This week I’m going to try and take a look at everything that a standard Golgari deck can play right now (though I might miss some—there are a ton of options for the deck). Lets go by mana cost:
Llanowar Elves – I would recommend this in almost every Golgari deck, getting to the various 3 mana creatures a turn earlier is a huge deal in Standard and if it does happen to live, playing your bigger creatures earlier also helps.
Stitcher’s Supplier – This card is less versatile than Llanowar Elves. You have to be heavily graveyard based to play it effectively. I haven’t seen him played much in recent weeks, being replaced by the explore engine as a way to fill the graveyard, but if you have enough graveyard synergies it is worth trying out.
Wildgrowth Walker – This is a major reason for why green-black decks have moved towards more explore creatures. It is the best card available for beating mono red; I’ve ended games over 50 life because I played Wildgrowth Walker, followed it up with Jadelight Ranger, and just spent the rest of the game digging for more explore creatures. He quickly gets out of killing range and takes over games just by being in play. I personally like 2 in the maindeck and 2 in the sideboard right now, though some players have kept them all in the sideboard. In the Gruesome Menagerie version of green-black they are all in the maindeck, because it combines so well.
Merfolk Branchwalker – Branchwalker is the better of the 2 mana explore creatures, as it is easier to cast in a deck that is generally base green (due to Jadelight Ranger being 1GG).
Seekers’ Squire – This is your 9th-11th spots for explore creatures just to consistently trigger Wildgrowth Walker.
Glowspore Shaman – This is along the same lines as Stitcher’s Supplier, as it can be better than the explore creatures in a more graveyard oriented build, but I personally didn’t like those builds as much as the explore package because the mono red matchup without Wildgrowth Walker is very difficult.
Druid of the Cowl – Druid of the Cowl is another way to ramp into your bigger creatures quickly, and is slightly more resilient to removal than Llanowar Elves. This has been played more in the Carnage Tyrant builds of Golgari.
Assassin’s Trophy – Trophy is one of the most versatile removal spells in the format: being able to kill planeswalkers is a big deal right now.
Cast Down – This is a less popular removal option that can be good in more controlling versions of Golgari.
Find (// Finality) – This is one of the best card advantage engines in Standard. With all the enter the battlefield abilities in the deck, this card can provide more advantage than just the 2 creatures you add back to your hand, and the versatility of having Finality as an option in aggressive match-ups is great.
Jadelight Ranger – This is the other part of the explore engine with Wildgrowth Walker. Exploring twice to get 2 triggers makes this one of the biggest swings against mono red, and drawing two cards is a strong upside against midrange and control.
Elvish Rejuvenator – This card has recently gotten more popular as a great way to ramp into your bigger creatures such as Doom Whisperer and Carnage Tyrant or into your planeswalkers like Vivien Reid and Vraska, Relic Seeker. Being able to hit Memorial to Folly off of it also makes it reasonable later in the game.
District Guide – While this card can help you hit landdrops, it doesn’t actually ramp you like Elvish Rejuvenator. Though some people have chosen the 2/2 stats, I prefer Rejuvenator’s ability to effectively put you ahead a turn.
Midnight Reaper – I haven’t tested this card yet but it has seen some play as a way to out grind control matchups.
Plaguecrafter – This is a reasonable answer to planeswalkers, especially in combination with Find // Finality to recyle it. This card is especially powerful in the Gruesome Menagerie version of the deck.
Deathgorge Scavenger – I wasn’t convinced at first when I saw this as a sideboard card for the mirror, but it is more than that. It is an answer to both Rekindling Phoenix and Arclight Phoenix, which is desperately needed in those matchups, and the life gain doesn’t hurt either.
Golden Demise – This is a great sideboard card against Selesnya Tokens that won’t kill your own creatures late game. The decision basically comes down to this or Ritual of Soot, I have leaned towards Ritual of Soot generally for the ability to kill things like Goblin Chainwhirler, Knight of Grace, Resplendent Angel, Tocatli Honor Guard and a few others, though with the success of Boros at the Pro Tour that may change.
Vraska, Golgari Queen – A good card selection engine in the late game and an answer to Tocatli Honor Guard—which is one of the best cards at slowing down the Golgari deck if you don’t have an answer.
