This article is going to be in a bit of a weird place, as I'm writing it the day before PAX previews for Kaladesh start, and the two stories we've gotten so far have showed a bright and vibrant new world. Between an apparent artifact theme and the return of Dwarves, I'm very happy with what I've seen so far. But this week isn't about what's new. I'm here to give Conspiracy: Take the Crown one last hurrah.
I don't think I've ever been as excited to brew a new deck as I was when Queen Marchesa was spoiled. She's in my favorite color wedge, is a commander that generates card advantage on her own, and she encourages interaction between players as they try to grab the Monarch emblem from each other.
My playgroup is super casual and mostly made up of new players; however, I'm the one who introduced most of those players to the game and taught them to play so I'm usually the first person to be targeted. Because of this, I thought the best route to take was to build a pillow fort deck, but I wanted to try something a little different. I included some of the usual pillow fort cards like Ghostly Prison, and I added several of the different curse and vow cards to encourage players to interact with each other. I love the interaction between the vows and Behind the Scenes, since most of my tokens will be smaller than their enchanted creatures.
Additionally, I tried to keep everything within the theme of Queen Marchesa and her court, including Soldiers, Assassins, Knights, Dragons and Angels. Maybe I've been watching too much Game of Thrones. My biggest concern is whether I have enough token production to actually win the game. I'm also unsure if I have enough mana fixing in the deck. Any guidance you can give is greatly appreciated! My budget is pretty limitless, within reason, because I'm horribly addicted to this wonderful game. I'd prefer not to spend more than $15 to $20 per card, though.
Throne of the High City
I've mentioned Queen Marchesa before, but this is the first chance I've gotten to really work with her. What interests me about her is how different she is from the other available Mardu commanders.
Of the above creatures, Kaalia and Zurgo point heavily to very aggressive decks of various stripes, Alesha can either go in the same direction or enable some sort of low to the ground reanimator combo, and Tariel and Oros are simply overcosted for what they do and don't see a ton of play as a result.
Queen Marchesa is the first option that could reasonably considered to lead a midrange grindy deck, which is perfectly in keeping with Brendan's submission. I'll be looking to beef up the enchantment theme a little, as well as streamlining the threats the deck has to present.
Right off the bat we're getting rid of the "voting matters" cards. You only have two or three will of the council cards in your deck, and unless voting is a huge part of your metagame, it's not worth including subpar creatures to enhance less than a handful of cards in the deck. Blood-Cursed Knight is a very efficient creature, but I'm more interested in going wide than having an unopposed 4/3 for a few turns. We'll get to the token producers that replace it in another section.
I've actually cut Odric, Lunarch Marshal from a few decks now. His utility here is obviously to give deathtouch to your whole team, but other than that he doesn't do a whole lot. This was one of the closer cuts in the whole list, and he could easily stay in if necessary.
Duergar Hedge-Mage has potential to be a three-for-one, but you only have seven of each land type. Reliably getting two Mountains and two Plains won't happen until the late-game, and this has the potential to be a really awkward card in many situations.
Akroma, Angel of Fury kind of held the slot as the big finisher at the top of your curve and it's okay at the role, but a lot of Red Akroma's power is tied up in the firebreathing ability, which is pretty lackluster in a tri-color deck. It's not a bad card, but we can do better.
This deck needs both offense and defense, and Hero of Bladehold is amazing at building your battlefield presence as the game goes on and at speeding up your clock immensely.
Often in these articles I mention the fact that many decks plan to win the game in a single alpha strike or combo. This is not one of those decks. You're planning to win through several turns of "fair" combat and politics. Therefore any effect that lessens the risk of attacking is something you're interested in, and Iroas, God of Victory fits the build perfectly. It also means that you can send your Assassins fearlessly after the crown without having to worry about them getting killed by blockers. The menace-granting ability also makes it very difficult for your opponents to assemble a proper defense against you, which will help keep you in the driver's seat regardless of whether you want to be offensive or defensive.
