remove Leyline of the Void and Bridge from Below from the game against a Dredge deck. Lastly, Serenity is a delayed Purify with an anti-regeneration clause used against Affinity and Enchantress.
These cards remove cards from graveyards at instant speed and are used in conjunction with Jotun Grunt to keep the recursion decks in check. Tormods Crypt is used against fast combo decks, while Relic of Progenitus is perfect against Threshold decks. Ravenous Trap is the bane of Dredge, providing an answer that cannot be named with Pithing Needle.
You should also include additional creatures in your sideboard that answer specific archetypes in the current metagame. Creatures with activated abilities can provide both an attacker and a decent chump blocker. You might even need additional beaters if Engineered Plague becomes a popular sideboard choice from opposing decks. Consider including very specific creatures if the metagame calls for it:
- Burrenton Forge-Tender: This simple 1/1 has protection versus Burn and Goblin decks. BFT’s activated ability can also be used to remove Bridge from Below from graveyards or “fog” a Progenitus.
- Kitchen Finks: Taken from Rock lists, this sizable creature provides life gain and recurs itself. Combined with Flickerwisp, this card is used against Zoo and Burn decks.
- Tivadar of Thorn: The bane of Goblin decks. He has the ability to destroy Goblin permanents, swing for damage, and interact with Karakas.
- Kataki, Wars Wage: A legendary creature that you can vial in and rescue with Karakas. This card provides an almost immediate effect in an artifact heavy metagame, and that effect is devastating.
Other Sideboard Options:
- Abolish: A Turn 0 Disenchant with an alternate cost- it’s useful but unnecessary.
- Revoke Existence: An alternate to Disenchant that exiles problem cards. Mangara of Corondor fills this role when Humility is not present.
- Leyline of Sanctity: A Turn 0 answer for particular decks where a Turn 1 answer is not enough. Running four copies of this card allows for consistency, but mulling into it compromises your hand quality. It’s best versus older red or black decks that focus on targeting players directly and run very few enchantment removal cards. Sadly, the current decks that don’t want to see this card always pack bounce or enchantment hate. Those decks have to remove Leyline of Sanctity to win or you crush them in the meantime.
- Orims Chant/Silence: Both of these spells stop combo decks in their tracks. Orims Chant can be kicked to stall a turn of beats if needed, while Silence can get through Solitary Confinement.
- Ghostly Prison: Here’s a classic “prevent opponents from winning card.” This is much better in an Angel Stompy deck where you can really deny your opponent mana.
- Cataclysm: This was the backbone of older, slower builds. It creates a strong Mangara-lock with an Aether Vial and is best used against decks with a high number of permanents of one type.
- Pithing Needle: Similar to Runed Halo, this card locks out one of your opponent’s cards.
- Ratchet Bomb: This is a slow rolling Engineered Explosives type artifact for mono white, best used in the mirror.
- Enlightened Tutor: E-Tutor is used to facilitate toolbox sideboards. It steals your draw but replaces it with a theoretical silver bullet needed to win. This card is much better in a Countertop deck, where the tutor effect gives added value in conjunction with Counterbalance.
- Tariff: When Natural Order Progenitus decks and Reanimator were heavily in the metagame, this was the preferred solution.
- Retribution of the Meek: This Mirage block hidden gem was used as an answer to Progenitus before equipment became a staple of the deck.
Constructing Death and Taxes
Throughout Death and Taxes’ history, there have been many creatures that have been used tackle different metagames and opposing strategies. It’s useful to know what has already been tried and found to be lackluster in order to avoid repeating past mistakes. The following group of cards listed could again prove useful if metagame shifts occur.
- Benevolent Bodyguard: This 1/1 creature has a relevant activated ability, but it’s mostly outclassed by Mother of Runes. Where Bodyguard shines is its ability to attack and protect your creatures at the same time. It has been heavily used in the past to remove Bridge from Below from opposing graveyards.
- Goldmeadow Harrier: A 1/1 beater that prevents opposing creatures from attacking- both a mana sink and a frail creature.
- Isamaru, Hound of Konda: Kamigawa’s iconic dog is just a vanilla 1-drop that blocks Lackey all day. It also can “fog” one creature with Karakas.
- Weathered Wayfayer: When combined with Jotun Grunt, this nomad recycles your Wastelands and dead lands back into your deck.
- Eight-and-a-Half-Tails: Mother of Runes protects creatures better, but it doesn’t protect all types of permanents like 8.5 tails. This is a huge mana sink, and like above, it is completely unneeded.
