The tapestry of Magic is already quite large. As new cards are released, we have to find ways to sew them into the already woven parts of the game. When
spoilers arrive, I try to figure out how these new cards will fit into the cloth. Will they force some things to unravel in order to fit themselves in? Do
they bring in new mechanics or ideas that will connect the previously unconnected?
I know I’m not alone! We have bazillons of articles talking about the latest spoiled cards and where they will fit in Standard, Draft, Modern, Legacy,
Vintage, Commander, Two-Headed Giant, Cube, Pauper, and the increasingly forgotten sixty-card decks around kitchen tables everywhere.
As I previewed some of the great cards from Conspiracy, I knew that I would likely hit up one or three for Commander articles. But Marchesa immediately
grabbed my attention. She’s awesome! I had to build a deck around her immediately.
So why Marchesa? Well, there are some great things she does that are quite special to Magic. Firstly, in the Grixis colors, you rarely find a lot of
counter manipulation and such. But once I began digging, I uncovered a lot of fun things she works well with, and she bridges a lot of fun mechanics.
Marchesa’s +1/+1 counter love was downright unusual. That’s great!
But what really struck me is how resilient she and her team are to removal. Note that her trigger works on herself. If you are like me, you might have
misread it initially. I figured it just worked on “other creatures” I control. But nope! As long as she has a counter, she comes back. That’s awesome! At
first, I had put things in the deck like Darksteel Plate to protect her and keep her ability out, but it wasn’t needed.
Also, note that she gives the dethrone counters when the creature attacks. So you can suicide attack with your group of creatures at someone, and then,
when a few inevitably die, they all came back-untapped–at the end of your turn. That’s a lot of potency in her abilities.
So for all of these reasons, the Black Rose enticed me to build a deck around her. Want to take a look?
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Triskelion
- 1 Carrion Feeder
- 1 Vampiric Dragon
- 1 Mephidross Vampire
- 1 Pentavus
- 1 Workhorse
- 1 Cytoplast Manipulator
- 1 Novijen Sages
- 1 Stalking Vengeance
- 1 Vigean Graftmage
- 1 River Kelpie
- 1 Vein Drinker
- 1 Blood Tyrant
- 1 Thraximundar
- 1 Deathbringer Thoctar
- 1 Butcher of Malakir
- 1 Pawn of Ulamog
- 1 Pyreheart Wolf
- 1 Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
- 1 Flayer of the Hatebound
- 1 Harvester of Souls
- 1 Blood Artist
- 1 Hound of Griselbrand
- 1 Chaos Imps
- 1 Necropolis Regent
- 1 Sapphire Drake
- 1 Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
- 1 Purphoros, God of the Forge
- 1 Marchesa, the Black Rose
- 1 Drakestown Forgotten
- 1 Dissipate
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Goblin Bombardment
- 1 Grave Pact
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Desertion
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Phyrexian Arena
- 1 Ion Storm
- 1 Whispersilk Cloak
- 1 Power Conduit
- 1 Dragon Blood
- 1 Insurrection
- 1 Phyrexian Altar
- 1 Armillary Sphere
- 1 Slave of Bolas
- 1 Blade of the Bloodchief
- 1 Carnage Altar
- 1 Mark of Mutiny
- 1 Contagion Engine
- 1 Inexorable Tide
- 1 Nihil Spellbomb
- 1 Fuel for the Cause
- 1 Tezzeret's Gambit
- 1 Warstorm Surge
- 1 Jar of Eyeballs
- 1 Trading Post
- 1 Chromatic Lantern
- 1 Grave Betrayal
- 1 Dissolve
- 1 Dictate of Erebos
One of the problems with Marchesa is that her ability only triggers when there is a +1/+1 counter on the creature in question that has died. So if the
creature dies via removing counters, then it wouldn’t come back. For example, take Mindless Automaton. Pull off both counters to draw a card, and the
Automaton dies, but when it died, it had nothing on it. So it won’t come back.
At least Triskelion is different. You can pull off two counters to shoot things, then pull off the final one to shoot itself, and then recur it again and
again. It’s a fun little trick. But for most creatures, what the deck needs are sacrifice engines.
So I added some! You have things like Goblin Bombardment, Miren, Phyrexian Tower, Carnage Altar, and more running around the deck. You can send your stuff
to die, and then get your creature back. These various triggers, over the course of a game, should prove to be very daunting to foes.
