Category: MTG Articles


Let’s Not Do It Again: An Examination of Time Walk Effects in EDH

Guest post by Eamonn Naidoo

I like playing blue. I like the sense of control it gives when I play – the ability to counter almost any threat to my game plan, while drawing enough cards to make sure I have threats of my own is invaluable, especially in a format like EDH. I also however, know what it’s like to sit across from a blue commander with a non-blue deck and feel pretty dismal, because you just know everything is backed up with permission, and annoying effects like Capsize (does that thing even have a non-buyback cost?). But, those effects are understandable – blue has those effects in its color pie identity (pie-denty?) and those effects are both useful and powerful in EDH. They are not very fun for your opponents, perhaps, but they are necessary. There are aspects of blue that I truly despise though. Two facets specifically – creature stealing and extra turn effects. Nothing incenses me more than those. Today, I’m dealing with the extra turn effects: hopefully I can convince any time walkers out there to lay down their love of temporal manipulation, and to recapture, not Jingue, but the fun of this format.


So, why do I hate extra turn effects so much anyway? Well, let’s imagine what happens when some player lays down, let’s say, a Time Warp in a four player game. What happens? Well, for a start, the game slows right down and the normal turn cycle is interrupted. Straight away, there’s a problem. Turns are important in EDH – lots of stuff can happen very quickly. But, in the early turns of the game, people are generally setting up their resources, carving out some sort of game plan for themselves. An extra turn for a player is then pretty good. However, you are then denying the next person, and indeed, the whole table of an entire turns worth of resources. Maybe, you say, that’s just a good use of resources, like playing a Sol Ring on turn 1. Playing a Sol Ring on turn 1 doesn’t require the entire table to watch you for double the normal time however. Which leads me on to my second point: it shifts attention to the player taking the extra turn.

Why is that a bad thing, though? Well, much like the annoying girl on your Facebook feed (“If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best” followed by “Just did body shots off the bartender #ABSolutelytrashed #thisishowwedo”) you don’t particularly want to give the extra turn player your attention, but there they are, militantly posting photos of them and “the gurlzz” hitting up clubs and plastering them all over your news feed. You don’t even have the luxury of “deleting” them in this scenario. And that attention-hungry behavior is, I believe, a real problem in EDH. This format is, by design, a multiplayer format. That means there are all sorts goofy things you can do here, that you can’t do in other formats. Moreover, the fun comes from interaction with other players (90% of the time. The other 10% is you getting to play that sweet new card you just traded for). Extra turn effects take that interaction away. The player taking an extra turn effectively shouts “look at me!” and (without completing their rendition of Lady Bump) forces the whole table to watch as they pretty much just cast a really expensive Explore. What kind of player would do that? I think I’ve narrowed it down to 3 types of player:

1. The Newbie

Everyone wants to break the rules when they can. Fastbond, and other similar effects (time walks included) have this innate appeal to them – a sense that you alone are so powerful that you can break these fundamental rules of the game. So, of course, given a format where most of that wackiness is legal, the new player will play those effects. They are drawn to the power of these effects and are oblivious to any boredom they may cause. Just give them time (see what I did there? That was hard to come up with. This article is really exercising my temporal lobe. Okay, I’ll stop). Hopefully they will repent once they learn the error of their ways.

2. The Die-Hard

The second type of player is the most common (at least in my playgroup). Specifically I have this friend who has this annoying Azami deck complete with every Time Walk effect, save for the $100 + cards. He isn’t a n00b. He knows what’s going on. He is, by all measure, a very good player. Yet, he plays loads of extra turn effects. What’s up with that? Well, when you ask him about it, he restates his opinion that extra turn effects “aren’t that bad, nor are they oppressive or boring”. No matter how much I try to convince him otherwise, he won’t relent. He’s gotten a taste and now firmly (but incorrectly) believes that extra turns are the only way for mono blue to get ahead. This, coming from the deck with a potential 2nd turn Jace, the Mind Sculptor or a turn 3 Patron Wizard, soft-locking everyone out of the game until someone finds a Supreme Verdict. Yeah, mono blue’s got it real hard.

3. The Self-Confirmed “Dick”

Buckle up Lana, ‘cause we’re in the danger zone. I’m sure we’ve all encountered this player before: the player who always brags about how OP his deck is, or how “brutal” his 17-piece combo finisher is. Sometimes, this player might actually have an actually annoying combo (like Knowledge Pool + Teferi, or Mindslaver + Academy Ruins) and when asked why they run it, instead of a more friendly, disrupt-able combo, their answer is always the same: “Because I’m a dick”. They revel in it. They savor every syllable, making sure you know exactly what you’re dealing with, and that no amount of reason or logic can convince them to do anything they don’t want to. Now, this player loves taking extra turns because they know it’s annoying; they know that the entire table hates them, and that when they assemble the infinite turn combo lurking in their deck, the table will most likely concede out of sheer boredom. And they love it.

And that’s another thing: chaining extra turns just exacerbates the problems mentioned previously. The game slows to almost a complete stop, there is no interactivity (and therefore, no fun) and you might as well just be playing solitaire. But there is one thing they don’t do: win the game for you. It’s not a Mikhaeus + Triskelion situation where everyone dies immediately; it’s a slow, durdly, painful limp towards the finish line that is victory. The worst is when they can’t even find a kill condition in the ±4 extra turns that they’ve taken. You made everyone watch you for 30 minutes, and now you can’t even kill us?! If I wanted to watch someone play with themselves for 30 minutes I would … yeah, you can probably figure out the rest.

