Modern Orzhov Taxes by Friskifraska
The Championship Qualifier events on Magic Online are highly competitive. This makes it all the more impressive to see what I’d largely call a “homebrew” deck taking first place last weekend. Death and Taxes, in some form or another, has existed in Modern for a long time. Recent upgrades of Skyclave Apparition, Maul of the Skyclaves and now Elite Spellbinder have made it a more serious contender. Let’s take a look at Modern Orzhov Taxes.
What’s unusual about this particular take on Death and Taxes? For starters, it uses black as a splash color. This offers access to useful removal spells like Fatal Push and Vanishing Verse in the sideboard. You could also argue that adding a color doesn’t harm the mana base since you get convenient access to Shambling Vent and Silent Clearing.
Most importantly, however, is Wasteland Strangler and its synergy with Tidehollow Sculler and Elite Spellbinder. Sculler and Spellbinder are designed as “temporary” discard spells. They allow you to see the opponent’s hand and break up their mana curve. However, the opponent can usually regain access to their at some point if the game goes long enough. If, in this waiting period, you use Wasteland Strangler to dump that card from exile into their graveyard, you’ve killed the spell permanently while also getting the world’s most efficient Ravenous Chupacabra.
This may not be an “I win” combo on the level of Through the Breach plus Emrakul or Ad Nauseam plus Angel’s Grace. But the thing to understand is that Death and Taxes is a disruptive creature deck that runs on thin margins and seeks to accumulate small advantages. In the course of a close game, making a sweet play like this can easily put you over the top.
Note that you can also pair Wasteland Strangler with Flickerwisp, Path to Exile, Isolate, Vanishing Verse or Kaya, Orzhov Usurper. These can be harder to set up, or pack a little less of a punch, but they combine to make sure that you’ll use Wasteland Strangler to good effect each and every time you draw it.
The final thing to mention is the use of Yorion, Sky Nomad as a companion. You usually don’t see aggressive creature decks ballooning up to eighty cards, since it does reduce your chances of having Aether Vial and Stoneforge Mystic in your opening hand. Still, the power level of these white creatures doesn’t fall by much when you go from the best 60 to the best 80. The games go long and there are plenty of combos with Yorion (like Elite Spellbinder and Wasteland Strangler).
Any one of these innovations or fringe choices might not be considered groundbreaking. When you take them as a whole though, you have a very well-built deck that could have legs going forward in Modern. Props to Magic Online player Friskifraska on a sweet deck and a Championship qualification.