Certain Things in Life

two certain things

by Steve DDT Giannopoulos

In one’s life a few events occur that define it. However, only two things are certain:

Death and Taxes

Yes, it’s cheesy for those of you who know where I’m going with this. I didn’t want to outright call the article by its deck name. Contrary to what it sounds like, this is not a black deck. It is not a blue deck (ie: Mana Leak tax). It is 100% white (aside from lands and artifacts of course). The origins of the deck can be found here .

It was in fact created about 6-7 years ago. This was back when the Legacy format was in a constant state of evolution and players were experimenting various combinations and brewing was fun. I remember always trying to build the weirdo decks that I found all over the internet back then, before it became cool. I sound soooo old, no?

I always kept the Death and Taxes deck sleeved up though. It was my go to deck to punish greedy players with. I was not going to hide behind my Force of Wills and Brainstorms and pretend I was awesome. I was going to try and outplay and utilize all the tricks this ‘white weenie’ variant had at its disposal. I did not hate blue cards, I just wanted to do something different.

The deck has gone through quite a few revisions as is to be expected since Magic: the Gathering is an evolving game. Certain cards become outclassed due to the power creep while others retain their playability. Attacking with creatures is cool and all, but I was more interested in their abilities. In this day and age of ‘enters the battlefield’ creatures, it’s refreshing to see that the oldies are still good with their TAP abilities (requiring you to conquer the summoning sickness before you an activate.

It recently did really well (it won) at GP StrasburgHere’s the list the winner ran:

Death and Taxes

1 Cavern of Souls
1 Eiganjo Castle
1 Horizon Canopy
3 Karakas
9 Plains
4 Rishadan Port
4 Wasteland

23 Lands

2 Aven Mindcensor
1 Fiend Hunter
3 Flickerwisp
2 Mangara of Corondor
3 Mirran Crusader
4 Mother of Runes
4 Phyrexian Revoker
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

27 Creatures

4 Aether Vial
1 Batterskull
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Umezawa’s Jitte

10 Spells


2 Cataclysm
2 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Gut Shot
1 Leonin Relic-Warder
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Pithing Needle
1 Relic of Progenitus
2 Rest in Peace
1 Sunlance
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
2 Wilt-Leaf Liege




This used to be 12$

The other Death and Taxes that made the Top 8 was very similar (only minor differences in the sideboard)

Of course, after a quick glimpse you quickly see that Aether Vial is a key factor to vanquishing this ‘summoning sickness’. It allows you to essentially ‘Flash in’ creatures at the end of your opponent’s turn. That way you can dodge some sorcery speed removal  (Pyroclasm,etc). It is also not entirely wasted if you happen to draw a second copy as you can always keep one on 2 counters to flash in something like a Phyrexian Revoker in response to something they would activate after casting (ie: Pernicious Deed, Sensei’s Divining Top).







aether vial

It was banned in Extended and now is banned in Modern. Surprised?

Its main interaction is with Mangara of Corondor and Karakas. You flash Mangara in at the end of their turn, activate his ability whenever ‘needed’ then bounce him to your hand with Karakas in response to his activated ability. You basically exile a permanent per turn. Maybe even ‘chump’ block something in the process. Of course you can simply recast Mangara each time, but he can be countered when you do this.

Also, if we are short one Karakas, we can vial in a Flickerwisp in reponse to Mangara‘s activation to accomplish the same thing. This is a one time use though. It is still very effective as Flickerwisp essentially does the opposite of what Mangara does sometimes: it saves one of our permanents or ‘resets’ it.

One example of this is pretty straightforward. It is our turn 3 and we cast a Flickerwisp. We were hesitating if we wanted to use our Wasteland to set our opponent back a turn, only to realize we can now do both. We target our own Wasteland we used to cast Flickerwisp with its ability. At the end of our turn, Wasteland will re-enter the battlefield untapped and ready to be used on an opposing non-basic land before our opponent can get to untap. This is pretty nifty ! We are up a 3/1 flier and they are down 1 land and potentially color-screwed.

The above play may seem trivial if you are mostly a Standard player, but Legacy is a very ‘land-tight’ format. If our following play is landing a Thalia, the opponent will have a hard time recovering if he absolutely needs to cast non-creature spells. It gets even worse if we get to tap his mana at his upkeep with Rishadan Port. We’re basically Stone Raining the opponent at every opportunity, without actually casting a land destruction spell. Effectively we are ‘taxing’ them. Sometimes this can even be effective on decks that run creatures like Noble Hierarch for mana. This is thanks to the gem that is Phyrexian Revoker. I loved playing it in Dragon Stompy builds but even more in something like this. In this situation Revoker is better than Pithing Needle. It can’t negate abilities on lands but it can negate other mana abilities (such as those on mana dorks). It also does good work against opposing Knight of Reliquary.

