Thalia, Guardian of Modern (Intro to Death and Taxes)

I’m Dylan Lu and this is my first article with Card Knock Life. I’m probably better known as the pseudonym Tomi Yo (Tamiyo) and am one of the admins of the Modern Death and Taxes/Hatebears group. For my first article, I decided it would be appropriate to cover the staple version of Death and Taxes, Mono White.

   

Death and Taxes is a disruptive Aggro deck that effectively tries to out-value its opponents while making them play “fair”, giving it generally good match-ups versus aggro and combo decks.

It’s decks like Death and Taxes that punish “good stuff” decks, turbo xerox decks, combo decks, and decks that try to cheat on resources, earning it a valuable spot in the rock/paper/scissors format that Modern is.

Mono White, like every other color scheme of taxes, is very customizable, so that means any slot aside from Flickerwisp, Leonin Arbiter, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Aether Vial is really just a flex slot. Even the mana base is customizable, though I do not recommend going below 12-13 white sources. The most common creatures that fill these flex spots are Thraben Inspector, Blade Splicer, Restoration Angel, and Eldrazi Displacer, though I have seen everything from Mangara of Corondor to Eidolon of Rhetoric.

Regardless of what you use to fill your flex spots, Mono White builds fall into one of three categories, Traditional, Eldrazi, and Copter.

Today, I will present examples of these decks, go over their strengths and weaknesses, highlight the particularly interesting cards, and skim across cards that could go into these different lists.


Traditional Death and Taxes

Creatures (29)
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Leonin Arbiter
Flickerwisp
Blade Splicer
Eldrazi Displacer
Restoration Angel
Thraben Inspector
Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Selfless Spirit

Spells (4)
Path to Exile

Artifacts (4)
Aether Vial
Lands (23)
Ghost Quarter
Field of Ruin
Eiganjo Castle
Cavern of Souls
Horizon Canopy
12 Plains


There’s no better way to start than with the basics. “Traditional” is the term I use for this version of the deck but it basically just refers to anything that isn’t a heavy Eldrazi build or a doesn’t play a Smuggler’s Copter engine.

Cavern of Souls is not a very typical card, but it is included to help hedge against the surge of Jeskai Control re-entering the meta. Eldrazi Displacer is this list’s best creature versus mid-range decks since it is able to blank removal spells and stonewall attackers. Always remember to keep mana untapped to activate its ability.

Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Selfless Spirit are somewhat controversial inclusions. In fact, a lot of people argue on whether to play Selfless Spirit at all, calling it a lazy card, but I believe it has a vital role in improving control match-ups. THC (Thalia, Heretic Cathar), on the other hand, is more useful in aggro match-ups, but the community often says it is too slow, since by turn three, many aggro decks will have you in a precarious position already. I personally favor it because, in addition to improving the aggro match-up, it is also a big thorn in the sides of mid-range and control decks. Most of their lands need to come into play untapped to play at maximum efficiency.

Ethersworn Canonist is a card that could be nice in this list, since it will make Humans play just as slow as us.

Phyrexian Revoker is also an old tool that might see more play in the coming months if control upticks as I suspect it will.

Match-Ups

Jeskai Control (50/50)

They have a lot of removal and you have a lot of difficult threats for them to deal with. This match-up can go either way. Beware of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and sweeper effects. Selfless Spirit is a big help against wrath effects.

Humans (30/70)

Almost all aggro match-ups will be rough for this you and this one is one of the toughest. Restoration Angel is helpful to block Mantis Riders and provide value but they are capable of going so much bigger than you.

Hollow One (40/60)

This is somewhat similar to Humans except for the fact that Burning Inquiry can determine the entire game. Sometimes they get screwed by it, sometimes they get triple Hollow One. Beyond that, Inquiry has the potential to turn a playable hand of yours into a terrible one. Assuming you get a reasonable start, a Blade Splicer token can start gumming up the ground while Restoration Angel keeps the skies clear of Flamewake Phoenixes.

Affinity (55/45)

This is a close match-up. You’re the control deck in this one. Keep up fliers to block attackers equipped with Cranial Plating and remember that Ghost Quarter is almost like a Path to Exile for an animated Inkmoth Nexus. Blade Splicer tokens block Etched Champion. Post board, watch out for Ghirapur Aethergrid and Whipflare.

Valakut (55/45)

In this match-up, Leonin Arbiter is your main man. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben will also be helpful in slowing your opponent down.  Unfortunately, in a 27-land deck it’s likely that they will draw their Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle at some point and start gunning down your board so you will need to apply a lot of pressure. Aven Mindcensor is a trap in this match-up, it’s unlikely that it will prevent your opponent from finding any lands with their fetches since they pack so many hits.


