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!

I had been struggling with Aikido ethics with regard to MTG for a significant portion of the development of this deck, and this concept discordance really limited the deck in the beginning. What does Aikido mean in MTG? How do you achieve this in play, and how do you support this while deck building? This inability to grasp the concept of Aikido in MTG was an underlying hurdle that eventually broke for me, and I came to a realization about MTG and violence that allowed me to deck build consistent with Aikido ethics and still win. This realization was derived from a deep exploration of the book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere, a classic of Aikido literature.

My realization and conflict all surround the idea that, in Aikido ethics, we understand four ethical levels of response to violence:

  1. Unprovoked attack, in which the victim is assaulted without warning or reason.

  2. Provoked attack, in which the victim insults or otherwise encourages the attacker to act.

  3. Subjective self-defence, in which the defender fights back with the intent of harming the attacker.

  4. Ethical self-defence, in which neither defender nor attacker are harmed.

In Aikido, we strive to conduct ourselves in a manner consistent with the fourth level described above. This at first seemed impossible to achieve in MTG, especially given that we are playing a game that supposedly simulates a mage fight to the death. The assumed task is to eliminate any measure of life in all of your opponents. At best, this can be no higher than level 3, unless you are into true Group Hug decks. I never intended for Queen Marchesa to be Group Hug, since Aikido is not really Group Hug. I always wanted to win, and this decision always seemed to be most consistent with level 3. This was where I consigned myself to create from with regard to my MTG deck and play. But, fortunately, I was wrong. I just needed to reframe.

In MTG, life is not a measure of health. It is a resource representing time until the conclusion of the conflict combined with the idea of control of who triumphs in the conflict. It is timing and victory, not life. Interacting with someone's life does nothing except change the potential to reach the end of the game, and only really matters when someone's last life is taken and no effect allows the game to continue. This is not health. This is a countdown to peace. Health is reflected in your hand, your deck, and your board state. Interacting with someone's hand, deck, or board state can do many things, but only on rare occasions does it directly change the timing of the end of the conflict. In many ways, it can secondarily affect it, but more importantly, it does this through changing the potential of each player to participate in the game to their best ability. It can, in essence, determine ability, and dis-ability in the game. That is where violence happens in the game, aside from the art and the language that the actual game mechanics are wrapped in. So this was my breakthrough.

When I had this realization, life only became important as it related to when the game ended for each player. What is important is board state, hand state, and deck state. If I wanted to create an Aikido deck that was most consistent with the highest ethical level of self defense for the largest part of my play, I needed to acknowledge that to achieve that, I would have to avoid being violent to my opponent's hand, board state, and deck, and to only affect those elements when not doing so would leave me no other option but real harm to me. I realized that I had to try not to blow up their stuff, and I had to create strategies that were sound and allowed for victory, but were free of aggression toward their hand, board state, or deck. In addition, these strategies would need to allow me to choose the timing and circumstances of the end of the conflict, and that would allow me to end the game with me as the victor. That design philosophy directed just about every choice in the deck. It supported the specific political methods that Queen Marchesa uses, and allows for very surprising wins. It allows Queen Marchesa to operate at the highest level of ethics with regard to violence, at least as seen through the lens of Aikido.

"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.

"Well that was interesting." - Evan, summer physics intern and victim of an unblockable (Key to the City), double striking (Duelist's Heritage), Sunforger wielding, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight enhanced and newly reprinted foil Serra Ascendant.

Every game is exciting. Not matter who wins. Playing this deck creates game states where I am on the edge of winning or losing, every game. When I win, I was just about to lose when I finally pulled out the win. When I lose, I was almost going to win, and was probably just one card away from winning, when I lost. This is always amazing for every player at the table. People have fun beating it, and people have fun losing to it. It takes some skill to pilot it well, this is not a deck for a beginner, but it makes every multiplayer EDH game fun for the whole table.

  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, especially since recasting her regains The Monarch.

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.

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. They are ideal warriors for reclaiming The Monarch once it is lost.

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.

“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


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.

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.

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 patience if victory is not yet assured.

