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Budget Magic: Golgari Reanimator (Standard)


Fâla, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're heading back to the super-fun Guilds of Ravnica Standard format to play one of my favorite styles of decks: a value-heavy, graveyard-centric Golgari Reanimator build! The basic idea of the deck is to use efficient creatures like Stitcher's Supplier and Merfolk Branchwalker to stock our graveyard with creatures and then The Eldest Reborn to reanimate huge finishers like Izoni, Thousand-Eyed or Lotleth Giant to win the game. Even if the reanimation plan doesn't come to fruition, we can still get value from having cards in your graveyard, with midrange threats like Golgari Findbroker and removal like Necrotic Wound. Can Golgari work in Guilds of Ravnica Standard on a budget? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Golgari Reanimator (Standard)

The Deck

Golgari Reanimator is basically a Golgari midrange deck that looks to take advantage of filling the graveyard with creatures, both by reanimating massive finishers and for value, with cards like Golgari Findbroker. Our early game is filled with creatures that are solid on their own but also help us stock our graveyard, our midgame is overloaded with strong removal (often attached to creatures), and then our late game is built around a couple of massive game-ending threats that we can either cast naturally or reanimate, with the help of The Eldest Reborn or Journey to Eternity.

Filling the Graveyard

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Step one for Golgari Reanimator is filling our graveyard with creatures as quickly as possible. Thankfully, we have a bunch of good, cheap options available in Standard. Stitcher's Supplier comes down as early as Turn 1 to mill three cards and then mills three more when it dies, making it the fastest way to get cards into the graveyard in the format. Meanwhile, Merfolk Branchwalker and Seekers' Squire help to make sure we hit our land drops while also letting us explore creatures into our graveyard. The other upside to these cards is that they give us plenty of early-game defense against aggressive decks, with Seekers' Squire and Merfolk Branchwalker being mostly on-curve threats, especially if we manage to hit a non-land card with their explore trigger.

The Finishers

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When it comes to closing out the game, we can sometimes win by simply out-valuing our opponent with our smaller creatures, but we have two primary finishers. Izoni, Thousand-Eyed is pretty insane in our deck. By the time it comes down, we often have five or even 10 creatures in our graveyard, which means we get a ton of tokens, making it the Golgari version of March of the Multitudes, with the upside of allowing us to sacrifice creatures to gain some life and draw some cards. Even if we only give five tokens with the Elf Shaman, it's still a fine deal for six mana, and in the late game, a single copy of Izoni, Thousand-Eyed is often enough to win the game all by itself. Meanwhile, Lotleth Giant is just a one-of, but since we have 26 creatures in our deck, it's possible that we can one-shot our opponent by reanimating it after we stock our graveyard. When combined with the random damage we can deal with things like Merfolk Branchwalker and Seekers' Squire in the early game, it's pretty easy to kill our opponent with direct damage when Lotleth Giant enters the battlefield.

While reanimating our finisher is great, it's also worth mentioning that because we have a bunch of explore creatures helping us hit our land drops, it's also very possible to just hard-cast Izoni, Thousand-Eyed or Lotleth Giant, which is a nice upside of the deck. Unlike some reanimator decks, which are built around reanimating uncastable creatures, if we don't happen to draw a reanimation spell, we can just play a fair game of Magic and win the old-fashioned way.

Reanimation

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When it comes to reanimation, we've got two options. First and foremost, we have The Eldest Reborn, which is a bit slow in terms of reanimating a creature (taking a couple of turns) but makes up for this downside by being a three-for-one, getting rid of our of our opponent's creatures and cards in hand as we wait to reanimate our Izoni, Thousand-Eyed or Lotleth Giant. The other big upside of The Eldest Reborn is that it can reanimate things from any graveyard and grabs planeswalkers as well as creatures, so we occasionally get to kill and steal a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, a Karn, Scion of Urza, or some big creature of our opponent. Meanwhile, Journey to Eternity is just a one-of, in part because it's up to $7, making it hard to squeeze in under the budget and in part because it carries with it some risk, since we need to put it on a creature and hope that it doesn't die in response. The good news is that if we manage to transform Journey to Eternity, the payoff is an incredibly powerful land that not only ramps us in case we are are hoping to hard-cast our big finishers but also gives us an uncounterable way to reanimate creatures each turn. Once we get going, our deck can do things like get two copies of Izoni, Thousand-Eyed in the graveyard, reanimate one each turn (to legend rule the first copy), and make an ever-increasing (and often unbeatable) board full of Insect tokens.

