Taking Golgari From Unplayable To Undefeated In Draft

Ryan Saxe has just about fully cracked the Golgari secret to success! Join him for the best breakdown of the guild you’ll find anywhere! And you have to see his new favorite splash to believe it!

Is Golgari good in Guilds of Ravnica Draft? Is it even playable?
The answer I’ve heard to these questions are both “It can be but needs a
lot to go right.” I do admit that the answer has merit, but my goal today
is to offer an understanding of when and how to draft Golgari in Guilds of Ravnica.

There are two kinds of Golgari decks. Those with Glowspore Shaman and those

This does not mean that Golgari needs Glowspore Shaman to function. But
good versions of Golgari decks look different with the Shaman. Consider the
card Molderhulk. Nine mana is way too much for this card. It’s playable at
six mana, and once you’re casting it for four or less, the card is quite
good. The problem with Molderhulk is that there are very few games that
exclude Glowspore Shaman where you have enough creatures in your graveyard
to play Molderhulk above curve. If you don’t have Glowspore Shaman, playing
Molderhulk is likely a mistake. Here’s a quick look at a deck that
maximizes Glowspore Shaman:

Dimir Guildgate 245
Forest 264 Forest 264 Forest 264 Forest 264 Forest 264 Golgari Guildgate 248 Golgari Guildgate 248 Golgari Guildgate 248 Selesnya Guildgate 255 Selesnya Guildgate 255 Swamp 262 Swamp 262 Swamp 262 Swamp 262 Swamp 262
Portcullis Vine
Portcullis Vine
Burglar Rat
Kraul Harpooner Glowspore Shaman Glowspore Shaman Vernadi Shieldmate
Generous Stray
Pitiless Gorgon District Guide
Rhizome Lurcher
Rhizome Lurcher Rhizome Lurcher Golgari Findbroker
Kraul Foragers
Rosemane Centaur
Vigorspore Wurm
Necrotic Wound
Dead Weight
Glaive of the Guildpact
Mausoleum Secrets
Deadly Visit
Vivid Revival

Glowspore Shaman is the only black or green creature at common or uncommon
in the set that is capable of both trading and putting multiple other
creatures in the graveyard. Even though surveil is a mechanic in black,
there isn’t a density of playable black creatures with surveil. This means
Glowspore Shaman is premium for the archetype. Even though the power level
of the card isn’t that high, the effect is scarce enough that I will take
Glowspore Shaman early.

But what happens when you can’t get your hands on that premium uncommon?
The Golgari decks without Glowspore Shaman lean on power over synergy. You
will still play cards like Kraul Foragers, Vigorspore Wurm, and Rhizome
Lurcher, but the focus on cards that utilize the graveyard is no longer

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Hired Poisoner
Hired Poisoner
Burglar Rat
Ironshell Beetle Kraul Harpooner Kraul Harpooner
Generous Stray
Generous Stray Hitchclaw Recluse Ochran Assassin
Rhizome Lurcher
Golgari Findbroker Golgari Findbroker Golgari Findbroker
Kraul Foragers
Vigorspore Wurm
Izoni, Thousand-Eyed Affectionate Indrik
Dead Weight
Severed Strands
Crushing Canopy
Deadly Visit
Deadly Visit

The sheer power level of this deck is through the roof, and that’s a must
without the Shaman if you want your deck to be great. You can have solid
Golgari decks that are more focused on undergrowth and lack Glowspore
Shaman, but they’re rarely great. One of the awesome things about the
Shaman is that the card does qualify as a good card and fits into any
Golgari deck even like the one above without much undergrowth payoff.

But this begs the question of when is it correct to draft Golgari? You
can’t always guarantee seeing the Shaman, and not every draft is going to
have a density of powerful cards in both green and black unless the colors
are underdrafted. I mentioned in my
Selesnya Archetype Guide
last week that because greens commons are of a lower power level than the
rest of the colors, it’s crucial to read the table and make sure you’re not
overlapping with other drafters. The same holds true for Golgari, but it’s
even more extreme. Unlike Selesnya, linear and aggressive Golgari decks are
hard to make work. There’s a limit to the mediocre two-drops you want to
put in your deck. Combat tricks don’t often make the cut because you need
both creature density for undergrowth and a solid chunk of removal as
catch-all answers. The green cards that tend to wheel are more valuable for
Selesnya than they are for Golgari.

