All Things Golgari

Brad Nelson might be “Jund Guy,” but for Guilds of Ravnica he’s dropping the red! See his first principles and early decklists for the new Standard!

Do you ever feel alone? One giant city on one giant plane, yet you feel there’s nowhere you belong? Well, here at Golgari, everyone belongs.

Hi. I’m Bardington the 47th, and I welcome you to the swarm where everyone’s connected, where everything’s connected. I, too, was a lost soul on Ravnica before our brave leader Vraska showed me the path to a brighter future. Being a part of the Golgari Swarm gave me purpose, and today I’m here to pass onto you the amazing opportunity I was given many years ago.

Today we’re going to talk about the most urgent thing on our minds, whether we know it or not. The guilds will soon be recycled, and your only chance to survive this is to join our following. The Golgari Swarm is the only guild to answer life’s most pressing question:

What happens after “this?”

Golgari happens.

I implore you to take a brief moment to think about the opportunity being offered today. If joining the Swarm is something you’re interested in, and I believe it is, please take a look at the literature below. No longer will you feel alone. No longer will you feel pain, only completeness as you are now part of something bigger than yourself, part of a new beginning.

Golgari Swarm Membership Agreement

This Membership Agreement, when signed by the applicant and accepted by Golgari D.O.A., constitutes a binding contract between Golgari D.O.A. and the individual or entity executing the signature of this Agreement. Membership rights, privileges, and obligations commence when the Agreement is signed in blood by both parties.


Any and all membership privileges obtained through this membership agreement may be revoked or changed at any time without prior notice from Golgari D.O.A.

At no point during this contract may the Member change their membership title(s).

Member will be responsible for all cost increases made by Golgari D.O.A.

Member agrees they meet all membership requirements and will notify Golgari D.O.A. if any requirements are not met during the time of the agreement term.

Term and Termination

This agreement shall remain in effect until one or more of the following occur:

1. Golgari D.O.A. relinquishes contract.

2. Member fails to meet any requirements of membership and is fed to Gitrog.

3. Golgari D.O.A. ceases to exist.

No Warranties

No warranties are given or implied by this membership agreement.

Applicant Signature (Blood Only)

X ____________________

Thank You for Signing

Now that you’ve been welcomed into the fold, we can get down to business.

Life is pain. Death brings more pain. Here at Golgari, we try to inflict as much misery on others as life’s done to us. Luckily, that’s easily done with Vraska, Relic Seeker headlining the guild.

She struggled on other planes, but here on Guilds of Ravnica she’s ready to break through as one of the most powerful cards in the format. No longer are The Scarab God and Hazoret the Fervent around to push her out of the limelight. Vraska, Relic Seeker is primed to be the showstopper she’s always tried to be.

There are plenty of ways to build Golgari decks in Standard. Preview season for Guilds of Ravnica isn’t complete yet and I’m already excited about the possibilities. Since so many cards accrue value in the guild, the first place to look is towards midrange builds.

It’s too early to know anything for certain, but Golgari looks like it will be a great guild for grinding out games. After all, Standard isn’t going to look like it did, and I believe midrange will have better representation. Hazoret the Fervent and Chandra, Torch of Defiance forced the developmental stages of Standard to be short, as you needed to race to get on the battlefield against these hyper-aggressive strategies. Not to say eight-set Standard didn’t have a hand in that as well—Standard just gets more streamlined as the sets pile up—but five-set Standard is generally much slower.

That’s really the discussion to have when looking at Golgari Midrange and its new removal spell, Assassin’s Trophy. Standard has been fairly one-dimensional as of late, as aggro decks were backed by Hazoret and control decks won with Torrential Gearhulk and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Without Torrential Gearhulk around, control decks will have a difficult time closing the game if they’re designed like they previously were. Therefore, everything’s forced to change.

Being able to destroy any permanent is great, but Assassin’s Trophy isn’t free. Giving your opponent a land may or may not be that relevant, but to ignore the deck design space that comes with fighting the card isn’t acceptable. The format will be forced into making the cost of Assassin’s Trophy steep.

Big effects with strong enters-the-battlefield abilities will be vital, and this includes planeswalkers. Being able to generate an advantage with each spell outside of finding a land will be at an even higher premium than usual. Optimal deck design will force opponents to deploy Assassin’s Trophy early and then make use of the additional mana. This makes me believe big effects will be prominent in Standard.

