Queen Marchesa

If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected. - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Queen Marchesa: Politics, Aikido, and Control is a political control deck designed for multiplayer casual play, especially in metas with a relatively large and rotating pool of players. It plays with a style in the theme of reality TV shows like Survivor in that making it to the end is as much a function of not making yourself a target as it is about moment to moment personal strength, and then once you have made it to the end, you steal victory out of the jaws of defeat.

This deck is designed to play politics a little differently than most. Many people understand politics as manipulation, trickery, and obfuscation, making alliances and breaking them, hoping to gain advantage against an inferior or unprepared intellect. That is not the extent of politics, and this deck is not meant for that. There is a philosophy in chess theory that it is rarely to your advantage to attempt to trick an opponent, for if their skill is equal or superior to yours, it won't work, and you are likely the one getting tricked. Instead, you should create board states that force your opponents to make moves or take positions that are their most rational choice. Your overarching strategy is to encourage the truly good players to not align their resources against you, but to spend resources accomplishing your goals. Your entire goal is to place no obstacle, whether material or psychological, in the way of them helping you to win. You accomplish this by making them, their deck, and their plays into your resources for winning the game, and for them to aid you willingly in this goal, not through manipulation, but because that is their best possible play.

Thanks for looking, explore and borrow what you like, and upvotes are appreciated!

"Uuuuuggghh... I HATE Rakdos Charm!" - Sam, age 8. Karametra, God of Harvests Selesnya Elves player and Master Token Spawner

"Crap. Where did that come from?" - Ray, Shop Regular. Meren of Clan Nel Toth Reanimator player, and surprised Second to Last Man Standing.

"I thought you said you were running a reactive Pillow Fort Control!" - Dave, Shop Regular. Damia, Sage of Stone Combo/Control player after being hit by Master of Cruelties followed by Sudden Impact by turn 7.

"It is so aggravating how the Elites just think that they deserve to win just because they can throw more money at a problem than other people. I thought that we agreed on a budget that didn't include so many Bombs. Do you know how many struggling decks could be helped with the money you spent on Bombs like Dark Depths and flashy trinkets like Mox Diamond? - Hannah, age 10. Amateur Pundit, and Gisela, Blade of Goldnight Boros Aggro player.

"It better be good. You spent so much time on it. Can you take out the trash now?" Emily, Omnath, Locus of Mana Stompy player and Master Deckbuilder's Wife.

"Rad." - Jeff, friend from college who is still playing his pet Goblins deck.

  1. Love interactive and reactive decks

  2. Love to have answers to every situation

  3. Like big flashy plays, and enjoy the feeling of awaiting the huge swing win, but get tired of infinite combos

  4. Have the self restraint enough to wait for the opportune moment to take control of a game

  5. You like the flexibility to play defensively or play aggressively, and have the ability to judge when each is the optimal approach

  6. You have kids, and love to play interactive games with them where everyone gets to do what they like to do before the game ends

  1. Love turning lots of big creatures sideways

  2. Need a combo wincon to feel like you can win

  3. Need or in your deck to feel explosive or secure

  4. Have a hard time with patience and subtlety

  5. Don't have another deck to play frequently to keep this one fresh in your meta

"I do not teach you anything. I just help you to know yourself." - Bruce Lee

Queen Marchesa

Queen Marchesa is a fantastic addition to the Aikido archetype for EDH. She is a Mardu commander who avoids the two most common and most powerful colors in MTG. This lowers the threat level of your deck, and increases your potency as a turn the tides general. She also comes with a couple of very strong effects for this style of deck.

Colors - Her colors give her access to all the damage redirect spells, which are the heart of what I consider the Aikido archetype. It gives access to all the Pillow Fort cards and Rattlesnake cards. Queen Marchesa's colors bring all the and control. brings a lot of Threaten type effects to take advantage of our opponents' offense. The cornerstone of this deck's offense is a suite of cards that are uncommon and huge bombs.

Low CMC - She comes down pretty early, not uncommonly on turn 3. This is important for establishing her primary effect on the game, getting other people to fight. She is cheap enough that she can be cast more than once in a game. This can be very important.

Haste and Deathtouch - Deathtouch is a significant Rattlesnake ability, and having it attached to your commander is pretty great for this style of deck, almost better than having a commander that is a huge body.

The Monarch - The Monarch ability is interesting and subtle. At it's most basic, it is card draw for you, if nothing else interacts with it. There are many generals who are popular and powerful simply due to their ability to draw cards. But The Monarch goes a step further. It encourages strife at the table. It asks each opponent if they can afford to let the current possessor of The Monarch to continue to possess it. If not, they must attack. This seems counter to the strategy of avoiding conflict as long as possible, but it is not. Once you have been attacked, and The Monarch has been taken, there is nothing to say you have to reclaim it. You are given value in the form of Hastey Deathtouch tokens, and as long as everyone else is fighting over it, The Monarch can do work for you even while you do not possess it. Let them fight over it. You can wait for your best opportunity. That being said, do not let The Monarch sit idle. If it has not exchanged hands, take it. You will gain value from the cards it grants as well, and now you have both the attackers to take it and the defenders to defend it. The table politics created by The Monarch are exactly in line with the best strategy of this deck, making Queen Marchesa a perfect general to take the Reins.

Assassin Tokens - Deathtouch and Haste on 1/1s. As long as you are content to leave The Monarch in someone else's hands, you make one of these each turn. These turn out to be a subtle but effective Rattlesnake wall, and can be turned into a very effective army for attacks. Give them First Strike, and they become downright scary, especially in multiples as blockers.

The Art of Peace is the principle of nonresistance. Because it is nonresistant it is victorious from the beginning. Those with evil intentions or contentious thoughts are instantly vanquished. The Art of Peace is invincible because it contends with nothing. Morihei Ueshiba, The Art of Peace

Notable Inclusions and Card Choices

Ramp and Fixing: Lots of Ramp and Fixing that is tuned and synergistic with the rest of the deck, as well as a curve that allows us to bring out early big plays. Queen Marchesa often comes out on turn three. Gift of Estates and Tithe double as card draw late game, and our unconventional manabase is highly synergistic with the rest of the deck.

