Displacer Taxes At #GPCOL

Adrian Sullivan has been an advocate of Death and Taxes in Legacy for some time, but his great finish last weekend shows that his tweaks may be all the archetype needs to take down the #SCGORL Classic on Sunday!

I went through a whole song and dance before the Legacy showdown at #GPCOL. I’d decided I was going to beat Miracles. And I had just the deck to do it.

I put in the work, I sent in a massive order to StarCityGames.com, and I got everything I needed to cast Goblin Welder and Grindstone. I was ready.

Here’s what I was going to play:

You won’t see a sideboard, because I hadn’t built it yet. My sideboarding philosophy is that you really need to decide what you’re going to beat. In Standard, you can do this much more easily than you can in Modern, let alone in Legacy. I had about 40 cards I was considering for the sideboard, and I was going to winnow it down to something, but the specifics I hadn’t worked out yet.

I was still, in fact, sweating out the last couple of details of my maindeck. I knew that it was fundamentally sound. I knew that it was good against the Miracles decks I’d been playing against (primarily Joe Lossett’s most recent versions).

And, in a huge way, I was excited to be running maindeck Pyroblast and Red Elemental Blast in Legacy.

I was going to be the Brainstorm deck to beat all Brainstorm decks.

And so, of course, I played basic Plains

So what happened?

Last week, I told everyone what they should play. While I was convincing my friend Jen that she should play in Columbus, one of the things that happened was that I was forced to re-evaluate what I was doing as soon as the newest SCG Tour® list came out:

Basically, immediately, I was a little dumbstruck. This was the kind of Death and Taxes list that I could get behind. It didn’t run my least favorite popular D&T card, Serra Avenger. In its place it ran the devastating Eldrazi Displacer, a card that could singlehandedly cause all manner of grief for a wide variety of opponents.

There were things I didn’t like about Adrian Throop’s list. But Eldrazi Displacer was so exciting, suddenly I was re-evaluating why on earth I wasn’t playing Death and Taxes. It’s like I said last week, “whatever you know best is what you should play in Legacy”. Here I was, not taking my own advice, and after a stern talking-to from my friend Ian DeGraff, I was convinced to play the Legacy deck that I had the most experience playing.

Ian put it simply, saying, “You know the deck, and here it is with some fresh, hot tech, and all you have to do is make it into the deck you‘d like it to be. If there are cards you don’t like, change them. Don’t be a fool. Play Death and Taxes.”

That might not be a verbatim quote, but it’s close.

So if I’m going to criticize my fellow Adrian’s choice in Death and Taxes, what is it that I’m criticizing? I’ll say, straight off the bat, I’m not criticizing much.

I love Vryn Wingmare, but in talking to Michael Bonde, he told me that neither he nor Thomas Enevoldsen were considering Vryn Wingmare, so I deferred to their expertise and put my one Wingmare in the sideboard.

“Okay, what’s the deal here?” you may be saying. “I thought you liked Eldrazi Displacer.” Well, while I do like the card a very great deal, I don’t like running a full set of four. Four is a lot of copies for a 3/3 that takes three mana to get anything out of. I think the card is great, but four is just too many for my taste.

Again, I love Mishra’s Factory. However, I don’t love two Mishra’s Factory. For that matter, if I’m running Eldrazi Displacer, I really want to activate it. Even if Mishra’s Factory were a card I loved, I’d want to see Eldrazi Temple before I got into a Factory-Worker.

When you’re in white, not running the second Rest in Peace is hard for me to justify. After that, if I want anything, I’ll go with Relic of Progenitus. At that point, you’re now in the land of a card that is primarily for Elves, and even there, just give me more Ethersworn Canonist and Spirit of the Labyrinth effects.

In a world where I’m expecting a ton of Dread of Night, this might make sense. However, I’m not expecting that world. At that point, I’d much rather run Wilt-Leaf Liege.

When you’re expecting Burn to be so good that you’re running Warmth, I’d almost certainly just prefer to run Absolute Law. Burn is a great deck, but if your creatures have protection, Umezawa’s Jitte and Batterskull will get you there.

While Thomas Enevoldsen did run this card in his Top 8 deck for GP Prague, and while I mostly defer to him in Death and Taxes choices, I just haven’t felt the need to go towards a fifth or sixth Swords to Plowshares that can actively help my opponent escape the Prison-like nature of Death and Taxes.

