Exiler to Death-&-Taxes: Transitioning to Competitive Legacy

With Eternal Masters on the horizon, it’s worth looking how this might help you enter into the rewarding, yet expensive, Legacy format. One of these ways is with the Magic Online preconstructed deck, “Exiler.” “Exiler” is based off of the deck Death and Taxes (D&T), a powerful white-based, creature control deck. This article will take the base “Exiler” deck and upgrade it in affordable increments with the goal being having a nearly complete deck by the time Eternal Masters comes out. I say nearly complete because the deck runs, and needs, playsets of both Wasteland and Rishadan Port which are pricey, especially on Magic Online. The hope is that Eternal Masters will drive the prices down enough so that they are more affordable, but now we know that this won’t be the case for Port.

First, let’s take a look at D&T. It is important to understand the deck fully especially as we will have to prioritize adding some cards over others as we upgrade the deck. While it has the appearance of a white weenie deck, it is very much a control deck that can be aggressive. Like most non-blue control decks, D&T uses resource denial to control the pace of the game. Where blue does this through more straightforward means like countermagic, D&T does this in multiple different ways. It does this by taxing the opponent’s mana with cards like Wasteland and Rishadan Port as well as Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and, sometimes, Vryn Wingmare. It also seeks to make the opponent’s cards useless through cards like Mother of Runes negating spot removal, Aether Vial doing the same with counterspells (watch out for Stifle though!) and Phyrexian Revoker dealing with permanents as needed, along with a host of hate bears that can be added as your meta dictates. The deck couples this with a Stoneforge package – Stoneforge Mystic plus Umezawa’s Jitte, Batterskull and Sword of Fire and Ice – that can quickly close out games, along with some good beaters like Serra Avenger and Mirran Crusader. The final piece is the Swiss-army knife of a card, Flickerwisp, which has enough uses to merit its own article. D&T has a core suite of cards and a number of second-stringers that can be put in as needed depending on personal preference and your meta.

Now, let’s take a look at “Exiler.” From the store description we see it is a typical ‘White Weenie’ deck, overwhelm your opponent with a horde of creatures and use your equipment to provide the winning edge. Designed as an introduction to the legacy format, ‘Exiler’ includes a 60-card aggressive white deck and a 15-card sideboard.” Unfortunately, it sounds like the deck designers focused on the aggressive aspect of the deck while ignoring the control role. Let’s take a look at whether or not this is true:

There are plenty of cards in here that makes the deck well worth it to purchase. Of the core cards of D&T we already have 3 of 4 Stoneforge Mystics, Jitte, our playset of Aether Vials and Flickerwisps and 3 Karakas. To go with Karakas is a full playset of Mangara of Corondor. This interaction was popular when the deck first started seeing competitive play and still sees some today, to a lesser extent. This is also this precon’s namesake as a Karakas and a Mangara will slowly but surely exile all of you opponent’s permanents. The way it works is simple enough: you activate Mangara, hold priority (MTGO tip: hold down ctrl during activating to hold priority) and then activate Karakas targeting Mangara. The result is that Karakas resolves, returning Mangara to your hand, then Mangara’s ability resolves as much as it is able, typically meaning it exiles your target and not the Mangara hiding in your hand. Rinse and repeat as needed.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a full deck here that I would be happy playing in the Legacy League. You certainly can play it as is but expect to lose more than you’ll win. The first changes that we will make are to add in the remaining core cards of D&T.

The core cards, the cards that make Death and Taxes what it is, are playsets of Mother of Runes, Aether Vial, Thalia, Stoneforge Mystic, Flickerwisp, Rishadan Port, Wasteland and some number of beaters -Serra Avenger and Mirran Crusader, Phyrexian Revoker, and some equipment for Stoneforge Mystic to find. Since we already have some of these from “Exiler” we can focus on getting the rest for our first upgrade. We can get almost everything for less than 25 tickets! Unfortunately, there are some very good cards that are simply too much if you are being budget conscious. Batterskull is 35 tickets and is important for the deck so if it’s within your budget, get it now. Otherwise, wait and save while we see if it will be in EMA or not. The big problem cards are Rishadan Port and Wasteland. There is no replacing these cards. In the meantime, Ghost Quarter does an admirable job filling in for .25 tickets for a playset. Ghost Quarter works in this slot for three reasons:

1. Some decks, mainly 3-color delver, Don’t run any basics, so there is no drawback.

2. Sometimes the drawback of putting yourself behind a card is worth it for getting rid of utility lands or lands that produce multiple colors of mana.