You mentioned the synergy that Marchesa has with pillow fort effects, and while I can respect not wanting to lock your opponents out of the game, there's no reason to exclude cards that help you when you get hit. Darien, King of Kjeldor will either keep you from taking damage or pump out a huge army of Soldiers. Either scenario is great for you.
To be honest, Valor isn't really here as a creature. You'll find a way to kill it, and then all of your tokens will have first strike. That's obviously very good with your deathtouch Assassins and that's something we'll talk more about later, but while giving an army of 1/1s first strike might be irrelevant on offense, when you're defending, it makes combat a nightmare for your opponents.
Pontiff of Blight lets you attack the game from a long, grindy angle. It gets better with tokens, obviously, but tacking life gain and life drain onto every spell you cast is huge. Late in the game, this can easily turn every spell into a Lava Axe for each opponent and fifteen life for you, which can take down games quickly while simultaneously letting you maintain a defensive formation with your creatures that your opponents will have a very hard time fighting through.
We cut one Akroma to add the other. Akroma, Angel of Wrath has much more relevant keywords than her red counterpart, thanks to the addition of vigilance, first strike, and haste instead of uncounterability, morph, and firebreathing. You'll always be paying the full eight mana for her, but for a single big finisher that's fine.
You're actually set up to use Solitary Confinement, but think about it for a minute. Once this lands, you've basically committed to winning the game with the resources you already have on the battlefield. You can keep it in play forever thanks to the card draw from the Monarch crown, but since you're skipping your draw step, you'll never be able to gain cards, and a well-timed discard spell can wreck your ability to keep it on the battlefield.
Even discounting this possibility, though, I don't like the idea that you're only remaining stable on cards. Even if you have seven cards in hand when you cast Solitary Confinement, you'll only ever be able to play seven cards for the rest of the game, and it only gets worse the fewer cards you have in hand (absent card draw spells that you aren't running). Now, I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to bet on you killing your opponents before someone finds enchantment removal, because once the Confinement goes away, your battlefield will be very outclassed by players that've actually been able to develop their game state.
You said the deck might lack token production, so we'll start off with some added power in that area. Assemble the Legion is one of the most powerful repeatable effects in the game. When it comes to armies in a can, an unchecked Assemble the Legion can take over a game on its own. First Response is a mini-version of Darien which gives you a Soldier token on every turn that you take damage.
Necromancer's Covenant isn't the best card on-curve, but late in the game it combines graveyard hate with an army of lifelinking 2/2s. When it comes to big, one-shot effects that can let you turn the corner, Necromancer's Covenant can be a bigger surprise than almost any other card in the deck.
Knighthood and True Conviction are both here for the simple reason that first strike (and double strike) is a devastating combo with deathtouch. When one of these are out, your opponents will have to think even harder about throwing blockers away when you send agents to get the crown back. Even with that aside, being able to turtle behind first-striking deathtouchers is a devastating defensive position to have available. Add in the fact that True Conviction doubles your damage output and gains you life in the meantime, and it's a devastating effect to have on the battlefield.
You're running the other two on-color Signets, and the fact that they fix your colors so well and enable a turn-three Marchesa means you definitely want the last one. Arguably you might want Talisman of Indulgence as well (or the Diamond cycle: Fire Diamond, Marble Diamond, and Charcoal Diamond), but you don't want too many mana rocks clogging up the deck. Six is probably too many, but four or five is probably right.
You included the Vow cycle, and I thought it would be right to include their spiritual descendant. Assault Suit doesn't negate your opponent's creatures like the Vows do, but it can get one of your scariest creatures out there and swinging every turn at your opponents. This is one of those cards that can make the game move forward in very subtle ways, and it keeps most of the aggression away from you.
Longtime readers know that I don't subscribe to the philosophy that planeswakers are amazing in Commander. For me to consider one for a deck, it must be entirely on-theme and also well above the average power for planeswalkers. Elspeth, Sun's Champion is a fine token generator, and her minus is a great tool against big green decks that you might otherwise have a hard time against. Kaya, Ghost Assassin, on the other hand, doesn't do a whole lot to further your gameplan. She's set up for the long grind of card advantage and life drain, but you're much better set up to simply fight those struggles for card advantage on the battlefield instead of having a single card to go after your opponent's hands.
