Great Big Gladiator Games Deck Tech: Mono-White Death & Taxes

Decks these days can have so many colors. I’ve even heard rumors of disturbed individuals who will play four or more. If you’re like me, your brain is incapable of considering all the possible card choices in these decks without shutting down important bodily sensations like “hunger” or “thirst.” That’s where Mono-White Death & Taxes comes in. A deck that is fun, aggressive, and disruptive while remaining mono-color. Not to mention it reached the top eight of The Great Big Gladiator Games.

Deck List

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Mono-White Death and Taxes

Creatures (48)
Instants (6)
Sorceries (2)
Artifacts (3)
Enchantments (5)
Planeswalkers (3)
Lands (33)

Deck Rundown

Our game plan is to play lots of creatures to the board as fast as we can. Many of these creatures come with passive abilities that hinder our opponent, slowing down their ability to deal with our threats. And if they do manage to play a problematic card or two, we’re also packing interaction to help get around them. 

So let’s start with the titular taxes. The gold standard for a tax effect is Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. She significantly hampers a wide variety of decks with her ability, and her statline as a 2/1 first striker for two mana makes her a good early game beater. A bunch more two power taxation creatures join Thalia in the prestigious position of making your opponents go: “Ugh that’s annoying.” Cards like Drannith Magistrate on the other hand just aren’t aggressive enough. Sorry buddy!

On to the death! White’s biggest advantage over other single-color Aggro decks is its abundance of fliers. We even play ordinary flying creatures with power and toughness equal to their mana value. If it has less power than its mana value it needs to have either a tax effect or some other strong utility. Flying is our main way of finishing off our opponents once their life total is low, so even unassuming fliers are vital.

What’s better than a Bird? A bigger Bird! We have a few different ways to accomplish this. Equipment gives a boost to our creatures while providing other handy benefits. Equipment’s best feature is that it sticks around after the equipped creature dies. The opponent can destroy the body or the sword, but they usually can’t do both.

Cards that slap +1/+1 counters on creatures or provide an anthem effect (an across the board increase in power and toughness) help out here too. It’s important to note though, these need to have more going for them than just Glorious Anthem, or else we end up diluting the density of threats we want in our deck. They should either be attached to a body or have another way of progressing our game plan.

Sometimes though, your opponent plays an Elder Gargaroth. Because Wizards of the Coast gave it reach, we need cards that deal with these pesky threats looking to prevent us from slamming a bunch of 2/1 creatures into our opponent’s face. Luckily, we have exile-based removal to put away whatever nightmarish 2020 cards our opponent plays. Our cheap exile spells look to trade up for whatever threats we’re using them on, while our more expensive enchantment-based removal trades in efficiency for flexibility.

Should our opponent play their own removal however, we can look to use a variety of instant-speed effects to keep our sweet little 2/3 fliers safe. These spells should be cheap, be able to protect more than one creature, or come with a body of their own. The more of these criteria it fulfills the better. Turning what our opponent expects to be a two for one into a one for one that keeps our board presence can be a pivotal moment in a game because of the tempo swing and mana advantage gained.

To cast spells we need lands. Unfortunate, but true. Because our pip density is high, more than two colorless lands is dangerous territory.  Faceless Haven hits like a truck and is easy to activate, while Tyrite Sanctum boosts any of our legendary creatures. When it comes to utility lands that add white mana, like the ones above, we can be more liberal, so long as they usually enter untapped.

Spicy Picks

Also known as: The section where Elle reassures herself that the cards she put in her deck are good. These are cards that other people’s versions of this deck might not include that I think are worthwhile. They aren’t exactly the most powerful cards you’ll have in your deck, but they do offer some unique benefits that earn them a place in this list.

Basri Ket

All three of Basri’s abilities are great for us. His +1 ability fills the role we talked about earlier of making our creatures bigger, with the added bonus that it lets the creature attack without fear of our opponent’s creatures being able to trade with it. The -2 lets us make extra bodies and apply more pressure on a big attack, and our deck is already built to synergize with having a larger number of smaller creatures. The -6 is obviously powerful, and if you can protect Basri he can reach it surprisingly quickly. Basri does have a major weakness though: he doesn’t do anything on his own. Additionally, while behind he does little to catch you back up. Playing Basri the turn after your opponent plays Wrath of God and kills all your creatures feels a bit limp. However, because we’re more able to protect against board wipes than other decks, this downside is a reasonable price to pay.

Eidolon of Obstruction

This card feels a bit like the Thalia at home. It’s a two mana 2/1 with first strike and a tax. Because most decks run at least a few planeswalkers, the tax is relevant in a lot of matchups. Unlike Thalia though, it’s not going to slow down their entire gameplan. Instead it makes your opponent pivot their gameplan a bit or play their planeswalker slightly off curve. It’s also an enchantment, which means cards like Knight of Autumn can destroy it, but killing this means that they don’t have that enchantment removal for Conclave Tribunal or Paladin Class, so this downside isn’t too heinous. Generic brand cereal is fine even if it doesn’t taste quite as good, so this is still annoying enough for us to want it.

