Golgari Sacrifice: The Fun Way

Bennie doesn’t like running over the tables, even with his favorite guild! So he’s taking a new approach that will let you have a blast while keeping the rest of the table smiling!

If you know me, you know I’m a Golgari mage through and through. I’ve been
playing green and black forever, from Oath of Ghouls and Recurring
Nightmare decks, to Oversold Cemetery and pioneering Dredge decks, to
Glissa, the Traitor and Necrotic Ooze decks. Green and black cover nearly
all the bases you’d want in Commander, so it’s definitely a go-to color
combination in our 100-card format. So, you may have been surprised I had
not yet brewed up a deck around the latest Golgari legend-Izoni,

Well, truth be told I wasn’t overly excited about Izoni. In terms of raw
power, I don’t think Izoni is game-breaking. The token Insects are
remarkably unremarkable outside of having two colors. But what disappointed
me most was that Izoni very clearly was made to play alongside cards like
Savra, Queen of the Golgari and Grave Pact. A way to generate a bunch of
expendable creatures that could be sacrificed for profit, but while doing
so forcing everyone else to sacrifice their creatures as well. This is a
very potent theme that is squarely in Golgari’s wheelhouse that I
personally think people shouldn’t play in their Commander decks.

Let me elaborate. Back in June at the SCGCon, I was playing in a
four-player Commander game. It was a very interactive game, with each of us
making big moves and being put in check by our adversaries having answers.
About 20 minutes in we had all more or less exhausted our hands and were
forced to live off the top of our decks to draw more gas. To be clear, all
of us had played a bunch of powerful answer cards that had kept each of us
from cementing a big advantage. This is the point in games where having
access to our Commander cards helps bridge game states until we draw back
into action, and is a big part of why our format is so much fun.

One of my opponents was playing Meren of Clan Nel Toth. Collectively we’d
managed to keep her commander in check by exiling the graveyard several
times, so she was living off the top of her deck as much as the rest of us.
Unfortunately, she drew Fleshbag Marauder, played it, and forced us to
sacrifice each of our commanders. She sacrificed Fleshbag Marauder. And all
of a sudden it wasn’t worth playing creatures anymore until one of us could
draw a permanent way to answer Meren or yet another way to exile the
graveyard. And since Meren is just a 3/4, it’s not like she was going to be
killing us with commander damage any time soon.

I don’t remember exactly how the game ended, but I do remember many turns
went by with three of us not casting anything because the creatures we drew
would just get eaten by Fleshbag Marauder. The Meren player really didn’t
draw anything either, but due to the Fleshbag Marauder interaction she
basically kept the rest of us from playing Commander anymore. The game had
gone from a fantastically fun interactive brawl into a snore fest.

Pretty much every time I’ve ever played where one person sets up some sort
of repeatable way to make everyone sacrifice creatures, the game slows to a
crawl and multiple players are just shut out of playing Commander. And yes,
I can hear the counterargument that people should play answers to problem
permanents in their Commander decks, and that is certainly true, but here’s
the thing: sometimes in 100 card decks your answers don’t come up. And
there’s a big difference between problem permanents that actively help you
win games and problem permanents that just stop everyone else from winning

There’s also the problem that you can certainly build a ton of redundancy
into this sort of strategy, and there are even legends with this ability
built in that you can pick as your commander.

Don’t Play These

Grave Pact Savra, Queen of the Golgari Shattergang Brothers Anowon, the Ruin Sage Call to the Grave Dictate of Erebos Butcher of Malakir Sheoldred, Whispering One

All of these cards easily lead to game states where opponents just stop
playing creatures or their commander and so I never play these in my
Commander decks.

Izoni struck me as the perfect commander to play into this strategy, so my
first inclination was to just ignore the card for my Commander write-ups.
But then it occurred to me that perhaps I could use Izoni to illustrate a
different approach to sacrificing creatures that doesn’t lead to such
oppressive and stifling game states. I know that most fans of Grave Pact
effects are not going to be persuaded, but maybe a few of you will take my
plea to heart and maybe walk a different path.

I’m going to include a ton of cards that let you sacrifice creatures for
profit, along with lots of creatures that are easy to sacrifice, to churn
through the deck and slowly fill up the graveyard so that by the time you
cast Izoni, you’ll get a big dose of sacrificial fodder, or perhaps a swarm
to take down opponents’ life totals.

