Queen Marchesa, Long May She Reign

Mardu sometimes struggles to find its Commander identity, but Sheldon Menery is onto something this time! Sheldon has the list, plus everything you need to decide if she’s right for you! Hail to the Queen!

What’s my hope for Mardu? It’s pretty simple, really: making a non-linear, non-obvious deck. But let’s start at the beginning.

The genesis of my latest deck came from looking over my list of potential Do Overs. When I got down to Demons of Kaalia, I realized that I don’t like the deck all that much. It lives and dies with the commander (which isn’t necessarily a terrible thing by itself), but it’s so swingy and can create such undesirable game states so early that I couldn’t imagine building another version. I wondered which Mardu commander might not only give rise to a fun new deck but also support the next 99 for the Do Over Project.

There are some fine Mardu commanders, but they’re problematic in thinking about the follow-up. There are probably two decks worth of Vampires these days for Edgar Markov, but in addition to already having a Vampire deck (Rakdos Reimagined), I’ve been over Vampires since about the time they became sparkly. Zurgo Helmsmasher sort of builds itself, as does Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Licia, Sanguine Tribune at least doesn’t suffer from the same problem as Oros, the Avenger or Tariel, Reckoner of Souls—namely, that they get really expensive to cast subsequent times. Licia is still conditional, though, so it definitely suggests a build type.

That left Mathas, Fiend Seeker and Queen Marchesa. Mathas also suggested a specific build—and it was the kind which punishes players for drawing cards. Now, I’m obviously not opposed to punishing players for getting super-greedy, but I’d rather look toward something a little friendlier. In the end, Queen Marchesa seemed the most open to any number of ideas. Plus, being the monarch is cool.

Queen Marchesa (long may she reign) must at all costs be the monarch. She is not above sacrificing her subjects to make sure she keeps her seat, whether that’s via unfavorable combats (which nonetheless get through at least one attacker) or other, more devious methods—like becoming the monarch and then not ever letting anyone else consider ascending to the throne. Here’s the list:

Why Play It?

The primary reason to play this deck is if you’re like me and want a tighter but non-linear Mardu strategy. It’s easy to get lost in all the good cards in the colors, but the wedge itself can be very tricky. Finding the right spot takes a great deal of work. You’ll note that there are not many red cards in the deck at all; that’s mostly because the Queen likes it that way. Back when she was the Black Rose, she was all over her redness, but now, as she’s become an Assassin and not a Wizard, the Orzhov part of herself shows more and more, Orzhov being the only true guild.

You’ll Like This Deck If. . .

. . . you like being the monarch.

Step up into a life of honor and privilege, taking your rightful place next to our glorious Queen, who will draw cards for you. You’ll also like this deck if you enjoy picking your spots in which to attack. You’ll have to plan carefully and wait for opportunity, but part of that opportunity will be when you’re the only one with creatures.

You Won’t Like This Deck If. . .

. . . you’re extremely aggressive. The deck occasionally likes to attack or attacks for effect, but most of the time, it likes to sit on its throne and watch its subjects go about their lives, collecting tribute from them. You also won’t like it if you need a great deal of board control, although it keeps creatures in check reasonably well.

What Does It Do?

The deck becomes the monarch and then dares opponents to attack.

There’s a suite of “you did this to yourself” cards such as Deflecting Palm, Reflect Damage, Mirror Strike, and Comeuppance, which will make other players twitchy about getting into your section of the Red Zone. Boros Reckoner is more of the same, as it can deter an attack from a large ground creature (at least one without trample) or slam itself into a wall of large creatures—and just maybe you might get to kill a problematic player by running the Reckoner into a different opponent’s army.

Remember that they can block Boros Reckoner with all of their creatures if they like, and all of them will deal damage to it. There’s a single triggered ability, since all the damage is dealt at once. Make an agreement first with the person you’re attacking so they don’t misinterpret your intention—and despite how funny you think it might be, never go back on a deal. It’ll turn out badly for you in the long run.

