Last update: 2/28/18
An Intro to RW Taxes
RW Taxes was originally designed and popularized by MTGO streamer Bahra (Marc Konig). It used to be known as Imperial Taxes, as Imperial Recruiter was 90% of the reason to splash for red at that time. It gave the deck a level of consistency and selection that was unprecedented for the mono white build. Now that Recruiter of the Guard has largely invalidated Imperial Recruiter due to its ability to fetch Flickerwisp, that name has largely fallen off the map. You may see this deck called Boros Taxes or Blood and Taxes as well, but most people simply refer to it as a RW Taxes.
While splash builds of D&T were once seen as largely inferior to the mono white version, the red splash has picked up quite a bit in popularity and has put up strong results in the last year or so, making the deck well-respected and feared at this point. This popularity boost is partially due to both The Source user Iatee and I promoting the build, but also due to the relative strength of the build in the current fair and value-oriented metagame.
Despite the name RW Taxes, the deck is still nearly mono white. On average the RW builds only tend to have four or five red cards in them. As such, you might play all of game one without revealing the fact that you are playing red cards. Use this to your advantage. If you are very far ahead and can easily win without showing your opponent a fetchland or red card, it might be in your best interest to do so. Similarly, if you are so far behind that you can’t possibly win, it may be fine to concede before revealing a card that shows you are playing the splash build.
Advantages of the RW Build
– Magus of the Moon threatens to end games instantly.
– Pia and Kiran Nalaar provides great end game inevitability.
– Running fewer WW cards means that you’ll less frequently have cards stranded in your hand.
– Strong sideboard options against certain decks (e.g. Cunning Sparkmage)
– Running more copies of Cavern of Souls allows you to jam threats without fear.
Disadvantages of the RW Build
– Generally a bit slower at closing out the game due to having fewer “generic beaters”.
– Much more exposed to cards like Wasteland, Stifle, Price of Progress, and Back to Basics.
– Casting WW cards is tricky, so common sideboard cards like Council’s Judgment or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar often don’t make the cut.
– The deck really needs to run a 24th land to make the mana work, resulting in one fewer threat.
– Small amount of life loss to fetchlands may be a dealbreaker in certain games, especially against Burn.
Single Card Discussion
Magus of the Moon
Legacy is historically a format with extremely greedy manabases; the presence of fetches and dual lands paired with powerful cards like Deathrite Shaman and Brainstorm has allowed decks to get away with that greed. D&T tries to prey on that greed with mana denial cards like Wasteland, Rishadan Port, and Thalia. Magus of the Moon fits right into that gameplan.
Magus is unlike all of the other mana denial cards though, as it threatens to be an “oops, I win” button against many decks of the format. Many decks play literally zero basic lands. A resolved Magus means that they can no longer cast spells, or are stuck drawing to very few outs (usually Lightning Bolt). Magus of the Moon steals many wins in this fashion. I cannot emphasize enough how game-changing it is to have a card that wins you the game on turn three. Even when your opponent has a basic land, a Magus still prevents your opponent from fetching (decreasing the power of their cantrips) and greatly limits your opponent’s ability to cast multiple spells in a turn. To maximize your ability to use Magus correctly, it’s important to have a general idea of how many basic lands your opponent has in their deck.
Magus warps your win percentages for many matchups, especially for decks that rely on utility lands or sol lands of some nature. Against Eldrazi for example, Magus makes your opponent’s Eldrazi Temple, Ancient Tomb, City of Traitors, and Eye of Ugin into lands that only produce a single mana; it also stops them from producing colorless mana for threats like Reality Smasher or Thought-Knot Seer. There are *many* important interactions with opposing lands and other cards that are going to come up, but I want to highlight a few non-obvious ones.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Magus interact in sort of a weird way that involves an obscure Magic ruling called dependencies. It’s a part of the rules involving layers, the technical system that determines how and in what order effects are applied. Here’s the breakdown: Magus and Urborg are trying to do the same sort of thing, meaning their effects will occur in the same layer. Urborg is dependent on Magus (that is, if you apply Magus first, it changes what Urborg does). Magus “wins” in this scenario and its ability will always be applied first. This overrides Urborg’s effect since it loses its ability. Timestamps don’t apply here, so it doesn’t matter which card enters the battlefield first. The end result is that all nonbasic lands (including Urborg) will be Mountains with no other abilities other than tapping for red mana. These lands will not be Swamps.