Golgari Findbroker – This card is excellent especially in the planeswalker builds of Golgari, because it is able to add back any permanent. That effect is great in a deck where you often have to put your 6 drops into the grave early with explore creatures in order to hit your land drops. It gets worse in the builds with less planeswalkers because Find // Finality can already do the job.
Ravenous Chupacabra – I’d play 2-3 of this card in almost every build of Golgari. With the absence of recurring threats like Scrapheap Scrounger, this card has gotten a lot better, and being able to recycle it with Find // Finality and/or Golgari Findbroker makes it relatively strong at removing most of the threats in Standard.
Vraska’s Contempt – This card didn’t see much main deck play early in the format but as both phoenixes have gotten more popular it is needed in order to answer them efficiently.
Ritual of Soot – This is still my preferred board wipe out of the sideboard for the reasons state above with Golden Demise.
Doom Whisperer – While this isn’t the best threat for Golgari (because it isn’t working towards the grindy game plan you are generally going for) I’ve found it to be a necessary evil in order to to deal with flying creatures that this deck otherwise struggles with (like Rekindling Phoenix and anything from the Izzet Drakes deck).
Vivien Reid – She is another great answer to flyers. Unfortunately, she doesn’t deal with the phoenixes permanently, but the ability to also deal with enchantments and artifacts while also being a card advantage engine makes this card great in Golgari. This has recently become the most popular planeswalker in green-black strategies, as people are cutting down on both versions of Vraska and playing more Carnage Tyrants, which Vivien can find.
Gruesome Menagerie – Builds with this card seem to have dropped out of favor, but its effect spawned the explore package that most decks play now. This deck took the idea of abusing Wildgrowth Walker to the extreme with the ability to bring it and a Jadelight Ranger back at the same time. If you are especially worried about mono red this might still be the way to go.
The Eldest Reborn – I see this as more of a sideboard card, but there have been lists that have played it in the maindeck alongside extra copies of Golgari Findbroker. That interaction always seemed a bit too slow to me to be a game 1 plan, but is great in matches that go long like the mirror and control.
Vraska, Relic Seeker – an excellent answer as well as a high quality finisher, which is something that neither of the other walkers in this color combination do by themselves.
Carnage Tyrant – This seems to be the preferred 6 drop now. It is great against control and in the mirror, because it is huge and hard to kill. Control matchups often come down to casting this as early as possible and hoping they don’t have Settle the Wreckage or Cleansing Nova, and in this archetype Cleansing Nova is only a temporary answer due to cards like Find // Finality, Golgari Findbroker and Memorial to Folly.
Izoni, Thousand-Eyed – Izoni started off as the 6 drop of choice in Golgari. It is still great in the long, grindy games, but those happen a bit less now due to the popularity of Carnage Tyrant. I still find it to be one of the better cards in the mirror and against Selesnya Tokens, because it allows you to keep up with a large board of creatures, or get way ahead on cards.
(Find //) Finality – The other side of Find was overlooked a lot early in the format, but there are a lot of matchups where this side is even more important than the card advantage offered by Find. Being able to play a maindeck board wipe in your creature deck that isn’t just dead in control matchups is very powerful.
Memorial to Folly – This is the only “effect” land in the deck and it is excellent. Being able to find a form of recursion off Elvish Rejuvenator is very good in the late game and recycling your best creature, like Izoni or Carnage Tyrant lets you grind even more without really changing the rest of your deck very much. Golgari Findbroker can also form a single chump blocker forever with it, since you can use one to get back the other.
With the Golgari decks leaning more towards Carnage Tyrants instead of planeswalkers and Izoni, it is a good time to take advantage of green-black’s creature-based removal (like Ravenous Chupacabra) with cards like Tocatli Honor Guard. They are also a bit shorter on artifact/enchantment hate because they have cut Vraska, so cards like Azor’s Gateway and Seal Away have gotten better. It’s important for every deck right now to have a plan for Carnage Tyrant, and the best answer is probably Settle the Wreckage because Golgari is so good at bringing it back from the graveyard.
~ Sean Armstrong