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As someone who absolutely loves Legacy, I'm always looking for ways to bring my favorite Legacy deck to Modern. Maybe it's the griefer in me, maybe it's the play that comes from sneaky tricks, but I absolutely love Death and Taxes.
While I certainly would have loved to win this most recent Invitational, one exciting second-best outcome is that a take on Death and Taxes took down the whole event.
- 1 Phyrexian Revoker
- 4 Blade Splicer
- 4 Flickerwisp
- 4 Leonin Arbiter
- 2 Mirran Crusader
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 1 Serra Avenger
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 1 Weathered Wayfarer
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
There are a lot of things that differentiate the classic style of what we think of as "Death and Taxes" in Legacy from what we have available in Modern. First of all, we only have one portion of the "taxing" element of Death and Taxes:
Of course, one of the inevitable problems of all of this is that you can't so easily simply "choke the opponent out." One of the secrets of Death and Taxes is that, despite the history behind the name, it is not a "White Weenie" deck but much closer to a Prison deck. There is a reason that European players renowned for the Legacy deck like Thomas Enevoldsen have long called it "White Control."
The Modern version is much worse at establishing that control than the Legacy version, which adds an extra demand: you need to close the game much more quickly.
SCG Tour® Season One Invitational Winner Brian Coval's build does a good job of that, with a fairly tight curve and a large amount of evasion. That being said, after picking the deck up, I found myself struggling with a few factors.
As a preamble, any Modern player is aware of just how wildly diverse the format is. You can have a deck and go 5-0 in a League twice, and then follow it up with a pair of 3-2 finishes before starting out 0-3 and trying to decide if you want to bother playing more. Depending on the layout of your sideboard, a wildly different array of matchups you might face could shift their likely outcomes by a great deal, and this can impact results.
So, suffice it to say, I had a lot of ups and downs with Coval's deck. I loved it, and at the same time, there were elements I didn't care for.
Let's start with the Angels.
I'm on record as largely being against this card in this macro-archetype. There aren't very many matchups where I actually feel like I want the card, and real estate in Magic is precious. You're often pushing the deck on the counts of cards that require double white, and every other card of that type in the deck is a card that I wouldn't cut into to make room for this one – I just value my Flickerwhisp and Mirran Crusader copies more than this one.
Restoration Angel is a great card in this deck. But it also created some problems.
It costs four.
This might not sound like a big deal, but as any Legacy Death and Taxes aficionado will tell you, the biggest problem with Palace Jailer is that, by costing four, you either have to actually cast it or mess up your Aether Vial. Now, Restoration Angel, having flash, practically gets this at a discount, but it still isn't inconsequential.
On more than one turn, I found myself having to decide if I wanted to bump up an Aether Vial to four and realizing that the entirety of the game was riding on the call – mostly based on the top of my deck.
I started cutting into the card. Frankly, I could see the deck running a bunch of this card, given how wonderful it is in interacting with Blade Splicer to create an army or Flickerwisp to mess up the opponent, but I could also see the deck running none of it.
Realizing that I wanted the flickering effect of Restoration Angel made me think back to my Grand Prix Columbus experience in Legacy with Eldrazi Displacer in Death and Taxes, and I thought it might be a good experiment. After trying it out, I dropped all of the Angels and never looked back.
For reference, here is that Legacy deck:
- 4 Phyrexian Revoker
- 1 Aven Mindcensor
- 3 Eldrazi Displacer
- 3 Flickerwisp
- 4 Mother of Runes
- 4 Stoneforge Mystic
- 2 Mangara of Corondor
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
I'd note that, while I did fine in the event, some boneheaded mistakes in match play definitely hurt me.
Now, let's talk about "the ones" in the deck.