Due to a recent rules change, if a Magus is in play and a nonbasic land would enter the battlefield, it just enters like it is a regular Mountain. This means that lands like Dark Depths or Gemstone Mine will enter without any counters. You won’t choose a creature type for Cavern of Souls. Lands like Cloudpost that normally enter the battlefield tapped will enter untapped instead. This is a super important rules change. For example, if your opponent plays a Dark Depths after you play Magus and then uses Punishing Fire to kill Magus, they will immediately get a 20/20 Marit Lage token!
Speaking of Punishing Fire, Magus can also be used to break up the combo with Grove of the Burnwillows. Normally your opponent can keep using Grove to return Punishing Fire to their hand, mowing down your favorite white creatures. Yet if you manage to Vial in Magus with Punishing Fire on the stack, then your opponent can’t use the Grove to return it. Similarly, you may find a spot where your opponent has Punishing Fire still in the yard, but they don’t have the Grove up to return it; that’s a spot where you can safely slam a Magus as well.
There are some weird scenarios where you want to Vial in Magus in response to a Fetchland. Let’s say that your opponent has a Scalding Tarn up and reveals a Terminus. When they fetch, you can Vial in Magus; this cuts them off of the white mana necessary to cast Terminus, as they can’t fetch basic Plains with Scalding Tarn and a Tundra will just produce red mana. This are the sort of scenarios that you have to “sniff out,” so to speak, but are devastating when you find them.
On a related note, your opponents will be afraid of Magus and try to play around it to the best of their ability. This often works to you advantage. If your opponent fetches out a basic or two in the early turns of the game, mana-intensive cards like Leovold, Emissary of Trest and Hymn to Tourach become much harder to cast, and your Rishadan Port becomes much better at cutting your opponent off a color. This fear often allows you to trick your opponent with Vial “pump fakes.” You can active your Vial on 3, and your opponent may respond by floating mana or fetching in a way that you can abuse. Remember, when the Vial activation resolves, Magus is in play; your opponent won’t get the chance to float colored mana after seeing the Magus unless you are hard casting it.
Magus turns all nonbasic lands into Mountains. They are still nonbasics. This is most relevant with Price of Progress, which will still deal you damage for each of your nonbasic lands.
Magus of the Moon has a few enemies like Deathrite Shaman, Mox Diamond, and Grim Monolith that allow your opponent to at least partially ignore its effect. Magus often combines with a second card to generate a harder lock. With a Rest in Peace or Phyrexian Revoker, you can often really put the choke hold on their mana. Keep this in mind when sideboarding. Similarly, the Path to Exile in the sideboard can thwart your Magus of the Moon plans. Luckily, most matchups where you want to bring in Path don’t have any basic lands or are matchups where you don’t want Magus. There are some weird cases (e.g. Infect) where you probably want both, but your opponent often will fetch out their basics early on, so it’s not that big of a deal.
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Okay, so this card does not look impressive on paper, but boy is it a powerhouse in practice. It is admittedly a little hard to cast, a little slow, and sometimes makes your Vial a little bit awkward. Pia and Kiran Nalaar does a bunch of niche things that individually aren’t that impressive, but when taken together as a whole, are awesome. It produces three bodies with one card. This aspect is great against the control decks of the format. Even the most value-oriented cards like Kolaghan’s Command can’t entire take this card and its friends off the table. That’s nice. Nicer still is using Karakas to both protect P&K and use it to generate an absurd Thopter army over the next few turns. A singleton copy of P&K in the maindeck is often enough to grind out a Miracles or Czech Pile deck, and, conveniently, it’s tutorable with Recruiter of the Guard.
Those Thopters are super useful. They are colorless, meaning that an opposing Mother of Runes can’t protect against them, and cards like Dread of Night do nothing to stop them. The colorless factor also means they are awesome blockers against silly things like a Marit Lage trying to push through the rest of your team with Sejiri Steppe.
P&K provides reach for this deck, which is huge since normally we can’t do any damage outside of combat. A top-decked P&K in the late game can convert those “dead” Vials into damage and close off the game even if the board is clogged with a ton of creatures. It also serves as slow, but repeated removal against the fair decks of the format as well. One of the most common uses of P&K’s ability is to block an attacking creature with a Thopter token and then throw the Thopter at either your opponent or one of their creatures. Similarly, if your opponent uses a removal spell on one of your artifacts, you can just throw that at your opponent instead! This is most relevant against cards like Maelstrom Pulse and Izzet Staticaster, where removing the initial target blanks the entire spell or ability.
