Hello everyone! I’m Literally a Ghost That Pushes Over Candles and welcome back to The Spirit of EDH. It’s been a week since I’ve last got to talk to you, but I’m back and excited to be here to talk to you all about my favorite deck helmed by Her Majesty Queen Marchesa d’Amati, the Black Rose, first of her name, head of the council, guarantor of lawful governance, sole sovereign of the High City, true heir to the throne of Paliano and all the rights and privileges thereof (long may she reign). Now, Her Majesty is another very open-ended commander, this time with my favorite color identity: Red, White, and Black, also known as Mardu. We’ll talk about what makes her stand out just as soon as we get a look at this decklist:
Now, the deck came about through a few different lines. When Queen Marchesa was spoiled, I immediately started brewing around her. After coming up with a few different deck ideas, I looked through the other Mardu commanders to see if there was anything else that could stand in for the Queen, something stronger, perhaps. However, no other commanders did what I wanted, which was provide card advantage as well as playing well with board wipes. Tymna, plus another partner commander with a Red/White or Red/Black color identity, would allow me card advantage but becomes prohibitively expensive after playing a few wraths. Zurgo survives those same wrath effects but offers no advantages besides a powerful offense. In this way, the monarchy offered by Queen Marchesa offers us a very unique advantage: Incremental card advantage that can survive a board wipe, while offering other stats besides.
Her Majesty the Queen and Holding On to the Monarchy
For those of you unfamiliar with the Conspiracy 2 mechanic, the monarch is a player designation that doesn’t exist until an effect instructs a player to become the monarch. Once someone is the monarch, only one player can be the monarch at a time and dealing combat damage to, or playing another effect that instructs you to become the monarch, will make you the new monarch and make them stop being the monarch. At the beginning of the monarch’s end step, they draw a card. What this means is, as long as we can stop people from dealing combat damage to us, or deal combat damage to them before our own end step, will allow us to draw an additional card each turn for a lot of long-term card advantage.
Queen Marchesa did not manipulate her way to the top of the High City just to let a single usurper take that title away from her and so offers us several ways of retaining, or getting back, the crown. First, she will always make us the monarch when she enters the battlefield. If she’s in our command zone and we aren’t currently the monarch, we are always able to replay her to retake the throne. In addition, she has both Deathtouch and Haste, meaning that she is deadly to block and incentivizes our opponents to let her through, thereby giving us back the monarchy. Just in case that wasn’t enough, if we untap with Queen Marchesa and we aren’t the monarch, she hires an assassin with Deathtouch and Haste to steal back the crown for us. A token that cost us nothing, but will kill most anything that blocks it will again force a difficult choice on our opponent. Sacrifice a creature to our assassin or give us back the crown.
This isn’t a plan without weaknesses of course, but the idea is that if one of our ways of holding on to the crown doesn’t work, another one will. Assassins are a strong way to reclaim the throne against decks with more high-value creatures, but against token decks, they’re all too happy to throw chaff in front of our emissaries to keep the crown. This does open them up to a board wipe, though, and we can just replay our commander to get the monarchy back. We can also always let the fools have their turn on the throne if our opponents are aggressive enough. As it is said, sometimes you must lose the battle to win the war. Allowing our opponents to fight between one another for the crown as we slowly set ourselves up can be the right move against aggressive decks sometimes, drawing away early game damage and giving us time to gain an insurmountable advantage. Just be wary that the more the monarchy is passed around, the more cards it is drawing your opponents. Give and take, just be sure to keep an eye on how much it’s helping you against how much it is helping them.
The Wrath of the Queen
As we talked about, Queen Marchesa has a very unique ability to continue granting us an advantage even after she leaves the battlefield. In this way, we have a lot of ways of removing creatures from our path and protecting ourselves.
Anguished Unmaking, Mortify, Vindicate, and Utter End — Our single target removal has two paths, flexible or cheap. These four spells are the latter, as sometimes we need to curb a specific threat but don’t need to deploy our wrath effects quite yet. The key is to understand the threats your opponents can offer and know when to remove a specific threat rather than wait to wipe them all away. This is especially apt for removing noncreature permanents, as our wraths will nearly always hit creatures but can only sometimes hit noncreatures.
Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares — These are the other end of our single target removal, in being very cheap. This allows us to leave up a single mana for protection without costing us too much tempo if we choose not to use it.
Cleansing Nova and Austere Command — Two cards that are very similar, they both offer the flexibility to remove creatures, artifacts, and enchantments. Austere is the more flexible of the two, removing two from the list of cheap creatures, expensive creatures, artifacts or enchantments. Board wipes like this are important against Auras, Equipment, or Pillow-Fort archetypes, forcing them to mete out their threats rather than overextending into us. Cleansing Nova is essentially Austere Command, but grouping the four choices into two. Instead of cheap creatures or expensive ones, it’s simply all creatures and instead of artifacts or enchantments its artifacts and enchantments. Now, you can’t mix and match the same, in that you can’t wrath all cheap creatures and enchantments, but for this trade-off, it is one mana cheaper.