- Epochrasite: This creature looks like a 1/1 for 2 mana, but with Aether Vial, this creature can be cheated out as a 4/4 as early as Turn 3. If Sword to Plowshares did not exist, this creature would see much more play.
- Knight of the Holy Nimbus: And here’s another card from Time Spiral block that is perfectly suited for weenie decks.
- Samurai of the Pale Curtain: Once used as a 3/3 blocker that tackled Threshold and Dredge, Jotun Grunt replaces this creature.
- Silver Knight: When Goblins were everywhere, Silver Knight shined.
- Soltari Priest: Priest is perfect for heavy red metagames, when Burrenton Forge-Tender is not enough.
- Squadron Hawk: The mana cost for the body of this creature is abysmal. Since you will hardly need more than 2 of these in your hand, the ability is not as good. If you control multiple active Vials, this card turns into instant 1/1 fliers every turn (for a few turns). Beyond library thinning, S. Hawks are recyclable with an active Jotun Grunt.
- Aven Mindcensor: At 3cmc, any creature should be game-breaking when cast. A 2/1 flier with flash is not significant enough of a creature for combat; the one-sided, static ability on Turn 3 or later is just too slow. Sadly, Mindcensor doesn’t have what it takes.
- Glowrider: Ethersworn Canonist replaced this creature in the combo matchup.
- Stillmoon Cavalier: At first glance, this creature looks fine with protection from two colors. In the mirror matchup, Stillmoon Cavalier becomes a huge mana sink- activating flying or first strike for one white is relevant but gaining +1/0 for two white is less than stellar. Also, this creature dies to Jitte and Sword of Fire and Ice as quickly as any other protection creatures.
- Stonecloaker: Heavily used prior to the M10 rule change, this creature rescued early drops or provided graveyard hate at instant speed. It was used similar to Flickerwisp with Vial (but also could manipulate the graveyard, shrink Tarmogoyfs or remove Academy Ruin targets). With the inclusion of Ethersworn Canonist, this card became slow and is now fairly lackluster.
- Hokori, Dust Drinker: At 4cmc, this card is just way too slow for modern Legacy.
- Basilisk Collar: Collar is usually combined with Icatian Javelineers; it’s better suited for Rock decks.
- Mask of Memory: Mask was used prior to Stoneforge Mystic‘s printing; it provided card filtering and fed Jotun Grunts.
- Sword of Body and Mind: Both effects on the Sword are too tame. This was not the protection from green artifact needed for DnT. (Note: All the decks that you want a pro green against abuse their own, full graveyards.)
This is the build you should be playing on MTGO:
Blazelix's Suggested Death and Taxes
(To load a .txt deck into Magic: Online’s Deck Editor, click “Load”, select “Local Text Deck”, find the location of the downloaded deck file and double-click the deck.)
This sideboard does not focus on Enlightened Tutor. Instead, the list packs generic answers for a wider field. There are four slots for three different pieces of graveyard hate to be used in varying matchups. You should substitute in specific cards if you know the scope of your opponent’s decks.
In this matchup, you want to focus on finishing quickly- it’s important to win before a mass of zombie tokens appear and swarm you. Ethersworn Canonist will prevent your opponent from using Cabal Therapy repeatedly to strip your hand. Do not be afraid to let a creature hit the grave- it removes opponent’s Bridges from the game.
All three pieces of equipment have their uses against Dredge. Sword of Fire and Ice is the most mediocre since the only blue creature in Dredge is Nacromoeba. Sword of Light and Shadow‘s protection from black allows your creatures to swing through Zombie swarms. And Umezawas Jitte‘s favored duty is sending Ichorid back to the graveyard for a turn.
The sideboard plan is to take out the Oblivion Ring and Runed Halo as they have little impact on the cards that kill you. Also, the majority of the Mangaras (two or three) and a single Mother of Runes should sit out so you can bring in Burrenton Forge-Tenders (as an answer to Bridge from Below)- this focuses on adding speed to your build while limiting the effectiveness of the Dredge player’s turns. Removing a few Aether Vials is questionable even though it’s often considered since Vials cannot race an explosive Dredge opener. Alternatively, you can remove part of the equipment toolbox if you have even more hate to bring in.
This matchup swings wildly in your favor or out of it very quickly. Enchantress takes long turns while you attempt to gain board position. Use Flickerwisp to target enchanted lands or Angel tokens. The Sword that you search up depends on whether your opponent has Words of War (SoFI) or Oblivion Ring (SoLS). You cannot rely on a Mangara lock unless Enchantress opens with a very slow hand. Your goal is to develop a strong board position while reducing your opponent’s life total.
