Dear Azami: Rise Of The Black Rose

Competitive formats aren’t the only place you can control the game! The Commander Celebration at Grand Prix Atlanta promises to have plenty of control decks, and it’s a safe bet that a few of them will be led by this fan favorite!

Commander 2015
spoilers have started (by the time you’re reading this, the full decklists will be out), and they look awesome. I don’t know if I’ll be getting a new deck out of this year’s crop, but Meren of Clan Nel Toch will be going straight into my Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord deck, and Sandstone Oracle gives some much-needed card draw to Bosh, Iron Golem. Some brave soul is going to try to use Command Beacon to finally make a Haakon, Stromgald Scourge deck that works, and I can’t wait to see it happen. Over the next two weeks Jess and I will be tweaking the decks themselves, but there’s time for one last reader submission before we do.

Dear Azami,

I am looking for some tips on my Marchesa The Black Rose EDH list. I’ve been wanting to build a Marchesa list ever since she was spoiled and have only
recently gotten around to building one. I tried looking at some lists online but all of them have seemed to go more aggro with the dethrone ability. The
issue is that I’m more of a control/combo player so I wanted my list to play more towards the reanimate triggers. In terms of strategy my list tries to
take advantage of creatures that have enter the battlefield triggers or care about creatures entering the battlefield from the graveyard. The deck works
best with a sacrifice outlet in play, Marchesa and a way to put +1/+1 counters on creatures consistently. The deck turned out to be fairly complex, it’s a
little slow and can be a bit clunky at times. Here’s the list:

Commander: Marchesa, The Black Rose

Creatures: 33

Baleful Strix

Bearer of the Heavens

Burnished Hart

Cytoplast Manipulator

Dack’s Duplicate

Deathbringer Thoctar

Dimir House Guard

Disciple of Bolas

Erebos, God of the Dead

Flametongue Kavu

Flayer of the Hatebound

Glen Elendra Archmage

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born

Guul Draz Assassin

Liliana, Heretical Healer

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed


Novijen Sages

Ob Nixilis, Unshackled

Olivia Voldaren

Phyrexian Revoker

Puppeteer Clique

River Kelpie

Ruthless Deathfang

Sage of Fables


Sidisi, Undead Vizier

Smothering Abomination

Solemn Simulacrum

Taurean Mauler

Vampire Hexmage

Vela the Night-Clad

Viscera Seer

Planeswalker: 1

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

Spells: 31

Altar of Dementia

Ashnod’s Altar

Chromatic Lantern

Darksteel Ingot

Darksteel Plate

Sol Ring


Black Market

Dark Prophecy

Dictate of Erebos

Grave Betrayal

Lethal Vapors


Phyrexian Arena

Rhystic Study

Unspeakable Symbol

Vicious Shadows

Warstorm Surge

Bitter Ordeal

Cruel Ultimatum

Decree of Pain

Diabolic Tutor

Life’s Finale

Mark of Mutiny

Slave of Bolas

Act of Aggression

Clutch of the Undercity

Lim-Dul’s Vault

Moonlight Bargain

Pact of Negation

Spell Crumple

Land: 34

Ancient Tomb

Blood Crypt

Bloodstained Mire

Bojuka Bog

Command Tower

Crosis’s Catacombs

Crumbling Necropolis

Dimir Guildgate

Dragonskull Summit

Drowned Catacomb

Flamekin Village

Flooded Strand

Frost Marsh

2 Island

Izzet Guildgate

3 Mountain

Opal Palace

Polluted Delta

Rakdos Guildgate

Reliquary Tower

Salt Marsh

Scalding Tarn

Steam Vents

3 Swamp

Temple of the False God

Terramorphic Expanse

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Urborg Volcano

Watery Grave

There’s my list. My budget for the deck is around $100. I have a fair amount of the cards on the list, some of them I am in the middle of negotiation for
and there are a few I’m still hesitant about getting. I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions on how to improve the list! Thank you so much!


Marchesa is fairly unique as a general because of the sheer number of strategies she enables. She acts as a lord for aggro decks that also gives them
resiliency to sweepers, a fairly brutal combo engine given the right build, and lets a control deck break parity with every Wrath. She even protects
herself with her ability, which is usually the weakness of a deck like this. At one point, a roommate of mine even used her to enable a deck built around
the modular mechanic, which was one of the most hilarious things I’ve seen in a while. Games usually ended with an arbitrarily large Spincrusher
one-shotting people.

As for Sam’s build, you’ve got a strong theme of taking other people’s things and using Marchesa’s ability to make the thefts permanent, which puts you
pretty strongly towards the control end of the spectrum. Most of what I’ll be doing is cutting some of the clunkier and more expensive cards in order to
give you options in the earlygame. Anyway, onto the changes!