Akroma’s Vengeance — This solves just about all of your problems, getting rid of everything except lands and planeswalkers. This is important for us since our deck is built off of getting incremental advantage from sources like planeswalkers, as well as enchantments. In addition, if we’re in a strong enough spot to not want to wrath away our permanents, such as Phyrexian Arena, Assemble the Legion or Debtors’ Knell, we can always cycle Akroma’s Vengeance for a different card.
Merciless Eviction — The absolute problem solver. It may only remove one card type from among creatures, artifacts, enchantments or planeswalkers, but being able to choose, and being exile on top of that, makes Merciless Eviction one of the strongest wraths you can play. Recursion-based creature deck got you down? Daretti, Scrap Savant emblem too strong for you? Daxos, the Returned going too wide for you? Merciless Eviction will get rid of them for good. Just be careful you don’t overextend with the card type correlating to what you’re planning on removing. For example, maybe hold back Assemble the Legion if you’ve got both it and Merciless Eviction in your hand against Daxos or Kestia.
The Black Rose’s Court
Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast — A source of reliable blockers that also offers repeatable removal. His ultimate can sometimes come in handy, whether it be Noxious Gearhulk, Wurmcoil Engine or something stolen from your opponents, however usually we’re focused on the incremental value of creating a defender then being able to sacrifice it to destroy target artifact creature.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance — A veritable Swiss army knife, her strength is in her flexibility. Chandra offers us mana when we need it, impulsive card advantage when we don’t, removal and a game-ending ultimate. Keep in mind when playing the politics of the table that her first +1 will damage each opponent!
Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, Huatli, Warrior Poet and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion — Each of these planeswalkers were included for their ability to create a creature each turn without using a minus ability. Remember, a slow gain in advantages is the name of the game, so the ability to make a blocker or grow an army is very valuable, including the ability to continue to make creatures after a wrath effect. Also note each planeswalker has other strengths besides their ability to make creatures, such as Knight-Errant’s jump, Huatli’s lifegain, Sun’s Champion’s wrath and Sorin’s powerful ability to give a power bonus to your creatures for the rest of the game.
Nahiri, the Harbinger — A scary planeswalker that can rummage through your deck, tossing away extra cards you don’t want to draw a new one, as well as the powerful removal ability she has as a -2. Exiling a tapped creature, tapped artifact or enchantment for the same cost as her plus ability is amazing, since you can do it every other turn if you need. Her ultimate can also come in handy, summoning up a powerful creature or artifact for a turn, which can be enough if the creature is Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite or Noxious Gearhulk.
Servants of the Queen
Hex Parasite, Aven Mindcensor, Kambal, Consul of Allocation, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, and Linvala, Keeper of Silence — All of these creatures have something in common: They’re all hate cards. Hex Parasite eats planeswalkers (as well as any other counters you need), Aven Mindcensor cuts tutors out of being useful, Kambal punishes spellslingers, Kalitas stops creatures from dying with a replacement effect, and Linvala bars all activated abilities of your opponents’ creatures. There are a few tutors in the deck, make sure you use them wisely!
Stoneforge Mystic — This mystic gives you access to one of the most powerful toolbox cards you have access to, allowing you to tutor up Sword of Feast and Famine or Sunforger. The Mirrodin sword has already proven its strength, but its Sunforger that you really need to fear. Though it is mana intensive, the ability to tutor up and cast any red or white instant that costs 4 or less is so powerful, if they don’t have a removal spell for it you’ll feel unstoppable. You have removal for any non-land permanent of varying strengths, the ability to strip cards out of your opponent’s deck, and Settle the Wreckage. Being able to find this and exile all your opponent’s attackers can sometimes be an insurmountable advantage.
Djeru, With Eyes Open — A planeswalker tutor that can be recurred to find even more planeswalkers, Djeru also pulls double duty as a blocker and planeswalker protector. His ability to prevent 1 damage from your planeswalkers from each source will stop a swarm of 1/1’s from being able to damage your superfriends unless they have some other kind of buff.
Wurmcoil Engine — A powerful blocker that can both gain life and kill anything else that might be bigger than it. The strength of Wurmcoil Engine isn’t something that you need to be convinced of, but one of the strengths that warrant its inclusion is its ability to “survive” a board wipe, splitting in half after your wrath and leaving you with two 3/3’s.
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite — One of the most powerful white cards you can cast in commander, acting as both a double anthem for all your creatures, token or otherwise, and shrinking all your opponent’s creatures that she doesn’t outright kill. Elesh Norn loves go-wide strategies, both for and against, which helps protect our planeswalkers and also turn our token army into a deadly force.