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 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 large, 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/Batwing Brume, 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 Dark Depths, a few midrange beaters in the form of Serra Ascendant, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, 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 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, some removal, and recursion. This is to create a versatile modal spell when combined with Burning Wish or Mastermind's Acquisition. 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

Infinite Combos like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker / Zealous Conscripts or Sanguine Bond / Exquisite Blood

Stax pieces like Keldon Twilight, Blood Moon, or Smokestack

Mass Land Destruction like Armageddon or Wildfire

Wrath Effects like Wrath of God or Damnation

“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


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. This suite of Aikido effects is the heart and soul of this deck. Learning to effectively manage it will be key to harnessing the power of the deck.

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 these cards is outstanding. Anti-Ramp tech.

Disrupt Decorum, Word of Seizing, Animate Dead - All of these Threaten effects can utilize the offense of the opponents to do serious damage. Disrupt Decorum is like a mini Insurrection. It is extremely powerful, and it is what they say, Wrath of Goad. Word of Seizing is an instant, making it defensive as well, and it can be used to stop permanent based combo with the Split Second keyword. Animate Dead is a sort of Threaten from the graveyard, and is also somewhat anti-graveyard tech by itself sometimes.

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.

Mirage Mirror - A Clone in Mardu. This is a very flexible card, useable both offensively and defensively.

Duelist's Heritage, Key to the City - These can be used on our opponent's attacks, and can create surprise assassinations if played right. Just be sure not to 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, even if they would be good for turning a game around. The goal is to not need to really come from behind.

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 - The mother of all Threaten effects. Game ender.

Blood Tribute - An instant win with Gisela, Blade of Goldnight or Wound Reflection.

“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


The power of this deck is in punishing those who overextend, while encouraging that overextension. The deck carries a huge control suite, but 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. This keeps us as close to the highest level of Aikido ethics as possible, using control but not indiscriminate violence. We excise those elements of the enemy board state 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.

Notable Inclusions and Card Choices

Teferi's Protection - This is probably the best board state protection in the game. There are very few ways that your position in the game can be affected while under the effects of this spell. This will swing a game in the face of most boardwipes. Also a surprise counterspell in the right circumstances.

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

Dawn Charm - Protect ourselves, protect our creatures. Not nearly as powerful as Teferi's Protection, but still very worth the inclusion. This can be a surprise counterspell in the right circumstances.

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, Warping Wail - Creature spot removal.

Strip Mine - Land destruction. Always useful in EDH.

Comeuppance - Can be a Wrath for attacking creatures.

Shred Memory, Rakdos Charm, Scavenger Grounds - Anti-Graveyard antics tech with alternate uses. This category can be strenngthened if necessary with Rest in Peace and Bojuka Bog.

Lapse of Certainty, Mana Tithe, Dawn Charm, Teferi's Protection, Warping Wail - No one ever expects counterspells in Mardu.

Grand Abolisher - Keeping the opponents from disrupting your plans can ensure that your game plan goes off as it was planned.

Lapse of Certainty, Hide / Seek, Word of Seizing, Teferi's Protection - 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 permanent based combo. Teferi's Protection just says, "Wait... I am not letting anything affect me until next turn."

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, Bojuka Bog - Anti-Graveyard tech that could be added for metas with more graveyard abuse.

Mind Twist - Can remove the threat of counters, remove combo pieces waiting to be played, and can leave them without options. It was less effective by itself than I wanted.

Wishboard Cards

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

Reanimate, Yawgmoth's Will, Replenish - Delayed action protection. If it is lost, you can bring it back.

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


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.

Notable Inclusions and Card Choices

Pillow Fort

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

Ghostly Prison, Windborn Muse - Classic Pillow Fort. Taxes attacks pointed at you, hence encourages attacks to be pointed elsewhere.

Maze of Ith, Kor Haven, Thaumatic Compass  /Spires of Orazca, Forcefield - 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. While not technnically a Maze, Forcefield turns every mana producer, including every land, into an almost-Maze.

Delaying Shield, Solitary Confinement, Phyrexian Unlife - 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. 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 almost 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. Phyrexian Unlife prevents you from losing when you go below 1 life, an effect that can turn one of your symmetric attacks into an asymmetric win.

Solemnity - This can protect from Infect and Planeswalker wins, and generally hoses counter strategies. card:Solemnnity, Delaying Shield, and Phyrexian Unlife can combine in any two of the three to keep you from losing the game to damage.

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.

Key to the City, Curse of Opulence - 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. 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. Curse of Opulence has the danger of inciting retribution, and the incentive has diminishing returns the further into the game you get, but the bonus of ramp early on can offset this danger some.