Sacrifice for Profit

High Market Miren, the Moaning Well Phyrexian Tower Westvale Abbey Skullclamp Elvish Skysweeper Vampiric Rites Viscera Seer Hope of Ghirapur Evolutionary Leap Disciple of Bolas Greater Good Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord Whisper, Blood Liturgist Krav, the Unredeemed Ghoulcaller Gisa Eldrazi Monument

Okay, so we’ll want lots of ways to sacrifice creatures. This will not only
help fuel large Izoni triggers but give us plenty of things to do with all
those Insects. You can get small incremental advantage with cards like
Vampiric Rites and Viscera Seer, bigger effects like Skullclamp or Greater
Good, and then of course there are big splashy effects like Jarad, Golgari
Lich Lord and Ghoulcaller Gisa.

Death Triggers

Deathgreeter Nim Deathmantle Malicious Affliction Skirsdag High Priest Viridian Emissary Grim Haruspex Yavimaya Elder Pawn of Ulamog Catacomb Sifter Ulvenwald Mysteries Poison-Tip Archer Open the Graves Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest Reaper from the Abyss

Next up are cards that do cool stuff when creatures die. Morbid triggers
come easy in this deck, so we can churn out Demons with Skirsdag High
Priest and kill stuff with Reaper from the Abyss. We can gain life with
Deathgreeter, drain life with Poison-Tip Archer, scry cards with Catacomb
Sifter, and draw cards with Grim Haruspex.

Undergrowthy Stuff

Svogthos, the Restless Tomb Kraul Harpooner Graveblade Marauder Nighthowler Corpse Augur Mortivore Bonehoard Lord of Extinction Vigorspore Wurm Hatchery Spider Avatar of Woe

Izoni has undergrowth so we have incentives to lean hard into cards with
actual undergrowth, like Hatchery Spider and Kraul Harpooner, and other
cards that care about how many creatures are in graveyards. Mortivore and
Lord of Extinction can be quite fearsome battlefield presences, and you can
build your own with Nighthowler and Bonehoard. And who doesn’t want to cast
Avatar of Woe for just two mana?

Value Town

Wall of Blossoms Elvish Visionary Dusk Legion Zealot Riftsweeper Blade of Selves Carven Caryatid Generous Stray Eternal Witness Fierce Empath Reclamation Sage Golgari Findbroker Gonti, Lord of Luxury Acidic Slime Demonlord Belzenlok Hornet Queen

Okay, we’ve got ways to sacrifice creatures and ways to benefit from that
sacrifice. Now we just need some willing victims. I think the best fodder
are ones that replace themselves or have some sort of effect when they
enter the battlefield since they’ve already provided value coming in, so
the body is fine to use going out. Black and green have a lot of cantrip
creatures like Dusk Legion Zealot and Carven Caryatid, and creatures with
spell-like effects attached like Golgari Findbroker and Gonti, Lord of

Graveyard Recursion

Phyrexian Reclamation Oversold Cemetery Reassembling Skeleton Bow of Nylea Masked Admirers

Even though we’ll want to keep our graveyard pretty well stocked most of
the time, there will be some creatures that die we may want to get back.
Phyrexian Reclamation is a great way to bring something back, and since the
activation is at instant speed we can even use it to save some creatures
from an untimely Bojuka Bog. Reassembling Skeleton and Masked Admirers have
built-in recursion to help fuel some of our sacrifice effects without
costing us a card.

Mana Ramp

Myriad Landscape Sol Ring Farhaven Elf

Yavimaya Dryad Journey to Eternity Solemn Simulacrum Black Market

Izoni isn’t cheap so we’ll want a fair number of ramp cards to give us
plenty of mana. Farhaven Elf and Yavimaya Dryad play the part of cards like
Cultivate, but instead of the extra land you get a body you can sacrifice.
I’m also counting on the cantrip creatures and cards like Skullclamp and
scry triggers to help ensure the lands keep flowing.

Then, of course there is Black Market, which is just absurd in a deck
that’s interested in killing its own creatures.

It’s going to be super-easy to transform Journey to Eternity into Atzal,
Cave of Eternity, which not only gives you an extra land but some great
utility attached.


Tragic Slip Assassin's Trophy Krosan Grip

Ravenous Chupacabra Damnation Noxious Gearhulk Massacre Wurm

Green and black have no end to answer cards so we’ll make sure we play a
good amount of them here. I particularly like ones attached to creatures
like Ravenous Chupacabra we can later sacrifice for profit and maybe bring
back and use again.

Golgari Goodstuff

Sylvan Library Doom Whisperer Seasons Past

Last but not least a few cards that don’t necessarily fit directly into the
themes but provide high quality card selection.

