Introduction to the Deck
Marchesa is a formidable commander to say the least. She has reanimator capabilities, good coloring, combo-combat tricks and an enabler for it all on the same card. Her intrigue comes from the diverse compendium of cards that synergize well with her, and the ones that do get very strong and become very hard to get rid of quickly. Her deck, if built around her well, can sustain a board presence through many crazy plays, especially in multiplayer with multiple turns of dangerous interactions. This is the deck that requires a mastery of her rules and a knowledge of complex interactions that can make things very bad for your opponent, and it makes the deck very fun to pilot because all your plays become very intricate. Her colors make both control and combo deadly which makes her one of the most fun commanders to play in grixis.
I came to this deck idea after playing tons of legacy and finding myself in love with combo-oriented decks. This deck combines all the facets of the strongest combo/control hybrids to ever top championship level events. My other inspiration comes from the deep combo potential that comes from B level cards that almost only exist in commander as well as utilizing the array of combo pieces that can force plays that always work better in multiplayer. Interaction with every player is one of my favorite things about commander and this deck exemplifies it fully.
The Winning Idea
The deck is straightforward in its direction. Resolve a cheat spell, and follow up with or start it out with Marchesa, giving that creature the ability to stay on the board through Sneak Attack and Through the Breach while keeping your life total low and looting through your deck, finding answers, and keeping yourself a threat while holding counter plays and follow ups for when things go wrong. Most of the creatures are single-card game winners, but paired with the right cards can steal the game through unconventional methods. The appeal of its core strategy is sculpting the perfect hand to win in any scenario, and the potential to get around a lot of threatening board states.
The First Few Turns
Sculpting your winning hand is your priority, because you want to go off in one turn while setting certain pieces up slowly. Depending on how the board develops, you can win turn 3 or turn 30, while staying locked in the game the whole time. Your draw spells keep you working through the things you don’t need immediately and the discard effects within some of the looter spells keeps your graveyard with a contingency plan in case you get targeted first. This deck holds up well to discard and disruption because of the built in reanimator shell that goes along with the cards that enable combos, and being able to tutor as much as possible helps you deal with the difficult stuff. By turn 4 or 5, you want to set yourself in position to make your ace play, and still have a plan afterwards.
Notable Synergies and Combos
Unspeakable Symbol and Marchesa: The strongest two card combo in the deck. Instant speed counter placement while bringing your life down is the best thing you can do in this deck, it allows your creatures to return to the battlefield while enabling dethrone though at times it might be tough to get it going because no one is swinging.
Show and Tell with Ixidron or Molten Primordial: This one makes me laugh every time. No one knows what to expect from you. They think you are going to drop an Ulamog or Kozilek, and they contest it with one of their own, and then you steal it or turn it into a bear, completely taking one of their win conditions out of the equation while enabling yours.
Sacrifice outlets with Marchesa: If you need to get in for damage, you can set up great combo plays by sacrificing your dethroned creatures to Phyrexian Altar or High Market to get some removal and counter magic to back you up in the turns to come. Sacrifice a creature to add mana or chump block while setting that creature up to help you out in the turns to come before you drop another huge threat.
Marchesa and Bearer of the Heavens: A weird combo because Sneak Attacking the Bearer throws off the timing of Marchesa. Bearer will have died on your turn and resolve on your opponent’s, but if you can get him to die before it dies to sneak attack then you kill everything and return those that had counters on them, thus winning you the game with Bearer and Marchesa as the only things on the board.
Why Pick That Card?
Possibility Storm: This enchantment eliminates player’s hands, and forces them to rely on luck, but most of your spells do a lot of the same things and for low costs too, so resolving this can turn the game into a bouncing back point while you regain your losses from time to time. An underrated card from Dragon’s Maze that has shown me some interesting gameplay, and at the end of it all, it’s a fun spell. It turns the game into a whole different experience for five mana.
Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded: The obvious reason is that he loots, and is usually never that threatening, but his minus abilities can close out games very easily with both abilities. In games with people resolving Alhammarret’s Archive and Rhystic Study, he can do lethal in one stroke, and one of the most promising things about this deck is the fact that if creatures you steal die on your board with counters on them, you keep them permanently. His ultimate can steal a game just by casting Marchesa before attacking.
Tricks Up Your Sleeve
Thematically, Marchesa is the girl with all the tricks in the book, making agendas and usurping thrones. Here are a few tips to help get you there:
- Thievery is your best friend. Take things from your opponents and use cards like Faerie Artisans to get help from other people’s decks. Stealing and killing is the heart and soul of this deck and utilizing the resources that other player’s have can really boost your game.
- Never be afraid to search for a counter spell or a board wipe instead of a combo piece. Most times if one player is ramping hard or coming close to closing the game no one will fault you for a reset or an answer just to continue the game.
- Keep hands with at least three to four lands every time. This deck runs on low cost and has few ways to ramp up, so making sure you keep hands that have land. Not getting greedy is a strong way to ensure you making it to middle and late game. A longer game means more possibilities.
- Work with other players. In the early stages of the game as you set up, numerous cards are going to put you anywhere from 25 to 30 life fast, putting you in a tough position just to keep dethrone alive, so you might need to enlist help from a player from time to time. Just make sure to backstab them last when you go for the kill.
- Remember your timings, and the structure of your turns. Marchesa makes things complicated from time to time when it comes to reanimating, especially with Sneak Attack. Stack your triggers, declare when things resolve, and have a good time doing it.
Through the Rough
Always look out for the things that can hurt this deck. Mainly Bojuka Bog and other such graveyard hate; while not incredibly common in casual metas it can shut off your back up plan, or even your main strategy depending on what route you’re shifting towards. Another big problem is damage. This deck tends to fire itself up by ticking your life down, so things like Kokusho, the Evening Star are essential. Another big problem is how quickly you paint a target on your back. The deck tries to give one strong closing play and have some defense for after, but resolving your big plays sets you up to be the biggest threat on the board and without help, the game can shift downward in the three player turns that follow your big play. Through all of this, it all depends on your setup and how well you can sustain yourself, making the deck challenging and fun at the same time.