Evolving Death and Taxes For The Current Metagame

Hello again. In my last article I introduced the various builds of Modern Death and Taxes but a rather unfortunate scenario has befallen the archetype. With the rise of Spirits and Humans, two creature decks that are considered strictly better than Taxes, Jeskai and Mardu (decks that prey on go-wide creature style decks like Human) have experienced a resurgence. Unfortunately, these types of decks happen to be quite effective against Taxes as well. In addition, we’ve seen quite a bit more of the turbo aggro decks such as Hollow One and Dredgevine that create near impossible-to-win game states. The metagame portion of mtgtop8.com reflects this, with Hatebears dropping from 4% to 1% in the span of just two months. While most builds of conventional Death and Taxes are dead at the moment, there are ways to adapt.

GW “Bad” Taxes

Instants (3)
Path to Exile

Creatures (33)
Birds of Paradise
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Leonin Arbiter
Selfless Spirit
Scavenging Ooze
Qasali Pridemage
Voice of Resurgence
Gaddock Teeg
Ramunap Excavator
Kitchen Finks
Loxodon Smiter
Wilt Leaf Liege
Shalai, Voice of Plenty

Planeswalkers (1)
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Lands (23)
Gavony Township
Ghost Quarter
Razorverge Thicket
Temple Garden
Horizon Canopy


This is my personal list and it has been evolving for the last two years. I feel comfortable playing a list like this against everything except Jeskai. Of course, there are things I cannot beat such as the nut draw from Dredgevine and Spirits, but you will have a hard time finding any outs vs those situations in any case unless you happen to play Terminus in your deck. The GW Taxes deck is deceptively difficult due to the different orders in which you must play your “hatebears”. The wrong sequence can be game-ending while the correct one may help you hold the line until you can stabilize and take over the game.

Many similarities are able to be drawn between this deck and GW Value Town, but unlike Value Town, “Bad Taxes” has a really good combo match-up. To date, I am 4-1 vs Ironworks and 8-2 vs Storm. Ad Nauseum is the definition of a bye round, but unfortunately, Vizier Company is a 95-5 match-up in their favor. I am 0-6 vs them and I’ve gotten one game win ever.

My list can usually go bigger than Humans with Liege and Township and after game one, cards like Cataclysmic Gearhulk and Worship will win the match. I’m 3-1 in those match-ups.

Spirits is much different as their mono flying force can put me on the back foot quite quickly. I have to hope to get a good lock on their mana base and then cast Cataclysmic Gearhulks in post-board games. I believe this match-up is 50-50. I’m 1-1 vs Vial Spirits and 2-0 vs Bant because it seems that their three-color mana base is easier to disrupt.

Mardu is a match-up that I would say I’m favored in, despite having a 1-1 record against it. I have a lot of things that counteract what they aim to do but being able to flood the board ends up being quite problematic for me. As for the graveyard decks overall, Scavenging Ooze does a good job of eating their recursive threats and it becomes a formidable blocker. Don’t be afraid of chump blocking to get rid of a Bridge from Below. I’ve also sacrificed Selfless Spirit in response to a Viscera Seer to exile three Bridges. I’m 2-1 vs Dredgevine variants. Hollow One is much different. I would say I’m favored and I am 1-0 vs them to this day. Burning Inquiry causing me to discard Loxodon Smiters and Wilt-Leaf Lieges is the actual dream but I haven’t experienced it yet. I firmly believe I have more tools to fight them than they have tools to fight me but you never know how the wheel is going to spin.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why don’t you play Aether Vial?

A: Aether Vial, while not a bad card in the overall archetype of Death and Taxes, is quite bad to medium in every GW version I have played with it. I don’t think it does enough to offset the bad top-deck potential.


Q: Why don’t you play Noble Hierarch?

A: My deck isn’t looking to send in one attacker in most cases. Though Hierarch can attack alone, I would say that in most cases, the flying on Birds of Paradise is more relevant than the Hierarch’s exalted nine times out of ten. Gavony Township/Shalai along with Liege makes Birds into an acceptable threat.


Q: Why do you play only 3 Path to Exiles?

A: There are very few creatures I can’t beat in combat unless I am far enough behind that a Path won’t save me anyways. Aside from creature combo and a few Eldrazi, there are about 3 Path-able creatures in commonly played decks; Baneslayer AngelInferno Titan, and Primeval Titan.


Q: Why do you play Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in a deck with two copies of Gaddock Teeg?

A: While the nonbo is real, they are both extremely powerful maindeck cards and cover opposite ends of the spectrum against the same decks. Teeg typically does his thing for a few turns before eating a Path to Exile, but after that, I can hopefully stick a Gideon and win.

Closing Notes

My deck may be effective, but with myself as the sole pilot, it is unlikely it will carve out any high level finishes any time soon. Unfortunately, my lacking major tournament results at this point gives me little ground to stand on whenever I am questioned about my card choices, and despite how much play testing and theory crafting I have done, people tend to stick with the tried and true.

I believe more lists have to be willing to innovate or will go obsolete. Cutting Aether Vial is a very valid option. We are a worse Vial deck than Humans or Spirits. Flickerwisp and Flicker tricks are too cute and slow. Sure, making extra 3/3 Golems or Clues are cool, but we have to survive first. We need to be bigger, we need to have a kill switch, we need to be faster, we need to be more disruptive. Some cards are too slow or no longer necessary. The only heavily played match-up in which these grindy cards and combos between Blade Splicer, Flickerwisp, Aether Vial, and Restoration Angel are typically relevant can sweep them all away in a single draw step.

Anyways, I will leave you with my thoughts and you may do with them what you may.

I seriously recommend playing a form of “Vialess Liege & Taxes” if you’ve played Taxes before but find the current metagame hostile for your favored build. My list is a good place to start and the modify it to your preferences and your store’s meta. If you have any questions, you can email me at thaliaguardianofthraben13@gmail.com, I’ll do my best to help you out. GLHF.