Depending on your sideboard, this matchup improves in Games 2 and 3. Ethersworn Canonist slows Enchantress down, and when combined with Aura of Silence, you can delay while you attack relentlessly. Cataclysm is great against builds that do not run Replenish. Lastly, Burrenton Forge-Tender can increase DnT’s pressure even though its pro red is pretty much useless.
Sterling Grove will prevent you from resolving Oblivion Ring on key targets, so sideboard them out. Aura of Silence (at 3cmc) is not an ideal sideboard choice, but if you resolve one, your opponent will need to answer it before they end the game. Since Enchantress runs Argothian Enchantress and possibly Emrakul, the Aeons Torn as creatures, Swords to Plowshares is unneeded.
To win this matchup you must focus on controlling the board. Goblins will open with a Turn 1 Goblin Lackey or Aether Vial. Expect anything from an early cycled Gempalm Incinerator or a hasty Goblin Piledriver. Your creatures are important- both when they are swinging and blocking. Do not focus on landing a Sword of Fire and Ice early; you will need to develop a strong position first.
Tivadar of Thorn was built to beat this deck, make sure he is present in your SB if Goblins are heavy in the projected metagame. Unlike Burrenton Forge-Tender, Tivadar kills Goblins when entering the battlefield and (usually) when blocking them. You will be constantly evaluating the game state as it changes so frequently. Anarchy and/or Pyrokinesis are common cards to expect in Games 2 and 3. Don’t overextend if you already have a strong board position- it can lead to a wipeout if they have Anarchy.
This is a terrible matchup for Death and Taxes. Attack and attack until Pernicious Deed nukes the whole board. A late game Sword of Light and Shadow is the best recovery from Deed. Key cards in this matchup are Wasteland, Aether Vial, Sword of Light and Shadow, and Jotun Grunt. Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Pernicious Deed are the problematic cards. Flickerwisp (especially with Vial) and Oblivion Ring will be your maindeck answers to Jace, TMS.
If Landstill runs Engineered Explosives, use Aura of Silence to tax your opponent’s cards. Sideboarding in extra creatures is a viable strategy if you are on the play, but Vedalken Shackles hinders this strategy. There are no other answers to this deck in the sideboard; you will have to get lucky and open with a hand with Wastelands then out think your opponent- good luck!
Depending on the build, this matchup can be relatively easy. Your creatures are bigger than theirs and Vial can be used to play around countermagic. During the first few turns, you need to determine if your opponent is splashing a second color and/or if Standstill or Umezawas Jittes are present in the deck. If your opponent plays Jitte, tutor up your own Umezawas Jitte first and then go for Sword of Fire and Ice. You will then swing in with a flyer wielding equipment, but do not be afraid of trading Umezawas Jittes in the matchup.
Ethersworn Canonists will alleviate explosive Lord openings if Vials are not present. It’s probably not supposed to be part of blue’s color pie, but Merfolk deck sure can rush out creatures. If you are able to survive the first waves, Mangara can lock your opponent out of the game. Flickerwisp provides some combat tricks and board manipulation, while Runed Halo protects you from Lord of Atlantis swarms.
In Games 2 and 3, Merfolk occasionally sideboards in Control Magic-styled spells. Prepare accordingly since Merfolk can steal the game from you in this manner. Depending on the build, if you are on the play, include floating enchantment hate for Standstill. When playing against a heavy Lord build, you will need Kitchen Finks so you can trade with creatures in combat.
+2 Aura of Silence
NO Bant Countertop/Bant Aggro
Problematic cards in this matchup are numerous: Engineered Explosives, Rhox War Monk, Knight of the Reliquary, Vendilion Clique, and Progenitus. Fetching the correct Sword is tricky and it depends solely on the board state. Both Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of Light and Shadow provide the protection from Bant. Protection from white works against Knight of the Reliquary, but having protection from red keeps Firespout at bay.
To race a Progenitus, you will likely need either an active Aether Vial or a Sword of Fire and Ice. Using Swords to Plowshares on your own Jotun Grunt or activating a Burrenton Forge-Tender will give you one extra turn to win. As stated earlier, Tariff and Retribution of the Meek are two other answers for Progenitus.
Affinity is just a quick aggro deck- either you will be beat to a pulp in a few turns or stabilize and swing in with equipment for a midgame victory. Cranial Plating, Disciple of the Vault, and Arcbound Ravager are the cards to look out for. This deck was already a hard matchup prior to the release of SoM, but now the deck can run Shrapnel Blasts 5-8 (Galvanic Blast) and has a better Mox in Mox Opal. Builds have improved with the inclusion of Etched Champion, causing you to rely more on Sword of Fire and Ice plus Umezawas Jitte to win.
