The Rock might be a deck that will never disappear from the meta. Now there might be readers that are confused by the previous sentence. The title of this post promises a discourse about Golgari Midrange but it starts talking about a deck called "The Rock". Don't worry the topic of this post will be Golgari Midrange. Albeit if you're one of the confused readers, you are either a new player or haven't bothered with MTG history yet. Let me resolve any confusion.
Here's a quote I found on mtg.gamepedia.com:
The Rock was originally a Type 2 Deck around the Urza Block designed by Sol Malka. It used Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves to get early mana development going and generate Card Advantage with Yavimaya Granger and Yavimaya Elder. In the end the game should be finished by Phyrexian Plaguelord and Deranged Hermit, "The Rock" (Nicknamed for professional wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) clearing the board with "his millions" (tokens). Overtime it has become common for Phyrexian Plaguelord to be thought of as "The Rock" however this is a misconception.
- "Extended The Rock deck" MTG Wiki, https://mtg.gamepedia.com/Extended_The_Rock_deck. Accessed 16 Aug. 2019.
The Type 2 format was created on January 10, 1995 and later on renamed to Standard. Now you know the origin of the name "The Rock". But how is it connected to the topic of this post? "The Rock" is a midrange deck consisting of the base colors black and green. It evolved into a nickname for any midrange deck in Golgari base colors. This excursion into Magic's history wasn't unnecessary information. It depicts the significance of Golgari Midrange for competitive Magic. It's an archetype that never really left the meta since its creation. Golgari Midrange keeps showing up. Before the release of War of the Spark The Rock was one of the top Standard decks. There was a version sticking to Golgari colors and a version splashing for blue. War of the Spark pushed the deck out of the meta until now. Reid Duke played a Golgari Midrange deck in a Fandom Legends tournament on August 15, 2019 (https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/2182463#paper). He also wrote about it on Channel Fireball (https://www.channelfireball.com/articles/vampires-and-scapeshift-in-standard-and-how-to-beat-them/). When a player like Reid Duke picks up a deck, it is probably a contender in the echelon of top Standard decks. On top of that MTGO player "Dellhelp" managed to win a league with Golgari Midrange (https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mtgo-standings/standard-league-2019-08-15). That's why I think it's time to give The Rock a chance.
In this paragraph I will use the deck Reid Duke played in Fandom Legends as a reference.
Orzhov Vampires and Bant Scapeshift keep establishing themselves as the two best Standard decks. Esper Control and Hero are still contenders without being clear favorites. How does Golgari Midrange fit in this environment?
I think its creatures in the one to three mana range are currently positioned well. The Explore package of Wildgrowth Walker, Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger lines up well against the aggressive creature strategy of Orzhov Vampires. Golgari Midrange's creatures can block vampires very well. Wildgrowth Walker and Explore creatures help to mitigate a rapid loss of life caused by a fast opening of Orzhov Vampires. So you can start well against Orzhov Vampires and you have a way to climb back into the game once you fell behind. Against Bant Scapeshift or Esper Control the creatures also do a good job. They can grow big and beat down on opponents quickly. Often you can kill opponent's just by attacking with Wildgrowth Walkers, Merfolk Branchwalkers and Jadelight Rangers.
Next I want to highlight the removal. Golgari Midrange uses Legion's End which is one of the best removal spells right now. It's effective against Orzhov Vampires - because it can exile Adanto Vanguard - and it deals with Bant Scapeshift's army of zombie tokens. Ravenous Chupacabra does a good job slowing down Orzhov Vampire's attacks because it removes a creature and can at least chump block. Massacre Girl is not only a mass removal spell that propels you ahead in the game. She is also a way to deal with Adanto Vanguard. The second half of Find // Finality is again a mass removal spell able to catch up to a dominant board state of creatures.
The rest of the deck is designed to take over games. Bolas's Citadel already proved to be a powerful card in Esper Midrange and Control variants. In Golgari Midrange it's a card advantage engine that will bury most opponents. Bond of Flourishing and Wildgrowth Walker's triggered ability help to fight the life loss. Once this artifact is in play, you can clear your opponent's board and build your own to an unbeatable extent. Lastly there are great planeswalkers in the deck. Vraska, Golgari Queen is removal, card advantage and win condition in one card. Nissa, Who Shakes the World offers a huge mana advantage. You can also use the animated lands to win by attacking. Continuously creating 3/3 creatures puts a huge amount of pressure on opponents. Then there is an old all star with Vivien Reid. She provides card advantage, can kill a big Hydroid Krasis, and her ultimate wins games.
Every aspect of the deck is set up to beat one of the current meta decks. I don't think it's a dominant deck but it's a contender. When you want to shake up the meta try Golgari Midrange.
The appearance of Golgari Midrange got me wondering. Is there a way to update Sultai Midrange to make it good again? When a Golgari core carries potential, can blue add something to the deck? There is a chance I guess. The main reason is unlocking access to Hydroid Krasis again. This card will always be a Standard powerhouse. So it's an obvious addition when moving into Sultai. But what other cards were added by M20 that would fit into Sultai Midrange? Here's a list of cards I want to try:
Yarok, the Desecrated: This is the most gimmicky card of the list. But it fits into a Sultai deck with lots of ETB triggers. The body itself is also decent. So maybe I'll try a fun one-of.
Aether Gust: The color hate cards of M20 are sideboard staples. Aether Gust is good against the occasional match against Jund Dinos, Naya Feather or Grixis Midrange. I'm starting with one or two copies in the sideboard.
Risen Reef: In conjunction with elementals Risen Reef proved to be a great card advantage engine. When it comes into play, you get at least one trigger. You maximize the card, when you play a Wildgrowth Walker with it in play. There is some synergy to be unlocked.
Tomebound Lich: I like three mana creatures that provide card advantage. If you keep Find // Finality in Sultai Midrange, you can discard expensive, situational creatures to Tomebound Lich to retrieve it with Find // Finality later on (maybe Golgari Findbroker is also an option again?). Additionally Tomebound Lich has Deathtouch making it a good blocker.
Veil of Summer: Color hate again. Though this time it is more powerful. It invalidates all counter spells, even Dovin's Veto. On top of that you can blank removal spells while drawing a card. It deserves a sideboard slot.
Cavalier of Thorns: It's huge, it ramps, it puts cards for Find // Finality into the graveyard and it rewards you a compensation when it dies. Definitely worth a try.
Shifting Ceratops: Bant Scapeshift's go-to removal currently is Deputy of Detention. So Shifting Ceratops is a resilient and scary creature for this deck. If control magic appears in the meta again, Shifting Ceratops gains even more value. I'll try this creature in the main- and sideboard.