I recently went 12-3 at GP Milwaukee with Golgari Midrange, good for 15th place. I resubmitted the 75 that the Golgari contingent of my testing team ran at the PT. I want to thank my testing team of Allen Wu, Ari Lax, Brandon Ayers, Ethan Gaieski, Jacob Nagro, Jarvis Yu, John Rolf, Jonathan Sukenik, Hunter Cochran, Mark Jacobson, Tim Wu, and Tommy Ashton. I am immensely thankful to have had such great company for my first PT.

Coming out of the PT, there were five archetypes, each with four copies having eight wins or better, plus G/W Tokens with two copies and Mono-Blue with one copy. The sheer number of viable decks and variations on them gave this Standard format a Modern-like quality, with no deck looking like a favorite against the entire field. This skewed my deck selection towards something I was comfortable with, and that could play real games against every deck without depending on a hard metagame read.

Doom Whisperer looked pretty good in the PT Golgari lists, and I was initially planning on transitioning to a Doom Whisperer heavy build. But I imagined that GP Milwaukee would have Golgari decks featuring Doom Whisperer over Carnage Tyrant, which meant that Carnage Tyrant builds would be good again to beat the mirror and Jeskai. That, and Oliver Tiu told me not to play Doom Whisperer this weekend, which gave me license to run it back from the PT.

Golgari Midrange

Bobby Fortanely

The most noteworthy part of the list is that the sideboard only runs two copies of Wildgrowth Walker and zero copies of Seekers’ Squire. While I consider Wildgrowth Walker to be an important player in a number of matchups and worthy of its current level of inclusion, having three or more copies means that you really want Seekers’ Squire. Seekers’ Squire is not a Constructed-rate Magic card. It’s just not. A 1/2 for 2 that draws a land or a 2/3 for 2 with minor deck manipulation upside isn’t going to meaningfully contribute to winning games. If I can get away with never playing Seekers’ Squire for the rest of my life, I will. I played it at GP New Jersey and did not make Day 2. I consider these two events to be highly correlated. In many matchups, where you might want access to four copies of Wildgrowth Walker, access to answers for enchantments plus closing speed is at a premium. I couldn’t figure out how to add more without unbalancing the sideboard, and the value over replacement is low when you need access to proper ratios of several different effects.

In the tournament itself, I faced four copies of U/R Drakes, two copies each of Golgari Midrange and Jeskai Control, and one copy each of Mono-Red, Boros Angels, Selesnya Angels, Selesnya Tokens, and Selesnya Midrange. I lost two of the four U/R Drakes matchups, and one of the two Jeskai Control matchups.

Boros Weenie

I leave in more high end in this matchup than some might expect. Having a critical mass of ways to answer Experimental Frenzy is key, as well as closing speed so the Boros player can’t finish you off with Heroic Reinforcements.

Out

In

Golgari Mirror

I find that the mirror is all about getting to 6 mana sources and casting Carnage Tyrant. If only one player does that, I consider that player an overwhelming favorite to win the game. I don’t think Assassin’s Trophy meaningfully stops your opponent from executing this plan. Therefore, I don’t like any Trophys post-board. A possible retrump if both players have gotten to Carnage Tyrant is Finality + Plaguecrafter, but since I want all my cards to contribute to plan A, I don’t like a second Plaguecrafter.

Out on the Play

In on the Play

Out on the Draw

In on the Draw

Izzet Drakes

Carnage Tyrant is important for having enough closing speed post-board, since you need to be able to win the games where they relieve pressure with Lava Coil and Beacon Bolt combined with one Phoenix chipping in. I leave in all three main-deck Carnage Tyrants. Duress is the source of some controversy in this matchup. I find being able to take out a Dive Down, Disdainful Stroke, Lava Coil, or key Chart a Course to be pretty important. Most exchanges here let you deny the U/R player an opportunity to trade up on mana. In terms of gameplay, you often win games where your opponent’s top 25 cards contain fewer than three Arclight Phoenix, and you usually lose games where their top 25 cards contain three or more Arclight Phoenix.

Out

In

Mono-Red Aggro

Similar to Boros Weenie, I leave in a lot of top end here. A critical mass of answers to Experimental Frenzy plus closing speed is key. The mono-red player here is in a tough spot, since they will usually board in the Treasure Map and Lava Coil package (possibly with Rekindling Phoenix), which can be answered pretty easily. But even if they stay small, the cards in Golgari that beat the go-big plan can also beat the stay-small plan.

