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Priemer’s Primers: The Only Guarantees in Life

Written by Tyler Priemer on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Legacy

Priemer’s Primers: The Only Guarantees in Life

Tyler Priemer

Tyler has been playing TCGs for nearly 20 years. A long brewer with a knack for Legacy, there's nothing he loves more than making crazy decks a reality

It’s long been said that if White Weenie is possible, people will play it, and Legacy is no exception. Death and Taxes is the premier mono-White aggro deck in the format, with an unprecedented capacity to play both beatdown and resource denial strategies. Utilizing a package of hate bears to lock the opponent out of their deck, Death and Taxes tries to grind their opponents into the ground while beating down with undercosted, aggressive creatures. This combination of strategies is what makes Death and Taxes one of the top contenders in the Legacy format.

What makes Death and Taxes unique is that because you’re running this hate bears package, you’re essentially playing with a suite of sideboard cards just flexible enough to shut down the opponent in game 1 when they’re not expecting them. Resolving something like a Spirit of the Labyrinth or Phyrexian Revoker in the first game can throw off your opponent’s plan by shutting off their key spells. Legacy is a format where people can do some broken things with powerful cards, and with creatures like these Death and Taxes is able to put a stop to all that nonsense.

Along with Phyrexian Revoker and Spirit of the Labyrinth, Death and Taxes fills out the maindeck hate bear suite with a full set of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, a pair of Aven Mindcensor, and a triad of Flickerwisp. Thalia is possibly the greatest White creature in Legacy for under 3CMC, as she adds an additional mana to all noncreature spells. This is the format where Brainstorm is king and mana is light, and Thalia is a card that can bring the pain, especially in conjunction with the mana denial of Wasteland and Rishadan Port. Hindering the opponent’s ability to cantrip and find their answers while providing a steadily increasing clock makes Thalia the backbone of the “Taxes” half of the deck.

Aven Mindcensor is a clutch card for attacking the various tri-colour decks in the format, as it can severely put a damper on their fetchlands. When Delver decks are running 18 or so lands, over half of which are fetches or Wastelands, the odds of an opponent hitting a land with a Mindcensor in play are slim to none. Keeping the opponent off their mana curtails their ability to fight back, and Mindcensor is one of the biggest hurdles you can throw in their way. Flickerwisp is a catch-all for flickering out problematic permanents until the end of turn, providing a huge window to push through damage, making it one of the more abusive cards you can cheat in with Aether Vial. The opponent’s Batterskull beating you down? Flicker the Germ token into nothingness. A blocker or a Maze of Ith stopping you from attacking for lethal? Flicker it out! Flickerwisp is one of your key answers for many of the problems aggressive decks face in Legacy.

Death and Taxes is also notable for its Stoneforge Mystic package. In the maindeck, Stoneforge staples Batterskull and Umezawa’s Jitte provide the punching power necessary for your creatures to push damage through opposing defenses. Getting these equipments online can make or break your fairer matchups as they can often win the game on their own. Sometimes a deck like RUG Delver just can’t beat a Batterskull, and an active Jitte can suppress an opponent’s board long enough to push through enough damage to win, making Stoneforge Mystic your most dangerous plan of attack.

Rounding out the deck are Swords to Plowshares, Brimaz, and Mangara of Corondor. Swords to Plowshares is the definitive White removal spell in Legacy, getting rid of virtually any creature for just one White mana. This is great for picking off threats like Griselbrand and Tarmogoyf that easily outclass your creatures, as well as exiling your own creatures for a quick life boost against decks like Burn. Brimaz is a bit of a recent addition, but his value in White Weenie strategies is priceless. A 3 / 4 body for 1WW with Vigilance is massive for it’s cost, and getting a 1/1 vigilant token when it attacks or blocks is just icing on the cake. An unanswered Brimaz can flood the board with tokens which in a fair matchup can be a death knell for the opponent, especially once Umezawa’s Jitte becomes a factor. Finally, Mangara of Corondor is one of the oldest and most abusive ways Death and Taxes can out-value the opponent. With Mangara you can activate his ability to exile an opponent’s permanent, then with the ability on the stack you can return Mangara to your hand with Karakas. With an Aether Vial on 3 counters you can put him back into play at instant speed to repeat the process the following turn until they have no permanents left.

What’s nice about Death and Taxes is that virtually any hate bear is fair game for maindeck inclusion. You can run Aegis of the Gods or Ethersworn Canonist if your metagame is full of Storm, Leonin Arbiter to back up Mindcensor, or even Mirran Crusader if Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant are the big threats. There are plenty of areas for customization so it’s really just a matter of what you expect the metagame to look like.