Draw and Tutoring: Enough Draw and Tutoring to make the deck consistent and holding enough answers for every threat or weakness, without being obtrusive or conventional enough to be obvious about it. Queen Marchesa headlines the list of great draw cards in the form of The Monarch, but the deck needs others. Two all star players in this list are Shred Memory and Key to the City. These are an uncommon tutor and an interesting draw card with huge impact in this deck without ringing any danger bells for most players. This duo makes the already versatile card list even more versatile.

Defense: Queen Marchesa is a defensive powerhouse herself, and she comes backed up with an Army of Assassins, but the defensive capabilities go well beyond this. A 23 card subtle and somewhat unconventional Pillow Fort and Rattle Snake defense with a low curve, the potential to be used offensively, and which is synergistic with itself as well as my offense. Back this up with a nice Fog suite, making my defensive wall extend into my hand so as to not have all of it sit on the battlefield to be effective, and bringing it's own offense in the right circumstances. A modest suite of Threaten effects can utilize the creatures of the opposition for our own defense. Add to this a control package that is complete with a very strong and versatile spot removal suite, some reactive board wipes that have offensive uses, and multiple cards to allow us to protect our board state, including counterspells in Mardu colors!

Offense: The Aikido offense that is facilitated by Queen Marchesa is amazing, even when we are not borrowing offense from our opponents through our Pillow Fort diplomacy. The offense is structured to take advantage of typical board states and the strengths of my opponents with cards that have outsized effect for their costs. It is designed to be huge Aikido bombs against any Big Mana, Big Creature, Big Army, or Big Attack deck. It is structured in pairs of cards for each of these, including Acidic Soil/Price of Progress, Backlash/Delirium, Rakdos Charm/Stronghold Discipline, Deflecting Palm/Comeuppance, with Threaten effects all reinforcing this array of counterattacks. This reactive offense is backed up with a couple of big bomb offensive attacks in the form of Master of Cruelties and Selfless Squire, a few of midrange beaters in the form of Serra Ascendant, Gisela, the Broken Blade, Gideon of the Trials, and Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs, and an army of smaller defensive and utility creatures. Bring in combat tricks and enablers like Duelist's Heritage, Slayers' Stronghold, and Key to the City to act as later game silver bullets, and the offense is quite versatile.

Wishboard: A Wishboard is a place to put answers and bombs that you would rather not draw in most situations, but occasionally would absolutely love to have them. Packed with answers to common difficult game states, there are a couple of wincons, Graveyard Antics hate, some selective removal, and mass recursion. This is to create a versatile modal spell when combined with Burning Wish. For metas that do not allow Wishes or a Wishboard, replace Burning Wish with any of the spells in the sideboard list. All are great in this list. My preferred substitutes would likely be Vindicate and Exsanguinate.

Notable Exclusions

Sanguine Bond / Exquisite Blood

Any other Infinite Combos like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker + Zealous Conscripts

Strong finishers like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite or Gisela, Blade of Goldnight

Stax pieces like Keldon Twilight, Blood Moon, or Smokestack


The first tool in our arsenal for making people not align against us is to not raise our threat level enough to be concerned about. This deck plays no infinite combos. It plays few splashy bombs that demand the attention of the table. Even Marchesa is known as a theme deck commander, not a tier 1 general by any stretch of the imagination. By keeping our threat level low, the attention of the table, and hence the resources of the table, are never brought to bear disrupting our development. There are many card choices of inclusion that are made based on this principle, but in fact, there are many more choices for exclusion that are made with this principle in mind that are at least as important. We want cards that are impactful, but not flashy. We want to influence without catching attention.

Play cards with an outsized impact, but avoid any components of known combos, or anything that will draw hate. We are aiming at synergy, not combos per se. Combos or combo pieces, even if you don't run all pieces for the combo, will draw hate. Avoid that. Concentrate on cards that add to our strategy in surprising ways, or that influence the play of others in ways that enhance our position. The most basic elements of our defense are cards that encourage people to attack other people, and when two cards can reliably make this happen, the card that is more subtle or the card with another use is the better card. This is true even when the less subtle card is traditionally felt to be a stronger defensive card. The most basic elements of our offense are the strengths of our opponents, or that are alternate uses of cards that make our deck strategy work in other ways. Punish people for doing what they do best. Punish having too many creatures. Punish having big creatures. Punish large Ramp. Punish large attacks. Punish combos. Punish casting too many spells. Whatever it is that your opponent does best, try to punish them for that. Most strategies that do this are extremely efficient, and as long as your opponents have been worn down some fighting each other, they are likely in striking distance for an attack aimed at whatever they are best at.

That being said, be sure to be able to go on the offensive. Decks that are best at sitting back and waiting should be punished just as much as active decks. Carry enough aggression that you can win if they do not mount a big attack. Understand how to become aggressive with the threats that you hold. Some of the big threats in this deck are just as powerful as a combo, even if they are not combos. Infinite may be flashy, but just enough gets the job done just as well. Keep track of how close your opponents are to losing, and strike as soon as you are able to close out the game. Don't move too soon, or you risk burning your resources without finishing. Have patients if victory is not yet assured.

Be content to let others dominate the table early while you build your board presence. Spend your time sculpting a hand for optimal retaliation in the end game. Try to assist other players in their assault of your opponents, enhancing their attacks, removing defenses, and most of all, do not disrupt their offensive development, as long as it is pointed at your opponents. Encourage burning of their resources while you build up yours, and pay attention to their resources, since you will use them as weapons against them later. Attempt to assassinate opponents when given the opportunity, as long as it does not make you a target for the rest of the players or use up too many resources. If possible, let others do your dirty work. When resources are pointed your way, show no mercy. Surgically eliminate threats to you, or go completely offensive to remove an enemy. Try to ensure that you have the resources to handle the late game when it will be just you and another opponent, and if possible, try to get to the end game after your last opponent has used up his remaining resources to get to the end game, hopefully leaving you with intact defenses, intact offense, and resources to burn.

