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Legacy Primer Series: Death & Taxes – Part III

Hopefully everyone has had a good Easter break! Last time we looked at the Legacy metagame in general, but today I’ll be returning to my favourite Legacy deck once again, Death & Taxes, to finish off our multi-part deck primer. I’ll be focusing on how Death & taxes interacts with other common decks in the metagame this time, rather than focusing on the intricacies within the deck itself. Again, there’s a lot of stuff to get through (I also can’t cover every deck), so let’s get right to it.

Fair Decks

vs. RUG Delver (very favourable)

Your best cards: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Stoneforge Mystic, Mother of Runes, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Rest in Peace
Your worst cards: Phyrexian Revoker, Mangara of Corondor

D&T in its current form was basically designed to be able to combat RUG, which previously dominated the metagame. RUG works by operating in an incredibly tight and mana efficient way, but Thalia cause all their cantrips to become unusable, and can lock out their entire hand. RUG’s mana denial suite is useless against Death & Taxes, with Wasteland often being blanked by Death & Taxes primarily basic manabase, and no fetchlands means Stifle is poor. D&T’s mana denial, however, is very potent against their fragile manabase. All their threats are also easily outclassed, with only Tarmogoyf sometimes being a problem, but can easily be Plowed or, in post-board games, Rest in Peace makes it embarrassing. Stoneforge Mystic into Batterskull (or even Jitte) will often be unbeatable for them if an immediate answer isn’t found. Games you lose against RUG will often be due to being Vial-less and getting Dazed out of the game, or they’re able to slam a sweeper like Rough//Tumble or Sulfur Elemental on a board that is at relative parity, so try not to walk into these.

vs. BUG Delver (favourable)

Your best cards: Mirran Crusader, Wilt-Leaf Liege, Rest in Peace
Your worst cards: Mangara of Corondor, Aven Mindcensor

BUG Delver is a little more difficult than RUG Delver due to Deathrite Shaman. Deathrite will basically undo all of your mana denial, and will allow the BUG player to play through Thalia quite easily. The mana denial plan is further disrupted by Abrupt Decay, which can bust your Aether Vials in addition to your lock pieces. Therefore, aim to Revoker/Plow Deathrites on sight to hamper their mana development, in addition to Ports and Wasteland, which should allow you to get to a stage where you can get a haymaker like Mirran Crusader into play. Stoneforge Mystic should get Batterskull a lot of the time here, because the rest of your equipment can be Decayed, while even though the germ can be killed, Batterskull itself cannot be. Post-board expect sweeper effects like Golgari Charm to make appearance, or if your opponent really hates you, cards like Dread of Night may appear. Siding out some number of X/1s (yes, even Flickerwisp), especially three mana ones, is therefore often suitable. Like RUG, Rest in Peace blanks a lot of their creatures and Wilt-Leaf Liege can be brought in against the versions running Liliana and Hymn to Tourach, as well as giving insurance against -1/-1 effects.

vs. UWR Delver (favourable)

Your best cards: Manriki-Gusari, Council’s Judgment, Mother of Runes, Phyrexian Revoker, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Aven Mindcensor
Your worst cards: Mangara of Corondor, Mirran Crusader

This can be hard because of the sheer amount of fair removal that UWR Delver often runs (sometimes 4 Bolts and 4 Plows) and, importantly, an unanswered Stoneforge Mystic into Umezawa’s Jitte from them can be lights out for D&T – Plows, Revokers, Mindcensors and anti-Stoneforge tech Manriki-Gusari out of the board are answers. True-Name Nemesis is only a problem if it gets suited up with equipment, but it is otherwise race-able in the air and gets Judgment in sideboarded games. Their manabase is just as fragile as RUG’s, so take adavantage of that, particularly aiming to cut them hard off white mana. Unlike RUG and to some extent BUG, they can push into the late game thanks to many lists running Dig Through Time, which can sometimes overwhelm you, so there is a bit of pressure to close out the game quickly.

vs. UWr Miracles (even)

Your best cards: Phyrexian Revoker, Pithing Needle, Aether Vial, [/c]Cataclysm[/c], Armageddon, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Sword of Fire and Ice
Your worst cards: Swords to Plowshares, Umezawa’s Jitte