I could say a lot more on this subject, but I think it would just devolve into me ranting about things I don’t like in general (!) about EDH. Or it might just end up being a poorly contextualized list of Magic related puns (when it comes to Predators, I prefer to let Trygones be Trygones)  Anyway, hopefully, some of what this article said makes logical sense, and even if it didn’t: if you see your playgroup moaning every time you cast Time Stretch, maybe you should take the extra turns out, and see how they react. You could find yourself in a much happier playgroup than before. You may even find yourself having a bit more fun seeing what hilarious situations you – and your friends – can create out of this Magical format.

– Eamonn Naidoo

Win Target Game is Looking for MTG Guest Bloggers!

Recently, my brother, solemnparty, went on the /r/edh sub-reddit to recruit writers for Commanding Opinion (EDH/Commander) articles. As he will soon be starting school again soon, he has been seeking people to write some Commanding Opinion articles for their favorite commanders and decks. However, we will take Magic the Gathering articles on any subject. We’re excited to bring on more new writers to offer fresh new perspectives!

If you’re interested, you can read the details here.

For submissions, please email them to wintargetgame@gmail.comI do check this email daily, and you should be able to expect a prompt reply from me.

Until next time,

– Elspeth for the Win

In last week’s installment of Enlightened Tutor, J.C. Wilbur discussed how to go about things in the early game with Death & Taxes in the Legacy format. In his first article, he discussed the construction of his version of Death and Taxes and his card choices for the deck. This week, he will be discussing the mid-game and late-game. J.C. is an avid EDH and Legacy player who also has a brand new blog, Devastating Dreamer on WordPress. Enjoy!

“Enlightened Tutor: Finishing Them Off with Death and Taxes”

by J.C. Wilbur

Since we talked about the early game with D&T last week, this week I figured we should move on to the next logical step: the mid-game and the end-game. We’ll cover how we should be playing, when we should be attacking (the answer is definitely not every turn) and a few critical questions we should ask ourselves when playing D&T.

D&T’s power scales with the knowledge of its pilot; knowledge of the format is especially important. Keep in touch with the results from the SCG Opens and other Legacy events. Monitor the trending decks on sites like The Source or MTGTop8. Keep tabs on what other people are discussing, testing and cutting. The first step in creating this hostile environment is understanding what makes it hostile. Delver and Combo decks typically hate Thalia. Control decks with planeswalkers similarly dislike Phyrexian Revoker. Anything with removal in it despises Mother of Runes.

Knowledge is your greatest weapon. Legacy as a format is filled with ruthless predators, each deck designed such that every ounce of advantage is exploited to the maximum that it can be; your job is to understand how they do that and where to snare them in the process. Understanding how Delver players think versus Miracles players think, for example, will help you determine how best to lead them into a trap of your design.


To clarify what I am talking about: I was at the Seattle Open a year ago, playing against UWR Delver. He had a flipped Delver equipped with Umezawa’s Jitte which had two charge counters on it; honestly, it did not look good. Jitte is a card that can very much unravel everything you are trying to do, since it easily kills small creatures.


I had an AEther Vial with three counters and my own Jitte in play, but with nothing to equip it to. I drew a Flickerwisp and felt the impulse to Vial it in, resetting his Delver—but I didn’t. I passed. Predictably, he drew and skipped straight to attacking; again I felt the impulse and again I waited. I declared no blockers; he proceeded to use the first and second counters to buff the Delver, a 7/6 in total. I then activated Vial, flickered the Delver, and went to my turn, equipping my Jitte and seizing control of the game. In this instance, I understood how my opponent was going to behave—and not unreasonably so, given I had an empty board, a single card in hand and a pretty high life total—and chose to exploit the moment of weakness he gave me.

To finish this week’s installment off, I’ll include a few questions you should be asking yourself as you play the deck. While practice is necessary to become good with D&T, I hope that by asking yourself these questions as you play you’ll be able to get better at the deck much faster than I did.


Can I attack profitably? Will playing defensively hurt my game plan?

I bundle these two together because combat analysis is critical when your creatures also carry the burden keeping your deck a relevant element in the game and, generally speaking, understanding combat is a big part of playing “fair Legacy.” Much of understanding when to attack and when not to comes from understanding who is “the beatdown.” If are unfamiliar with the concept, you really should read Mike Flores’ somewhat aged (but still very much relevant) article of the same name.

Against Combo decks, such as Storm, the answer is pretty clear: you need to start beating them down, while laying the proper Locks. You are the control deck in this scenario, but your control is something they can answer eventually, so you must also control the amount of time they have to find their cards that will break them free—this means reducing their life total to zero. This means Thalia, Revoker and Ethersworn Canonist (from your sideboard) take priority over almost everything else—especially slower cards like Stoneforge Mystic or Mother of Runes.


The concept of time control I italicized above is a bit abstract at first, but time is something the D&T pilot should be aware of constantly. Your life points, and your opponent’s, aren’t actually that, you see—they’re units of time, a resource to be used, sacrificed and only protected if you think it is going to run out too quickly.

This becomes a bit harrier when you run into decks with creatures. Tempo decks, for example, are very much interested in making sure you have as little time as possible in the game. They achieve this by ensuring that their Delver of Secrets quickly turns into an Insectile Aberration and attacks with it, using cheap counterspells like Daze or Spell Pierce to protect it or other attackers like Tarmogoyf and using cards like Wasteland and Stifle to ensure that their opponent cannot pay the mana on the cheap counters, effectively making them akin to Counterspell for less mana. The earlier the game ends for Tempo, the better; this means their cheap spells stay powerful and cheap.

The solution for us is to be the control, then. The longer the game goes, the better it is for us and the worse it gets for Tempo. This means holding back on attacking early on, playing defensively and simply trying to find an out to a flipped Delver before you are finished off.   Cards like Batterskull literally steal time for you from your opponent, while trading Serra Avenger for a Delver is considered a profitable combat move—you are never lacking for creatures while your garden variety Delver deck runs between ten and fourteen max. Thalia is also your best card against any Delver deck, as she makes their cheap spells over-priced and less effective as a result, as few spells are played in a turn. Once the initial onslaught has subsided, assume your dominate position with a Batterskull, an equipped creature with flying or named Mirran Crusader, and clean their clock.

