TES Matchup Battles: Orzhov Death & Taxes

Orzhov Death & Taxes has the same core deck as mono white Death and & Taxes, but since the printing of [[Orcish Bowmasters]] it has made splash black most of the time. There are many decks in Legacy that draw cards or have one toughness creatures, so [[Orcish Bowmasters]] has quickly become a staple of the format. Typically, each creature Orzhov Death & Taxes plays is either good against combo, control, or creature decks, but rarely all three. [[Orcish Bowmasters]] is unique in that it can be good against most of the decks in Legacy, but each for a different reason. By deciding to play black, this opens up the deck to play many other cards with the other main black card being [[Thoughtseize]]. It is another card that is versatile and good in most matchups and can interact faster with combo decks than Orzhov Death & Taxes could in the past. Death & Taxes has been a popular deck choice for many years, and with this new addition, we can expect its popularity to only increase, so we should be prepared for the matchup.

How does Orzhov Death & Taxes matchup against TES?

[[Thalia, Guardian of Thraben|]]
[[Orcish Bowmasters|]]

[[Orcish Bowmasters]] – This is main reason Death and & Taxes has moved to Orzhov instead of being mono white. [[Orcish Bowmasters]] is good in so many matchups and is a unique disruptive angle that didn’t exist before. Even against TES it can be annoying because of [[Mishra’s Bauble]], [[Brainstorm]], [[Song of Creation]], [[Echo of Eons]], and [[Peer into the Abyss]]. The one counter to this is [[Veil of Summer]] which would normally be a dead card in this matchup.

[[Thoughtseize]] – The deck is already playing black, so [[Thoughtseize]] is a great inclusion. Hand disruption is not an angle that Orzhov Death & Taxes could leverage in the past, but adding black gives it the opportunity. The ability to take key cards and have the information to play the rest of their creatures makes Orzhov Death & Taxes so much better and helps in many matchups. Sometimes guessing which creature to play and in which order can make or break the outcome of a game, and [[Thoughtseize]] removes that guessing game.

[[Thalia, Guardian of Thraben]] – The Achilles heel of a Storm deck. [[Thalia, Guardian of Thraben]] is the staple of Orzhov Death & Taxes and makes it nearly impossible for a s Storm deck to combo through. This card is the reason why speed is important in this matchup.

[[Wasteland]], [[Rishadan Port]] – One of the reasons Orzhov Death & Taxes got its name is because of its taxing the opponent’s lands. Most of the decks in Legacy play very few lands and could play zero basic lands, TES included. [[Wasteland]] and [[Rishadan Port]] are even more powerful on the play because you’re immediately behind on lands, and it can be hard to get past having more than one land available. Against a deck like TES that plays 12 lands, sometimes just disrupting the lands is good enough to win.

[[Mindbreak Trap]], [[Deafening Silence]] – One of the weaknesses of Orzhov Death & Taxes is extremely fast combo decks. They usually can’t interact much on the first turn outside of [[Wasteland]]. It also just so happens that if a deck is winning on turn one or two then they’re probably playing several spells on that turn. To shore up that weakness, Orzhov Death & Taxes plays a few copies of [[Mindbreak Trap]] in the sideboard, and that will be helpful against TES. [[Deafening Silence]] is in the same boat. Another turn one piece of interaction that stops s Storm right its tracks. These postboard cards allow Orzhov Death & Taxes to interact on turn zero and turn one and that is extremely helpful at beating faster combo decks, because the main deck cannot interact until the second turn outside of [[Wasteland]].

Deck Lists

The EPIC Storm

Main Deck

  • 4 [[Burning Wish]]
  • 4 [[Beseech the Mirror]]
  • 4 [[Brainstorm]]
  • 3 [[Galvanic Relay]]
  • 1 [[Gaea’s Will]]
  • 1 [[Song of Creation]]
  • 1 [[Tendrils of Agony]]
  • 4 [[Veil of Summer]]
  • 4 [[Rite of Flame]]
  • 4 [[Dark Ritual]]
  • 4 [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]]
  • 4 [[Lotus Petal]]
  • 3 [[Mox Opal]]
  • 4 [[Mishra’s Bauble]]
  • 3 [[Chrome Mox]]
  • 4 [[Bloodstained Mire]]
  • 1 [[Scalding Tarn]]
  • 1 [[Misty Rainforest]]
  • 1 [[Verdant Catacombs]]
  • 1 [[Underground Sea]]
  • 1 [[Volcanic Island]]
  • 1 [[Badlands]]
  • 1 [[Taiga]]
  • 1 [[Bayou]]


  • 1 [[Echoing Truth]]
  • 1 [[Galvanic Relay]]
  • 4 [[Carpet of Flowers]]
  • 1 [[Thoughtseize]]
  • 1 [[Consign // Oblivion]]
  • 1 [[Grapeshot]]
  • 1 [[Empty the Warrens]]
  • 1 [[Tendrils of Agony]]
  • 1 [[Echo of Eons]]
  • 2 [[Abrupt Decay]]
  • 1 [[Peer into the Abyss]]

