My love for Conspiracy is well known. I love drafting either set and love the cards in the set. I think by now it is fairly settled that the best thing to come out of Conspiracy: Take the Throne is The Monarch. It is an elegant ability that gives the holder a subtle benefit, a single draw at the end of the turn. This small shift encourages players to swing at each other to try to constantly get The Monarch for themselves. This has kept so many Conspiracy games from going stale with everyone simply sitting back and waiting for others to make the first move.
My Queen Marchesa deck is a way to bring that level of interaction to Commander. I initially built the deck way back in November and have had a chance to play it quite a few times. I'd like to take this chance to go back through the deck and see how some of my choices have played out. This won't be a card-for-card analysis; there are cards that have worked out exactly as expected and a few that still haven't seen play. Expect me to focus on the poor performers and look at swapping them out for upgrades.
The original article broke the deck down into nine groups to make the deckbuilding task a little less daunting, all while giving the builder some structure to see what the deck likely needs added.
When I originally built the deck, I thought Queen Marchesa would perform on a level with Marchesa, the Black Rose. The original Marchesa pushes a strong theme, bringing your creatures back to the battlefield when they die. You want creatures that can add +1/+1 counters easily, and cards that give counters. The deck demands some setup, but has proven to be fun to play and a real threat.
Queen Marchesa offers a very different proposition. Once you cast her the first time, The Monarch is in play and things get started. Players try to take The Monarch from you and often that is the best thing. You get benefits from others having The Monarch from Queen Marchesa and Knights of the Black Rose, so giving it up and getting it back is important. However, the Queen herself really slides in importance. My opponents see her as simply a deathtouch creature that makes small deathtouch creatures. She is a good creature, but not a great one. If anything, they prefer to keep her on the battlefield than give you a chance to replay it and become The Monarch again!
This has altered the value of some of the cards in the deck, as you'll see shortly.
I've had no complaints with this set of mana ramp. There was some discussion in the comments that this would be far better with more mana rocks and dumping Journeyer's Kite. With the exception of Sol Ring, each of these cards produces every color of mana I need or gets a land. The Kite is slow to start to be sure, but finds plenty of lands and is rarely targeted with precious artifact removal, especially with the arrival of Kaladesh block and the juicy artifacts it brings to the table!
Ob Nixilis Reignited
Sorin, Grim Nemesis
I haven't liked life loss to draw cards. I understand that losing a life, especially in Commander, is a very small price to pay to draw a card, but it irks me to the core. In spite of that, or perhaps because of that, I haven't wanted to change this section either. I need to get comfortable with losing life to draw cards. Besides, losing some life, especially early in the game, often results in not getting targeted by early damage.
I was also interested to see if this section could be cut back, since I would be The Monarch and drawing extra cards that way. That advantage hasn't been so significant that I felt I could cut back on card drawing, so everything stays.
I mentioned earlier that Queen Marchesa doesn't particularly need much protection. If she is killed, I'm not particularly upset about losing a 1/1 deathtouch creature. It just means I may have to recast her to enjoy some of the benefits. Often, she is treated as nothing more than just another creature.
Rather than eliminate the protection completely, I can reduce it, using it as a way to protect other creatures. I'm taking out the Bastion Protector and the Champion's Helm. They are both good cards, but they are better suited to a deck that relies more heavily on the commander staying on the battlefield.
Knights of the Black Rose
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
When Queen Marchesa is your commander, you expect to be The Monarch regularly, so I expected cards that fed off that would be good. It turns out the cards that were good when you are The Monarch, also make you The Monarch. The card I want to cut from this section is Garrulous Sycophant – draining opponents for one life does nothing other than annoy your opponents. Why would I want to do that? The card has been a nonfactor in too many games, and never a card I was really hoping to see. While it performs well in Conspiracy games, where players often have multiples and life totals start at 20 and fall quickly, it has left me lacking in Commander.