In Aikido we never attack. An attack is proof that one is out of control. Never run away from any kind of challenge, but do not try to suppress or control an opponent unnaturally. Let attackers come any way they like and then blend with them. Never chase after opponents. Redirect each attack and get firmly behind it. Morihei Ueshiba

Notable Inclusions and Card Choices

Deflecting Palm - Basically a microcosm of this deck's offense. Take an attack, neutralise it, and then send it back at the attacker. The threat of this can also be used as a bluff for a fictitious Pillow Fort effect.

Comeuppance - A second Deflecting Palm that is not quite as good. Still, effective when it lands. Be aware of the Wrath effect against creatures.

Acidic Soil, Price of Progress - Another microcosm for the offense in this deck. Take something that is a strength, something that every deck does, and convert it into offense, while making this as asymetrical as possible. The CMC vs damage potential for this is outstanding. Anti-Ramp tech.

Besmirch, Harness by Force, Act of Aggression, Word of Seizing - All of these Threaten effects can utilize the offense of the opponents to do serious damage. Besmirch is somewhat defensive, in that you don't have to worry about that attack for another turn after you have goaded it. Harness by Force can be scaling, making it extremely powerful in the late game. Act of Aggression and Word of Seizing are instants, making them defensive as well, and Word of Seizing can be used to stop creature based combo with the Split Second keyword.

Backlash, Delirium - Anti-Tall tech. Backlash and Delirium can also be used to tap down defenders to allow a conventional attack to slip through, even if it is not your attack.

Batwing Brume, Rakdos Charm - Anti-Wide tech. Rakdos Charm probably ends more games in my meta than any other card. Batwing Brume can either end games or prolong them, depending on how it is used.

Duelist's Heritage, Slayers' Stronghold, Key to the City - These can be used on our opponent's attacks, and can create surprise assassinations if played right. Just be sure to not commit too many resources of your own to the attacks of others before the end game.

Notable Exclusions

Captain's Maneuver, Divine Deflection, Reflect Damage - CMC is too high for these. Committing that much of your manabase to a reaction that may never happen is less than ideal, and we have other ways of exploiting our opponents.

Soul Conduit, Repay in Kind - CMC is too high, and they are very antisynnergistic with any of the lifegain cards in this deck.

Spellshock - This card is both anti-Spellslinger tech and anti-Combo tech. It fits in the same category as Acidic Soil and Price of Progress, but is more incidental loss than swingy bomb like those two, so it doesn't fit the theme as well, although it would be a nice inclusion for those inclined.

Wishboard Cards

Exsanguinate - An extra burn spell for added offense, this one with the bonus of lifegain.

Insurrection - Almost a Rakdos Charm plus. When Rakdos Charm won't quite do it, maybe Insurrection can.

Reverse the Sands - Almost like a retro-Deflecting palm. Combine this with Death Wish and you can dump your own life, then exchange life totals.


To align our opponents' resources with our goal of winning, we need to get our opponents to point their weapons at each other, and not us. We utilize Pillow Fort cards, Rattlesnake cards, and Fog effects to help our opponents to determine that attacking elsewhere will maximize the effects of their attacks. We can use the unspoken and subtle threat of removal to make attacking us the less optimal move, but outright and especially unprovoked attacks are rarely our best tactic for managing the resources of the entire table. Discouraging the attacks against us in the most subtle way that will be successful is almost always our best tactic. We hope to keep our opponents attacking each other. When all of this does not work, we merge with their offense, merge with their strength, the full power of their deck, which we have allowed to develop unchecked, and redirect their power against them.

The penetrating brilliance of swords

Wielded by followers of the Way

Strikes at the evil enemy

Lurking deep within

Their own souls and bodies. Morihei Ueshiba, The Art of Peace

Notable Inclusions and Card Choices

Boros Charm - Protect our stuff. This will swing a game in the face of a boardwipe.

Dawn Charm - Protect ourselves, protect our creatures. This can be a surprise counterspell in the right circumstances, or a massive swing in momentum in the face of a boardwipe.

Hide/Seek, Rakdos Charm, Anguished Unmaking, Utter End - Artifact spot removal.

Hide/Seek, Anguished Unmaking, Utter End, - Enchantment spot removal.

Path to Exile, Swords to Plowshares, Anguished Unmaking, Utter End - Creature spot removal.

Comeuppance - Can be a Wrath for attacking creatures.

Shred Memory, Rakdos Charm - Anti-Graveyard antics tech with alternate uses. I would strengthen this category if I were in a meta that abused the graveyard more.

Lapse of Certainty, Mana Tithe - No one ever expects counterspells in Mardu.

Lapse of Certainty, Hide/Seek, Word of Seizing - Anti-combo tech. Functions as that needed bail out button to keep from losing. The lifegain of Hide/Seek is a bonus, but it can specifically be used this way if needed. Word of Seizing can stop creature based combo.

Notable Exclusions

Damnation, Wrath of God, similar sweepers - We want to redirect their offense, not destroy it, and not draw hate. When I ran wrath effects, I used them too often. It was counterproductive.

Samurai of the Pale Curtain, Withered Wretch, Rest in Peace - Anti-Graveyard tech that could be added for metas with more graveyard abuse.

Wishboard Cards

Vindicate, Austere Command - Selective removal. Austere Command is a sweeper that you should be able to make asymmetric. Vindicate can surgically take out anything.

Mind Twist - Can remove the threat of counters, remove combo pieces waiting to be played, and can leave them without options.


One of the goals of this deck is to punish those who overextend while encouraging that overextension. We are prudent about how we utilize our control elements, ensuring that every act has one of three effects: discouraging attacks against us, picking off key elements of the enemy board state that would allow our opponents to win, and turning any attack against us into an attack against our opponents. We allow our opponents' board states to develop as long as they threaten each other more than us, with the goal of letting their attack become large enough that using it against them will be lethal for them. Punishing the overextension that we allowed is the majority of the offense in this deck.

