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26 Decks in a Year, Episode 17: Grixis


I don’t know about you, but when I build a Commander deck, I really care about the deck. The card choices are considered and even anguished over. I’m invested in the commander and the flavor or theme of the deck. And that’s why I’m always impressed when I read articles by an author—or when I meet a fellow Commander player—who happily and regularly deconstructs decks. I’ve put so much time into mine that I hate pulling them apart—in fact, the one deck I’ve taken apart I actually haven’t. It’s just living in a box with a sticky note on it saying “to be deconstructed.”

Fellow author, Commander-format champion, and all-around awesome editor around here Adam Styborski is a big proponent of a lot of new decks; he has his Commander Box™ with just one of each card he might ever want to use to build a deck, and then he throws together decks just with what’s in the box. It’s an awesome way of doing things, and it’s something very difficult for me to imagine—which is why I lug fifteen decks with me to Commander night at my local game store.

But it’s good to break away from what we know and try new things. This series continues to teach me there are a ton of different ways to build Commander decks, and there’s a player out there for all of them. So what happens if we build a deck with which we really don’t care what we draw? What if we dump parts of our library into the graveyard and turn it into a resource—but rather than the normal way of doing it, make it more like a Mr. Fusion from Back to the Future II? We’re not going to reanimate creatures and bring things back, we’re just going to dump the trash right into our engine and use it to power our machine. And what if we help out a person who we can tell just by her artwork probably has a problem with hoarding while we’re at it?

Marchesa, the Black Rose

I was pantsed by a Marchesa, the Black Rose deck this week. The whole table did, in fact. It was a well-built deck with great synergy; once Marchesa got rolling, it was next to impossible to stop her. (It didn’t help that I didn’t completely understand how she worked, so when she returned after my Life's Finale—something I didn’t think she would do—it really hurt us all.) She’s strong all on her own, and she makes all our creatures much better.

Rise of the Dark Realms
But we’re going to go a different direction. We’re going to dump some cards into our graveyard and use them to fuel our other spells. We’re going to do our best to generate some value from our Mr. Fusion technique, and the best part is that we’re not going to be upset when something is dumped into the ’yard. Our most expensive card (at $6.99) is Marchesa herself. We have a $4.49 copy of Rise of the Dark Realms and a $2.49 copy of Whip of Erebos. A couple of the lands cost over $3. Otherwise, everything is $1.99 or less. It’s cheap, it’s dirty, and for those of us to hate to squander our resources, it’s an excellent step outside of our comfort zone.

Most of our mana comes from our lands. The curve on this deck isn’t too high, so we have thirty-eight lands, which is fine. In three colors, though, it’s smart to start limiting how many non-color-producing sources we run, so we have only one in Buried Ruin. Bringing artifacts back from our ’yard is pretty important, and the colors can handle the 1 this land produces. Trying a Rogue's Passage or a Mystifying Maze might not be a bad idea, but generally, leaning toward colors is better. We also have seven mana rocks, most of which cost 3 mana. We don’t need to jump to Marchesa, so we have ones that turn into guys: Silumgar Monument and Kolaghan Monument join Dimir, Izzet, and Rakdos Keyrunes. (What’s super-cool about these guys is they work with Marchesa’s ability—attack with them while they’re dudes, and enjoy the dethrone trigger. The artifact gains a counter. Then, if it dies, her ability says “return that card to the battlefield under your control at the beginning of the next end step” [emphasis mine]. So the artifact will return to the battlefield ready to be tapped again.) Obelisk of Grixis and Fellwar Stone round out our rocks.

To make sure we have enough cards, we have a few spells to actually put things in our hands—Deep Analysis, Think Twice, and Forbidden Alchemy, for example—and a number of cards that dump more cards into our graveyard, such as Balustrade Spy, Tower Geist, and Geralf's Mindcrusher. We need to mill ourselves at every possible opportunity. For anyone who’s never played this way, it’s a very strange feeling, but just go for it, and don’t worry about it. A lot of the cards in the deck have flashback or unearth, so we’re still going to be able to use those—they’re basically in our hand. Those that don’t can power delve spells such as Treasure Cruise. It’s like taking a backhoe to all the junk in the garage: Throw it away!