WHAT SHOULD I RUN IN MY SIDEBOARD?

With Death and Taxes you want redundancy and variety in your sideboard, as paradoxical as that sounds. What that means is that you want multiple cards that produce similar effects to neutralize whatever answers the opponent brings in for them. For example, the above build runs both Grafdigger’s Cage and Rest in Peace. Running only one or the other results in you getting blown out one type of removal, such as Ancient Grudge on your Grafdigger’s Cage out of Dredge. By diversifying your hate cards you keep the opponent guessing. In order to pull this off, Death and Taxes often runs some number of Enlightened Tutor in the sideboard to make this redundancy easier to fetch out. Enlightened Tutor also acts like Stoneforge Mystics 5-6 by grabbing whatever equipment you need, as well as allowing the deck to only run one copy of Ethersworn Canonist or Aegis of the Gods for the Storm matchup.

Speaking of Stoneforge Mystic, the deck also runs Sword of Fire and Ice and Manriki-Gusari as additional tutor targets. Sword of Fire and Ice gives you the power to push through a True-Name Nemesis, one of the harder “fair” cards to fight, as well as acting as removal and card draw, which mono-White is sorely lacking. Manriki-Gusari has long been the go-to for opposing Stoneforge strategies. Simply tapping your creature to destroy a Batterskull or Jitte is huge, as either of those cards can crush Death and Taxes almost single-handedly.

Meekstone and Cataclysm are great for keeping Tarmogoyf, Delver of Secrets, and True-Name Nemesis in check, as those are some of the more difficult creatures you can face. Due to their sheer size, Meekstone can keep them locked down after they attack so you can begin attacking back. Cataclysm is the closest thing to a board wipe Death and Taxes has, and it’s there to keep faster decks like Elves and Goblins under control. You keep your biggest threat on the table, usually a Brimaz or a Batterskull, while their army is reduced to a single creature.

Oblivion Ring is one of the few outs the deck has to Show and Tell. Be it Emrakul or Omniscience, putting Oblivion Ring into play off their Show and Tell will exile whatever permanent they put into play. This is often just the final nail in the coffin after running out enough Phyrexian Revokers to cut them off of their backup plan in Sneak Attack. Oblivion Ring also has utility in the Miracles matchup because you can use it to get rid of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Counterbalance. What makes Oblivion Ring so good against Counter-Top lock is that these decks very rarely run 3-drops, so you can play through their Counterbalance with relative ease.

Lastly, Wilt-Leaf Liege is there not only to anthem your team, but to act as a colossal middle finger to the Liliana of the Veil decks in Legacy. Everything from Jund to Shardless BUG to Pox gets punished by making you discard cards with Liliana or Hymn to Tourach. You get a free creature, pump your team, and crush in on your turn for massive amounts of damage. As well, Liege is just outside of Abrupt Decay range, which is crucial in these matchups.

SO HOW ARE MY MATCHUPS?

Right off the bat, due to the nature of your maindeck, your Sneak and Show, Storm, and Deathblade matchups are pretty strong. Phyrexian Revoker and Karakas do a number on Sneak and Show by keeping their creatures off the table, Thalia and Spirit of the Labyrinth put a damper on Storm, and the combination of Phyrexian Revoker with the Mangara lockdown can keep Deathblade under control. As well, post-board you have the tools necessary for beating Dredge, Reanimator, and Liliana of the Veil decks.

Conversely, a lot of the time these decks pack tools for beating your hate cards. If a combo deck can go off before you can set up, Death and Taxes is often dead in the water. Sneak and Show, Dredge, Storm, and Reanimator can often combo off as early as turn 1, and each one has tools for shutting you down. Sneak and Show brings in 2-3 Pyroclasm to sweep away your Revokers and Thalias, and Dredge and Reanimator can put an Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite into play to effectively blank your entire deck. While Storm isn’t as drastic, most of their sideboards will include 3 copies of Massacre specifically for this matchup. That’s a free board wipe for them to wreck you with. Because you don’t have countermagic to slow them down, you really just have to hope that you can get your hate cards going to slow them down and play around the sweepers as best as you can.

FINAL VERDICT: WHY PLAY DEATH AND TAXES?

You should play Death and Taxes if you enjoy frustrating the opponent through a mass of hate bears, hindering their game plan at every stage, until they can only sit back and accept their beating. It offers a unique blend of early aggression and late game control strategies that make it a serious contender in the Legacy metagame. Death and Taxes is equal parts prison deck and aggro deck, and if either of those appeals to you, it’s time to sleeve up your White Weenies and crush the competition!

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