Orzhov Death & Taxes

Main Deck

  • 1 [[Canoptek Scarab Swarm]]
  • 1 [[Flickerwisp]]
  • 1 [[Lion Lash]]
  • 1 [[Loran of the Third Path]]
  • 4 [[Mother of Runes]]
  • 4 [[Orcish Bowmasters]]
  • 4 [[Recruiter of the Guard]]
  • 1 [[Samwise the Stouthearted]]
  • 3 [[Skyclave Apparition]]
  • 4 [[Solitude]]
  • 4 [[Stoneforge Mystic]]
  • 4 [[Thalia, Guardian of Thraben]]
  • 4 [[AEther Vial]]
  • 1 [[Batterskull]]
  • 1 [[Kaldra Compleat]]
  • 4 [[Swords to Plowshares]]
  • 1 [[Path to Exile]]
  • 4 [[Thoughtseize]]
  • 1 [[Arid Mesa]]
  • 1 [[Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire]]
  • 4 [[Karakas]]
  • 4 [[Marsh Flats]]
  • 4 [[Rishadan Port]]
  • 2 [[Scrubland]]
  • 8 [[Plains]]
  • 1 [[Swamp]]
  • 4 [[Wasteland]]
  • 4 [[Windswept Heath]]


  • 1 [[Containment Priest]]
  • 1 [[Council’s Judgment]]
  • 1 [[Faerie Macabre]]
  • 1 [[Kataki, War’s Wage]]
  • 2 [[Mindbreak Trap]]
  • 2 [[Plague Engineer]]
  • 1 [[Serenity]]
  • 2 [[Surgical Extraction]]
  • 2 [[The Battle of Bywater]]
  • 1 [[Yorion, Sky Nomad]]
  • 1 [[Opposition Agent]]

Ways to Win This Matchup

[[Rite of Flame|]]
[[Beseech the Mirror|]]
[[Mox Opal|]]

Our Game Plan

In Legacy, there are a lot of matchups and play patterns that can be repetitive. Knowing the early game and how the opponent plans to disrupt us based on their first few plays is important. Orzhov Death & Taxes has so many ways to disrupt TES with [[Orcish Bowmasters]], [[Thoughtseize]], [[Thalia, Guardian of Thraben]], a fast clock with [[Stoneforge Mystic]], land destruction, [[Mindbreak Trap]], and more. All of those cards disrupt TES in very different ways and angles. There is no one way or one keyway to beat Orzhov Death & Taxes. Each game will out play differently and the way to win this matchup is to try and figure out how the opponent plans to disrupt us and build a game plan around that. This is true because they have 80 card main deck and this gives them the ability to play so many different cards that you never know in each game what kind of disruption they will have. Even looking back into the article in their key cards section they have so many different ways to disrupt us that we can’t build a game plan around just one of them. We may need to prioritize our removal spells, maybe being cautious about sacrificing fetch lands, or looking for a fast combo. The only thing most of those disruptive cards have in common is that they can be two mana and not that effective by themselves. In order for Orzhov Death & Taxes to beat TES, it’s usually going to require two or more pieces of disruption. The only exception is [[Thalia, Guardian of Thraben]] game one. Outside of that, they need several pieces. That’s their weakness. This means the faster our combo can be, the higher the chance we have to win before they can have multiple disruptive elements. If we try to win before the second turn, they will only be able to interact in one type of way and with one card. If the game continues until turns 5-6 to disrupt us from many different angles that can be hard to beat.




-2 [[Veil of Summer]], -2 [[Galvanic Relay]], +2 [[Abrupt Decay]], +1 [[Echoing Truth]], +1 [[Consign // Oblivion]]

The black splash to Death & Taxes now means our copies of [[Veil of Summer]] aren’t dead in this matchup. That’s a first. We don’t need the full four copies because holding up mana for [[Veil of Summer]] is not something we are normally interested in, so I recommend removing two copies. [[Galvanic Relay]] doesn’t really go well with our game plan from the last section. We really want to try to win quickly in this matchup. We don’t know what angle the opponent may be trying to disrupt us with in each game. I’d rather not wait to find out and just try to combo from a single turn instead of over multiple. I bring in the four removal spells as good catch-alls against whichever annoying creature the opponent may have. We usually win the first game, so winning on turn one with our current deck configuration can be difficult. As such, we can expect our opponent to play a turn two threat on the play in the post board games.


Game Play

I began the first game on the draw, and I had to mulligan down to five cards. We both spent our first turn just playing a land and passing. My opponent played a [[Wasteland]] and then tapped it along with the [[Karakas]] to cast a [[Stoneforge Mystic]] and tutored for [[Batterskull]]. I had a [[Brainstorm]], and they could not [[Wasteland]] me or cast [[Orcish Bowmasters]]. I decided to sacrifice my fetchland and cast the [[Brainstorm]] on their end step. I couldn’t assemble a win from my hand and the three new cards, so I just had to play my second land and passed the turn back.