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, Wound Reflection - Gisela decreases damage against you and your creatures by half, and doubles the damage potential of every source not directed at you or your stuff, not to mention the fact that she is a large flying body. Standing behind her feels safe. card:Wounnd Reflection also doubles the damage potential or every source pointed at your opponents. Opponents will often attack each other to gain the damage bonus or either (or both) of these cards.


“Fill yourself with Ki, invite the attack.”Morihei Ueshiba

No Mercy - Straightforward Rattlesnake. 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.

Vampire Nighthawk, 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

Teferi's Protection - Best Fog effect. Can be a Fog effect, conditional counterspell, or a personal anti-boarwipe.

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

Batwing Brume - Also an anti-Wide wincon.

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

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

Word of Seizing, Disrupt Decorum - Word of Seizing is an instant speed Threaten effect that can remove up to two attackers from combat, acting as a semi-Fog and semi-removal. Disrupt Decorum is sort of a proactive Fog, eliminating the enemy attack step as a threat to your safety.

Notable Exclusions

Hissing Miasma, Blood Reckoning, Marchesa's Decree, Norn's Annex - 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 Story Circle for versatility or 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 or Dawn Charm 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.

Selfless Squire - One of the best Fogs in the game. It is a nonmbo with Solemnity, so it came out.

"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


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.

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 - Disrupt Decorum, Word of Seizing, Animate Dead.

Grindy Midrange Beats - Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs, Serra Ascendant, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, Master of Cruelties.

Dark Depths combos - Dark Depths and Solemnity, Mirage Mirror, Thespian's Stage, or Vesuva.

Utility Creatures - Windborn Muse, Weathered Wayfarer, Grand Abolisher, Academy Rector

Lifelink Attacks - Serra Ascendant, Vampire Nighthawk

Attack Facilitators - Duelist's Heritage, Key to the City, Wound Reflection, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight

Notable Exclusions

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.

Reanimate - Steal something from someone else and beat the with it. Hyperefficient.

Blood Tribute - This is mostly a silly include, but with either Gisela, Blade of Goldnight or Wound Reflection out it is "good game".

"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, Academy Rector, Mastermind's Acquisition - 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 and Burning Wish, 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. Academy Rector fills a Rattlesnake spot, and can tutor for many of the best pillow fort or wincons in the deck. Mastermind's Acquisition is a conditionless tutor with additional uses. A modal tutor/wish.

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, Mastermind's Acquisition - 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 feet 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.

Mind Stone - This is Ramp that can be later exchanged 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.

Mikokoro, Center of the Sea - A little Group Hug effect that is completely under our control with regards to timing. Opponents will underestimate the effect this is having on the game, and as long as the products of opponent's draws are pointed at our opponents, the drawback can be minimal. Imminently abusable with the right political stance.

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, not to mention their primary function of fixing mana and smoothing curves.

Weathered Wayfarer, Thaumatic Compass  /Spires of Orazca - The Wayfarer is a great card for providing continued card draw, even if you don't want the card as a land. The Compass acts similarly, which turns into a land itself for a small ramp bump that can also be alternatively used as a Maze effect. 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 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. 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.

Crystal Ball, Temple of Malice, Temple of Silence, Temple of Triumph - Scry can be very powerful and below the radar draw effect. Once the Map is flipped to the Cove, the treasure tokens can be turned into draw if you don't need the ramp, and the Cove itself is a small ramp bump.

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 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.

Flip Lands - Not a huge effect, and it comes into play later in the game, but the additional mana can be helpful late game. Thaumatic Compass  /Spires of Orazca can provide some extra late game defense.

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 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, 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. 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 - Low 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.

Sun Droplet is pretty amazing in multiplayer, especially early, because it triggers on each upkeep. It is a nonmbo with Solemnity, which became to powerful to ignore in my current meta.

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.

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.

Lotus Vale, Scorched Ruins, Gemstone Mine - Anti-synergistic with a low land count, useless early game.

Boros Garrison, Orzhov Basilica, Rakdos Carnarium - These cards allow us to get 2 mana out of each land. Since Acidic Soil is usually a later game drop, we have time to adjust our manabase during play, trimming the number of lands in play without affecting our ability to cast spells. This was a fun option, but the tempo loss can be difficult. They were cut.

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.

Sphere of Safety - Great Pillow Fort with enough enchantment support, it eventually became less effective than prior, due to the diminishing enchantment content of the deck.

Norn's Annex - Life loss is less of a deterrent than mana tax. It never added up to enough to be truly impactful.

Gossamer Chains - Maze effect that required recasting after each use. Turns out that this was more investment than I wanted to dedicate to this effect.

Gideon of the Trials - Planeswalkers seem to always turn out to be too fragile. Gideon was no exception.

Slayers' Stronghold - Somewhat similar to Duelist's Heritage, but weaker. Slayers' Stronghold is an easy 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.

Gisela, the Broken Blade - With the removal of Hatred, lifelink was less important, and this just became a moderately efficient midrange flyer.

Mox Diamond - Anti-synnergistic with a low land count.

Sol Ring - Banned in my meta.

Commander's Sphere - A cantrip, and that extra card in the mid to late game can make a difference. Still, not as good as a CMC rock.

Pristine Talisman - The incremental life gain can offset to incremental life loss of many of the deck's great cards, and can provide a cushion for your big symmetric attacks like Acidic Soil. With a CMC of , this one had to be cut.

Seer's Lantern - It gives the secondary option of scry, powerful in the late game. Still not a CMC rock, and was cut.

Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker, High Priest of Penance, Ophiomancer, Ogre Slumlord - All good Rattlesnakes, but eventually other cards took their place.

Selfless Squire - Third best Fog effect. Can be a stand alone wincon, and it gets bigger every time you prevent damage. This is a nnonmbo with Solemnity, and was cut to make room. Still, can be a total All-Star.

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

  4. Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere - Adele Westbrook, Oscar Ratti

Magic: the Gathering Table Position and Politics Theory:

  1. Jusstice's Primer on Table Position

Traditional EDH Politics and Control Discussions: 1. JLK and Jimmy Wong discuss political machinations and deal making. Probably the best advice from this episode is to keep this to a necessary minimum. Plan to use overt politics less than the average player in your meta.

  1. JLK and Jimmy Wong are joined by Jumbo Commander for a good discussion of control.

  2. JLK and Jimmy Wong are joined by the Professor for a discussion of politics in EDH.

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 -

  5. Marchesa, Political Queen of Pillows - Anyone looking to make a Queen Marchesa political control deck should probably also look at this deck for a more complete understanding of the archetype. Between us, MegaMatt13 and I have explored a large amount of play space that fits into this archetype. His deck has influenced this one, and this one has influenced his. The decklist and archive of both can give you a ton of inspiration for your own deck.

  6. The Archive thread of this deck. - There is a ton to be learned by reading all the comments. I learned a lot by commenting here, and on many of the commentors' decks. Look into them for inspiration.

This deck was never meant to be budget friendly. I have been collecting since 1994, and I am also no longer a poor high school or college kid. This deck was meant to explore the Aikido and Political Archetypes, and see where they could take me. I have been very happy to dedicate resources to tuning this deck for even small gains. I am completely satisfied with the results, and actually very proud of the deck, even if this level of financial or collecting commitment is not completely necessary for these Archetypes to work. You can get much the same feel for a significantly decreased drain on your resources. For those seeking a more budget friendly version of this deck, I have two suggestions.

  1. The Update of this deck on 11/13/2017 - This update outlines the process I would go through if I were to make a budget version of this deck. If you want to make your own, I would read through this first.

  2. W3R3PLATYPUS's Funnest Deck Ever - This is probably my favorite budget version that I have seen. It maintains the feel and theme of the deck very well. I truly admire this adaptation, and give props to W3R3PLATYPUS for the work he put in creating it.

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88% Competitive

Top Ranked
  • Achieved #1 position overall 5 years ago
Date added 5 years
Last updated 2 years
Exclude colors UG

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

4 - 0 Mythic Rares

58 - 0 Rares

18 - 0 Uncommons

11 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 2.13
Tokens Assassin 1/1 B w/ Haste, Elephant 3-3 G, Monarch Emblem, Snake 1/1 B, Treasure
Folders Queen Machesa, Faves, For the Love of Mardu!, R/B/W Mardu, Others, Aikido EDH, Marchesa's Machinations, EDH Mardu (RBW), EDH, 4. Finished, See all 389
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Revision 47 See all

2 years ago)

+1 Ophiomancer main