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Marchesa, the Black Rose - Primer

Grixis.

  • Cunning & logic, perfection through knowledge.
  • Selfishness, power through ruthlessness & opportunity.
  • Impulse, Freedom through action.

Death, Darkness, Undead, Hatred, Envy, and a lot of other bad things for our opponents.

This is a primer for the queen of the grixis color wedge. (Or at least the one who will become queen.)

Marchesa, the Black Rose is a commander who offers an extremely resilient gameplan with a powerful synergistic effect to build around.

This Deck is good for intermediate skill level players as there are some neat interactions and a lot of synergistic cards to play around.

You will like playing this deck if you like sacrificing creatures, stax like decks, and playing games close to the wire.

You will not like this deck if your meta has a lot of graveyard hate or enchantress decks.

Marchesa is a great “75%” or “mid-power” commander. She excels at a table with mid power decks and fairs well with battle cruiser and other decks in these ranges of play. Marchesa does not work at a 100% competitive table as well seeing as the nature of gameplay is much different.

Marchesa and all her creatures are extremely resilient, the only way to get rid of them is generally with multiple cards that exile creatures and graveyards.

The deck thrives in a creature oriented meta and has strong card draw and protection available.

Grave hate can really put a damper on our strategy, cards like Rest in Peace can be GG since we have few ways to deal with enchantments. Cards like Bojuka Bog generally are annoying, but not game ending for us as we don’t constantly rely on the graveyard like a reanimator deck.

Grixis is a bit lite on the ramp effects, so grab yourself some mana rocks.

The deck is fairly reliant on Marchesa to be in play, so constant hate on her can be an issue, but generally it’s very easy to play around since she can bring herself back from the grave.

Marchesa, the Black Rose
  • Dethrone: Whenever this creature attacks the player with the most life or tied for most life, put a +1/+1 counter on it.

First a few important things to note about dethrone.

  • Dethrone doesn’t trigger if the creature attacks a planeswalker, even if its controller has the most life.

  • Once Dethrone triggers, it doesn’t matter what happens to the players’ life totals before the ability resolves. You’ll put a +1/+1 counter on the creature even if the defending player doesn’t have the most life as the ability resolves.

  • The +1/+1 counter is put on the creature before blockers are declared.

So, let’s talk about Dethrone. On its face, it makes our creatures bigger when we’re behind on life and, importantly, if we are tied for most life as well. So Dethrone is a mechanic which helps us push towards a lead. And best of all it’s on attack, so even if there are blockers we can still get the counters.

From this we know Marchesa gives us value while we are working in the shadows to usurp the throne, eg the highest life total. Innately this means she is geared towards playing from behind.

  • Other creatures you control have dethrone.

Great, so not only does Marchesa get stronger from attacking the opponent in the lead, but she makes it so all of our creatures do so as well. This means we don’t necessarily have to attack with her to get value from her or the Dethrone ability.

  • Whenever a creature you control with a +1/+1 counter on it dies, return that card to the battlefield under your control at the beginning of the next end step.

Now here is where we get to Marchesa’s really important ability. If Dethrone is Marchesa’s bread, this is her butter. Any time any creature we control with a +1/+1 counter on it dies it comes back at the end of the turn it died.

This is where we build our deck.

So how do we do that?

First, we know we want to make +1/+1 counters and to sacrifice creatures and then in some way profit from those things.

A few things to note about the ability:

  • “At the beginning of the next end step”

This means we can recur our creatures with +1/+1 counters over and over and get a ton of value from them, but only once per turn. And it leaves them vulnerable in the graveyard until that next end step. This means instant speed sacrifice outlets are prefered, and that we have to pay attention to when we sacrifice things as they don’t come back instantly.

  • Marchesa doesn’t care where the +1/+1 counter came from.

This means we do not have to attack a player and trigger dethrone to benefit from her last ability. Any +1/+1 counter will do.

  • If Marchesa has a +1/+1 counter on her when she dies, she will return to the battlefield under your control because of her own ability.

