Brewing With The Queen

Feb. 28, 2017 - 10 min. read

Stephen McMahon

Article Decklist Strategy

As Grand Prix Toronto approaches in the summer of 2017, it's time for me to start thinking of what deck I want to play for the tournament of my favourite format: Duel Commander. I thoroughly enjoy this format because it has a high variance; it uses 100 card singleton decks. It has a healthy banlist, and a good opportunity to brew decks with, while still remaining competitive. In 2016, GP Toronto had a great turnout for the Duel Commander tournament at around 30 players. Everyone was very friendly and helpful, while still remaining competitive and keeping the integrity of the game and rules. The decks brought to the tables were very diverse. Of the 30 players that attended, only two decks were using the same Commander, which was Kaalia of the Vast. It was very exciting to see what people brought to the event, and some were very impressive brews. I brought my Jhoira of the Ghitu deck which I have been playing and tuning with for some time. I simply love the flavour and power Jhoira brings to the Duel Commander format. She can cheat in big splashy spells while still acting as a control deck. Of the five rounds that I played, I won three of them. Overall it was a great experience, I learned a lot about the meta of the format, had a lot of fun, and met a lot of great people.

The end of 2016 brought some shake ups to the format, the biggest being the starting life total change from 30 to 20. I believe this is an excellent decision, as it gives more aggressive strategies a chance to compete yet still keeping midrange, control, and combo decks a viable way to win. We also saw the release of the 2016 Commander product which contains some very powerful Commanders such as, Breya, Etherium Shaper, Atraxa, Praetors' Voice, Saskia the Unyielding, Vial Smasher the Fierce, and Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix. These four colour options allow players to really branch out from their normal builds and have access to more colours. While the mana base might be difficult to play with, utilizing the extra colours might give players the counter spell or removal spell their previous deck needed. We will surely see some of the new cards in action for Duel Commander tournaments around the globe.

As much as I love to play my Jhoira of the Ghitu deck, I am looking to brew something totally new and different for this year’s GP Toronto. I am looking to take advantage of the new starting life total, and maybe take advantage of the greedy mana bases due to the new four coloured Commanders. After some thought I have decided to use a Commander that was released in 2016, but from Conspiracy: Take the Crown. That legendary creature is Queen Marchesa. Let's break down her card section by section.

Her name, Queen Marchesa, along with her art says it all. She is ready to rule the battlefield even if it requires deception, murder, or treason. Then we see her mana cost of , which is very reasonable to cast at 4 converted mana cost. Her colours is one of my favourite colour combinations in Magic, which is also know as Mardu. All three of these colours contain very powerful creature spells, mostly in the form of dragons, angels, and demons. The three colours also allow for very powerful removal, control, and damage spells. Black has a lot of spells that destroy creatures, and can remove cards from my opponent's hand. White can exile permanents from the battlefield, and can create restrictions for my opponent. Red can deal direct damage to a creature or player, and can also create more restrictions with certain enchantments. All three colours can eliminate the battlefield in some way or another, whether it be creatures, artifact, enchantments, or lands. Notable spells that can accomplish this in some way are: Damnation, Armageddon, and Blasphemous Act.

Next I see her creature type: Human Assassin. There are no interactions in Magic that deal with the Assassin creature type, but there are many interactions in the game that deal with the Human creature type. Most of those interactions are from the Innistrad expansion and cards like Xathrid Necromancer. While this is not necessarily an important part of the card when it comes to gameplay, it definitely adds to her flavour by understanding that she is an Assassin.

Now for her text box. I first see deathtouch and haste, which are two very appealing keywords and synergize in interesting ways. Having the option to attack with her when she enters the battlefield can be quite beneficial on an empty board, or make difficult decisions for my opponent to lose a creature or two in the process. Leaving her untapped to defend lets her act as nice wall my opponent has to navigate through. Also, by having deathtouch wants me to try to give her first strike to give her the synergy of the two keywords.

