Modern Death and Taxes

Modern is a format that is always fluctuating. Throughout its short history, the number of decks that have called themselves number one have been numerous. Such decks have included: Jund, Splintertwin, Delver, and now Death Shadow’s Aggro. While the very top decks in Modern fluctuate often, there are a few decks which have always remained just beyond the reaches of the limelight. One of these decks is Modern Death and Taxes, or Hatebear. Much like its Legacy and Vintage counterparts, the mono white control deck looks to attack the metagame, winning through incrementally disruptive tactics. Playing Death and Taxes is as close as a player can get to a hard control deck – without playing a high amount of non-creature spells.

Now, because Death and Taxes is a deck that attacks the meta, the cards that are appropriate to play are always in flux. So we will not be analyzing a specific decklist (An example list will still be provided). Instead I will be going over most of the various cards that can work in different situations, and which ones have proven to be useful. Additionally the different splashes will be covered briefly.

Currently the Death and Taxes/Hatebears variants that have been able to prove themselves in Modern are:

  • Green White Hatebears
  • Mono White Death and Taxes
  • Eldrazi and Taxes splashing  black
  • Blue White Death and Taxes

Each deck has its own unique aspects, and they all work differently for various metas. However every single one still plays a basic core – which has become the standard for DnT decks.

Before we get started, it is very important to note that Modern is a different format than Legacy. Even though the Modern version of Death and Taxes is loosely inspired by the Legacy version, it is not always appropriate to just flat out copy every spell the Legacy version plays. For example the swords are specifically important in Legacy because of Stoneforge Mystic, but in Modern they are much less effective because there are no ways to effectively play and tutor them.  Another example of this is Phyrexian Revoker. The card does a ton of work in Legacy because almost every deck in the format has relevant targets. However in Modern, there are just simply not enough targets to constitute running more than a few Revokers in both the main and sideboard alike. In spite of this however, there are some cards that work in both Modern and Legacy perfectly well, such as Flickerwisp, and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.

To start out, let’s take a look at the mono white version of DnT:

Modern Mono White DnT

Creatures (30)
Thraben Inspector
Leonin Arbiter
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Serra Avenger
Blade Splicer
Aven Mindcensor
 Mirran Crusader
Eldrazi Displacer
Restoration Angel

Other Spells (8)
Aether Vial
Path to Exile
Lands (23)
Cavern of Souls
Ghost Quarter
Tectonic Edge
Horizon Canopy
Flagstones of Trokair

Sideboard (15)
Burrenton Forge-Tender
 Ethersworn Canonist
Rest in Peace
Stony Silence
Grafdigger’s Cage
Dusk / Dawn


Many of Death and Tax’s creatures can be divided into one of three categories: Beaters, Utility, and Disruption. Each section serves its own crucial role in the consistency, and power of the deck.

Beaters: The beaters in Death and Taxes serve one of the most important roles in the deck. They are what push damage through to help win games more efficiently. Without Death and Tax’s beaters suite, there would be no way to effectively win games. Additionally, they can become useful blockers and provide a lot of power on the board. While beaters do not directly disrupt the opponent, they do put pressure on them. A Death and Taxes deck cannot easily win a game with only disruption, there has to be some way to efficiently close out a game.

Some of the most effective beaters in DnT come with some sort of evasion. Among these cards are included:

Mirran Crusader has a unique trait granting it protection from black and green. Because there are so many midrange decks in Modern, which all like to run Abrupt Decay, Crusader has become a crucial player allowing DnT to beat those decks.

Serra Avenger and Restoration Angel both have flying, which is not a very prominent ability in the format. This allows them to effectively attack with ease, while opponents are left to the whims of their removal spells. Additionally, Restoration Angel cannot be removed by Abrupt Decay, and also has the ability to flicker your own creatures in case they were to be removed by a removal spell, or killed by damage.

Blade Splicer is another very good beater that many decks choose to run, it does not have a ton of evasion on its own, but by being two creatures in one, it allows a pilot to provide a lot of pressure on the board.


Some of Death and Tax’s most powerful creatures actually come from its utility suite. Among these creatures include, Eldrazi Displacer, Restoration Angel, Flickerwisp, Thraben Inspector, and Burrenton Forge-Tender. Each one playing its own role in helping the deck to get out of sticky situations.

