The more EDH decks you build, the more you have that miss the mark. Aside from the ongoing quest for my personal white whale (mono-White), Queen Marchesa is my most recent and most painful "miss". It all started shortly after Conspiracy 2 with the introduction of Queen Marchesa. Her arrival combined with the fact that I already had a Marchesa, the Black Rose deck meant I obviously had to "Take the Crown." My idea was simple. Play with Marchesa, the Black Rose and once I won, I'd switch to Queen Marchesa. It seemed thematically appropriate. And thus my problems began.

At first glance, Queen Marchesa seems like an aggressive general. Haste and Deathtouch give the impression she's meant to attack. Unfortunately, the Monarch mechanic creates the need for defense. Once you take the throne you don't want to become a renewable source of card advantage for whichever player smacks you in the face. This lead to my first glaring mistake: a lack of focus. There weren't enough active defenses in the deck to have a consistent critical mass of protection and the aggressive threat density never reached that tipping point where it would overwhelm your opponents. To make things worse the aggressive elements frequently worked counter to the defensive strategy.


For defenses, I had a number of solid staples like: Ghostly Prison, Solitary Confinement and Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs. There were some selective spot defense cards with Maze of Ith and Kor Haven. Even a couple of fog-type effects like Knight-Captain of Eos and Dawn Charm. I had high hopes for Angel of the Dire Hour to be a big, swingy, defensive trick, but at no point in any game was it ever practical to keep seven mana up "just in case". The problem on the defense side is you don't have the oppressive levels necessary to properly suffocate someone in your pillow fort. More attack-tax cards like Windborn Muse, Baird, Steward of Argive and Sphere of Safety would have helped pile the pillows a bit deeper. Creature oppression cards such as Blind Obedience, Authority of the Consuls and Urabrask the Hidden could further gum things up and slow down enemy attacks. Blazing Archon would just stop attacks completely. Thrown in Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Sheoldred, Whispering One and Glacial Chasm and the environment starts to get fairly inconvenient for the creatures that want to attack. Unfortunately, I didn't commit. I also wanted to be aggressive.

This desire for aggression was my biggest failure. The strategic clash between attack and defense threw a huge monkey wrench into the deck. Assemble the Legion is a great example. If you are playing very defensively, you will have time for the legion to build turn after turn, providing defensive blockers and ultimately reaching a point where they can start safely attacking. In an aggressive strategy, spending five mana to get one, 1/1 creature next turn is simply dreadful. Even a few turns with it out is still not good enough for an aggressive strategy. Assemble the Legion is also "wrath" resistant. If you need to wrath the board, the legion will start building again next turn. Playing aggressively, you generally won't want to wrath because it will set your army back too. Other overtly aggressive cards like Aurelia, the Warleader, Brutal Hordechief, Odric, Master Tactician and Hanweir Garrison (Bottom) end up being clunky and awkward when you are trying to hold on to being the Monarch. In addition to the strategic clash between attacking and defense, there were a series of additional mistakes that made things worse.


I wanted to embrace the Monarch mechanic, so I tried to load up on these cards. The problem here is you get almost all the Queen-making you need purely from your general. If things are going as planned, you get the crown then keep it the rest of the game. While this makes Palace Jailer good it makes Custodi Lich terrible. I had many games where the defenses were working and Custodi Lich sat dead in my hand. Protector of the Crown is fairly solid and provides some extra defense, but that is really all you need. Much more is overkill. You could probably drop the Jailer and Protector if you really wanted.

The next mistake was trying to be too cute. Since I was going to be playing some swords (like Sword of Feast and Famine), I thought I'd give Elbrus, the Binding Blade a shot. A huge, potentially cheap demon that you snuck in cheaply with Stoneforge Mystic felt like it should be good. It never was. Same with Westvale Abbey. The Abbey (along with Throne of the High City and Rogue's Passage) further hurt the deck by weakening the three-color non-green mana base. Mistveil Plains and Windbrisk Heights slowed things down even more. The only excuse I can offer for Rise of the Hobgoblins is I thought it would go well with Cathars' Crusade, another card that should have never made the deck. There's a good arguement for cutting the entire equipement package but I wanted to keep the option to punch through with Queen Marchesa if I needed to.

I also kind of dabbled with a tokens strategy. More lack of focus. Luminarch Ascension is a good card by itself. It fits well as both a defensive and offensive card. Even Secure the Wastes is pretty good on its own in both roles. There just weren't enough tokens to merit Anointed Procession. Even Marchesa's assassin tokens aren't a good excuse. If things are going correctly, you should never see an assassin. Mentor of the Meek fell kind of flat. He never seemed like he had enough students. This one doesn't really fit anywhere, but I was also profoundly disappointed by Thalia's Lancers.

In amongst all those mistakes there were a few jewels. Olivia Voldaren is solid and works well supporting the monarchy. Painful Truths continues to be my favorite black card draw in three or more colors. It's made even better because foils are currently around $1.50 each. If you don't have a few of these, add them to your want list. Praetor's Grasp is a good pseudo-tutor. Worst case, it gets you the best land or colorless card out of an opponents deck. Best case they share one or more colors with you. I found it comforting to be able to play Grave Titan, Inferno Titan and Sun Titan together. All of them are solid on their own and you get to play the best three (legal) titans in EDH. Ambition's Cost, Ancient Craving and Syphon Mind are solid, mana effective non-blue card draw. They are also very inexpensive monetarily. A promo Syphon Mind is the most expensive of the three at 27 cents. I found I liked the options Eldrazi Displacer creates and want to one day live the dream and use it on my opponents Phage the Untouchable. Duergar Hedge-Mage and Dualcaster Mage are good utility cards that become exceptional if you can displace them a few times.

