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Insider: Modern GW Death and Taxes Primer and Visual Sideboarding Guide

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The Bazaar of Moxen is an annual Eternal-format convention in France that draws many competitive players from around the continent. While the focus has historically been on Legacy, the ever-growing Modern format is also eternal, and this year the Modern main event drew over 300 players.

The winner, after all was said and done, was Serafin Wellinger, playing what has been dubbed “GW Death and Taxes” (GW D&T).

Some may know the deck as “GW Hatebears”, due to the many hateful 2-powered, 2-drop creatures, while others may recognize it as “GW Kibler”, as that popular player vocally championed his Wilt-Leaf Liege powered version for a period of time.

Regardless of the name, the deck is a Modern port of the historically Monowhite Legacy prison white-weenie deck--the most popular version being GW Maverick, which shares many of the same disruptive elements, particularly mana denial.. It uses efficient, hateful creatures to lock out the opposing game plan while nickel-and-diming the opponent to death.

I had seen the GW D&T deck performing quite well on Magic Online in the weeks and months prior to the Bazaar of Moxen, so its win there did not surprise me. With the Modern metagame starting to settle into relatively predictable archetypes, it is easier than ever to design a deck to combat expected opponents. This is much like how control decks are best when combating established and predictable metagames. Even with so many viable archetypes in the format, they all fall prey to many of the same forms of hate.

Card Analysis

The Modern GW D&T deck plays all of the most efficient, hateful creatures against the format and combines them under an aggressive shell. The deck is only as effective as the hate creatures it can play, and it is this core of creatures that defines the archetype. A brief rundown:


Leonin Arbiter punishes fetchlands and a whole assortment of cards, including Birthing Pod, Scapeshift, and Expedition Map. It also combines with Ghost Quarter to create a Stripe Mine effect and with Path to Exile to create a superior Swords to Plowshares.

Given that this anti-searching effect is so strong against the format and synergizes with the deck itself, for additional redundancy the deck also contains a set of Aven Mindcensor within the 75.


Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is excellent in a nearly noncreature-less deck, and it works to constrain the mana of every opponent in the format. It slows down cogs from Affinity, combo pieces like Splinter Twin, removal spells like Lightning Bolt from control opponents, and much much more. It is a strong tempo play that will require at least two mana to remove, and combined with this deck’s own mana acceleration, it is capable of effectively locking an opponent out of the game by putting them too far behind to ever recover.


Scavenging Ooze is a hate-bear against the graveyard, including cards like Tarmogoyf and Snapcaster Mage. It stops combo decks using Past in Flames and Pyromancer Ascension, and disrupts persist creatures, including the combo with Melira, Sylvok Outcast. It is also quite strong in creature matchups where it can grow large and gain a lot of life. It’s inherently strong in a deck with so many creatures, which provides it plenty of fodder.


Linvala, Keeper of Silence, while not a bear, is extremely hateful against three of the most heavily played archetypes in the format--Affinity, Splinter Twin combo and Birthing Pod. It’s also strong against more fringe players like Sakura-Tribe Elder and Martyr of Sands.


The Legacy version of this deck often abuses Mangara of Corondor with Flickerwisp or Karakas in response to the ability, which removes an opposing permanent but leaves the legend safely in play or hand. This Modern version has a different proactive plan made possible by Blade Splicer.

It can be abused with the aforementioned Flickerwisp or with a Modern addition, Restoration Angel. This miniature-combo gives it a very strong proactive plan against the format, and it’s capable of ending the game quickly.



Flickerwisp is great as a temporary way to remove opposing permanents when they matter most, while Restoration Angel can also be used to counter removal spells.


Path to Exile, the most powerful and efficient removal spell in the format, rounds out the action in this deck. The card can be seen as a hate card against the various creatures of the format, and it often generates massive tempo in the process. It gives this deck an additional angle of attack, making it much harder to play against than a simply linear aggro deck.


A very important piece of the deck is the mana acceleration package of Aether Vial and Noble Hierarch. These cards give the deck a mana advantage on the opponent, which can be leveraged to further bury them. Aether Vial is volatile, in that it must come down early in the game in order to be effective, but when operational it provides an unparalleled advantage. Noble Hierarch is the best green mana accelerator in the format, and this deck takes advantage of the Exalted trigger with first strike creatures and evasive fliers.


The lands in this deck are particularly great compared to what other decks must play. The headliner, Horizon Canopy, combats mana flood, while Gavony Township does much of the same. Given that flood is the biggest risk in playing a deck like this, these lands go a long way. I’ve already mentioned some applications of Ghost Quarter, but it’s excellent on its own against Urzatron decks and the manlands from Affinity. Temple Garden and Razorverge Thicket are reliable dual lands that ensure colored mana is not a real issue.

Sideboarding

Now I’d like to focus on the sideboard, which gives the deck the flexibility it needs to tackle any opponent.

