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Four Levels of Golgari: Carth the Lion

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Let's take a look at Golgari. For those of you who haven't ever been to Ravnica, that's gb.

For me, Golgari has always been interesting. Black is my favorite color in Magic to play; Green is my second. And yet, I've never been a terribly large fan of the pair. I don't really like to throw things into my Graveyard, and complicated interactions like Dredge (and the subsequent decision trees) kind of kill my desire to play. I like killing people's stuff and attacking with big creatures.

Fortunately for me, Golgari isn't all "put half your library into your 'yard, then exile it all". We've got some fun stuff to play with. Let's start with a super-cheapy deck and build for $100.

(A quick note before we begin: I'd treat this deck similar to a precon. This is a great way to get started with this particular commander, but it's the kind of deck you're going to want to upgrade as you get better pieces, whether opening them or trading or just saving pennies and buying more expensive cards.)

Carth the Lion

This guy is nifty, and all the recent Planeswalkers for cheaper mana costs and lowered rarities mean we have a ton of affordable targets for that tasty first ability. We get a 3/5 for four mana, which is just fine, and we get to dig through seven (!) cards to look for a 'walker? That's a great deal. Then we get his second ability, which looks a little weird until you think about it. "Planeswalkers' loyalty abilities you activate cost an additional +1 to activate." So, you take the ability and add "+1" to it. That means if it's a +1 ability, you actually add two to the 'walker's loyalty. On the other hand, if it's a -3, you only subtract two, because -3+1 = 2. Make sense?

This deck was built rather strangely, though, so rather than walk through it, let's just take a look, then we'll go through the process I used for building the deck.

Carth Superfriends | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper


The deck-building process

  • Step 1: I knew I wanted around 25 'walkers. Why? Because Carth looks at seven, and in order to up the chances we'll see a 'walker on each hit, I wanted to have a 'walker about one in every four cards. Sometimes we'll have a choice, but we shouldn't whiff with any regularity.
  • Step 2: I did a search for every legal 'walker in Carth's colors. There are... quite a few. There was no way to run all of them (actually, you could. There are 63; with Carth that'd be 64. It'd be mana-light and wouldn't do anything for the first few turns, but you could do a deck of nothing but every 'walker legal in the color combination), and I had a budget to contend with, so I organized them by price and cut everything worth more than $5. We lose a lot of great 'walkers that way, but again - this deck is a starting place, not a final destination. I kept everything else except Ugin, the Ineffable, who's a fine 'walker but who seemed less than useful in this particular deck, and Liliana, Untouched by Death, who's also great but only in a deck with Zombies (we have none). That left us with 23 'walkers, and cost just about $60. Perfect.
  • Step 3: Next I looked at all the cards that care about Planeswalkers in the color pair. This led to stuff like Attendant of Vraska, Garruk's Harbinger, and Reki, the History of Kamigawa. We've also got the new Varis, Silverymoon Ranger, who has a ton of text and will have us exploring Dungeon depths, but might make us a token or two for our trouble. Oath of Liliana and Oath of Nissa both made the cut, as did Kaya's Ghostform and The Eldest Reborn. Confront the Past, The Elderspell, Settle the Score, all cards which care about 'walkers. They let us add loyalty, bring them back from the dead, or sacrifice them for value.
  • Step 4: We need to be able to do some other things, so now I started thinking about normal Commander-y stuff like removal, card draw, and ramp. I added some spells which allow us to do those things. We got Baleful Mastery and In Garruk's Wake; we got Sign in Blood and Harmonize; we got Cultivate and Sakura-Tribe Elder.
  • Step 5: Time to build a mana base. Our color needs were split nearly down the middle. There were a few key lands we really wanted (Rogue's Passage, Interplanar Beacon, Nesting Grounds), so we started with a (cheap) pile of dual lands and filled the rest out with Basic Forests and Swamps. 40 lands, of course; after all, this deck has some expensive 'walkers and other spells and needs to hit those drops!

We came in at $95.96, which is perfect. Stick the remaining $4.04 in a jar and add a little bit at a time to upgrade some of those walkers. I mean, there's nothing wrong with Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage, but we can probably find something better for this deck (the one I'm really sad about losing is Garruk, Apex Predator, who's surprisingly expensive). Also, once you can get one, it's probably worth putting The Chain Veil in the deck, even if it makes all the Garruks want to murder the rest of the deck.

One of the fun things about playing this deck is figuring out the right balance. It could be 23 is too many 'walkers; or it might be too few! The deck might need more ramp and less draw, or more cheap removal just to stay alive, or more mass creature removal spells to leverage all the planeswalkers. Maybe it needs to be able to cast and recast Carth to get a bunch of triggers, or perhaps it needs to focus in on a specific set of 'walkers which, when combined, win.

What's that? You want to know how the deck will win? I suppose I didn't really take that into account. One nice thing is we have all the Vraska Planeswalkers, and a few of her iterations have ultimates which can win the game. This is why we want Rogue's Passage, because making one of her Assassins unblockable will really ruin a player's day. Arlinn, Voice of the Pack works nicely with several of the Garruks who make Wolves, so with the right draw we could wind up with a weird pile of tokens which get an Overrun from one of the 'walkers and win that way. Vivien, Arkbow Ranger can go get a huge Tramply thing out of a "Sideboard" we have. Heck, with enough time, Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, and some Proliferate, we could win with a bunch of Plant tokens! My point is, you don't need me to tell you how the deck will win. The deck can do some cool stuff. Add your brainpower and you'll be able to figure out your path to victory. (It's probably worth spending some time goldfishing the deck, though, because the interactions can get complicated and we don't want to make our friends sit around forever while we figure it out!)

What planeswalkers do you want to reveal with Carth? Let us know in the comments! I'll see you next time for a $200 Golgari build - and once again, it's not a graveyard deck.

Thanks for reading.

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