This deck has plenty of control, but it is surgical control, and we aim to use it sparingly. We excise those elements that can specifically hurt our strategy, while leaving everything else if possible. We want to allow deck development for everyone, as long as we can handle it, and especially as long as it is doing work for us. We also want the threat of retaliation to keep people from targeting us. Most of this is tutorable with Sunforger, and people who know this deck will know this. It takes a bluff and makes it a threat, and effectively makes our hand much larger than it actually is when we have Sunforger out.

"The ultimate aim of martial arts is not having to use them." - Miyamoto Musashi

Notable Inclusions and Card Choices

Pillow Fort

Your spirit is the true shield. Morihei Ueshiba, The Art of Peace

Ghostly Prison, Sphere of Safety, Windborn Muse, Norn's Annex - Classic Pillow Fort. Taxes attacks pointed at you, hence encourages attacks to be pointed elsewhere.

Maze of Ith, Kor Haven, Gossamer Chains, Pacification Array, Gideon of the Trials - Maze effects make the necessary commitment for actually causing an effect with an attack to be much larger. Take the biggest threat out of combat for each of these that you have. When facing this, most opponents will try to find easier pickings.

Sun Droplet, Delaying Shield, Solitary Confinement, Gideon of the Trials - Each of these reduces the effect of an attack. When opponents have a choice of decreased effects against you or full effects against others, attacks often go elsewhere. Sun Droplet is pretty amazing in multiplayer, especially early, because it triggers on each upkeep. Delaying Shield is great for making big symmetrical effects like Acidic Soil trigger a full turn earlier on opponents than on you. It also ensures that you never take damage that is considered combat damage, so you never lose Monarch. Solitary Confinement is sustainable with Monarch, and precludes the normal loss of Monarch. Solitary Confinement is the Pillow Fort card that you would always prefer to be under, but it costs you 2 cards a turn. That is a heavy price, even for Hexproof and immunity to damage. Gideon of the Trials prevents an opponent from winning or you from losing, and can make the difference against even alternate wincons and combo wins.

Duelist's Heritage - This is an interesting card. It may be the most subtle Pillow Fort card in the deck. It just gives a reward to people who aim attacks in a way that you like. People like conditions that make their deck to work better even more than they like avoiding conditions that make their deck, strategy, or chance of winning worse. Strange, but very satisfying. The reward they get also directly forwards your plans of using the offense of opponents to take out your opponents. It can also be used to double your biggest attacker. Fantastic card.

Slayers' Stronghold, Key to the City - Somewhat similar to Duelist's Heritage, but weaker. Still, through negotiation, you can not only redirect attacks away from you, but you can enhance the attacks that are directed toward your opponents. Slayers' Stronghold is a much easier sell, because it gives vigilance, leaving the creature for defense as well, and helps to convince them that you aren't just trying to open them up to a backstab. Key to the City seems to also be a relatively easy sell, since discarding a card is seen as an extra effect against you that makes the attack that much more worthwhile.


Fill yourself with Ki, invite the attack. Morihei Ueshiba

No Mercy, Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker, High Priest of Penance - Straightforward Rattlesnakes. Attack me and I kill your stuff.

Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs - When combined with the Tax effects above, this can generate a large offense, or even just chump blockers. This usually doesn't happen, because the threat of creating an army will keep them from attacking. If you are attacked, it can actually stop an attack, given that the trigger is the attack, not successful damage, and the Ogre tokens can be used to block. Excellent defense.

Ophiomancer, Vampire Nighthawk, Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, Master of Cruelties, Queen Marchesa, and her tokens - Deathtouch deters a lot of attacks. It also makes people hesitant to block when they are used to attack. If you are attacked or blocked, they can work as removal. It is surprising how well these work for deterring attacks. One deathtouch creature can often keep multiple creatures from attacking for quite a while. This is a much more subtle Rattlesnake than No Mercy, even if it can only take out one creature per blocker, but usually just as effective.


"The supreme challenge of a warrior is to turn an enemy's fearful wrath into harmless laughter." - Morihei Ueshiba, O Sensei

Deflecting Palm - Best Fog effect, can be an instant anti-Tall or anti-Burn wincon.

Selfless Squire - Second best Fog effect. Can be a stand alone wincon, and it gets bigger every time you prevent damage.

Batwing Brume - Also an anti-Wide wincon.

Comeuppance - Can also be either a Wrath effect or a second version Deflecting Palm for noncreature attacks.

Dawn Charm - Modal Fog, serving as a Fog, a conditional counterspell, or can save a creature.

Act of Aggression, Word of Seizing - Both of these instant speed Threaten effects can remove up to two attackers from combat, acting as a semi-fog and semi-removal.

Notable Exclusions

Hissing Miasma, Blood Reckoning, Marchesa's Decree - The loss of life can add up, but I find that inhibiting the development of board state or causing loss of resources is more of a disincentive than small life loss. Life is treated as a resource that can be spent, and people do choose to spend it. These become weaker Rattlesnake cards.

Story Circle, Circle of Protection: Green et al, Rune of Protection: Red et al - The Circles are considered un-fun in my meta, and are discouraged. If I ran them, I would run the Runes for their ability to cycle.

Riot Control et al - Riot Control is a Fog plus. It stops the current attack, but it also gains life to offset the next attack. It also does not need to wait for an attack to become useful. Sometimes all it takes is a little lifegain to make your symmetric damaging effects into game winners. This extra lifegain turned out to not be worth the card slot, and it was cut. The vanila Fogs were not useful enough to hold a spot. Every card must either over-perform in it's function or have multiple functions.

Boros Fury-Shield, Mirror Strike - Both of these only target one attack from one attacking creature. This is not as versatile as either Deflecting Palm or Eye for an Eye for redirecting a single attack, and not as effective as Batwing Brume, Dawn Charm, or Selfless Squire for stopping all combat damage. Still, these cards could be a consideration, depending on meta, but their CMC is getting a little high for inclusion.


Utilizing subtlety to target attention away from us, while creating a board state from which we really cannot be threatened is the name of the game. This philosophy cannot be heavy handed. Most players react badly to blatant manipulation, so be cautious. Attempting to force a play that a smart player would choose willingly without intervention is likely to lead to revolt and loss of control. Choosing a more subtle defense that accomplishes the same thing makes the defense even stronger than an otherwise objectively stronger defense.

