The mana denial plan of the Death and Taxes archetype has been an effective way to win games in Modern as well as Legacy. The problem that these decks often face is that bigger, cheaper creatures can be a real problem, as can simply closing out the game.

Leonin Arbiter does a great job of aiding the mana denial plan. In conjunction with Ghost Quarter, you’re often getting a full Strip Mine. You can also completely hose opponents who just don’t have the mana to crack their fetches, as well as turning Path to Exile into the best removal spell in the history of the world. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben continues down this path of punishing people short on mana and really making combo decks hurt.

Aether Vial is a powerful weapon to both get a mana advantage or to get key creatures into play at instant speed. While getting Thalia down ASAP is often correct, putting a Leonin Arbiter into play after an opponent chooses not to respond to your Vial activation can really throw a wrench into their plans.

Playing a Flickerwisp at instant speed can completely change the dynamic of the game. You’re already getting an efficient and evasive creature, but you can also save your creature from removal, turn off an opponent’s critical land, or reset permanents to get more enters-the-battlefield triggers.


Instant-speed Reflector Mage is a serious tempo swing, but Reflector Mage at any speed is acceptable. Throw in some blink effects from Flickerwisp, or the even more powerful Restoration Angel, and you’re looking at a quick clock with no blockers.


You want more combinations with blink effects? Can’t get much better than Kitchen Finks. Gain 2 life, let it die, persist it for 2 more life, blink it for more life and reset the persist, and carry on with your day.


The addition of Spirits can really throw an opponent off their typical game plan while providing an aerial force that can close the game out quickly. Mausoleum Wanderer can counter key spells, or at the very least tax them. Having to wait a turn for your Anger of the Gods is rough when you’re facing a quick clock, and that’s without a Leonin Arbiter or Thalia.


Finally ready to resolve your Anger of the Gods on turn 5 or 6? Not so fast. You have Standard all-star Spell Queller here to contend with now. Vial on 3 to get down Flickerwisp, Reflector Mage, Finks, and now Spell Queller is a really tough position for anyone to come back from.





Death and Taxes is a solid strategy that many Modern players love. Adding the blue and these awesome Spirits may be just the push the deck needs to dominate your next Modern tournament!

Spirits and Taxes

Ho Joe Han, Top 64 at Grand Prix Indianapolis