This means that I want a higher degree of certainty that I’m the only
Golgari drafter at the end of pack 1. Incorrectly assessing the table is
devastating in this archetype, but the card quality is high enough that the
payoff is there. This changes a couple things about my draft strategy for
this guild:

  • Even if I look to be solidly in Golgari, I will pass cards like Rhizome
    Lurcher for cards like Kraul Foragers or Burglar Rat in order to get a
    strong data point on the wheel.
  • I highly prioritize a back-up plan, and it’s usually the five-color Gate
    deck. Golgari is a great base to optimize cards like Glaive of the
    Guildpact, and a green base helps on the mana with cards like Circuitous
    Route, District Guide, and Urban Utopia.

Because gold cards are valuable in terms of signaling, here’s my ranking
(read left to right, top to bottom) of every single Golgari gold card in
the set Guilds of Ravnica:

The above are much better on average than these…

…which are all better in the average draft than these:

After reading the signals, the other important concept to understand is
what the deck is usually made up of. Because of undergrowth, Golgari decks
are rarely under sixteen creatures and eighteen is a lot more common. With
eighteen creature decks, it can be hard to get enough removal. This is why
cards like Kraul Harpooner and Plaguecrafter are so important to the
archetype. They allow you to have a high creature count without lessening
the amount of impactful removal spells.

Furthermore, with general access to less removal, cards like Deadly Visit
become more important than cards like Dead Weight. At this point it’s
generally understood that Dead Weight is better than Deadly Visit in this
format. But in Golgari, this isn’t always the case. Since Golgari decks
often are chock-full of small creatures with the purpose of trading,
smaller creatures are much less of a problem than cards like Watcher in the
Mist and Citywatch Sphinx. Add in the interaction with surveil and
undergrowth, and Deadly Visit becomes more premium than usual. While this
is context-dependent, I think that most of my Golgari decks need Deadly
Visit a lot more than they need Dead Weight.

The only other important note about a good Golgari deck is that you should
prioritize creatures that trade easily in order to fuel your undergrowth
cards. This is even more important without Glowspore Shaman. So, cards like
Spinal Centipede and Wary Okapi are better than you initially would think,
and cards like Generous Stray are worse, as a 1/2 doesn’t tend to trade.

Golgari is my least favorite archetype in Guilds of Ravnica Draft,
but if it’s open and you properly prioritize the right cards, your deck can
be quite good. Recently I have been trying to innovate within the archetype
and came up with something that has potential.

That’s right, Gravitic Punch in Golgari. Red isn’t easy to splash, but
cards like Charnell Troll and Rhizome Lurcher get so big that the potency
of the card is through the roof. And this version of the deck doesn’t even
have many cards like Glowspore Shaman to value dump Gravitic Punch in the
graveyard. And you can even pair it with tricks like Might of the Masses
for an explosive amount of damage out of nowhere.

The concept is still a bit rough around the edges, but I’ll be streaming
more matches with it on my Twitch today in the hope
of figuring out if this really does give Golgari more legs or if it’s too

Forest 264

Forest 264
Forest 264
Forest 264
Forest 264
Forest 264
Gateway Plaza
Gateway Plaza
Golgari Guildgate 248
Mountain 263
Swamp 262
Swamp 262
Swamp 262
Swamp 262
Swamp 262
Swamp 262
Swamp 262
Pilfering Imp

Portcullis Vine
Burglar Rat

Child of Night
Devkarin Dissident
Devkarin Dissident
Vernadi Shieldmate
Generous Stray

Wary Okapi
Wary Okapi
Charnel Troll
Charnel Troll
Ochran Assassin
Wild Ceratok

Rhizome Lurcher
Rhizome Lurcher
Kraul Foragers
Necrotic Wound

Necrotic Wound
Dead Weight
Mausoleum Secrets
Gravitic Punch