Only two things are for certain… AEther Vial is insane and GW creatures can bring some sick beats!
Both versions have their strengths and weaknesses. The BW version has more disruptive elements while the GW version has better red zone creatures. A lot of people may be familiar with these decks as “Hate Bears,” but I prefer to call them Death and Taxes as an homage to the Legacy deck.
GW Death and Taxes
My list is based on the deck that Craig Wescoe used to Top 8 Grand Prix Pittsburgh. A lot has changed since then (primarily the banning of Twin and Bloom).
The key to the Death and Taxes strategy is that it leverages mana advantage over its opponent.
The best way to do this is to start with an AEther Vial on the first turn and essentially “curve out” for free on the opponent’s end step. Using Vial to deploy your creatures not only protects them from counterspells but also allows you to “flip the script” against many decks by allowing you to play on their end step!
Advantages of Playing GW
However, the real question regarding the archetype is whether you play a second color, and if so, which color will it be? Personally, I’ve been absolutely loving the green dynamic, and I’ll tell you why.
Having a 1-drop (particularly one as great as Hierarch) is a pretty big deal. Between the Vials and Hierarchs the deck has a lot of turn-1 action that progresses the board. The Hierarch contributes to a lot of really compelling lines of play. One of my favorites is turn-1 Hierarch, turn-2 Leonin Arbiter and Ghost Quarter my opponent’s land! Pretty strong stuff!
The package of creatures in the GW version is much more robust than any of the other builds. It gives you a lot of game against Pyroclasm-style sweepers, which is a major way that opposing decks want to fight you post-sideboard.
Forge-Tender is good at protecting your other smaller creatures from these sweepers, but it is nice to have some creatures that can live through it naturally for when you don’t have him.
There is something to be said for playing a deck that has very powerful threats that are individually capable of winning a game.
All of these cards have their advantages, but Smiter and Ooze in particular do a lot of great things. I love the way that Scavenging Ooze also allows the deck to basically police opposing graveyards. He shuts off Snapcaster, he’s great against the Melira combo, and in grindy matchups he has the ability to simply grow to humongous size. Also, the life gain is pretty relevant against some of the burn decks.
It is pretty sweet to have cards in your deck that allow you to “do” even more things. Ooze provides graveyard hate and life gain in one card.
Loxodon Smiter is secretly one of the best creatures in Modern. I can’t understate how important it is to creatures that you can add to the board and are immune to Lightning Bolt. The deck also has the cool element that discard spells can be randomly very bad against it. It is pretty swingy when an opponent fires off a Thoughtseize and is forced to take a Smiter or Wilt-Leaf Liege! The same can be said for when an opponent ticks up their Liliana of the Veil and you put one of these creatures into play for free!
The key to Magic has always been filling those last few slots in your deck list with cards that will end up making a big difference over the course of a long tournament.
I’m playing a lot of Pridemage in anticipation of both Affinity, Bogles, and other combo decks becoming popular in the new metagame. It is also pretty important that you can Vial out Pridemage to destroy Blood Moon in order to turn your utility lands back on.
I think that being able to kill artifacts and enchantments is important for a deck like this and that is one reason why I’m very excited about this new Oath of the Gatewatch printing! Basically, the card is a Nature’s Claim that has the restriction of hitting only cards that cost 3 or less and the upside is the opponent doesn’t gain 4 life.
I was playing Nature’s Claim before this card but with this new printing coupled with the fact that the most important 4-cost enchantment just got banned, I’m very excited to play with this new card!
I’m also running the full allotment of Stony Silence as a hedge against Affinity and Tron. I really want to make sure that I’ve got as much of a chance as possible of defeating Affinity because I think the deck is going to see a lot of play.
Hallow can do a lot of different things which is why I like having one in my sideboard. It can act like a counterspell by counter a Pyroclasm or Lightning Bolt against control decks and it is insanely efficient against a burn deck. Have you ever countered a Searing Blaze with this card? Holy cow.
I’ve been really digging the deck lately and I imagine that it only gets better with Twin out of the metagame. It has a lot of good matchups and I love how the “nut draw” basically just mana-screws your opponent and keeps them from ever being in the game.
If I had to pick between all of the Death and Taxes decks (and I’ve played several) this is the one that I like the best overall. Sometimes you just get the urge to play a GW deck and well this is a pretty good one at that!