Golgari Runs the Tables

Golgari

We’re just a couple of weeks into the new Standard and there is a clear current king: Golgari.

What makes Golgari so good?

The Standard b-g deck is basically a stack of two-for-ones. Most of them play Llanowar Elves, but believe it or not, some simply don’t!

Many of the Elves-less versions play as many as twelve two and three casting cost Explore creatures, meaning they have a very high likelihood of hitting their early land drops. They may sacrifice Llanowar Evles — one of the only cards consistently dominated by Goblin Chainwhirler — for the security and consistency of drawing all two-for-ones.

Explore two-for-ones like Merfolk Branchwalker are outstanding blockers, even when they trade. The b-g actually wants to put creatures into the graveyard for cards like the Findbroker or Find // Finality.

Basically: This strategy combines consistent early game draws and hitting land drops with a consistent flow of card advantage. In the absence of a blisteringly fast or over-the-top threat deck, that is a heck of a combo for Standard.

Golgari in Context

Standard b-g is an outstanding anti-beatdown deck. Not only do its early game creatures block and trade well, but you can gain access to cards like Wildgrowth Walker.

Not only does Wildgrowth Walker completely dominate cards like Viashino Pyromancer, it is just big enough to contain Knights from History of Benalia and many other small creatures. Of course, a deck with twelve Explore guys is going to make this card look fantastic. Turn two Wildgrowth Walker, turn three Jadelight Ranger?

That is, “give my Walker +2/+2, gain six, draw two cards… and still play a 2/1 creature”? Heck of a combo. Series of combos, even.

Sorry Red Deck: Meet Golgari

So Golgari draws extra cards every turn… Or kills your creature with its creature… Or gains size and life simultaneously… Can other decks compete on card advantage?

What about our darling from last week, Experimental Frenzy?

The problem is that on top of everything else, Golgari can remove almost any kind of permanent!

Vivian Reid can shoot enchantments like Experimental Frenzy and keep kicking. Moreover, Assassin’s Trophy is great at shooting at a big enchantment. On the other hand, Assassin’s Trophy is not good against Golgari generally… All of its guys are two-for-ones! How much card advantage do you want to give the opponent? As flexible as Assassin’s Trophy can be, it’s not at its best against Golgari.

Michael and Patrick give you the lowdown on how to approach this format-defining deck, whether you want to beat it… Or join it.

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Is Experimental Frenzy the New Necropotence?

Experimental Frenzy
Mike thinks Experimental Frenzy is a Necropotence-esque card.

What does he mean by this? To Mike, Experimental Frenzy is going to inform both deck design and in-game play. Like Necropotence, the Frenzy is going to offer a relentless stream of card advantage limited only by how much land you have in play.

But the card — at least when surrounded by a bunch of cheap creatures and burn — is really good at playing many cards per turn + hitting that land drop. That said…

Experimental Frenzy gets stuck on consecutive lands

Sadly, this is a true story.

Part of the long-term challenge in building Experimental Frenzy Red Decks will be how you solve this problem. There will be multiple possible solutions. Here are some ideas:

  • Dismissive Pyromancer – A Human Wizard, this card synergizes with the Wizard’s Lightning you’ve already got. The Pyromancer can shoot at large creatures but also change the top card of your library under Frenzy.
  • Treasure Map – An amazing tool against mid-range and Control decks, Treasure Map is one of the best possible cards to have in play while under Frenzy. It can help you dig to what you need early, then keep your gas going late.
  • Field of Ruin – Mike is currently sideboarding this card as his extra land. Not only does it have text against stuff like Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin; it can change the top card of your library while you are under Frenzy.
  • Risk Factor – a new card from Guilds of Ravnica, Risk Factor can be played from the graveyard while you are under Frenzy, often changing your top card. For next level performance, try discarding Risk Factor to your Risk Factor.

The Best of the Rest:

Boros Angels – Find out about the new home of Lyra Dawnbringer and friends.

G/W Tokens – Mike claims this is the most powerful initial deck in the format.

Blue control (various) – Get ready for a change of pace!

One thing is for sure: Standard is waaaaay different than it was a couple of weeks ago. Check it out:

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Doom Whisperer: The Critics Agree!

Doom Whisperer
Doom Whisperer is great, and is going to be great!

This Nightmare Demon has a solid body for its casting cost.

This creature easily passes Magic’s lowest bar. At 6/6 for 3BB, Doom Whisperer is far bigger for a five drop than many tournament (or at least Standard) Staples. For comparison, cross-archetype All-Star Glorybringer was only 4/4 and current Baneslayer Angel Lyra, Dawnbringer is 5/5. Doom Whisperer towers over most of its competitors… Or, rather, tramples over them.

