EDH Deckbuilding – Mari, the Killing Quill

person holding quill pen over a blank paper

Hey Commander players! While I don’t build as many decks as I used to, I still put a few together now and then.

Recently I opened Mari, the Killing Quill in my prerelease package (thanks Andrew!) for Streets of New Capenna. It was totally unexpected and awesome, so I built a deck around it.

A few quick notes about this list, and others you might see me play: I’m using cards I have, and I don’t have many of the top-end expensive cards. I don’t have Cabal Coffers, for example. Also, I’ve eliminated all cards that tutor from my decks, including those that find basic lands. I don’t want to shuffle my piles more than once at the start. Finally, I’ve tested this deck a bit, and the treasure aspect is too good. Like every experience I’ve had with treasure. I have too many decks that revolve around treasure, and I don’t know how long I’ll keep this together because of that more than anything else.

Here’s the deck! Hover over card names to see an image of the card!

The

Commander (1)
Mari, the Killing Quill

The Usual Suspects (25)
Audacious Thief
Big Game Hunter
Blade Juggler
Briarblade Adept
Crypt Ghast
Demon’s Disciple
Fleshbag Marauder
Graveshifter
Hunter of Eyeblights
Lurking Deadeye
Mausoleum Turnkey
Merciless Executioner
Nekrataal
Nighthawk Scavenger
Nezumi Graverobber
Ogre Slumlord
Plague Engineer
Royal Assassin
Skeletal Changeling
Slum Reaper
Tetzimoc, Primal Death
Thorn of the Black Rose
Undercity Scrounger
Unliving Psychopath
Yuan-Ti Fang-Blade

Tools of the Trade (27)
Batterskull
Bontu’s Monument
Caged Sun
Chariot of Victory
Explorer’s Scope
Fireshrieker
Fleetfeather Sandals
Gauntlet of Power
Grappling Hook
Hammer of Nazahn
Haunted Cloak
Infiltration Lens
Inspiring Statuary
Jet Medallion
Lightning Greaves
Livewire Lash
Loxodon Warhammer
Mind Stone
Nyx Lotus
Pathway Arrows
Rogue’s Gloves
Sol Ring
Swiftfoot Boots
Sword of Vengeance
Umezawa’s Jitte
Unstable Obelisk
Viridian Longbow

Known Activities (10)
Black Sun’s Zenith
Death Denied
Ever After
Feed the Swarm
Perilous Predicament
Phyrexian Reclamation
Slaughter
Sudden Spoiling
Virtus’s Maneuver
Virulent Plague

Locations of Interest (37)
Barren Moor
Blighted Fen
Bojuka Bog
Cabal Stronghold
Castle Locthwain
Desert of the Glorified
Everglades
Grasping Dunes
Ifnir Deadlands
Leechridden Swamp
Maze of Ith
Memorial to Folly
Mortuary Mire
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Polluted Mire
Rogue’s Passage
20 Swamp
Witch’s Cottage

The deck is pretty simple. Stick Mari, the Killing Quill and start sending opposing creatures to exile with hit counters on them. Single target removal can be a bad deal in cases like this. Trading one for one isn’t terrible if you can draw a card and make treasure from Mari’s ability, but there’s no guarantee things will line up, and three opponents can overwhelm a one for one trader easily. Especially if they think you’re going to come after their creatures next.

My solution was to try and pack in a lot of effects that killed multiple creatures but wouldn’t kill Mari. Effects like those on Fleshbag Marauder and Virtus’s Maneuver. They can kill tokens, which won’t produce hit counters, but that’s the risk you take. Giving opponents the choice is often less of a feel-bad than something more targeted, and it still takes care of singular huge threats like Voltron Commanders if they’re the only thing an opponent has in play.

‘Edict’ effects, named for Diabolic Edict, force an opponent to sacrifice a creature. Since they target the opponent, they dodge things like Hexproof and Protection, and sacrifice ignores things like Indestructible and Shield counters.

I did still pack a few sweepers like Black Sun’s Zenith and some targeted stuff like Feed the Swarm and Slaughter but the reasons should be obvious. Black Sun kills a lot of things that normal ‘destroy all creatures’ spells don’t. The rest have a perk like buyback or the ability to destroy an enchantment, something that shouldn’t be undersold in a mono-black deck.

The deck should struggle with decks that put a lot of tokens into play quickly, so I included Plague Engineer and Virulent Plague to try and muster some defense against them.

The deck has a few big mana cards, some in the form of artifacts like Caged Sun and Gauntlet of Power, lands like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and creatures like Crypt Ghast. Despite the ability to make treasure, the more mana this deck has, the better. Be prepared for this to be obvious to opponents who can attack your mana and then keep Mari off the table under an unpayable Commander tax.

That’s the big weakness, because Mari is quite the engine. It leverages deathtouch extremely well, which is a really strong keyword. By itself, it deters attacks, even on a lowly 1/1. Any assassin with first strike, double-strike or trample is suddenly a much more complex threat, and the deck makes sure to present lots of that.

Key support cards are equipment like Chariot of Victory and Haunted Cloak which give the deathtouchers dangerous support abilities including haste, so we can swing in for damage and draw cards, or threaten to add to the hit list. Trample equipment isn’t that common, and we’re also playing the likes of Loxodon Warhammer even though it’s not really on flavour. Cards like Grappling Hook and Infiltration Lens are, however, and do well in the deck.

The deck gets especially dominant when you can equip Mari with Viridian Longbow, Pathway Arrows or even Livewire Lash to a lesser degree. This lets you snipe problem creatures at instant speed, and keep the hit count high.

There’s a weird wrinkle with Mari, and that’s that it’s not a replacement effect when it comes to exiling creatures that die. A card like Leyline of the Void changes what happens in the game, and creatures no longer die or hit the graveyard at all. Mari reads that the exile happens when the creature dies, opening a strange mechanical window that could either be leveraged or a chance for opponents to deny you your hits. Fair enough.

The biggest reason to play this deck is probably the flavour. There are plenty of Assassins’ Guilds out there in the greater multiverse, and this will scratch the itch of people who love Assassin’s Creed, Game of Thrones or even good old Hugh the Hand. Know Hugh? Leave a comment!

Thanks for reading, and may your inkwell always be full!

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