3. Often, until proven otherwise, your opponent will play as though you have wasteland in your deck. When they fetch a basic instead of a dual land it can make their mana awkward if they are playing a 3 or 4 color deck which means they are doing your job for you.

So now our deck looks something like this:

I took this through a league and ended up at 2-3. Not great but not terrible either. The biggest change needed was to the sideboard. But first let’s finish up the maindeck by looking at our flex slots.

The flex slots are cards that can be changed based off of personal preference and for specific metagames. There is no “right” configuration for this part of the deck. Instead I will show you the popular options. First we’ll look at our aggressive creatures. I prefer to have 3-5 and they can be a mix of Serra Avenger, Mirran Crusader and Brimaz, King of Oreskos. Next are the controlling creatures. These cards are often not great for every matchup but are widespread incidental hate and sometimes great against certain decks. These are: The fourth Revoker, Vryn Wingmare, Spirit of the Labyrinth, Aven Mindcensor and honorable mention goes to Leonin Arbiter. Leonin Arbiter is not popular since it can affect you as well and can be circumvented. But since it makes Ghost Quarter better it is worth mentioning. My maindeck now looks something like this:

Our last big change is our sideboard. D&T has two types of sideboards – with Enlightened Tutor and without. Enlightened Tutor has fallen out of favor as it is pure card disadvantage but it means you get to run virtual playsets of some of the most potent hate cards in the game. It still has advocates; I feel it is very meta-dependent and is better against combo metas where the right card will win you the game. For the Enlightened Tutor sideboard, simply run more artifacts and enchantments, and you can get away with more 1-ofs and silver bullets. Sideboards are meant to be tuned to a specific meta and so I will simply mention the types of cards that can be run.

Graveyard hate is always needed as it can harm entire decks like Reanimator or Dredge or simply hurt specific cards like Tarmogoyf or Deathrite Shaman.


Spot removal is for the mirror and other creature-based decks like Elves and Delver.


Catch all cards are cards that have multiple uses and are applicable in a wide variety of matchups and situations.


Defensive cards are for when you want to make sure you can survive and so you need to be more controlling.


Board wipes come in two varieties, the ones good against tokens and Elves, and Cataclysm, which can hurt all of your opponents on board resources.


Combo hate is always needed. Combo decks can kill out of nowhere and it is important to be able to have a defense against them.


Next-level hate for bringing in when you believe you know what your opponent will sideboard in against you. Some of the most popular hate against us are minus-effects like Golgari Charm.


Artifact and enchantment hate is always handy.


Changing the deck can be useful when you need to be more aggressive, want to change your Stoneforge package or want to swap one of your flex creatures for another.


Extreme meta hate can be needed when a hard matchup is running rampant.


My sideboard looks like this currently, but is prone to change:

With your sideboard done, you are nearly there! You simply need to add in the more expensive cards as your budget and EMA dictates.

If you haven’t yet, the first card to get is Batterskull. With this you have a deck that is capable of 5-0-ing a league unless you don’t make play mistakes like me and wind up 4-1 ;), and all for under 100 tickets!

Next is Wasteland and Rishadan Port. Now your deck is capable of winning any event. Next you can fiddle with some utility lands like Cavern of Souls, Sea Gate Wreckage or Horizon Canopy. You can keep getting different sideboard cards and flex slot cards so you can experiment with what works best for you.

Now just play and play and play. You will keep learning. You will find what cards you prefer and how your playstyle works with the deck. You’ll figure out how you want to sideboard. Death and Taxes is a deck you can play forever and keep having fun and learning new things. I hope this article gives you a path to join the ranks of the Death and Taxes players and that you’ll have as much fun as one as I do.

  1. Hello and thanks for the article. I really like this type of “improve a budget deck” type of article. Legacy is a really fun format. Maybe this can also be done for other preconstructed decks and bundles?

  2. Thanks for reading! I really like deck improvement articles too especially with how the stability of eternal formats allows for gradual deck building and continual upgrades. I don’t think there are any plans to turn this into a series in the near future; definitely something to keep in mind though.