Oh yeah, both flying and trample are kind of thrown in!

Doom Whisperer is a lockdown threat.

While its size and its evasion are both spot-on, neither is what really makes this card so interesting. Surveil 2 — with no attached mana requirement — is something special. The Whisperer can break an opponent in multiple ways. We think its most common use will be in mid-range control decks. In such decks, the Nightmare Demon can utilize Surveil to ensure drawing action, turn after turn. In some decks it will be able to load the graveyard with jump-start cards, or even trigger Narcomoeba and Crippling Chill. But the “mere” ability to keep a permission spell on top for three turns will be enough to win most races.

It can be played in multiple different strategies

There is no reason to damn Doom Whisperer to Mono-Black Control. I mean, Mono-Black Control is probably going to be a reasonable home… But so will Orzhov Control, Golgari, Sultai, and other color combinations. That is because a 6/6 flyer for five can slot right into many of those strategies. Creature decks sometimes need a huge finisher, Control decks need a way to win at all: This card can fit both those roles and almost everything between them.

This week’s podcast offers some Doom Whisperer consensus over last week’s… But also explores a card Mike thinks will make a big splash in Modern (which Patrick thinks is fringe playable, and maybe only by Reid Duke); a selection of small evasion creatures (you might want to buy back from the graveyard); and an exploration of Guilds Goblins. Check it out:

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Some of Our Favorites from Guilds of Ravnica

Guilds of Ravnica
Guilds of Ravnica continues to wow us!

Patrick and Michael continue their takes on Guilds of Ravnica and its many new cards.

Michael Sun Rises and Falls with Doom Whisperer

Michael is over the moon for this black five drop. Reminiscent of both his tap-out strategies and the Titan cycle, Doom Whisperer is one of the best “last” cards you can play. In an attrition battle? Your opponent will fade some of the time. Remember to pay 2 life? You simply won’t.

That’s just the fair side! Combine Doom Whisperer with a little Jump-Start and the cards will flow. With enough life, you can self-Mill your entire deck if you have to. This would give you access to a level of self-mill that, at least according to Mike, hasn’t been seen since the days of Hermit Druid.

Patrick Asks if Beacon Bolt isn’t exactly what Izzet ordered

This ability — to deal a variable amount of damage — for just three mana is highly consistent with what Izzet decks seem to want to do. It’s not going to be tough to juice that graveyard… Especially when so many different cards are pointed at the same thing.

Etrata, the Silencer is just cool

Okay… Maybe not “just” cool. Cool AND good!

This card has a built-in card advantage engine… Even when it’s not cheating to win the game. Only thing is? Sometimes it just wins.

With a resilient toughness greater than you might typically see for a four drop, Etrata, the Silencer is tough to kill. And you can’t ever block it. Need a reason to steer clear of Mono-Green StOmPy? Look no further. This card will shred Mono-Green if the battlefield is at parity… And there isn’t much StOmPy can do about it.

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Crackling Drake is Our Official Guilds of Ravnica Preview

Wizards of the Coast gave us this great, cool, preview card: Crackling Drake!

Crackling Drake

Crackling Drake is Not a Dragon 🙁

… That doesn’t mean that you can’t play it with Dragons. At UURR casting this card on turn four consistently is going to be a challenge. At least, you are going to have to build a specialized mana base for it.

But that’s okay!

Crackling Drake may not be a Dragon, but it can possibly play well with Dragons… One Dragon in particular.

Niv-Mizzet, Parun
Niv-Mizzet, Parun

Both of these cards really like instants and sorceries. The four mana Drake gets more power from casting instants and sorceries, while the six mana Dragon draws extra cards.

Speaking of which…

Crackling Drake has lots of text

Two things to note:

  1. Crackling Drake draws a card when it enters the battlefield. THAT IS REALLY GOOD!
  2. The Drake also counts both the graveyard and exile. This is an important point for a couple of reasons… In powered formats, you can cast Demonic Consultation to do dozens of damage on the spot. In Standard, there is a huge advantage to playing jump-start cards. They go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

Thanks again to Wizards for our great preview! You can listen to our podcast on this new card now:

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Get Ready for Assassin’s Trophy

Assassin's Trophy
Assassin’s Trophy

Assassin’s Trophy is in Rare Company

Assassin’s Trophy has a down-side: That is plain to see. It in fact has the same down-side as Staples like Path to Exile and Settle the Wreckage.

Mike notes how players had question marks around the white cards before they had all become so popular. This caused some players to underrate them, and might cause some players to underrate the Golgari instant.