I hope you enjoyed me ripping into why my EDH deck turned out to be a failure. Surprisingly enough, it has been fun for me too. In carefully going through and examining where I went wrong it has me excited again about the deck. I was going to take apart after I finished typing this but now I want to make the 30-40 cuts the deck needs and see if I can stand to live in a really, serious, committed pillow fort.

Queen Marchesa on

Queen Marchesa

1  Ancient Tomb
1  Arid Mesa
1  Ash Barrens
1  Badlands
1  Battlefield Forge
1  Blood Crypt
1  Bloodstained Mire
1  Cabal Coffers
1  Canyon Slough
1  Caves of Koilos
1  Clifftop Retreat
1  Command Tower
1  Dragonskull Summit
1  Fetid Heath
1  Godless Shrine
1  Isolated Chapel
1  Kor Haven
1  Marsh Flats
1  Maze of Ith
1  Mistveil Plains
3  Mountain
3  Plains
1  Plateau
1  Rogue's Passage
1  Sacred Foundry
1  Scrubland
1  Sulfurous Springs
2  Swamp
1  Throne of the High City
1  Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1  Volrath's Stronghold
1  Westvale Abbey  Flip
1  Windbrisk Heights
1  Winding Canyons
1  Academy Rector
1  Angel of the Dire Hour
1  Aurelia, the Warleader
1  Brutal Hordechief
1  Custodi Lich
1  Dualcaster Mage
1  Duergar Hedge-Mage
1  Eldrazi Displacer
1  Endbringer
1  Godo, Bandit Warlord
1  Grave Titan
1  Hanweir Garrison (Bottom)
1  Inferno Titan
1  Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
1  Karmic Guide
1  Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
1  Knight-Captain of Eos
1  Mentor of the Meek
1  Odric, Master Tactician
1  Olivia Voldaren
1  Ophiomancer
1  Palace Jailer
1  Protector of the Crown
1  Restoration Angel
1  Rune-Scarred Demon
1  Solemn Simulacrum
1  Stonecloaker
1  Stoneforge Mystic
1  Stonehewer Giant
1  Sun Titan
1  Thalia's Lancers
1  Wall of Omens
1  Dawn Charm
1  Secure the Wastes
1  Queen Marchesa
1  Animate Dead
1  Anointed Procession
1  Assemble the Legion
1  Bitterblossom
1  Cathars' Crusade
1  Ghostly Prison
1  Goblin Bombardment
1  Luminarch Ascension
1  Rise of the Hobgoblins
1  Solitary Confinement
1  Boros Signet
1  Elbrus, the Binding Blade  Flip
1  Gilded Lotus
1  Mana Vault
1  Orzhov Signet
1  Sculpting Steel
1  Sol Ring
1  Sword of Feast and Famine
1  Sword of Fire and Ice
1  Sword of Light and Shadow
1  Ambition's Cost
1  Ancient Craving
1  Painful Truths
1  Praetor's Grasp
1  Reanimate
1  Syphon Mind

Marchesa, the Black Rose (for Reference)

1  Baleful Strix
1  Chasm Skulker
1  Clever Impersonator
1  Clone
1  Dack's Duplicate
1  Deathbringer Thoctar
1  Disciple of Bolas
1  Drana, Liberator of Malakir
1  Falkenrath Aristocrat
1  Flayer of the Hatebound
1  Gilded Drake
1  Harbinger of the Tides
1  Harvester of Souls
1  Mindclaw Shaman
1  Mischievous Quanar
1  Nightscape Familiar
1  Novijen Sages
1  Phantasmal Image
1  Phyrexian Delver
1  Phyrexian Plaguelord
1  River Kelpie
1  Rune-Scarred Demon
1  Sepulchral Primordial
1  Sidisi, Undead Vizier
1  Solemn Simulacrum
1  Stratus Dancer
1  Trinket Mage
1  Undercity Informer
1  Venser, Shaper Savant
1  Vesuvan Doppelganger
1  Vesuvan Shapeshifter
1  Willbender
1  Badlands
1  Blood Crypt
1  Bloodstained Mire
1  Cabal Coffers
1  Cascade Bluffs
1  Command Tower
1  Crumbling Necropolis
1  Dragonskull Summit
1  Drowned Catacomb
1  Graven Cairns
1  Grixis Panorama
1  High Market
5  Island
1  Mountain
1  Opal Palace
1  Phyrexian Tower
1  Polluted Delta
1  Reflecting Pool
1  Scalding Tarn
1  Smoldering Marsh
1  Steam Vents
1  Sulfur Falls
1  Sunken Hollow
1  Sunken Ruins
5  Swamp
1  Underground Sea
1  Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1  Volcanic Island
1  Wasteland
1  Watery Grave
1  Winding Canyons
1  Copy Artifact
1  Goblin Bombardment
1  Unspeakable Symbol
1  Marchesa, the Black Rose
1  Ashnod's Altar
1  Darksteel Ingot
1  Expedition Map
1  Gilded Lotus
1  Helm of Possession
1  Mana Crypt
1  Mana Vault
1  Phyrexian Altar
1  Sensei's Divining Top
1  Sol Ring
1  Talisman of Dominance
1  Talisman of Indulgence
1  Counterflux
1  Cryptic Command
1  Cyclonic Rift
1  Darkness
1  Envelop
1  Fated Return
1  Mana Drain
1  Reiterate
1  Ambition's Cost
1  Beseech the Queen
1  Demonic Tutor
1  Painful Truths
1  Slave of Bolas