Modern GW Death & Taxes

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Posted February 13, 2017 by Abdullah Elhawary in Tabletop

With Modern being a brewer’s dream (or as close as a format can be), I started looking at new cards that could have a real impact on the metagame besides Fatal Push. I came across Renegade Rallier, a card that was touted as a perfect fit for Abzan Company decks, as they could trigger Revolt easily – creatures dying in combat, being sacrificed to Viscera Seer, fetch-lands being sacrificed, etc. In Abzan Company, Rallier is just another replaceable cog within a value machine, but could it be a welcome addition to another deck?

I was watching a Legacy match between RUG Delver and Death & Taxes, where the mana denial plan alongside the tax effects locked the Delver player out of the game before they could muster up any sort of fight. I knew there were existing D&T decks in Modern, but they were mostly mono-white, BW Smallpox decks or BW Eldrazi & Taxes decks. I felt that they all lacked that je ne sais quoi that makes Legacy D&T appealing. So I built a GW D&T deck and started playing it without incredibly high initial expectations.

GW Death & Taxes

Test Deck by Abdullah Elhawary

Maindeck:

Lands (22):
4x Horizon Canopy
2x Stirring Wildwood
3x Temple Garden
2x Forest
4x Ghost Quarter
1x Cavern of Souls
2x Plains
4x Razorverge Thicket

Creatures (30):
4x Thalia. Guardian of Thraben
4x Noble Hierarch
4x Leonin Arbiter
2x Voice of Resurgence
2x Scavenging Ooze
4x Renegade Rallier
2x Thalia, Heretic Cathar
1x Mangara of Corondor
4x Flickerwisp
3x Restoration Angel

Artifacts (4):
4x Aether Vial

Instants (4):
4x Path to Exile
Sideboard:

2x Qasali Pridemage
2x Kor Firewalker
1x Gaddock Teeg
1x Selfless Spirit
2x Spellskite
2x Stony Silence
2x Rest in Peace
3x Kitchen Finks

After a few matches with the deck, I identified a few things:

  1. The deck can do obscene things with the right draw such as triple Strip Mine by turn 4, which is almost always game.
  2. The deck also has staying power with Rallier, Scavenging Ooz,e and Restoration Angel so you can grind out Abzan and Jund with the right draws.
  3. Flooding out is a concern sometimes because of the fact that Aether Vial, Noble Hierarch and non-utility lands are almost dead past turn 4-5.
  4. Voice of Resurgence is a great card that I want more access to.
  5. The deck relies a little too much on drawing its hatebears and sometimes had clunky hands with multiple Ralliers and Flickerwisps.
  6. The deck has problems closing game quickly.
  7. The tax effects of Leonin Arbiter and Thalia, Guardian of  Thraben are symmetric which can be used against you or simply be forgotten when you’re in the tank.
  8. Aether Vial is a busted Magic Card.

I took these into account and made the deck a lot leaner and smoother

Maindeck:

Lands (21):
4x Horizon Canopy
2x Stirring Wildwood
3x Temple Garden
1x Forest
4x Ghost Quarter
1x Eiganjo Castle
2x Plains
4x Razorverge Thicket

Creatures (31):
4x Thalia. Guardian of Thraben
4x Noble Hierarch
4x Leonin Arbiter
4x Voice of Resurgence
2x Scavenging Ooze
3x Renegade Rallier
2x Thalia, Heretic Cathar
3x Flickerwisp
2x Restoration Angel
2x Wilt-Leaf Liege
1x Qasali Pridemage

Artifacts (4):
4x Aether Vial

Instants (4):
4x Path to Exile
Sideboard:

2x Qasali Pridemage
1x Mangara of Corondor
2x Kor Firewalker
1x Gaddock Teeg
1x Spellskite
2x Kataki, War’s Wage
2x Rest in Peace
2x Kitchen Finks
1x Mirran Crusader
2x Selfless Spirit

Card Choices

Manabase

Usually I don’t dedicate a slot to the manabase but it’s quite an important and intricate part of the deck. You almost always want to Ghost Quarter them when you have Leonin Arbiter out in the early game, since many Modern decks require their mana early and need all their colors. It’s also a house against Tron on its own and especially in conjunction with Rallier.