The truth is, this card is beyond flexible. Patrick thinks it would see non-zero play at four mana. It’s not actually so far off of an Utter End.

Compare it to Vindicate: Once you get past the ugly down-side, Assassin’s Trophy is a full mana cheaper and an instant (versus Vindicate’s sorcery). While you can’t really get the Vindicate / Recoil play pattern of the old Esper Angels deck… We probably wouldn’t want to see that anyway.

Assassin’s Trophy Can Blow Up Lands

Compare it to Ghost Quarter: Mike once underrated Ghost Quarter because of the inherent lack of card advantage. The same issue is present here, and becomes pronounced if you ever point this at a land. But! What happens when you aim it at a nonbasic land? When you’re taking out an Urza’s Tower, do you care so much that they are getting a basic Forest back?

It gets better: The opponent can run out of basics. At some point, you can overwhelm the opponent with so much redundancy with Field of Ruin and other, similar, effects that the opponent will literally have no basics to search up. If you have Crucible of Worlds + Ghost Quarter (in Modern), you can even start hitting their basic lands!

Look for this card to be a four-of Staple in Standard and wider formats. It’s so good (and so cheap to start) Mike even thinks it’ll see play in Nullhide Ferox decks.

Nullhide Ferox

It’s so good, people will play it in the same 75 (if not 60) as a card that says you can’t cast noncreature spells.

Tons more Guilds of Ravnica, besides! Check it out:

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Don’t forget: Bonus episode tomorrow!

Ral, Izzet Viceroy (and lots more Izzet)

Ral, Izzet Viceroy
Ral, Izzet Viceroy is one of the most exciting new cards from Guilds of Ravnica

Ral, Izzet Viceroy is not “the man” … yet

While Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is still the top Planeswalker topping control deck curves… Ral has some great things going for him.

Don’t underestimate Ral’s enormous starting loyalty! Ral can essentially start at six loyalty. Even when Ral is killing a creature, he will have two loyalty left. Two is so much more than one in a world with Goblin Chainwhirler.

While Ral’s [-3] ability is substantially behind Teferi’s defensive ability, all three options on this card are still awesome. His card drawing ability is great and his ultimate looks backbreaking.

Sinister Sabotage is even better than you think

Sinister Sabotage
Sinister Sabotage

Sinister Sabotage is the strongest Counterspell since Cryptic Command. It is intuitively more flexible than Dissolve. Surveil 1 is simply stronger than Scry 1. Both abilities can leave a useful card on top of your deck. Surveil 1 can not only make it even less likely for you to draw an undesirable card than putting it on the bottom of your deck, you can also exploit graveyard synergies. For example, you can bin a card like Radical Idea (or any Jump-start card).

Don’t sleep on this one: It’s awesome.

There are plenty of reasons to try Firemind’s Research

Firemind's Research
Firemind’s Research

On the surface, Firemind’s Research looks like a Search for Azcanta… In actuality, it’s more of a Dynavolt Tower.

While not necessarily a four-of in every Izzet deck, this card has solid potential. It pays you back for playing the instants and sorceries you want to play anyway; plus gives you a way to win!

Tons of Guilds of Ravnica action in this new podcast. Listen to it all in “Ral, Izzet Viceroy (and lots more Izzet)”

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Arcbound Ravager and Hardened Scales

Arcbound Ravager
It turns out Arcbound Ravager and Hardened Scales go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

Arcbound Ravager is, and has always been, the Fairy Godmother

The Ravager, mightiest of Modular cards, has always been a cut above the competition. With the ability to defy card advantage and throw all your deck’s power onto one threat, this creature has wowed crowds and defined formats for over a decade.

The Ravager could always sacrifice an artifact that was about to die. In that way, it could mitigate the effects of cards like Searing Blood or Smash to Smithereens. More importantly, it could create size without using mana: This let the Beast take all kinds of explosive turns for years.

So with cards like Myr Enforcer and Somber Hoverguard all but forgotten, this Affinity two-drop has remained relevant.

But wait! There’s more!

Arcbound Ravager makes (and moves) +1/+1 counters… Hardened Scales loves +1/+1 counters

Hardened Scales may be the new boogeyman
Hardened Scales

What happens when every Worker enters the battlefield as a 2/2? How does Steel Overseer look when this enchantment is in play on turn one?

Affinity was always a good Modern deck, but with Hardened Scales, the archetype is doing something cool and legitimately new for the first time in years.