Hairier still are the mid-range and control decks. Combat here is more about weighing the value of certain creatures. Are they willing to trade their Deathrite Shaman and Snapcaster Mage for your Thalia? Do you suspect they have removal, especially when you have an active Mother of Runes for combat profitability? Do you need to play the control or beatdown role more? The answer’s not something that can be summed up quickly; these will be the matches you’ll want the most practice against, since your roles will be changing rapidly, sometimes within the span of a single turn.


Aether Vial triggers on my upkeep; do I tick it up from two to three?

Missed Vial triggers were the bane of my early months with D&T. Put a die on top of your deck, make a note on your life total pad, whatever helps you the most. Missed triggers will lose you games.

“Ticking up” Aether Vial from one charge counter to two charge counters is something that should be done. However, ticking up to three counters is a difficult choice. D&T has a plethora of good creatures with a converted mana cost of two, most of which you really want to hit play through countermagic (especially killer cards like Thalia or Stoneforge Mystic). As a general rule of thumb, leave Vial at two counters unless:

1) You have a three-drop, like Flickerwisp or Mirran Crusader, in hand and it would be advantageous to have it in play. Note the advantageous part; there is no reason to glut up your board, especially against decks with Tundras in them, unless you have a definite reason to bring in a bigger threat.

2) You have another Vial that has, or will soon have, two counters on it.

3) It’s time to Shift.

That last statement was intentionally ambivalent. The “Shift,” as I call it, is akin to shifting from third to fourth gear in a car; you’ve reached highway speed with the deck and it is time to hit the finish line. To put it more conventionally, you are hitting your late-game when you commit the third counter. There is no predetermined turn on which you should Shift; it is different every game and is usually a gut feeling. I usually can look at a board and my hand and just know that it’s time, even if I don’t have a three-drop in my hand. In time, I’m sure you will, too.



Rishadan Port/Wasteland or a creature?

This is a question to be asking yourself early. If you have a Vial out, you always use Wasteland or Port (preferably Port) while using Vial to land your creatures. Without Vial it becomes a question of matchup. If you suspect Daze, play conservatively — wait until you have the extra mana and screw them off a color if you can.


I think I’m playing against X. How can I tell? If it is X, what can Revoker turn off? What’s my best card against them? How should I be playing?

Ask yourself these questions often. Scrutinize your plays, analyze your opponent’s. Remember, your knowledge is what makes D&T fearsome—so make sure you’re always a few steps ahead!

That’s it for this week; next week, we’ll delve into the sideboard (for real this time!) and explore some of the Silver Bullets you should be packing. Until then, keep taxing!

– J.C. Wilbur

Last week, J.C. Wilbur penned the first ever Legacy format article on Win Target Game, the first installment of Enlightened Tutor, a series about the popular Legacy deck, Death and Taxes. In his first article, he discussed the construction of his version of Death and Taxes and his card choices for the deck. He is an avid EDH and Legacy player who also has a brand new blog, Devastating Dreamer on WordPress. Enjoy!


Welcome again to Enlightened Tutor. For those just joining us, this is a series focused on Legacy’s Death and Taxes. This week we’ll examine two critical elements of playing Death and Taxes: mulligans and how to execute your game plan. Both are difficult since so much of playing the deck requires an understanding of what you and your opponent is trying to achieve and how best to nullify them while imposing your dominance. This is true of most Legacy decks, especially control archetypes; however, with D&T it becomes a more complicated since you lack cards like Sensei’s Divining Top and Brainstorm to help you find the right locks to keep your opponent out of the game.


The hardest part of playing D&T will always be mulliganing. Since we lack card draw, an important element to consider is how many cards we start off with. Seven is obviously optimal, giving you plenty of mana and creatures to endure until the late game. Often, however, you will have to mulligan when you don’t find the proper hate card, the right configuration of mana or simply have an unusable hand.

Mulligans should be done aggressively with D&T. That’s not to say you should be finicky either; you can’t afford to keep mulling in the expectation of a better hand since the further down you go, the more you’ll be relying on the top of your deck. There are some criteria I use when evaluating a hand:


Does it have an Aether Vial?

Vial is the spine of the deck. It supports all the broken interactions and allows you to cheat on your mana, effectively using it as an alternative mana source while you happily sacrifice your Wastelands and devote your mana to Rishadan Port to tap down opposing lands. Aether Vial is not necessary for a hand, but its presence greatly increases the likelihood of me keeping it, since an unanswered Vial will run away with the game.


Does it have basic Plains?

Especially if a Vial is not present, basic mana sources are crucial to deciding whether or not to mulligan. Plains ensures we can cast our threats against Wasteland or Blood Moon, develop our board and cast our spells. Generally speaking, a D&T list really shouldn’t run fewer than ten Plains to begin with.


Does it have Thalia?

This is a big one. If Vial is the deck’s spine, Thalia is its heart—her static taxation adds to every other effect in the deck, whether it’s making a Phyrexian Revoker harder to kill or making a Rishadan Port activation doubly brutal. Thalia grants us a reasonable defense against combo, slowing the game down so that the rest of our locks can come down in time to be relevant. Hands without Thalia, especially against an unknown opponent, are very skeptical in my eyes since so many decks just wither in her presence. That’s not to say a hand without Thalia should be snap-mulliganed, but you have to weigh your other options in the hand.

What else do I have?