And because of these sacrifice outlets, you can downright abuse a lot of interactions between Marchesa and existing abilities. One such is undying. When a
normal creature with undying dies, such as say, Hound of Griselbrand, then it will come back even bigger, with a newly donated +1/+1 counter for the
trouble. But the undying won’t allow it to pull that trick again. Marchesa, however, will. So, as an example, you could sacrifice the Hound to Trading Post
to recur an artifact, and then the Hound comes back bigger immediately. Now, sacrifice it to Goblin Bombardment to shoot someone, and it’ll trigger
Marchesa and come back later (without the counter), enabling you to sacrifice it again for another trigger and undying. And that repeats ad nauseum. You
can have the creature for attacking, defense, triggers – anything you want, and it’ll keep coming back. It’ll survive removal, chump blocks, and whatever
else is thrown at it.
So undying works well (Yay Mikaeus the Unhallowed!). What else? Well, we have things like unleash, and such running around. Remember that the original
vampire mechanic was to grow by feeding by getting +1/+1 counters, so all the way back to Sengir Vampire, black has a tradition of getting counters on
Another great mechanic with Marchesa is proliferate. I wasn’t able to stick in too many of those cards, so I kept it at Fuel for the Cause, Tezzeret’s
Gambit, Contagion Engine, and Inexorable Tide; but that dash of proliferate can really increase the counters on our creatures once they start getting
Graft works wonders with Marchesa too. You can add counters to things as they arrive, and then use those counters for various effects. Plus, some of the
graft creatures include abilities that work well in a deck like this, such as Novijen Sages or Vigean Graftmage.
With so many mechanics in red/blue/black working well with Marchesa, this deck has a lot of potential to mine, and a neat feel to it. You could even find
space for things like bloodthirst or modular.
Now that we have some basic ideas that work well with Marchesa, it’s time to investigate other cards. There is a ton of synergy to unearth. Ion Storm seems
like a great idea; you can pull off some of the counters that Marchesa and friends put on for damage. Then, we have Exava, who is a great Lord for the deck
since she makes everyone faster and angrier. Purphoros is dandy, smashing folks for two damage every time they return from a Marchesa trigger. Warstorm
Surge does it even better.
We can add in things like Blade of the Bloodchief, Dragon Blood, Power Conduit, and Opal Palace to give stuff counters. Plus, we have Dictate of Erebos,
Grave Pact, and Butcher of Malakir to abuse our deaths. Then, there’s Jar of Eyeballs, which works with our Pawn of Ulamog, making 0/1 tokens for more fuel
in the process.
Some of the best cards with Marchesa are Grave Betrayal, Flayer of the Hatebound, and River Kelpie. The Betrayal is sick. When an opposing
creature dies, it comes back under your control already loaded with a +1/+1 counter. Note that Marchesa’s ability triggers just when creatures “you
control” die, not when creatures “you own” do. Therefore, if an opposing creature dies with a +1/+1 counter on it while under your control, you’ll get it
back for another run. That’s why Mark of Mutiny is here. Steal a creature; it gets a counter, smash face, then sacrifice it to Carrion Feeder and keep it
permanently. So you can imagine just how eviscerating Grave Betrayal is. Just imagine a board with Grave Pact and the Betrayal out. If one of your
creatures dies, you would get all of the creatures sacrificed to the Grave Pact trigger into play on your side permanently, and they’ll keep returning as
long as they have counters on them!
River Kelpie is great. All of the creatures coming back into play (via Grave Betrayal, Marchesa, Undying, etc.) will trigger and draw you an impossibly
large amount of cards. It slides into a Marchesa deck perfectly.
My favorite might be the underused Flayer of the Hatebound. Just like River Kelpie, it will trigger when stuff comes back from your graveyard. Since it
also has undying, it works wonders by itself or with the team.
We have everything from Harvester of Souls to Sapphire Drake; Deathbringer Thoctar to Blood Artist. I feel like I barely touched the majesty that Marchesa
has to grant. From Lifeline to Intimidation, and from Spoils of War to Undying Evil, there are a lot of fun tricks and cards to use out there.
Another way to build around her might be to run a heavy artifact deck with all of the Arcbound guys, Steel Overseer, counter manipulators, and such.
Anyway you build her, the Black Rose has arrived, and I expect to see her in the Commander metagame for quite some time. Are you going to build a Black
Rose deck? What will you run? Any ideas you might take away from my deck? Cards you think I missed? Be sure to let me know!