"In true budo there is no enemy or opponent. True budo is to become one with the universe, not train to become powerful or to throw down some opponent. Rather we train in hopes of being of some use, however small our role may be, in the task of bringing peace to mankind around the world." - Morihei Ueshiba, O Sensei

Notable Inclusions and Card Choices

Hyperefficient Symmetrical Damage - Acidic Soil, Price of Progress

Aikido Wins - Deflecting Palm, Comeuppance, Backlash, Delirium, Batwing Brume, Rakdos Charm

Threaten Effects - Besmirch, Harness by Force, Act of Aggression, Word of Seizing

Grindy Midrange Beats - Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs, Serra Ascendant, Gisela, the Broken Blade, Selfless Squire, Master of Cruelties, Gideon of the Trials

Utility Creatures - Ophiomancer, Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker, High Priest of Penance, Windborn Muse, Weathered Wayfarer

Lifelink Attacks - Serra Ascendant, Gisela, the Broken Blade, Vampire Nighthawk

Attack Facilitators - Duelist's Heritage, Key to the City, Slayers' Stronghold

Notable Exclusions

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite - Big finishers that pose a huge threat. Keeping them out lowers the threat level.

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed+Triskelion - Combo is out. Not welcome in my meta, and leaving them out lowers the threat level.

Wishboard Cards

Exsanguinate - When there are multiple opponents, this can shift the game, and it can also straight up end it, at the right time.

Insurrection - Crazy bomb that can end a game. It is too expensive and depends too much on the opponent's board state to maindeck, but here it should shine.

Reverse the Sands - This one won't actually win the game for you, but the swing in life can bring you close enough that another, much smaller attack will finish them off.


Our wincons should either swing a game by themselves and come completely out of nowhere, or they should perform other functions in the deck, but pull double duty and put an opponent on a short clock when used as a weapon. Most of our wins should be set up by waiting for the right time, not waiting for the right cards. Our wins should be as dramatic as combo deck wins, but they should be much more exciting. They should not depend on the perfect draws, but should only depend on the perfect timing, and should appeal to the deck player just as much as the deck builder.

"Always remember that the true meaning of Budo is that soft overcomes hard and small overcomes large." - Mas Oyama

Notable Inclusions and Card Choices

Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Enlightened Tutor, Cruel Tutor, Shred Memory - Tutors create consistency. The first four are obvious, but many people overlook Shred Memory. Given that one in five cards in the deck have a CMC of , including some of the wincons, some of the Fogs, some spot removal, some Pillow Fort, some Ramp, some Rattlesnakes, and even Demonic Tutor, which can be used to go get anything else, Shred Memory turns out to be a great tutor in this deck. You can always get something useful, and even if not used that way, it can still be used as graveyard hate.

Sunforger - This card is a great toolbox, and even has access to a couple of the wincons. Even as a buff, this can really add to an offense, making a small creature into a real threat.

Burning Wish - Wishes can become a DIY modal spell made up of cards that are too narrow or too expensive for the maindeck. I have avoided color hate, seeking instead to add cards that combine with the theme of the deck, but do not quite make the cut. They are cards I would love to draw, but only very rarely. They answer certain relatively common game states, and most should end the game outright. If they don't, they should at least get you back on your feat and in a more competitive position. If Wishes or a Wishboard is not acceptable in your meta or in any certain game or venue, pick your favorite Wishboard spell and switch the maindeck Burning Wish for those cards.

Commander's Sphere, Mind Stone - This is Ramp that can be later exchaged for a card when no longer needed. This cantrip style effect is a great way to be unobtrusive about how many options you have, and can be used as a little gas late in the game.

Necropotence - This card is amazing. The life loss is rarely a factor, it draws way more cards than you would believe, and the draw can be all at once or split up as needed. Given that being under a Solitary Confinement is a preferred state for this deck, the loss of your draw step is rarely even an issue, and Necropotence pairs extremely well with Solitary Confinement, allowing plenty of card draw, easy maintenance of the Solitary Confinement, and since you won't be taking damage otherwise, the life loss is less of an issue.

Tithe, Gift of Estates - These cards can provide a draw of 2-3 cards at once. This can be all it takes to maintain the Solitary Confinement, providing something to drop to Mox Diamond, not to mention their primary function of fixing mana and smoothing curves.

Weathered Wayfarer - The Wayfarer is a great card for providing continued card draw, trimming your lands in play, and setting up big plays later. The card draw can be used to maintain a Solitary Confinement, getting you out from under it's squeeze, and can also be used to discard to a Mox Diamond or Key to the City.

Key to the City - This card has three very strong functions in this deck. First, it can filter cards. Discard a card to use it, draw a card when it untaps. Given that we are often flush with lands in the mid to late game since we no longer want to grow our manabase after we have enough to play our spells, we can just pitch them to Key to the City. Combine this with the Ravnica bounce lands and we actuallly get some real card draw out of it. This function is basically everything that people want out of Sensei's Divining Top, with the added benefits of not needing shuffle effects to optimize it and making a creature unblockable. Second, we can use the activated ability to encourage attacks to be pointed away from us when we are not using it for our own creatures. This is effectively a Pillow Fort effect. Third, our big attacks can one shot an opponent if they are made unblockable. In essence, Key to the City adds card draw and filtering, Pillow Fort, and kill combo. Perfect inclusion.

Slayers' Stronghold - Can be a subtle Pillow Fort card or kill combo card, on top of being part of your manabase.

Notable Exclusions

Sensei's Divining Top - This is a low CMC card filtering effect. I found that the single function was not enough to keep it in the deck. While powerful, each card has to perform multiple functions, and there were better options. Sensei's Divining Top had to be cut.

Land Tax - This was a dead draw later in the game, with the exception of either being under the squeeze of a Solitary Confinement or when combined with a Scroll Rack. In either case, it was good, but otherwise, this was mostly a dead draw, and performed no better than either Tithe or Gift of Estates, and both those gave you the land immediately. This deck does better with an all at once approach, for the most part. The amazing Land Tax had to be cut.