D&T is a complicated deck and only becomes more difficult when you add an opponent into the mix, especially when the opponent is unknown. Some cards are obviously better than others; Mirran Crusader, for example, is obviously good against decks with Tarmogoyf and Abrupt Decay. He’s not so great if they happen to be running True-Name Nemesis or Lightning Bolt, however, so you need to weigh this option with the rest of your hand should he be in it. Do you have a Stoneforge Mystic to find Sword of Fire and Ice? Or a Mother of Runes to keep your quarterback from becoming toast?


Do you have a Rishadan Port or a Wasteland? Generally speaking, these cards will find a use against any Legacy deck but, especially with Port, you need to decide how you will be using it and what role you’ll be playing. If you don’t have a Vial, for example, Ports become somewhat unappealing since you’ll be casting your cards.

This will be the most difficult part of mulliganing. Death and Taxes is all about planning your game; analyzing your resources, making judgments of what your opponent is trying to do and compensating to counter it. Generally speaking, however, these are some examples of good, okay and terrible hands:


Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Aether Vial, Plains, Rishadan Port, Swords to Plowshares, Stoneforge Mystic, Mother of Runes

Congrats on winning the lottery! This is a stellar opener; you lead with Vial and, if it sticks, use your Port on the next turn, bringing in Mom, then Thalia, then Mystic. You have Swords to Plowshares, too, in case something scary comes into play on their side.


Plains, Karakas, Wasteland, Stoneforge Mystic, Phyrexian Revoker, Flickerwisp, Swords to Plowshares

This is a bit less than what we want, but not bad. Unless you know for certain that you are facing off against a fast deck like Storm, I’d say to keep this. You have removal and a good lock in Revoker, plus Wasteland and Stoneforge to tighten the screws on your opponent.


Karakas, Karakas, Flickerwisp, Wasteland, Mirran Crusader, Umezawa’s Jitte, Aether Vial

Even with a Vial I think I’d redraw this hand. No basics, no guaranteed plays off of said Vial until turn four and a complete lack of interaction with anything fast. Ship ones like this away.


Rishadan Port, Wasteland, Aether Vial, Mother of Runes, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Phyrexian Revoker

This is an example of a hand you may very well mulligan into. It has many good things: Aether Vial, Thalia and both Port and Wasteland. The lack of white sources—especially basics—makes it risky, however, as you rely on your Vial to cheat in your creatures (except Revoker) and whatever lands you may draw. Given that this is a mulligan, however, I am inclined to take the risk and play tight.


Execution in the Early Turns

Right from the very first turn, you should be thinking ahead. After you have a starting hand, you must be planning ahead: what cards play first, which you save for later, if you’ll be spending your game mostly turning off lands, if you’ll be committing to an aggressive strategy, et cetera.

Identifying your opponent from their early plays is crucial to playing this deck properly. The sooner you know what they are the sooner you’ll know what you should be deploying first, second and so on. While I cannot go into exhaustive detail of every possible matchup, I’ll cover some of the big ones you are to expect in the current meta. For a more developed resource, I highly recommend reading the opening post on the Death and Taxes thread, over at MTG Salvation.

Here are some common first turns to expect and how you should react if you are on the draw; all examples assume a hand that includes a Plains, a Port, a Vial, a Thalia and a Swords to Plowshares.


Verdant Catacombs > Underground Sea > Deathrite Shaman

Almost no doubt about it, you are playing against some kind of BUG deck. It could be BUG Delver, in which case you may have to play around Daze, or it could be a slower control deck like four-color Deathblade or Shardless BUG where you won’t. I think the proper turn one play here is to cast the Swords to Plowshares, targeting the Shaman—the utility and mana he provides ultimately nerfs our gameplan and sets them a turn ahead on mana when they untap. If they happen to counter the spell, you are open to play either Thalia or Vial next turn. Most BUG decks are an even-to-good matchup for you, so as long as you choke out their mana you should be fine (especially if you land a Crusader to beat face).


Volcanic Island > Delver of Secrets

We know we’re playing against some variety of Tempo here, a deck much like ours that is designed to suppress an opponent while attacking with creatures—though this archetypes starts swinging early, usually with Insectile Abomination, thanks to the multiple instants and sorceries in the deck. This start is fairly ambiguous; they could be RUG Delver, a classic Tempo deck that packs Stifle to counter the activation of fetchlands, which we fortunately do not run. We have plenty of other targets that Stifle can hit—both of Stoneforge‘s abilities, Vial activations and Mom’s protection ability to name a few. Fortunately, RUG is a deck we can quite handily crush—so long as we play tight and understand the opponent.

The other possible decks that could have this opener could be UWR Delver, a deck that runs Swords to Plowshares and Stoneforge over RUG’s Stifle and Tarmogoyf but is otherwise very similar, and UR Delver; basically a Burn deck with blue for Delver, Snapcaster Mage and Force of Will.

Against any of these, Plains > Vial is the first turn play. If they cast Daze, it does suck, but our priority is not to die when Delver flips next turn (and we should always assume he flips!), so we want to cast our Plowshares with the extra mana up from Port. It’s important to note that, unlike BUG Delver, UWR, UR and RUG have a much harder time fighting through Thalia’s static tax, so we want to slam her down early before they start casting their Ponders and Brainstorms to dig up more ways to sustain their tempo. If you are new to the deck, I very much suggest testing against RUG, especially if you have a friend who knows how to play the deck. It is an archetype that has been around for ages and can be very intimidating at first. Over time, you will learn how to dismantle their deck and find that it’s actually quite a good matchup!


Volcanic Island > Ponder

This is a tricky one to unpack. Could they be on a Delver deck with a slow start? Or is it UWR Miracles, a reactive control deck digging for a Counterbalance or Sensei’s Divining Top? Or could it be any number of combo decks, sculpting a killer hand?