Mono White Eldrazi & Taxes

Creatures (29)
Thought-Knot Seer
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Leonin Arbiter
Flickerwisp
Blade Splicer
Restoration Angel
Eldrazi Displacer
Thraben Inspector
Matter Reshaper
Spirit of the Labyrinth

Spells (4)
Path to Exile

Artifacts (4)
Aether Vial
Lands (23)
Eldrazi Temple
Shefet Dunes
Cavern of Souls
Horizon Canopy
Ghost Quarter
Field of Ruin
Wastes
Plains


During Eldrazi Winter, a lot of decks had to splash Eldrazi to keep pace. Death and Taxes was not exempt from this. Eldrazi decks are any variant that plays a number of Eldrazi Temple. They are generally strong against everything, but their biggest weakness is the manabase. There’s isn’t a great solution to this as you need colorless sources for all your Eldrazi and white sources for everything else. Spirit of the Labyrinth and Matter Reshaper are fairly uncommon in this list. Matter Reshaper is loosely comparable to Kitchen Finks and demands similar answers since it can provide extra value if it is not exiled.  Spirit of the Labyrinth is more cute than anything. It is there for those situations for when you have a Thought-Knot Seer, an Eldrazi Displacer, and a bunch of extra mana to strip apart your opponent’s hand. It can also be put into play with Aether Vial in response to draw spells. A card this list might want to provide some extra aggression is Reality Smasher, but it isn’t a completely necessary part of the taxes plan.


Mono White Copter and Taxes

Creatures (24)
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Leonin Arbiter
Flickerwisp
Blade Splicer
Eldrazi Displacer
Restoration Angel
Thraben Inspector

Instants (4)
Path to Exile

Artifacts  (7)
Aether Vial
Smuggler's Copter
Lands (23)
Ghost Quarter
Field of Ruin
Eiganjo Castle
Mutavault
Cavern of Souls
Horizon Canopy
11 Plains


This variant is the newest and arguably the best because of the valuable card selection that Smuggler’s Copter provides. This plan is the most competitive against mid-range and control decks, does reasonably well vs aggro, but is lack-luster vs. combo. The combination of Mutavault and Smuggler’s Copter is great against sweepers and sorcery speed removal. The swift aerial clock of Copter rivals Flickerwisp and Serra Avenger, which also provides an additional bonus. The downside is that you have to give up an an untapped creature each turn in order to access this, but with creatures such as Thraben Inspector and Blade Splicer, it’s likely that you won’t be using them to attack anyways. You could reasonably use more utility creatures in this deck since you can churn through your deck quicker to find what is needed (although I wouldn’t plan on using Spirit of the Labyrinth).

Why Field of Ruin?

In each of the three decks above I’ve included at least one Field of Ruin. Traditionally, Tectonic Edge is used in this type of slot. I like Field of Ruin more because it can be activated sooner (no requirement for four lands) and we can occasionally ambush our opponent with two extra mana up, killing their land and finding ourselves another Plains. Keep in mind that this is more personal preference than objective fact, as there are many scenarios in which Tectonic Edge is better since it is easier to activate. If you like Edge, just swap Field out for it.

Flickerwisp is a House

I’m sure that those reading this are aware of the fact that Flickerwisp is one of the most important creatures in the deck. This is quite true. In a deck that plays Vial, this card is amazing.

Here is a short list of what you can do with it:

  • Protect your creatures from removal spells by putting it into play at instant speed with Aether Vial to blink a creature being targetted
  • Resets counters on things such as Chalice of the Void, Engineered Explosives, and Liliana, the Last Hope
  • Removes a Blood Moon for a turn to utilized colored mana sources
  • On your end step, you can Vial in Flickerwisp and target a permanent which will effectively remove it for an entire turn (until your opponent’s next end step)
  • Temporarily remove attackers or blockers 
  • Provide extra uses of ETB or LTB triggers
  • Kill tokens
  • Save a creature in response to a board wipe
  • Add flying pressure at end of turn (also can remove a blocker in the process)
  • Hard casting it and targeting a land can make it effectively cost two mana

Aside from that, it’s a 3/1 flier. That on its own is a pretty strong, attacking body.

That is all for today, hopefully I’ll be back for more articles on DnT. I hoped you enjoyed the article and perhaps you learned something new. Feel free to provide constructive criticism or ask questions. GLHF!

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