The Present and Future of "Taxing" decks?


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    Would like to toss this question out there and give my take on it, as the topic was touched on slightly in the latest SMIP podcast and on Rich's stream at some point recently...

    Since the main taxing deck in Vintage has transformed by and large into an aggro deck, what colors and types of cards is Wizards developing the prison strategy for current and future printings, and is there a decent place for prison in Vintage after all the restrictions (Thorn, Chalice, LSG)?

    I have been thinking about this for a month or so and have been slowly building my vintage collection back on MTGO. My project deck last year was W Hatebears, and due to Mentor running amok it was just overpowered and outnumbered constantly, and decks were over-prepared to deal with any creature, especially white creatures. Without Mentor obliterating the meta and Shops largely shying away from Prison/Taxing due to restrictions, I think the correctly configured Hatebears deck has a chance to fit into this particular hole in the metagame.

    I've been experimenting with a total of 9 (3x Thalia1.0, 4x Glowrider, 2x Wingmare) Thorns on legs, among a lot of other hateful terrible cards, and 9 seems like a lot, but honestly it's where this deck starts to get competitive. I have 3 more things to pick up and a few more to try, and I'll take it to a league and do a write-up after the list gets solidified. There's some kooky shit in there.

    I think some combination of 2- or 3-color hatebears has the capability of filling in the void left by the restriction of Thorn, but the decks aren't quite there yet.

    Any thoughts on the future of taxing/prison decks?



  • The main issue with a strategy as the one you propose is that once you face Shops or Eldrazi you simply lose because you're left with a bunch of 2/1 do-nothings.

    I do believe that there's a viable hatebear strategy out there somewhere, but you need to focus your attention more towards beating Shops (and, to a lesser extend, Eldrazi). The main reason is that the cards you want the most against non-Shops decks (Sanctum Prelate, Thalia 1.0 and other taxing effects, Kambal, Gaddock Teeg, Spirit of the Labyrinth, Leonin Arbiter, Containment Priest, Eidolon of Rhetoric etc.) are really bad against Shops while the cards you want against Shops (Thalia 2.0, Eldrazi Displacer, Phyrexian Revoker, Knight of the Reliquary, Deathrite Shaman, Leonin Relic-Warder, Qasali Pridemage, Kataki, Ramunap Excavator, Swords to Plowshares etc.) still have decent value against most non-Shops decks.

    I've considered writing a comprehensive deckbuilding strategy article for hatebears, but I'm not sure if I want to spend the time on it.


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    @griselbrother One of those 2/1s is Kataki which totally destroys Shops and slows down PO, and post-board my current build can drop either that or Stony on turn 1.

    Edit: While "totally destroys" is def an overstatement, I'm still confident that it gives enough of an edge that post-board games are in my favor.

    In testing I'm about 70% against Shops on both post-board games, with the list as-is my main problem is Oath (Oath seems to be a problem for Taxing decks in general, so no huge surprise there, also I don't have any Containment Priests yet so I anticipate that matchup getting slightly better once I pick up a couple).

    I would be interested in reading a rundown. I think Wizards keeps printing taxing cards in White, as creatures, so this strategy in this particular color needs to have an eye kept on it. I'm pretty sure the last 2-3 sets including Commander have had brand-new or reconfigured hatebears or hate-ogres, and I don't think they're going to stop anytime soon.



  • @dumpsterac1d Kataki doesn't destroy Shops. It slows them down IF they don't have Ballista or Dismember post-board.


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    @fsecco Can confirm blowing out players banking on Kataki by removing it next turn without casualties. It's an annoying card but it doesn't slamdunk your game. If you're running any of the artifact warders, Stoneforge Mystic, etc. then things get a lot harder for the robots.



  • I agree that Kataki doesn't destroy shops. Sure it's a good card, but I've probably lost as many games as I've won against shops when I've resolved a Kataki.

    In my experience it takes a pretty dedicated build and a combination of quite a few cards to beat shops so I'd definitely like to see your build if it has a 70% winrate against Shops post-board.



  • @griselbrother Yeah. I would say that Kataki is surprisingly medium against Shops these days. Both Ravager and Ballista get around it pretty nicely, and the Ravager + Mishra's Factory interaction is a long term problem as well. Often times they just make 1 or 2 big creatures and pay the upkeep, then dominate the board. Before you know it you are chumping with your weenies and... bad things man... bad things.

    If I may be so bold. I would say that targeted removal is better against fast Shops in general. While upkeeps are better against the more lock oriented builds of the past. A general rule of thumb, I go by.

    What's good these days? Serenity... now?