Scroll Rack - Combined with shuffle effects of Fetch Lands, Land Tax effects, or Tutors, Scroll Rack can be used to recycle the land draws later in the game, so that all those lands can be turned into playable cards instead of just sitting in play or sitting in your hand doing nothing. Combining Land Tax with Scroll Rack and a board state where you have fewer lands than your opponent that produce all the mana that you need can create a 3 card draw engine per turn. This was taken out because Scroll Rack did not stand particularly well on it's own, and needed Land Tax to actually make it that great. The otherwise highly synergistic Scroll Rack had to be cut.

Wishboard Cards

Wheel of Fortune - This deck usually does not like to discard it's hand, but in any situation where Sea Gate Wreckage would turn your game around, Wheel of Fortune should as well.

Yawgmoth's Will - Mass recursion can end a game outright, or provide the defense necessary to defend against an otherwise inevitable attack. It also allows access to a lot of the cards that have been dumped to Key to the City.

"The purpose of training is to tighten up the slack, toughen the body, and polish the spirit." - Morihei Ueshiba, O Sensei

Rocks - Your big early plays are often either a strong defense with a Pillow Fort or Rattlesnake card, or the uncommon crazy Hatred or Master of Cruelties to surprise assassinate a single opponent, or most commonly dropping Queen Marchesa as soon as possible to at least introduce The Monarch into play for everyone to fight over. The key ramp spells are often our drop accelerants to allow us to drop a CMC card on turn three.

Curve Smoothing - Most of the time our curve is complete at 5-6 lands, we have all the fixing we need, and our deck will play anything we draw and be able to function optimally. A starting hand of a land for and even just a single other land and a Land Tax effect, even without any rocks or ramp, will get us into the midgame. Most of the time, we only need this to be activated once, so the ongoing effect of the true Land Tax is not as powerful as the immediacy of these cards. Given that the deck slurs hard toward , searching for non-basic Plains is probably your strongest play for fixing.

Trimming your manabase - Given that the curve of this deck is low, and we have a few wincons that punish large manabases, this deck works best with about 8-10 mana available. This can be accomplished with a few rocks and a few lands, but we can make it even better. The other benefit of trimming your manabase is that it makes the Land Tax effects above active throughout the game. This can help you to get out from under a Solitary Confinement squeeze.

Dual Lands and Mana Fixing - Whatever you can do to ensure that you are never color screwed is important. The deck runs the appropriate ABUR duals, the Fetches, the appropriate Shocks, the appropriate Temples, the appropriate Ravnica Karoos, the appropriate Fast Lands, the appropriate Filter Lands, and the appropriate Check Lands. Your budget will dictate how close to this you can get. Other important lands include color fixers such as Command Tower, Gemstone Mine, Lotus Vale, Reflecting Pool, and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.

Notable Exclusions

Coalition Relic - One of the best drop mana rocks, this is left out in favor of the better mana fixer Chromatic Lantern, the cantrip Commander's Sphere, and the incrimental lifegain Pristine Talisman that is so synergistic with this deck. Maintaining the theme of multiple uses for as many cards as possible is one of the things that makes this deck so flexible, so Coalition Relic had to be cut.

Exotic Orchard - I have found it usually produced , , and only one of my colors, so it was no better than a basic.

Forbidden Orchard - This has often been a consideration, since giving my opponents 1/1 spirits to sling at each other seems fun, but I found that they were kept around as chump blockers, and clogged up the board when I wanted to attack.

City of Brass, Mana Confluence - I am trying to limit the incremental pings as much as possible. These are great options, but ultimately were not essential.

Land Tax - No basics, so no land tax.

"Life is growth. If we stop growing, technically and spiritually, we are as good as dead." - Morihei Ueshiba, O Sensei

Every well tuned deck leaves behind it a wasteland of concepts that have been tried and abandoned. Many of these past ideas are valid, but were never made to work, were found to be unfun, or in some way were deemed to be outside of the focus of the deck. As this deck evolves, I will try to update this section to include experiments that were abandoned.

Arcbond - Sweeper for utility creatures. Combined with a Deathtouch creature and even small pings can be turned into a sweeper. Combined with a lifelink creature and it can result in huge lifegain. When combined with large damaging effects, this can end the game. This was replaced with a more active boardwipe/wincon in the form of Comeuppance.

Sudden Impact , Toil / Trouble - Anti-reactive deck tech, anti-card draw tech. Combining a wincon with a way to punish decks that hold cards to react to the plays of opponents, and for decks that plan on unlimited hand size, this can end a game. This duo had less impact in my meta that I had hoped. It was eliminated to make room for a Threaten effect package.

Hatred - This just became too dangerous. At first, it was a crazy assassination attack, and when combined with a Lifelink creature, it didn't really hurt. After it became known, Fogs and Counterspells made it too dangerous to try to cast.

Dark Depths, Thespian's Stage - This is fun, viable, and beautiful. I enjoyed it, it created exciting plays, and was generally hated by my playgroup. This is a non-infinite combo I will occasionally add back into the deck. It is a large and occasionally swingy wincon that makes for memorable games. Thespian's Stage can become any other land for fixing purposes, but it can also become one of the 2-4 mana lands. This can also clone a Maze of Ith, Kor Haven, Sea Gate Wreckage, Rogue's Passage, or Slayers' Stronghold. Very versatile card in this deck. It also has some strange interactions with Gemstone Mine. This duo may eventually make surprise guest appearances in the deck.

Sea Gate Wreckage - Since the deck prefers to be under the protection of Solitary Confinement, it is not uncommon to find yourself in a squeeze for cards. You like to maintain the Solitary Confinement, but discarding a card per turn to it while not drawing can bring your hand pretty low, even if you are not playing cards otherwise. The Monarch helps with this, but even that can only maintain the Solitary Confinement. Once your hand is comlpetely depleted, Sea Gate Wreckage will give you an extra card to play a turn, and together with The Monarch, you get to play the best of two cards drawn per turn. This is really good card draw, but the tightness of the manabase meant that this was a terrible draw early game, and hence was cut. It may return at some point.