Bearer of the Heavens Ob Nixilis, Unshackled Ruthless Deathfang

Your main complaint was that the deck was a little slow and clunky, and the abundance of cards at six-plus mana is a big part of that. I’ll be adding a few
expensive cards back in, but these three seem like they’re underperforming relative to the cost you’re paying. (I’m assuming Ob Nixilis isn’t a metagame
call against super tutor-heavy decks, but I could be wrong.)

Erebos, God of the Dead Guul Draz Assassin Liliana, Heretical Healer

Phyrexian Revoker Taurean Mauler Flametongue Kavu Vampire Hexmage

These are all coming out because they don’t match up well against the strategy you want to be playing in one way or another. Erebos, Guul Draz Assassin,
and Liliana are all awkward to try to reanimate, either because of potential noncreature status when they die or the Assassin losing its level up progress
when it dies. Phyrexian Revoker is an odd choice for Commander, and while there are plenty of decks that it can cripple, I’m usually not a fan of silver
bullet cards unless you’re running a critical mass of them.

Taurean Mauler is simply a great card that doesn’t further your own plan. Maybe if you had a way to move counters off of dying creatures, but bringing back
a 2/2 isn’t that impressive. Flametongue Kavu just doesn’t do enough since it can’t go to the face and four damage isn’t enough to take out anything bigger
than a utility creature. Lastly, Vampire Hexmage gets cut for similar reasons as Phyrexian Revoker. Being able to kill planeswalkers on sight is nice, but
it’s a narrow ability that relies on your opponents running a small subset of cards that you’re well-equipped to deal with anyway.


Helium Squirter Vigean Graftmage

You were already running two of the available creatures with graft, and Marchesa’s interaction with the mechanic is insane enough to warrant running every
available copy of the effect. Since we’re not in white or green, these are some of the best ways to get counters on creatures as soon as they enter play.
Just make sure to sacrifice the creatures with graft before they run out of counters.

Archaeomancer Aethersnipe Gryff Vanguard

Man-o'-War Riftwing Cloudskate Big Game Hunter

An assortment of small, cheap creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers for you to abuse. We have some card advantage in Gryff Vanguard and
Archaeomancer, hard removal in Big Game Hunter, and some very strong tempo cards with the bounce provided by Aethersnipe, Man-o’-War, and Riftwing

Usually I’m not a fan of bounce in Commander, but these creatures serve the important dual purpose of buying you time in the earlygame while becoming part
of your endgame engine by Unsummoning another creature (or permanent, depending on the card) every time you put a counter on them. The same logic applies
to Big Game Hunter, except your opponents can’t replay the creatures you kill with it.

Merciless Executioner Fleshbag Marauder

Playing Magic Duels this summer I discovered how brutal it was to loop Fleshbag Marauders through and Liliana, Defiant Necromancer emblem. It’s ironic
since I cut that Liliana from your list, but Marchesa does a decent enough impression on her own that I want to run both cards. This works best with a
graft creature out, so that you can put a counter on them immediately and sacrifice them to their own trigger, but even with a slower engine most opponents
will struggle to fight through that kind of lock.

Molten Primordial Conquering Manticore Zealous Conscripts Dragonlord Silumgar

You were already running several versions of this effect on instants and sorceries, so it seems like the next logical step to play reanimate-able creatures
that come with this effect stapled on them. Combine with your commander and any sacrifice outlet and the things you borrow will be yours forever.
Dragonlord Silumgar doesn’t give the thing he steals haste, but because the initial theft doesn’t end with the turn, you don’t have to jump through hoops
to keep what he steals when Marchesa brings him back.

Urabrask the Hidden Phyrexian Plaguelord

The last pair of creatures that I’m adding. You said that the deck worked best with a consistent way to put counters on things, and haste combined with
dethrone is one of the easier ways to do it in these colors. Urabrask does that while also putting your opponents back a turn on tempo. Phyrexian
Plaguelord is getting a slot because you needed a few more sacrifice outlets to make the deck really tick, and being able to incidentally gun down utility
creatures is pretty decent.



Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

Powerhouse? Check. Eight mana? Check. Out he goes.



Darksteel Plate

Darksteel Plate and Lightning Greaves are pretty much the standard when it comes to protecting commanders, but Marchesa doesn’t really need protection,
since she can reanimate herself and she doesn’t need to stay in play for the full turn in order to bring things back.


Hammer of Purphoros

Repeat everything I said about haste being good in this deck. I doubt you’ll use the token-making ability often, but it’s there if you want it.



