Vraska And The New Golgari

Assassin’s Trophy and friends are opening up a lot of avenues for Standard deckbuilding! Pro Tour Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin goes through the best new options for these types of decks!

There’s a new four-cost Planeswalker with a plus ability that draws cards
and a minus ability that kills an opposing threat; and just as Ral, Izzet
Viceroy asks a lot more of us in deckbuilding than Teferi, so too does
Vraska, Golgari Queen ask more of us than Chandra ever did.

Before we dive into that +2 ability, let’s start with the -3 to get a
baseline. Getting to Abrupt Decay on the way in while keeping a
Planeswalker is a pretty attractive option, but four mana is at least a
mana too much for Abrupt Decay, so we’re gonna need to get some value from
her on the battlefield to make it worth it… But how much?

Starting at four loyalty and immediately going up to six is some serious
durability, but while we can plus her without sacrificing a permanent,
we’ve got to pay the price if we want to draw a card and gain a life. The
ultimate can be game-winning, but I’m guessing it’s a lot less reliable of
a surefire win than many other Planeswalkers.

In looking at Vraska’s +2, it’s important to note that she can sacrifice
any permanent, not just creatures. This gives us options for ways to put
extra lands to use later. Obviously, we can also combine this ability with
tokens, death triggers, temporary stealing effects, Treasure, and recursive

Oathsworn Vampire, in particular, is really interesting. You can attack
with it, then sacrifice it post-combat to Vraska. Since she gains you a
life, you can then just replay it from the graveyard, no problem.

Blood Operative is an even more exciting recursion option, assuming we get
a lot more support for surveil in black. As it stands, I’m just not seeing
it without a heavy blue component, but I’ll be keeping an eye out. Besides,
Sultai might be the right way to do it.

It’s probably too cute, but with enough of these recursive threats,
Desecrated Tomb could actually be kind of a sweet way to diversify our
attack. Each time we bring Oathsworn Vampire or Blood Operative back, we’re
getting a 1/1 flier on top of it. For instance:

There are just so many directions you can take such a deck, but one card in
particular that stands out to me is Deathgorge Scavenger.

It’s a source of life gain for Oathsworn Vampire, an exile enabler to turn
on Desecrated Tomb, and the graveyard hate aspect has new significance
because of jump-start and undergrowth.

I mean, while we’re looking for recursion and Tomb combos, we might as well
talk more lifegain combos, too…

Saprolings are great to sac to Vraska, and Slimefoot gives us an extra way
to get paid for what we were doing anyway. It’s also another way to trigger
stuff like Oathsworn Vampire at relatively low opportunity cost. Still, as
has been a challenge so many times before, I’m not at all sure how to make
it fit at the moment.

The big limiting factor to Journey to Eternity is needing to stick the aura
and then arrange for the enchanted creature’s death before something bad
happens to it, like Vraska’s Contempt. Vraska’s +2 conveniently gives us
four more ways to combo with our Journey to Eternity if we go that route.
Besides, she gets so much loyalty, it’s really not unreasonable to think
that we’ll be able to drop her and then untap with her still on the table.

Of course, why work so hard for our graveyard recursion when we could just
play Find? Find costing just two instead of three makes it night and day
different from the countless black cards that have had a similar effect.

Then we even have the option to use it as sweeper with the added
flexibility of buffing one of our creatures. The only reason I didn’t
include more above was how many of the creatures were already recursive.
Find//Finality looks kind of like a big deal, to me. In particular,
combining it with value creatures like Jadelight Ranger has the makings of
a powerful midrange card advantage engine.

Basically everything we’ve talked about so far combines well with Jadelight
Ranger. Every explore is a potential extra source of card advantage.
Besides, it’s not like the 2/1 body is the worst to sacrifice to Vraska in
a pinch. Jadelight Ranger is a great threat right out the box, but if we
can get a meaningful amount of extra value from stocking our graveyard and
increasing our undergrowth count, it might be downright incredible.

Graveyard Marshal is probably just too much better than Reassembling
Skeleton for it to be close, but sometimes, I like erring on the side of
trying a little more variety of interactions early in testing. Besides,
Reassembling Skeleton is pretty great to explore away.

I mean, if we’re gonna do it, maybe we’re supposed to do it as hard as we
can? Squee is a great reveal to explore and with any other self-mill we can
play, like Stitcher’s Apprentice. It’s also an excellent combo with
anything that needs to exile creatures from your graveyard to function,
like Graveyard Marshal.

Graveyard Marshal does raise an interesting point regarding Zombies, by the
way. An awful lot of them are rotating out, but is it still possible to
field enough Zombies to make an actual Zombie deck?

We’ve got to stretch pretty hard, and it’s not like Death Baron and
Liliana, Untouched by Death are really that big of a payoff.

At least Midnight Reaper looks great here. If it lives, it can really make
life hard for our opponents (particularly if we get Vraska going), and many
of the ways they might kill it would still net us a card.

While Vraska does have some play here, it’s not like we want to
sacrifice any of these creatures, and besides, that manabase is not
inspiring. Unclaimed Territory wouldn’t even help either. After all, the
only green is Vraska and Assassin’s Trophy.

This card is pretty intense.

Path to Exile is better than Terminate.

Just something to think about, since you know, Vindicate is an extremely
messed up Magic card.

Assassin’s Trophy may not be able to target our own stuff, but it sure is
an instant, unlike Vindicate.

