Last updated on January 3, 2023
Queen Marchesa | Illustration by Kieran Yanner
Politics are a fundamental part of Commander. No matter what kind of deck you choose to play, you always have to do some political work against your opponents. I find that part of the format to be one of its best selling points. Finding ways to make your opponents do what you want them to or seeing through their schemes and refusing to play along.
Ghostly Prison | Illustration by Daarken
Adeline, Resplendent Cathar
Archon of Coronation
Darien, King of Kjeldor
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
Kambal, Consul of Allocation
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
Master of Cruelties
Mother of Runes
Protector of the Crown
Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts
Xantcha, Sleeper Agent
Path to Exile
Swords to Plowshares
Caves of Koilos
Temple of Malice
Temple of Silence
Temple of Triumph
Vault of Champions
Being a 3/3 creature with deathtouch and haste already makes Queen Marchesa an interesting creature. But what sets it apart as a good commander are its other effects. Marchesa was the only monarch-themed commander for quite some time, and it’s still arguably the best for the strategy.
What you want out of this commander is to always keep some kind of repeating advantage. Either you’re the monarch and draw a card at the end of each of your turns, or you’re creating assassins with deathtouch and haste every turn.
This is a strategy that’s somewhat repeated throughout the deck. While you want to keep being the monarch and avoid damage, there are plenty of ways to benefit from that damage or at least punish your opponents for attacking you.
This isn’t a deck that’s centered around its commander. Queen Marchesa is what forms the strategy, and it works perfectly with what you want to do, but you could easily go the whole game without really casting it.
There are some creatures that I decided to put in other sections that could fit here and vice versa, but the main idea is that these creatures aim to dissuade your opponents from attacking you. Protector of the Crown prevents you from taking damage. Combine it with Darksteel Plate to force your opponents into wasting stronger removal or even board wipes.
Then you have the cards that dissuade your opponents from attacking altogether. If Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs and its Ogres aren’t enough to stop the enemy’s attack, Darien, King of Kjeldor will make sure that you can regroup after the attack.
This should start you on your way to political gameplay. How badly do your opponents want the monarch title, and how much are they willing to risk getting it?
Adeline, Resplendent Cathar takes the strategy of placing a ton of tokens from the defensive creatures and turns it on its head. Not only do you create new creatures whenever you attack, you also add all of the tokens created with Darien, King of Kjeldor and Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs into Adeline’s power total.
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight is half offensive and half defensive thanks to its abilities. Doubling damage to your opponents while halving damage to yourself is not only a great advantage by itself, it also acts as a way to manipulate your opponents into attacking each other instead of you.
Master of Cruelties is very straightforward. A great defender that takes out almost any creature without receiving any damage, it can also leave an opponent on the brink of death with only one hit. And you have ways to make it unblockable and ensure its success.
The final group of creatures. I selected most of these while sticking to the whole “government apparatus” theme but I’m including them all here since they’re mostly support and utility creatures.
Archon of Coronation and Skyline Despot are creatures that care about who the monarch is. Having Despot on the field can be a huge advantage, but it also paints a target on your back if you don’t play your politics right.
Cards like Brash Taunter and Xantcha, Sleeper Agent serve as tools for your political play. Vampire Hexmage isn’t a very popular card and you can swap it for something else since it’s there exclusively to destroy planeswalkers with its ability. If your opponents don’t play planeswalkers, swap it for something else.
The rest of your creatures are pretty straight-forward in what they do.
If you want to stick to being the monarch then you’ll need to avoid combat damage. Your creatures and enchantments might help stop your opponents from attacking you if you play your cards right and they might punish them if they choose to attack anyway. But if you truly need to prevent damage, these cards are exactly what you need. And most of them also punish your opponents in the process.
Commander games always require you to be able to get rid of specific threats or combo pieces. That’s exactly what these cards are here for.
I added Hellish Rebuke because I think it could work as a pseudo-board wipe (or at least a way to destroy a ton of creatures) while also keeping in line with the political idea of the deck. You can replace it with more regular board wipes like Wrath of God if you want.
