I made a mistake. I made a big mistake.
I registered Golgari at the Pro Tour.
Take a minute, I know you need it. Take some time to collect yourself after hearing that. I know I would. It wasn't even just that. I took things so far in the wrong direction that I even drafted Golgari in my first draft, meaning that eight out of eight rounds on Day 1 of the tournament involved me playing black and green cards.
There's no coming back from that, but I'll try. For my sake, and yours.
The day before the Pro Tour I ran downstairs in the testing house that I was staying in with the rest of team Genesis as well as our partners in crime, Ultimate Guard, and declared that Golgari was a bad deck and I would not be playing it at the Pro Tour. I shouted it out to all who would listen, which, at this point in the process was about three people, maybe just two. And yes, I'm counting myself in that.
Two hours later, I locked into Golgari.
What changed? Everything. Everything changed. I changed, and not for the better. My precious deck, the Izzet Arclight Phoenix strategy that I was planning on playing at the Pro Tour, was challenged to a grudge match by Corey Q.A. Baumeister piloting the Golgari monstrosity.
He beat me. Badly. Repeatedly. It wasn't pretty. I didn't win any matches, and in fact the only game I won was when he stumbled on lands for most of the game.
It would be dumb to change one's deck over the results of just one set of games, but honestly, I really liked the way the Golgari deck looked in those games. Our list played way more removal than most lists did, which gave it a natural advantage against the Izzet deck as well as a great way to answer problematic cards from the white creature strategy, like Benalish Marshal or sideboarded Tocatli Honor Guards.
Also, the rest of the team mostly seemed excited about the Golgari deck, which, when you're teaming with a ton of people who are way smarter than you are, has to carry some weight.
In hindsight, I wish I had registered Arclight Phoenixes.
This is the Golgarbage deck that we registered for the Pro Tour. Our list was not good. I would not recommend copying this list. Our theories for why we had cards in our deck seemed good at the time, but the reality of the matter is that this list just didn't pan out.
We could not win the mirror match, for one. I played three opponents in Golgari mirrors in the event and went 0-2-1. My opponents all had 3-4 Midnight Reapers and a plethora of extra cards for the mirror match while I'm sitting here with Thrashing Brontodizzles trying to get in for three points of fresh damage. Not a winning strategy against the Ravenous Chupacabra recursion deck.
I'll be honest, I don't think Midnight Reaper is good. Midnight Reaper is strong in matches like the Golgari mirror, against Jeskai Control or against other midrange/control strategies like Dimir. It is not good against the Izzet Phoenix deck, Mono-Red or aggro strategies like Boros or Mono-White. It is actively a liability against Boros in that sometimes you can't even cast it because you will simply just die from the triggers after trading off creatures in combat. However, everyone else playing Golgari had that card and we didn't, and we were at a massive disadvantage because of it.
Additionally, our deck was all about the Carnage a Trois, playing three copies of Carnage Tyrant in the main deck. However, Carnage Tyrant is only good against the same decks that Midnight Reaper is good against. Jeskai and Dimir Control was basically nonexistent in the tournament, meaning that Carnage Tyrant was pretty much only good against the mirror and our list was already very bad in the mirror because we didn't have any of the other good mirror breakers like Midnight Reaper.
I ended up siding out Carnage Tyrant in seven of 10 matches, and I only brought in Duress one time, despite us playing four copies. I also had a Golgari Raiders in my sideboard that was there to smash control. It's a great follow-up to Star of Extinction and if you ever draw Doom Whisperer, you can find it and make it big enough to be lethal. Never boarded that one in.
I wanted to main deck Doom Whisperer because that had been the card I was most impressed with in our testing, but it would have had to come at the expense of Carnage Tyrant and the team didn't want to make that swap because it would worsen our matchup against the mirror and controlling strategies. In hindsight, this was a massive mistake.
Doom Whisperer was unbelievable for me at the event. Our team lost a huge amount of game ones in the event. As a team we were something like 30% in game one after Day 1 of play, yet we had a roughly 50% win rate with the deck. After sideboard we got to bring in Doom Whisperer, and that card did some real dirty things, and I attribute a lot of our post-sideboard wins to that card. At least many of mine were.
I went 9-6-1 at the Pro Tour. 4-2 in Limited and 5-4-1 in Constructed. I was really happy with the finish, even though it doesn't seem like anything special on the surface. For one, I earned 5 pro points with a 9-6-1 finish, which means this is the fifth consecutive Pro Tour where I've earned more than the minimum amount of points. In 2017, I busted out of all four Pro Tours that year, earning nothing, and I was really down about it. I made a conscious decision to change my mindset and how I approached Magic – focusing on the process and enjoying myself rather than thinking about the results – and interestingly enough as soon as I stopped caring about my results, I've actually been earning good results. I've written a great many articles about mindset and approach to Magic over the past few years here on TCGplayer, so feel free to go back and check those out if this topic interests you.
This also marks another recent event where I've done well at Limited, which was one the weakest areas of my game and something that I worked on improving at. It's exciting to see that my effort to improve has actually paid off. I also managed to do so in style. After drafting Golgari in the first draft, I ended up with a Jeskai control deck in the secnd draft, meaning that in two drafts I managed to draft all five colors with no overlap. That has to count for something!