Horizon Canopy gives you different decisions – it can be sacrificed to simply get a card and/or combo with Rallier which returns it for another card. Stirring Wildwood is also included as an extra threat and a mana sink late. Knowing your creature types for Cavern is important, but a general rule of thumb is to name Human (15 creatures) or Elemental (7 creatures) unless you have a specific card you want to resolve. Also keep in mind the creature types you board in and out for the same reason.

Hatebears

 

These cards make life hell for your opponents, acting as mana-denial, or adding a tax to a spell while you build out your board. Leonin Arbiter means that you don’t have any fetches in your deck, and should never have to feel the symmetry of the effect outside of getting your creature hit with a Path. A common line of play with Arbiter involves your opponent paying the 2 mana to search their deck and you respond by flashing or vial-ing in a Restoration Angel which blinks the Arbiter. The Arbiter is a new creature and the payment hasn’t been made to it, so your opponent has to pay again. It is also worth noting that a player paying for the ability doesn’t use the stack so you can’t respond to it. I would recommend checking out the rulings at the bottom of the Gatherer Page so you’re familiar with the corner case scenarios.

Thalia and Voice are much more straightforward and intuitive, but remember that both Path and Aether Vial are the only cards in your main deck affected by the Thalia tax. Lastly, the Voice of Resurgence token is both green and white so it gets +2/+2 when Wilt-Leaf Liege is on the battlefield.

Value Creatures

This is the value train that is the heart of the deck in the late game. A common play with Flickerwisp is targeting your opponent’s blocker and removing it from combat entirely as it returns at the end of the turn. You can also flicker your opponent’s land so they can’t pay for the Arbiter and turn your Ghost Quarter into Strip Mine. That’s disregarding the most obvious synergy with Renegade Rallier which is simply too much value to refuse. Additionally, if you board in Mangara, vial-ing/ flashing in Flickerwisp or Resto turns Mangara into a repeatable Vindicate.

It is worth mentioning that boarding in Rest in Peace against graveyard-centric decks completely shuts off Renegade Rallier so it’s worth boarding out. Similarly, you may be tempted to eat all the creatures in your graveyard with Scavenging Ooze, but it’s better to keep one or two targets for Rallier (if it doesn’t change the clock or if you’re not desperate for life points). There are a lot of intricate plays so going through all of them is practically impossible but the more you play with the deck, the faster you pick up on these lines.

Match-up Guides:

Green and White are colors that have a lot of silver bullets, so the sideboard is extremely dynamic and changes depending on your meta. Generally, try to look for effects on creatures opposed to non-creature spells – Aether Vial being totally busted should be enough of a reason. For example, Qasali Pridemage is leaps and bounds ahead of Fragmentize or Disenchant.

Affinity:

In:
1x Qasali Pridemage
2x Kataki, War’s Mage
2x Selfless Spirit

Out:
4x Voice of Resurgence
1x Flickerwisp

ِAbzan:

In:
2x Kitchen Finks
1x Mangara of Corondor
1x Mirran Crusader

Out:
1x Qasali Pridemage
3x Flicker Wisp

Jund:

In:
2x Kitchen Finks
1x Mangara of Corondor
1x Mirran Crusader

Out:
1x Qasali Pridemage
1x Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1x Thalia, Heretic Cathar
1x Flickerwisp

Bant Eldrazi:

In:

1x Qasali Pridemage
1x Managara of Corondor

Out:
2x Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Death’s Shadow Aggro:

In:
2x Kitchen Finks
2x Rest in Peace
1x Mirran Crusader

Out:
1x Flickerwisp
1x Qasali Pridemage
3x Renegade Rallier

Burn:

In:
2x Kitchen Finks
2x Kor Firewalker
2x Spellskite

Out:
3x Flickerwisp
3x Renegade Rallier

Tron:

In:
1x Gaddock Teeg
1x Mangara of Corondor
1x Qasali Pridemage

Out:
3x Voice of Resurgence

TitanShift:

In:
1x Gaddock Teeg
1x Mangara of Corondor
1x Qasali Pridemage
1x Selfless Spirit

Out:
2x Scavenging Ooze
2x Voice of Resurgence

Valakut Breach:

In:
1x Gaddock Teeg
1x Mangara of Corondor
1x Selfless Spirit

Out:
2x Scavenging Ooze
1x Voice of Resurgence

Grixis Control:

In:
2x Rest in Peace
1x Spellskite
2x Kitchen Finks
2x Selfless Spirit

Out:
3x Flickerwisp
3x Renegade Rallier
1x Qasali Pridemage


About the Author

Abdullah Elhawary