Given that you only have two Equipment in the deck (three with Assault Suit being added), Steelshaper's Gift is far from necessary. None of the targets are necessary to your gameplan and there's not a wide variety of toolbox options to choose from, so you won't get full value from a tutor.
Without many enters-the-battlefield triggers, Ghostway and Eerie Interlude are mostly here as ways to dodge Wraths, but since most of your creatures are tokens and most of those come from noncreature sources, these will often do more harm to you than good. Better to let the Wrath happen and rebuild with the token sources you already have on the battlefield.
For the last two cuts, we're getting rid of two of the Will of the Council cards. Both Bite of the Black Rose and Tyrant's Choice are pretty good rates for what they do, but what they do isn't in line with your strategy or particularly backbreaking. In the end they had to come out to make room for the powerful passive effects on the enchantments I added.
You mentioned concerns over color fixing, but I'm pretty happy with your land base, unless you want to sink the money to put in a full suite of fetchlands and shocklands. The only reason I'm cutting Madblind Mountain is to lessen the number of tapped lands in your list, and the ability to shuffle your deck at will is only really useful in combination with Mistveil Plains. With no way to find either land, that's narrow enough that I'm happy to just swap in a basic.
Putting it all together, here's the finished decklist:
- 1 Academy Rector
- 1 Angel of Despair
- 1 Auramancer
- 1 Bastion Protector
- 1 Eldrazi Displacer
- 1 Hanweir Garrison
- 1 Hero of Bladehold
- 1 Hunted Dragon
- 1 Knight of Obligation
- 1 Knights of the Black Rose
- 1 Mesa Enchantress
- 1 Pontiff of Blight
- 1 Royal Assassin
- 1 Valor
- 1 Yellow Scarves Cavalry
- 1 Archetype of Courage
- 1 Grim Guardian
- 1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
- 1 Darien, King of Kjeldor
- 1 Daxos the Returned
- 1 Grenzo, Havoc Raiser
- 1 Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker
- 1 Tajic, Blade of the Legion
- 1 Iroas, God of Victory
- 1 Assault Suit
- 1 Boros Signet
- 1 Orzhov Signet
- 1 Rakdos Signet
- 1 Scroll Rack
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Sword of Feast and Famine
- 1 Sword of Fire and Ice
- 1 Wayfarer's Bauble
- 1 Aggravated Assault
- 1 Assemble the Legion
- 1 Behind the Scenes
- 1 Curse of Bloodletting
- 1 Curse of Shallow Graves
- 1 Curse of Stalked Prey
- 1 Curse of the Forsaken
- 1 First Response
- 1 Ghostly Prison
- 1 Greater Auramancy
- 1 Island Sanctuary
- 1 Knighthood
- 1 Land Tax
- 1 Luminarch Ascension
- 1 Marchesa's Decree
- 1 Necromancer's Covenant
- 1 No Mercy
- 1 Phyrexian Arena
- 1 Sigil of the Empty Throne
- 1 Skybind
- 1 Sphere of Safety
- 1 True Conviction
- 1 Vow of Duty
- 1 Vow of Lightning
- 1 Vow of Malice
- 1 Words of Waste
- 1 Enlightened Tutor
- 1 Council's Judgment
- 1 Martial Coup
- 1 Wrath of God
And the additions, sorted by price:
The changes add up to $37.51, not too bad for having an unlimited budget. As always, Brendan will receive $20 in store credit to StarCityGames.com® for having their deck featured.
Of course there were nearly countless additions that could've been added, from raw power cards like Demonic Tutor to more synergistic effects (Prowler's Helm and Trailblazer's Boots are particularly potent ways to make sure your Assassins can punch through and steal the crown back), but the goal was to make games more interactive and get everyone involved, not to fully streamline the power of this list. If anything was to change, I'd look to include Fumiko the Lowblood, Grand Melee, or Avatar of Slaughter and really get people to butt heads.
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