If you are getting beaten down by a Umezawa’s Jitte -equipped creature, you will have a hard time recovering. Even if you Swords to Plowshares the equipped creature, your opponent probably has more creatures than you have Swords. Phyrexian Revoker to the rescue! Is there anything this guy can’t do?

Block…. never ever block with it. At one toughness it does not survive anything. Blocking is probably bad unless you are getting in the way of a pesky Goblin Lackey that’s just itching to summon its friends. You might also want to consider it if your life total is very very low or if you probably named the wrong card with its ability.

phyrexian revoker

Our favorite Phyrexian

Our manabase is pretty sweet for a mono-colored deck. We only really ever need 2 white mana at any time. This number drops to 1 if we manage to get an Aether Vial going. We can afford to 8 colorless lands plus Cavern of Souls (usually set to Humans). We also don’t have to sink a lot of money into our land base, well at least not as much as most decks. Lands are the spice of Magic.

Karakas has gotten rather expensive due to the number of things it can accomplish in Legacy (ie: return opposing Emrakul to owner’s hand). I suspect a more steady supply of Judge promos will continue to drive the price down. Also, I always found 2 is also an acceptable number as you never ever want 2 of these in a game (especially not in an otherwise good opening hand).

The nine Plains are probably one of the highest number of basics I have seen in a Legacy deck ( a good one at least). Go ahead and pimp those (your choice of FOIL, textless, textless foil, white border, Portal,etc).


These are the bread and butter of the deck. You are going to need to attack to win. No planeswalker ultimates, no 2-card combo wins, no burn spells. In order to do this, the creatures need some kind of evasion as more and more Legacy decks contain creatures these days than ever before.

Mother of Runes

This card is probably the best 1-drop creature in White. It protects your dudes, it allows them to get through or at the very least – it endlessly blocks an opposing creature. I like it a lot in every deck that runs it (flashback Maverick). I think I covered most of what needs to be said about it in the GW Maverick article.

mother of runes

“My family protects all families.”

Aven Mindcensor

It’s a bird, it’s a pla….. No, it’s definitely a bird! What a bird it is!

This card has more or less replaced Serra Avenger / Stonecloaker from previous Death and Taxes decks. It’s just a great card. While not every single deck searches in this format, the mere presence of fetchlands make it very potent. It effectively kills a land if you flash it in when your opponent activates his fetchland. He really needs to be lucky to find his land in the top 4. It gets even better versus cards like Natural Order and Stoneforge Mystic.

aven mindcensor art

No flavor text, pure ability text!

Mangara of Corondor

Here’s one legend that’s way better in Legacy than he is in Commander. With Karakas banned in Commander there are fewer ways to utilize/abuse his ability. If he remains in play for a full turn he is guaranteed to whipe something off the table. Previous iterations of the deck had more neat tricks that abused his ability such as Thousand-year Elixir. Not only did he gain hast, be he got to untap in response and remove something else as well. The number of Mangaras in the more recent versions has also decreased for the better as drawing multiples is not always that great (even if you are going to 1 for 1 things without Karakas).

In the ideal circumstances he can keep your opponent down a threat each turn, but he is probably a horrible card to draw when you are behind. Also, he used to be worth 50 cents.


To Oblivion and Beyond!

Mirran Crusader

Some would argue that he is the card that has really replaced Serra Avenger in the deck and I would be inclined to agreee due to how the current metagame is. Always blocking Tarmogoyfs and attacking pas them is great, even more so when you equip him with a Jitte. The ability on Jitte will trigger twice which is sweet. It can also mean that you kill them the following turn if he goes unanswered ( 4 damage the first time with 4 counters – remove 4 counters next turn, strike for 10 and 14 if you remove the 2 fresh counters). Scary stuff!

His protection from black is not too bad either, but is not that great at a time where most removal is white and red. He’s also another human, which is great as Cavern of Souls is usually set to Human.

mirran crusader

The Beatdown

Stoneforge Mystic

Equipment tutor with a body.                            Check!

Uncounterable equipment?                                 Check!

Uncounterable Mystic with Aether Vial?       Check please!