So not only do our other creatures all have recursion, but she protects herself as well. Important to note about this is that you must put her in the graveyard and not into the command zone for this to work. But because of this, Marchesa is an extremely resilient commander. Most of the time your entire board will be invulnerable to anything but repeated exile effects.

Getting marchesa out as early as possible is generally step one. In the intermediary turns resolving other cards is of course fine. You need to get her out and you want to attack with her at least once to get a +1 counter on her. From there she can sit and watch for the majority of the game.

By running a decent selection of ramp artifacts you should be able to get her out around turn 3 pretty commonly. At this point many decks are still just getting set up, so it should be fairly easy to get her on board and dodge removal.

Once Marchesa is safely on board with a +1 Counter our strategy becomes one of attrition. The Black Rose is a deck based around gaining slow, inevitable, incremental value. All the while slowly draining our opponents.

The optimal board state is to have a creature like Arcbound Worker that is free to sacrifice since it has its own +1 counter by default, and some kind of value engine which we can fuel with our Lamb of choice. Cards like Skullclamp , Grave Pact , Shifting Shadow , or etc. There are approximately ten cards in each category (Altars, Lambs, & Value), so you should pretty reliably be able to get an engine running in every game.

You should strive to complete as good of a land base as you can afford. This is MtG and that means the more money you spend the better your mana base will be, so I’ll leave the specifics to you since, outside of suggesting that you run as many fetches and duals as you can, there’s not much to be said on this front. I will note that the deck is mostly black, and then some blue with just a little red, so you should try to primarily run B/x duals.

That said, I’m going to primarily focus on just our utility lands here.

  • Pain Lands

Underground River , Sulfurous Springs , City of Brass , Cephalid Colosseum

Managing our life total is fairly important in this deck. Being able to move our life total down at will to enable Dethrone triggers can be important at times, and so pain lands give us a good tool for the job.

  • Sacrifice Lands

Phyrexian Tower and High Market

These are uncounterable sacrifice outlets we can use to trigger our ETB and Dies effects as needed.

Guildmages' Forum

This acts as an insurance policy for Marchesa, ensuring that she comes out immediately with a +1/+1 counter to protect herself from removal, as well as occasionally doing the same for other creatures like Baleful Strix if we so choose

Strip Mine / Ghost Quarter

Gaea’s Cradle be gone! Removing cards like Nykthos and Cabal Coffers can be critical in some games.

Arcane Lighthouse

Most decks run cards like swiftfoot boots, and so having the option to remove that can be important at times. You could cut this if it’s not an issue in your meta though.

Reliquary Tower

Between necropotence, recurring Toothy triggers, and various other effects, we can end up with a relatively full hand. Discarding to the graveyard isn’t as beneficial in this deck as it is in other grave based decks, so I’ve opted for a relatively unobtrusive way to keep the excess cards.

Scavenger Grounds

This lets us ensure that other graveyard decks can’t get the jump on us, and generally it won’t impact us much due to the nature of marchesa’s ability only leaving creatures in the yard for a turn at most.

Cephalid Coliseum

It’s a pain land most of the time and a triple loot when we need it. We can pop it at EoT just before Marchesa pulls a bunch of cards out of the yard and be able to get threshold fairly reliably.

Forge of Heroes

A great insurance policy for Marchesa, ensuring she comes into play with a +1 counter immediately and it doesn't care if we cast her, meaning we can use it when she comes back from the grave too.

The two most important things in MtG are Card Draw & Ramp. If you’ve got a good kit for those things you’re likely to win most games.

Skullclamp

1 mana, Draw two. This card works well with a lot of decks, and since we’re planning to sacrifice our creatures often this gives us some added juice, and means that even if we don’t sacrifice something with an ETB or other effect, we still get great value.

Grim Haruspex

Similar to Skullclamp, this gives us card draw whenever we kill a creature, and that will be often. An advantage of Grim Haruspex is that it’s ability will work on our opponent’s turns as well, whereas skullclamp is limited to our turn only.

