Death & Taxes for the New Age

Hi there, I’m Jack Jiggens, here again to write about the options D&T has in the current post-banning metagame. With the current metagame in flux, I’ve gone for quite a straightforward, general approach with my list. But one of the current problems D&T is facing is it simply has too many options! It has several amazing beaters currently; the best of them Serra Avenger, Mirran Crusader and now Brightling.

Serra Avenger Mirran Crusader Brightling

With Brightling now spiking to forty dollars it’s clearly the best beater in the deck, right? Well, I believe it can be amazing in certain match ups and poor in others, similar to Mirran Crusader. For example, if we played in a pure BUG meta, Brightling would be quite bad, slamming into Baleful Strix and Mirran Crusader would be, of course, god tier. However, if we reverse this and play in a pure Miracles meta Brightling is excellent and Mirran Crusader is quite mediocre.

So in this article, I’ll be discussing which beaters are best in a variety of matchups, giving them a grading from 1 to 10, and then extrapolate these decisions to an overall ‘plan’ for my lists moving forward.

Part 1: The ‘Beaters’

RUG Delver

Nimble Mongoose

Brightling: 6
Brightling is basically a second Batterskull in this match up and incredibly versatile. Sadly it doesn’t kill Mongoose and Hooting Mandrills as effective as Mirran Crusader. It’s key features in the match up are; dodging Bolts, gaining life and acting as a great wall. Once equipped, the game is basically over, however it doesn’t race or create offensive pressure as well as Mirran Crusader, nor is it effective vs ‘Zoo’ board, where at least Mirran will brickwall Goyfs and Mongooses on the other side. Brightling can trade for a creature effective, and trading it for a Mandrills as a 4/2 lifelink creature is probably worth it, but against a multi-Green creature draw, Mirran Crusader is probably better.

Mirran Crusader: 6.5
Not much to say, not interacting with Delver and dying to Bolt are the only reasons this card can fall flat in this match up. Mirran Crusader gets a little edge due to tutorability.

Serra Avenger: 6
Being able to fly over the Goyf/Goose and potentially race is amazing. Having a creature that can trade with Delver is also great. Two-drop density for Vials is also important for getting on the board quickly. Casting it naturally (with its delay), dying to Bolt, and not being tutor able compared to Mirran is its only downfall. Still a nice card in the match up as any of our beaters are.

Best configuration vs. RUG Delver:

2 Serra Avenger
2 Mirran Crusader/Brightling
1 Mirran Crusader/Brightling

There really is no stand out beater in this match up and varies on board states which one you want. The configurations above are therefore chosen to best spread the two and three-drop densities.

BUG midrange/control, BUG Delver

Baleful Strix Tarmogoyf

Brightling: 5.5
Although it dodges removal, it really struggles in this match up having problems with Goyf, Anglers and Strix. This was originally the reason I was down on Brightling – it created no pressure against a wall of Strix and the opponent could simply sit behind walkers and convert this into a win. I cut my Crusaders to one for two Brightling after the ban, expecting the death knell for BUG decks. I had an incredibly positive record against Shardless BUG pre-ban, but soon got punished for assuming less BUG decks in the new metagame. I lost 0-2 to Shardless; in one game a Liliana, the Last Hope ultimated, sitting behind a Strix.

Mirran Crusader: 9
Not much to say here. Crusader is just godly in the match up, with only Deluge and Edicts/Deeds killing it. It doesn’t get walled by any blockers in the match up and creates amazing pressure. The opponent often has two turns to deal with it or they lose.

Serra Avenger: 7
Maybe this should be even lower, as Strix is a huge issue, but it gets past any other creature or trades with Delver which is fine. It also gets hit by all their removal, but at least isn’t is as huge a mana investment as any of the other three drops.

Best configuration vs. BUG midrange/control, BUG Delver:

3 Mirran Crusader
2 Serra Avenger

Mirran is just much better than Brightling in this matchup and Serra Avenger is still an effective beater. It gets a nod over Brightling due to it smoothing our Vial curve primarily. You could say Brightling dodges more removal, but Serra swings past more creatures, hence creating more pressure. They both suck against Strix anyway.

Miracles

Terminus


This is the reason to play Brightling: Miracles basically cannot beat Vial on three plus a Brightling.

Brightling: 10
Perhaps a 9 without vial and a 10 with Vial, Game 1 Miracles only really has two ways to beat it: 1) buy time with Snaps/removal until Jace ultimating 2) Entreat very quickly for a substantial number and hope there aren’t enough Wisps to beat you. Game 2 it gets much worse vs Mentor, which does weaken the plan (which I’ll explain later in the article).

Serra Avenger/Mirran Crusader: 5
Our beaters are traditionally not great in this match up, they just attack or die – this is why Brightling is such a terrific addition.

Best configuration vs. Miracles:

3 Brightling
2 Mirran Crusader

Blade mirrors (UWx Stoneblade, D&T mirror)

Stoneforge Mystic

Basically, Serra Avenger is excellent in this matchup, while Mirran and Brightling are medium.

Brightling: 6
Can be Revoked in the D&T match up. It’s nonetheless a 3/3 that can gain life, just like Batterskull. It’s something that’s good, but not great in the match up. Notably can’t attack into a True-Name Nemesis.

Mirran Crusader: 6
First strike is nice to stop Jitte counters, but it too can’t attack into a True-Name. It holds equipment slightly better than Brightling.

Serra Avenger: 8
It flies over all ground blockers, including, importantly, True-Name. It also holds equipment incredibly well due to both flying and vigilance.