Decide if Lightning Bolt, Galvanic Blast, Path to Exile, or Thoughtseize are in your opponent’s sideboard. Affinity often runs these removal cards that you can play around if you know exactly what to expect. Your protection Swords are less than stellar in this matchup (as is Mother of Runes). Flickerwisp‘s value is hard to determine, as it is either too slow for manipulating creatures or the evasive beater you need.
Against Erayo, Soratami Ascendant builds, you will need to open with a hand with Karakas or Swords to Plowshares to have an answer to their lock. It’s worth noting that versions with Erayo are slightly slower than other Affinity builds and pack a number of 0 drops that will chump block you all day.
Side in your Kataki, Wars Wage and Serenity if you have them. Disenchant is too slow for a one shot effect. You will need creatures that can trade with Affinity’s creatures, so include the Kitchen Finks in this matchup. Alternatively, you can remove one of the protection Swords and Mother for Burrenton Forge-Tender to protect from the red burn.
The Epic Storm
This is a problematic matchup where TES’s speed favors it. A Turn 2 Ethersworn Canonist is often too slow. Racing this deck is your only option, but TES always wins in a purely speed competition. Landing early Jotun Grunts will reduce your opponent’s life total and will decrease Cabal Ritual‘s effectiveness at the same time. Later, use Swords to Plowshares on the Jotun Grunt if possible. Finally, tutor up Sword of Fire and Ice to deal more damage or Umezawas Jitte tackle swarms of Goblin tokens.
Expect a few of the wish targets coming in from TES after sideboarding. You need to consider keeping your Vial at either 2 or 3- your deck has a majority of 2 drops and vialing in a bounced Ethersworn is crucial, but a Vial at 3 can be useful too. Also, if your opponent casts Diminishing Returns, you will likely draw into a card you need (and a Vial at the proper counter level allows you to play it).
Silence (or Orims Chant) is very important in this matchup- it delays your opponent a turn or eats up Ritual effects. Burrenton Forge-Tender can block Goblin tokens immediately while Mother of Runes cannot. Flickerwisp can remove a token and block a token. (In the later game, Flickerwisp can target Chrome Mox to hinder mana production.)
This aggro deck runs faster creatures and more removal than Death and Taxes; if you don’t deal with their quick beats, the game ends in defeat. Save your Swords to Plowshares for Grim Lavamancer, Tarmogoyf, and Knight of the Reliquary. The early game survival plan involves Swords to Plowshares and vialed in blockers (later to be equipped with Sword of Light and Shadow).
You will not get away with keeping a slow hand versus Zoo decks- you need early creatures and the means to cast them. The perfect opener is 1 Swords to Plowshares, 1 Aether Vial, 1 Mother of Runes, 1 Jotun Grunt, 1 Serra Avenger, 1 Wasteland, and 1 Plains. (Only uber pros open with 2 Wastelands and effectively land screw Zoo.)
Kitchen Finks is the perfect card to bring in during this matchup- not only does the Ouphe gain life, but the creature has synergy with Flickerwisp and can trade with many of Zoo’s animals. If the Zoo deck is midrange, then do not sideboard out Mangara of Corondor. If the Zoo deck packs Kird Ape, then Burrenton Forge-Tender is a possible sideboard card to bring in.
You win this matchup with (in order of importance) fliers, protection, and equipment. If you control more Mother of Runes and more flying creatures than your opponent, you will win. Take time to determine what is in your opponent’s hand and play either aggressively or controlling- misused cards (if your role is misunderstood) will cost you dearly. A well-placed Flickerwisp can delay your opponent the win and give you back some lost footing. Lastly, play legendary permanents early and develop your board position as much as possible.
Future and Variations
When this deck is no longer winning, it will be time comb over the available white and colorless cards to see if a better deck exists. New vigilant creatures printed with other significant abilities should be considered for future builds. Also, creature tutors on creatures, not limited to recruiting Rebels and Ranger of Eos-esque creatures, will improve the creature toolboxes of Death and Taxes and give it the light card advantage that makes it thrive. Lastly, any low cost artifact Orb printed in a later set for this deck should be tested with thoroughly.
With the recent printing of Leonin Arbiter, the deck has access to a low cost creature that taxes library searching- a build focusing around Winter Orb and mana denial is worth exploring. If a new Icy Manipulator effect is printed on a WW enchantment, similar to Angelic Benediction, that card would be included in this build. In the long run, new builds of Death and Taxes will always be centered on creature combat and the manipulation of permanents- if you enjoy that type of deck, you can buy the Magic Online Deck Series “Exiler” deck and make the appropriate changes.