Like many Commander players, I don’t restrict myself to only playing Commander. Legacy has long been a favored format of mine, so much so that I used to write a column on this very site about it. Back in those days I was a fan of Junk and Wishboard Elves, but since then I’ve found a new deck to love. It’s the first deck I’ve invested money into to make it look visually appealing, and in doing so I’ve come to the realization that it has the capacity to be, and my version is, the most woman-focused deck in Legacy.

I’m talking about Death and Taxes. It turns out there are a lot of ladies in Legacy monowhite.

And not just in the art or behind the brush! Thats an Emily Dickinson quote!

What I have enjoyed most about my careful aesthetic selections in D&T is that I’ve managed to keep the deck sans foils throughout this process. It started when I was picking my copies of Swords to Plowshares. Dana and I have been playing since back in the day, so I had my choice of playsets of Revised, Ice Age, reprinted Ice Age from the Coldsnap precons, or the alt-art version from Elspeth versus Tezzeret, which was so good they reprinted it in Conspiracy as well. That’s the version I decided to run, largely on the strength of Terese Nielsen’s artwork. I’m not a general fan of individual Magic artists, but I’ve long been of the opinion that she’s the best artist working on Magic in any era, and her pieces have only improved as digital technologies have allowed for higher and higher definition images.

I love the texture of this piece, and I love the fact it depicts a person of color. I only wish he were a she, perhaps of the Grace Jones model and thus relatively unchanged.

I love the texture of this piece, and I love the fact it depicts a person of color. I only wish he were a she, perhaps of the Grace Jones model and thus relatively unchanged.

I realized the effect my preference for Nielsen artwork had on the composition of the deck when her contribution to Elspeth versus Kiora was revealed: a new art for Mother of Runes. Between my preference for the new frame, and my love for her artwork, I knew I needed to upgrade my playset. It’s a gorgeous edition, selected for its aesthetics, not its price tag.

The level of detail in the background is amazing, but harder to see when printed.

The level of detail in the background is amazing, but harder to see when printed.

Terese Nielsen adds two more cards to my deck, one currently main and the other perpetually side. The sideboard card is obviously Rest in Peace, a key card in many a matchup. The art is gorgeous, although it suffers from the high level of detail. I mean, look at this art in high def!

The timelessness of this means that I actually thought it was from Theros before I looked back at the card.

The timelessness of this means that I actually thought it was from Theros before I looked back at the card.

As for the last Nielsen card, when I was playing in GP New Jersey I found myself wanting an additional turn one play. Since Treasure Cruise was the deck of the day, I tried adding in two copies of Dryad Militant. So far I’ve enjoyed the option. And up until recently I was perfectly satisfied rocking the full art promo version. You know, this awesome lady.

I think it's super weird that you can't find promo versions of cards on Gatherer, the reference book for legal cards.

I think it’s super weird that you can’t find promo versions of cards on Gatherer, the reference book for legal cards.

But then, when I was going through my cards, I realized that the original art was also by Terese Nielsen, and I quickly reverted to that superior version. Don’t get me wrong, I like full-art cards, but I like Terese Nielsen better.

This card is framed fetchingly, but I really like the detail in the stonework in the background.

This card is framed fetchingly, but I really like the detail in the stonework in the background.

Terese Nielsen may be my favorite artist, lady or otherwise, but she’s not the only lady artist in my deck. Jana Schirmer, with the assistance of her partner Johannes Voss, is responsible for one of my top ten favorite legendary creatures. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a key card in the deck, since it disrupts all the free counterspells and forces those decks to play fair. But she’s not just a useful legendary woman, although she is all of those things; Thalia is also a great example of how the framing of a shot can serve to empower the figure within. Take a look.

A lady soldier covering her whole body with reasonable honor? Wonderful!

A lady soldier covering her whole body with reasonable honor? Wonderful!