Being white, this deck gets to play some of the best sideboard cards in the format:


Stony Silence is necessary to combat Affinity, one of the weaker matchups, but it also hates on the artifact-laden Urzatron decks. It will also stop various rogue artifact strategies that may be lurking, like Krark-Clan Ironworks or decks built around Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas.


Burrenton Forge-Tender is an underappreciated Wizard that hates on red decks. At the simplest level it can eternally block something like Goblin Guide, but it’s actually most useful as a way to counter opposing removal. As a one-drop, it’s a perfect against combo and control decks as a lead-in to protect hatebears that come down later. It will trade for Lightning Bolt or Flame Slash, and it completely counters sweepers like Anger of the Gods and Pyroclasm.


I spoke about Mark of Asylum a few weeks ago, and Dylan Beckham followed up on that in his article, but, in summary, it’s shuts down all opposing burn spells as removal, which allows the hate creature to run rampant. Given that some decks only have burn as a reasonable answer to hatebears, it will lock some opponents out of the game.


Sunlance can be seen as Modern's white Lightning Bolt, and it’s a great sideboard card against opponents without white creatures. A singleton Dismember is similar but gives up four life for added utility, which makes it excellent against Deceiver Exarch and company. Both of these can be considered a supplement to Path to Exile.

Green also provides some useful hate cards:


Creeping Corrosion is hates hard on Affinity, and it’s a concession to the poor matchup, which actually becomes very winnable after sideboard. This removes everything, including Etched Champion.


Choke gets the job done against blue opponents. Blue seems to get better and better as Modern grows, and so too will Choke. There’s nothing fancy or tricky about this one, but it makes up for that with raw power and the ability to win games outright against unsuspecting opponents.


The golden Gaddock Teeg, also known as “Gaddock Tease”, was a serious bane on my existence when I played a lot of Urzatron in Extended, and it’s part of the reason I started playing Oblivion Ring. It’s criminally underplayed in Modern, where it shuts down more cards than I care to list, though a few of note are Past in Flames, Splinter Twin and Birthing Pod. It’s a legend with no upside in multiples, so one copy in the sideboard is ample, but playing additional is a fine option if the format shifts more toward featuring even more blue cards like Cryptic Command and Gifts Ungiven.


The final sideboard card is a copy of Akroma, Angel of Fury. In a vacuum, this is actually a hate creature and it’s nearly impossible for some opponents to remove. Functionally, it works in this deck as a combo creature. It is morphed, then hit with Flickerwisp or Restoration Angel, and turns into a huge threat. Unlike Blade Splicer, it requires a Flicker, but the upside is enormous. This strategy is best employed against opponents without an answer to the final product.

Visual Sideboard Guide

As far as sideboarding against the format, here’s how I’d do it against some of the more popular opponents:

Affinity

OUT


IN

Leonin Arbiter does little to nothing, and they don't have many basic lands to search for anyway. Gaddock Teeg stops Thoughtcast! You could consider Dismember, but I don't believe it's particularly good here

Birthing Pod

OUT


IN

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is ineffective hate against a deck composed of almost entirely creatures. Sunlance is relatively weak and inflexible here, but Dismember kills anything and can disrupt the combo instantly. Gaddock Teeg stops their namesake combo engine from hitting play.

Splinter Twin

OUT


IN

This is the most complex deck to actually play against, and sideboarding is the most flexible, but matchup is actually quite fine.

Be prepared to combat Grim Lavamancer, their best tool against you. They typically transform into a sort of control deck after sideboard, so be aware. If you see lots of burn like Anger of the Gods, I would consider Burrenton Forge-Tender, but, in practice, the sweeper rarely shows up.For example, both Patrick Dickmann and his friend made the top 8 of the BoM with identical copies of Twin, both lacking the red sweeper in the 75.

Flickerwisp flashed in with Aether Vial can disrupt their combo or Batterskull, but not all four are necessary.

Storm

OUT


IN

Keep in some removal for Goblin Electromancer, otherwise bring in anything potentially hateful. Disrupt them as first priority, and try to win as quickly as possible. Be prepared to face tokens from Empty the Warrens.

Tron

OUT


IN

Bring in the hate, cut the weakest cards. This should be a great matchup.

UR Delver

OUT


IN

This is pretty straightfoward. I cut the most vulnerable creatures and bring in powerful cards that hate on their strategy.

JUND

OUT


IN

Bring in removal and some anti-burn cards. This deck will have Anger of the Gods, so consider both Burrenton Forge-Tender.

Please turn to the comments with any questions!

-Adam

2 thoughts on “Insider: Modern GW Death and Taxes Primer and Visual Sideboarding Guide

    1. Stony Silence to stop Birthing Pod is narrow, though that’s not to say it’s certainly wrong to bring it in. Between Leonin Arbiter and Aven Mindcensor the deck should have plenty of ways to interact with Birthing Pod.

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