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In the Margins — Beseech the Queen
Currently there are 5,860 decks in the EDHREC database running Beseech the Queen, and not a single one of them should have it as part of the 99.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. And by not entirely true I mean not even partially true. Beseech the Queen is a solid card and there are a ton of reasons to run it. I’m just trying to keep that intro consistent. Welcome back to In the Margins, a semi-regular column where I’ll be focusing on making marginal upgrades to your Commander deck, and apparently also telling gigantic lies with my opening sentence.
Thus beseeching the Queen, in the name of their King, to spare her life
I stopped playing Magic sometime in the fall of 1994, shortly after the release of The Dark. A college roommate had a bit of a nervous breakdown, dropped out of school, and stole anything in the house he could get his hands on. Among those stolen possessions an original Voltron toy, my baseball glove, and all my Magic cards. He got fifty dollars at a local used videogame shop for my Highlander deck along with a full set of Mox, a Library of Alexandria, a Bazaar of Baghdad and too many ABUR dual lands to count. Rather than rebuild I just quit, because ugh. Flash forward to the spring of 2013. A co-worker who no longer had anyone to play Magic with had been trying to convince me for some time to get back into the game. I went with him to a pre-release, and things as they say escalated from there.
The first deck I built after so much time away was done on a budget. I knew I wanted some tutors, but Demonic Tutor and its then ten dollar price tag wasn’t an option, so I went with Diabolic Tutor. Eventually I leveled up my game to a Tutor Demonic, but left the Tutor Diabolic in place with intent to upgrade it to something better. Eventually that something better became a Beseech the Queen.
A request which the Queen refused
Why? Well, Beesech was at the time a one-printing tutor that cost roughly eight dollars. Therefore it must be better than the trash uncommon with multiple printings that is Diabolic Tutor, right? Apparently plenty of people agree with me, because in searching EDHREC for Beseech the Queen a full five of the ten most recent decks running it are not running Diabolic Tutor, meaning given a choice then went with Beseech. With the ready availability of Diabolic Tutor I’m assuming this was a conscious choice.
Except it’s not better, and here’s why:
First let’s look at the two cards. Diabolic is the easiest of the two to evaluate since there aren’t any variables to take into consideration. It is a sorcery that costs 2BB no matter what to search your library for any card. It’s Demonic Tutor at twice the CMC. Simple.
Beseech the Queen, on the other hand, is a little more complex. It costs 3 hybrid black/colorless mana, meaning you can spend BBB, 2BB, 4B, or 6. You also have to reveal the card, and the card you fetch has to have a CMC less than or equal to the number of lands you control.
Alleging that she could not be safe so long as she lived
Let’s get the nut draw out of the way first. Swamp into Dark Ritual into Beseech the Queen to fetch Sol Ring or Mana Crypt or Mana Vault is a pretty solid start, and it is not something you can replicate with Diabolic Tutor. If you run Crypt and get it you can cast it immediately and maybe cast another rock from your hand, too. The odds of hitting Swamp/Ritual/Beseech on turn one are less than 1% but it’s such a strong play and such a good around-the-campfire story that if you are already running Dark Ritual then Queen might make sense over Diabolic. My Glissa, the Traitor deck once opened Vault of Whispers, Mox Opal, Mox Diamond pitching a Drownyard Temple, and tapped all three to play a Sol Ring and Mind Stone, and tapped those to return the Temple to play. I think I still lost the game, but crazy stuff can happen. Just take a look at the guy who married Christina Hendricks. No, really. Open a browser tab and look him up. He’s the dude who ate the whole bag of ‘shrooms in Super Troopers, and he’s proof that pretty much anything is possible if you only believe.
Outside those edge cases though let’s examine the best case scenario for Beseech the Queen; you spend three black mana to tutor up a card which has to cost less than the number of lands you control, you reveal that card to the table, and put it into your hand. That means in the best case scenario you save one mana over Diabolic Tutor in exchange for:
- Having less black mana available to cast subsequent spells since it costs three black for the cheapest casting option.
- Having your tutoring choices restricted based on the number of lands you control. This means that if you have a Command Tower, Drowned Catacomb and Lotus Petal providing the three black mana to cast the spell, you still have to fetch something with a CMC of two.
- Giving up information to the table about what card you fetched.
Is all of that worth one mana? Sometimes it certainly is, but I would argue that way more often that is a lot of downside to save yourself a single colorless mana, and that you’d be better off just casting Diabolic Tutor. Things tilt even more in Diabolic Tutor’s favor when you realize you could be casting a card with art that looks like Liliana is telling Chandra a dirty joke. Playing mono-black might affect the math slightly, as would piloting a deck where you’ll almost always be tutoring for a really specific low-cmc combo piece or a Shadowborn Apostle or something, but by and large I’d wager that if the average player were to draw a Beseech the Queen in a game 7 out of 10 times she would be better off with a Diabolic Tutor.