Sage of Fables

There will be many times when creatures we control have more than one +1 counter on them, and this lets us turn excess counters into new cards.

Rhystic Study , and Necropotence are format stars and will each give you a good amount of card draw if you can get them out for even one turn cycle.

Thief of Sanity lets us deny card from our opponents as well as gain access to some off color effects like ramp spells and etc.

Yawgmoth, Thran Physican

This card is addressed further in the "Altars" section as he primarily serves as a sacrifice outlet, though the fact that he also acts as removal and card draw is a bigger plus than the Swiss flag.

Cards like Baleful Strix , Solemn Simulacrum , & Impaler Shrike are all reusable sources of card draw so long as we can get +1 Counters out on them. Arcbound worker has some great synergy here.

Faithless Looting

I’ve been experimenting with a few other cantrips. Faithless Looting is my current favorite, being able to dig through 4 cards with one spell.

Impulse

I think card selection is slightly more important than raw card draw in EDH. Cards like Impulse which allow you to dig four cards deep help dramatically in this regard. It being an instant is also significant as it allows you to leave up counterspell mana and if nothing happens you can still make use of the mana before your turn.

Being in Grixis we’re essentially limited to only artifact sources to get us ramp.

Ideally you want to keep most of your ramp to CMC 2 or less, but there’s only so many options that fit that criteria, and not all of them are in budget for a lot of people.

Talisman of Dominance and Talisman of Indulgence

These are essentially the pain lands of mana rocks. CMC 2, come in untapped, and add colored mana when needed.

Fellwar Stone

As we’re in a 3 color deck, chances are high that at least one other person will share a color or more with you. At worst this is a 2 mana colorless rock and probably still worth running.

Unstable Obelisk

Sweet, sweet enchantment removal. (or other things too I guess) and in the time between when you kill someone’s Rest in Peace and when you cast it it can be a mana rock. Good times. It seems like a lot of Mana, but in grixis were pretty much always forced to pay 7-10 Mana for this. Between Oblivion Stone costing 8+, All Is Dust at 7, Scour from Existence at 7 and Nev's disk having to survive a turn I'd rather have a Mana rock for the early game as a bonus to my expensive Rest in Peace / Blood Moon killer.

Solemn Simulacrum

Both card draw and ramp, recurring this guy over and over again is a great way to kick your game into warp drive.

Mox Diamond , Mana Crypt , etc… If you got ‘em they’re good. But not everyone’s been playing for long enough to own them since back in the day and they’re only going up in price. Other options like Mind Stone or Everflowing Chalice may be good replacements. Hedron Archive is another good, cheap rock that can be card draw later in the game.

Vampiric Tutor

Instant Speed is always a plus, and the life loss is hardly a drawback

Demonic Tutor

Probably the best tutor in the game. Get anything you want for 1B

Diabolic Intent

Recently reprinted, this is basically just another Demonic Tutor in our deck.

Lim-Dul's Vault

This lets us control our life total in a pinch, paying as much life as we need, and also allowing us to essentially find any card we need for UB and a couple life.

Fleshwrither

We're running quite a few 4 drops so this should give some good value. Even if you only get to activate this twice in a game you're still getting really good value from it.

Shifting Shadow

9/10 times this is going to have basically no cost since +1 Counters are easy to come by. So cheating out a creature every turn for essentially free goes a long way to creating a strong board state.

Marchesa gives us the ability to create +1 counters by attacking the player with the most life, but that’s not always a good idea. Sometimes they have a board that’s too big, sometimes they have a ghostly prison, sometimes you need blockers. There’re plenty of reasons you might not be able to get Dethrone triggers.

With that in mind it’s extremely important that we be able to keep our game plan going without relying on the combat step. To that end we want to try to select creatures, spells, and effects that can accomplish this.