Probably the best 2-drop in white ever! She got banned in Standard, towards the end of the Caw Blade dominance. Later on, she got axed in Modern as well. We run 4 copies, but only 2 equipment as targets. However, we almost always want an equipment every game. She may get Spell Snared early on, so the more copies the better. Sometimes you will go get an equipment only to have it put at the bottom of your deck by an opponent’s Vendilion Clique. That’s also where the extra copies shine (or Flickerwisps)

I don’t think it will ever really go out of style and at the very least you can always shove one in any Commander deck that runs White and a few equipments.


The Aether Vial of equipments (the Steelshaper’s Gift too!)


A reduced cost Glowrider with the legendary clause. A nice little taxing card plus she’s better than the original in combat. She may or may not get benefits from Karakas but that’s not important really. She sometimes gets a hand from Eiganjo Castle. Of course Lightning Bolt will still zap her away. The main thing she does is basically act as a Stone Rain versus slower decks. She’s also another great Jitte carrier.

When she was first released I honestly did not think she would be as popular as she ended up being. I’m glad I was wrong!

thalia mtg

A ”Thorn‘ in the side of opposing decks

Fiend Hunter

Here we have an interesting addition to the deck but a very relevant one. When your opponent goes Show and Tell slamming down Emrakul, you will be glad to have this in your hand (yes, I know you reveal simultaneously, but you get the point!) Of course he’s even better when Vialed in and you can permanently remove something if you Vial In a Flickerwisp in response (a maneuver that pretty much everyone should know by now). He can also work pretty decently if you are planning on casting a Cataclysm post-board (you will sac him keep another creature and get back the creature you removed with him) This sounds bad, I know, but the situation has arisen and the creature usually ends up being Thalia (since now you and your opponent are both down to 1 mana.) Alternatively, it can be a Mangara so that you can get them down to Zero mana the following turn. It’s also useful if you need to keep a Phyrexian Revoker in play as your creature post Cataclysm because he is locking down something good.

Also, if you fell back on the Jitte wars, he can help you take down the Jitte carrier provided there are 2 or less counters on it.

fiend hunter

Human O-Ring at your service!

The Rest of the Team

Swords to Plowshares

Wether you have played Legacy or not, I’m sure you can figure out what this card is good for. Just hit THEM with the pointy end.

swords to plow newswords og

swords ice ageSwordtoPlowshares_JDG

                                               Comes in 4 different flavors!


This rather large equipment is usually our second choice to fetch with Stoneforge Mystic. It’s great because it can always provide you with a creature and with 5 mana up (which is a lot in this deck), you can always bounce it to your hand then put it on the battlefield with the Mystic. Alternatively, you can Vial In a Flickerwisp for a huge surprise blocker! (the germ token, not the Flickerwisp).

It can also help out a lot if your opponent is playing creatures that have protection from white or burn, since the now 4/4 token is tougher to burn and they won’t cut through with their sword of War and Peace. If you’re low on life you might also want to tutor it up over a Jitte as it can have a quicker impact on the field. Your opponent may just aim a timely Lightning Bolt at the creature you are trying to equip with Umezawa’s Jitte.

Speaking of which….

Umezawa’s Jitte

It scrubs, it cleans, it makes dinner… Well, maybe not but it does a hell of a lot. For those of you not familiar with the card:

umezawa's jitte

All that for 2 mana, a creature and some combat damage!

If it looks too good, it’s because it is. Often times you may just end up casting to destroy your opponent’s Umezawa’s Jitte (due to the Legend rule). You can keep swinging with your guys while keeping your opponent’s off the table (-1/-1 counters) or just buffing your guy to kill theirs (+2/+2 until end of turn). It does dominate creature battles almost all the time.

In desperate times or when you are within burn range, don’t hesitate to simply remove counters to gain life.


Usually you want to tweak your sideboard to the expected metagame. This will require a careful examination of what decks are popular in your area. The ‘default configuration’ here is fine as it contains various graveyard, discard and planeswalker hate. It also features a couple of cards against quicker decks (Gut shot and Sunlance).

You can also try to play cards like Ghost Quarters if you do not possess Wastelands, but be sure to also play Leonin Arbiters in order to maximize their efficiency (people do play basics in Legacy after all).

2 thoughts on “Certain Things in Life

  1. Apparently I accidentally mentioned that Aether Vial was banned in Modern. That’s inaccurate. I was apparently really distracted. I know a local player that runs a Modern build actually. Hopefully he can provide me with an article/list.


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