Shortly before rotation, I built a black/white Standard deck loosely inspired by old Modern and Legacy Death and Taxes lists. My plan was to use hand attack spells like Duress and Humiliate to remove key cards, then use the information I’d gain to leverage Silverquill Silencer.

I included Professor of Symbology and Eyetwitch for some Lesson-based card advantage, and leaned heavily on Sedgemoor Witch to grind out wins:

Harsh Lessons

Standard (pre-rotation)

Deck by Ben Iverach-Brereton

I liked the concept behind the deck, but it definitely needed work. I made it to be as rotation-proof as I could, though I did lose a couple of lands when Innistrad: Midnight Hunt came out. Swapping Temple of Silence for Shineshadow Snarl wasn’t such a big a deal, but Castle Locthwain‘s late game card advantage would be sorely missed. Thankfully the “lairs” from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms make up for that in a surprisingly big way.

The deck was bound to change a bit; a new set means a new metagame and new cards to experiment with. Before rotation, I toyed around with Westgate Regent as a top-end haymaker, but it always felt out of place. I wanted to streamline the list by lowering its mana curve, and replacing the only five mana card made sense. Since I was making tweaks anyway, this was a good time to experiment.

Graveyard Trespasser caught my eye when first looking at Midnight Hunt, since it has the same ward ability as Westgate Regent. The werewolf became my starting point, alongside Sungold Sentinel, which I opened in my first Sealed event of the set. Between these two and Hive of the Eye Tyrant, I had the graveyard covered; if the meta lined up, this would be really good. As it turns out, recursion isn’t that big of an issue, so I moved on to other options.

Day & Taxes


Deck by Ben Iverach-Brereton

During my early testing, Gavony Dawnguard popped up as one of my random prize cards. I hadn’t actually looked at most of the set yet, so I stopped give it a read:

“When day becomes night or night becomes day, look at the top four cards of your library. You may reveal a creature card with mana value 3 or less from among them and put it into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library.”

Interesting. If I could consistently switch between day and night, this human could generate a lot of card advantage. Since the deck was now capping out at three mana, I would pretty consistently hit a creature with it, and casting two spells in a turn to switch things back from night to day would be really easy.

Gavony Dawnguard looked deceptively powerful in the late game, when both players are top decking, as well as control matchups, where the opponent might want to hold up mana for a counterspell instead of casting something on their turn. On top of all this, a 3/3 for 3 with ward looked reasonably efficient. All told, it seemed worth trying. The added bonus was that because it was only an uncommon, I’d have plenty of wildcards to spare if it didn’t work out. As you might imagine from my list, it’s been pretty good to me so far!

Since I was going to be playing around with the new day/night mechanic, it also made sense to try Brutal Cathar at the same time. I’d been using Skyclave Apparition as creature based removal for a while, but to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t feeling great. The token it left behind was often a bigger liability than I’d bargain for, and being unable to hit tokens came up frustratingly often. All this meant I’d have this Skyclave Apparition sitting in play, but be unable to use it in combat.

Like all Fiend Hunter variants, Brutal Cathar runs into similar problems to the Apparition, but the ability to exile multiple creatures with it sets it above a lot of them. Granted, Brutal Cathar can’t hit noncreature permanents, which is a bit of a letdown after Skyclave Apparition, but on the flip side (heh) the Cathar is sometimes a big, warded, first striking monster that can beat down or block. This feels like a reasonable tradeoff, though it does mean leaning on Vanishing Verse and my various discard spells to handle the troublesome enchantments and planeswalkers that’ll crop up.

I knew my deck would change a bit after rotation, but it’s funny just how little stayed the same. My initial focus was on Silverquill Silencer, but it didn’t even make the final cut! The trouble with it was largely one of information, or more accurately a lack thereof; Humiliate is a pretty solid hand attack spell, but at two mana, it’s a lot slower than what the Silencer needs.

Ideally, you’d want to play a discard spell on turn one and follow up with a Silverquill Silencer on turn two. Duress is ok, but Standard has a lot of creature heavy decks at the moment, which makes me disinclined to run the full four copies of it. Otherwise there’s Devour Intellect, but that’s only good in a treasure heavy deck… and even then it’s not amazing.

Without more reliable hand attack options like Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek, it makes an early Silverquill Silencer awkward to use; if you can’t name a relevant card it’s effectively a vanilla 3/2 for two mana, and that’s not nearly as good as it needs to be. I still think the cleric is a solid card, just… maybe not for Standard.

Similarly, Eyetwitch felt like it would be a staple card in this list when I first made it, but the more I played the deck, more lackluster the bat felt. It can clearly work in a more sacrifice-focused deck, but my list was looking for creatures that could throw their weight around. A 1/1 flier didn’t really do that.

I still wanted some one-drops to get out of the gate quickly, so I looked at my options. Lunarch Veteran was tempting, but was even worse than Eyetwitch in combat. On the other hand, Chaplain of Alms could hold back one-toughness creatures really well with its first strike. After only a few games, I completely switched out Eyetwitch for the Chaplain. Sure, I didn’t get a lesson out of Chaplain of Alms, but disturb made up for that. More importantly, that first strike proved to be great, especially in conjunction with the other addition: Luminarch Aspirant.

The low curve of this deck keeps it quick, but it does mean it can struggle to close out games. Sometimes you just need a little more oomph, which is where Luminarch Aspirant comes in. Death and Taxes lists in other formats typically have a Stoneforge Mystic package to do its heavy lifting, but we don’t have that luxury. Mind you, Luminarch Aspirant does show up from time to time in those lists as another source of incremental advantage, so it’s not unreasonable to include it here. Generally speaking, if a card can cut the mustard in Legacy, it’ll probably do well in Standard, too. So far I’d say Luminarch Aspirant is no exception.

I’m sure veteran Death and Taxes players have already noticed the most glaring omission to my list: There’s no Elite Spellbinder. “PVDDR” is a solid card, to be sure, and it fits well into the “taxes” part of the archetype by delaying key spells for several turns. That said, I really like what Gavony Dawnguard, Brutal Cathar and Sedgemoor Witch have to offer in my three-mana slot. Are any of these creatures any better than Elite Spellbinder? Honestly probably not, but they consistently put in work for me. So far I haven’t felt the need to swap any of them out, though I have wondered if I should include more flying threats….

My deck might not exactly fit the criteria of a true Death and Taxes list, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It doesn’t lock the opponent out of casting spells, or grind games to a halt while it beats in with hate bears, though it does have a plethora of ward triggers… that’s kind of like taxes, right? Plus, the incremental value these creatures provide does a surprisingly good job of prolonging the game until the opponent is out of resources. In that sense the spirit of Death and Taxes is still there, even if it goes about things in a different way.

Regardless of what you want to call it, if there’s one takeaway from playing this deck, it’s how much the new day/night mechanic can inform your decisions. It challenges you to think a few turns ahead, and makes you adjust when you make your plays.

There have been several times when I’ve had plenty of spells in hand, but my best option is to wait until it becomes night. This can feel counterintuitive, but doing nothing can kick this deck’s card advantage into high gear, whether from Gavony Dawnguard digging into the library, or a transforming Brutal Cathar removing another creature.

Pair this with casting discard spells when the opponent is empty handed just to make a token or flip things back to day, and it can make for some really interesting games.


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