Modern possesses many different deck archetypes that attack the opponent on different angles. Some try to play a very controlling game, some dabble around with unfair shenanigans while others just beat down! In this wide field, each player has to decide if they want to disrupt their opponents or put pressure and hope to kill before the opponent can combo off. Well, Death and Taxes (D&T) players don’t have to decide - they do both.
The D&T archetype is a very old style of deck that is very similar to its older brother in Legacy of the same name. Resource denial, annoying taxes, flickering effects, and multi-functional abilities stapled to efficient creatures is the name of the game.
To hit all those fetchland-heavy decks where it hurts most, D&T plays Leonin Arbiter to slow down mana development. When your opponent is tapped-out and cannot pay for the Arbiter’s tax, Ghost Quarter turns into a straight-up Strip Mine without downside while Path to Exile removes any creature for one mana, also without giving the opponent anything back.
Adding insult to injury is Tectonic Edge to deny your opponent of any big play while Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, a centerpiece of the deck, makes sure that spell slinging opponents cannot play many of their crucial cards. Even taking care of her with a removal spell is often a huge investment of tempo and mana - a fine trade for a deck that puts lots of pressure on the board.
While your own mana is often constrained as well, Aether Vial does amazing work at putting down creatures both to free your utility lands and to interact and surprise the opponent at instant speed.
Now that we have covered most of the taxing creatures, let’s take a look at those that close out games. Flickerwisp and Restoration Angel are both three power fliers that easily get in for damage while also shining with great utility. The ‘Wisp exiles a permanent until end of turn and provides great value for removing blockers, exiling tokens, or simply untapping one of your lands for use on the opponent’s turn. With Aether Vial, you can even get it in at instant speed to save your own creatures, just like Restoration Angel often does. With these two threats always being a possibility, it’s tough to attack this deck without fearing a giant blowout.
In creature-centric matchups D&T can also play a great grindy game with Blade Splicer. The first-striking golem token is made for combat while the artificer is a perfect target for the blink effects of Restoration Angel and Flickerwisp to create additional 3/3 bodies. It doesn’t even hurt if the Splicer gets removed as it’s the weakest creature on the board and usually already provided its value.
This archetype is highly adaptive and can adjust to any given metagame. Pilots of D&T should look for the best cards to beat the current force - like the Death’s Shadow decks that dominate currently. Mirran Crusader stands strong against all of their creatures and removal spells while also ending the game in just a few swings.
Splashing another color helps focus on particular strong points of the deck. We will go over very briefly some of the possibilities. [Editor: For a more in-depth discussion of the various color splashes, visit the current MtGSalvation primer located here!]
Green adds some more bears and the format staple Collected Company to instantly grab up to two creatures - the best way to generate an advantage.
Another way to play the deck is dipping into black and using the power of the Eldrazi to abuse all the exile effects the deck already plays. Wasteland Strangler is able to process exiled cards for removal and yes, you can eat the card exiled by Flickerwisp and no, it won’t come back!
D&T is a very fun and competitive deck that can fight through any menace by combining interaction with lots of pressure. It uses synergies and can do things that feel very unfair, like destroying all lands in sight. When piloted well, it can reward you with wins in rougher match-ups as well.
Written by Malte Smits