Whether it’s gaining life, discouraging opponents from attacking you, or giving you card advantage, these enchantments are mostly utility cards that help you with the rest of your strategy.
Delaying Shield doesn’t exactly prevent damage or you losing the game, but it does keep you from losing the monarch status. Ghostly Prison and Phyrexian Unlife delay you from losing the game one way or another.
Playing a 3-colored deck always runs the risk of being mana screwed. That’s why I chose to stick to mostly mana-generating lands and artifacts. The only real utility land in the deck is Rogue's Passage.
The deck plays a lot of response instants. This means that you need readily available mana at all times, but that shouldn’t stop you from playing your permanents and other spells. So the first few turns you’re gonna want to play lands and mana rocks. This way you have a reasonable mana base for later turns, especially since these three colors aren’t very good at ramping.
Archon of Coronation | Illustration by Antonio José Manzanedo
I’d personally consider this deck focused. A tier above completely casual but not enough to be properly competitive. This is mostly thanks to the fact that I don’t really like competitive EDH so I tend to build with other priorities in mind.
I first decided to build a deck around Queen Marchesa because of how politics-heavy it can be. It’s one of my favorite things about Commander and I think the monarch mechanic is fun even if it’s a little underpowered at times. I also had fun building this so that most creatures and enchantments could be placed into a role related to how the court or the state of this kingdom work (with more base in fantasy kingdoms than actual real-life states). It’s a bit of a dorky way to build the deck, but I found plenty of cards that work directly with the main strategies I had in mind for the deck.
The deck’s main goal is to avoid damage. Monarch is an excuse to start playing politics and force some interaction at the table. The number of cards that actually care about monarch in the deck isn’t too high, so losing it doesn’t mean that the deck’s strategy no longer works.
Something that you should consider about this deck is that it probably needs more involvement than a lot of other decks. Since this is a politics deck, the truth is you can’t expect the cards to do all the work. The way you play them, how you choose to interact with your opponents, and even the way you talk to them has a huge effect on how the deck works.
You’re gonna have a few things going on with this deck. Mainly you want to play politics and have your opponents take care of each other.
Then you want to just create too many bumps on the road for anyone who even thinks of attacking you. Picture a board state with any combination of cards like Ghostly Prison, No Mercy, Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs, Dread, even Brash Taunter or Master of Cruelties. Just having two or three of these (or any of the many other cards with protective effects) makes opponents think twice before attacking.
This means that if they’re not attacking you, they’re attacking each other. Even if they do chose to attack you, you have ways to prevent the damage or punish them for it. This deck should make sure that no attack against you goes unpunished.
The deck is pretty straightforward beyond this. You have some cards that help with card advantage, some that’ll gain you life, etc. This is on purpose. This isn’t a deck with a million hidden tricks and secrets. The list is as clear as possible so you can use that knowledge to manipulate your opponents. They should know that you can constantly prevent damage and create tokens and take advantage of the monarch status. Even if you don’t have a way to respond, you can bluff well enough that they think you do.
You can also count on Master of Cruelties in combination with Suspicious Bookcase or Rogue's Passage and just have Brash Taunter fight any creature once your opponent is left at one life. This isn’t a particularly easy or sure-fire win condition, but it allows you to take care of your opponents if played right.
Marchesa's Decree | Illustration by Chris Rallis
This deck’s other main combo is one that I should definitely mention before you start playing. If you noticed Solemnity in the deck but haven’t figured out why, let me explain.
Delaying Shield is great to prevent at least some damage and it makes sure you don’t lose your monarch status if you get attacked. Phyrexian Unlife gives you an extra ten life that can make a difference in the endgame. But the real reason both of these cards are in the deck, especially Phyrexian Unlife, is that they use counters for their effects. And that’s exactly where Solemnity comes in.
If you play these cards right and your opponents have no way of taking them out, you essentially make yourself unkillable. This is obviously a very hard combo to pull off but you’ll have ensured a victory against any deck that doesn’t play mill if you manage to do it.