The deck also keeps opponents’ creature counts low. No Mercy won’t prevent any damage or keep someone from becoming the monarch by attacking you, but it will get rid of creatures which deal damage to you, save for the indestructible ones. Similarly, Death Pits of Rath will destroy creatures, especially in combination with Staff of Nin’s ability to deal damage. That combo occurred to me after I put in Viridian Longbow and Pathway Arrows specifically to equip onto Queen Marchesa (long may she reign). Because she has deathtouch, one damage is all you need in order to kill a creature.

Inferno Titan works quite nicely in combination with Death Pits of Rath as well, or equip it with Basilisk Collar for a little simultaneous destruction and lifegain. Archfiend of Depravity is an aggressive method of keeping opponents’ creatures down as well, as they have to sacrifice down to two—just be careful if they’re also (as we are) playing Dictate of Erebos or Martyr’s Bond. Speaking of two, Crawlspace limits on us to two creatures—although our opponents are welcome to swing all out at anyone else.

We can also prevent attacking us by certain players with Stonehorn Dignitary (which, despite this discussion, remains safely unbanned) and Blinding Angel. Peacekeeper requires some upkeep, but in the mid- to late-game scenarios in which we might get attack for a huge pile of damage, it’s probably worth it. A few things which make opponents creatures enter the battlefield tapped will also slow down some attacks from haste creatures, which is why Blind Obedience and Thalia, Heretic Cathar are in. This was another avenue that I considered going down—adding Kismet and Loxodon Gatekeeper and then Meekstone, Crackdown, and/or Marble Titan to keep them tapped. In the end, I wanted to do other things as well, so those slots went elsewhere.

Urabrask the Hidden would do the same, but the deck’s commitment to red is sufficiently low. One of my favorite cards in the deck is the hidden gem Chronomantic Escape, which will generally limit attacks on us to two turns out of three once resolved. Knowing you simply can’t be attacked is liberating.

Because Queen Marchesa (long may she reign)makes us the monarch when she enters the battlefield, it occurred to me that some blink tricks would be in order, hence the inclusion of Restoration Angel and Eldrazi Displacer, otherwise known as Blinky the Eldrazi. (I’m going to need to find an alter artist that can paint one for me as a three-eyed fish.) The blink things led to putting in some sources of colorless mana, including old favorites like Sol Ring and Temple of the False God, but also the painlands Battlefield Forge, Caves of Koilos, and Sulfurous Springs.

Those choices then inspired Darien, King of Kjeldor, who, if in the event we’re damaged and the crown momentarily taken from us, will generate enough Soldiers to take it back. Eldrazi Displacer didn’t really inspire any other choices, although it reinforced a few, like Ashen Rider, Luminate Primordial, and Noxious Gearhulk, to name a few. I considered going down the Galepowder Mage line, but I wanted blink as a sub-theme and not the hub of the deck.

What Doesn’t It Do?

Other than some good creature removal, the deck doesn’t pack all that many control elements. Ashen Rider is about all there is to take care of problematic noncreature permanents, but hopefully the blink suite will help get some repetition. We’ll use Agent of Erebos and other enchantments for some graveyard control, but it’s not quite as on-demand as I’d normally like.

The amount of card draw might be a little low. We’re going to count on Queen Marchesa (long may she reign) for a good deal of it and then lean on Erebos, God of the Dead to draw a few for us, mitigating the life loss with Blind Obedience’s extort trigger and maybe a little gain from casting white spells with Balefire Liege on the battlefield.

The only recursion is Debtors’ Knell, one of my favorite cards from the earliest days of the format. There might enough Plains to maybe make Emeria, the Sky Ruin work, but without any real ramp, it’s a long shot. Also under consideration here was Elixir of Immortality, but for the most part, our graveyard doesn’t do much.

How Does It Lose?

Since there’s not anything approaching real control of noncreature permanents, combo decks would likely have a field day against us. Fortunately, in my local environment, we don’t face that many. Creature swarms might be problematic, since we’re not running that much mass removal.