You’ll find your answer on the next turn, probably. I think the proper opener is to play Vial and see if they respond; Miracles and Delver will try their damnedest to stop it, combo decks will shrug it off usually.

If they seem unperturbed, they are probably the latter, so it is important to drop Thalia next turn, especially if they seem to be some kind of Storm variant. If they don’t drop another land, however, Porting their Island is the safer call; the following turn you can Vial in Thalia and then the game really begins for you.

If they counter the Vial, however, you can be reasonably certain that they are on either a Delver deck or Miracles—the proof is even more evident depending on how they counter: Daze is definitely Delver, as is a Force of Will exiling a Stifle, Delver or Spell Snare; Force of Will exiling a Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Counterbalance or Counterspell is assuredly Miracles.

That’s about as much room as I can fill this week. If you want to join in a more current discussion, don’t be afraid to join us over at the Salvation; I use the handle Barbed Blightning.  Next week we’ll be going over D&T’s mid-game, late-game and sideboarding—fun stuff!

Until then, keep taxing!

– JC Wilbur

Over the course of Magic, the look of cards has changed quite a bit – from art style to functionality.


The original cards from Alpha are actually differently shaped from regular cards. The corners are very rounded, and the borders have no real separation from the colored section of the border.


The Beta cards have the same corners as other older cards, and have a black/grey border between the border and colored section.


Unlimited was the beginning of the white borders, which has a small black line between the white border and the colored part of the card.


Revised is difficult to tell apart from Unlimited, but just irons out some kinks from Unlimited.

The reason I go through all of those is because Magic started with 4 revisions of it’s design in the first 4 sets.


Arabian Nights introduces the border we see for quite a while aside from the reprint sets, with a few minor changes.

wrathofgodrevised wrathofgod5th

After Ice Age, there was also a change to the white mana symbol, though isn’t too relevant.


8th Edition introduced the modern borders that we’ve known for quite a while. At this point, though, there were still white borders.


And here’s the border we had until M15.


The main difference between the M15 and all of the borders before is is that rares have a holographic sticker in the center of the bottom border of the card, which actually looks really cool on these newer cards.

Until next time,


The Khans of Tarkir Game Day promos have been revealed. Everyone will be getting a full-art Heir of the Wilds for participating and an Utter End for placing within the Top 8. Both are very solid cards to have, especially the foil Utter End!


I do prefer the full-art artwork on Heir of the Wilds. A 2/2 for 1G with Deathtouch is very solid and its Ferocious ability giving it +1/+1 until end of turn when it attacks makes it fairly playable. Alongside War-Name Aspirant, Standard aggro decks have a couple of good cards to fill the holes that will be left with Return to Ravnica block’s rotation.


Obviously, people are always playing for the Top 8 Promo, and this time it’s Utter End. Not only is it a Standard and Modern-playable card, but you can bet it’s going to be very valuable due to the fact that it’s going to be premium removal in Commander. No one likes to “pimp out” decks like Commander players do, and a full art version of a card that should become a White/Black staple in the format should be highly sought after. It’s perhaps one of the best Top 8 Game Day promos in a long while.

I highly doubt that I will be playing Standard for this event, but if you do have a Standard deck, I highly recommend going just to get these two cards.

– Elspeth for the Win



With the reveal of the Intro Pack rares, a couple of the cards previously spoiled as mock-ups actually turned out to be slightly different cards. One of them became considerably worse, but one did become a lot better.

Unlike the change to Ankle Shanker, this is a good one. Avalanche Tusker actually got a +2/+0 buff, and some flavor text!

“Hold the high ground, then bring it to your enemy.”
– Surrak, khan of the Temur

Not a huge change, but the +2/+0 power is definitely very relevant.

Until next time,



Changes on Ankle Shanker?


The Mockup on the left is the one I used during my review of the card, while the one on the right is the official version. The big problem is there was a difference with the power and toughness.

Honestly, this changes my opinion on the card. While 3/3 is still on the small side for 2RWB, 2/2 is even worse. While it does still have first strike and deathtouch when swinging, it can’t even block a morph creature without dying.

It’s not a huge thing, but I at least wanted to bring up that there was a difference between what I reviewed and what the actually card is.

Until next time.



Enlightened Tutor – Legacy Death & Taxes

After his highly succesful Commander guest post, “The Red Zone: Why the “Worst Color in EDH” is Anything But,” J.C. Wilbur has returned for a new series called Enlightened Tutor, which will be our first-ever articles about the Legacy Format. He is an avid EDH and Legacy player who also has a brand new blog:

Today, J.C. looks at how he built his Death & Taxes Legacy Deck and explains his reasons for using certain cards over other popular options in the format. Enjoy!

“Enlightened Tutor: Assembling a Team” by JC Wilbur

Greetings and welcome to Enlightened Tutor. This is a weekly series in which I will discuss the format’s premier mono-White deck, Death and Taxes—we’ll be examining the decision process behind certain card configurations, understanding proper mulligans, sideboarding guides and probably a lot of other things related to the archetype and Legacy in general. Since the deck is incredibly difficult to play efficiently—and since many times the forums are filled with questions like “how well is X positioned in this deck right now?” or “should I play X or Y?”—it is my intent that these articles serve as a quick-start guide for the uninitiated and as a means of generating topical discussion.

We’ll start at the beginning: what is Death and Taxes? In the simplest sense, D&T—as it is commonly abbreviated—is a White-centric, creature-based  Prison deck.  Prison archetypes are not a huge part of the Legacy format currently but have dominated in the past; each feature some number of cards referred to as “locks.” Each one typically attacks a certain strategy, popular card or is just generally good at slowing—or halting—the game. Shops, a Vintage deck, is a great example of a  Prison archetype taken to its absolute limits: cards like Chalice of the Void and Sphere of Resistance completely hose the speed of the format, while Shops lays bomby threats in Wurmcoil Engine and Steel Hellkite.

