I am a Friend of Alesha, which is my new Magic: the Gathering way of saying I’m an intersectionalist who likes powerful women. I’ve been quite taken with her, as you might know from prior articles, if only because she hits very close to where I stand in the trans lady spectrum. There’s a sense among trans people that the only way to get people to respect your gender identity is to perform it in a heteronormative fashion, reflecting back the unrealistic expectations of masculinity and femininity that drive our consumerist culture. Many trans people, particularly later transitioners with decades of poisonous socialization under their belt, lack the necessary antibodies to push back on these fronts.


It’s how we end up with stereotypes, like that every trans lady is either a super-femme goddess or a “man in a dress,” and that there’s no room in between. This argument primarily comes from outside the community, as anyone actively interacting with the community knows the spectrum of identities that our brothers and sisters are channeling, but there are always a few assimilationist folk who spout it too. Personally, I didn’t transition to be someone I’m not. I’m not saying I’m out in every aspect of my life these days, but I make a point to never lie about who, and what, I am. That’s me! And sometimes it’s a lonely place to be.


My point is that it’s tough out there being a femme trans guy or a butch trans lady. There aren’t a ton of badass trans role models for folks who are outside the norm. Until now.




That’s why [casthaven]Alesha, Who Smiles at Death[/casthaven] is such a big deal!


She’s not wearing boob-plate, and if someone told her to smile I think she’d legitimately cut him. (It’s always him.) She’s furious, but not unattractive. And, landing in a set that’s intentionally set in a set that’s trying to channel different cultures of Asia, she’s also a trans woman of color who’s not a victim. Given the real world statistics, that makes her a powerful role model indeed.


Obviously, this means I had to actually build an [casthaven]Alesha, Who Smiles at Death[/casthaven] deck.


I’ve never really felt the love for this lady, cool art aside.

It helps that her ability is more interesting than her fellow Mardu commanders. It’s reminiscent of some crazy hybrid of [casthaven]Kaalia of the Vast[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Tariel, Reckoner of Souls[/casthaven]. She uses a combat trigger to cheat cards into play like Kaalia, but she draws her fuel from the graveyard like Tariel. Only, whereas your opponents when you play those decks have to be worried with the haymaker you’re about to land, Alesha’s trigger is limited to creatures power two or less, who come into play attacking. While there are certainly ways to abuse her ability, ways I explored in detail as I was making this deck, it’s not going to draw the same type of aggro.


Just a little too expensive for my tastes, although Dana used to love her Tariel deck.

Part of why Kaalia and Tariel are so powerful has everything to do with it being unclear what they’ll end up playing. Kaalia draws from a hidden zone and threatens a stream of uncounterable, hasty [casthaven]Baneslayer Angel[/casthaven]s, while Tariel’s ability is worrisome due to the random outcome.


Who even remembers this card half the time?! What a truly mediocre ability. I mean, it’s either brutal or useless, depending on who you happen to play.

But with [casthaven]Alesha, Who Smiles at Death[/casthaven] you get to show your lines of play. For some players this is certainly going to be less ideal, since it’s harder to win when you show your work. For me, though, it’s definitely preferable. My strengths as a Commander player lie in two different areas: I make strong decks, and I play politics. Alesha gives me a way to focus on both at once, which means she’s likely to join my most lauded tier of decks.


Whereas this guy is just a control finisher that likes to smash.

I made some decisions as I was putting the deck together. I abandoned the equipment subtheme, for the most ridiculous of reasons: I only have five copies of [casthaven]Stoneforge Mystic[/casthaven], one of which is in [casthaven]Nahiri, the Lithomancer[/casthaven], and the rest of which are in my Legacy deck. I’m glad I did, though, since the Alesha turned out to be super tight. As is, I can’t fit a couple of cards in there that I wanted to try out, chief among them [casthaven]Elite Scaleguard[/casthaven], which seems to be made to play with her.

Sorry Alesha, but Nahiri gets first pick of the equipment folk. And the kor!


Here’s the list:


Creatures (47)

  • [casthaven]Agent of Erebos[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Anathemancer[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Anger[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Ankle Shanker[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Auramancer[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Bogbrew Witch[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Bone Shredder[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Burnished Hart[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Butcher of the Horde[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Carrion Feeder[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Custodi Soulbinders[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Disciple of Bolas[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Dragonscale General[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Entomber Exarch[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Festering Newt[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Flame-Kin Zealot[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Flayer of the Hatebound[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Grenzo, Dungeon Warden[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]High Priest of Penance[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Ignition Team[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Iroas, God of Victory[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Knight-Captain of Eos[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Manic Vandal[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Mardu Heart-Piercer[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Mentor of the Meek[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Mirror Entity[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Moriok Replica[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Murderous Redcap[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Necrotic Sliver[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Nekrataal[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Netherborn Phalanx[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Nighthowler[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Order of Whiteclay[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Pack Rat[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Palisade Giant[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Reveillark[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Rotting Rats[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Sewer Nemesis[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Siege-Gang Commander[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Solemn Simulacrum[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Stingscourger[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Sun Titan[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Treasure Hunter[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Tymaret, the Murder King[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Vulshok Battlemaster[/casthaven]