Cards That Could Go In

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight: This was the toughest one to leave out. I’m just not sure what it would replace.

Repercussion: It might be a fun experiment to run You Did This to Yourself with Mardu colors instead of Jeskai. Taking out the blue in favor of black means no counterspells, but there are some choices like Tainted Aether that would play extremely well. I’ve made a side note to give this some thought and perhaps build a new version of that signature favorite.

Intimidation Bolt: Another in the “can’t attack” suite, but we simply can’t play everything.

Portcullis: The blink cards would have to go in order to get mileage out of this old-school hidden gem. I’d love to see a foil reprint of some kind in a new Commander’s Arsenal or similar product. I’m not the biggest fan of the foiling process of the From the Vaults sets, but if it’s the only foil version available, I’d take that as well.

Ghostly Prison and Norn’s Annex: In the end, someone is likely to pay the mana/life in order to become the monarch if they have an in. I suppose the cards (plus Windborn Muse and a few others) might keep them from attacking with lots of creatures hoping to just get one through. Crawlspace felt like a safer option here, but I could be swayed by a Ghostly Prison argument.

Chain Reaction and Blasphemous Act: Again, the commitment to red is low, and I’d want to go for the Repercussion angle at that point.

Wall of Souls: Nothing says “stay off of my face with your giant thing” like Wall of Souls. Along these same lines might be Flayed Nim, which can keep doing its thing due to regeneration.

Xathrid Gorgon: It has deathtouch, and the petrification counter would take the place of some removal. I also considered Aurification, but the creature has to deal damage.


The role of a monarch is far more nuanced than many folks understand. This build of Queen Marchesa (long may she reign) gives us the opportunity to squeeze a good deal of mileage out of our cards. We’ll have to think carefully about some of our in-game choices, like which creature is the most threatening when we can get rid of only one. We might be able to build alliances by destroying creatures which aren’t all that threatening to us but might be to someone else.

All in all, the deck is more in the style which I’m building of late, one that relies on there being different lines of play to go down based on the state of the battlefield rather than the state of my hand. I look forward to the times I’ll be sitting on the throne next to Queen Marchesa (long may she reign).

This Week’s Deck Without Comment is You Did This to Yourself.

Check out our comprehensive Deck List Database for lists of all my decks:


Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers; Kresh Into the Red Zone; Halloween with Karador; Dreaming of Intet; You Did This to Yourself.



Heliod, God of Enchantments; Thassa, God of Merfolk; Erebos and the Halls Of The Dead; Forge of Purphoros; Nylea of the Woodland Realm; Karn Evil No. 9.


Lavinia Blinks; Obzedat, Ghost Killer; Aurelia Goes to War; Trostani and Her Angels; Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind; Zegana and a Dice Bag; Rakdos Reimagined; Glissa, Glissa; Ruric Thar and His Beastly Fight Club; Gisa and Geralf Together Forever.

Shards and Wedges

Adun’s Toolbox; Angry, Angry Dinos; Animar’s Swarm; Ikra and Kydele; Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky; Demons of Kaalia; Merieke’s Esper Dragons; Nath of the Value Leaf; Rith’s Tokens; The Mill-Meoplasm; The Altar of Thraximundar; The Threat of Yasova; Zombies of Tresserhorn.

Four Color

Yidris: Money for Nothing, Cards for Free; Saskia Unyielding; Breya Reshaped.


Children of a Greater God


Tana and Kydele; Kynaios and Tiro; Ikra and Kydele.


Animar Do-Over; Glissa Do-Over; Karador Do-Over; Karador Version 3; Karrthus Do-Over; Kresh Do-Over; Steam-Powered Merieke Do-Over; Lord of Tresserhorn Do-Over; Mimeoplasm Do-Over; Phelddagrif Do-Over; Rith Do-Over; Ruhan Do-Over.

If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987) which is just beginning the saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor, ask for an invitation to the Facebook group “Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”