I’ve been glued to Guilds of Ravnica Limited since the set’s release, but this week I finally dipped my toes into Guilds of Ravnica Standard and I’ve been having a ton of fun. The format is diverse with interesting game play.
Last weekend, Golgari Midrange dominated the MTGO PTQ, putting six copies into the Top 8. This was the archetype I had my eye on from the get-go, so naturally it’s where I’m starting in Standard.
This week I’d like to discuss some of the card choices and my thoughts and experiences with them.
Let’s go right down the curve:
Memorial to Folly
I’ve seen from 0 to 4 copies of this card being played, but personally I’m liking right in the middle of that with two. It’s not a card I’m sacrificing frequently, but having the option to once a game is nice. I’d sooner play fewer copies than more, as having taplands and inconsistencies with Woodland Cemetery comes up even with two. The deck also has a fairly high curve and good ways to use all of its mana on most turns, so having lands come into play tapped later in the game can be quite punishing.
Llanowar Elves seems like a natural inclusion to Golgari Midrange. It’s a deck with a solid top end and a lot of planeswalkers. Putting planeswalkers out a turn ahead of schedule allows you to gain an additional turn of value and a huge tempo boost. The upside of Llanowar Elves is that it’s excellent in Golgari mirrors. They’re unlikely to kill it early, and you can really push a tempo advantage with Llanowar Elves. The biggest downside is against decks like Mono-Red where they are able to both Shock it or pick it off for free with Goblin Chainwhirler.
I’ve tried versions with and without Llanowar Elves, and I’m currently off of them but if the format pushes in the direction of decks like Selensya Tokens and Golgari Midrange, I’d want to include Llanowar Elves. If control and aggro take over the format, it’s time to shelve the Elves because they simply won’t live long enough to provide value.
This is an alternative 1-mana card to Llanowar Elves, allowing you to catch up to aggro decks like Mono-Red without exposing yourself to Goblin Chainwhirler. Dead Weight has natural synergy with a staple of the deck, Golgari Findbroker. Dead Weight also picks up some slack against cards like Thief of Sanity, which Golgari is naturally weak to without a cheap removal spell.
Merfolk Branchwalker and Seekers’ Squire looked completely underwhelming to me when I looked over the deck lists. Wildgrowth Walker looked a little too cute to me as well. Then I got to play with them all, and it all clicked. Wildgrowth Walker is one of the best ways to fight mono-red. Once the first explore trigger pumps Wildgrowth Walker, it becomes extremely difficult to deal with, provides a ton of life, and becomes an enormous threat in the process.
Outside of the Mono-Red matchup, Wildgrowth Walker has its moments, but it’s mostly just a medium creature that provides no value as the matchups tend to be much more about snowballing than stabilizing, and creating one large threat. The good news for Wildgrowth Walker is that it’s an acceptable sideboard card because of how potent it is in the red matchup, and the explore package of Merfolk Branchwalker, Seekers’ Squire, and Jadelight Ranger all help the deck tick more than I first thought they would even without Wildgrowth Walker. Between Golgari Findbroker, Find // Finality, and Memorial to Folly, there’s a lot of value to be gained by milling your top card with a serviceable body, and when you get to pick up a land off the explore creatures that’s even better.
While I honestly haven’t played much with Dryad Greenseeker, it doesn’t provide value when it enters the battlefield. It also doesn’t help fuel your graveyard synergies. The versions of G/B I could see wanting Dryad Greenseeker are heavy on Vraska, Golgari Queen, as the two cards can become an engine when paired together. This does seem a little too cute to me, and I think the explore package is where we want to be right now. I’ll eventually get to playing more with Dryad Greenseeker but right now I’d bench it.
Assassin’s Trophy is a card I hate to love. While it costs 2 mana, it’s not a particularly good play on turn 2 or 3. Assassin’s Trophy is the best card on turns 5 or 6 after the opponent has used most of their hand so they don’t get a mana boost immediately. Much like how you don’t want to cast Path to Exile on turn 1 in Modern, Assassin’s Trophy is even more punishing because the land comes in untapped, giving you no ideal time to play it early.
While I’m almost never happy casting Assassin’s Trophy, its versatility makes it a card I’d be unlikely to cut in Golgari Midrange. That said, Assassin’s Trophy is a liability in high numbers. I’m sitting around two currently and don’t think I will increase the numbers any time soon.
Arguel’s Blood Fast
This card isn’t played all that often in Golgari Midrange but I personally think the first copy in the main deck is excellent. It’s a bullet against control decks, allowing you to keep up with the likes of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and it also allows you to generate a huge advantage in mirror matches. It’s even serviceable against red decks when they try and close out with burn. You stabilize at a low life total and can use the backside to gain life, sacrificing creatures like Golgari Findbroker. It’s not as backbreaking as it was against red in the past because Experimental Frenzy can get out of control quick if unchecked so you won’t be safe at any life total in some situations, but I still like the card because it can be good basically anywhere.