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As anticipated, my opponent put the [[Batterskull]] into play on my end step. They took their third turn, played a land, and put into play [[Kaldra Compleat]] and attacked with both tokens. I was under some serious pressure. I would lose on my opponent’s next turn, so I knew I had to try something here. I cast another copy of [[Brainstorm]] on my opponent’s end step hoping to find what I needed to combo on my turn. I drew [[Burning Wish]], [[Rite of Flame]], and a land.

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This was just what I needed to get something going. I would be able to [[Echo of Eons]] with plenty of mana, so I decided to put the land back first as I wouldn’t need it. I played out all three of my artifacts and imprinted the [[Beseech the Mirror]] to [[Chrome Mox]] and then cast [[Rite of Flame]], [[Burning Wish]] for [[Echo of Eons]], and then sacrificed the [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]] to flash [[Echo of Eons]] back. This left three unused mana and a land drop remaining.

Matchup Battles Orzhov Death & Taxes - Image 4

The next seven cards were perfect. I cast the [[Brainstorm]] into another [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]] and then played out all of my artifacts to [[Beseech the Mirror]] for [[Gaea’s Will]]. With it on the stack, I sacrificed both copies of [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]] to put [[Tendrils of Agony]] into my graveyard and give me six mana. Once [[Gaea’s Will]] resolved, I could replay all of the artifacts and then the [[Tendrils of Agony]] for enough Storm to win the game.

Matchup Battles Orzhov Death & Taxes - Image 5


I sideboarded like I recommended, and we were off to the second game on the draw. I had to mulligan again and ended up keeping a slower hand, but with some removal spells. This is more important on the draw because there’s a high chance we won’t be able to combo on our first turn, so they will get a second turn. A few turns go by and my opponent has played an [[AEther Vial]] and a [[Thalia, Guardian of Thraben]]. I have a way to answer it, but I only had two mana. I ended up casting a [[Brainstorm]] looking for more lands.

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I bricked and drew three non-lands. I was [[Brainstorm]] locked, and had to hope I would have enough turns to draw out of it. I kept the [[Mishra’s Bauble]] and used it on my opponent to help speed up drawing into more cards. On my end step my opponent used their [[AEther Vial]] to put in [[Orcish Bowmasters]]. They took their turn and used a [[Wasteland]] and that was the game. I could not win from this board state.

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On to game three, and I was on the play. I kept another slower hand, but I did have a [[Veil of Summer]] in case of [[Thoughtseize]]. I spent my first two turns just playing out lands and leaving up the [[Veil of Summer]]. My opponent played a turn two [[Kataki, War’s Wage]]. For my third turn, I played a [[Brainstorm]] looking for a way to combo either this turn or on my next. I wasn’t able to win from here, but I did draw a [[Galvanic Relay]] and decided to use that to setup for a win on my next turn. I cast [[Dark Ritual]], [[Lotus Petal]], [[Burning Wish]] to get [[Grapeshot]], and then [[Galvanic Relay]] for five.

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I exiled a land, [[Mishra’s Bauble]], [[Song of Creation]], and two copies of [[Beseech the Mirror]]. Not the best, but that may be able to win on my next turn, so I just ended my turn. My opponent then played a [[Wasteland]] and used it to cast [[Recruiter of the Guard]] to get a [[Thalia, Guardian of Thraben]] and attacked for two. I knew I had to win my next turn because on my opponent’s next turn they would play the [[Thalia, Guardian of Thraben]] and use the [[Wasteland]].

I had a for sure win on my turn by using all my artifact mana and then casting [[Beseech the Mirror]] from exile for [[Gaea’s Will]] to cast all the rituals and mana back from the graveyard, but unfortunately, [[Gaea’s Will]] was my draw for the turn. The only line I had was to play the land from exile and cast [[Song of Creation]]. I’d have one [[Mishra’s Bauble]] and one mana available to cast the [[Veil of Summer]] to start drawing off of [[Song of Creation]] to hopefully start chaining the draws.

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Off of those four draws, I drew another free artifact in [[Chrome Mox]] which led to drawing a ritual into more artifacts, and I just kept going until I had so much mana and many artifacts in play that I could cast the [[Tendrils of Agony]] in my hand with enough Storm to win the game!

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This was one of my favorite articles to write. We have Orzhov Death & Taxes that is getting new cards and taking a new direction in adding black for [[Thoughtseize]] and [[Orcish Bowmasters]] and we have TES 15.1 because of [[Beseech the Mirror]], [[Song of Creation]], and no [[Ad Nauseam]]! Both of those are very exciting and make for an interesting matchup. Death & Taxes has been a staple deck in Legacy for a long time, and it just keeps getting better. There have been so many new cards added to the deck recently and so many different directions that a pilot can take the deck that I think it will continue being one of the better decks in Legacy. In the past, TES was a huge favorite in this matchup because of its speed to ability to win before a [[Thalia, Guardian of Thraben]] or other turn-two hatebear could be cast. Being [[Orzhov]] and having [[Thoughtseize]] changes that. It now unlocks turn one interaction and that certainly gives Orzhov Death & Taxes a better chance at beating TES. I would still rather be the TES player in this matchup, but with both decks changing so much I look forward to seeing how the matchup continues to line up in the future. I hope you enjoyed this article, can take some of the lessons learned, and apply them to your own playtesting.