Death and Taxes has been one of the best Legacy decks basically forever. A bunch of small, disruptive white creatures back up by a dangerous mana base designed to tax the opponent, and somehow all of these small pieces add up to a whole lot more than the sum of its parts.
The deck has floated around the edge of Modern for awhile, but an unlikely inclusion from Hour of Devastation may have made all the difference.
Welcome to Deserts and Taxes.
The Desert cycle was an immediate breakout in Standard, but it was certainly unexpected to see them make their way into Modern. But here they are, taking an already playable deck in Death and Taxes and helping it turn the corner into something more.
To be honest, this deck looks like it plays some real stinkers. Flickerwisp is a three-mana way to trade with half a Lingering Souls in the best-case scenario, and with Leonin Arbiter we're playing literal Grizzly Bears in Modern against decks without fetch lands. And really, Thraben Inspector? A 1/2 for one mana in a format where people are playing Death's Shadow?
But like I said, somehow the disparate parts of this deck combine into a perfect package. Flickerwisp deals with troublesome permanents like Ensnaring Bridge or tokens, resets Blade Splicer, saves creatures from removal alongside Aether Vial, and can even take away an opponent's land for a turn if Vialed in during the upkeep. Leonin Arbiter wrecks fetch lands, turns off the downside of Path to Exile, and becomes a machine gun with Ghost Quarter. And Thraben Inspector actually somehow does a ton of work in Modern, holding the fort against aggressive decks while providing card advantage for later.
The Deserts take the deck to the next level. After taxing the opponent out of the game for several turns (Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is bonkers), Shefet Dunes helps the deck turn all those random creatures into a force able to turn the corner surprisingly quickly. Hostile Desert acts as a supercharged Mutavault in a deck with the full four Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge, ensuring it will have fodder. And even Scavenger Grounds provides some much-needed game one utility, especially considering Weathered Wayfarer can help make all of these Desert plans a reality.
White has the best sideboard options in Modern, so even in matchups where the deck might struggle there is plenty of help to be found. Kor Firewalker, Rest in Peace, Stony Silence and newcomer Dusk // Dawn can really swing games against decks that might otherwise give you trouble, and in the end you arrive at a Deserts and Taxes deck fully prepared to compete with the top contenders in Modern.
Thanks for reading,