Out

In

Jeskai Control

While it might seem strange to leave in Ravenous Chupacabra against Jeskai Control, I’ve found that since Jeskai migrated to running Crackling Drake and Niz-Mizzet, having enough ways to kill the creatures at card parity important. Against the creatureless Face-to-Face version with Azor’s Gateway, I cut all the Ravenous Chupacabra and shave Vraska’s Contempt, leaving in Llanowar Elves. A tip from Matt Nass’ stream is to remember that you’re allowed to not cast important spells until the turn you slam Carnage Tyrant. Then, when your opponent taps low to answer it, resolve whatever you want. While I usually cut Vraska, Golgari Queen as it doesn’t generate card advantage in a useful way beyond hopefully getting a Search for Azcanta or Seal Away on the way down, I like it quite a bit against Adrian Sullivan’s GP winning build with four Treasure Map and two Enigma Drake, as there will always be some number of good targets post-board.

Out

In

Boros Angels

Their four Tocatli Honor Guards are quite good, so I like having as few cards turned off by them as possible. That means I cut all my Merfolk Branchwalker and don’t bring in Wildgrowth Walker. Golden Demise is good as an answer to History of Benalia and Adanto Vanguard, as they are both high impact early plays without an equivalent creature-based answer from Golgari.

Out

In

Mono-Blue Tempo

It may look a little weird to board in four Duress against the mono-colored aggro deck, but all their answers to your answers trade up on mana significantly. If you let all these exchanges happen when the Mono-Blue deck dictates, you will lose. Furthermore, taking a Curious Obsession for a single mana is a big deal. Without it, their deck largely doesn’t operate in the matchup.

Out

In

Selesnya Tokens

This matchup is about walking the tightrope between protecting your card advantage engines while closing out the game before a March of the Multitudes + Flower // Flourish turn. Don’t be afraid to get aggressive to deny your opponent draw steps, as it only gets worse the longer you wait.

Out

In

Grixis Control

Out

In

White Weenie (Without Red)

Without access to red, it is no longer as important to keep in any Carnage Tyrant for closing speed purposes or as answers to enchantments.

Out

In

Path of Discovery Midrange

I have been trounced by this deck many times. It can snowball hard and requires specific answers during a narrow window. Combined with multiple main-deck The Immortal Suns and sideboard Carnage Tyrants, I think of this deck as similar to Golgari Midrange but going slightly bigger, which is exactly where you want to be in midrange mirrors.

Out

In

Dimir Midrange/Control

This is the other main deck my teammates played at this GP and the PT. The version for Milwaukee relegated all the Thief of Sanitys to the sideboard. Remember when playing the games to keep an extra card or two in hand to discard when Carnage Tyrant gets returned to hand by Dispersal.

Out

In

Selesnya Angels

The plan here is similar to Boros Angels, where I like cutting Merfolk Branchwalker and shelving Wildgrowth Walker so as to make Tocatli Honor Guard less important. The difference here is I want Carnage Tyrant, as you can expect your opponent to have their own Carnage Tyrants.

Out

In

Turbo Fog

This matchup is all about presenting a lethal board every turn while denying your opponent access to card advantage. This matchup becomes quite bad in games where your opponent has access to more than one copy of Cleansing Nova. On the rebuild turn, it’s hard to answer their card advantage while also deploying enough threats to force them to react on their following turn. Carnage Tyrant is quite bad, and I would experiment with cutting the last copy for a warm body with a tiny mana cost (Wildgrowth Walker).

Out

In

Tips and Tricks

With a deck like Golgari where everyone knows the moving pieces, a tips and tricks section feels a little misplaced. Still, I want to take this opportunity to remind others about some play patterns that took me a while to internalize.

  • On early Jadelight Rangers where your hand is reasonable, bias heavily toward binning creature cards. You want any Find // Finality in your hand or that you draw to have targets in the midgame without depending on trading in combat.
  • Against smaller creature decks where the 3rd point of toughness matters, consider when leaving a low-impact spell there on the first Jadelight Ranger to bin it on the second explore.
  • Consider waiting to Duress until turn 2 on the play against Jeskai without a 2-drop in hand. Giving the opponent the extra draw step to find a Search for Azcanta before taking it can remove their only early, high impact play.
  • Have a plan for answering your own Midnight Reaper in the mirror if the board gets stalled and a Finality from your opponent might put you in range of losing.
  • Take note of when producing 1 point of power with Karn produces a one-turn clock, and bias toward making a token in those scenarios. Forcing your opponent to spend a card on a 1/1 is very similar to being up a card from upticking Karn, but puts more constraints on your opponent.
  • When blocking an opposing Carnage Tyrant with your Carnage Tyrant, you should usually include your lowest impact creature with 2 or more toughness in a double-block. It denies your opponent the 1 point of free trample damage.
  • At my first event with Carnage Tyrant in Memphis, Ari Lax taught me that when you’re in doubt about what to play between Carnage Tyrant or another card in hand, read the flavor text of Carnage Tyrant. It will tell you to not get cute and just deploy the giant, implacable death lizard. This is often the correct play.