Best configuration vs. Blade mirrors:

3 Mirran Crusader/Brightling
2 Serra Avenger

Grixis Control

Baleful Strix Kolaghan's Command


Brightling: 6.5
Well, this is a Strix deck again, right? It’s a little better here than the BUG matchups, however, because there is less creatures like Goyf blocking it.

Mirran Crusader: 6.5
Probably as good as Brightling in this match up. They both have problems; Mirran Crusader dodges Black removal but dies to Bolts, but can pressure though Strix. If they’re on a dwindling number of Bolts and a high number of Pushes, Mirran Cruader moves up to a 7-7.5.

Serra Avenger: 5
It basically dies to all removal (except Kolaghan’s Command, I suppose), has problems with Strix. It doesn’t do a lot in this match up, and I tend to trim or cut all my Avengers vs. these types of decks.

Best configuration vs. Grixis Control:

3 Mirran Crusader
2 Brightling

While Brightling and Mirran got the same score, Brightling is mana hungry and is bad in multiples, whereas Mirran isn’t.

Elves

Wirewood Symbiote Elvish Visionary

While this match up is joked as being unwinnable for D&T, we still need some beaters to help us win against it a percentage of the time.

Brightling: 2.5
It honestly does nothing in this match up, it needing a Mother of Runes to do any form of pressure whatsoever. It typically gets chump blocked, or falls victim to the ol’ Wirewood ‘block-and-bounce’, and if they bounce you won’t be gaining any life either (not that gaining life really matters in this match up anyway). Even if you equip this with a Jitte it’s hard to get Jitte counters through their combat tricks.

Mirran Crusader: 9
It triggers Jitte twice a turn, is unblockable and a fast clock. It’s often how we win this match up – if we are able to slow them down enough, a Crusader with a Jitte on it seals up the game.

Serra Avenger: 8
Flying and vigilance is a pain for Elves, basically reading unblockable. It holds equipment very well, though is a little less impressive than Crusader.

Best configuration vs. Elves:

3 Mirran Crusader
2 Serra Avenger

4c Loam/Maverick

Knight of the Reliquary


While these decks tend to function differently, they are both Knight of the Reliquary decks, which is our main concern.

Brightling: 6
It’s ok; they have a lot of ground blockers usually and it sucks against a large Knight. Defensively it’s a great wall against Knight, but eventually an active Knight should be able to convert into a kill of some fashion.

Mirran Crusader: 7.5/8
The 0.5 depends on if they play Punishing Fire. It usually swings past all their creatures and creates a lot of offensive pressure, much like it does against BUG decks.

Serra Avenger: 9
One of the very few match ups where Avenger is our best beater; these decks struggle vs fliers especially 3/3 fliers that can’t be Punishing Fired. It’s a huge problem and can win the game all by its own.

Best configuration vs. 4c Loam/Maverick:

3 Serra Avenger
2 Mirran Crusader

I’d be wary of playing three Serra Avengers in any list though, because without a Vial they can get awkward in multiples.

Goblins

Goblin Ringleader


I don’t want to say too much about this, but overall non-flyers suck in this match up.

Mirran Crusader/Brightling: 6-7
Serra Avenger: 8

Turbo Depths

Dark Depths

All our beaters are about even here. Serra Avenger being able to block a 20/20 is very relevant, but Brightling giving us life is very useful in giving us an extr turn. Mirran Crusader just attacks though all their creatures, especially relevant against the Slow Depths version. They all probably score ~7-8

Other combo decks

While our beaters are not great against combo in general, Brightling is probably the worst since it’s the slowest clock and doesn’t curve out as nicely as Serra Avenger or Mirran Crusader does.

Part Two: The ‘Plan’

So how do we optimise the deck? We want our beaters to always be optimised to beat the opposing deck we are playing against. This is, of course, quite hard since we have a lot of options and limited space. My solution to this is play beaters in both the main and the side. This allows us to play two-of each beater in the deck and optimise our beater package Games 2 and 3 depending on the match up. My proposed list is as follows:

Creatures: (26)
2 Mirran Crusader
4 Mother of Runes
2 Phyrexian Revoker
2 Recruiter of the Guard
1 Remorseful Cleric
2 Sanctum Prelate
2 Serra Avenger
3 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Flickerwisp
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Non-Creature Spells: (11)
4 Aether Vial
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Batterskull
1 Sword of Fire and Ice

Lands: (23)
2 Flagstones of Trokair
1 Horizon Canopy
3 Karakas
4 Wasteland
9 Plains
4 Rishadan Port

Sideboard: (15)
3 Cataclysm
2 Containment Priest
2 Council’s Judgment
2 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Path to Exile
2 Rest in Peace
2 Brightling

Cataclysm

The Cataclysms are to cheese wins off random midrange/control/Nic Fit that people are testing in the current meta. Since it’s in flux and I don’t know what people are 100% doing, I’d rather just say you can’t cast spells. Enjoy. It’s also much stronger since people won’t be able to select Deathrite and a land from Cataclysm and proceeded to win from there.

Batterskull

Another interesting solution to this problem is looking at Brightling’s similarity to Batterskull. It has lifelink, vigilance and you can spend mana to return it to hand, so I have experimented cutting the Batterskull from this list and just playing a Brightling over it. The main advantage of this is that it’s a much better top deck most of the time and it allows us to play more beaters. The only downside is less equipment to fetch with Stoneforge, no random ‘turn two Stoneforge into turn three win’, and it doesn’t beat Empty the Warrens as well.

Conclusion

While Brightling is a very nice additional to our beater package that we’ve never had before, it mindful to be wary that it can detriment what D&T is doing how well it has done against certain decks in the metagame. It’s definitely good to have options, and I believe the above list allows you to gain the advantage of the new option of Brightling and while maintaining the traditional power of Death & Taxes’ beaters.

By Jack Jiggens

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