Thanks to MtG:Salvation user MyKatDied for providing the lion’s share of the content on this page. I’ve added my thoughts here and there, but this writeup is primarily his. I have edited his content for clarity and formatting. Some of the information below may now be outdated due to the printing of Sanctum Prelate and Recruiter of the Guard
While traditional mono-white D&T focuses largely on the mana denial portions for its taxes, the UW build gains the ability to manipulate what cards your opponent has the opportunity to cast with cards like Meddling Mage and Vendilion Clique. The blue splash also provides new, evasive, or otherwise problematic threats ranging from Geist of Saint Traft to True-Name Nemesis. The blue splash provides a number of new angles of attack that are effective against some decks that the monowhite build normally struggles to beat (e.g. Omnitell).
Why would you play a blue splash?
- UW gives us access to cards like Meddling Mage, which can shut down a Life from the Loam engine out of Lands, Terminus out of Miracles, Show and Tell out of Omnitell, as well as many of the enabler and win conditions of various other combo decks like ANT.
- Vendilion Clique is a beating against Miracles. It can strip Miracles out of the opponent’s hand with the Miracle trigger on the stack, and we can protect it with Karakas to boot.
- Blue interaction like Force of Will and Flusterstorm significantly improve our matchups against the turn one combo decks like Belcher and against other decks where early interaction is key (e.g. Burn).
When is not a good time to splash blue?
- Blood Moon, Back to Basics, and Price of Progress are significantly better against this version of D&T. A turn 1 or 2 Blood Moon from a deck like Imperial Painter will threaten to end the game immediately.
- Elves is still an issue for the deck. Meddling Mage can go a long way to shut down one angle of attack, but it’s hard to shut off Glimpse of Nature, Natural Order, and Green Sun’s Zenith while still avoiding dying to Deathrite Shaman activations or the backup “attack with lots of Elves” plan. Options like Hibernation are slow, but can help fight through an Elves-heavy meta.
When splashing blue, These are the most important cards to consider. These are the cards that give the UW version its own identity.
- Meddling Mage: This is one of the best answers to many problems that D&T can face. Rather than making you pay extra for cards or answering them once in play, Mage simply says, “No, you aren’t allowed to do that.” This is an amazing tool in matchups where a single card has a huge impact on the game (e.g. Show and Tell from Omniscience or Terminus from Miracles). Cavern of Souls plays well with Meddling Mage and the other cards in the deck, as this build has many Humans and Wizards.
- Vendilion Clique: As mentioned above, this card is a beating against Miracles. It rips Miracles cards out of the opponent’s hand with the trigger on the stack, and it can be protected with Karakas. More generally, it provides us not only with disruption for combo, but a decent clock at three power. Combined with our other hate bears, Clique helps put on a chokehold and proceed to close out a game.
- True-Name Nemesis: Simply put, this card is obnoxious. It is difficult to race once it picks up a piece of equipment, an evasive beater, and one of the best defensive creatures in Legacy. Most decks will have zero to one maindeck outs to it once it is in play, with Liliana of the Veil, Terminus, and Council’s Judgment being the primary exceptions.
- Geist of Saint Traft: When uncontested, Geist closes out games more quickly than any other creature in the various D&T decks. The fact that Geist has Hexproof means that he is difficult to answer, and the fact that he is Legendary means we can use Karakas to protect him from board wipes and combat damage. Oh yes, that’s right, you can run it into a wall of blockers, bounce it, and the angel will still push four damage. Like Mirran Crusader, this creature is exponentially better with equipment; when equipped with a Sword of Fire and Ice or Sword of War and Peace, two attacks should be lethal.
Other blue cards to consider
- Dragonlord Ojutai: While a bit on the slower side, Ojutai has a huge number of perks. It’s a swift clock with built-in card advantage, protection, and evasion. Conveniently, he lives through Lightning Bolt and is immune to Abrupt Decay, making Swords to Plowshares and Dismember the only common spot removal spells that will take him out.
- Chill: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is great against burn. She often buys the 1-2 turns you need to secure a win. Chill is double Thalia that also stacks with itself or Thalia! This card often completely puts a burn player out of the game.
- Standstill: While still experimental, MtG:Salvation user Frenadol suggested a variant of D&T reminiscent of old time Merfolk decks and Landstill. Similar to Merfolk, we can often sit back behind an Aether Vial and just drop threats onto the board, daring out opponent to give us three cards in order to answer the board. It is possible that when running Standstill some number of Faerie Conclave or Mishra’s Factory are worth running.
