Modern on a Shoestring: Nickel and Diming Death and Taxes

A lot of budget Magic columns tend to focus – almost by necessity – on aggro decks. A higher concentration of non-rares and a more forgiving mana base (often with a lot of basics) means aggro decks are much more suited to the budget-conscious player. I’m not saying that Modern on a Shoestring won’t focus on aggro in the long run; they will inevitably be discussed due to their very nature of being cheaper than non-aggro decks.

However, I’m not going to miss the opportunity to showcase and explore a non-aggro archetype while remaining on a tight budget. Last week, we shared a Deathfather build: a budget Death and Taxes list that added blue for a blink package alongside Astral Drift. In case you missed the article, here is the list once more. 

Modern Azorius Blink and Taxes by Deathfather


Deathfather was kind enough to share a couple of other Death and Taxes lists as well that splash other colors. The accepted default at the moment is mono white, but today we’ll be unpacking an Orzhov and a Boros Death and Taxes list, while doing what we can to keep the cost of each respective list to around $150 or so. 


Header - Orzhov Death & Taxes

It will come as no surprise to learn that the primary consequence of adding black to a Death and Taxes list is the list having access to the absolute best removal in the format. Path to Exile is joined by Fatal Push – not to mention modal all-star Kaya’s Guile and the three mana Nekrataal, Wasteland Strangler.

Modern Orzhov Death and Taxes by Deathfather


Coming in at just under $150, this Orzhov build and its Eldrazi package hearkens back to old Death and Taxes lists that were kicking about before the unbanning of Stoneforge Mystic. While it obviously lacks the proactive punch offered by Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull, this deck seeks to compensate for that by ruthlessly managing the board with a host of interactive options. 

FlickerwispEldrazi Displacer

There’s a good amount of blink synergy in this list, centered around Flickerwisp and Eldrazi Displacer. The Displacer essentially means we’re splashing a third color for its activated ability but between Caves of Koilos, Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin, we’ve got plenty of colorless sources – and the payoff is unreal. 

Blade SplicerWasteland StranglerTidehollow Sculler

You can blink Blade Splicer for another 3/3 of course, but the real fireworks come with Wasteland Strangler and, in particular, Tidehollow Sculler. There are plenty of ways to exile cards for the Strangler to process so as to get the -3/-3: Path to Exile, Kaya’s Guile, Tidehollow Sculler and if you’ve got six mana, you can even process a card exiled by Flickerwisp!

However, Tidehollow Sculler is absolutely brutal with Eldrazi Displacer. Not only can you start blinking it in their draw step to manage every single card they draw but there’s a little trick you can pull because of the way the card is formatted (this doesn’t work with newer cards like Brain Maggot). When you play Tidehollow Sculler, if you blink it in response to the ETB ability, the card you then choose will never come back – it’ll be exiled for good as the delayed trigger to return it has already resolved!

Playing black gives you a range of first-rate disruptive options as well. What about its implications for the budget? Happily, most of the black additions don’t cost much more than a dollar or two, with the most expensive cards being Wasteland Strangler and Concealed Courtyard at $3 apiece. Not too bad! 

Thalia, Guardian of ThrabenLeonin Arbiter

The most expensive cards are, of course, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Leonin Arbiter. Despite representing about half the price of the entire deck itself, it’s absolutely worth buying these cards if you want to play this sort of strategy. They’re the backbone of the archetype – Thalia in particular – and will be played in every single Death and Taxes deck you ever play. Including, of course, this next one right here!


Header - Boros Death & Taxes

There are a couple of Boros decks amongst the best-performing lists in the Magic Online leagues at the moment, which suggests that people are looking for ways to play the best red card ever printed, Lightning Bolt. Certainly, Deathfather’s take on Boros Death and Taxes is a lot more aggressive than most lists, with some sweet inclusions that add a lot of speed to the deck. 

Modern Boros Death and Taxes by Deathfather


Harsh Mentor

With the addition of red, this Death and Taxes build really picks up the pace. With eight straight-up burn spells, this list has a lot more reach than people would expect and that’s in addition to Harsh Mentor, which will unload damage against any deck that relies on activated abilities (which includes, funnily enough, regular Death and Taxes – sorry, Stoneforge Mystic and Giver of Runes!).

Pia and Kiran Nalaar

Pia and Kiran Nalaar is an interesting one. As it is, we’re one red source short for Frank Karsten’s approval, but without fetches or shocks we don’t have too many other terrific options. Still, Pia and Kiran synergize marvelously with Flickerwisp and both can put a real clock on the opponent or manage the board (happily, Harsh Mentor’s ability is asymmetric).

Lightning BoltLightning Helix

Death and Taxes lists don’t always try to race, but this one is set up very well to do exactly that. The flexibility of Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix means you’re in a much better spot than Orzhov against a varied field. Rather than getting dead removal stuck in hand against control, here you can at least deal three upstairs and hope that Harsh Mentor chip damage on stuff like fetchlands brings them in range of an attack or two. 

In terms of budget, this deck comes in at around $160. $10 or so of that is the Needleverge Pathways, which will be Standard-playable throughout their lifetime and are therefore reasonable cards to pick up (if you don’t have them already), Again, it’s $75 or so for the Thalia/Leonin Arbiter core, but we’re not cutting them. Overall, the red cards add very little in terms of cost outside the mana base and, of all the cards to invest extra dollars into, good fixing is almost certainly the best choice. 


Header - A Call for Submissions

Again, while most budget decks tend to skew aggressive, it’s been good to have a look at a couple of non-aggro budget options today. Budget decks don’t tend to get much spotlight in a format like Modern, where you’re expected to have fetches and shocks or $100-plus playsets of format staples. I’d love your help in bringing more attention to the budget options available to people looking to get into the format! 

If you, like Deathfather, have a budget Modern deck – or a couple of decks, even – I’d love to hear from you! Send through any lists you’ve got, or even ones you’re still working on, via DM on Twitter!


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