Both this last combo and the one with Master of Cruelties might be frowned upon in some playgroups. One allows you to almost one-shot an opponent with little to no interaction and the other could bring the game to a standstill if you can’t snag a quick win. Plus it removes an absurd amount of interaction from the game. Always make sure to check with the other players in your group if these kinds of combos are okay.
Nothing else in the deck should really violate Rule 0 since it’s a pretty straightforward build.
Almost every deck can be budgeted to an extreme to make it as cheap as possible. I’ll leave that to those who want to go that far.
But I understand that some of the cards in this decklist are pretty costly, so I’m gonna list some of the cards that are currently over $10 and offer good enough replacements for each of them.
Idyllic Tutor & Lost Auramancers & Enduring Ideal
Academy Rector and Enlightened Tutor serve very similar purposes in this deck. The closest alternatives if you don’t want to spend too much on either of them are Idyllic Tutor, Lost Auramancers, and Enduring Ideal. They’re nowhere near as powerful but they at least allow you to tutor the pieces for your Solemnity combo.
Norn's Annex & Sphere of Safety
Next up is Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. There’s honestly no proper replacement for this card considering the very specific purpose it has. I’d fill up the blank space it leaves with Norn's Annex or Sphere of Safety. They won’t help you when you need to attack your opponents but they’re a good way to double down on the deck’s defensive aspect.
Angrath's Marauders & Bitter Feud
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight could be replaced by Angrath's Marauders or Bitter Feud. You’re losing the more defensive aspect but there’s enough defense in the deck as is. Feud is also a great card to strengthen the political part of the deck.
Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant
I’d replace Xantcha, Sleeper Agent with Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant. Keep the focus on political gameplay with a slightly different angle. If you go ahead with this change and need to replace a few other cards, you can always focus on a goad-heavy subtheme. It helps you with politics and leaves your opponents open to attacks so you can recover your monarch status.
Holy Day & Kami of False Hope & Angelsong & Knight-Captain of Eos
Commander's Sphere (or any mana rock)
I’m gonna make this one short, but Chromatic Lantern can be replaced by any artifact that produces mana of any color. Commander's Sphere is the first that comes to mind, but honestly almost any mana rock will do.
Shield of Kaldra
Blood Reckoning & Hissing Miasma
No Mercy is an absolutely amazing card but it's also pretty expensive. It’s almost impossible to find replacements that are as good and as easy to play. Your best bet would be to focus on keeping the pillow fort strategy. Blood Reckoning or Hissing Miasma are good ways to keep you an undesirable target.
And last but not least you have Phyrexian Arena. Any time I’ve had to replace it with something I’ve used Underworld Connections. The effect is essentially the same except you have to pay one mana to use it. The advantage this has is that if you’re short on life you can just never use it.
I think Queen Marchesa is a pretty flexible commander. It has some key strategy points but the truth is that there are a ton of directions you can take it in.
There are plenty of cards out there that you could use to make this a completely monarch-focused deck that obsesses over keeping (and maybe sometimes losing) the status to trigger some effects and strategies. Include cards like Custodi Lich, Knights of the Black Rose, Throne Warden, Court of Ire, and Court of Ambition if you want to make the deck mostly monarch themed.
Goad Pillow Fort
Another alternate strategy that could work with this commander is using goad. Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant can act as something of a secondary commander. Mix up the goad-heavy strategies around it (plus a more pillow-fort theme thanks to the white in Queen Marchesa’s color identity) and you won’t need politics. You’ll be forcing your opponents to take care of each other before they even try to attack you.
Protector of the Crown | Illustration by Johannes Voss
There are a ton of ways to build around Queen Marchesa. I’ve stuck to this one because I absolutely adore thematic decks and I did my best to keep this one powerful while giving it a clear royal court-esque theme.
If I had to choose an alternative build I’d go with the goad/pillow fort combination that this color identity allows for. But everyone has their own personal preferences when it comes to deck building at the end of the day.
Do you think I missed some cards that could fit with the royal subtheme? Let me know in the comments or head over to our Discord if that’s more your thing.
That’s all from me for now. Have a good one, and I’ll see you next time!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: