'Tis The Season — Modern Taxes


Hello, fellow PucaTraders!

Joe started off our week talking about Legacy Death and Taxes. Today, I will continue and discuss the archetype in the Modern format—it is tax season after all. In Modern, we have three major variants—I will be discussing each of these today. Much like in the Legacy format, the deck has a core group of cards that are essential to the deck's success.

The Core of Modern Taxes

4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben: Taxing your opponent's non-creature spells slows them down and allows us to stay ahead while developing our own board state. Built-in First Strike makes Thalia effective in combat too
4 Leonin Arbiter: Legacy has access to Wasteland and Rishadan Port to attack the opponent's mana base. Modern taxes uses Ghost Quarter, which has the drawback of letting your opponent find a basic land. Arbiter can turn Ghost Quarter into Strip Mine. In addition, Path to Exile can potentially become "Exile target creature" for one mana without a drawback.
4 Ghost Quarter: As discussed under Leonin Arbiter, the card acts as Modern's version of Wasteland.
4 Path to Exile: Arguably the best removal spell in the format.
4 Aether Vial: A cornerstone of the deck, and it provides us with a great tempo play.

Life & Taxes

The first of the three variants is Mono White Taxes:

Mono White Taxes

Creature (29)
4 Blade Splicer
4 Eldrazi Displacer
4 Flickerwisp
4 Leonin Arbiter
1 Phyrexian Revoker
4 Restoration Angel
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Thraben Inspector

Spells (8)
4 Path to Exile
4 Aether Vial

Lands (23)
4 Eldrazi Temple
4 Ghost Quarter
3 Horizon Canopy
10 Plains
2 Tectonic Edge

Sideboard (15)
2 Blessed Alliance
2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
2 Dismember
2 Phyrexian Revoker
4 Relic of Progenitus
3 Stony Silence

This mono-White version tries to take advantage of Eldrazi Displacer, Flickerwisp, and Restoration Angel to flicker creatures like Blade Splicer to create 3/3 Golems or Thraben Inspector for Clues. The versatility of these three creatures is immense: Eldrazi Displacer and Flickerwisp can also blink your opponent's permanents, which can be very useful to get an advantage over your opponent.

Going mono-White allows the deck to play two copies of Tectonic Edge to capitalize on denying your opponent resources as well.

Sideboard options:
Blessed Alliance: Several great applications that can provide extra removal or lifegain.
Burrenton Forge-Tender: Great against burn and other decks.
Dismember: Additional removal for decks packing lots of creatures.
Phyrexian Revoker: Shuts down Planeswalkers and other activated abilities.
Relic of Progenitus: Graveyard hate that can also draw a card.
Stony Silence: While a non-bo with Aether Vial, it does give us some game against Affinity and other artifact-focused decks.

Death and Taxes (aka Eldrazi and Taxes)

Creatures (29)
1 Blade Splicer
4 Eldrazi Displacer
4 Flickerwisp
4 Leonin Arbiter
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
4 Thought-Knot Seer
4 Tidehollow Sculler
3 Wasteland Strangler

Spells (8)
4 Path to Exile
4 Aether Vial

Lands (24)
4 Caves of Koilos
4 Concealed Courtyard
4 Eldrazi Temple
4 Ghost Quarter
1 Godless Shrine
2 Plains
3 Shambling Vent
1 Swamp
1 Vault of the Archangel

Sideboard (15)
2 Aven Mindcensor
2 Blessed Alliance
1 Burrenton Forge-Tender
1 Dismember
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2 Mirran Crusader
3 Rest in Peace
3 Stony Silence

Death and Taxes tries to capitalize on the inclusion of Eldrazi, while the addition of Black grants extra removal and discard option to disrupt our opponent. Let's go into a bit more detail:

Thought-Knot Seer: Thanks to [[Eldrazi Temples]], the dream play of a turn two Thought-Knot Seer is alive. The card provides great value on turn two as its "exile a card" ability is very effective at disrupting our opponent.
Tidehollow Sculler: Also provide disruption with its "exile a card" effect.
Wasteland Strangler: An Eldrazi processor that can capitalize on the exile effects from Tidehollow Sculler, Thought-Knot Seer and Path to Exile.
Eldrazi Displacer: Does a lot of work alongside the creatures above. In any given turn, it can flicker Tidehollow Sculler to exile a card and Wasteland Strangler to process it.