Jadelight Ranger vs. District Guide
Both of these 3-drops serve the purpose of advancing your battlefield while allowing you to hit additional land drops. Most people have settled on Jadelight Ranger as their go-to 3-drop, but I’ve seen a lot of players this week advocating for District Guide. Personally, I think Jadelight Ranger is the better card in a deck with Find // Finality, Memorial to Folly, and Golgari Findbroker. Jadelight Ranger’s explore ability also gets better than fetching a land as the game progresses, allowing you to card select the top of your deck once you’ve established your mana. Lastly, of course, Jadelight Ranger allows you to go on the Wildgrowth Walker plan.
I’m team Jadelight Ranger for now, despite it being a little more difficult to cast.
I was never very fond of Deathgorge Scavenger, but it’s gotten a little better in the format since jump-start, and now that the Golgari decks are using the graveyard in a bunch of different ways I think it does enough to be a consideration in Golgari Midrange. I’m currently playing one in my main deck and have been relatively happy drawing it in matchups like control, the mirror, and against red as a source of life gain and way to remove Risk Factor. I don’t want too many of them because it’s simply too easy to kill and too situational to have it be my only choice at 3 mana.
This is a card I’ve seen popping up recently and I’m having difficulty parsing how good it is. The first time I played against it in the mirror it ate me alive. I then added it to my own list and tried it out. It was subpar for me. Between Lava Coil and an uptick in Vraska’s Contempts, I’ve often been playing it for no value. Then sometimes it gets Shocked and I get a little value, but it’s still not super exciting.
I’m currently off Midnight Reaper for now but it’s incredibly good when you can get it under a sweeper or when you’re playing a matchup where creatures are consistently trading, like some of the games of the mirror.
Plaguecrafter is an awesome addition to Golgari Midrange. It allows you to pick off planeswalkers like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, or Sarkhan, Fireblood, and also interacts favorably against cards like Niv-Mizzet, Parun. These decks tend to spend their entire turn tapping out for their big threat and Plaguecrafter can take it out for 3 mana while potentially upgrading a creature. The best part of Plaguecrafter is that it can be bought back with your creature recursion and used again.
The only question with Chupacabra in the deck is three copies or four. Four might be the correct number, but as Rekindling Phoenix picks up in popularity I want to keep adding more copies of Vraska’s Contempt to my 75 as it’s the card that scares me the most out of red decks outside of Experimental Frenzy.
Vraska, Golgari Queen
This card is much better than I originally thought. It plays the role of Chandra, Torch of Defiance in some ways as it can come down and take out a 3-drop and leave you a small value engine for later. Yes, you have to sacrifice a permanent to draw an additional card but you can usually find an explore creature or extra land kicking around not doing too much for you. Additionally, it lets you sacrifice creatures like Ravenous Chupacabra that you can then return to your hand from the graveyard. Vraska gets much better alongside Llanowar Elves, as playing it earlier allows you to push the tempo advantage further. It can become awkward trying to sacrifice permanents early, but you can still plus Vraska and sacrifice nothing to keep its loyalty growing, and then take out another 3-drop later or simply threaten to ultimate.
I think all versions of Golgari should be playing Vraska, Golgari Queen.
This card is one of the reasons this deck functions. I don’t like trying to be too cute with Golgari Findbroker by looping it with The Eldest Reborn or Memorial to Folly all that often, but having that option available is nice upside. It glues this deck together nicely, making the explore creatures better than they are at face value, and allowing you to bring back removal spells like Dead Weight, Plaguecrafter, and Ravenous Chupacabra. Golgari Findbroker allows you to aggressively put cards in your graveyard with explore creatures, and to pick them up later when you can use them. Don’t play less than two.
The more Rekindling Phoenixes there are in the format and the more the mirrors play planeswalkers, the more copies of Vraska’s Contempt I’d like to see in Golgari Midrange. That said, the 4-drop slot is loaded in Golgari, so squeezing them in can be difficult. I like one or two Vraska’s Contempt main deck and want three in my 75 right now.
Ritual of Soot
I haven’t played much against Selesnya at all, so I don’t particularly want to main deck Ritual of Soot. Besides that, it interacts unfavorably with the Wildgrowth Walker package against red decks. Generally you should be doing one and not the other, and currently, I’m playing Wildgrowth Walkers. Golden Demise is a sweeper you can look at for fast red decks and token decks if you have Wildgrowth Walkers.
The Eldest Reborn
I’ve always found The Eldest Reborn too clunky. With Llanowar Elves in Golgari decks it’s often difficult to find a good spot for The Eldest Reborn in mirrors. It’s nice to loop with, Golgari Findbroker but again, I’m not trying to lean too hard on that at the moment. It also matches up unfavorably against Vivien Reid and Vraska, Relic Seeker. You could be trying to set up a game-changing The Eldest Reborn while the opponent simply takes it out with their planeswalkers on the way in, providing a huge swing in the game 5-drop vs. 5-drop. It’s unlikely that it gets to do the same with all the small explore creatures around, so I personally prefer to be on the better end of this exchange.