Sweet deck! But wait…there are too many cards! Let’s figure out where to
make our cuts.

Let’s start by looking at our mana curve:

1 mana:

2 mana:

3 mana:

4 mana:

5 mana:

6 mana:

7+ mana/X-spells:

74 total cards plus 38 lands equal 12 cards too many, which is going to be
tough! Let’s start at the top of the curve and work our way down.

The problem with Hatchery Spider is I can see missing on occasion, and
that’s going to be upsetting since a 5/7 reach creature isn’t exactly the
most exciting thing around. Avatar of Woe is a difficult cut, but I can see
if being awkward on occasions when someone clears out everyones’ graveyards
with something like Rest in Peace. Also, Avatar of Woe can lead to some
game states like I talked about above, so I think I’ll give it the boot.

Both of these cuts are tough; I really like both of them. Vigorspore Wurm
in particular can help produce a crazy haymaker turn, but I value all the
other cards at six mana just a bit more than these two and we’ve got to
make cuts somewhere.

Two more very difficult cuts that got crowded out by a bunch of other
really good five mana cards. Ghoulcaller Gisa can make a lot more Zombie
creatures than Open the Graves, and Krav’s ability makes Doom Whisperer
seem pretty tame in comparison.

Both of these play great with our themes but just suffer by the large
amounts of good quality four mana cards. I feel that Whisper is really only
going to shine once Izoni has already hit the battlefield so I think it’s a
relatively safe cut.

There are seventeen three-mana cards on my list so we’ve got to make some
cuts here too. Nighthowler is slightly less good than Bonehoard, so I think
it’s safe to cut here. Generous Stray is probably the worst of the cheap
cantrip creatures.

Here’s how the deck ended up:

Izoni, Thousand-Eyed
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 10-17-2018

So, what do you think? What sort of cuts do you disagree with? Are there
any cards that I overlooked?

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Deck Database

Below I’ve got links to decks I’ve written about going back to January
2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith”
and the commander name into the Google and it should pop right up. I’ve
written a lot about Commander – and Magic in general – so if you want to
explore further the

Starcitygames.com article archives

have my articles all the way back to January 2000!

Guilds of Ravnica

Niv Mizzet, Parun

Emmara, Soul of the Accord


Lazav, the Multifarious (decklist in the comments)


Tajic, Legion’s Edge


Etrata, the Silencer

Commander 2018

Aminatou, the Fateshifter


Xantcha, Sleeper Agent

, Lord Windgrace

Core Set 2019

Sai, Master Thopterist


Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma


Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire


Chromium, the Mutable


Grothama, All-Devouring


Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle

, Grand Warlord Radha
, Arvad the Cursed,

Muldrotha, the Grave Tide


Slimefoot, the Stowaway


Yargle, Glutton of Urborg

, Squee, the Immortal

Firesong and Sunspeaker


Jodah, Archmage Eternal

Masters 25

Hannah, Ship’s Navigator

Rivals of Ixalan

Azor, the Lawbringer

, Etali, Primal Storm

Nezahal, Primal Tide


Zacama, Primal Calamity


Tetzimoc, Primal Death


Zetalpa, Primal Dawn


Ghalta, Primal Hunger


Grusilda, Monster Masher


Dr. Julius Jumblemorph


Vona, Butcher of Magan


Tishana, Voice of Thunder


Admiral Beckett Brass


Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Commander 2017

Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith


Inalla, Archmage Ritualist


Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist


O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami


Mairsil, the Pretender


Taigam, Ojutai Master

Hour of Devastation

Razaketh, the Foulblooded

, Zur, the Enchanter
(Mummy’s Curse),

Djeru, With Eyes Open

, The Locust God, Karona, False God
(All the Deserts),Nicol Bolas, Neheb, the Eternal


Oketra the True

Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun

, Atogatog
(Cartouches & Trials),

Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons


Samut, Voice of Dissent


Rhonas the Indomitable

, Hazoret the Fervent

Kaladesh Block

Yahenni, Undying Partisan

, Nicol Bolas, Child of Alara (5
Color Energy),

Rishkar, Peema Renegade


Kari Zev, Skyship Raider


Sram, Senior Edificer

Commander 2016

Breya, Etherium Shaper


Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice


Tymna the Weaver // Ravos, Soultender

Other Commander Decks

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

(no green creatures),

Kytheon, Hero of Akros

(Tribal Gideon)

Commander Strategy

Let’s Talk About Lands

Who Should I Attack?

Targeted Removal in Commander