I kind of suspect there’s initially going to be a trend of people playing
fewer copies of Assassin’s Trophy than there could be, since it seems like
such a “smart person” thing to do. Cards like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and
Ral, Izzet Viceroy make me think that eventually Assassin’s Trophy is going
to just be too much more versatile than cards like Cast Down and Walk the
Plank to actually play as much of a mix as we’ll probably see on week one.

It’s not like the second Assassin’s Trophy is “worse,” either. Yeah,
sometimes it’d be nice to have the option to play a different kill spell
first, but once you get deeper into the mid-game, the extra land you give
them starts to have diminishing returns.

While the list above doesn’t make the best use of green, if we wanted to
focus on the Zombie aspect, I suppose we could just be lame and cut it down
to mono-black, maybe looking something like this:

If we’re looking to stretch the game out a little, go a little longer, we
might consider Open the Graves or Vanquisher’s Banner.

However, without Vraska, I just don’t think we’ve got enough lifegain to
run the Oathsworn Vampire (and it’s not like it’s a Zombie anyway).

Now, if we go the other way, giving up Zombies and just full-on embracing
green, I think we’re likely going to want to try something along the lines
of what Gerry talked about
. Here’s how I would build the style of Golgari Midrange deck he was
talking about:

I’m not quite as over the moon for District Guide as Gerry, but I think the
card does look good and that it’s a good time for it.

It may not sound like the biggest deal to get back with Find//Finality, but
all that extra mana adds up. Besides, when Vraska lets you sacrifice both
the land and the 2/2 for extra cards, every piece of cardboard has value.

Geez, what are we to do? I love, Love, LOVE getting back Ravenous
Chupacabra with Find//Finality, but I just can’t quit Vraska’s Contempt.

If we do end up finding a good way to really stock our graveyard, Mausoleum
Secrets looks excellent to me. A two-mana instant speed Demonic Tutor is a
very worthy payoff worth doing a little work for, and the toolbox it opens
up is kind of interesting. Obviously, planeswalkers and removal spells are
all great, but there are a bunch of flashy one-offs that might be worth it,
once we have so much more ability to find them in a timely fashion.

Izoni is no Ishkanah, Grafwidow, but it does go way over the top of a lot
of strategies if the game goes long. It’s not a great fit with all the
cards that exile as part of their cost, but I could definitely see a copy
in decks that are more two-for-one value oriented, rather than

In a lot of worlds, I would be all over this card. It’s not Eternal
Witness, but what is? The competition at the four-spot is just so fierce,
though. Nevertheless, I don’t think it’s out of the question to imagine a
couple of these making for some kind of a sideways Den Protector plan,
going long. We’d have to be getting enough value out of rebuying other key
one-ofs, early, though.

Between Assassin’s Trophy, Vraska’s Contempt, and both Vraskas, we’re not
short on versatile Golgari removal. However, it we end up building around
the Goblin Chainwhirler combo, Mausoleum Secrets is a fantastic way to
search up Status. We do need five creatures in our graveyard, since split
cards have the combined CMC of the two sides these days, but that’s not a
big deal. Creatures are usually a lot easier to search up, so having such
an amazingly efficient way to find the “hard part” is worth noting.

Maybe Stitcher’s Apprentice and Jadelight Ranger is enough, but I’m not
really feeling Necrotic Wound yet. There could easily be a Sylvan Wayfinder
or something that pushes it over the edge, but Assassin’s Trophy and
Vraska’s Contempt set an extremely high bar. That said, once we’re playing
enough enablers to power Mausoleum Secrets, it sort of implies that we’re
powering up Necrotic Wound. At the very least, one copy makes a great Tutor
target in a pinch.

It might seem a funny tutor target, but one Doom Whisperer adds a powerful
dimension to a deck. Think of it like a Desecration Demon with two great
abilities instead of a drawback, albeit at one mana more.

Doom Whisperer hits really hard, but that zero-mana repeatable surveil
ability might be spooky good with undergrowth and various graveyard
recursion cards. Besides, that’s some pretty intense digging, particularly
if we’re using cards like Deathgorge Scavenger and Blood Operative. Blood
Operative, in particular, really appreciates a permanent and repeatable way
to surveil at instant speed.

Deathgorge Scavenger, Blood Operative, Vraska’s Contempt, Vraska, and Izoni
might give us a foundation with enough lifegain to make a single copy of
Lich’s Mastery a really exciting tutor target for games heavy on attrition.
That said, I’m definitely also going to be looking at any and every Lich’s
Mastery deck I can. It’s probably a leak.

It’s a little rough, playing Orzhov with double white and triple black
without a Godless Shrine. Still, I don’t mind making the focus battlefield
control and good cards, rather than being so combo-centric.

Still, maybe we’re supposed to play one of these (whether main or board) to
help finish people off. I kind of imagine we’ll be so good at burying
people in card advantage, we won’t need ’em, but it’s still worth

That said, it is kind of interesting, the way that Creeping Chill stacks
with Sovereign’s Bite.

I’m not actually sure staying Orzhov makes our mana better than Abzan at
all; and if we just own it, if we just full-on embrace creatures, there are
a lot of great cards for comboing with Lich’s Mastery, Mausoleum Secrets,
or Vraska, Golgari Queen.

This new format has so much we need to figure out, but one thing that’s
looking very clear is that Golgari has access to such incredible and
versatile removal that card advantage is looking like the name of the game,
rather than just tapping out for big threats.

Now, if only there was a blue card that could get us some serious
card advantage…