  • @topical_island said in The Present and Future of "Taxing" decks?:

    @griselbrother Yeah. I would say that Kataki is surprisingly medium against Shops these days. Both Ravager and Ballista get around it pretty nicely, and the Ravager + Mishra's Factory interaction is a long term problem as well. Often times they just make 1 or 2 big creatures and pay the upkeep, then dominate the board. Before you know it you are chumping with your weenies and... bad things man... bad things.

    If I may be so bold. I would say that targeted removal is better against fast Shops in general. While upkeeps are better against the more lock oriented builds of the past. A general rule of thumb, I go by.

    What's good these days? Serenity... now?

    I definitely agree that targeted removal is a must against Shops. In my latest builds I've played 3 Swords maindeck and an additional 4 Path to Exile sideboard.

    Stony Silence is probably the best effect vs Shops at the moment because it stops Ballista, Ravager, Hangerback and Steel Overseer. However, very often Stony Silence is simply too slow which is why you want to play a ton of cheap removal spells to buy yourself time.

    What I currently play in my build that has an effect against Shops:

    3 Deathrite Shaman
    3 Qasali Pridemage
    3 Knight of the Reliquary
    2 Ramunap Excavator
    2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
    3 Stony Silence
    3 Swords to Plowshares
    3 Abrupt Decay

    and an additional 4 Path to Exile, 2 Pithing Needle and 2 Kataki sideboard.



  • @griselbrother Pridemage looks good at a glance. What do we think of Trygon these days? Knight looks reasonable too, but yeah... I wonder about the speed.

    What are we getting back with Excavator? Is there a land that can kill creatures that I'm not thinking of off hand. (Barbarian Ring seems like a big reach)... If it's just the full suite of Wastes and Strip, then maybe Kataki is worth a couple mainboard slots after all, as we can just chop out their lands and leave them unable to pay?

    2-3 Kataki. 4 Excavator. 4 Waste. 1 Strip. 2-3 Serenity. 1 Stoney Silence Does this do something? Feels like we have half a chance of playing the control and locking them out of the game via Waste-lock with a Kataki upkeep?


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    Pre-board, I run 3 Relic Warders, 1 Windborn Muse, 4 Ghost Quarter, 1 Strip, 1 Kataki, and 2 Banisher Priest, and I've had success with 1 -2 Royal Asassin. I also run 1 MB Serene Master, and another in the SB. The do-nothing cards are blockers, usually, and Thalia 2 is great as well against many of the creatures. Post-board I increase the Kataki numbers to 3 and add in 3 Stony, removing some chaff like Ethersworn Canonist.

    The main issue is an early Ballista or a Sphere if they're on the play, but so far in its current config I've lost 2 matches to Shops (admittedly only playing an average 1-2 games a day in the Practice room, I clearly need more reps), but pre-board I had enough cards against shops that an opponent yesterday literally thought I had built the deck to beat shops (exiled his first two plays with two Relic Warders), and that's pre-board, without 3x Kataki and 3x Stony. Most games Ive lost are usually due to mana screw in combo with not drawing my 5 basics or fetches for basics, or having to mull to 4.

    Hope that explains a bit.

    Also, by no means is this 100% solid "the answer to the metagame", but Kataki + Stony in play has resulted in an auto-concede every time it happens. That shops has gotten a lot more aggro doesn't help a bunch of 2/1's chances, but I think it has a much easier time than a blue deck just running Hurkyl's. Also picking up more tech on Friday that will help against more than a few aggro decks.



  • @topical_island said in The Present and Future of "Taxing" decks?:

    @griselbrother Pridemage looks good at a glance. What do we think of Trygon these days? Knight looks reasonable too, but yeah... I wonder about the speed.

    What are we getting back with Excavator? Is there a land that can kill creatures that I'm not thinking of off hand. (Barbarian Ring seems like a big reach)... If it's just the full suite of Wastes and Strip, then maybe Kataki is worth a couple mainboard slots after all, as we can just chop out their lands and leave them unable to pay?

    2-3 Kataki. 4 Excavator. 4 Waste. 1 Strip. 2-3 Serenity. 1 Stoney Silence Does this do something? Feels like we have half a chance of playing the control and locking them out of the game via Waste-lock with a Kataki upkeep?

    Pridemage is actually only somewhat ok in a world of Ravager and Revoker and it's slow as well. But it's a card that has usefulness against a variety of decks, especially as a maindeck answer to Oath.

    The main purpose of Knight is to get Wastelands and serve as a a big fat creature in the late game which is important as your opponent will start spitting out large Ballistas, Chief of the Foundrys and Precursor Golem even if you have a Stony Silence in play.

