...harming only those who would steal the blossom."

Queen Marchesa

Let's set the mood Show

"What is this deck?"

Whereas most Queen Marchesa lists try to play politics, this is a no holds barred stax deck that bars all holds. Marchesa, the Black Rose was the first commander deck I ever built. Because of the Grixis colors and its weakness to Rest in Peace, that deck will only ever reach the 5-6 power level. This? This was built to combat Kess Storm, The Gitrog Monster, Urza stax, and Blood Pod.

Mana is everything. If we cannot pull ahead and start laying down track, the train, which is the game, will run away from us. If we don't have mana rocks, then our Winter Orbs and Armageddons will be dead cards.

Once the deck has pulled ahead on mana the table can then be taxed into poverty. This slows faster decks down, buying time for us to play proper hate pieces to close the door on an early victory from the other side of the battlefield.

This color combination is not the best when it comes to breaking the symmetrical effect of these cards. Be that as it may, Mardu is the best when it comes to preventing our opponents from breaking parity. More on that later.

You can't get much meaner than land destruction, right? One of my favorite things about the stax archetype is how much it seems to prey on combo decks. Those decks run a small suite of counterspells and protection for their combo, and are ill-equipped to deal with a haymaker to their resources every turn.

Whereas blue has artifact synergies and green has mana dorks, we have ways to destroy artifacts and mana dorks en masse while leaving ours untouched. This should feel reminiscent of competitive Xantcha, Sleeper Agent lists, except the combo package has been swapped out for a series of hate pieces and value engines.

There are two main packages in stax; Winter Orb and Smokestack. The first is circumvented simply by playing mana rocks and keeping the opposition from doing the same. The second is a bit more complex. The aim is for us to generate fodder to sacrifice in the name of progress, while the opposition is losing out on real assets.

It is amazing how quickly a Hanweir Garrison can take over a game as long as it has a single open opponent to attack. These tokens can wear Swords or get exiled to Descent into Madness. Smothering Tithe is at its height of power in a stax deck, as it breaks parity on both Smokestack and Winter Orb and Armageddon.

This package is fairly uninteresting. Krenko and Garrison can be equipped with these to increase their odds of surviving combat, or they can be thrown on a token to speed up the clock.

Island Sanctuary and Solitary Confinement are soft locks which essentially transform our Monarchy (or Necropotence) into protection from creatures.

In my Bant Enchantress commander deck, I run Stony Silence and Energy Flux , as I am unaffected by them. I'm an advocate of running symmetrical hate pieces that don't effect the pilot because of how the deck was constructed. These two particular hate pieces also stop death triggers, like Protean Hulk or Mikaeus, the Unhallowed .

Stax is grindy and requires a certain amount of slots to be consistent. The above two cards combat the most broken strategies in commander, and for the price of just a single card slot they become combo pieces for a one shot kill.

Our redundancy often allows the Monarchy to find what we need, but that cannot be said of the early game. It is important that the first few turns progress in a certain way as to allow the deck to start locking people down. Tutors ensure that we get our Winter Orb when we have mana rocks or a Smokestack when Bitterblossom is in play. In the lategame, they can tutor up equipment or the missing piece of the Helm of Obedience combo.

Queen Marchesa

You might be asking, "Why Queen Marchesa? Certainly Derevi offers blue and untapping, Augustine is a stax piece himself, and Brago. What does Queen Marchesa offer over those picks?"

The Assassin

GIVING our opponent the Monarchy can be an extremely advantageous poison pawn. Not only does it break the parity on Smokestack, but greed is a powerful motivator. With the Monarchy unprotected by Ghostly Prison or Island Sanctuary, it amounts to a lot of free damage marked on the table.

The Lock

The Monarchy cannot be destroyed. It allows us to pull ahead of our competition as our stax pieces oppress the board. Secondly, competing generals do not have ready access to the Solitary Confinement / Island Sanctuary lock. A two-card lock, with one of those pieces being in the command zone, Brago wishes he were so lucky.


The best counterplay to stax is to possess a treasury of your own to survive the poor economy. Red offers a mass answer to mana acceleration that leaves our own trinkets intact. Breaking Smokestack parity is extremely easy in these colors, and if left unchecked, our token producers quickly take over the game.


Updates Add

No longer shall Mardu come with an arbitrary weakness of having fewer good mana rocks at its disposal.


  • Chandra, Torch of Defiance I would rather have a high chance of dropping a 2 mana rock

  • The Abyss Tutors make the loss of the Abyss...NULL AND VOID! HA! In its place we have a nice new paperweight.