Everyone thinks that Terminus.dec would have a super-positive matchup against white weenie, right? Well, D&T Isn’t white weenie, you’re not aiming to swarm the board, you’re aiming to endure Terminus after Terminus, never over-extending, and move into the long game whilst continually clocking the opponent. The most important creature in the whole deck is Phyrexian Revoker by far, who shuts down Sensei’s Divining Top, which their whole deck hinges upon, while clocking them, as well as having utility against Jace. Secondly, having an active Aether Vial allows you to restore your board right after a Terminus, and of course allows the usual tricks of saving important permanents. You should also generally use your Stoneforges to get Sword of Fire and Ice – this makes any random dork of yours into a huge threat, forcing Terminus to become a one-for-one while you can grind out card advantage. Post-board you get insane trumps in the form of planeswalker Elspeth, which they can’t really deal with, and Cataclysm, which can sweep away a Jace and all their lands, while you’ll often have a creature and an Aether Vial ready to spew out creatures that can continue pummeling. Be careful not to shoot yourself in the foot though, and make sure to sandbag lands. You generally lose preboarded games by drawing too many non-creatures, and lose post-board games when you run out of gas and they Dig or Jace you out.

vs. Shardless BUG (even)

Your best cards: Mirran Crusader, Wilt-Leaf Liege, Aether Vial, Rest in Peace
Your worst cards: Umezawa’s Jitte

Games against Shardless either go two ways – you wreck their manabase by Revoking their Deathrite and Wastelanding/Porting them off their clunky three mana spells and kill them without them doing anything, or the game goes into a long grind, where they kill all your threats and they eventually resolve an Ancestral Visions and pull ahead. However, Mirran Crusader is basically True-Name Nemesis, with Liliana, Jace and sweepers like Toxic Deluge being their only outs, so keep him from being Edicted/Deluged and the game can be won on his back. Post-board, Rest in Peace shuts down Deathrites and Tarmogoyfs and Wilt-Leaf Liege essentially neutralizes Liliana. Generally in post-board games I will cut some numbers of Thalia, since Shardless generally hits its land drops, as well as any X/1s like Mindcensor that aren’t important enough. Mangara is still powerful due to most games going long. Once again, post-board don’t overextend into sweepers like Golgari Charm and Toxic Deluge (Deluge can easily be beaten via Vial though), and Batterskull is the best equipment you can get.

vs. Stoneblade (even)

Your best cards: Phyrexian Revoker, Manriki-Gusari, Council’s Judgment, Mother of Runes, Aven Mindcensor
Your worst cards: Umezawa’s Jitte

This matchup can vary based on what Stoneblade variant you are playing against. Esper Deathblade is pretty straightforward, since they have the greediest mana base and it’s easy to cut them off from casting relevant spells via Port and Wasteland, though Deathrite acceleration, if unanswered, can lead to some disastrous fast Jitte’s. Esper Stoneblade without Deathrites are a bit harder, since their basic mana base as well as main deck sweepers, such as Supreme Verdict, can punish overextending – try to play the matchup similar to how you’d approach Miracles with a little bit more aggression. Jeskai Stoneblade is the hardest due to the abundance of efficient removal they have, which means its very unlikely Mom will live past turn one, which is so important in these fair matchups. Just like in the UWR Delver matchup bring in answers to True-Name and Stoneforge. Despite how creature-light they can often be, keep some (not all) Plows in to answer Stoneforge and cards like Tasigur, supplementing these with further answers like Revoker and Mindcensor.

Unfair Decks

vs. Sneak & Show (very favourable)

Your best cards: Karakas, Containment Priest, Phyrexian Revoker
Your worst cards: Swords to Plowshares, Umezawa’s Jitte

I always find it funny that a 15/15 flying annihilator and a 7/7 flying, lifelink Yawgmoth’s Bargain loathes playing against the deck full of small white weenies. But its not the weenies that really crush them in game 1 – it’s a land. Karakas cuts them off killing with Show and Tell completely, allowing you to bounce away their Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Griselbrand before they can get in the red zone. So they’ll then have to go off through a Sneak Attack machinegun… but conveniently D&T runs maindeck Pithing Needle in the form of Phyrexian Revoker too. Keep in mind that on the blind you should Show and Tell Revoker in to ensure it doesn’t get countered, because you can cut off Griselbrand or Sneak Attack as they show it in, but if you don’t have it, Karakas is fine too. Post-board they will aim to cut off Karakas via Blood Moon or Omniscience, and will have Pyroclasms to sweep your hatebears, so try to not overextend your important ones. Luckily Containment Priest completely wrecks them, and you should try to increase your disruptive creatures by boarding in Canonists and Spirit of the Labyrinth if you have them and board out beatsticks. Stoneforge should aim to get Sword of Fire and Ice to protect your hate bears from Pyroclasm or Echoing Truth.

vs. OmniTell (favourable)

Your best cards: Ethersworn Canonist, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Your worst cards: Swords to Plowshares, Umezawa’s Jitte

