Last weekend I played my favorite format: Legacy. Italy is famous for being a country with plenty of players that love the format, and while it’s a small country, we often manage to get a large tournament every couple of months in this relatively unpopular format. This time we had 186 participants.
I chose to play Death and Taxes at least a month ago. I had never played the deck before, and I usually despise it, but Recruiter of the Guard and Sanctum Prelate are the real deal and boosted the deck a ton, and that made me keen to play it.
The first thing I did to test Death and Taxes was to purchase the new art cards since I love playing with those, as well as 10 Unhinged Plains. Even though LSV, in his basic lands power ranking, doesn’t even consider them. I truly believe they are the best, but I’m the same guy that loves Eternal Masters Mother of Runes.
This was the final list that my teammate and I played. I then lost round 1 to my teammate in the 75-card mirror before losing the 7th round to Mono-Red Sneak Attack. I ended up 6-2, and really liked the list.
Death & Taxes
I'll start with the changes we made from Craig Wescoe’s Top 8 list from GP Louisville, given to him by the Death and Taxes master: Thomas Enevoldsen.
Playing Serra Avenger as a singleton doesn’t make much sense to me since you can't tutor for it with Recruiter of the Guard. Serra Avenger helps against Delver of Secrets, a card that you have trouble dealing with, and with Fatal Push I was afraid I'd see a lot more B/U/G Delver. Therefore, we went with 2 copies.
For the same reason, we added a second copy of Mirran Crusader. If people were moving away from Lightning Bolt in favor of Fatal Push, this would be the best way to punish them. It excelled throughout the tournament, so much so that I would consider playing a third copy in the board.
Spirit of the Labyrinth is a weak card. I can understand having it against Ancestral Vision in a toolbox with Recruiter of the Guard, but its 1 toughness is so bad against all of the anti-D&T sideboard cards: Dread of Night, Sulfur Elemental, Marsh Casualties, Golgari Charm. Each easily deal with the Spirit without adding much disruption in the meantime, unlike, say, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.
We also cut the too-cute Palace Jailer. Monarchy is a weird concept. As you resolve Palace Jailer, you become the monarch and exile a creature, but if your opponent has a True-Name Nemesis or a Baleful Strix, they will likely become the monarch next turn and get the creature back forever. This makes for plenty of scenarios where you can’t cast Palace Jailer because your opponent is ready to steal your crown. It’s a great card when you're winning, but once you’re behind it will put you even further down.
The sideboard was basically a copy of Thomas’s, with the addition of a Cataclysm that once was excellent versus Miracles, but the only game I lost to Miracles was the one in which I resolved Cataclysm, despite killing 3 Monks, Jace, and some lands. I still died to Monastery Mentor + Sensei’s Divining Top.
If I could go back, I would change 1 Cataclysm to 1 Palace Jailer, so my sideboard guide was written with that in mind. Also, get ready for the comments saying “you add a Palace Jailer in the Miracles matchup even though you don’t have it in your list.” It’s all about TL;DR these days.
Sultai Delver is a good matchup—you have to destroy their important threats, such as Delver of Secrets and Deathrite Shaman, and then grind them out. Stoneforge Mystic is the best way to do that, and Mirran Crusader is the easiest way to win.
Be aware of big sideboard hate cards like Dread of Night, so bring in your Council’s Judgments and don’t waste them. If you see they brought in a lot of cards, plan for the games to feel similar to Shardless Sultai. I would also consider bringing in Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
The matchup against Miracles is always fun, and the one I enjoy playing the most. Card advantage is key, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is often the best card. I dislike Mother of Runes. You don’t want to overextend into Terminus and Mother of Runes can’t really attack, so you can only deploy one real threat at a time, giving them time to get back in the game. You have to respect Monastery Mentor, so 2 Swords and 1 Palace Jailer offer enough ways to deal with it. Remember that if you are the monarch and your opponent kills your Palace Jailer, they won’t get their creature back until they become the monarch.
Shardless Sultai is a tough matchup because they have a lot of sideboard cards that deal with your creatures easily, from Dread of Night to 2 copies of Toxic Deluge. They also have Abrupt Decay to deal with your equipment and Leovold, Emissary of Trest to protect their mana base. The best way to beat them is with a turn-4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and removal to keep them from attacking it. Be aware of Dismember and don’t make him a 5/5 if they can play it. Also remember that his emblem can “counter” a Dread of Night.
Death and Taxes is a popular deck right now, and there’s a lot of hate for it out there. But, Legacy is such a wide open format that you can’t focus your sideboard on just one archetype, since you have to respect the plethora of other archetypes—so don't be afraid to give this deck a try!