Spoiler Alert: Marchesa, the Black Rose

Here at CMDTower, one thing is true above all else, when we build decks here, we love combos. While combos tend to solicit multiple complaints from other players, they do so because of their power, and typically speaking, they win games. Well today, we’re talking about a card that simply screams “I want combos.”

As Conspiracy continues to be spoiled, I continue to be more and more impressed. The cards I’m seeing actually make me want to draft this set. Now, I’m not much of a draft player to begin with, but these cards seem insane from Brago’s flickering to Selvala’s Parley and the overall vibe of cards like Dack Fayden and Tyrant’s Choice. And while it’s clear that Wizards of the Coast has successfully made this set for a multi-player draft format, it’s also obvious that they had Commander in mind with these designs. The inclusion of the Legendary creatures they’ve spoiled so far has been proof enough of that, and I can’t say that I’m disappointed. It’s great to see that they’re keeping in mind everybody’s favorite casual format while designing their sets. WE NEED LOVE TOO.

When Brago, King Eternal was spoiled, I was excited. I’m not much of a blue player, but he made me second guess myself. Then Selvala, Explorer Returned was spoiled and I had to take a moment to collect myself because she made me a little too excited. These two Legendary Creatures sold the set for me by themselves, and they got me thinking that maybe the five characters pictured in the image below would all be included.


Now, the interesting part was that their color identities had me thinking that these five would cover the spectrum of Allied Colors. As most Magic players know them, these two-color allied combinations are Azorius (White/Blue), Dimir (Blue/Black), Rakdos (Black/Red), Gruul (Red/Green), and Selesnya (Green/White). Brago and Selvala covered two of the five, so I thought my theory correct. But then she showed her face…

Marchesa, the Black Rose.

Really? Grixis? Blue, Black, and Red?! This pretty little lady took a massive dook on my theory, and as unladylike as that sounds, I just couldn’t stay mad. Grixis is the only color combination including Blue that I’ve ever enjoyed playing in Commander, specifically Sedris, the Traitor King and Nekusar, the Mindrazer being the only Grixis Commanders I’d ever played, but I loved them both. And now, Marchesa comes along. She makes me so glad that I’ve kept a lot of my Grixis colored cards because I might just be needing them soon.

But enough sweet talk, lets think applications here.

When I first saw Marchesa, my immediate thought was how quickly she simply breaks Undying in half. While the Dethrone ability is cool and gives you incentive to keep the game fair with the direction you swing every turn, the fact that your creatures that have Undying come back into play even after they receive their +1/+1 counter is just crazy. And much in the sense that Undying loves it’s ETB effects, so too does Marchesa. Having her in play with a friend like Mikaeus, the Unhallowed can send thing spiraling out of your opponents control in no time. With access to cards like Rune-Scarred DemonGrave TitanFrost TitanBogardan Hellkite, and Draining Whelk in your arsenal, winning games becomes less of a question of “How?” and more of a question of “When?”.

Now, Undying is admittedly a great mechanic for this Wizard to make use of, but it’s not the only thing we should focus on. A multitude of mechanics in Magic the Gathering have dealt with +1/+1 counters, and when building around Marchesa’s mechanics, we have to consider all of them. When thinking of these, the first ones that come to mind are Devour and Graft.

Devour as a mechanic is perfect for a Marchesa deck, but unfortunately it’s a primarily Jund mechanic and most of the great Devour cards have Green in their CMC. Why Marchesa couldn’t be BUG colored, I don’t know. I mean she has the word “Rose” in her name. It’s a flower. Nature. Green. The logic is solid. But despite the fact that she’s not green, that doesn’t mean that she lacks access to Devour entirely. The card that immediately comes to mind is Tar Fiend. Not only does this gentleman work as a way to sacrifice, and eventually recur creatures with Marchesa, he also comes with a noticeable tinge of control. The idea that you can sacrifice your team in order to make an opponent discard their hand is brutal. Sure, it might make you a bit of a hate magnet for that opponent, but what are they going to do? They have no cards to play anymore. Other good additions include Preyseizer Dragon and Caldera Hellion .

The defining Simic mechanic of the original Ravnica block, Graft, doesn’t really see much play in the Commander world. Occasionally included in Experiment Kraj decks, the mechanic has been generally viewed as underwhelming among most playgroups I’ve been involved in. However, Marchesa may just make the most of what she’s given, should you choose to include a Graft card or two. The two to consider here are Novijen Sages, Cytoplast Manipulator and surprisingly, Vigean Graftmage. The fun part about the Graft mechanic in this build is the fact that when they recur from Marchesa’s ability, they immediately come into play with +1/+1 counters at no cost to you. From an individual card point of view, I feel like Cytoplast Manipulator takes the cake. At first glance, I couldn’t believe that it interacted with Marchesa the way that it does. If you gain control of a creature using Cytoplast Manipulator, it has a +1/+1 counter on it already, but the interesting part is that Marchesa doesn’t return creatures to the battlefield under their owner’s control, but under your control instead. I did a double take the first time I saw that, but after re-reading the cards a few times, I finally believed it. The other two Graft cards, Novijen Sages and Vigean Graftmage, simply give the deck access to further utility. The ability to remove unnecessary counters from your creatures in exchange for card advantage with Novijen Sages is a more than fair trade, and Vigean Graftmage can give essentially any creature in your deck pseudo-vigilance, including those you previously stole from your opponents. *wink wink*

Grixis already had one of the best generals I’ve seen in a very long time in the form of Nekusar, but that’s mainly because the deck you play around him is explosive. Marchesa, however, might just take the cake. Her versatility is an extensive and powerful tool to be utilized. Expect Marchesa, the Black Rose to find a seat in the Command Zone when Conspiracy hits paper. She does far too much to not be built around.

In the near future, Chris Stephen will be posting a primer for a deck with Marchesa at the helm. What kind of ideas can he come up with? Will he break the new Human Wizard? Wait and see.

As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to leave comments, ideas, and feedback in the comment section below and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Look forward to more articles in the days to come.


Evan Erickson


Author: Evan Erickson

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