Simon Depraz (aka Mannaus on The Source) just made of finals of the EU Eternal Weekend. He reached out to me and offered to write a tournament report, and I happily obliged. What follows is his material, though I’ve made some minor adjustments.
My name is Simon Depraz, and I’ve been playing Death and Taxes for almost 2 years now. I’ve played tons of different versions, and just like any DnT regular, I’ve had my fair share of exciting successes as well as huge disappointments. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking down a rocky road, yet, I believe in the deck and its ability to break almost any strategy in Legacy (let’s face it, Elves are out there).
Eternal Weekend was the next big event on my radar. I tested an extended range of matchups with my friends. Luckily I had the opportunity to test many different builds, bringing my various decks to competitive events around Switzerland. I played with a WB build for a long time, splashing for the good old Orzhov Pontiff and occasionally a one-of Dark Confidant. I had some success, most notably against TNN decks, but nothing too mind-blowing. Then, with Czech Pile on the rise, I went for the RW strategy with 2 Magus of the Moon and Pia and Kiran Nalaar; I also tried out Dire Fleet Daredevil.
Yet, whereas playtesting results were pretty encouraging, competitive events went very poorly. I played a few events with average results, feeling that I was losing to my own lack of stability. Indeed, whereas the RW build had some pretty decent runs versus tier 1 decks, I lost way too many matches versus tier 2 or tier 3 decks. I just always felt like the deck was too centered around punishing the rampant greed in Legacy top-tier decks, and not enough around being concretely solid against any opponent. The free wins Magus enabled were pretty nice, but the price to pay felt too high.
So…what next? I was left with a serious trade-off: True-Name Nemesis and Czech Pile are a thing, but so are Monoblack Pox, Steel Stompy, Omnitell, and all other various small meta percentage decks. Thus, for a big event (almost 300 players showed up in Paris), I decided to go back to a WW build. I took the approach that a strong, stock build would be better suited to face a field full of random decks while still being able to put up a serious fight against tier 1 decks. Here’s what I registered for the event:
Simon Depraz, EU Eternal Weekend
So, I’m not sure what a “stock” DnT list is nowadays. I think it’s also a rather difficult call, so those choices are just my opinions. In the main deck, there are realistically about 54 unmovable slots; you can make very minor changes to the manabase, but the end result is always about the same. Thus the real deckbuilding decisions come in those 6 flex slots. I went for the rather aggressive plan with 3 Mirran Crusader and 2 Serra Avenger filling 5 of those 6 slots. The reasons are quite straightforward: Mirran is a bomb versus everything that plays green and/or black. It’s also great in matchups where racing is important. Serra Avenger is great against True-Name Nemesis (which it can race) and isn’t bothered much by all the -1/-1 effects in the format. I chose to be proactive with big bodies with evasion instead of trying to be reactive with slots like Magus of the Moon. I tried to make my opponent focus on handling my board rather than developing theirs.
Something I took into consideration when choosing over flex slots was the mana curve and the Vial curve. And to this extent, Serra Avenger is actually a pretty solid contender as well. It fits very well both as a 2-drop off of Vial and as a mid/late-game topdeck 2-drop to hardcast while still leaving some mana open for things like casting other spells, equipping, or using Rishadan Port.
Then Sanctum Prelate felts like an absolute must-play in my opinion. It requires quite extensive matchup knowledge to use properly and definitely some heavy pondering of the board state and the possible lines of your opponent. That said, it handles situations no other card can handle and it has the unique ability to soft-lock an opponent out of their game plan.
I went down to two Revoker, as I felt that was enough in the current meta. He is necessary, and I am most of the time quite happy to top deck it. Plus it’s also a fantastic Recruiter target in many matchups. But two feels like enough, especially in a monowhite shell that can play other direct answers to problematic permanents in the sideboard (e.g. Council’s Judgement).
Concerning the lands: I took out my copies of Cavern of Souls, thus maxing on basic Plains. This was to support my my maximum consistency plan. The basics felt great against any Wasteland or Blood Moon strategies. I still sleeved up a Horizon Canopy though as a minor card-advantage plan for control matchups like Miracles or Czech Pile.
Then the sideboard: rather stock. I went down to 1 Containment Priest in favor of a second Prelate. Sneak and Show tends to play multiple copies of Omniscience now, and Containment Priest feels rather weak against these versions. I rarely want more than one Priest in other matchups, like the mirror or Green Sun’s Zenith decks, for which a 1-of Containment Priest can be a very nice reactive touch, but also a quite mediocre top deck. Thus 1 seems enough.
I played the Sword of War and Peace as a concession to Miracles, which I expected a lot of in Paris. Plus it’s a game-winning card in many other matchups (Punishing Fire decks, the mirror, Combo…). I rate it very highly as a sideboard card. That left me with one last tough choice: Cataclysm vs Gideon. That was my most debated choice. It’s close, Gideon is very strong, but Cataclysm can just save you from otherwise unwinnable situations. In the end, I have more fun resolving Cataclysms than Gideons, so Cataclysm it was.
So let’s look at how the event went for me…
Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Food Chain (2-0)
When my opponent pitched Misthollow Griffin to Force of Will to counter my turn 1 Vial, I prepared myself for an uphill battle. But in game 1, beatdowns with equipment got me there, and in game 2 hatebears (Sanctum Prelate, Canonist, Thalia) prevented my opponent from developing his board since he had to manage mine.
Round 3: Miracle (2-0)
I had to re-learn paying versus topless Miracles. But here again, having access to both high pressure cards (big bodies and equipment) on the board coupled with taxing effects is a great path to victory. I committed only minimally to the board, leaving my opponent to answer my threats one-by-one rather than having time to develop his own board. It worked.