The perspective of the piece puts you in the position of a vanquished foe, lying at her feet. She holds her sword aloft, triumphant in the defense of her home. The wind whips at her hair, at the grass, at her armor. Still she stands, victorious, backlit by a stormy sky.

Seriously badass.

Whereas even invulnerability makes this clothing choice a questionable one. Who makes their messenger dress like that?

Whereas even invulnerability makes this clothing choice a questionable one. Who makes their messenger dress like that?

There are more women in the deck. Serra Avenger is a prime example. While I hate her impractical armor, I like other elements of that art. I like her pose, since it seems like she’s wing-buffeting her enemy. I like her sword, notched from battle, and the ragged cloak that swirls around her. And I like that 3/3 flying, vigilant body! She’s one of the workhorses in the deck, and I’m almost always happy to draw her.

It's not that Labyrinths are particularly feminine, it's that Labyrinths are neither masculine or feminine, so why not a woman? Either that, or it's an inappropriate reference to lady parts. I prefer the former interpretation.

It’s not that Labyrinths are particularly feminine, it’s that Labyrinths are neither masculine or feminine, so why not a woman? Either that, or it’s an inappropriate reference to lady parts. I prefer the former interpretation.

It’s full of other incidental women, though. The Spirit of the Labyrinth appears to identify as a woman, as does Ethersworn Canonist. Enlightened Tutor looks more like a mom than Mom does. And Containment Priest has a great, if uncommon, woman of color in its artwork.

I love that she’s a lady who is a priest, and not a priestess. Little things like that matter.

But they’re not the heart of the deck. That honor goes to the children of Nahiri, the wonderful women workers who will instill fear in even the bravest of opponents. I’m talking, of course, about Stoneforge Mystic.

The card so powerful it got itself banned in Standard, despite being in an Event Deck at that time.

The card so powerful it got itself banned in Standard, despite being in an Event Deck at that time.

Stoneforge Mystic is the card that makes the deck work best. Without it monowhite doesn’t have a lot of ways to get ahead on card advantage. Sure, you can pop Horizon Canopy once in a while, but the mystic draws you at least one card when it enters the battlefield, and if that card is Sword of Fire and Ice or Umezawa’s Jitte you’ll catch up on card advantage in no time. (If it isn’t one of those two cards, it’s Batterskull, and winning the game is its own type of advantage). Stoneforge Mystic is so powerful that it’s inspired several decks built entirely around maximizing its value. Death and Taxes isn’t quite one of those, having been an inevitable element of tournament play since back when decks had interesting names, but she certainly has improved the win percentage for it.

Another uncommon example of a woman of color. This deck's so cool that there's more than one piece of diverse artwork in it!

Another uncommon example of a woman of color. This deck’s so cool that there’s more than one piece of diverse artwork in it!

I assume. I’m sure if I’m wrong someone will take it upon themselves to correct me.

I like her, but I'm not 100% sure what's going on with her torso.

I like her, but I’m not 100% sure what’s going on with her torso.

Here’s my current list, not that I’ve been playing a ton of Legacy lately:

Death and Taxes

Creatures (23)
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Dryad Militant
Mother of Runes
Phyrexian Revoker
Serra Avenger
Spirit of the Labyrinth
Stoneforge Mystic
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Spells (11)
Aether Vial
Batterskull
Sword of Fire and Ice
Swords to Plowshares
Umezawa’s Jitte
Lands (26)
Cavern of Souls
Horizon Canopy
Karakas
Rishadan Port
Wastelands
13 Plains

Sideboard (15)
Armageddon
Cataclysm
Containment Priest
Council’s Judgment
Enlightened Tutor
Ethersworn Canonist
Oblivion Ring
Rest in Peace
Spellskite
Sword of Light and Shadow

I will say, I finished putting this deck together not all that long ago, and I already love it more than I had been anticipating. I can see why other people have been foiling their versions out. I just would rather a 100% regular deck that highlights the ladies of Magic than a slightly shinier version that doesn’t.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

Jess Stirba has been playing Magic off and on since 1782. Many of those years were off.

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