UW lists still generally run the stock 23 lands, but drop the copies of Rishadan Port for more colored mana sources. That being said, the deck still gets good utility out of its lands. The Cavern of Souls ensure that we can resolve key cards like Meddling Mage, Vendilion Clique, and Thalia against decks like Miracles and Omnitell. Since we have many overlapping creature types, it is rare for Cavern of Souls mana to be irrelevant or problematic for casting our creatures. There are 4 Flooded Strand to ensure that we can always fetch basic Island or Plains depending on what we may need in the face of a Wasteland strategy. Eiganjo Castle is a fantastic addition to the deck since we are a bit heavier on Legendary creatures, and it works particularly well with Geist of Saint Traft. You will even sometimes see a UW list that runs the Dust Bowl and Flagstones of Trokair engine.
A general purpose manabase would look like this:
4 Flooded Strand
4 Seachrome Coast
2 Cavern of Souls
1 Eiganjo Castle
UW Anti-Miracles and Omnitell
UW Dust Bowl
- Miracles: Heavily favored – This match up goes from pretty even/slightly favored to heavily favored. With an active Aether Vial alongside Karakas and Vendilion Clique, miracle cards just aren’t an issue. If you start adding in a Meddling Mage and a Mother of Runes, the Miracles player could realistically have zero outs to your board. The two Cavern of Souls also invalidate the Counterbalance lock.
- Mirror: Even/Slightly un-favored – Like with Phyrexian Revoker, Meddling Mage can be a double edged sword, keeping us from some of our key cards to shut down theirs. True-Name Nemesis and Geist of Saint Traft can break the mirror wide open, and Vendilion Clique can also help us break up an opposing Stoneforge Mystic packages. That being said, our manabase is less stable, and a larger percentage of our creatures can be bounced with an opposing Karakas.
- Eldrazi: (untested at the timing of writing) – Theoretically, Meddling Mage can stop large, expensive threats like Reality Smasher from ever being an issue. Otherwise their threats are easily managed by True-Name Nemesis and equipment. We do have many flyers, meaning we can sneak combat damage over the top easily.
- Grixis/4c Delver: Favorable – Meddling Mage can shut down removal. True-Name Nemesis serves as an excellent blocker for Gurmag Angler and pushes damage through Young Pyromancer tokens. Other than that, the usual disruption of Clique, Flickerwisp, and Thalia should work nicely.
- UR Delver: Even/Slightly Favored – Like with mono-white D&T, our creatures measure up favorablely. In the air we have Clique and Flickerwisp to fight Delvers, while Geist and True-Name Nemsis do work on the ground. Keep in mind that this deck sometimes plays Price of Progress and fetch basics if you can.
- Lands: Favorable – Meddling Mage can break up Punishing Fire or Life from the Loam engines, giving you the critical window you need to win the game. Given that we have gone greedy with the mana base, a recurring Wasteland on the other side of the table can be very bad. Like with normal D&T, attempt to disrupt them in the early turns before they can establish full control of the game.
- Esper Mentor: (untested at the time of writing)- Meddling Mage simply naming Monastery Mentor is likely great. We have many aggressive draws that can close the game out quickly while the opponent digs for answers. Most of their creatures are conveniently small enough that equipment activations can remove them. Between their discard, counter magic, and removal, they can compete for the early stages but likely not enough to slow the inevitable advantage that we have in the match up.
- Shardless BUG: Slightly un-favorable – Between Toxic Deluge, Golgari Charm, Abrupt Decay, and Liliana of the Veil, it is impossible to blank all of their removal. True-Name Nemesis doesn’t line up well against their removal, and Meddling Mage is overloaded with things to name. Divert can do a huge amount of damage, forcing your opponent to use their Hymn to Tourach or Abrupt Decay on their own resources. Rest in Peace can help to keep Tarmogoyf and Deathrite Shaman down. Mirran Crusader’s absence is really felt in this matchup, and the 24 land Dust bowl build is likely better here, having access to Restoration Angel and Dragonlord Ojutai for the long game.
- Storm: Favorable – In addition to the normal disruptive elements, the splash adds Meddling Mage and Vendilion Clique as additional disruptive elements. Many of your threats survive a Dread of Night, which is quite convenient.
The UW variant is a perfect choice in combo and Miracles-heavy metagame. While the UW build doesn’t restrict mana as much as the monowhite version, it restricts what your opponent is able to do and what spells they get to cast. With new angles of disruption, the deck plays a slightly different sort of game than traditional D&T. Problematic threats like True-Name Nemesis support this plan, and the option to run countermagic greatly improves the matchup against turn 1 combo decks.