Fairgrounds Warden

A three mana 1/3 is the worst statline we’re playing in this deck. I even said earlier that a 1/3 for two mana isn’t good enough, so why would we ever play this dingus? Well, we’re considering this removal first, and a creature second. It is easier to kill than our enchantments with similar effects, but it’s also something we can use our own cards to protect. Against red any increase in toughness makes it survive Lightning Bolt, and if we have a Selfless Savior backing it up it will be extremely annoying for most decks to get back their creature.

Nadaar, Selfless Paladin

Venturing into the dungeon is pretty inconsistent in Gladiator, so this card might seem a bit underwhelming. It’s true, the anthem ability for completing a dungeon isn’t going to come up very often. The most common play pattern for this card is that it scrys 1 and makes a goblin token. On its own though this is pretty reasonable, giving card selection and an extra body on an on-rate threat. And if Nadaar continues to go unchecked then it gets out of hand quite quickly. There’s also a little bit of flexibility with which dungeon you pick. 95% of the time it’s best to pick the Lost Mine of Phandelver, but when your opponent is at one life they won’t expect to get burned out by a Mono-White deck utilizing the Tomb of Annihilation.

Honorable Mentions

Believe it or not, there are more than 100 good white cards on Arena. Here are a handful that could very easily slip into this deck that just didn’t quite make the cut. If you expect a certain meta, or even just don’t have enough wildcards to craft everything in this decklist, these cards are ready to sub in.

Containment Priest

This card has a lot going for it. It’s a two mana 2/2 with flash and a powerful tax effect. So what’s she doing on the sidelines? Well, the main issue is that the tax effect is a bit too narrow. The vast majority of decks aren’t affected much at all. Cards like Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath get cast from the graveyard, so there aren’t any ubiquitous staple cards that this puts a stop to. If that changes, or if you expect to play against a lot of Blink or Reanimator, then this card can end up winning the game single-handedly, so keep it in mind.

Law-Rune Enforcer

A 1/2 for one mana isn’t exactly the most exciting statline, but this little friend can keep Questing Beast at bay. Tappers can be a good way of protecting our life total and getting around our opponent’s blockers. However, they’re not a permanent solution, and all it takes is a wee little Shock to get that nasty 4/4 attacking with impunity again. Still, the Enforcer’s cheap cost both to play and activate makes it worth consideration, and other skilled Mono-White players do run it.

Shadowspear

Shadowspear is a great Equipment. It’s cheap to cast, has a low equip cost, and grants two keyword abilities plus a stat boost. If the planets align it can even let our Swords to Plowshares exile a Carnage Tyrant. Compared to the other Equipment the deck runs, this one is geared more towards Aggro matchups, whereas something like Dancing Sword works better against Control. Which Equipment we run is open to customization, so consider what decks you expect to play against and choose accordingly.

Strict Proctor

Taxing enter-the-battlefield effects from any permanent is tricky. It’s true that this tax hampers a wide variety of decks, and it’s a two mana flier too. A 1/3 is going to take a long time to peck your opponent to death, but there’s enough going for it to overlook that. The tricky part is making sure the tax effect will hinder your opponent more than you. Between our flash creatures that protect our board and our enchantment-based removal we have a decent amount of abilities that might end up getting shut down by our own proctor. If you feel you’ll be able to reliably be on the duller side of this double-edged sword it’s certainly worth slotting in.

Matchups

Which cards are in our hand has a big influence on our matchups. Keep in mind which tax effects will hamper which decks during mulligans and even deck construction. Your Thalia might ruin a storm player’s life, but she won’t look quite so unbeatable against Green Aggro.

Midrange

In general this is our hardest matchup, especially if it’s green based Midrange. They just print so many big green creatures, and no one has responded to my messages asking to allow multiples of Giant Killer. This is where removal is the most important, as we need to make sure that we can keep pushing damage if they establish a board presence. Once the Midrange deck has developed its board state the best way of winning is getting around their blockers with our fliers, so reach and flying creatures are prime targets for our removal.

Combo and Control 

Despite being different deck archetypes, our plan for Combo and Control work out to be pretty similar. These decks are hit by a bunch of our taxes, so their cards that are meant to deal with Aggro decks are often less efficient against us. For that reason, keeping a hand with a relevant tax and a good curve is ideal here. Playing out cheap threats before their counters and removal are online puts them on the back foot, and because they typically don’t have many blockers we can afford to hold back threats or have protection ready to deal with a wrath. These are the matches we tend to fare best against, but if we overcommit without a way of recovering we can end up falling behind.

Aggro

In Aggro mirrors we tend to be pretty even, with a slightly less favorable game against Mono-Green Aggro. Creatures with vigilance, lifelink or first strike help us maintain pressure while keeping our life total stable in these matches. We usually aren’t as fast as other Aggro decks, so it’s important to recognize when it’s time to go on defense. Against Mono-Red for instance, burn spells or haste creatures can punish us if we don’t leave up any blockers even though on our turn it looked like we could win the race. Determining when to attack in these matches is tricky, so take your time and assess what your opponent could retaliate with before you throw your entire board at their face.

Conclusion

And now friends you too are ready to play Magic in its most sublime form. Squeal with joy as your opponent’s Counterspell becomes Cancel, and their Wrath of God becomes Cleansing Nova. Have fun, and look forward to my next article: Top Ten Reasons Unchained Berserker Should Be Banned in Gladiator.