Boseiju, Who Shelters All - Not enough countermagic in my meta (I know, weird). The tightness of the manabase and the number of ways that this deck inflicts damage on itself meant that this was often just an extra painful colorless pain land.

Eye for an Eye - An additional Deflecting Palm. It may find a home here again. I have a beautiful Arabian Nights version, and cutting it was painful.

Knight of the White Orchid - This was nice manabase smoothing, but due to the cost, it had less impact on the early game, the time when this would have made a difference, and hence was cut.

Classical Literature to Support the Archetype and Strategy:

  1. The Art of War - Sun Tzu

  2. The Art of Peace - Morehei Ushiba

  3. The Book of Five Rings - Miyamoto, Musashi

Magic: the Gathering Table Position and Politics Theory:

  1. Jusstice's Primer on Table Position

Some discussion of the Aikido archetype:

  1. Rachmiel's Tariel, Reckoner of Souls -

  2. ClockCode's Tariel, Reckoner of Souls -

  3. rshizz's Queen Marchesa -

  4. My thread on Aikido as an archetype -


Minor changes to the manabase to decrease the colorless mana. This was causing too many mulligans, and I needed to change it for consistency sake.

Removed the Dark Depths / Thespian's Stage combo and replaced it with a Gideon of the Trials. This will be playtested, and may be reversed in the future. I like the Dark Depths, but it was less fitting of the themes and goals of the deck, and was more of a flashy bomb. It will likely make surprise appearances in the future, but will potentially not be a core player. I did like the fact that it was uncounterable, and this was becoming more important with the expansion of my meta into more Blue decks, but for now, I will remove the combo.

I retained Burning Wish but removed Death Wish. Death Wish often had too high a price to pay for the effect, and I replaced it with a more traditional Tutor effect in the form of Cruel Tutor. Burning Wish has been fun, adds some flexibility, and is no more powerful than other Tutors. The Wishboard is a nice addition.

I removed Toil / Trouble and Sudden Impact because they were often less effective that I had hoped, as well as removed Hatred due to the increasing danger of using it in a meta with an expanding Blue presence. I replaced them with an experiment in Threaten effects. I will likely rotate through the Threaten effects until I settle on the ones that fit best. Threaten seems like another variation of some of my best players in the deck, Delirium and Backlash. I win many games with those two, and Threaten effects seem like they will fill a very similar role. We shall see.

I also added a new section to reflect some of the changes in the deck over time, and to show what may return as things change.

Comments View Archive

Fun game today vs. Omnath, Locus of Mana and Karlov of the Ghost Council. Omnath, Locus of Mana built her board with Snow-Covered Forests and Extraplanar Lens ramp into multiple big stompy creatures, while Karlov of the Ghost Council built his board with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Cabal Coffers ramp into Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts and Karlov of the Ghost Council. I played an Acidic Soil to keep everyone wary of counterattack and waiting to see who gets an advantage first. I then ramped with multiple rocks, gained card advantage with Queen Marchesa and Delaying Shield, and eventually played Burning Wish to Insurrection to take out Omnath, Locus of Mana and deal 6 commander damage to Karlov of the Ghost Council with Karlov of the Ghost Council. Karlov of the Ghost Council controlled the board by exiling all the creatures I brought in until I was finally able to play an Act of Aggression on Karlov of the Ghost Council, equipped Sunforger, tapped Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts with Pacification Array, and then Boros Charm'd Karlov of the Ghost Council for 20 more commander damage, winning the game. Crazy game! Both opponents were killed with their own creatures, Karlov of the Ghost Council with commander damage! The addition of Threaten effects has been a good change.

June 16, 2017 2:25 p.m.

Ucenna says... #2

Hi!! Gotta say, I love this deck, it looks like it's really fun to play. I've decided to build it myself.

What do you think of Gonti, Lord of Luxury? He's one of my pet cards. And he's one of my pet cards. Did you know that if he dies, you can still cast the card exiled with him? Is a nice touch, and makes him quite a bit more playable.

I also really like Wall of Omens. Discourages attacks and cantrips. Is nice.

Oh!! What do you think of Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim I've been thinking of including her in my list, but couldn't really decide.

Also, I like Dictate of the Twin Gods to help close out the game and Stinkweed Imp to gum up the air. Maybe they'd be useful to you and some way.

Thanks for the making such a cool deck, keep on keeping on!

June 19, 2017 4:06 a.m.

Ucenna says... #3

Also, thoughts on Angel's Grace? My play group is pretty tame, but sometimes I go up against scary combo decks. It's seems like a useful play against control/combo decks, especially against ones that draw their library to win the game. I've been toying with the idea of casting it to survive the turn and maybe, if their library is empty, on their turn they'd draw and lose? And it's still not a completely dead card otherwise.

June 19, 2017 4:14 a.m.

Glad you like the deck. It is super fun to play. It doesn't always win, but it wins more than it loses, and every game is pretty exciting.

I have not played Gonti, Lord of Luxury, but I have considered it several times. My issues with it are the CMC and the fact that it only digs 4 deep and is somewhat unpredictable in what it gets you. I like to reduce variability, and this card seems to have more than I like. Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim is a similar deathtouch creature, has some similar extra value, but costs a full CMC less. Keeping as close to CMC as possible is best for this deck. The cards that cost more than that should always forward the central mission of the deck and have real impact on the game. I think Gonti, Lord of Luxury would have less impact than I like. Honestly, Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim is borderline, and may be removed.

I can't see Wall of Omens doing enough to be worth the card slot. The deck is very tight, and I am pretty sure that I would almost always prefer something I have already cut, or even a land. Any deathtouch creature would be better. The fact that it cantrips makes it worth considering, but I would be surprised if it would make the cut. In play, I could see being OK with drawing it, but when considering the card slot it would occupy in the 99, I am not sure what I would remove to make room.