The existence of Assassin’s Trophy makes me believe The Eldest Reborn will play an important role in Standard. Vraska’s Contempt and other exile effects were the best way for black decks to dispose of planeswalkers before, but Assassin’s Trophy destroys them and at instant speed. This gives a card like The Eldest Reborn added value, as it will be easier for you to destroy opposing planeswalkers and use them yourself. The Eldest Reborn is also the type of card that can go great beside Assassin’s Trophy along the curve, as it will be easier to keep the battlefield clear and punish opponents for dumping all their extra mana into one big mid-game effect.

Muldrotha, the Gravetide is a prime example of going over the top of the Assassin’s Trophy “mirrors.” It’s designed to use extra mana right away and can take over a game once an opponent has depleted their resources. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the card also works really well with The Eldest Reborn.

This is the sort of thing we need to start exploring when we think about Golgari: how to take advantage of opposing copies of Assassin’s Trophy and also minimizing the damage of casting our own. A tall order, if you ask me, but not something we can’t figure out.

Here’s a look at Sultai Midrange.

Seriously, though, the sky’s the limit when it comes to trying to level midrange decks. At some point, counterspells will be the best way to tempo out other midrange decks, or else we’ll discover great ways to compete with decks designed like this. For now, though, we must enjoy the reality we’re currently in, one where big effects are back in Standard!

A great way to punish decks like this is simply to go wide. Vraska, Golgari Queen isn’t interested in big effects if the dead aren’t involved. This Vraska is intriguing, as she’s primed to help a deck function when it’s trying to abuse the Undergrowth mechanic. Filling a deck with underwhelming creatures isn’t commonly a winning strategy, but Guilds of Ravnica just might have enough cards to support it.

First, we have to look at the enablers as no payoff is possible if we don’t get to them. So, what will we be offering up in sacrifice to our beloved queen?

Not the greatest assortment of fodder, if you ask me, but Dusk Legion Zealot does shine. Elvish Visionary is one of the strongest creatures ever printed, and this Vampire isn’t that far behind the iconic Elf.

I’m skeptical of playing Stitcher’s Supplier, as cards like that are generally too low-impact for Standard and there just usually isn’t a good enough payoff to fill a deck full of enablers that don’t impact the game on their own.

This motley crew makes me believe that we will have to wait a little bit longer to see how far we can actually push Vraska, Golgari Queen, but the card does have promise, especially when it can enter the battlefield and immediately destroy an opponent’s only nonland permanent, which was one of the best aspects of Chandra, Torch of Defiance.

Izoni, Thousand-Eyed may end up being too cute, but it’s exactly what would sidestep a high density of spot removal in this format, making it a perfect payoff for Vraska, Golgari Queen. Don’t even think about winning with the first casting of this card, either, as I’d imagine a deck designed around Izoni will try to cast it numerous times in a game before finally attritioning out an opponent.

Further, Izoni wants you to ignore an opponent as much as possible, which is the opposite of the decks I’ve posted above. Cards like Golgari Findbroker should find a home here, where Ravenous Chupacabra, Hostage Taker, and Vraska’s Contempt would be premium in the other style of build.

Here’s a rough list just to showcase the concept, but I don’t believe it will look anything like this in its final form. Like I said, I feel this style of deck will get picked apart by other midrange decks capable of creating incremental value out of powerful cards while also interacting with its key pieces.

Last up is to briefly talk about Golgari beatdown. While I also think this style of deck just won’t end up working out, it’s important to still take a look at it. Steel Leaf Champion, Vine Mare, and Ghalta, Primal Hunger are still very impressive spells. I just don’t think they can really compete with the guilds represented in Guilds of Ravnica, and I’m pretty sure we’ll get sick of them once Gruul finds its way to center stage.

Territorial Allosaurus is worth mentioning, as it can come down quickly but also can utilize the extra mana from an opposing Assassin’s Trophy. This could be extremely valuable for a deck that wants to lean aggressive, yet still compete with opposing midrange decks designed to take a controlling approach.

After taking in everything Golgari currently has to offer, I believe midrange builds of both Golgari and Sultai have a high chance of defining Standard. The card pool for these types of strategies is deep, and the effects look to be more powerful than those of the other guilds and shards.

If you like to grind out your wins; ever randomly threw Vraska, Relic Seeker into your Dimir Midrange deck; or thought Siege Rhino should have run for President, I implore you to pick up the cards I mentioned in the first half of the article today. There’s just too high of a chance that they define Standard.

Especially Muldrotha, the Gravetide.