For example, Unspeakable Symbol allows us to create instant speed +1 counters, meaning we can recur our Wurmcoil Engine or an Evoked Muldrifter with ease.

The following cards create their own +1 Counters, independent of Dethrone triggers.

Arcbound Worker

Carrion Feeder

Cytoplast Manipulator

Spark Double

Drana, Liberator of Malakir

Rakdos Cackler

Yahenni, Undying Partisan

additionally, any creature with flying is generally able to secure a dethrone trigger with little issue.

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Unspeakable Symbol

Guildmages' Forum / Forge of Heroes

That’s approximately one third of our creatures which are totally self sufficient.

There are an additional two creatures which create +1 Counters in Sage of Fables and Mikaeus, the Unhallowed . They only put +1 Counters on other creatures, but they do enable some pretty crazy plays as well.

Virtually all of our sacrifice outlets should be free and function at instant speed so we can make use of marchesa’s ‘return at end of turn’ ability. On our opponent’s turns as well as our own.

Phyrexian Altar / Ashnod's Altar

Some of our best sacrifice outlets as it lets you turn creatures into mana at instant speed.

Viscera Seer

Being able to set up our draws is nice

Carrion Feeder

He even sets himself up to be sacrificed safely. (he can self cannibalize too, so that’s good)

Smothering Abomination

Sac outlet and card draw, plus 4 power flying. Worst case scenario it can suicide if you haven't got much to feed it. Yahenni, Undying Partisan

Not only does he let us sacrifice creatures, but again, he creates his own +1 counters making him even better as a choice.

Phyrexian Tower / High Market

Lands are generally a lot harder to remove and though they only let you sacrifice one creature per turn they’re a valuable tool in our box.

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

This card lives up to its namesake. Instant speed sac outlet, instant speed draw, instant speed removal. I have never been disappointed even a single time I have resolved Yawgmoth. He seriously gives some insane value. This is now definitely one of my top cards for this deck. I was admittedly a bit put off by the thought of my deck becoming mono four-drops at first, but he has performed significantly better than I had hoped. dropping another four-drop to slot him in was easy and I have not missed the card he replaced since he was added.

Ready for the slaughter, these creatures are important sacrifice targets.

Arcbound Worker

This fella is a hard worker alright. 1 mana for a creature that comes in with a +1 counter right away and since he only has 1 toughness Skullclamp loves this guy. He can even pump up other creatures like Wurmcoil Engine or Baleful Strix when he dies, getting them ready for their turn on the altar.

Rakdos Cackler

Similar to Arcbound Worker , this guy isn’t quite as good, but again, being ready to go from the gate is a good thing. We can sac him every turn without worry.

Baleful Strix

Not only is this a good blocker, but if we can recur it it can also be a good source of card draw.

Cytoplast Manipulator

You might be thinking “no we definitely don’t want that” but that’s not correct. In a bit of a roundabout way sacrificing her is a very powerful strategy. You can take a creature with her, leaving her with one +1 counter still. Then sacrifice the creature you took and then sacrificing her. This results in you getting to keep your opponent’s creature indefinitely and also getting to refresh Cytoplast Manipulator for round two. Or you can just use her to graft your own creatures as protection.

Solemn Simulacrum

Both Draw and Ramp in one easy to recur package. What a deal!

Spark Double

It's a clone with its own +1 counter, so chances are it'll be fairly decent with that alone, but on top of that it can be a second Marchesa since the copy is not legendary.

Hostage Taker

I used to run Phyrexian Metamorph as a clone effect that could double as a mana rock or other artifact in a pinch, but hostage taker is much better for the deck. They have the same CMC, and accomplish the same goal of allowing us to get an opponent’s card, but hostage taker is a permanent copy, so when we reset hostage taker we don’t lose anything, and also our opponents lose their best artifacts/creatures indefinitely. We do unfortunately have to play the mana for the card we take, but you don’t have to only take big bomb creatures, you can merely steal cheap creatures and rocks like Sol Ring or Fellwar Stone or Elvish Mystics and you’ll get ahead in value fast.