Thraben inspector provides much needed card advantage, while cards such as Flickerwisp pseudo combo with Aether Vial to do lots of tricks.


This is the taxes part of DnT. In Modern there are only a few creatures that effectively fill this role. Among these creatures are Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Leonian Arbiter. In specific situations other cards such as Phyrexian Revoker, Ethersworn Canonist, and Aven Mindcensor can also be alright at disrupting an opponent.


DnT does not normally play many non-creature spells. However there are two which are in almost every single deck. These two spells are: Aether Vial, and Path to Exile.

Path to Exile is the deck’s only removal spell, and one of the best removal spells in Modern. It can be used to clear dangerous attackers, or annoying utility creatures your opponents control. Additionally you can even use it to ramp yourself if really necessary.

Aether Vial is quite possibly the most important spell in the deck. It allows a player to play all of there spells on curve, and without worry of them being countered. It allows the deck to hold up mana for removal, or other creatures, while still putting substantial pressure on an opponent. Additionally Vial combos very powerfully with Flickerwisp. The two cards combined can do a lot of interesting tricks. Some of these plays include:

  • Flickering your own creature in response to removal
  • Removing a blocker until the end of the turn
  • Exiling an Emrakul or other powerful threat until the end of the turn
  • Removing a land from play temporarily
  • Changing the target of Phyrexian Revoker or any other card like it
  • Blanking Planeswalkers
  • Removing counters from permanents
  • Un-equiping equipment


In Legacy DnT it has almost become a rule to run no less than twenty three lands. While this rule is not as necessary in Modern, it is still an important guide to follow. In general, we want to be running a good amount of white sources (enough to consistently cast our WW cards), and then fill the rest of the deck with powerful utility lands. Generally these utility lands will include cards like: Ghost Quarter, Horizon Canopy, Cavern of Souls, Tectonic Edge, and Flagstones of Trokair.

While the mono white version of DnT is very powerful on its own, there are also a few other prominent version in Modern. So lets take a look at some of the different flavors of DnT that exist.

Eldrazi and Taxes

Eldrazi and Taxes favors speed and disruption over the slower mono white version. Much like running Ancient Tomb in Legacy DnT, Eldrazi Temple has a very similar effect.

Eldrazi Displacer is typically raised to a playset, and the notorious Thought-Knot Seer is added to the mix. Additionally some decks choose to run a few copies of Reality Smasher.

There is also a BW Eldrazi and Taxes deck, which runs cards such as Tidehollow Sculler and Wasteland strangler. Both of which provide their own benefits and downsides.  Wasteland Strangler can most notably move a target flickered by Flickerwisp to the graveyard.  Tidehollow Sculler can be useful against combo decks, and some midrange decks, as it allows a pilot to effectively thoughtsieze an opponent while also putting pressure on the board.

UW Taxes

UW taxes is the least tested of the DnT builds, however it has shown a lot of promise (especially with some cards recently printed in new sets).

The deck turns into more of a tempo/value disruption deck when blue is added to it. Typically some of the cards which are played are:

Blue adds some very powerful sideboard cards in the forms of Meddling Mage and Geist. But it also adds effective Vial plays such as Reflector Mage and Spell Queller. Spell Queller even has flash on its own, so it works just as well in the case that Vial is not in play.

GW Taxes

The green version of DnT adds some powerful interactive creatures, and a few ramp spells. The deck typically runs a playset of one of Modern’s best mana dorks, Noble Heirarch. Green also allows access to cards such as Scavenging Ooze, Quasali Pridemage, and sometimes Collected Company.

For a while, many considered the green splash to be the most powerful version of DnT in Modern. While it may not hold that title for every player anymore, it is still definitely a very powerful option (in the correct meta) when choosing which version to play.

In all, while DnT is not the most outright powerful deck in Modern, it is a deck that has been around almost since the format’s inception. White weenies, hatebears, or that annoying creature deck – whatever you want to call it, is a deck that can definitely hold its own against much of Modern’s other decks, and is a good option for anyone who wants to play a creature based control deck.

But what do you think? Have you had any experience with this deck in Modern? Are there any other cards that you’d play in it? If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to leave them in the comment section below.

And as always, happy gaming!



Sylvan Studies Team
- A swords a day keeps the goyfs away.

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