Cards to Consider
Recruiter of the Guard — One of the tutors this deck has access to, Recruiter can find a number of your silver bullets. In addition to Hex Parasite, Aven Mindcensor and Kambal, Recruiter can also find Stoneforge, to then find Sunforger, Solemn Simulacrum, to stay on curve, and Karmic Guide to reanimate one of your higher value creatures. The flexibility that Recruiter offers is powerful indeed.
Assemble the Legion — Another card that needs to be removed before the value it generates will be too much to handle, Assemble the Legion creates an ever-growing army of soldiers. If your opponents have already used, or haven’t drawn, enchantment removal, Assemble the Legion will quickly drown your opponents in creatures, feeling almost insurmountable. It feels, in fact, a lot like playing against Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.
Debtors’ Knell — Another card that generates value over the course of the game, Debtors’ Knell reanimates a creature from any players graveyard. The key is to play enough cards that must be answered so that you don’t need to play multiple in order to win and force your opponent to have answers to them more times than they’re able to draw answers. Debtors’ Knell’s strength comes from the fact that it’s repeating and is able to pull creature cards from each players graveyard. This means any threat you deal with, without exiling, of course, is ripe to become a servant for Her Majesty.
The Spice Corner
Hide // Seek — In addition to being one of the few split cards that are still able to be cast off of Sunforger, both halves of this spell are uniquely powerful and offer a total package that is amazingly flexible. Hide is a simple Disenchant effect, however, the fact that it tucks the offender instead of destroying it is quite powerful. Reanimating cards is very often easier to do that tutoring them up, so being able to tuck away something could get rid of it for longer than destroying could. In addition, the Orzhov side allows us to search our opponent’s library for any card and exile it, gaining us life equal to its converted mana cost. If our opponent is playing a combo that requires certain pieces, or if you’re just sick of Expropriate, you can search it out of their library and make sure it never comes back.
Mistveil Plains — A card that will seem familiar to anyone who plays with Sunforger, Mistveil Plains allows us to tuck a card from our graveyard. The restriction is that we have to have two white permanents on our side of the field, which isn’t difficult between our tokens and our commander. What this does allow us to do is use Sunforger to throw a spell, then tuck it back into our library for a repeat performance. Seek can rip apart our opponents deck for a solid mana sink, Settle the Wreckage becomes an almost insurmountable protection and Utter End will make short work of anything your opponent has left. In addition to this, it does have the Plains subtype, which means it is fetchable!
Stranglehold — This is a card I wouldn’t even glance at if all it did was stop our opponents from taking extra turns. What it does offer, however, is a bar against tutors for your opponents. This means if you can play it quickly, you can hurt players trying to ramp themselves by stopping them from tutoring up lands, you can punish fetchlands by blanking their abilities entirely, and if your opponent was planning on tutoring up an answer to your threats, well… c’est la vie. The fact that your opponents have to answer this before casting their Time Warp effects is just icing on the cake.
Marchesa’s Decree, Custodi Lich, and Knights of the Black Rose et. al. — You could certainly play Queen Marches as a type of monarch tribal. However, that’s not the deck that I’ve built as it feels very swingy at best. On that note, the only cards I would want to include are cards that stand up on their own which, unfortunately, is just the Queen. This is to say nothing of the powerhouse that is Palace Jailer, who I would hold no grudge against including. However, considering we will always have the ability to introduce the monarchy to the game, the cards that do so otherwise need to be worth playing as if their first line of text wasn’t there. Sure, we can steal back the crown in this way, but we could also do that just fine with Queen Marchesa. Draining opponents, forcing a single sacrifice, or getting a 6 mana Kjeldoran Royal Guard isn’t worth the investment.
Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts — An expensive but powerful creature in her own right, Teysa wouldn’t be amiss in this deck. However, for how often we can wrath the board, Teysa is a lot of a mana investment without as much return. In addition, she is a creature. If her effect was an enchantment, such as No Mercy that added white for the spirit creation, I would give it much more of a thought. In this case, however, being a creature is too much of a weakness.
This deck is not perfect by any means and, in fact, is 75%’d just like most of my decks are. This means I’m not including cards like Sol Ring and though I do have a few tutors, I don’t run the most efficient ones like Demonic Tutor. You can certainly power the deck up more by cutting a few of the cards for more tutors, allowing you more access to your silver bullets. That doesn’t mean that this deck isn’t amazingly powerful, as well as being a blast to play. You may not have access to blue mana, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have the same feeling of untouchable protection once you get a strong presence of board.
So tell me, what did you think? Did I offer information you thought was helpful, raise some insights you might not have thought of, miss stuff you thought I should mention, or any other thoughts I didn’t call out? Leave a comment below to let me know, or you can haunt me directly on Twitter (@FrigglishTGhost) or spook my email (AMillionDifferentColors@Gmail.com).
Make sure you join me next week, where I’ll be talking about Riku, of Two Reflections!
Until then, may the Spirit of EDH possess you with creativity.
— Literally a Ghost that Pushes Over Candles
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