Archetype of Courage
Iroas, God of Victory
Mother of Runes
Shielded by Faith
In the initial build, I was really looking to set up around the Assassin Tokens from Queen Marchesa. I would be getting the Monarch back repeatedly by setting up the tokens for success. First strike, indestructible, unblockable; my opponents wouldn't bother trying to stop a 1/1 if it meant Certain Death for their creature! The problem was that I was using a lot of the deck's resources to get a 1/1 creature to hit for damage. This just wasn't worth it.
I decided to drop the Archetype of Courage, Shielded by Faith, Darksteel Plate, and Iroas, God of Victory. While these were fairly easy cuts, Iroas was the tough one. I really like giving all my creatures, not just the 1/1 assassins, menace. In the end, Iroas lost out because of a greater numbers game: he was needed more in another deck. I've added Goblin War Drums to keep the menace for everyone, but if I had another copy, Iroas would be staying.
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Grenzo, Havoc Raiser
Master of Cruelties
Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Kaya, Ghost Assassin
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Grenzo, Havoc Raiser has proven to be a very difficult card for me. I'm not taking him out, I'm just never sure what I should be choosing when a creature I control deals combat damage to a player. If I don't have at least four mana, I'm likely not exiling the top card of their library either. When there is an actual decision, I'm unsure what the best plan is. Grenzo is forcing me to become better at judging the game to determine strategically to choose the best option. He has been a lot of fun!
Master of Cruelties lived up to his name in a recent game. It was a three-player game and I had come out to a great start and by turn five Master of Cruelties was on the board, equipped with a Whispersilk Cloak. I brought an opponent from 40 to one with a single swing, then was able to eliminate him with a Boros Charm.
There was no fun in this at all, especially since there was a mass removal spell played right after and the Master of Cruelties was lost. I hate games that see one opponent eliminated early based on dumb luck. While I appreciate his ability to shut down an opponent who is getting out of control, Master of Cruelties had to go.
Kaya, Ghost Assassin seemed like a great card. I would be able to use it on Queen Marchesa to quickly become the Monarch again. I could use it on Angel of Despair to eliminate permanents. If I was already the Monarch, I could just mess with life totals a little, or draw a card. The problem has been that Kaya seems to draw a lot of hate in my group, and I'm not sure why. There aren't that many options for Kaya, and you tend to want to spend every second turn bouncing Kaya herself to keep her loyalty count up. This means she only does something every second turn, and most of the time that just involves drawing a card. I'm not ready to give up on Kaya yet, but I think I'm really going to need to work on my diplomacy skills to try to explain to opponents that Kaya is not nearly as powerful as they seem to think she is!
This left me with seven additions to make to the deck. I have noticed that the deck was lacking in powerful, closing cards. I could draw plenty of cards and had nice removal and mana available, but often wouldn't draw into something to finish a game. With that in mind I chose these:
A low-casting cost card to cover some of the cards I pulled from the deck. This one generally does close to t10 damage in every game it appears. It is particularly good friends with Kaya!
A 4/5 flying creature with vigilance can get some work done. Throw in a way to bring back dying creatures life and you find one of my favorites from Coldsnap.
It is a bit conditional for a mass removal effect, but we are playing Commander here, so by the time you can cast it there should be five or more other creatures.
Choosing a creature card at random from an opponent's graveyard isn't ideal, but I haven't run this angel in ages, and her Mardu colors matched perfectly with Queen Marchesa.
This doesn't particularly close out games well – you still need to actually be able to hit an opponent – but double strike works with most creatures and lifelink means that the life I lost in the early game for card draw can be made up here with one swing from one creature!
When you have a few 1/1 deathtouch tokens, forcing others to attack into them really opens up the board when you attack with your serious creatures later!
Combat is easier to handle if you can control the board. The Archfiend also limits what token decks or decks with many small creatures can do. Leave a couple of decent creatures back to block and the Archfiend can help to overwhelm opponents' defenses.
After adjusting the mana base, I ended up with this:
I hope with the changes, the Queen will see the victories she so rightly deserves!