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Dire Fleet Daredevil is a card with high potential upside; it is situationally amazing and can win you games no other card can. This comes at the cost of a handful of deckbuiliding, sideboarding, and play restrictions. It is in many ways like Palace Jailer: it won’t always be good, but when it is, it will really pull you ahead. It suffers some consistency issues, but it is a 100% viable flex card slot. I personally will not be continuing to run it, as I value consistency over everything else in deckbuilding. I’ve written an entire article about this card already, so I’m not going to go into more detail here.
Managing Your Mana
It is significantly harder to sequence your lands in the RW build than the WW build. Simple things like fetching for Plains vs Plateau might be the difference between a win and a loss, and this sort of decision happens every game. Generally speaking, it’s often better to hold fetchlands for as long as possible to figure out how you want to use them, but this is not always the case.
In the early game, you often want to fetch a basic Plains if you already have another red source or a Vial. You want to make sure you have a basic if you draw Magus of the Moon. This becomes more complicated if you have Magus but not a basic Plains. You’ll have to decide if your Magus hurts your opponent more than you if it resolves and fetch appropriately. Though slamming Magus on turn 3 is very appealing, sometimes you do need to wait until your mana is more stable before playing it. It is *very* possible to lose a game to your own card if it is played improperly. Keep in mind that Stifle is currently popular in Delver decks, so if you can play around it, do so. You are also much more exposed to Wasteland than normal, so if you only have a single red source, you may want to hold it until you need to use it.
In the late game, you care more about playing and activating P&K more so than anything else. It’s the hardest card to cast in your deck, but a very impactful one; you want to deploy it asap if you draw it. Keep in mind that Cavern of Souls cannot be used to activate P&K’s ability, so if you cast P&K off of double Cavern, you can’t actually activate its ability.
Cavern of Souls almost always goes on Human in this deck, but Cavern on Artificer allows you to make both P&K and Stoneforge Mystic uncounterable. It’s also quite common to use a Cavern on Elemental to deploy a Flickerwisp and then flicker the Cavern to reset it to Human. This is especially useful for those times where you are forced to choose between getting your second white mana and your first red mana.
RW D&T tends to have the same sorts of tools as RW, but the differences between the decks often result in a few small changes. Since RW is a bit slower, it’s common to run an extra removal spell or two to help path up the early game. Since RW leans on Cavern of Souls a bit for colored mana, the deck tends to have fewer WW non-creature cards in its sideboard. You’ll often seen things like Leonin Relic-Warder over the more flexible Council’s Judgment for this reason.
I usually like to run an additional P&K in the sideboard as well as an extra Recruiter to find it. It’s just a great way to grind out control decks. Other than that, I usually don’t run any other red cards in the board. You can play a pinger like Cunning Sparkmage, Fireslinger, or Goblin Sharpshooter, but I didn’t particularly find them to be consistently good. There are other powerful red options like Sudden Demise, but this card is really hard to cast in the early game; three of your red sources are Cavern of Souls, after all.
In many post-sideboard games, you will remove all of your red cards. This means that you can play like a WW deck and fetch basic Plains without any thoughts otherwise. That being said, your opponent may not know you boarded out Magus, so fetching a Plateau as a bluff is fine as well.
Magus is going to come out against Red decks (Burn, Red Prison), mono-colored decks (D&T, Omniscience), UR Decks that play a basic island (UR Delver, Sneak and Show), decks where your utility lands are very important (Reanimator), and other decks that play a large number of basic lands (Miracles). P&K tends to come out against fast decks and combo decks; the extra P&K in the board and the Recruiter for it come in against control decks (Miracles, Czech Pile) and slower midrange decks. P&K is also a bit of a liability in Wasteland matchups, so it often gets boarded out against things like Delver just because it can be so hard to cast. Besides that, most of your sideboarding is the same as traditional D&T.
Matchup Differences vs WW
Notably better Matchups:
Czech Pile- P&K
12 Post- Magus
Eldrazi- Magus and an extra Path
Big Eldrazi- Magus
3-4 Color Midrange Decks- Magus
Notably Worse Matchups:
Burn- Price of Progress is rough, and the fetchlands don’t help.
Grixis Delver- Our manabase is much weaker. They can steal more wins.
UR Delver- We’re a little bit slower and they do often have Price of Progress.
Miracles- If your opponent has Back to Basics, you can’t reasonably win most of the time.
True-Name Nemesis decks- Unlike WW, we don’t have Council’s Judgment.