This is actually a pretty short list of cards to take issue with. In the end, here is the deck that I registered:

Overall, the deck performed brilliantly, and I was wildly happy with the list. The maindeck especially felt very potent, and there were a number of games that played out in such a way that just felt fairly busted. It always sounds so funny to exclaim that you are doing broken things when you are playing Mother of Runes, but it’s true.

It makes me think back to a moment, years ago, doing coverage of an old SCG Open, where I was covering Owen Turtenwald running Jeskai Delver. In the commentary, I said something along the lines of “Owen is certainly going to miss the Stifle today if Death and Taxes ends up being popular; Mother of Runes is nothing to laugh at.”

This prompted a tweet from now-Mad Apple teammate Zvi Mowshowitz calling my comment “weak sauce.” In the context of the Jeskai Delver-vs.-Death and Taxes matchup, though, Mother of Runes is an utterly unfair card. In fact, in the context of all of the interactive matchups (excepting, perhaps, Miracles), Mother of Runes is rough to deal with, especially because of the ways that it interacts with the low-mana nature of the format and cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.

Over the course of the event, I beat Eldrazi, Smallpox, Elves, MUD, Burn, Shardless Sultai, Death and Taxes, and Miracles.

Then there were the four matches I didn’t win.

In Round 8, I was soundly crushed by the Storm variant ANT, where, in both games, I was killed on turn 2. One of the major weaknesses of Death and Taxes as an archetype are these kinds of matchups, where you have three options: either have the best cards to win the explosive-mana matchups despite those cards mostly being unplayable otherwise, overfill with all of the playable disruption that you can while recognizing that you are eating up a lot of sideboard space, or play a small amount of disruption and recognize that it will make the matchup difficult. I opted for the latter, and was punished for it in this matchup. Overall, I don’t regret the choice.

In Round 10, I played the mirror matchup and ended the match in a draw, based entirely on my own mistake. My opponent didn’t have out an Aether Vial and completely tapped out to cast a Flickerwisp, moving to take out my Batterskull. While he hadn’t yet played a land and could potentially have used that moment to lay one and then Swords to Plowshares my Mother of Runes, it still was a moment that I should have used Mother to stymie the Flickerwisp effect. As a result, the game fell into a long slog that should have just collapsed under the collection of cards I’d already assembled to great advantage.

In Round 12, I lost to Dan Musser running Miracles. I felt like the game was going pretty well until the third Terminus. It wasn’t over yet, but one of the things that tore it all away was definitely the Monastery Mentor in both games. Looking at my main and sideboard, I really don’t have a strong anti-Mentor plan. A lot of this has to do with playing more against decks like Joe Lossett’s Miracles list from the Top 8 of Columbus, which finish out the game with more conventional creatures overall. Perhaps what this means is that I need a better plan against the overall archetype, and I’m still trying to figure out what that would be.

Finally, in Round 15, I lost to Grixis Delver, which played four Young Pyromancer in both Games 1 and 2. I definitely think I might have made a play error or two in each of the games of this match, but regardless, I definitely felt like I was in a world of hurt.

At the end of the day, I’ve been contemplating what it would be that I might want to change in the deck, and there are a few interesting choices to consider.

Thomas Enevoldsen shifted his Death and Taxes list to run only three Mother of Runes. I could absolutely see this being a great way to make room in the deck. At the same time, Mother of Runes has been a truly great card for me, and I struggle to imagine making that choice. Still, it is on the table.

While I’m being a broken record, I don’t mind saying that I love this card. However, I could imagine only running two copies of the card. I’m currently leaning toward three, but even if I ran two, I’d probably still run Eldrazi Temple, as I was so incredibly impressed by the card.

Only running two Karakas feels like it would be a mistake, especially given that I’m running Mangara of Corondor. However, in the context of the current metagame, it really feels like there are very few decks that are running Griselbrand and friends. This could be a very dangerous mistake, though.

While I appreciated this card, I basically felt like I would have been better off with something that just had a more powerful effect for my sideboard. Perhaps this is the first part of where I need to fit in Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, both as a solid sideboard card versus Miraclesand just as a card that can be a real problem for anything not running Swords to Plowshares.

After it is all said and done, unless something bonkers happens, the next time I play Legacy, the only thing that will keep me from playing Death and Taxes is the desire to practice a different deck. Then again, Legacy is what it is; perhaps something bonkers will happen in some upcoming set.

Until then, though, you can find me ruining everyone’s fun with Death and Taxes. Eldrazi Displacer is such a natural fit in the deck that I’m even more excited to be ruining people’s fun in Legacy than I have been in a long time. If you haven’t tried it, get your aliens and throw them into Death and Taxes and see how it feels. If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ll find it feels great.