Of course, things are a bit different in Legacy; the format is nowhere near Vintage’s speed and cards like Brainstorm and Ponder are not restricted. Whereas Vintage is a format of laying explosive win conditions off the mana provided from your Black Lotus and Moxen, Legacy is a bit more drawn out, allowing for “fairer” strategies—such as D&T. But before we dig deeper, let’s start with a list:

This is a very basic Death and Taxes list, complete with a sideboard tuned for a typical Star City Games Open. A common assumption is that the deck is White Weenie. In practice it isn’t at all; most games you win with the deck you won’t be attacking much, aside from a Serra Avenger + equipment.

So what are we planning on doing with this deck? Like Shops we are trying to create an environment in which our deck thrives and our opponent’s deck perishes. This is the “Taxes” portion of its namesake—either single cards or certain synergies which result in creating a board state that your opponents cannot play anything meaningful or make an impact. This is how a Prison deck functions: not necessarily by controlling an opponent in the same fashion a deck like Miracles does but rather by preventing anything from happening in the first place. The nice thing about D&T, though, is that its lockpieces get to attack, giving you a means of winning besides running out the clock.

Let’s break down the cards in the list I posted above; if you are familiar with Legacy, some of them may seem unconventional.


The Main


Aether Vial

The backbone of the deck—and of most decks that feature it. The creator of the deck, Daniel Payne (know by his handle Finn) wrote an article [] in which he asserted how broken the card is, especially with the then-popular Goblins archetype; after a skeptical response from the community, he went on to create D&T in an attempt to prove his theory. Though Legacy has come far from Aether Vial being the scariest card in the format, the idea is still the same: Death and Taxes abuses Aether Vial more than any other deck in the format.

What does Vial do for us? Well, it’s a “mana engine” for one, allowing us to generate free virtual mana via adding charge counters. We expend this mana once we activate our Vial. Vial also has the nice upside that the creatures come in at instant-speed and are uncounterable by conventional means; it’s also nice that an opponent will have no idea which creature will be coming in; only that its CMC is equal to the charge counters.

Instant-speed also gives us some abusable interactions in the deck. Keeping your Vial and two counters with a Karakas untapped allows you to save your Thalia, Guardian of Thraben from targeted removal, sweepers or to effectively nullify an attack from a Tarmogoyf or other large creature. With a Vial at three counters and a Karakas untapped, you can also use Mangara of Corondor as a repeating source of removal; since Mangara’s ability removes him upon resolution (as the only cost to activate is to tap him) you arrange the stack such that Karakas bounces him to your hand first, his ability resolves as much as it can (that is, removing the targeted permanent) and you put him back into play with the Vial. Who says D&T is a “fair” deck!



Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

A miracle card for the archetype. Until her printing the archetype was disorganized; no numbers were established, no build was “correct” and we were a complete dog to Combo decks. Thalia changed the game for us. She taxes your opponent in two ways; firstly, and most importantly, she makes Brainstorm, Dark Ritual and Daze cost one more mana. It doesn’t matter if they have an Omniscience out, if they can’t pay the tax they can’t cast a damn thing.

Secondly, she creates difficult combat for your opponent. Whether on the offensive or defensive, Thalia’s First Strike ability mean you have more control over how combat plays out. My personal favorite is equipping her with an Umezawa’s Jitte and killing Batterskull‘s 4/4 germ—without it ever touching her and gaining them the life!



Phyrexian Revoker

Another crucial element of D&T’s disruption package. Where Thalia attacks both the stack and combat, Revoker shuts off problematic permanents like planeswalkers, equipment and, unlike Pithing Needle, the mana abilities of permanents like Mox Diamond or Noble Hierarch. What is espcially nice is that Revoker’s ability is not triggered; therefore, your opponents cannot respond to it. Off a Show and Tell, for example, you can name a Griselbrand or Sneak Attack with your Revoker and there is nothing they can do to stop it. This is a card that I have written much about on forums in the past; though it is a difficult card to play sometimes, it can yield the highest results.



Wasteland/Rishadan Port

The heavy-lifters in this deck. Mana denial is the deck’s biggest advantage, and how you will be achieving most of your wins. Wasteland is the obvious choice; like Delver Tempo, we are hoping to color-screw (or even completely land-screw) our opponents with this card. Unlike most Delver Tempo decks, we can activate our Wastelands with near-impunity, as our basic-heavy land package makes us essentially impervious to opposing Wastelands. Rishadan Port is how you deal with the things Wasteland can’t—though, like most cards in this deck, it pulls double duty in giving you a means of dealing with animated lands like Inkmoth Nexus or utility lands like Maze of Ith.




The only other commonly played non-basic in D&T. The land has obvious interactions with our own legendary creatures and has the extra benefit of making large-creature Combo (Show and Tell, Reanimator, etc.) much easier since most of their fatties are legendary. I recommend four in any D&T list also featuring Mangara of Corondor.



Mangara of Corondor

Perhaps the most hotly debated card in the deck. “Old school” players see the card for what it is: a means of tying up games beyond the combat step. Newer players have been skeptical of the card, citing its slowness, lack of aggressive use and variance when trying to get the “Mangara engine” to work. I’ve found that Mangara’s late game value and sheer threat level have won me more games than other options, such as Spirit of the Labyrinth or Aven Mindcensor.