Plaguecrafter

We have a good density of creatures we can sacrifice for free, and if we can get this looping multiple times in a turn cycle somehow then it’s a very painful attrition war for our opponents to fight.

Desecrated Tomb

This will pump out a stream of steady tokens all game, on anyone's turn, and they're all flying creatures too, meaning they're probably going to be able to connect for 2 each with quite some regularity. (Assuming you don't sacrifice them for something else first.)

Wurmcoil Engine

This card doesn't quite fit perfectly into any one section, it does a lot of different things in the deck. It works as a big beater, sacrifice fodder, removal, life total manipulator, and a token maker. As the game moves on lifelink is a pretty important keyword for us too. We can be playing close to the wire at times and being able to refill with a few lifelink tokens or the original can be important. Once we have the board controlled with Grave Pact or similar we don't need to worry about life totals as much, it's more about closing the game out before anyone can re-stabilize. Cards like Cytoplast Manipulator , Drana, Liberator of Malakir , or Unspeakable Symbol can supplement dethrone entirely once we're at this stage of the game too.

Scourge of the Throne

This is a very good creature for us. As I have mentioned before, flying is a great evasion option, but the ability to secure extra combat steps is fairly important as well. As you'll notice, the majority of our creatures don't have a ton of power. Many are sitting in the 1 - 2 range. Dethrone triggers will ensure that they are all getting at least somewhat of a buff, but getting to swing in at someone with four or five 2/2 creatures twice in one turn means we're probably knocking someone out of the game.

Mirage Mirror

According to multiple judges I've spoken to, this interaction does work, though I will edit if proven otherwise.

Animating the Mirror as a creature, getting a +1 Counter on it, and sending it to the graveyard will bring it back at EoT.

In addition to it already being able to turn into almost anything on the field you need it to be, this interaction really pushed it over the top as an include.

Regarding Board Wipes: Marchesa is extremely resilient to board wipes, even Merciless Eviction can suck it if we have a sac outlet on board. Clearing the board means that we have essentially lost nothing save for perhaps some tokens or a creature or two, and our opponents are back at square one.

Re: Merciless Eviction , if you have a sacrifice outlet on board, simply sacrifice all of your creatures and then marchesa last and you should have everything come right back into play at EoT safe and sound. Assuming you have some +1 Counters floating about.

Blasphemous Act

Generally this ends up costing R seeing as in a 4 Player game 8 creatures on the board is easy to come by. As you’ll see, our other board wipes are generally a bit more expensive, so this gives us a cheap, early option.

Decree of Pain

At 8 mana this is very expensive, but generally the problem with board wipes is that you want to have enough mana to cast a few cards and start rebuilding your board. We don’t have that particular problem as our creatures rarely stay dead. The cycling mode is available as an instant speed token hoser, and the 8 mana mode will usually net us somewhere around 10 cards on average.

Damnation

I’ve elected to not run Damnation in favor of Decree of Pain for now, but you can run either one based on your preference/meta. If you need an earlier wipe then you’ll have to go for the CMC4 choice.

Cyclonic Rift

The Number 1 best blue spell. As with Decree of pain, 7 mana here can be tough, but it will generally win you the game if you cast it.

Profaner of the Dead

This is a recurring, single sided board sweeper. It may not hit the big stuff all the time, but being able to clear out a token swarm or a bunch of angels can be very difficult for some decks to handle. A neat interaction is to play him while sage of fables is in play, and exploiting himself, essentially permanently denying any creature with toughness 3 or less until you decide to stop. It's not in my list right now, but it is a very good choice still.

All Is Dust

A good alternative to something like Decree of Pain . I chose to go for decree since I wanted to have the option to cycle at instant speed if I needed, but you could definitely run this instead if you have more of an enchantment problem in your meta.

We run a small package of counterspells and a few creature based options that we can re-use.

