A Song of Loyalty and Betrayal

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This is the first part of Marchesa's journey to becoming the queen (see the second part here). Do you like the Game of Thrones? Do you like controlling the board with politics and threats? Do you enjoy playing synergistic strategies? If your answer is yes, then Marchesa is the commander for you. Capitalizing on her craftiness, ruthlessness, and wide-reaching influences to secure her throne, who dares question her authority and legitimacy?


The benefit of playing Marchesa is that she is a natural pillowfort. Experienced players will usually not want to lower your life total to enable her immortal army dethrone mechanic. This can help us to have more control over our life totals and effective political maneuvering throughout the game to position ourselves in a favorable state. When it comes down to the foundation of the deck, it boils down to either setting up the game so that Marchesa and her army is immortal and can never be removed or to assemble a winning combo as soon as possible depending on the pod she is playing against. This deck is capable of a consistent turn 6 win uninterrupted but usually is able to fight through the hate with the right setup. The strategy can be divided into three phases:

  1. Deploy phase - Play efficient creatures like Baleful Strix that could be abused with Marchesa later in the game as well as setting up protection and haste like Lightning Greaves/ Lightning Mauler /Metallic Mimic.

  2. Offensive phase - After deploying necessary threats and protection, start setting up an immortal board by getting the counters on the creatures. The main goal of this phase is to have Marchesa and her army be in a position to be immortal through her recursive counter engine, however assembling an infinite combo to win at this point is not uncommon too. Graveyard hate like Leyline of the Void/Rest in Peace hurts us the most and needs to be dealt with proactively or reactively using cards like Arcane Denial or Nevermaker/ Aura Thief . ETB graveyard hate effects like Bojuka Bog can be stopped with Stifle. Blood Artist can stall opponents' infinite combos depending on any graveyard loops (namely Mike + Trike).

  3. Conqueror phase - You should have a formidable boardstate at this point. Win the game with a massive army or assemble any infinite combo (described in section below) to end the game.


The following are combos that win the game:

The following are combos that grants value:


  • Grave Pact/Dictate of Erebos: Often quickly removed and does not generate enough value worthy of inclusion.

  • Grave Betrayal : It is a huge removal magnet in addition to it's high cmc and does not survive a turn when out which usually translates into me timewalking myself.

  • Living Death: Can backfire and too risky for my liking.

  • Mark of Mutiny / Frenzied Fugue / Helm of Possession : My deck does not go full "take possession" route to warrant the inclusion of these cards.

  • Merciless Executioner /Fleshbag Marauder: Often ends up just being an overcosted Innocent Blood. Contrary to common belief, it is very hard to make them worth the inclusion for abusing since I have to have another creature to sacrifice and get a counter on them to reuse again. Not worth it in this build IMHO.

  • Sidisi, Undead Vizier: Same reasons as above. Often is just an overcosted tutor and is more suitable in Meren than Marchesa.

  • Shriekmaw: The "nonblack" creature clause is a huge limitation in my meta.

  • Scourge of the Throne: Great finisher for more aggrocentric builds but I opt for a combo finish.

  • Abyssal Gatekeeper : Looks like a great card and needs testing.

  • Mimic Vat: Was in the list but cut for mana rocks.

  • Custodi Lich : Could be an interesting inclusion, needs more testing.

  • Thalakos Deceiver : Was initially in the deck but found to be too dependent on Marchesa/haste for my liking.


Are YOU Ready to Dethrone the King?


"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground." - Cersei Lannister



Revisited the deck after a year and did a massive revamp:

  • Lowered the overall mana curve down from 3.7 to 2.6
  • Replaced several cards with new toys from KLD/AER
  • Added more interactions and tutors

Comments View Archive

Megalomania says... #1

I like the concept. Have you considered making the deck a bit more combo-centered?

I would make the deck revolve around Kiki-jiki and Splinter Twin. Add cards like Pestermite, Deceiver Exarch, Intruder Alarm, etc. That should give it more consistency.

Also, i'd stay away from the tap lands and the non-essential utility lands like Riptide Laboratory and Volrath's Dungeon. In my experience, they more often than not slow you down.

I'll try and give more suggestions in the future. Hope the ones above help.

March 1, 2017 6:55 a.m.

GMD_1090 says... #2

if you are putting mikey in there why not put in Triskelion since it goes infinite with mikey and marchesa out

March 7, 2017 2:20 p.m.

Enral says... #3

GMD_1090: Hi, Mikey is there for Glen Elendra and redcap's combo..I'm honestly not a big fan of Trisk due to his CMC and being useless on his own although the two card combo is nice. I might reconsider him in the future.

March 7, 2017 5:30 p.m.

GMD_1090 says... #4

Well an additional consideration is that trike is a a solid defensive price as well since he has counters built-in. But I will admit, I do not run him in my own Marchesa deck.

March 7, 2017 6:04 p.m.

flapjackwars says... #5

This is definitely the best Marchesa deck I've seen on the site (besides my own, of course, hehehe). I think a low-curve deck is the best way to play Marchesa and you've clearly got that here. I'm just gonna shotgun some suggestions from my personal experience with the deck.

First off, you have no graft creatures, and I strongly urge you to try them. At least replace Olivia, Mobilized for War with Vigean Graftmage, which does the same thing without having to discard cards, and has crazy upside. Assemble a sac outlet, a value creature, Marchesa, and a grafter, and you can sac the grafter and value creature on your turn, return them on end step, then repeat the process on each opponent's turn. With your amount of tutors, Vedalken Graftmage should probably be good enough since it's the lowest CMC grafter, but Cytoplast Manipulator or Helium Squirter might be worth trying as well.