While The Eldest Reborn can be excellent against control decks trying to win with Teferi or Niz-Mizzet, I prefer other 5-drops.
Doom Whisperer was in the PTQ-winning deck list as a full playset. While I can see how more is better here because they can find each other, it’s a 5-drop that is easily removed, and requires a fair bit of life to get additional value. Doom Whisperer can be outstanding against red decks as they don’t have efficient ways to kill it with a single card, but Doom Whisperer lines up poorly against cards like Ravenous Chupacabra, Vraska, Relic Seeker, and my 5-drop of choice, Vivien Reid. Since Doom Whisperer provides no value when its killed, and it’s killed rather easily, I’m not a huge fan of Doom Whisperer in Golgari Midrange because of other 5-drop options. I do understand its merit as a big flying creature that red decks have difficulty removing while it blocks big red Dragons like Demanding Dragon effectively.
This is the 5-drop I’ve been most impressed with in Golgari. Vivien Reid is incredibly versatile. Flying creatures tend to be an issue for Golgari, while it’s easy to trade for ground creatures with the low drop explore creatures. Vivien Reid gives you answers for Crackling Drake, Niv-Mizzet, Parun, Thief of Sanity, Nicol Bolas, and all the Angels and Dragons you come across. It also gives you an additional main-deck out to Experimental Frenzy.
Vivien Reid is potentially the best card engine for the deck, finding removal spells in Ravenous Chupacabra and Plaguecrafter, while also finding Golgari Findbroker and Memorial to Folly to access your graveyard. A couple of Vivien Reid means you can play fewer copies of some of the more situational but powerful creature options like Izoni, Thousand-Eyed and Carnage Tyrant.
The more the format becomes filled with more midrange and control decks, the more I love Vivien Reid. If red aggro pick up more of a metagame share, I’d likely move more toward Doom Whisperer as a 5-drop that can stop attackers in their tracks.
Vraska, Relic Seeker
Vraska, Relic Seeker is the reason I like this deck so much. Vraska, Relic Seeker is just so incredibly powerful in every matchup. It’s good from ahead, from behind, and at parity it usually puts you ahead. While it’s a bit slow against aggro, it punishes opponents tapping out for expensive non-planeswalker permanents. Between both Vraskas, Vraska’s Contempt, and Assassin’s Trophy, Golgari has the tools to interact with all types of permanents, and Vraska, Relic Seeker closes the game out in a hurry once the game is stable.
Find // Finality
While this card is good, it’s not as bonkers as the hype I’ve been seeing about it. Its biggest strength is its flexibility across matchups, providing Golgari a sweeper and value card. Generally, sweepers are quite poor against control decks, and value specific cards are quite poor against swarm decks. This card gives you both, so it’s never a dead card in any matchup. Flexibility is the name of the game with this Golgari deck and Find // Finality fits that bill perfectly. Explore creatures have been better than I anticipated and Find // Finality is one of the major reasons why, allowing me to mill a creature so that Find usually gets full value.
Izoni is another card I’m having difficulty parsing. It’s usually potent, but there are times I get one or two Insects and it’s not creating a big impact at 6 mana. I like having access to it gives you an instant on-board advantage like no other card can in certain situations. That said, I don’t want to load my deck up with them, especially at 6 mana. Currently I’m on one copy in my 75. Izoni shines in the mirror but can also be outclassed by Finality at times, again making it situational even when it’s getting you a bunch of creatures. Izoni, however, is the highest impact target to bring back in the late game.
Carnage Tyrant is incredible against control, and while solid in the mirror, I’ve found that it can get clogged up on the ground by explore creatures or you can simply fall behind in a race and it’s not high enough impact in those games. Stephen Mann posted a deck recently focusing on playing Carnage Tyrant as the 6-drop and ramping to it with Elvish Rejuvenator and Druid of the Cowl, but after taking the deck for a spin, I didn’t love what it was doing as it was fairly all-in on Carnage Tyrant and didn’t have enough of a value engine for my liking.
That said, I learned that Carnage Tyrant is likely worth a sideboard slot against control as this deck can be quite weak to a bunch of Disdainful Strokes, Negates, and Essence Scatters. Carnage Tyrant forces them to play a different type of game or have an answer, and even if they have a sweeper for it, you can bring it right back with your graveyard recursion. It’s definitely a great sideboard option but I’m not sold on maindecking it right now.
So after trying a few versions of Golgari Midrange, this is the deck list I’m currently playing on Magic Online.
The only change I’m currently strongly considering is to add an additional basic Swamp to the deck as I’ve found myself wanting more lands. This would likely come at the expense of the main-deck Deathgorge Scavenger, which I’d move to the sideboard for Arguel’s Blood Fast.
While I’m still in the early tuning phases, this is what I’d play if I had a tournament tomorrow. I plan to play something similar to this at Grand Prix New Jersey next weekend unless something dramatic happens. I think Golgari Midrange is currently the best stock deck in Standard because of how customizable it is.
With B/G having such a successful weekend, do you think it’s the deck to play in Standard? Or is there something better I should be working on? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.