Arcane Denial

While this does give our opponent some cards, it is a hard “no” for 1U, which is good as we may not always have UUx open for other counters, and there’s no conditional clause, such as ‘non creature’ or etc.

Mana Drain

Probably the best counterspell in the format. It does cost UU, but getting some free mana our next turn is a big plus.

Swan Song

This counters most of the important effects in EDH that we need it to for U, and gives them a meaningless bird token in exchange.

Voidmage Prodigy / Glen Elendra Archmage

There are a fair number of wizards in the deck actually, but most times Voidmage will just be sacrificing himself. Having a reusable counterspell on the table is also a huge psychological factor for opponents.

Grave Pact / Dictate of Erebos

The big daddys of decks that focus on sacrificing creatures. These two enchantments will let you put a strong lock on the board considering how many death triggers you’re going to be able to get in a round.

Oona's Blackguard

Ignore the part about Rogues, we’re not concerned with it. However, having every creature force a discard on hit can really put an anchor in the side of our opponent’s plans.

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager  

A 4/4 flying creature for 4 mana with a good ETB would be playable on it's own. Throw in the option to transform him into a great PW if we want and that's just icing.

Thief of Sanity

Taking good cards from our opponents and either exiling them, playing them, or sending them to the grave at our discretion is just too good on a cheap flying body.

Basilisk Collar

This cheap equipment gives us a way to regain some life later on in the game when we might be running low, and offers some good combat play with Deathtouch.

Lightning Greaves

Standard EDH staple creature protection option.

Chaos Warp

One of our few ways to deal with enchantments, and a generally decent removal effect in color.

Reality Shift

Instant speed exile effects are always first choice for spot removal, and this is one of our few, few options in our colors.

Ashes to Ashes

Generally paying the 5 life won’t be too damaging to our game, and sometimes may even be needed. You’ll have to see if this option works in your meta. Personally I’m still testing it out, but exile effects are a little hard to come by in grixis. You could try Hero’s Downfall or some other removal as well.

Dreadbore

Being able to spot remove a planeswalker is something that I like to have on hand.

Shattering Spree

Almost every deck runs artifacts, and being able to get rid of a few here and there can really help push you ahead. Vandalblast and and By Force are other good options if you’re on a budget.

Unstable Obelisk

Works as ramp in the early game and carries over to removal later on if we need it. One of our very limited options for enchantment removal.

Pulling from EDHREC to see what cards are popular with Marchesa, I see several that might draw your attention, and I’ll go over why I’m not running many of the most popular options.

Flayer of the Hatebound / Stalking Vengeance / Warstorm Surge

I actually used to run Flayer back in the early days, along with Stalking Vengeance, but they’re both just so incredibly expensive. By that stage of the game their effects aren’t even that important either. For 6-8 mana there’s a lot of better things you can be doing. If you run them see how many games you go where they just sit in your hand as you say “hmm i’ll play them next turn maybe”

Herald of Secret Streams

Making most or all of our creatures unblockable seems great, we can get in for a ton of damage or even knock someone out. But truth be told it’s not that important. If you attack and they do block you’re coming out ahead on the trade 9/10 times and so there’s not really much downside there, you’ll have a clear board the next turn probably. And we’re practically immune to board wipes, so we don’t have to worry about that the board getting too full to attack through either. I’d rather run Damnation in this slot given the choice since it’ll be a lot more effective at solving this problem.

Dack's Duplicate

I’d opt for Phyrexian Metamorph as it can copy creatures or artifacts, and potentially costs 1 less mana. The haste and extra instance of dethrone aren’t that important compared to the flexibility, but personally I went for Hostage Taker over any other clone effect.

River Kelpie

I’ve opted for Grim Haruspex instead. It’s 2 mana less and does essentially the same exact thing for our purposes.

Grave Betrayal

When it hits it’s pretty cool, but for 7 mana it’s not going to hit often. I spent far too many games with this just clogging up my hand and haven’t missed it once since I cut it.