Consider for a moment what happens when you sacrifice an Arcbound Worker to an Arcbound Ravager with Hardened Scales in play…

  • The Worker dies, putting a +1/+1 counter on the Ravager.
  • But wait! Hardened Scales says to put two +1/+1 counters on instead.
  • The Ravager’s ability resolves, so we’re up to three +1/+1 counters already…
  • But then Hardened Scales checks again…

Pretty cool, huh?

Forget about cool, pretty powerful.

Hardened Scales Affinity may be the new hotness in Modern. Learn about it, and all the latest modern tech, in this week’s podcast:

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Rekindling Phoenix and a Red Potpourri

Rekindling Phoenix
Rekindling Phoenix

Rekindling Phoenix in Grixis Control?

Mitchell Tamblyn may take the deck tuning cake this week. Tamblyn added Rekindling Phoenix to Grixis! His glut of super powered fours went over the top with that 4/3 addition. With cards like Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Vraska’s Contempt, or of course Nicol Bolas, the Ravager; Mitchell was almost guaranteed to have a better four mana play than his opponent.

Patrick compares this choice to Mike’s famous tap-out Control deck, Jushi Blue. We can’t solve every problem in the world… But it is possible to make a better play, card-for-card and turn-for-turn than most enemies. This deck can obviously do that!

Imagine…

Who is going to match up with that lineup? Exactly.

Viashino Pyromancer
Viashino Pyromancer

Viashino Pyromancer is a Discounted Snapcaster Mage

“You don’t have to pay extra for the Shock!”

The Mono-Red Wizards deck seems like it’s here to stay. This deck is the real deal, and surprisingly nuanced for a deck full of one and two casting cost beaters.

Was Viashino Pyromancer the kind of card that got you all excited the first time you saw it? But it’s an awesome tool, in-archetype. Not only is it super cheap, but trading one for the usually outstanding Vraska’s Contempt must be soul-crusing for the opponent.

The Mono-Red Wizards deck typically plays land light… Maybe only 19 lands. When we say “nuanced” … Some of them play as many as two lands in the sideboard to get ahead!

Further, the deck can sideboard for a “durable card advantage engine” and completely outmaneuver the opponent. Mike tells a story about losing to a Wizards opponent who sided in Vance’s Blasting Cannons (like GP Top 8 competitor Bolun Zhang). He sided in all the cards that were good against fast and cheap creatures, and just found himself ground to death by burn spells and a card advantageous enchantment. Such a transformation is one of the key advantages of the archetype.

Give us a listen now!

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Wild About Wildgrowth Walker

“Wildgrowth Walker is basically Tarmogoyf + Loxodon Hierarch”
-Mike

So this is Wildgrowth Walker:

Wildgrowth Walker

Wildgrowth Walker: Positioned Well

Try as we might… Try as we might with all our Time Walks and Planeswalkers, Goblin Chainwhirler decks remain near the top of the Standard tournament scene. And where there are aggressive Red Decks, some Magicians will want to solve the problem with a solid, on-time, blocker. You know: Like Wildgrowth Walker.

Patrick points out, that like every Omenspeaker that has come before, this Elemental is a 1/3 for two mana. And 1/3 creatures for two mana a great at blocking Red Aggro.

But that’s not all!

Wildgrowth Walker is Actually Huge Sometimes

While it can come down on turn two to hold off, say, an Earthshaker Khenra, this Elemental is actually a big game itself sometimes.

The reason this came up this week at all is that Alexander Gordon-Brown did so well with his Sultai Midrange deck at Grand Prix Brussels.

That deck plays four copies of Merfolk Branchwalker and four copies of Jadelight Ranger. With so much redundancy on Explore creatures, Wildgrowth Walker is a plausible fatty for only two mana. Further, it can gain a lot of life. The latter is of course great against Red Decks and the former is great against everybody. Besides which, either setting up card advantage or setting up more Explore guys can be awesome.

Imagine:

  • Turn two Wildgrowth Walker
  • Turn three Jadelight Ranger

It’s on!

Potentially drawing two extra cards aside, you’ve got a 3/5 Elemental, have just gained six life, and might have more gas in hand. Did we mention “it’s on”?

This Deck Has All the Aces. Okay, “most of” the Aces

While “Wild About Wildgrowth Walker” features all kinds of decks — including 1996 Necropotence references and a shout-out to Worth Wollpert’s 1997 Regional Championships win with Air Elemental — Alexander Gordon Brown’s deck alone has a ton of awesome cards.

Not just these Explore guys. Not just the Walker. Yes to four copies of THE Scarab God. Yes to four copies of Hostage Taker (and the Blossoming Defenses to protect them)…

But somehow not Vraska’s Contempt?

The deck remains Mike’s favorite of the week by far. Plus our takes on how to improve it, and some of the other top cards and decks of the format!

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