Introducing…Golgari Blue!

Brad’s off the rails. He’s all about calling this deck something silly, he’s got a complete sideboard guide for SCG Baltimore, and worst of all, he’s hyped up about the deck that may have established itself as best in the very first week! Oh, Brad…

This sure is becoming the best timeline.

It seemed like everyone, including myself, was afraid of Mono-Red Aggro
and/or Bant Nexus taking over the SCG Indianapolis metagame this past
weekend. Instead, Golgari Blue [CEDitor’s Note: Wait… is this just Sultai Midrange, Brad?] took
the tournament by storm, solidifying itself as “the deck to beat” in Ravnica Allegiance Standard. As a Golgari connoisseur myself, I
found this news absolutely delightful and began working on the strategy

For the most part, this splash doesn’t change all too much from traditional
Golgari Midrange’s gameplan. The explore package is still fantastic against
the hyper-aggressive strategies as well as a decent thing to be doing as
the deck tries to find traction for cards like Vivien Reid, Hydroid Krasis,
Find//Finality, and Carnage Tyrant. All-in-all, the core of this deck still
seems great, and the splash of blue is a nice addition to the deck. I’ve
said this time and time again: A green deck that draws cards and plays
either black or blue cards is most likely the best deck in the format.

Well once again, we’re here.


The first thing to think about is what lands we want to play in the deck.
Odds are the deck will be fairly similar to old Golgari lists, but it’s
been splashing 3-4 copies of Hydroid Krasis and 0-2 copies of Hostage
Taker. In the sideboard we’ll have a few counterspells, but that should be
it for blue cards for now. Now we must take into account the cards we’ll be
casting and the curve we’ll be trying to execute to get a better idea of
what lands we’ll be wanting to play.

Since this deck is base Golgari, we’ll be for sure adding four of each of
the Golgari dual lands, but the rest isn’t as simple. It’s easy to assume
we’ll want 23-24 lands in this deck, but we can’t just play four of each of
these and call it a day. Sure, we’ll have sixteen of each color, which was
how many sources most Golgari decks had in the past, but many issues will
arise from this practice. For starters, this would only allow for eight
sources to cast Llanowar Elves on turn 1. That’s just not enough.

Finding the correct balance isn’t easy as there are many things to
consider. You need to consider the casting costs of spells, where they fall
in the curve, and when you want access to specific combinations. You also
must consider that certain spells like Llanowar Elves don’t like complex
spell suites and manabases as you’re trying to do things more quickly when
you draw the turn 1 play.

That brings us to Hinterland Harbor. I saw a few playing this land even
though I consider it unplayable in current builds of

Sultai Midrange

Golgari Blue. It’s a green source that doesn’t help cast turn 1 Llanowar
Elves, Ravenous Chupacabra, or Vraska’s Contempt. I mean I’ll play it if in
the end it seems correct to do, but first I must eliminate every other
option first.

We want to start by making Llanowar Elves as reliable as possible. To do
this, we need a combination of Forests, Overgrown Tombs, and Breeding
Pools. Old Golgari decks played twelve sources of green mana that could
cast turn 1 Llanowar Elves so we’ll start there, but that doesn’t mean we
have to play all eight shocklands either. Blue isn’t important for the
first few turns of the game so having access to it on turn 1 isn’t
necessary. What could be an issue is having to pay two life every game to
cast early spells. In the end, we may find playing four Breeding Pools to
be incorrect, but for now it seems like the easier manabase to build. I
guess it all comes down to what’s more important – one less shockland or
more copies of Drowned Catacombs that might enter the battlefield tapped.

I’m not confident in the best manabase for Sultai just yet, but this is
where I’m currently at.

This gives us sixteen green, sixteen black, and nine blue sources of mana.
My goal is to find the least amount of shocklands and blue sources needed
to function smoothly. I haven’t tried to go as low as eight sources of blue
just yet, but if I did it would involve removing a Drowned Catacomb for a
third Swamp. If I were to go back down to 23 lands, I would remove the
Memorial to Folly. I just think the utility land is strong in a world that
will involve Golgari Blue [CEDitor’s Note: Sultai. Midrange. C’mon!] mirrors and Esper

There’s still a lot up in the air though. Last season, it didn’t seem like
we could agree on a manabase for Golgari, and now there’s a third color to
add into the equation. There’s also the splash consideration question of
how many blue cards is too many. Lastly, we need to figure out which green
or black cards are worth playing in the deck itself. Some have Carnage
Tyrant while others don’t. Some players have done away with Ravenous
Chupacabra, replacing the dog with the powerful Pirate in Hostage Taker.
Figuring it all out this early will be difficult, but we can start to work
on theorycrafting the proper ways to build the deck for this weekend.
Perfecting it can come later once we know way more about the archetype and
the metagame it’s needing to fight against.

I’m a big fan of what Dylan and company were working on here. I do,
however, have my own theories on this strategy which don’t line up exactly
with their list. That said, it was week one Standard so their build was
very impressive and also there’s a good chance my ideas aren’t even
correct. Deep breaths, because this next section is just a bunch of
long-winded theory that’s relatively untested!

A lot of people have compared Hydroid Krasis to Sphinx’s Revelation and
quite frankly, that’s an astute comparison. They’re both powerful cards
that yield good returns on the investment but need ample time and resources
to function properly. In most games, that’s fine, since a card (resource)
is drawn every turn, but in other games, it’s not that simple. It all comes
down to interaction and mana development. These cards function extremely
well when a player is making land drops while also interacting with an
opponent. If both metrics aren’t met, either a player doesn’t have the
density of lands to effectively cast the card or the effect isn’t good
enough to turn the tides against a hostile battlefield.