    Ramunap Excavator and Knight of the Reliquary are obviously awesome together, but yeah, they're both slow. You could play a Tabernacle in the board which can be decent against Shops and good against Pyromancer and Dredge. You could also experiment with a Grasping Dunes, if you want to be able to get some removal (or Cabal Pit but it seems hard to reach threshold).



  • @griselbrother Ahhh, Grasping Dunes was the one I was thinking of. I like that, since it kills exactly the Revoker and turns everything else back on. I suppose there are game nodes where you can just go grind-time with Dunes and Excavator and maybe make progress. This all seems a bit Legacy to me, but I seems like against this particular build of Shops, it could amazingly work (which is the way a good Fish deck always feels I suppose).



  • I have been playing around with a hatebear deck and I came to the conclusion that you need main deck graveyard hate. It helps most of your match ups including Shops. Rest in Peace and Samurai of the Pale Curtain hurt shops because Ravager cannot modular but it really hurts the blue decks. Dryad Militant is also descent. I was looking at other cards to help but the advice from earlier to just play Leonin Arbitor and Spirit of the Labryrinth make the most sense. Honestly, the issue is Walking Ballista, he is just too good against you. I looked at main deck Stoney Silence to help . The graveyard hate will help, because most blue deck depend on their delve spells or Snapcaster or some recursion now. Your worst match up is Oath and your real friend is Containment Priest, who does get hit with Abrupt Decay or Abrade but most of that stuff is not main deck.



  • @moorebrother1 I can tell you, as a Hatebear player who converted to an Oath player, Priest is pretty good, though I honestly fear cards that actually destroy the Oath much more. Cards like Pridemage are really annoying. Oath's worst nightmare is often just not finding Oath. When you see it blown up... you now have to find another, or the Bears will probably eat you pretty quickly.

    Destroying Oaths also tends to be the best way to exploit the biggest weakness of Oath... which is probably the lack of a clear draw "engine". (Though this get's bandaided recently with the usual broken blue cards, black tutors, and Dack and/or Big Jace) But having to conjure up a second Oath can be surprisingly difficult at times.

    Every Oath player worth their Orchards should have a plan for Priest. (Not saying she's bad) But yeah, upkeep Decay is very good.

    Kill the Oath is my suggestion for Hatebears players.


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    @moorebrother1 Interestingly enough, I was going to try out Deadeye Tracker for spot GY hate against Blue decks and Dredge. Just trying out as many Humans as possible in B/W to see what sticks. I have had a lot of success in general with another Ixalan Human, Kitesail Freebooter... Right now it's a 3-of, but I might need to cut 1 because I'm running into situations where it stays in hand while I'm playing Thalias or Glowriders instead. It is really good for information, and sometimes I can cast it off Cavern, steal a FoW, and then land a non-Human that ends up winning the game. I've taken Ancestral, Time Walk, Bargain, 3-Sphere, Sweepers, Drain, Lotus, removal, etc. It's a micro-TKS and comes down sooner. I like it a lot.

    In a previous build I had Dryad Militant, but 1-drops that can't be cast off Cavern are super marginal in a format with 4 Missteps.

    @Topical_Island Against Oath (and Storm) I have Aegis of the Gods. It sucks compared to Containment Priest since it's an Enchantment, but for now it's something that can be cast off Cavern and hold Oath activation at bay until they find something. (kind of like Priest in that way, I guess). The worst Oath development for us is Inferno Titan, by far.


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  • @dumpsterac1d What about Suppression Field? And perhaps Energy Field and Rest in Peace can be helpful against Shops and Dredge?


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    @chronatog I have played all of those, and they are indeed very, VERY good cards, the main issue is that Suppression Field hits my fetches, it gets harder and harder to cast with all the Thorns (9 right now in my build), and it hits Ghost Quarter, Wasteland, Strip, Mother of Runes, etc. The other two are great as well, but unless they come down before a Thorn, it's pretty difficult to cast them. Shops has a 3-mana land that helps them avoid actually paying for taxing effects, and the best a Human deck with 9 Thorns can do is just stick with creatures as much as possible.

    Same goes for spot removal in Instant form (Swords, Disenchant, etc). I really need to find those effects on legs in order for it to be included (which sucks, but there are options). If they ever print a Null Rod on legs, it's all over.

    My SB plan against Dredge is Yixlid Jailer and a couple of Bojuka Bog, which might be swapped for Containment Priests. Oddly enough, a lot of the maindeck cards have game against Dredge, the taxing effects with help from Wasteland can stop Dread Return and Cabal Therapy from being a thing they can do, and having creatures means that just one block can exile all their bridges, so it's generally Dread Return or nothing for the first few turns. I also have Windborn Muse as a 1-of, but it hasn't come up in Dredge yet.

