For the Swarm!
I am Golgari. I love playing black and green decks and eking out every ounce of value I can from my cards. The Swarm itself feels that no member's job is ever done and death is only a step along the path towards helping the whole. The Golgari are a swarm—their strength lies not in their individuals but rather in their masses. Granted, unlike the Selesnya, the Golgari are okay using the scraps from fallen comrades to fuel one giant monster. It's less about equality and more about throwing their support behind one shambling champion. While there is no true Golgari deck in Pauper, there is one recent addition that exemplifies the Golgari strategy:
- 4 Carrion Feeder
- 4 Chittering Rats
- 3 Dregscape Zombie
- 4 Fume Spitter
- 4 Liliana's Specter
- 2 Order of the Ebon Hand
- 2 Rotting Rats
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 3 Viscera Dragger
- 22 Swamp
Popularized by Travis Woo, the so-called "Woo Rats" deck is familiar yet operates along a very Golgari metric as well. It is, at its core, a Rats deck, using Rotting Rats, Chittering Rats, and Liliana's Specter to whittle down the opponent's hand. Like most other Rats decks, this deck starts out games by playing out typical disruptive creatures. However, where most Rats decks supplement this strategy with unearth and removal, Travis Woo took his deck in a very different direction.
This version of Rats runs the bare minimum of actual removal spells in two Echoing Decays (likely selected for their utility against Goblin tokens). Instead, most of the creatures leave the battlefield in one of two ways: either blocking a large Carrion Feeder or being blocked by a Stinkweed Imp. These two cards also form the engine that drives the deck in the late game.
First is Carrion Feeder. This is a stellar one-drop that turns every other creature into additional power. It can sneak under countermagic and start eating creatures that were doomed to die, growing into a difficult to deal with monster rather quickly.
This is where Stinkweed Imp comes into play. The Imp is a persistent source of food for Feeder. Not only does it eat counters, but it can block nearly everything and come back for more. Stinkweed Imp is a valuable anti-aggro tool that often ends up swinging for the last few points of damage in the later stages of the game. The ability to keep coming back and tussle is only half the story. The fact that the Imp dredges for five helps keep this deck going.
Dredge has come into play in Pauper before. E. Hustle, the master of Tortured Existence, has long been making use of the mechanic to fuel his attrition-based masterpieces. Here, Woo takes a slightly different approach. Utilizing the Grixis specialty of unearth, Woo Rats is able to fill the graveyard with creatures that are willing to give it one last go in the red zone. In the case of Viscera Dragger and Dregscape Zombie, the point is to fight. Rotting Rats, however, provides an uncounterable form of discard on the backside and the chance to pitch a Stinkweed Imp as well. The death rattles of these creatures serve an additional purpose—instead of being just exiled, they become food for Carrion Feeder.
Fume Spitter is an incredibly important card in the current format. Not only does it kill Delver of Secrets, but it handles many of the creatures out of Infect as well. If you're running an aggressive black deck and not running Fume Spitter, I suggest you find space. Order of the Ebon Hand is a late game mana sink that also becomes potent in combat. First strike is an underrated ability considering that so many decks try to avoid combat entirely. In the late game, five mana is enough for the Order to take down just about any blocker. Combined with Fume Spitter and Echoing Decay, it can be nearly impossible to profitably block the Cleric Knight.
The deck rounds out with a light disruption package of Duress and Cry of Contrition (excellent with creatures that are slated to die anyway) and the all-around solid Echoing Decay. Decay is fantastic not only for handling goblin tokens but for shrinking creatures that would otherwise kill a Feeder or an Imp.
Where can the deck go from here? While largely unchanged since it was revealed to the masses, there are multiple options for the deck. Perilous Myr and Myr Sire are solid two-drops that actively want to die. Similarly, Butcher Ghoul is good Feeder food and comes back for more. Bloodthrone Vampire is another two-drop that provides another sacrifice outlet and a one-shot Feeder. Vampire Hounds is another discard outlet that can deal a significant amount of damage. The issue with these last two creatures is that they cannot punch through blockers alone—they lack trample. Green has a fantastic solution to this in Rancor, but is it viable?