So, in theory, the solution to making cards like Hydroid Krasis good
involves removal spells and resource advantage. Explore creatures and
Vivien Reid do wonders to help supply this, but that might not be enough,
especially when explore creatures don’t hit the lands allowing you to cast
Vivien. Since

Sultai Midrange

Golgari Blue

Sultai Midrange

now has a card draw engine unseen in previous formats, it might be time to
play more ways to draw cards to increase the density of ways to make sure
Hydroid Krasis functions properly. Oh, and more removal to make sure the
battlefield is clear for the card advantage engine to come together.

This opens the door to relook at how Golgari Blue [CEDitor’s Note: This is not a battle I can win…] is built and
consider the fact that it might not be optimal to design it on top of an
outdated Golgari blueprint. Instead let’s theorize on ways to optimize the
fact that a Golgari deck now has access to Sphinx’s Revelation by comparing
it to decks that played this Azorius all-star.

Obviously we can’t take too much from this, as one deck is midrange while
the other is control, but there are a few parallels that can be drawn.
First off, Esper Control leaned on cheap removal and Jace, Architect of
Thought to supply the removal and card advantage I spoke of earlier. The
high density of removal worked wonders alongside Sphinx’s Revelation as you
always wanted to be able to cast the cards in your hand the turn after
casting one. Being able to deploy 2-3 spells the following turn helped
catch back up from the tempo loss from taking the turn off to cast the card
draw spell.

On the other side of the coin, Jace allowed the deck to make sure it kept
making its land drops and often would ensure the fifth to be made in
certain games. Karn, Scion of Urza is a very good comparison here as this
is also a great card to make sure the engine keeps revving.

This makes me believe that Karn still has a home in this deck. Granted, I’m
a little biased here as I played two copies of the planeswalker at last
year’s #SCGINVI, but now there’s even more reasons to like this card.

Here’s the list I’m currently working on and would most likely register for
an event this weekend if I were playing.

I’m not sold that Hostage Taker is worth the space in this deck. Sure, it
can be a very powerful card against Hydroid Krasis, but at the same time
it’s not the most reliable removal spell until later in a game. I do like
it against Azorius Aggro quite a bit, so you might find room for it if that
matchup becomes extremely popular. If you want to play one copy, I suggest
replacing the sideboard copy of Vraska’s Contempt, but for now I’m still a
little cautious of Rekindling Phoenix and planeswalkers. I believe Ravenous
Chupacabra is a better card still and don’t think it’s stronger than Karn
for the reasons I pointed out above.

The next thing I’m going to be looking into is if Carnage Tyrant is even
worth it, but for now it seems good in the mirror which is enough for me to
keep it in the deck. Other than that, I’m really happy with this 75. Below
is the sideboard guide I’ve been using, but don’t just blindly trust me on
this if you have an important event coming up. Get the reps in and comment
below if you think there’s any issues with it!

VS Sultai Midrange


Wildgrowth Walker Wildgrowth Walker Wildgrowth Walker Cast Down


Midnight Reaper Vraska's Contempt Disdainful Stroke Disdainful Stroke

VS Esper Control


Wildgrowth Walker Wildgrowth Walker Wildgrowth Walker Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy Llanowar Elves Llanowar Elves Llanowar Elves Llanowar Elves Incubation Druid


Duress Duress Duress Duress Disdainful Stroke Disdainful Stroke Plaguecrafter Plaguecrafter Midnight Reaper Vraska's Contempt

VS Azorius Aggro


Karn, Scion of Urza Karn, Scion of Urza Midnight Reaper Carnage Tyrant Carnage Tyrant


Assassin's Trophy Cast Down Cast Down Wildgrowth Walker Thrashing Brontodon

VS Izzet Drakes


Find Find Find Midnight Reaper Incubation Druid Llanowar Elves Llanowar Elves Wildgrowth Walker Wildgrowth Walker Wildgrowth Walker


Duress Duress Duress Duress Assassin's Trophy Cast Down Cast Down Plaguecrafter Plaguecrafter Vraska's Contempt

This sideboard plan is all theory, but it’s how I would approach the
matchup now that this deck no longer has Arclight Phoenix. They just don’t
have that many threats, nor do they pack many cards that supply true card
advantage. What they do have, though, is a lot of ways to invalidate weaker
threats. I believe a great tactic will be to just play every removal spell
we have access to and make sure their threats don’t stick. We need the high
density since they have ways to keep digging through their deck, but they
don’t have great ways to utilize the extra mana from Assassin’s Trophy.

VS Esper Midrange


Wildgrowth Walker Wildgrowth Walker Wildgrowth Walker Carnage Tyrant Carnage Tyrant


Cast Down Cast Down Midnight Reaper Vraska's Contempt Assassin's Trophy

Our deck just has more power than theirs. Esper Midrange feels like a weak
strategy but can win games when Thief of Sanity gets out of hand and they
have hand disruption to protect it. This is another matchup where removal
is great, so stock up on it; they can’t punish you for getting a land off
Assassin’s Trophy!

VS Mono-Red Aggro


Midnight Reaper Karn, Scion of Urza Karn, Scion of Urza Find Vivien Reid Llanowar Elves Llanowar Elves Carnage Tyrant Carnage Tyrant


Duress Duress Duress Wildgrowth Walker Cast Down Cast Down Assassin's Trophy Thrashing Brontodon Vraska's Contempt

VS Bant Nexus


Find Find Find Carnage Tyrant Carnage Tyrant Ravenous Chupacabra Ravenous Chupacabra Cast Down Wildgrowth Walker Wildgrowth Walker


Duress Duress Duress Duress Disdainful Stroke Disdainful Stroke Assassin's Trophy Thrashing Brontodon Vraska's Contempt Midnight Reaper