Despite our team having a very mediocre finish with Golgari, I still actually believe that Golgari is a good deck. I think without a target on its back, it can be built to be good against any metagame that isn't trying to beat it. I also believe that Golgari is inherently a flawed deck in that it largely wins or loses on the back of how well it hits the right side of variance with its low land count and explore creatures, but I still wouldn't feel bad sleeving it up again despite those flaws.
However, I would not touch the version we played. Two versions that I really thought were great from the Pro Tour were the version that Autumn Burchett and Jadine Klomparens played as well as the vastly different version piloted by Matt Nass.
Wildgrowth Walker is almost impossible for the aggro decks to beat if they can't remove it from play immediately, and I like that Autumn's list is built to maximize the value of Wildgrowth Walker by playing four copies, a healthy amount of explore creatures and Adventurous Impulse to either find Wildgrowth Walkers or find Jadelight Ranger and friends to go with it.
Matt Nass's version appeals heavily to me because it also represents a list that plays four Wildgrowth Walker, but his top end is all about Doom Whisperer, which follows in line with my opinion that Doom Whisperer is disgustingly good in this deck and the card you should be building around. Wildgrowth Walker buffers your life total for Doom Whisperer to abuse it and that is a very potent interaction.
Personally, though, I'm not interested in playing Golgari for the foreseeable future. For me, the deck that has interested me the most is Pascal Vieren's Izzet Drakes list.
This is just a better version of the Arclight Phoenix deck that I wanted to play at the Pro Tour. A few card choices, like The Mirari Conjectures and Star of Extinctions I am not a huge fan of, but the rest of the list seems awesome to me.
Murmuring Mystic, believe it or not, is a card that I played a lot with in testing for the Pro Tour, as it was an integral part of the blue-red midrange/control deck that I wrote about last week that I wanted to play at the PT but couldn't get the list right. Pascal's list of Drakes is basically the happy midpoint of the blue-red list I wanted to play and a traditional Phoenix list and I like everything about it.
What is different and exciting about this list is that Murmuring Mystic is how you beat the white aggro decks. Those decks don't play a lot of removal, so you can just tap out for a Mystic and if you survive to untap with it, then you can just fire removal spells at the important creatures and make lots of birds that invalidate the other creatures. Murmuring Mystic is also large enough to take care of Adanto Vanguard, which is a problem for the deck.
Another card that pushes this list over the edge is Entrancing Melody. I've been jamming this deck on Arena for the past week and this card is very good. Stealing Wildgrowth Walkers or Adanto Vanguards is powerful, and with Goblin Electromancer in play, you can also steal bigger and more threatening creatures without a huge mana investment. I've taken a lot of Crackling Drakes and Lyra Dawnbringers with Entrancing Melody, cards that would have otherwise taken me to funky town.
The combination of Murmuring Mystic and Entrancing Melody as well as a Goblin Electromancer base means that this list doesn't have to play as aggressively as other Drakes lists, which is a huge upgrade on the traditional lists. This list doesn't flood as often with 12 filtering spells and it plays defense against the white aggro decks way better than normal lists, which means that you don't get in spots where you have to draw a Drake or a Maximize Velocity to have a chance to win like what happens with some of the other lists.
Having access to 12 filtering spells in Radical Idea, Tormenting Voice and the best card in standard ( Chart a Course) also means that you can do things like play 10 removal spells main deck and not worry as much about flooding on them. Kevin Bacon Bolt, also known as the Beacon Bolt, was a card I really disliked in my Izzet Control deck because it was costly without an Electromancer in play and was too easy to flood on removal, but I love it here because you can just pitch it if it's bad and it's a great outlet to discard Arclight Phoenix whilst slaying an offending creature from the other side of the board.
Overall, I've been crushing with this deck on MTG Arena in the last week. I recently just went 4-2 with the deck in a competitive event, which was the first time I didn't get five wins with it. Oh, and I forgot to mention the most important thing. The deck is fun as heck. It's heckin' fun as one might say. Goblin Electromancer allowing you to cast four spells and draw seven cards in a turn is just good, clean, fun Magic for the entire family.
I've been enjoying this deck so much that I'm considering driving 12 hours one-way to Milwaukee to play in a Grand Prix this weekend with it. I looked at flights, they were too expensive and now I'm considering wasting two full days of my life to drive there and back by myself just to play this deck. I've been extremely burned out on Magic and the grind lately, so I don't know if I can give any higher praise to the deck than this.
At any rate, this Standard format is awesome. We're now over a month into it and it still remains fun and still remains unsolved. The Pro Tour had six copies of white aggro in the Top 8, but white aggro didn't actually perform that much above the average at the Pro Tour and those players largely got there from great Limited performances. Also, it is easy for a lot of decks to prey on Boros and mono-white if they are gunning for it. Cards like Chainwhirler and sweepers like Golden Demise do a great job to start. I imagine the format will actually shift away from those decks in the weeks to come. If I had to guess, I'd wager Golgari will actually be a great choice in the weeks to come but good or bad I'll be casting Arclight Phoenix. Casting, being the optimal word here, as I'm quite unlikely to actually bring any back from the graveyard.
- Brian Braun-Duin