Artifacts (6)

  • [casthaven]Altar of Dementia[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Bubbling Cauldron[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Chromatic Lantern[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Eldrazi Monument[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Lightning Greaves[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Slate of Ancestry[/casthaven]


Enchantments (7)

  • [casthaven]Cathars’ Crusade[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Dark Prophecy[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Mardu Ascendancy[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Outpost Siege[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Reconnaissance[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Underworld Connections[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Warstorm Surge[/casthaven]


Spells (2)

  • [casthaven]Boros Charm[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Crackling Doom[/casthaven]


Lands (37)

  • [casthaven]Bloodfell Caves[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Bojuka Bog[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Boros Guildgate[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Command Tower[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Crypt of Agadeem[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Flamekin Village[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Myriad Landscape[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Nomad Outpost[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Opal Palace[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Orzhov Guildgate[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Rakdos Guildgate[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Rogue’s Passage[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Scoured Barrens[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Slayer’s Stronghold[/casthaven]
  • 5 [casthaven]Snow-Covered Mountain[/casthaven]
  • 6 [casthaven]Snow-Covered Plains[/casthaven]
  • 5 [casthaven]Snow-Covered Swamp[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Spinerock Knoll[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Temple of Malice[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Temple of Silence[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Temple of the False God[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Temple of Triumph[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth[/casthaven]
  • [casthaven]Wind-Scarred Crag[/casthaven]


I’ve underlined the six creatures who don’t meet the “power two or less” clause when in the graveyard. These creatures are all some form of utility, which makes sense. [casthaven]Reveillark[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Sun Titan[/casthaven] both recur other cards, [casthaven]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Flayer of the Hatebound[/casthaven] add damage triggers to your enter the battlefield effects, [casthaven]Butcher of the Horde[/casthaven] is a sacrifice outlet, and [casthaven]Iroas, God of Victory[/casthaven] lets your shorties survive their battles.

This may be my actual favorite card. I mourn the glory days when it was playable in Modern.


All in all, 40% of the deck is recurrable directly through Alesha triggers. In addition, all the nonland permanents can be returned through their respective [casthaven]Gravedigger[/casthaven]s ([casthaven]Auramancer[/casthaven], [casthaven]Entomber Exarch[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Treasure Hunter[/casthaven]), while [casthaven]Sun Titan[/casthaven] can return your lands (plus gravy). All in all, there are only two cards you can’t get back once they’ve been binned! That’s not a lot of cards! Sure, you’re not going to be able to leave up mana the same way some of the other decks do, but you don’t want to be playing at instant speed anyway.


I could have just added this in to mitigate the slow factor, but I really do think I want to be playing this deck during my own turn. I know! The horror!

Because Alesha wants to swing. I see her ability as a card advantage engine. I don’t think you need to see her ability that way, since it can just be used to cheat expensive things into play, but that was my focus. As is, there’s a bunch of different [casthaven]Mulldrifter[/casthaven]s, several of which are tied to removal. There’s some minor token-making, to help leave back a defense when you’re swinging in. And then there are cards that protect Alesha, like [casthaven]Palisade Giant[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Knight-Captain of Eos[/casthaven]. Alesha’s never dying in combat with one of those in play!


Back in the day I knew someone who played this card in a monowhite Felidar Sovereign Standard deck, and he did surprisingly well. Now, Felidar Sovereign is one of the cheesier victory conditions in Commander, and this team is practically forgotten.

The most questionable slots were taken up by the MacBeth combo, i.e. [casthaven]Bubbling Cauldron[/casthaven], [casthaven]Festering Newt[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Bogbrew Witch[/casthaven]. I have always wanted to include that cycle, but the cards are so mediocre on their own that it invariably gets cut. This time, though, I held back the competitors for those slots. If I can’t play it in the deck that seems designed to get and keep those cards in play, where else am I going to play it? Probably nowhere.


Don’t let the */* decieve you, as this creature can be recurred by Alesha’s trigger: the */* isn’t set until it ETBs.

Eventually those slots will open up, though, and I’ll replace them with cards like [casthaven]Elite Scaleguard[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Mogis Maurader[/casthaven]. I want to keep the curve low, so I can keep adding to the board while Alesha crashes in. I ended up with one seven-drop and five six-drops, and that feels about right. That one of those six-drops is [casthaven]Netherborn Phalanx[/casthaven], which can be transmuted and then reanimated by Alesha almost immediately, that seemed like a good place to draw the line.


I’m not used to playing straight up aggro decks in Commander, and I’m looking forward to it. Usually I get bored with linear strategies, but I expect this will feel more like an aggro/control or a tempo deck. With multiple lines of disruption and a lot of ways to get card advantage, this deck seems like it should leave me with enough lines of play to make it through any game without getting colossally bored.


Jess Stirba has an attention deficit issue.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.