When she enters the battlefield, I become the monarch, so at the beginning my end step, draw a card... which is actually quite good. Pretty much any strategy can benefit off of being the monarch. To me it feels like an improved Phyrexian Arena. Being the monarch does have a downside though, but if Marchesa is still on the battlefield it may be an actual benefit.

Her last ability is creating a 1/1 black Assassin creature token with deathtouch and haste on my upkeep if my opponent is the monarch. This is very beneficial for me as for the reasons mentioned above for creatures with deathtouch. I’d like to quickly mention Burning Anger as a more casual yet possible inclusion to the deck. In addition, the ability ads a lot of flavour to the card. Marchesa hires an assassin to retake the throne by which is most likely through murder.

Finally, she is a 3/3, which is nothing to go crazy for, but her abilities definitely make up for that power and toughness. Overall though, she screams potential. I can take advantage of all of her abilities in different unique ways, not to mention being in a great colour combination. I am very excited to brew with her and explore the different strategies.

After some thought, and going over some options I noticed Marchesa can fit well in a midrange and/or a combo deck. In the colours of Mardu there are certain combos, mostly involving creatures and reanimating them from my graveyard. But, I am looking for something fresh and different to play, but still have a chance to compete. My mind went towards the Ad Nauseam combo that is now a popular deck used in the Modern format. I am in the right colours to execute the combo, and there are other combos that can finish off the opponent in the colours of Mardu that are similar to the Ad Nauseam and Angel's Grace combo. To destroy my opponent with these two cards it requires Lightning Storm and handful of lands. When I cast Angel's Grace and then Ad Nauseam it allows me to draw my entire deck without losing to game, but going into a negative life total. With my entire deck in my hands I'll need to generate three red mana to cast the Lightning Storm, but I will get into that later. I can also use Phyrexian Unlife or Platinum Angel to act as an Angel's Grace if I need to.

Another way to win with a combo is using Angel's Grace or Phyrexian Unlife into Spoils of the Vault with a Death's Shadow on the battlefield. I can name Fling with Spoils, or a certain card that will win me the game that turn. And yes, Death's Shadow's power and toughness does increase when I am in a negative number of life.

Cards that help me generate red man after I casted Ad Nauseam to cast Lightning Storm are Simian Spirit Guide, Braid of Fire, and Pyretic Ritual. So I'll need to make sure to have enough mana left over after I cast my Angel’s Grace and Ad Nauseam.

I divided the deck into a few categories when going through the deck building process, and those are: combo, creatures, removal, restrictions, and mana rocks. The overall objective of the deck is to either win by attacking with good creatures, executing the combo, controlling the game with removal, and creating restrictions for my opponent.

Decklist - Queen Marchesa

Duel Commander

Its strengths lies in its versatility for the elements of attacking, control, and combo. The largest part of the deck is focused on the control, and then winning quickly with a one turn kill combo. There a bunch of synergies in cards, and I would like to go over a few.

Braid of Fire seems like an odd inclusion in the deck, but it provides an interesting synergy when I want to combo off, which has to be on my upkeep. It also provides red mana to put into Figure of Destiny, or allows to protect further spells on my turn from counter spells by casting Aurelia's Fury when enough red mana is made from Braid of Fire on my upkeep.

There is the Boros Reckoner and Blasphemous Act synergy, allowing me to deal 13 damage to my opponent. Boros Charm adds to this synergy to keep Reckoner indestructible to use on another turn.

Runechanter's Pike provides first strike for my creatures which could prevent some of my creatures from dying during combat. Then it also make combat more difficult for my opponent when it's attached to Marchesa or to one of her Assassin tokens.

The deck likes to take advantage of the starting life total of 20. It is not afraid to go to a low life total by using cards that say I don't lose the game. Having my opponent start at 20 life gives me the more of an opportunity to perform a unique combo to eliminate them. It also takes advantage of being The Monarch, being able to draw an extra card on a turn is great for finding the combo or just having card advantage.

I am very excited to play and test with this deck for the upcoming Grand Prix. I’m sure it will be a fun mix up in the meta of the Duel Commander format. I will be looking forward to writing a tournament report with the deck’s performance.

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