The days of new sets being released on Magic Online weeks after the paper release are long over. Now online gets a head start, and a wonderful consequence is that there are already decklists available, days before the set becomes paper-legal. The league decklists published on Monday show that players are trying all sorts of ideas after Standard rotation, and that Guilds of Ravnica cards are having a big impact. There's a huge variety of decks, but I couldn't help but notice that of the 26 lists shared, 11 included Green cards. Nearly half of the field being green decks is pretty significant, so today I'll take a closer look at these decks and what is making them stand out from the field.
Golgari in some form has been a major factor in the metagame since Kaladesh, but its rotation has removed its +1/+1 counter theme with Winding Constrictor along with any traces of energy. With the addition of Guilds of Ravnica, Golgari is in transition towards a graveyard-centric deck. That said, just like how last season there were different ways to build Golgari. The many Golgari decks published this week differ by how deep they go into the graveyard, ranging from true midrange that only uses the graveyard incidentally for some extra value to dedicated graveyard decks making full use of graveyard synergies.
For example, take this decklist, which contains plenty of cards that care about the graveyard, including Isareth, the Awakener and a set of Golgari Findbroker, but no dedicated graveyard enablers like Golgari Sporeshaman.
Instead, the deck plans on filling its graveyard over the normal course of gameplay. Beyond trading cards with the opponent, the best graveyard enablers here are the explore creatures Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger, which are going to see plenty of play in the new format. They're just as good as before for finding free lands or clearing away cards you don't want, but now exploring into the graveyard has unlocked a whole new world of meaning and value. Just like these creatures meshed into the Winding Constrictor strategy last season, they mesh into Golgari's graveyard focus with Guilds of Ravnica.
As far as what Golgari is doing with the graveyard, this list includes a full set of Golgari Findbroker, which I called out as a sleeper last week and brewed around, and there's a lot of tech added here. I'm impressed by its synergy with The Eldest Reborn, which can Reanimate it, and then as a permanent can be returned to hand, essentially creating an endless loop. This sort of value will be very difficult to out-grind, so it gives the deck a strong late game. The sideboard contains another piece of tech with Dead Weight, a permanent that functions as a removal spell and combines with Golgari Findbroker to put the brakes on aggressive decks.
Another graveyard card in the deck is Isareth the Awakener, which as a three-of is clearly an important feature of its strategy. Reanimating a creature when it attacks is a repeatable source of value, and with plenty of removal clearing the way for attacks, it could take over a game. The deck has plenty of good targets to return, including Golgari Findbroker to create extra value.
Assassin's Trophy as a removal spell is a given and will be found in just about every Golgari deck, but three Find // Finality is more surprising. The first half Find is actually yet another graveyard card, and although its Soul Salvage effect hasn't historically been a constructed-level card, especially not in the main deck, in a deck with plenty of targets to return it will often be excellent – it's the sort of card one dreams to topdeck late in the game when out of action. It's other mode is so good that in some sense can be seen as the main mode. Finality giving all creatures -4/-4 is something like a Wrath of God, which will Devastate aggressive decks. This deck has plenty of its own creatures too, but putting two +1/+1 counters on a creature sets up keeping one alive and means it is closer to a Plague Wind. Taken together, you have a card that is strong against aggressive decks and strong against control and might be best of all in midrange battles where both sides play well. It's showing up in all sorts of black-green decks, and is proving itself to be a real staple.
On the other extreme, a good example of a fully graveyard-focused Golgari deck is this version. It includes Doom Whisperer – the most powerful graveyard enabler in the format – and which can single handedly fill the graveyard to set up a massive Izoni, Thousand-Eyed, which is the most powerful graveyard payoff in the format. Combine the two and you have the makings of something that plays out like a true combo deck.
With a full set of Stitcher's Supplier and three Glowspore Shaman, the deck has plenty of ways to fuel the graveyard for Izoni, Thousand-Eyes even without Doom Whisperer, so consistency shouldn't be a problem. The deck is wholly focused on accelerating into these powerhouses with full sets of Llanowar Elves, Druid of the Cowl and even Elvish Rejuvenator. As creatures as opposed to other acceleration, they are also creatures that keep the density high for Izoni.
Vraska, Golgari Queen makes an appearance here as a source of card advantage, always a welcome addition to a deck with so much acceleration and enablers but not a ton of action. The cost of sacrificing a creature can be turned into a benefit in this deck when it triggers Sitcher's Supplier and sacrificing fodder that has already done its job like Elvish Rejuvenator or Glowspore Shaman to help fill the graveyard for Izoni.
A clever inclusion in the sideboard is Midnight Reaper, which makes a lot of sense in a deck with so many cheap and expendable creatures. It gives them all extra value, and that will be devastating against control decks and anything else trying to out-grind the deck.