The Side

Since the entire point of Death and Taxes is to make life hell for your opponent, it’s very important to understand what it is that makes their life hell. This is a key skill to develop as a Death and Taxes pilot: an intimate understanding of Legacy’s metagame, what decks are trending and what cards they will fold to. This sideboard, in part, reflects this; there are few cards that are permanent parts of a sideboard and most of the time you’ll be adjusting it for your expected meta. If you know you’ll be playing a lot of Dredge and Tarmogoyf decks, you should play more copies of Rest in Peace; if you expect a lot of MUD and Affinity, pack a Serenity or Aura of Silence. The sideboard is truly where the deck shines and is, in my opinion, what most new players tend to skimp on.

However, I consider the following to be staples of any D&T sideboard.



Enlightened Tutor

Though a card that has no disruptive component itself, Enlightened Tutor allows you to run “silver bullets”—single copies of powerful, narrow hate cards for specific matchups or archetypes. Circle of Protection: Red is a perfect example of a silver bullet.



Rest in Peace

One of white’s most powerful cards in Legacy; against Tarmogoyf and Deathrite Shaman this card shuts down most of the relevant parts of their deck; against Dredge or Reanimator, the entirety of it. Though it is a silver bullet, we want at least two—not only in the hopes of seeing it more often, but also because the opponents we bring it in against will do anything to get rid of it.



Ethersworn Canonist

The “hatebear” that wishes it could be in the main. Canonist is an excellent piece of tech for any deck that is trying to cast multiple spells in a turn—i.e., Storm. However, I have found that Canonist is great at stymieing all kinds of decks, from slowing Burn down until you stabilize, to stretching out Miracles’ turns while beating them down. Note that she is also targetable by Enlightened Tutor.



Council’s Judgment

An improved Vindicate in mono-White. Judgment gives D&T an answer to the dreaded True-Name Nemesis found in blue Control decks and a nice catch-all for other matchups. Where cards like Manriki-Gusari and Leonin Relic-Warder were ran with some dispute in the past, Judgment now nicely fills out the sideboard.

Well, that’s enough for this installation! There’s still much to discuss, so I hope you’ll join me next week when we go over mulligans and using our locks to keep our opponents out of a game.

Until next time, keep taxing!

– J.C. Wilbur

You can find part 1 here.
You can find part 2 here.


Ghoulcaller Gisa is definitely the better of the two zombie masters.

To recap what she does:

Ghoulcaller Gisa
Legendary Creature – Human Wizard
B, tap, Sacrifice another creature: Put X 2/2 black Zombie creature tokens onto the battlefield, where X is the sacrificed creature’s power.

I’m also a fan of her flavor text; it’s actually a quote straight from the Uncharted Realms talking about her and her brother.

“Geralf, must you always whine? I agreed to nothing. I’ll raise ghouls anytime I wish.”

It’s pretty obvious that she wants to be surrounded by a horde of zombies – the flavor of throwing a monster to the zombies to call forth more zombies is pretty solid in my books. Mechanically, mono-black doesn’t mind getting a swarm of monsters – black is used to getting tokens at the cost of lives. The only real downside to her ability is having to tap along with having a mana cost. She’s also rather high on the curve at 3BB – meaning she’ll get expensive fast if she gets killed a lot.

As far as mono-black zombies in Commander are concerned, however, Ghoulcaller Gisa is probably going to be our best bet when she comes out. Geth, Lord of the Vault and  Mikaeus, the Unhallowed are probably our best bets aside from her – but we’ll be playing them too.


Geth, Lord of the Vault is a solid zombie. A 5/5 Legendary Zombie with intimidate for 4BB is pretty decent, and his ability is pretty solid.

XB: Put target artifact or creature card with converted mana cost X from an opponent’s graveyard onto the battlefield under your control tapped. Then that player puts the top X cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.

As Gisa won’t always be in play, we’ll need a way to get cool cards into play. By hitting an opponent to grab something small, we get to start filling up their graveyard for other shenanigans that we’ll be doing soon.


Mikaeus, the Unhallowed is the first lord our deck gets to see – it gives all of our non-humans (so not our Commander, but everything else) +1/+1 and undying. While undying doesn’t effect our zombie tokens, it gives the majority of our creatures another layer of protection.

Before that, we need to make our little zombie tokens as strong as possible – and why not play all of the zombie lords?


Cemetery Reaper is a 2/2 Zombie lord for 1BB that gives our other zombies +1/+1; but he’s cool and has another ability, too. For 2B, tap, and exile a creature from a graveyard, we can make a 2/2 black zombie creature token. Geth, Lord of the Vault, while he wants to be able to pull stuff out of the graveyard, can help fill the graveyard in order to make creatures for Cemetery Reaper to animate. But that’s only the beginning of the lords.


Death Baron is one of the more expensive zombie lords, sitting around 12 dollars. But he’s solid. At 1BB for a 2/2, he doesn’t differ too much from Cemetery Reaper. He gives both Zombies and Skeletons +1/+1, which also makes him the only skeleton lords in the game, too. But he also gives each of those creatures deathtouch, which is fantastic due to the smaller size of his zombie companions.


Lord of the Undead is one of the strongest zombie lords by far – and is also pretty pricey around 9 dollars. Yet again a 2/2 for 1BB that gives other zombies +1/+1, he also has a pretty cool ability. For 1B tap, you can return a zombie card from your graveyard to your hand. Sadly there’s no zombie tribal spells, so he’s only going to be grabbing creatures back – or changeling cards, but they’re not prominent in black.


Undead Warchief is probably the coolest of the lords. For 2BB, we get a 1/1. Pretty lame for 4 mana. But he also makes your zombie spells cost 1 less to cast, which is pretty cool. The only real downside is that our Commander is a Human Wizard rather than a zombie. He also gives all of our zombies, himself included, +2/+1, which is pretty solid. That at least brings him up to a 3/2 for 2BB, which is much more reasonable.