One of the reasons this deck works the way it does is that Stinkweed Imp is okay with dredging away excess land. With Rancor, every dredged green source is one fewer that could cast the "winning" aura. And what happens if the aura itself gets dredged? Currently constructed, the deck is okay with losing a creature or two to the graveyard, but that would not be the case with Rancor and lands that produce green. This makes cards like Vampire Hounds, Nantuko Husk, and Bloodthrone Vampire nice ideas but not right for this deck.
Can such a deck exist? Green has access to numerous token producers, and black has the sacrifice outlets to make use of the tokens. An early PDC (player-run Pauper tournaments before the format was officially recognized by Wizards) deck that operated along this metric was affectionately known as Pez. Using Deathspore Thallid, Fists of Ironwood, and numerous other token makers, the deck was able to create a large army and eventually sacrifice them all a Nantuko Husk that would get through for the win. A modern take on Pez might look something like this:
- 3 Bloodthrone Vampire
- 4 Carrion Feeder
- 1 Devouring Swarm
- 4 Elves of Deep Shadow
- 3 Nantuko Husk
- 4 Tukatongue Thallid
This is a jumping off point for what could be an explosive deck. This deck can pump out a ton of blockers to soak up damage while also turning them into damage via Carrion Feeder. The creatures you want to be fighting with (Husk and Vampire) are well positioned against the common removal in the format. Fists of Ironwood is a form of redundancy with Rancor that also provides food. Khalni Garden is a free token, and Elves of Deep Shadow help to power out strong starts.
The problems with getting a strategy like this to work are most notably:
- The Mana: Even cutting the Gardens would leave you with four Guildgates, which do wonders for consistency but have the problem of coming into play tapped. Many decks will be able to pounce on a slow start, and in order for Pez to work, it needs to get off and running quickly
- Critical Mass: The sum of the pieces of this deck is greater than the collection of its parts, but the parts are pretty weak by comparison. This is an aggro deck that largely operates at sorcery speed. Unlike Stompy, Goblins, and even the Red Deck Wins list from last time, Golgari Pez has no instant speed reach. Strength in Numbers and Might of Masses can work, but then they dilute the overall power of the deck by reducing the number of creatures. It's a fine line.
There's the option of abandoning Rancor in favor of a slower deck. Golgari is the traditional guild of the Rock, that grindy deck of olde. While this role has been filled by Mono-Black Control in Pauper, it's possible to build a decidedly Golgari version of the deck.
But where to begin? One of the big advantages of green is ramp. Many spells that were abandoned by MBC for being too expensive seem downright reasonable when combined with some simple mana acceleration. Adding green also provides the basis for Putrid Leech—a fine creature early and late on offense and defense. Another creature that could work in this spot is Skittering Horror.
Skittering Horror is one of the largest bodies for its cost in Pauper. The downside can be largely ignored due to unearth and the fragility of creatures. Horror is a threat that has been overlooked, and considering the popularity of four-toughness creatures (Spire Golem, Mnemonic Wall, Frostburn Weird), it might be due for a chance in the spotlight.
Sakura-Tribe Elder is our ramp spell of choice, acting as a blocker against Infect while also jumping us from two to four. We'll do our best to make the most of it dying later. With all this mana, we can also investigate normally expensive creatures Warren Pilferers and Mournwhelk.
Backing up this suite of creatures will be the usual suspects of Echoing Decay and Doom Blade, picking off threats large and small. Since this deck is going to be slower than many other decks, it will need to play a certain amount of discard to help buy time and pick apart opposing plans. Given that, a first draft of The Rock might look like this:
This is just a starting point. The Rock, like any control deck, needs to be tuned to the environment. Given the wide variety of decks in Pauper, it's hard to build a one-for-one control deck. This is one reason that the dominant "slow" strategy is based on Cloudpost, which can go over the top with mana and big spells and afford to trade card-for-card.
There's one final Golgari list that has been making the rounds of Magic Online Daily Events. Golgari Monsters has large, hard to kill monsters and removal. The entire point of the deck is to play creatures and smash. No nuance, no subtlety—just attacking.
Sounds kind of like the Gruul Clans to me.
The Swarm has many tools at its disposal. Combining the incredible strong monsters of nature with the potency of death is a path not only to survival but to victory as well.
Keep slingin' commons-
SpikeBoyM on Magic Online
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