So I’ve made the argument that generally Diabolic Tutor is better than Beseech the Queen. What other cards might fit that description? I won’t go into every option here for a couple of reasons. For starters there are some cards so clearly understood as to be better that I don’t need to delve into great detail, namely Demonic Tutor (in nearly 29,000 decks making it the most frequently-played black card, period), Vampiric Tutor and Imperial Seal are so prohibitively expensive or rare as to be unavailable to most players, namely Grim Tutor ($230 on Card Kingdom at the time of this writing), and also Cruel Tutor. There are also strange corner cases like the Dimir series of cards from the original Ravnica block that have transmute allowing you to tutor up a card with a specific CMC; those are useful, but I’m going to focus on more general tutors with few restriction in mono-black to keep things as apples-to-apples as possible.
The Queen’s counselors tried sway her decision, but her response was fierce
Dark Petition is one of the newer spells to enter the pantheon of tutor effects, and it is a worthy addition. The worst case scenario is that it is a five mana Diabolic Tutor, but if you have spell mastery, something easy to hit in EDH, it becomes a Demonic Tutor. Well, not literally; you still need five mana free to cast it and reaching the spell mastery threshold refunds BBB making your net cost 2. Still, that refund can actually at times be a bonus and function as a mana fixer. I’ve seen it cast by a player with only two black mana available to retrieve Necropotence which he was able to then cast for BBB despite not having lands to produce the required mana. That’s a bit Magic Christmasland, a phrase way less fun having read Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, but like a guy who looks like Beaker from the Muppets marrying Christina Hendricks, anything can happen. That anything can only happen if you have Dark Petition in your deck. Ghoulcaller Gisa, the most frequently played mono-black commander in the EDHREC database, has 69 decks running Beseech the Queen with no Dark Petition, and half of those don’t have the exuse of running Dark Ritual.
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Demonic Collusion doesn’t see a ton of play, finding a home in a mere 1,121 decks. Some of that is certainly the result of having a single printing in Time Spiral back in 2006. More people should run it, though. After all, everyone loves buyback, unless you’re the guy getting infini-Capsized, in which case buyback can suck a squirrel. But if you’re on the casting side of it it’s great! In this case the buyback cost is way steeper than a couple of mana; you need to discard two cards to have a chance to Demonically Collude additional times. Still, black is the color that often both wants cards in the yard, and has access to madness and flashback. I’ve seen the buyback on this paid with a Gravecrawler on more than one occasion, but even if you’re just pitching extra land or something it’s still often worth it to have a chance to tutor again. I don’t know I can necessarily make the case that I’d run this over Beseech like I would Dark Petition, but the ability to use it multiple times makes it worth considering.
Diabolic Intent is Demonic Tutor with the added cost that you sacrifice a creature. In plenty of black decks however that isn’t so much a bug as it is a feature. Sacrificing a chump creature to tutor with a Grave Pact or Dictate of Erebos or Butcher of Malakir on the field is a positive not a negative, particularly if the creature sacrificed is something like a Bloodghast or Reassembling Skeleton that you can bring back to play. Despite all the great reasons to view sacrifice as a positive there are only 3885 lists in the database featuring Diabolic Edict. Price is probably a factor here as Intent currently sits at around fifteen dollars. Scarcity also presumably impacts those numbers as prior to the Invocation in Hour of Devastation there was only one printing way back in 2001.
That if such advice were again given, she would have cut off his head
Increasing Ambition is in 6,366 decks in the EDHREC database. Hopefully at least one of those is a thematic deck running only cards featuring art of people trying to wedge their head into a helmet sized for an evil infant. Increasing Ambition is a Diabolic Tutor for one more mana that gives you the option to cast it using flashback for 7B to fetch an additional two cards. Obviously being able to use your tutor a second time to get two cards is useful, but in my experience the real strength of this card is in decks that want to mill themselves. Beseech the Queen doesn’t do you much good in your graveyard if you mill it making zombies for Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, but Increasing Ambition can still do work. Despite this there are 18 decks in the EDHREC archives running Sidisi and Beseech but not Increasing Ambition.
Razaketh’s Rite is also a Diabolic Tutor for one more mana with the added ability to be cycled for B. I love cycling. Being able to turn a dead draw into an actual draw is almost always useful. The problem here is that a tutor is almost never a dead draw. I mean, sure there are times your The Locust God deck needs one more bug to kill someone and this will get you there for a lone mana, but I don’t think it has a ton of obvious situations where you’d run it over Beseech. Still, three BBB can be hard to hit in say a five color deck. This is probably the one I’d be least likely to run over Beseech, but it’s worth at least looking at in some builds.
Sidisi, Undead Vizier is good. All the stuff I wrote about Diabolic Intent applies here, except that for 3 more mana you get it attached to a 4/6 body with deathtouch. It’s also much easier to recur via Reanimate, Animate Dead, Whip of Erebos, or a simple Mimic Vat, and you can conceivably flash it into play if you’re running Vedalken Orrery or Winding Canyons.
To which he replied that he would never fail to give good advice to his Queen
So what should your take away be from all of this? That Geoffrey Arend signed some kind of Demonic Pact for marriage and needs to kill Belzenlok to secure the remaining shard of his soul. Beyond that though you should look to see if there are other options to running Beseech the Queen in your deck because not only is it probably worse than Diabolic Tutor but it’s probably worse than whole bunch of other cards, too.
Next time on In the Margins I’ll be talking Clone, but any suggestions for future articles would be appreciated. Just leave them in the comments below. Thanks, and remember; we can rebuild it. A smidge better. Slightly stronger. A touch faster.