Lastly, Zombie Master is the first zombie lord – at 1BB for a 2/3 rather than a 2/2. Instead of giving a power boost, he gives all zombies swampwalk and Regenerate for B. The only real downside with this is that it works for all zombies, not just yours. If you’re facing something like Thraximundar, you should probably avoid casting your Zombie MasterFilth, on the other hand, gives just your creatures swampwalk. We’ll explain later why this swampwalk is important, but it’s also nice to have a horde of unblockable zombies.

In addition to the lords, we’ve got a few more things that give us boosts.

cagedsun gauntlet of power

In addition to being mana doublers, Caged Sun and Gauntlet of Power also give all creatures of the chosen color +1/+1. As all of our zombies are black, this easily gives us even more power on our zombies.


Obelisk of Urd on the other hand takes advantage of having a lot of tokens by having convoke and giving the chosen creature type +2/+2 – easily making our zombies twice their original size. Hall of Triumph is for all of your black creatures and is pretty solid too at only a 3 drop. Coat of Arms is the classic tribal support card, but it’s a risky play against other tribal decks.

Between all of these lords and buffs, the 2/2 zombie tokens that Gisa makes get much larger- but how are we going to get those tokens when we have to sacrifice creatures?

Well, Gravecrawler is probably the best possible option.


As a constantly recastable 2/1 zombie, he’s perfect for Gisa’s goals. You can play him for B, sacrifice him for another B to get 2 or more 2/2 zombies to replace him, and then you can just replay him for another B. But the fantastic thing is that our zombie lords significantly increase the number of creatures we get, as it changes how big our sacrificed zombie is. The rest of the time, however, it’s generally fine to sacrifice other zombie tokens to increase the general number of zombie tokens you have.

But what else makes tokens?

armyofthedamned endlessranksofthedead gravetitan

Army of the Damned and Endless Ranks of the Dead were both really cool zombie token cards from Innistrad block that never saw standard play – but I think have a place here. Army of the Damned already sees play due to 5BBB not being as hard to hit in Commander, and being a win condition on it’s own. Endless Ranks of the Dead is less played due to not doing anything the turn it comes into play – but here it can do a little bit more due to how slow the format is and how many zombies you’ll have on board. Grave Titan is a cool dude, though – even though he isn’t a zombie himself, he brings 2 2/2s with him, and every time he swings he makes two more.

tombstone stairwell

Tombstone Stairwell is one of the few “Enchant World” cards in the game, and it’s fairly playable. At 2BB, during each upkeep, each player gets a 2/2 “Tombspawn” black zombie token with haste for each creature in their graveyard. However, it has a cumulative upkeep of 1B.

As a reminder of cumulative upkeep:

At the beginning of your upkeep, put an age counter on this permanent, then sacrifice it unless you pay its upkeep cost for each age counter on it.

Now, whenever Tombstone Stairwell is destroyed or the turn ends, all the tokens are destroyed and cannot be regenerated. The only real downside is that everyone gets these tokens – but you’re likely going to have a larger graveyard than most of the other players, and your zombies are going to be larger than theirs. One fun trick is that you can also keep the zombies if they’re indestructible – though black doesn’t have much to do so with.

Now, what else does black like doing? Well, encouraging us to play more black!

cryptghast nirkanarevenant

These two are additional mana doublers in the form of creatures. Crypt Ghast gives us a pretty relevant Extort trigger, too – when we’re recasting Gravecrawler a ton of times, being able to drain people out and keep your life total up. Nirkana Revenant does the same thing as Crypt Ghast, but also has the ability to pump itself +1/+1 per black you pay into it. With Filth in the graveyard and a swamp under an opponent’s control, you can completely blow a player out of the game.


Extraplanar Lens is another mana doubler, but it does come at the cost of exiling one of your basic lands to imprint onto it. I wouldn’t say this is an auto-include, but it’s a strong option for this deck.


Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Cabal Coffers are the two big mana producers of this deck. Each of them have you tap 2 mana into them to get a larger amount of mana out.  Nykthos pulls a ton of mana equal to your devotion to black (in the case of this deck at least), while Cabal Coffers gives you mana equal to the number of swamps you control.


Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth serves a few purposes here. One, it allows Cabal Coffers to tap for black equal to the lands you control rather than just the swamps. Two, it makes all of your opponent’s lands swamps – so you can hit any player with swampwalk – at least, as long as they control at least one land.



Phyrexian Altar is one of the biggest combo cards in all of Commander. There’s very few things that don’t combo with this card. The main thing for this deck is this and Gravecrawler.

As Gravecrawler only costs B and can be sacrificed to Phyrexian Altar for B, meaning you can sacrifice it to recast itself as long as you control another zombie, giving you an infinite sacrifice outlet. Meaning, cards like Blood Artist turn into win conditions.



Those and a few other cards create the skeleton list we see below:

[column width=”200px” padding=”10px”]
Ghoulcaller Gisa
Blood Artist
Bone Dancer
Cemetery Reaper
Crypt Ghast
Death Baron
Geth, Lord of the Vault
Grave Titan
Lord of the Undead
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Nirkana Revenant
Undead Warchief
Zombie Master

Liliana of Dark Realms
Liliana Vess
Sorin Markov

Army of the Damned
Buried Alive
Demonic Tutor
Diabolic Intent
Zombie Apocalypse

Buried Alive
Victim of Night

Black Market
Dictate of Erebos
Endless Ranks of the Dead
Grave Pact

Caged Sun
Coat of Arms
Extraplanar Lens
Gauntlet of Power
Hall of Triumph
Obelisk of Urd
Phyrexian Altar
Whip of Erebos

Cabal Coffers
Cavern of Souls
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Unholy Grotto
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

What do you guys anticipate seeing with Gisa? And of course, if I forgot anything, feel free to mention it! I’m always open to ideas.

Until next time,

– SolemnParty

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