Sidisi, Undead Vizier

The tutor package I’m running seems to work well enough that I haven’t bothered with her.

Captivating Crew / Mark of Mutiny / Threaten / Zealous Conscripts / Act of Treason /etc etc

Stealing things with these effects is a popular strategy people play with marchesa, but I’m not going that route, so these cards have little place in this version of the deck.

Grimgin, Corpse-born

He’s a sac outlet that makes his own +1 Counters, but if you don’t have a creature to sacrifice he is useless and also ultimately he’s a 5/5 beater with no evasion. I’d rather run a cheaper sac outlet or a better beater.

Thraximundar

He’s very expensive at CMC7. while he’s a strong threat for the late game I’ve been tuning my deck’s average CMC lower, so cards in the 7 drop slot have been making their migration. He generally is impactful as soon as you play him since he has haste and a built in way to get +1 counters, but i think his place is in a more battle cruiser type meta.

Exava, Rakdos Bloodwitch

This card does nothing. I have no idea why people run it. All your creatures come into play at EoT from Marchesa’s ability, so that means if you sacrifice them on your opponent’s turn they can still attack on your turn. The creature’s we have available that come in with +1 counters by default aren’t really that important to attack with in the first place. do you just reallllly need to swing in with that arcbound worker right away on T5? She’s a 4/4 for 4 mana with no evasion in two colors with an irrelevant ability. I don’t see any reason to run her.

Puppeteer Clique

At 5 mana this guy is relatively expensive and honestly my opponents usually don’t have anything better for my game plan than I do, so there’s not usually much need for the ability. That said, you might have a use for him in the right meta, but i generally avoid him.

Burnished Hart

I feel like 3 mana per use is a bit much for this and there’s only so many basics in the deck. I’d much rather run Solemn Simulacrum

Falkenrath Aristocrat

Yahenni, Undying Partisan is better. Why not both? Gotta make room for cards somewhere.

Butcher of Malakir

What have I been telling you about 7 drops?

Treasonous Ogre

We have better ways to control our life total than this and we’re pretty light on red cards, so the mana isn’t really needed either.

Necropolis Regent

many of our creatures make +1 counters out of combat, so the ability isn’t needed that much, and at 6 mana it’s even less worth it.

Triskellion/ Walking Ballista

I just don’t want to run the combo, but you can.

Runescarred Demon

What are you trying to do? Run a mono 7 drop deck here? How many times do we have to teach you this lesson old man? Running Sidisi or Demonic tutor is the better option I think.

Marchesa's Smuggler

See Herald of Secret Streams

Noxious Gearhulk

I’m cautious about including too much lifegain in the deck, and at 6 mana he’s a bit tough to play as he’s getting to the top of our curve and is essentially just a removal spell anyway. I prefer merciless executioner for looping removal.

Sheoldred, the Whispering One

We’re not really going to have very many creatures in our graveyard to make use of, and she paints a huge target on your head when you play her for .. 7 mana.

Noosegraf Mob

Not a bad way to get bodies on the floor, but you’ve got to have a sac outlet around and you’re only making 2/2’s with your 6 mana time sink. There are better ways to make tokens in my opinion.

Chasm Skulker

Actually this is not a bad option. I cut it to test Desecrated Tomb and haven't really noticed too much of a difference between the two so far, but it's definitely something you should consider. So far I've found the Tomb provides a larger number of tokens to the board over the course of a game though, and flying is usually more relevant than islandwalk.

Vigean Graftmage and other Graft creatures

By and large they all have pretty useless abilities so I’d skip almost all of them.

Reef Wurm

It always took me way too much effort to get this thing moving. It’s cool when it works and you’re pumping out a 9/9 every turn, but it just didn’t happen enough for my liking.

Brainstorm

Personally I don’t rate it very highly in EDH since you just don’t really have high enough fetch land / shuffle effect density to make great use of it like you do in Legacy. Cards like Ponder and Preordain are better here.