Please play Bribery. Protean Hulk is legal and you will take it and that will be the whole game.

Trinket Mage is a house, and he comes with plenty of options. You even own a Mana Crypt, so I feel as though you have no excuse. I understand the 3 drop slot is crowded but Trinket Mage for Mana Crypt is a net 1 mana play, and he can also find Skullclamp and Sensei's Divining Top. Basically, recurring it will quickly leave you with a ton of mana and cards. I also play Heap Doll and Arcbound Worker which look poor but the Doll can recur itself alongside Marchesa without a sac outlet and you currently lack grave hate, and the Worker can recur a value artifact creature on each player's turn like a graft creature would.

Dark Confidant and Grenzo, Dungeon Warden are strong 2drops that also synergize pretty well with Marchesa. I'd rather play a Confidant on 2 than a Signet, that's for sure. On that note, I've tried most of the 2drops you're currently playing, and been disappointed with Lightning Mauler, Signets, Lightning Greaves, Nightscape Familiar, and Blood Artist. The mana cards are nice but if you have another 2drop it's usually better to play that and then the rocks are not great for the rest of the game. Meanwhile, haste enablers are basically just inferior graft creatures, and while they're nice for curving out, I think playing a value creature or sac outlet on 2 is far better and worth going all in on.

Reality Shift and Arcane Denial are nice and cheap but I prefer my interaction to cost 0 mana with stuff like Snuff Out, Submerge, and whatever free counterspell floats your boat.

Necropotence feels a little unnecessary when you can just draw a billion cards anyway by assembling the Marchesa engine. Though it is a damn good card, and nice to have when the Marchesa thing gets broken up.

Phyrexian Metamorph is the second best clone, and a 3 mana clone is usually real damn good. Phantasmal Image is great and while Metamorph is a bit worse, it's still quite solid.

Big Game Hunter is probably the best removal guy. I like drawing a zillion cards then casting him for B in my cleanup step. Fulminator Mage is another utility 3 that can really come in handy, and it recurs itself alongside Marchesa without the need for a sac outlet.

Play Mindslicer. It's a great way to beat combo and battlecruiser alike. You'll rebuild from it better than anybody else. Well, sometimes the graveyard decks will get you, but they might not be well set up enough by turn 4 to do anything.

I feel like the wheels sorta come off here when you get above 3 cmc. Murderous Redcap does combo but is a dead draw too often otherwise, and the same is true of Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Kiki is trying to do what your deck already does, and does it slower. Kiki can recur an ETB once per turn cycle while a graft creature usually gives you 4 (1 for each player in the game). Treasonous Ogre is cool but red mana isn't terribly useful and Ashnod's Altar is more efficient ramp. Definitely consider Ashnod's Altar and Phyrexian Altar, they're more explosive sac outlets than Yahenni and Bloodthrone Vampire (though admittedly somewhat more vulnerable). River Kelpie is too much to pay for a Grim Haruspex effect, Grimgrin is quite slow and it sucks having to wait turns and then pay so much for a sac outlet, and Zealous Conscripts is strong but I've often found I'd much rather cast Treachery or Act of Aggression (which is also instant speed removal). Time Warp is great but feels rather out of place and I like to be flashy and go for the big Temporal Trespass. Getting a value creature on board and having a 3 mana time walk is pretty nice when trying to recover from getting your field picked apart.

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed actually sucks because of the "non-Human" clause. Double recurring is sweet value but graft creatures also let you recur your creatures a ton while also protecting themselves AND marchesa.Also, I've found that you don't really need a combo finisher. Just getting your engine online is usually enough, and when it isn't, kill them all with Flayer of the Hatebound damage. Then again, I understand if your local meta makes a combo finish necessary.

Blasphemous Act is quite often a 1 mana Damnation. Curve Vigean Graftmage into Aura Thief into Marchesa (grafted) plus Blasphemous Act and steal all the enchantments and kill all the dorks, woohoo!

Lastly, Abyssal Gatekeeper is nice for similar reasons to Nevermaker, since it can be instant-speed removal on board when needed. However, I just cut it from my build, because you just can't cast it until you have everything else in place because people love to 2 for 1 you by killing it which will kill anything else you've played, so I recommend against it.

I feel like this is the most well-built Marchesa deck I've seen so far and you have a good understanding of how best to use the commander, and that understanding will advance once you cast a Vigean Graftmage.

May 7, 2017 12:26 a.m.

Enral says... #6

flapjackwars: Thanks for your thoughtful comments! I agree with your Bribery suggestion now that Protean Hulk is unbanned. Graft creatures are indeed worth testing out again... I might just have to try Vigean Graftmage. Your choice of 0 cost removal is great and is worthy of consideration..although Reality Shift has its merits of answering indestructible creatures which is not uncommon in my meta. Big Game Hunter is more of a meta call IMHO...I've tested him and often times find close to no targets on the board for him to be worth the inclusion. Thanks again for your insight and I will definitely consider your suggestions! Cheers :)

May 8, 2017 9:44 a.m.

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Compare to inventory
Date added 9 months
Last updated 3 months

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 2.57
Tokens 1/1 Bird
Folders My EDH Collection, Interesting EDH PRimers, EDH Memes, Grixis ideas, Interested in Building
Top rank #46 on 2017-01-26
Views 1922

Revision 14 (3 months ago)

+1 Arid Mesa main
-1 Island main

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