Sometimes, when a new set comes out, we underrate the good cards or even miss them entirely. Maybe it’s because the interactions are too obscure, the card’s strengths are too subtle.

Tasigur isn’t one of those cards. We just had a season of busted delve spells dominating Modern and Legacy, and as soon it was spoiled people were asking me if I thought it had a place in Eternal formats.

Tasigur hits the sweet spot on new cards in that it’s efficiently costed enough to be relevant but not overpowered in the context of the formats it’s being played in. That is, having an undercosted draw spell is much more dangerous than having an undercosted body. We’ve already got that in the form of Tarmogoyf, and we’ve been building around that card for years.

Treasure Cruise gave us something new, and it had people maindecking narrow answers like Red Elemental Blast. Meanwhile, Tasigur has to deal with one-mana white removal, opposing Tarmogoyfs, and True-Name Nemesis. The room it has to dominate is much smaller because it’s a creature–it’s more vulnerable and trying to move into already-occupied space.

How good is the ability?

After a few weeks of testing, I’ve figured out that Tasigur works very differently when I activate it and when my opponent does. When I do, no matter how much effort I put into sculpting my graveyard, I will mill a useless spell with 100% accuracy.

When my opponent activates Tasigur, even with an empty graveyard, they’re guaranteed something at least as good as a Tarmogoyf and will probably hit something even better (like a Liliana). Do you know how hard is to beat a recurring Liliana? She’s barely beatable the first time around!

But seriously, decks that run Gitaxian Probes and Thought Scours to help delve are going to get less mileage out of the ability. Not only are they going to have fewer hits in the deck, with more air to accidentally recur, they’re also less likely to have four mana sitting around. That isn’t to say it isn’t going to be useful, just less useful. On the other hand, these tempo-based decks are really playing it as another Tarmogoyf, another fast body, and they care less about the ability from the get-go.

Slower, more rock-type decks are going to have more powerful cards and thus more hits. They’re also better at slowing down the game, and are more likely to have four mana lying around with the game at parity. If the tempo deck wants to activate Tasigur, they’re probably already behind.

In tempo, Tasigur is a cheaper Tombstalker without flying. In Jund, it’s a slower Dark Confidant that doesn’t die to Lightning Bolt.

Shardless, by Rudy Briksza

In a deck stuffed with the best cards in the format, there’s only so much room to innovate. Some tweaks to the deck are cyclical, like Baleful Strix being good against metagames full of Nimble Mongooses and Tarmogoyfs but terrible against True-Name Nemesis and Tendrils of Agony.

When a new card makes the cut for power concerns, it has to be very good indeed. After all, it’s competing with some of the best disruption and threats of all time. This is the deck that can’t find room for all of its Force of Wills, Hymn to Tourachs, and True-Name Nemeses.

That said, Tasigur is a natural fit in a deck that naturally fills up the graveyard and would love an extra Tarmogoyf or two. Between talking with various Shardless players and scouring the lists that have been doing well, 1-2 copies seems to be the agreed upon number, though I’ve seen 3 and some people are still leaving it out entirely.

Rudy’s pair of Dig Through Times is a bit more interesting in that it hasn’t been as talked about, though it does help replace Treasure Cruises that people were running. I’m not saying it’s incorrect, but it is surprising to see the second copy over the second copy of Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

The more I think about it, the more I remember playing 1-2 Dig in various decks as Treasure Cruise #5-6, and as time goes on it should see more and more play once people realize it can take on a similar role. That is, if I was looking to play UR Delver I would definitely include 3-4 Dig in my list, leaning toward 4.

BUG Delver, by Peter Tragos

Earlier, I called Tasigur a cheaper Tombstalker without flying, and I did mean cheaper. 5B is so much less than 6BB! It’s also much less color-intensive, making a different style of BUG possible. Here, Tragos built his BUG deck like a RUG deck, light on commitments. This deck is more consistent than the Team America decks of old, and less vulnerable to opposing Wastelands. Like RUG, we only need a meager 14 colored sources, maintaining a high spell density for Delver of Secrets.