Living Death / Animate Dead / Reanimate / Necromancy /etc

We’re not running a reanimator deck here, we’re running a recursion deck. Our creatures typically aren’t in the yard more than a phase or two, so these effects aren’t very useful. A single Phyrexian Reclamation should be enough for our needs.

Attrition

Black is a very popular color in EDH, so I avoid Doom Blade effects.

Sneak Attack

Honestly I prefer Shifting Shadows for cheating creatures out. Shadows guarantees you get something every turn, whereas Sneak Attack requires something in hand. Not to mention that by and large our creatures aren’t terribly expensive to play, so I think finding them in the deck is a bit more important than merely cheating them out.

Oblivion Stone

It's not actually any great savings on mana compared to Unstable Obelisk , All Is Dust , Perilous Vault or Scour from Existence since it still costs 8 mana to use it, and if you want to save anything it costs even more, as well as placing a large target on your head.

Midnight Reaper

For me Grim Haruspex synergizes better, and personally I'm not a fan of the life loss on reaper being mandatory when the same effect is free on GH. There are plenty of life total manipulating effects in the deck as it is, but you could definitely run this card if you want to. Especially if a card like Necropotence or Rhystic Study is out of budget.

Blood Tracker

I felt that Toothy, Imaginary Friend would be a better option since it doesn't require any upkeep, but i've elected not to run either at this point as Impaler Shrike has been performing a bit better for me lately.

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden & Timestream Navigator this is a pointless 3 card do nothing win more combo that should never be run in this deck. the time and effort involved in piecing this jank together in any given game is not worth it. these two cards have no other synergy with the deck in any way and should absolutely not be given a second thought. if you're going to run a combo you may as well run a better one considering it'll probably require less effort for most of them.

Maybe board cards are either on a short list for addition to the deck or are just cards I am loosely considering. For the short list cards I’ll touch on them here.

I will also try to address the cards being replaced and my thoughts on the choices as well.

Dockside Extortionist

Repeatable Ramp is always good in grixis. This card is probably going to be a real workhorse and I'm planning to pick one up soon.

Scroll of Fate

Marchesa will let us flip any permanent we place with this card. Lands, Enchantments, Artifacts, Creatures, whatever. even looking at it as essentially just another mana rock it's still not bad, but the ability to cheat in some extra land drops is what's really caught my eye here.

Vilis, Broker of Blood

This guy pretty obviously plays well with our game plan. With the addition of the other two cards above I feel it's a bit easier to justify his mana cost as well.

Testing Living Death in place of Decree of Pain gets around Indestructible and has a lower mana cost and fills a similar role. I'm wary of this card since it's probably a bad mix if there are graveyard decks like Meren of Clan Nel Toth or similar at the table, and even may result in incidental benefit to our opponents if non exile removal spells have been played earlier in the game. I think with a mix of cards like Grave Pact and Plaguecrafter and etc.. that the effect will end up fairly one sided, but time will tell.

Desecrated Tomb

Have to Cut something for Dockside Extortionist and honestly I just have not had the luck to be able to play this card enough times to really feel that I'll miss it. I do think it is still good value in the deck and do recommend it. However, something has to go in order for something else to come in.

Shifting Shadow

I want to test out Scroll of Fate as a sort of replacement here. I think the ability to use Scroll as a source of ramp will be quite nice, and it definitely has the potential for cheating out many other permanents as well. Shadow has the benefit of always hitting a creature, but it can be tough to keep around at times.

Hostage Taker / Scourge of the Throne

Currently it's between these two as a trade in for Vilis, Broker of Blood , I am going to try swapping them around for a while and see which cut plays best. My initial thought is that swapping the cards that are closest in CMC will be the way to go, but with the addition of Scroll of Fate and Dockside Extortionist I think there will be sufficient ramp to play both the dragon and demon. At the end of the day the dragon is just a flashy finisher though, so time will tell, but I'm betting I will probably end up keeping Hostage Taker in.

The guide has been updated and reworked as of 7-16-18!

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