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Life and Death: The Wonder Twins


When I designed a deck for the Azorius two weeks back, I included a poll at the end asking what guild I should cover next. Here are the results:

The people have spoken by a narrow margin, and they want Golgari!

The Wonder Twins

I’ve seen a lot of B/G Commander decks, including many built around each of the three Golgari legends. So, I decided to try something a bit different and build a decklist with two Commanders—the Elven siblings Savra and Jarad.

Savra, Queen of the Golgari
Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

Hey, Ken Nagle!

I know you’ve been a major proponent for more multiplayer-friendly wordings such as “each opponent.” However, “more powerful in multiplayer” does not always mean “better gameplay in multiplayer.” I think Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord would be a much better multiplayer design if his second ability targeted a player rather than hitting all opponents.

When it hits everyone, there’s not any tension or decisions. There’s no reason to wait and see what happens. If you have a big enough creature to kill several players, they don’t get to play carefully and politically to save themselves—they’re just dead. “Each opponent” is great on small effects such as Skull Rend and Syphon Flesh, but it shouldn’t be used on abilities that can remove someone from the game such as on Jarad and Myojin of Night's Reach.

I’ve seen several Commander variants that allow two commanders or a commander and a lieutenant. The Golgari are all about duality—life and death, growth and decay. They seem like the perfect guild play with two commanders.

As a casual format, it can be fun to house-rule some decks if you’re doing it for flavor rather than power. If your opponents object to two commanders, you can always just pick a different one to lead your deck each game.

Savra’s abilities are unique and interesting, but they push toward a very linear deck with a lot of tokens and sacrifice outlets. Jarad decks instead want big creatures to sacrifice and a heavily stocked graveyard to beef him up. The two provide some interesting synergies but in a flexible and non-linear manner. It seems that letting the twins play off each other should lead to some fun and dynamic games.

The Guild

Jarad's Orders
Golgari Signet

As usual, the first order of business is to pick out the cards that are already associated with the Golgari. Unlike the somewhat anemic Azorius, Golgari have a ton of cards that are great in Commander. Huge creatures, recursion, and resource collection is a great start for a Commander deck.

Golgari Signet and Golgari Keyrune are both good mana rocks. Abrupt Decay and Putrefy are awesome removal spells, and Vraska the Unseen is potentially repeatable removal. Plague Boiler is an odd sweeper, but it should be fun to play with.

Both Golgari Guildmage and the new Korozda Guildmage offer some solid utility, and Jarad's Orders is an obvious fit. Deadbridge Goliath, Corpsejack Menace, and Gleancrawler are efficient beaters with interesting upsides. Golgari Charm, Golgari Germination, Vigor Mortis, Grisly Salvage, and Treasured Find are all solid spells with Golgari watermarks.

Izzet vs. Golgari gives us some good suggestions—Grim Flowering is a perfect Golgari card, and Feast or Famine is a fun card that implies a Sword of the same name. Life // Death neatly sums up our deck’s theme in a single card.

Dredge is an extremely powerful keyword—we don’t want to go overboard and shift the focus of the deck entirely, but a few of the strongest dredge spells are worth running. Golgari Grave-Troll and Stinkweed Imp are both solid creatures with high dredge counts, and Life From the Loam is a classically powerful spell when combined with cycling and fetch lands.

The Flavor

Birthing Pod
Creakwood Ghoul
Gatecreeper Vine

When I’m trying to find cards that match a flavorful theme, I do a bunch of Gatherer searches for cards with related names. For Azorius, I searched for words like law, justice, and judgment. For the Golgari, I searched for words that related to their dual themes of life and death: plant, moss, vine, rot, decay, grave, crypt, and so on.

LIfe's Finale and Living Death . . . Grave Pact and Birthing Pod . . . Then there’s my favorite mirrored pair, Soul of the Harvest and Harvester of Souls.

“Plants and Zombies” yielded a well of good names. Gatecreeper Vine and Sprouting Vines find lands, and Crushing Vines and Rending Vines destroy the unnatural. Wall of Roots and Carpet of Flowers round out our army of flora with some mana acceleration.

I like the idea of a Zombie tribal theme, but I really want to make it a recursive engine rather than a beatdown plan. Corpse Harvester, Lord of the Undead, Gravecrawler, Unholy Grotto, Graveborn Muse, Cruel Revival, and Call to the Grave all give us reasons to care about the Zombie creature type. Corpse Connoisseur, Fleshbag Marauder, and Ghoultree are all Zombies that work well with our existing game plans.

Cards such as Creakwood Ghoul are the reasons I love theme decks. It’s a goofy Eventide uncommon that hasn’t seen much play anywhere. But here, it’s perfect—it’s a B/G Plant Zombie that gains life and eats graveyards. At 5 mana, it’s not going to sneak into any optimized decklists, but here, it’s on-theme and will be a fun card to play.

Slime Molding tells us that Golgari shamans can create Oozes, which is another fun creature type. Gutter Grime, Ooze Garden, Mitotic Slime, Scavenging Ooze, Acidic Slime, and Necrotic Ooze all seem spot-on for our sacrifice and recursion themes.

The Mechanics

Sewer Nemesis
Creakwood Liege

This deck is all about creatures and the graveyard. We want ways to sacrifice creatures, things that trigger from creatures dying, and ways to put large or numerous creatures in play.

Green gives us some great on-theme enchantments: Greater Good, Pattern of Rebirth, and Fecundity. I also discovered an awesome hidden gem that I can’t believe I’ve never seen: Foster.

Attrition and Perilous Forays provide additional sacrifice outlets. Creakwood Liege and Worm Harvest are good sources of B/G tokens. Doomgape and Sewer Nemesis are huge dudes that sacrifice creatures and feed our graveyard, respectively.

The Lands

Hey, Matt Tabak!

City of Shadows’s printed text specifically uses the word “sacrifice,” in comparison to many old cards that say things like, “destroy a creature you control.” And yet, the current Oracle text doesn’t work with sacrifice-specific abilities like Savra and Angel of Jubilation.

Can we fix this in the next Oracle update? Thanks.

Finally, we round out our build with the too-often-overlooked mana base. Fortunately for us, almost all of the B/G lands fit perfectly with a Golgari theme.

Golgari Rot Farm and Golgari Guildgate literally have our name on them. Overgrown Tomb, Verdant Catacombs, Woodland Cemetery, Crypt of Agadeem, and Svogthos, the Restless Tomb are all full of plants and corpses. Twilight Mire, Tainted Wood, and Grim Backwoods are overgrown and creepy.

Unholy Grotto, Bojuka Bog, Mosswort Bridge, and Spawning Pool all fit quite well with our growth and death themes. More mechanically, Life from the Loam encourages us to run a full set of cycling lands.

The one thing I’m sad to miss out on are lands that are sacrifice outlets. High Market and Phyrexian Tower would be absolutely amazing, but they’re both a bit too far of flavor for me to justify. City of Shadows can’t fill our graveyard, but it should be strong with all the tokens we’re producing.

The Deck

All right! Let’s see what this looks like all together:

"Golgari Duality"

The End

Hey, Conley Woods!

I haven’t been featured on the Daily Deck List since you took it over from Gavin Verhey. Keep an eye out—Abe Sargent’s not the only person writing about Commander, ya know!

That’s it for this week, folks. I’ll see you next week with something different, and then I’ll try my hand at the Izzet after that. See you then!

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