Unfortunately you don’t get the free wins of Karakas in this matchup, but Thalia does important work here, stopping OmniTell from chaining spells into their kill as well as slowing their cantripping, which Canonist also does post-board. Their manabase is also much more stable, so mana denial via Wasteland and Rishadan Port will work less. Your Revokers also at least do something relevant, cutting off their mana by naming Lotus Petal, and again Stoneforge should fetch Sword of Fire and Ice to stop cards such as Wipe Away. Playing around Wipe Away with your Mother of Runes is also important, with upkeep Mother of Runes being useful to force them to Wipe Away prematurely on your turn. Having an Oblivion Ring in the sideboard is great to shut off their shown in Omniscience too.

vs. Reanimator (favourable)

Your best cards: Containment Priest, Rest in Peace, Grafdigger’s Cage, Karakas, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Aven Mindcensor
Your worst cards: Umezawa’s Jitte, Stoneforge Mystic

Reanimator is similar to Sneak & Show except faster; they can kill you before you can even get a Thalia or a Revoker in play, but are still susceptible to Karakas because they will usually put Griselbrand[/c], Iona, Shield of Emeria or Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite into play on the blind. If you can get to turn 2 though, you should be in good shape because cards like Thalia and Spirit of the Labyrinth gives them a hard time and Revoker can cut off Griselbrand and Petals. At three mana Mindcensor cuts off their Entombs too, so game 1 really just depends on the speed of their hand. Post-board games are much better, as Containment Priest, Rest in Peace and Grafdigger’ Cage cut them off from getting a fatty in play. Be aware of Massacre and Abrupt Decay out of their sideboard, and board out most of your Stoneforge package (it’s too slow) and other durdly fair creatures.

vs. ANT/TES (slightly favourable)

Your best cards: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Ethersworn Canonist, Phrexian Revoker, Aven Mindcensor
Your worst cards: Swords to Plowshares, Umezawa’s Jitte, Stoneforge Mystic

Hopefully in Game 1 you were able to get your Thalia through Therapies or you didn’t die before turn 2, because this is the only sure line of defense you have. Phyrexian Revoker can be excellent (naming LED cuts them off from getting hellbent sometimes), but sometimes they can just empty their hand via rituals and cast Infernal Tutor. At the same time Aven Mindcensor cuts off Infernal Tutor but does nothing against a natural Tendrils, Burning Wish or Ad Nauseum. You also need to pressure them pretty quickly, because given enough time Thalia can be played through or an answer can be cobbled together (especially with TES’s wishboard). Game 2 you have a few axes to attack them with – for ANT, identify them via more basic lands and Cabal Ritual and use Rest in Peace and Cage to stop Past in Flames, while for TES don’t bring these in (they rely less on the graveyard), but Ratchet Bomb cuts off their fastest way of killing in Empty the Warrens. Your best sideboard card is, of course, Ethersworn Canonist, and you should bring Enlightened Tutor to essentially have five copies of it. Beware of Massacre, Dread of Night, Pyroclasm, Chain of Vapor and Abrupt Decay in sideboard games.

vs. Elves (unfavourable)

Your best cards: Phyrexian Revoker, Umezawa’s Jitte, Swords to Plowshares, Containment Priest, Spirit of the Labyrnith, Ethersworn Canonist
Your worst cards: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

The reason why this matchup is bad is because game 1 you have very little interaction in the first few turns. Death & Taxes’ maindeck combo hate of choice – Thalia – does nothing against a creature-based combo deck that can simply kill you on turn 3. You need to have running Plows and Revokers for their important permanents (Wirewood Symbiote, Heritage Druid) but even then, they can still quickly Natural Order you to death (especially if you have no Mindcensors main). You need to get Jitte in play as fast as possible and connect with it to have a sliver of hope, which is a very slow process, and Wirewood/Quirion Ranger chump-and-bounces or Reclamation Sage can prevent that plan. Sideboard you have a lot more options to hate on them though. Containment Priest cuts off their Natural Orders for Progenitus and Green Sun’s Zeniths, while Canonist and Spirit of the Labyrnith cut off their Glimpse of Natures. This will allow you to slow them down enough so you can connect with a Jitte, mop up their board, and win from there. They’ll tend to board in things such as Krosan Grip and Abrupt Decay though, so plan B of getting a Sword of Fire and Ice on a flier to burn their board may have to occur.

Well, those are most of the common matchups you’ll be facing. There’s a lot of less common decks that I haven’t gone through here, and perhaps if their popularity increases I’ll have to update this with a part four, but for now we’ll bring the primer on Death & Taxes to a close. Post a comment if I’ve missed anything you’d like to see about D&T and I’ll try to remedy this, but otherwise there’s a lot of other facets of Legacy (and other formats) I’d like to investigate and write about!

‘Til next time,

Sean

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