Somewhere between the all-in graveyard deck and the midrange deck is this version, which includes a full set of Izoni, Thousand-Eyed, but merely as another value creature in a deck full of them. It's joined by the new District Guide, which helps the deck reach the six mana it needs to cast the legend. On top of four Dusk Legion Zealot, the deck plays Burglar Rat, which is a solid role-player that could end up as a staple. It's interesting that this deck plays Cast Down instead of Assassin's Trophy, which highlights the very real downside of Assassin's Trophy giving them a land that could be avoided by other removal. Ultimately the decision of what exact package of removal is best will depend on the prevalence of noncreature permanents in metagame.
I am a bit surprised by a full set of Ritual of Soot in the main deck, but I suppose killing your own creatures isn't a big deal when they have already done their thing. Perhaps decks including it would be well-served to replace Kitesail Freebooter with Pilfering Imp to avoid having to kill your own and undoing the discard. Ritual of Soot is an asset in the toolbox of Golgari decks, and I see it as a replacement to Yahenni's Expertise in the role of sideboard sweeper against aggressive decks. Mono-Red, Boros, and Selesnya are all going to be popular, and Ritual of Soot will help against all of them.
Quite a number of Golgari decks are splashing into white for the best it has to offer. The mana is made simple by Temple Garden, and there are some significant payoffs.
The main draw to white is Knight of Autumn, an incredibly flexible card that is already a staple of Modern and Legacy in toolbox decks. Whether a three mana 4/3, a Reclamation Sage or a Lone Missionary, all the modes are great in just about any situation. It's just a very high-quality card in a vacuum, and the realities of Standard with highly aggressive red decks making lifegain invaluable and dangerous enchantments like Search for Azcanta, History of Benalia, The Eldest Reborn, and the new Conclave Tribunal everywhere, make it look very good in the metagame.
Another strong white card is Knight of Grace, which is a good battlefield presence against an aggressive metagame and plays well against Assassin's Trophy. White does open up other options of course, like Shalia, Voice of Plenty and sideboard cards like Cleansing Nova and Lyra Dawnbringer. There's a tradeoff with the mana compared to Golgari that has to be accounted for, but the additional options it gains means Abzan will be a very real deck the new metagame. Here's a very light splash version with Knight of Autumn being the only maindeck white card.
In this build, Wildgrowth Walker joins a bunch of explore creatures including Seekers' Squire to combat aggressive opponents. A different style of Abzan deck plays a White aggro base with a black splash for disruption and Knight of Malice, and its proactive style looks like a nice alternative to the more midrange version.
This deck makes great use of Pelt Collector, one of green's very best new cards but one that more controlling midrange decks can't make great use of. It's the centerpiece of the most aggressive Golgari deck, Steel Leaf Stompy.
Steel Leaf Stompy already splashed black before rotation for Scrapheap Scrounger and Duress, and now Assassin's Trophy makes it look even better, especially with Overgrown Tomb making it easier than ever. The other big addition to the deck is Nullhide Ferox, which is just a massive and robust creature for the cost and will overpower aggro and control decks alike.
A novel variation of the Steel Leaf Stompy deck splashes into White, which provides a removal spell of its own with Conclave Tribunal.
White actually adds a lot to this list, with a set of Emmara, Soul of the Accord where we'd normally see Merfolk Branchwalker. It plays well with Venerated Loxodon, which gives the deck a unique tool that seems excellent in such a creature-heavy deck.
What's really interesting to me here is Flower // Flourish. Flower's mode of searching for a Plains or Forest might not look like much, but I suspect the card is actually very strong. Let's think back to Attune with Aether, which was a mana fixer with some energy value attached. It turned out that energy was a broken mechanic and Flower isn't quite that good, but it's somewhat similar and comes with its own unique advantages. It can be cast off a Plains to find a Forest, so it's actually a better mana-fixer in a Selesnya deck than Attune with Aether would be, and it also has Flourish. An expensive and underpowered Overrun might not seem great, but it will assuredly win plenty of games. Assuming that Flower // Flourish is taking the spot of a land and that casting Flower doesn't really slow the deck down, then it's all upside.
White also really packs the sideboard with options. Dawn of Hope, which has been very impressive in Limited, seems tough for a control deck to beat. A more convoke-themed style of Selesnya has been performing online, taking advantage of the massive payoff March of the Multitudes.
The convoke cards are powered by tokens, with Legion's Landing and History of Benalia being the two key enablers, and two of the biggest winners from rotation. They are joined by Saproling Migration, and the deck takes advantage of its many tokens with a full set of Trostani Discordant, which pumps them while making tokens of its own.
Instead of Trostani Discordant, this list uses Benalish Marshal as its anthem effect of choice. The curve here is very low and aggressive, with multiple Shanna, Sisay's Legacy as a token payoff. Song of Freyalise is another token payoff as an anthem and way to accelerate and will lead to some really strong starts.
These decks are just the tip of the iceberg, or rather the Dense Canopy of a jungle with untold secrets hiding beneath. There's endless ways to build green decks with Guilds of Ravnica, and it's going to be exciting what other decklists appear in the coming weeks. What green decks and cards have impressed you post-rotation?