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Raging Levine – Every Rose Has its Throne

Hey folks! I am super excited about the upcoming release of Conspiracy. We’re getting geared up to draft at my local store in Amherst (and obviously at my kitchen table), but I can’t stop looking at these legendary creatures. If these weren’t made with Commander in mind, then I don’t even know my own favorite format! I’m hoping these cards will make their way onto Magic Online, whether it be through Vintage Masters or some other medium, but I’ll definitely have to build a real-life deck to use some of these brilliant cards.

As you probably know, I’m no stranger to playing politics in multiplayer games—in fact, I encourage people to participate in them. I’ve been hoping cards in Conspiracy would encourage this, and so far I haven’t been wrong. I happen to love Grixis decks, so obviously I ended up wanting to write about this fantastic card:

This card gives us a few hints right off the bat:

• We don’t want to be the person with the most life (until it’s time to win!) so we should find something to spend life on.

• Creatures with undying will be good for us, as they’ll just basically never die.

• Creatures with persist will also be good, as attacking with dethrone erases the -1/-1 counter, and if a persist creature with a +1/+1 counter dies while Marchesa is on the battlefield, we can stack Marchesa’s trigger on top of the persist creature to get it back without a -1/-1 counter.

• Creatures that ETB with +1/+1 counters… well, you know. (Unleash is a thing!)

Creatures are always a good place to start, so let’s hit the undying and persist creatures first!

We’re starting with a winner already! Marchesa will be returning our creatures to the battlefield already, so Flayer of the Hatebound should be slinging some serious hate around the table. This also lets us manipulate the “standings” and put the most threatening player into his or her place, whether that be the grave or a spot from which they can be dethroned.

Hopefully Geralf has a lot to say, because his Messenger is going to be making a lot of deliveries.

Why bother having just a few creatures with undying when you can give all your non-Humans undying? I doubt we’ll be taking much advantage of the second ability, but the first and third abilities justify this card quite easily. If you’re in a group that doesn’t mind combos, you can always bust out Triskelion for the old Mike ‘n’ Trike maneuver, but I won’t be including it in my final list.

Assuming we’re in full-on dethrone mode, this card keeps our creatures alive to gain counters another turn or forces our opponents to make unfavorable blocks. I can get behind that.

Okay, this isn’t a creature, but saving our team from a wrath is pretty great. I don’t see this card played nearly often enough—it’s actually quite good, I think. The -1/-1 counters are erasable with dethrone, and the Cauldron could even save Marchesa herself!

I’ve loved this card ever since I got a turn 5 kill with it in triple-Shadowmoor draft. While this isn’t really a tokens deck that can take full advantage of it, I think the value in bringing it back over and over again is not to be overlooked.

With this and Marchesa in play, if you don’t want a noncreature spell to resolve, it’s probably not going to resolve. If you choose to run this, be careful—you will be a target.

This clears out utility creatures and starts to scrape away at life totals. This is normally not a card I lean on in Commander, but I see its value here.

Already a popular card in the format, Puppeteer Clique plays the value game, the graveyard-hate role, and the alpha-strike augmentation role all at once. I’m thinking about how often this card will be returning to play, and I’m very, very excited.

I remember the River Kelpie decks from the end of the Lorwyn Block Constructed PTQ season fondly, so I shoehorn this card in whenever I can. I’m very ready to have a Puppeteer Clique persist and draw me two cards without even reanimating a Mulldrifter.

I don’t think most of the graft and evolve creatures are going to make the cut (because most of the good ones are green) but one caught my eye…

Something’s about to die? Quick! Give it a +1/+1 counter!

So what else can we do with +1/+1 counters? Well…

Anyone who chooses to give you a 5/3 haste is making an interesting choice if Marchesa is on the battlefield. Tribute should be awesome in combination with Marchesa.

I also like devour with Marchesa, unsurprisingly. Eat some creatures, get them back later, and make something big that comes back to eat them again. This one even goes into full Sherlock Domes mode and blasts people—and if it’s attacking the player with the highest life total, well, you know what happens…

We’ll have a serious influx of +1/+1 counters, so I don’t see a problem with using a few to draw cards.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t a joke. This is repeatable artifact and land destruction. Depending on your playgroup, you may have to avoid using this for “evil”—people might get mad if you kill their Simic Growth Chambers or similar mana-producing land, but everyone will cheer when you blast the mighty Maze of Ith with the humble Stingmoggie.