Lethal Vapors Phyrexian Arena

I’ll admit, I’m not sure why you’re running Lethal Vapors. You have enough built-in recursion to fight it better than most people, but most of your
creatures won’t have counters on them when they’re brought back, and then Vapors will kill them for good. It seems to me that all too often you’ll wind up
skipping your next turn just to save your team that got swept away. Phyrexian Arena is a solid card, but you already have some pretty solid card draw
engines that don’t hurt you. I’d rather have Gryff Vanguard in this deck.


Fervor Feast on the Fallen Goblin Bombardment Grave Pact

Fervor is yet another way to grant your creatures haste, and that’s about it. Clean, simple, effective. In my experience, Feast on the Fallen will trigger
almost every turn. It isn’t a large enough threat to keep people from hitting each other, but being able to place a counter wherever you want it most turns
is very good in this deck. Goblin Bombardment is easily one of the best sacrifice outlets available to you, especially since the damage can go directly at
your opponents. Finally, Grave Pact is coming in to replace Ruthless Deathfang. It hits all of your opponents and triggers off of any of your creatures
dying, not just being sacrificed.



Cruel Ultimatum Decree of Pain

Two more great cards that simply cost more than you want them to. Cruel Ultimatum isn’t even all that insane since it only hits one opponent, and the
numbers on it were very much balanced for twenty-life formats. Decree of Pain will be getting swapped out for a less expensive sweeper.

Act of Aggression Clutch of the Undercity Diabolic Tutor Lim-Dul's Vault Moonlight Bargain Bitter Ordeal

Act of Aggression makes way for Zealous Conscripts since they cost the same amount and you can reanimate the Conscripts. I can only assume that Clutch of
the Undercity was meant to transmute for Marchesa in case she got tucked, but that’s no longer a concern since the rules changed earlier this year. I’m not
really a fan of tutors in Commander, especially since you’re not trying to dig for an infinite combo and paying an extra four mana (or two mana and a
handful of life, for Lim-Dul’s Vault) often isn’t practical.

Moonlight Bargain is a decent way to draw cards and a great way to pad your graveyard, but you’re in blue and have access to much better draw spells if you
want, and you aren’t really interested in filling your graveyard.


Living Death

One of this deck’s weaknesses is that if your creatures wind up in the graveyard without a Marchesa trigger to bring them back, they’re pretty much gone
for good. Living Death gives you a little resiliency against that while simultaneously acting as a quasi-sweeper against unbeatable boardstates. I wouldn’t
recommended it if graveyard decks run rampant in your metagame, but it seems like a safe bet in most cases.


Your manabase is fairly solid for the most part, but there are a few tweaks I want to make.


Ancient Tomb Crosis's Catacombs

The lair cycle is almost laughably bad, especially when compared to the Alara/Tarkir tri-Lands. They force you to bounce a land but only tap for
one mana, so on every turn after you play one of these you’ll be a turn behind on mana development. That’s not where you want to be. Ancient Tomb is good
ramp, but you don’t really need to hit big mana in this deck, and there are only so many colorless lands a three-color deck can justify running.


High Market Sulfur Falls

Sulfur Falls comes in to complete the cycle of lands, which are some of the best dual-lands for Commander, at least in my opinion. High Market is the
colorless land you want to be running since it’s a free sacrifice outlet that you can leave open very easily. You can’t eat your whole team at once with
it, but given what a low opportunity cost it is to run it, there’s no reason not to.

Putting all the changes together, we’re left with the following:

Marchesa, the Black Rose
Levi Byrne
Test deck on 11-10-2015
Magic Card Back

Here’s a list of the cards I’ve added, sorted by price.

Archaeomancer $0.15
Helium Squirter $0.15
Aethersnipe $0.15
Gryff Vangaurd $0.15
Vigean Graftmage $0.25
Feast on the Fallen $0.25
Merciless Executioner $0.25
Riftwing Cloudskate $0.25
Man-O-War $0.49
Fleshbag Marauder $0.49
Phyrexian Plaugelord $0.49
Hammer of Purphoros $0.49
Fervor $0.49
Conquering Manticore $0.49
Zealous Conscripts $0.65
Molten Primordial $0.69
Goblin Bombardment $0.79
Big Game Hunter $0.85
Living Death $2.49
High Market $3.99
Dragonlord Silumgar $5.19
Urabrask the Hidden $6.75
Grave Pact $7.45
Sulfur Falls $11.05
Total $44.44

The changes add up to $44.44, about half of which will be covered by the $20 store credit to Starcitygames.com Sam receives for having his deck featured.
This build of Marchesa was very different from any of the others I’ve seen so far, but that’s the joy of a truly open-ended commander.

Jess and I are switching up the schedule going forward, so I’ll be back again next week to spice up two of the preconstructed decks on a budget, and she’ll
be back the week after to tackle the other three.

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