Round 4: Grixis Delver (2-1)
I knew my opponent from a trial the day before, in which he beat me. I owe both those wins to Avenger and Stoneforge Mystic. My actions left my opponent with must-answers threats on the board, forcing him to cantrip aggressively into his answers. Swords to Plowshares and Thalia then also prevented my opponent from trying to race me, and once tempo was in my favor, I took over the game easily.
Round 5: Czech Pile (1-2)
The games were very close. I won the first, then lost the second to a totally unexpected Gurmag Angler that bought him 4 turns to find answers to my board. He found them. I lost. I lost the last game to multiple Hymn to Tourach and Kolaghan’s Command. Not too much I could have done differently, I believe.
Round 6: Death and Taxes (2-0)
Game 1, I found and connected with Jitte faster. My opponent put up a solid fight, but, yeah, Jitte connected. Game over. In the mirror, sometimes you have the right sort of draw to just cripple your opponent’s hand with minimal interaction. My Revoker on Vial did just that, and Serra Avenger on the board lead to another of those situations: I had 2 must answer threats, which dispersed attention. Answering one would still leave the other, and meanwhile I was developing my board state faster than my opponent. He was a very nice opponent, and I always feel a little sad to encounter fellow DnT players, as only one of both has the chance to advance.
Round 7: Grixis Control (2-0)
Again, multiple big bodies and equipment plus some designed hate cards caused my opponent to have to fight my threats rather than looking for his own threats. Meanwhile I was accumulating gas in my hand, which meant I could bounce back after any bombs from my opponent like Kolaghan’s Command or Toxic Deluge.
Round 8: Sneak and Show (2-0)
This was the most one-sided match of the day. Game 1 he cast Ponder turn 1, but then he got taxed out the game. Thalia made him effectively take off a turn to cast a Lotus Petal on turn 2 and I Wastelanded his Volcanic Island on turn 3. He got beat down by 2 Avengers and a Thalia rather quickly. In game 2 he had a Blood Moon and a Sneak Attack, but was trying to top deck a threat to close things out. I developed a board that could survive an Emrakul annihilator trigger and still attack for lethal. Here the aggro plan worked out very nicely. Just having Serra Avenger off of Vial into Mirran Crusader allowed me to race him quite efficiently.
Round 9: Intentional draw into top 8.
I finished the 9 rounds of swiss having pretty decent tie breakers: 80% GW (best of tournament) and 68% OMW (2nd best).
1/4 finals: Grixis Delver (2-0)
It went down pretty smoothly: my threats forced him to dig for threats/answers, I answered his threats with Swords to Plowshares and Sword of Fire and Ice. He found some answers, but I just kept the threats coming. I slowly built up my board game 1, knowing no sweepers were available to him, and at some point I just overwhelmed him. Game 2 basically followed the same pattern.
Semifinals: Monored Prison (2-0)
Game 1 was pretty favorable, as his entire Blood Moon strategy felt a little dead. I managed to win under double Ensnaring Bridge with a Jitte, slowly chipping away at his life total. In game 2, an early Chandra was answered by my Revoker, and then Serra Avenger and the equipment took the game out of reach for my opponent. The stability choice I went for when considering deck-building decisions (i.e. playing so many basic lands) totally payed off for this matchup. I never felt like I could lose it. The Avengers also felt really good here, since they survive otherwise unbeatable stuff like Sulfur Elemental.
Finals: BG Depths (1-2)
My opponent played a very interesting mid-rangey version of Turbo Depths; he called it “Slow Depths.” I won game 1, with a very good opening 7, putting a Batterskull on the battlefield and getting some insurance versus any sneaky Marit Lage. The game 2, I had a very strong hand, yet his was even better and he was comboed me. Game 3, I kept a very solid hand versus the combo side of his deck, yet it was the other side of his deck that came out: Dread of Night, Liliana, the Last Hope, and Bitterblossom. Not much I could do here…
It felt very difficult to take into account both the possibility of a turn 2 Marit Lage and at the same time a turn 2 Liliana, the Last Hope or Dark Confidant. This version of Dark Depths combo seems very promising, and maybe we’ll have to watch out for this and adapt both sideboard strategies and the matchup approach. I will note that my opponent was the nicest of guys. We played very relaxed, yet competitive, games, in a very sound atmosphere for all the spectators watching us. That felt very good. Congrats to him for winning the tournament, especially by representing this new Dark Depths combo deckbuilding twist.
In the end, I went 9-2-1 in the day, losing only to Czech Pile and Slow Depths, and only conceding one game to Grixis Delver in all of my wins.
Serra Avenger over-performed. It felt gas all the time. Thalia was, as always, insane. Against the blue decks, they are forced to dig for answers to your threats while you constrict their mana. This probably was the winning engine of my tournament.
As a general comment, I would like to add that equipment won me almost all my games. Yes, artifact hate is everywhere, but Stoneforge Mystic always felt like it would be the game-winning advantage in all fair matchups. I still believe that the WW version featuring both high board-pressure big body creatures (Mirran, Avenger), high stack-pressure creatures (Thalia, Prelate), and card-advantage engines (Flickerwisp, Recruiter, Vial) is the best-suited version of Death and Taxes to fight a large and varied metagame in any given big tournament. The stability of the deck, coupled with a proven and well-tested shell will lead to many wins if you practice careful decision-making.
Thank you all for reading this report, and I would welcome any comments or discussion on any topics I brought up in my article. I am a rather active member on The Source as well, under the pseudonym Mannaus. Feel free to message me or comment on the DnT thread.