    Altogether, I really think the sheer number of blanket hate cards in white, and the number of relevant Humans (And Cats, weirdly) increasing almost every set means the deck should be given a lot more consideration to than it currently is.



  • @dumpsterac1d said in The Present and Future of "Taxing" decks?:

    Suppression Field hits my fetches

    This is a valid point. Perhaps because I think about taxing decks more in terms of different tribes, notably humans, I never thought about using fetch lands in such decks. And with the recent printing of Unclaimed Territory, I just can't help sticking to my guns. With 4x Caverns of Souls and 4x Unclaimed Territory perhaps it is possible to have a more stable five-color humans without fetch lands. Have you thought about this approach?

    Shops has a 3-mana land that helps them avoid actually paying for taxing effects, and the best a Human deck with 9 Thorns can do is just stick with creatures as much as possible.

    On the bright side, these three mana can be used only to cast artifact spells. With Suppression Field in play Shops will be constrained on resources and may inflict a lot of damage from Ancient Tombs.

    Same goes for spot removal in Instant form (Swords, Disenchant, etc). I really need to find those effects on legs in order for it to be included (which sucks, but there are options). If they ever print a Null Rod on legs, it's all over.

    With printing of Walking Ballista it is harder to protect life points from creatures, but perhaps Propaganda or Ghostly Prison are still good options (at least for sideboard). Have you tried either of them?

    And I wouldn't expect Wizards to print Magus of the Rod after they introduced an artifact themed block.

    I also have Windborn Muse as a 1-of, but it hasn't come up in Dredge yet.

    I like that the Muse is a 2/3 flying Propaganda. I don't like that she costs four mana and is a spirit. I thought about Peacekeeper

    Altogether, I really think the sheer number of blanket hate cards in white, and the number of relevant Humans (And Cats, weirdly) increasing almost every set means the deck should be given a lot more consideration to than it currently is.

    Speaking about cats, I found only two white cats that are useful - Leonin Arbiter and Leonin Relic-Warder. Both are Clerics as well. And if Green is something one can splash, Nacatl Savage and Qasali Pridemage can help specifically against Shops.


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    Question for everyone;

    Are Taxing decks still in the realm of Shops variants, or are there enough cards elsewhere to get something reliably constructed and winning? I'm focusing on Humans, but I've heard mention of Eldrazi as well - what would that look like?

    @chronatog said in The Present and Future of "Taxing" decks?:

    This is a valid point. Perhaps because I think about taxing decks more in terms of different tribes, notably humans, I never thought about using fetch lands in such decks. And with the recent printing of Unclaimed Territory, I just can't help sticking to my guns. With 4x Caverns of Souls and 4x Unclaimed Territory perhaps it is possible to have a more stable five-color humans without fetch lands. Have you thought about this approach?

    Unclaimed Territory is pretty cool, but my main reason for using Cavern isn't really fixing it's more ensuring that key cards actually hit the table. The fixing is coming from duals and fetches, and while UT would solve the fixing issue, I have 5 or so basics in the list which I'd love to be able to dig out against Shops, BUG, and Standstill variants.

    With printing of Walking Ballista it is harder to protect life points from creatures, but perhaps Propaganda or Ghostly Prison are still good options (at least for sideboard). Have you tried either of them?

    I wrote a detailed (now way outdated and abandoned) primer here about a list I had been developing last year that includes most of the things you're mentioning: http://www.themanadrain.com/topic/482/developing-budget-vintage-unpowered-white-hatebears/

    And I wouldn't expect Wizards to print Magus of the Rod after they introduced an artifact themed block.

    I honestly wouldn't put it past them, they've printed two Null Rods and keep replicating or slightly transforming cards that have relevant abilities. I think the problem with Null Rod Man in KLD is that it would have been a hoser for most decks in the format, it would have put a halt to all the trouble they put into developing the cards, and if they DID print it in an artifact-heavy set, it would have had to have been overcosted to adjust it ahead a few turns (think a 3/3 for 4CMC that's also a Null Rod, a.k.a unplayable anywhere but standard).

    I like that the Muse is a 2/3 flying Propaganda. I don't like that she costs four mana and is a spirit. I thought about Peacekeeper

    Peacekeeper seems good, especially that you can basically just stop paying at any point if you get ahead on board. I was initially thinking about Silent Arbiter, but I am trying out High Priest of Penance. Should act as a micro one-sided Moat anti-sweeper card of sorts.


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