Other Graveyard Stuff

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While not true reanimation spells, Find // Finality and Golgari Findbroker give us additional ways to take advantage of dumping so many cards into our graveyard by returning some of those cards to our hand, which makes it so our graveyard almost functions like an additional hand in the late game. Find // Finality is almost always "draw the two best creatures in your graveyard" for just two mana, while occasionally being an expensive Languish against aggro. Meanwhile, Golgari Findbroker offers us a reasonable body that also returns a permanent to our hand. If we aren't winning by reanimating one huge threat, these two cards give us the ability to outgrind our opponent, generating tons of card advantage, and since Izoni, Thousand-Eyed and Lotleth Giant are cheap enough that we can hard-cast them in many games, we can always just return our finisher to hand and cast it the old-fashioned way if we don't find a copy of The Eldest Reborn or flip a Journey to Eternity

Removal

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Plaguecrafter and Ravenous Chupacabra are the primary removal spells of our deck, and they are amazing in Golgari Reanimator. While both are powerful on their own, killing one of our opponent's creatures while leaving behind a body, they also have a ton of synergy in our deck, which puts them over the top. Since both are creatures, they also help to up our undergrowth count after they die, and we can return them to our hand with Find // Finality and Golgari Findbroker or reanimate them with The Eldest Reborn and Journey to Eternity, giving us an endless stream of removal in the late game. Plaguecrafter also has the upside of allowing us to sacrifice the creature we enchant with Journey to Eternity to flip the enchantment into Atzal, Cave of Eternity and start our reanimation plan.

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Finally, we have Necrotic Wound, which is one of the strangest one-mana removal spells we've seen in a while. Unlike something like Fatal Push, which is really good at killing creatures on Turn 1, Necrotic Wound is really more of a late-game removal spell, since we need a bunch of creatures in our graveyard to power up the undergrowth mechanic. Thankfully, our deck is really good at filling the graveyard with creatures, so in the late game, Necrotic Wound usually ends up killing any threat in the format for just a single mana. Even better, instead of killing the creature it targets, it exiles it, which gives us an answer to annoying recursive creatures like Rekindling Phoenix, Blood Operative, and Arclight Phoenix. Combined with Plaguecrafter and Ravenous Chupacabra, it gives us plenty of ways to deal with whatever our opponent is doing.

Wrap-Up

We played a competitive constructed event with Golgari Reanimator and finished with a 4-2 record, which is pretty solid for a budget deck, being just a single win short of the maximum. Thankfully, we actually played against mostly optimal decks, beating Mono-Green Stompy, Green-White Midrange, and Mono-Red twice. On the other hand, we lost to Drakes decks twice. On paper, the matchup doesn't seem that bad, since we should be able to kill all of our opponent's Enigma Drakes and Crackling Drakes, but it didn't really work out that way in practice. 

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As for changes I'd make to the budget build of the deck now that we've played some matches with it, I'm actually pretty happy with the current build. Most of the obvious upgrades are expensive cards like Assassin's Trophy, Vraska's Contempt, and Vraska, Golgari Queen. Heading into our matches, I was a bit worried about how Golgari would perform without these cards, but in the end, we didn't really have a problem going without the handful of expensive rares and mythics. Lotleth Giant might not be necessary, so feel free to play something else in that slot if you want, but it does have some fun "win out of nowhere" upside.

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It's also worth mentioning that even though this wasn't intentional and more of a happy coincidence, Golgari Reanimator is fairly budget friendly on Arena as well. If you discount the eight dual lands and the two copies of Ritual of Soot in the sideboard, you only need six rares and zero mythics to make the deck.

All in all, Golgari Reanimator felt solid. The deck is overloaded with grindy value, with good enough removal and early-game blockers to compete with aggro but enough card advantage to grind through other midrange decks and even more control decks. If you like reanimating huge things and using your graveyard as a resource, it seems like a really strong budget option for Guilds of Ravnica Standard!

This one is super easy: cut Overgrown Tomb and Woodland Cemetery (which together are more than half of the deck's price), replace them with Golgari Guildgate and Evolving Wilds, and you are good to go. Taking out untapped dual lands and replacing them with more tapped dual lands does slow down the deck a bit, which makes the deck slightly less competitive, but it shouldn't be too big of a deal, especially for kitchen-table play.

Non-Budget Options

While less reanimator-like, if you're looking to build up from Golgari Reanimator toward a tier deck, the best option is probably Golgari Midrange, which plays a lot of the same cards and runs similarly but replaces some of the reanimation and finishers with planeswalkers like Vraska, Relic Seeker, Vraska, Golgari Queen, and Vivien Reid. The end result is a deck that's still looking to take advantage of the graveyard but is using it more for value than for reanimating one big threat. 

If you want to stick to the reanimation plan, the most popular tier build of Golgari is built around Gruesome Menagerie. While this plan is still a bit different than our Golgari Reanimator deck, focusing on reanimating multiple cheap creatures rather than one big creature, it's another fun and powerful tier option that's similar enough to our Golgari Reanimator deck that it's worth mentioning.

If you want a strict upgrade of our budget list, the main cards that are worth consideration are Assassin's Trophy (at least two copies, replacing two copies of Necrotic Wound); a couple of copies of Vraska, Golgari Queen, likely replacing one The Eldest Reborn and one Izoni, Thousand-Eyed; and a copy of Vraska, Relic Seeker over Lotleth Giant. Meanwhile, Carnage Tyrant, Deathgorge Scavenger, and Vivien Reid offer solid sideboard options to shore up specific matchups.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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