Naturally, this means the rest of the maindeck is less black-heavy as well, omitting Hymn to Tourach and Liliana. Even if it might be able to support double-black off of Deathrite Shaman, you have to be able to cast your cards when facing Lightning Bolt and Wasteland. There’s some Liliana action in the sideboard, but I imagine it’s for matchups where Deathrite is more likely to live, your Underground Seas are more likely to stick around, and your mana has more time to fix itself in general.

As someone with little experience piloting Team America, but a lot of experience playing RUG, I like the look of this and would feel comfortable running it cold.

Nic Fit

A few weeks ago, I recorded a video set with this deck, which you can find here.

At the time, I hadn’t had much experience with Tasigur, but I speculated that Nic Fit might be the perfect home. After all, it doesn’t care much about its graveyard (which it fills with discard and removal), it has plenty of extra mana laying around for extra activations, it actually prefers a larger casting cost on its beaters (at least enough to survive Pernicious Deed), and between Scavenging Ooze and Deathrite Shaman it has some control over its own graveyard. Tasigur and a Sensei’s Divining Top creates quite the filter/draw engine.

To make room, I cut the Skeletal Scrying (which occupies the same space) and the Courser of Kruphix, which I didn’t mind drawing naturally but never found myself Green Sun’s Zenithing for. Since Tasigur costs about the same as Courser and also does good things with Top, I figured there might be some overlap there.

So far, the Golden Fang has been fine, but not amazing. The ability doesn’t affect the board, and not being able to pick the card sucks. When you need something specific as opposed to raw card advantage, which is often the case in Legacy, Eternal Witness is a much stronger card. It’s one thing to say “well we have Scavenging Ooze to control it a bit,” but if you have an active Scavenging Ooze, a 4/5, and several turns on hand then you probably don’t need much help winning the game.

And that’s the real trick. Synergy is nice, but cards need to be useful in and of themselves, and at its base Tasigur is just a body too much of the time in a deck that needs more from its cards than “just a body.”

On a strictly power-level basis, it’s weaker than Skeletal Scrying, and I’m guessing I’ll switch back sometime in the next week or so (giving Tasigur his fair shake first). I’ve been about as happy with Tasigur as I was with Courser (they’re both fine), but I would like at least one more Green Sun’s Zenith target in the 3-4 range to increase options early on and so that I don’t run out of threats in the control mirrors.

In the past, the card that’s served that role best is Thrun, but Thrun is way worse than Thragtusk against Miracles thanks to Terminus, and it’s particularly bad in a metagame full of True-Name Nemesis. For now, I’m happy with the miser’s Tasigur.

I guess it all goes back to my initial analysis of Tasigur. In Legacy, it’s a fine card. Not blow-your-socks-off degenerate, but fine.

Modern is a different story. For starters, True-Name Nemesis doesn’t exist, and a 4/5 body goes a little further.

Resilience to Abrupt Decay and Lightning Bolt matters even more than it does in Legacy. I’m not sure if it’s enough to play Tasigur Junk over the more classic Dark Confidant lists or even the Birds of Paradise-powered Doran list I wrote about here.

In the end, the decision is so close that I think if you’re playing a deck with:

4 Tarmogoyf
2-3 Scavenging Ooze
3-4 Liliana
2-3 Lingering Souls
Some number of spot discard
4 Abrupt Decay
1-3 other spot removal
4 Siege Rhino

Then the rest of your list doesn’t matter much, and familiarity with your card choices matters more than the actual choices themselves. If I were qualified for this Pro Tour, I would play a list within a card or two of the list I wrote about, but while it has its strengths it isn’t demonstrably better or worse than the other options.

In my mini-guide on UWR Twin, people were suggesting Grixis Twin. I like Tasigur in Twin a good deal better than Tarmogoyf mostly because it has a somewhat useful ability (Twin can often grind people out like a normal Magic deck), and the addition of black solves a lot of problems for Twin that green doesn’t, with discard to clear the way and Dismember/Terminate to answer cards like Spellskite and Tarmogoyf, which can prove troublesome for typical UR Twin.

As far as BUG goes, Tasigur’s strengths and weaknesses will mirror how it’s built, just like in Legacy. Tempo-oriented Delver builds will get him into play faster but activate him less often while getting back less powerful cards, while grindier lists will get a slightly more powerful activated ability.

Where do you see Tasigur going from here? Is there a hot list I forgot to mention?

Caleb Durward