Dictate of the Twin Gods has been a consideration for some time, but the CMC and the indiscriminate effect have made me shy away. If it were CMC and could be cast in the same turn as another wincon, maybe. As it stands, I would need to combine it with another player's attack or a permanent of mine to really win that turn, and that seems to be not worth it for this deck.

Stinkweed Imp is a great card in a lot of decks, but I am not sure it would be in this one. Flying and deathtouch are great, but CMC and a keyword that I would rather not use in this deck, dredge, and I am not sure it fits. There are other flying and deathtouch creatures.

I used to play Angel's Grace. I took it out because it only had a single effect, and it sat in my hand almost every game without effect. I wanted a combo killer, but this one had no other uses. Now I have several ways to kill combos, and all have other uses. My personal favorite that is very similar is Gideon of the Trials. I can use it in so many other ways than Angel's Grace, and it just seems to pay off more, despite the fact that planeswalkers are super fragile in EDH.

June 19, 2017 6:45 a.m.

Ucenna says... #5

Okay, that makes sense.

For me Stinkweed Imp is a must. My playgroup plays a lot of fliers, and Stinkweed Imp is a solid rattlesnake that I can get back whenever I want.

Dictate has served me well in my play tests. Cast it end of turn and then through everything you've got into your next turn.

Thoughts on the Eiganjo Castle, Shizo, Death's Storehouse, and Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep? I run Shinka because deathtouch + first strike is nice to have. The others might be worth considering, and Shizo can be another Key to the City.

Reflect Damage is a card I'm trying out but haven't cast yet. It's not very mana efficient, but it has more versatility than others. It makes Windstorm effects almost instakills.

I'm not running Necropotence, mostly because I don't really enjoy the card. Instead I run Sin Prodder. My deck is a bit more aggressive than yours, and I appreciate being able to sneak the extra damage in when I can.

Another card that I can't decide about is Eight-and-a-Half-Tails. It provides solid pillowforting and permanent protection abilities as well as evasion, but it's rather mana intensive. Still, it has a lot of versatility.

I've also been using Gonti's Machinations. I know it's not great, but it provides a little bit of discouragement and affords me a lot of life gain. And sometimes that 3 damage is exactly what I need to close out the game. Yesterday it won me 1 game, and would have won me another if it hadn't been O-Ringed.

Also, Parallectric Feedback?

June 21, 2017 2:35 p.m.

I can't see Parallectric Feedback regularly doing more than 6 damage. I don't think that will be enough to do it. Sin Prodder would alert the opposition to my plans and resources, which would be an almost guaranteed loss. I had never considered Eight-and-a-Half-Tails, but I am not sure it gives me enough protection for the mana cost needed. I will have to think about it. Gonti's Machinations is an interesting card I had never seen. I am not sure that the swing is enough to make it worth it. Exsanguinate is a very similar card, but with a much higher potential. I am not sure why I would chose Gonti's Machinations over Exsanguinate or it's variations, aside from the small Rattlesnake effect.

June 22, 2017 11 p.m.

The legendary lands from Champions of Kamigawa are interesting, but the manabase is very tight, and I am not sure I want to change it.

Reflect Damage is way too mana intensive to be useful, even though it is another version of Deflecting Palm. I don't think that effect is playable at CMC .

June 22, 2017 11:07 p.m.

MegaMatt13 says... #8

I'm curious about your thoughts about Norn's Annex vs. Marchesa's Decree. I keep on going back and forth as to which one I want more. What led you to include the annex but not marchesa's decree?

June 23, 2017 7 p.m.

MegaMatt13, as far as the Norn's Annex, Marchesa's Decree, Hissing Miasma, Blood Reckoning question goes, it was somewhat of a difficult question. None of them are great Pillow Fort or Rattlesnake cards, and even Norn's Annex remains on the chopping block. They do less than they should. The loss of life can add up, but I have found that inhibiting the development of board state or causing loss of card or permanent resources is more of a disincentive than small life loss. Life is treated as a resource that can be spent, and people do choose to spend it. When choosing, I considered the CMC of Norn's Annex to be plus 4 life, with the option to pay to reduce that life loss. The loss of 2 life is twice as effective as teh loss of 1 life, so that made a difference. On top of that, I actually would rather that they paid , because that inhibits their development. Either way, the resource demand of Norn's Annex is way larger than that of the others. I also find that Queen Marchesa is the only Monarch card needed, so I devalued that ability. If one were to use all of these cards, I could see it becoming a huge Rattlesnake wall, where one would be paying 4+ life per attack, but that would take at lease 3 cards to achieve, and I find that needing + mana to attack is actually harder to overcome than 5+ life. The mana resource is a steeper cost than the life resource.

June 24, 2017 11:11 a.m.

MegaMatt13 says... #10

Thanks, that's helpful. I agree that other cards that interact with the monarch mechanic aren't necessary. I've been slowly cutting them back and marchesa's decree is the last one. I think I've been holding on due to flavour: it has Marchesa in the name haha. I agree though that most of the time I'd rather have opponents spend white mana instead of life (unless they are at very low life already). The cmc flexibility of the annex is nice too. You can bring it out very early against quick aggressive decks

June 24, 2017 3:48 p.m.

Ucenna says... #11

I like Gonti's Machinations for different reasons than that I like Exsanguinate. Mostly, it's a development card rather than a finisher. I can just plop it out turn 1 no sweat. And I like having one drops that I can do that with, especially if I'm potentially playing a Karoo land on turn 2. If I don't cast something before playing a Karoo, I might have to go to discards. Admitted, it's not amazing, but I like it.

June 26, 2017 1:03 a.m.

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Revision 9 (2 weeks ago)

-1 Gifted Aetherborn main
-1 Death Wish main
-1 Sudden Impact main
+1 Cruel Tutor main
+1 Harness by Force main
-1 Hatred main
-1 Arcbond main
-1 Toil / Trouble main
+1 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim main
+1 Besmirch main
+1 Act of Aggression main
+1 Word of Seizing main
+1 Yawgmoth's Will side
-1 Traitor's Roar side
-1 Past in Flames side
-1 Stronghold Discipline side
+1 Armageddon side
+1 Mind Twist side

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