Sideboard options:
While largely the same as mono-White taxes, there are some additional options:
Aven Mindcensor: Along with Leonin Arbiter can provide additional hate against decks that need to be able to search their library (think Scapeshift, Gifts Ungiven, etc.)
Mirran Crusader: One of the better option with the increased play of Tarmogoyf, Death's Shadow, and the newly unbanned Bloodbraid Elf.
Rest in Peace: Played over Relic, this card provides unlimited processing powers with Wasteland Strangler.

Dead and Taxes

The "dead" or the deck's Spirits give this deck a whole different angle of attack. It relies on tempo plays through Spell Queller and Mausoleum Wanderer.

Dead and Taxes

Creatures (28)
3 Blade Splicer
3 Flickerwisp
4 Leonin Arbiter
4 Mausoleum Wanderer
3 Restoration Angel
3 Selfless Spirit
4 Spell Queller
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Spells (10)
4 Path to Exile
4 Aether Vial
2 Smuggler's Copter

Lands (22)
4 Adarkar Wastes
1 Field of Ruin
4 Ghost Quarter
3 Hallowed Fountain
2 Horizon Canopy
1 Island
1 Moorland Haunt
2 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast

Sideboard (15)
2 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Detention Sphere
2 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Kitchen Finks
2 Mirran Crusader
2 Rest in Peace
1 Settle the Wreckage
2 Stony Silence

Card choices:
Mausoleum Wanderer: Taxes version of Cursecatcher. With the additional Spirits and Moorland Haunt, Mausoleum Wanderer can be pumped to provide a more effective counter as well.
Spell Queller: One of the better tempo cards in the format. Because it exiles the spell, Queller can counter uncounterable spells as well.
Selfless Spirit: Helps protect our creatures by making them indestructible.
Smuggler's Copter: Can filter cards and allows us to avoid sending some of our sensitive creatures into harm's way.

Sideboard Options:
Ceremonious Rejection: Gives additional game against Affinity and Tron.
Detention Sphere: Great catch-all removal option. Can get rid of a full board of tokens as well.
Geist of Saint Traft: A Legend amongst Spirits, this card is great against control decks and can provide great tempo through its Angel tokens.
Kitchen Finks: Great option against Burn
Settle the Wreckage: A one-sided mass removal spell. If we have Leonin Arbiter out, the drawback of the spell can be completely turned off.

A Few Tips

Leonin Arbiter and flickering: If your opponent activates a fetch ability and pays the two extra mana for Leonin Arbiter, you can flash in a Flickerwisp or activate Eldrazi Displacer's ability. The game will recognize Leonin Arbiter as a new object and your opponent will need to pay the tax again in order to search his/her library.

Eldrazi Displacer and Master of Waves: DON'T ever flicker your opponent's Master of Waves using Eldrazi Displacer's ability. Because state-based actions aren't checked between the creature leaving the battlefield and re-entering the battlefield, it would just give your opponents more tokens.

Wrapping Up

As I have shown you with the different decklists, there are several Taxes variants with plenty of variety in their builds. This gives a person the opportunity to build towards their own strengths and playstyle and gives the player the best opportunity to win. Much like its Legacy counterpart, the Taxes decks in Modern do require a thorough knowledge of the format in order to pilot the deck optimally. However, the Eldrazi builds do tend to be a bit more forgiving because of their raw power.

Overall, Taxes lists tend to be reasonably priced and with some practice and study of the metagame can be a really fun deck to play in the format. It is a highly interactive deck and always keeps you on your toes.

Until next week for some more Modern talk. Enjoy yourselves and keep enjoying the wonderful game that is Magic: The Gathering!

Dennis Gabriels (@GabrielsDennis) is an avid Modern player. Currently, he’s rocking casual Modern FNM's with the occasional drafts when a new set is released. Before moving to the USA from Belgium, Dennis' best finishes included several regional top 8 finishes with Izzetron in the Ravnica block / Time Spiral block Standard era. Dennis is also looking to expand his horizons to the Legacy format after having completed the Pox deck entirely through Puca.

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