What other utility creatures can we drum up?

This lets us sacrifice our creatures to kill stuff. Hopefully they come back to be sacrificed yet again!

Repeatable creature kill.
+1/+1 counters.
Creature type: Vampire Assassin.
Yeah, I think we can work with this.

Bolas doesn’t know we’ll be getting what we sacrificed back… and what he doesn’t know doesn’t really matter to us, now does it?

We may not want the highest life total, but we don’t want to die, either!

Our unearthed and unleashed creatures will be turning sideways right away. I’m not sad about it.

This might be a little better than Cabal Patriarch

Takin’ care of Hell business is a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it. Of course, we’ll be cheating death a bit with Marchesa and other effects.

Recurring Nightmare this ain’t, but a 5/5 that is hard to kill is nothing to scoff at if we can minimize the cost of the “sacrifice.”

Creature theft and an outlet for our extra mana? This should be a good fit.

G/B aficionados around the world know this fellow as “The Rock”—the squirrels from Deranged Hermit are his “millions,” normally, but our scrappy crew of the undead and undying should do the trick.

Once they get a single dethrone trigger, our creatures are going to take to the skies! I like this much better than the alternative of Helium Squirter.

Not my favorite, but a totally reasonable inclusion. You might get to snag a creature if you play politics right, but more often than not this is just an Air Elemental.

We can fire off our creatures all day using the Murder King and we’ll get many of them back. Plus, the Murder King is never really dead!

So that’s a pretty great list of utility creatures, but we need more game-winners. Would that we could just play a bunch of Preyseizer Dragons! Seriously, though, here are some heavy hitters that will smash our opponents:

Happytimes Ashling can build up a lot of counters over time, and once she does, if you blow her up, you might even get her back!

This guy is already a terror at Commander tables. Imagine having a hard time killing him. Our poor opponents.

Who ever blocks anyway? Just set these folks to “kill” and turn them sideways!

I did mention tribute is going to be awesome with Marchesa, right? This Phoenix will be reborn no matter what!

This one gets enormous as it kills things, making it even harder to block, and it helps refill our hand as we cast all of these fantastic creatures. I’m okay with using this as a win condition.

After one swing, you’ll have Team Huge Team. Watch out for wraths!

Reanimate our creatures and kill theirs. This is an easy include.

Gets big, draws cards. This is an easy include. I’magosi if I have one of these to throw in this deck.

Yet another big creature with a repeatable effect that can use our extra mana.

So how about some creatures with ETB triggers? We like those when we can recur them!

Strong list. This is kind of a pick-and-choose buffet. Go big, go small, but make sure you go into battle with some of these. Sure, Kokusho isn’t quite an ETB trigger, but it’ll be LTB and ETB plenty.

Creatures are great, but eventually we’ll need things that aren’t creatures to provide additional utility and effects.

This has incredible synergy with Marchesa. If an opponent’s creature dies, we can snag it with this, and then when it dies on our side, we’ll get it back with Marchesa! Wow. Just wow.

I love this card—it’s such a cool effect. I always want to find ways to shoehorn it into decks, but I never really manage to do so. This might be the one!

We’ll have a lot of creatures entering the battlefield, won’t we?

And they’ll be dying too!

We can’t be the only one with creatures dying, can we?

And we’ll be able to use our creatures to good effect.

We can even upgrade them into Dragons!

So what are we going to spend our life on in this deck? Well…

Hooray! A card that lets us save Marchesa and let other things die.

Spend life to bring creatures from other graveyards back as Nightmares? Don’t mind if I do!

This is a classic, and it lets us grab creatures back. Seems worth it.

Of course, the real classic is to turn life into cards…

…or into dead creatures.

We can’t just be giving life away forever, though—we’ll need to get some back.

Okay! I think if we fill in the rest with some mana rocks and some of the usual culprits, we’ll have a nice deck. Here’s a sample list—a creature-heavy one, in fact:

Commander: Marchesa, the Black Rose

Okay! That’s it for this week! Next week, we’ll delve further into Conspiracy

-Eric “Raging” Levine
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