Threats come from a lot of different places in this deck, which is part of what makes it fun—every single experience will be different with Marchesa. Anathemancer is a woefully underrepresented card that can take out a player (or two) pretty easily. Sedraxis Specter, Screeching Skaab, and Augury Owl are all little flyers, but because they keep coming back, they can keep attacking, which can really do some damage to a player. They’re joined by a flight of Demons—Abhorrent Overlord, Demonlord of Ashmouth, and Shadowborn Demon all are ridiculous when they keep coming back. Diluvian Primordial does its best to fit in with the Demons and does a pretty good impression, generating crazy amounts of value each time it bounces back and forth. Then we have Flayer of the Hatebound, an amazing card in this deck if it’s on the battlefield (this is a good target for Morgue Theft) because each time something bounces, it throws a bunch of damage around. Mogis's Marauder can turn a board full of random guys into a deadly army. Empty the Pits can be delved for a ton, Army of the Damned is great even when it’s milled, and Rise of the Dark Realms—well, we have Mystic Retrieval for Rise of the Dark Realms. Try to put Cyclops of Eternal Fury into the ’yard before you cast the big spell.

Answers come from all over the place, too. Flashback spells like Devil's Play and Sever the Bloodline are great, and Murderous Cut will often only cost b. Dakmor Lancer and its flying cousin Dark Hatchling are great—if we get them rolling with Marchesa, they sort of slowly kill off the board. Avalanche Riders will destroy troubling utility lands—someone being naughty with a Cabal Coffers, for example—but do be careful because just keeping someone off lands is likely to make enemies in real life. Kederekt Leviathan acts as a reset button, especially wonderful if a player has gone too token-happy. Finally, Spine of Ish Sah is here as a catch-all answer we can bring it back if it winds up being milled.

We have so many synergies in this deck it would take me three articles just to go through them all. However, there are a few things worth mentioning specifically.

  • Trading Post is awesome. Working to put Trading Post on the battlefield is worth it, which is why we have a few ways to return artifacts that aren’t Trading Post.
  • Whip of Erebos is our next target after Trading Post. If we have to delve this, it’s okay, but it’s better to have on the field.
  • Almost all the creatures are great with Marchesa’s ability. Remember that the creature gains the counter when it attacks, so if it’s blocked and dies, it comes back at the end step. That means it’s worth it to sacrifice our dudes just to generate the effect again.
  • Undying is hilarious with Marchesa.
  • Haste for all our dudes is a good thing because it means whatever we play can attack right away and gain its counter. The best way for this to happen is to have Anger in the graveyard, but there are other ways.

I don’t normally title my decks—I leave that to people far more creative than I—but my wife suggested this title for this one, and I thought it was too good to pass up.

A Very Special Episode of Hoarders (or, Help Marchesa Take Out Her Trash and Clean Up Her Life!) ? Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

  • Commander (0)

Kokusho, the Evening Star
There are a few cards that would really be amazing here, though there is an argument to be made more expensive cards shouldn’t be added to the deck. However, if more sauce is wanted, look into Crucible of Worlds, Urabrask the Hidden, and Kokusho, the Evening Star. The Demons are all pretty much interchangeable, too—as long as they have great enters-the-battlefield effects, go for it. As always, better lands are better, though the mana base here is pretty strong. In fact, by cutting the two Temples, the deck drops below $60. With a few more adjustments, it could easily be below $40.

Sedris, the Traitor King would be a good addition as well, or, with some card swaps, it could be a reasonable commander for this kind of strategy. Fatestitcher could be helpful, but it wasn’t worth the cost in dollars. Finally, Conquering Manticore was in until the very end. With a couple more sacrifice effects, the Manticore could be really effective with Marchesa.

Have you ever played a self-mill deck? Was it hard to get used to it? What was the deck? I’d love to hear more about this since it’s so unusual for me.

Don’t spend too long on any given decision. Look at your hand, your graveyard, and your playgroup, and choose a line of play—then, go for it. Throw it away!

Total cost: $65.49

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