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September 10, 2012


Duel Decks- Izzet vs Golgari: Golgari’s Deck Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

It’s our last go with the latest Duel Decks release, and thus far the Izzet are leading the day. Can I turn around the Golgari’s fortunes? I’m joined at the table by Sam, in what turns out to be a surprisingly swift affair.

Game One

Our opening game, and Sam and I both spend our first two turns playing land and passing, with her kicking things off. Then on turn 3 she finds one of the more thorny creatures in her deck, the Gelectrode. Back to me, I play a Shambling Shell– an easy target for her pinger but one whose dredge 3 calls out, “dare ya!”

Now turn 4, she adds a Goblin Electromancer, then plays an Izzet Boilerworks, bouncing a Mountain back to hand. I go in with the Shell, and after a moment’s deliberations Sam goes ahead and triggers the kill with the Gelectrode. Next turn first blood is hers as she attacks with the Electromancer, then doubles down on the Gelectrode with a Quicksilver Dagger. Back to me, I summon a Dreg Mangler, attacking with it immediately. Sam neatly solves it pairing the Gelectrode and a Magma Spray, timing it so that the Gelectrode untaps and she gets to ping me directly and go up a card.

Another 2 points is shaved off my life total on turn 6 with the Electromancer, then Sam taps out to deploy Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind. Niv’s round just long enough to draw a few breaths, though, as a Stingerfling Spider makes quick work of him. At the end of my turn, Sam pings me with the Gelectrode and goes up another card. Next turn, she tries for a Djinn Illuminatus to replace the lost Dragon. I play Death to get back a Shambling Shell, then toss out a Life from the Loam. I don’t have any lands in the graveyard, but stashing a dredge card there makes perfect sense to me. I get pinged again at the end of the turn, and I’m now at 10 life.

Sam plays a Kiln Fiend to greet turn 8, pings me with the Gelectrode for the free card, then attacks in with the Illuminatus. I block with my Spider, but naturally she has a finisher in hand- this time, Pyromatics. She blasts the Spider for 3, killing it around the possibility of me popping the Shell to save it, then for good measure uses the Gelectrode to kill off the Shell, too. Back to me, I play an Eternal Witness to get Life // Death back to hand, then use Death to return the Spider to kill the Illuminatus. It’s a Pyrrhic victory- it’s Sam’s game to lose and we both know it. A Street Spasm blows the Spider away, the Witness gets pinged, and I get crushed.

Game Two

I’m off to a fine start with an opening-turn Elves of Deep Shadow, which gets in for 1 next turn before I add a Putrid Leech. Sam’s turn-2 Kiln Fiend is her first play, but it stands by helplessly as the Leech charges in for 4 the next turn. I then add a Korozda Guildmage before passing. For Sam’s part, she simply adds a Wee Dragonauts and passes.


Now turn 4, I attack in with the Leech again, once more pumping it for the extra damage to put Sam down to 11. I then follow with a Ravenous Rats, prying an Izzet Chronarch from Sam’s hand. She counterattacks with the Dragonauts for 1, then summons a Shrewd Hatchling.

Next turn, I again go in with the Leech for 4, then deploy a Golgari Rotwurm. Sam lands an Isochron Scepter with a Fire // Ice attached, though, which is bad news. She kills off the Guildmage straightaway, which removes a -1/-1 counter from the Hatchling. This lets her attack for 3 with the Dragonauts, and I’m now at 9. Back to me, I play Life, turning my lands into 1/1 creatures, then turn everything I own sideways outwith a single Swamp, just in case I need to pop something to the Rotwurm. Sam blocks the Rotwurm by chumping with her Kiln Fiend, and the Hatchling blocks the Leech (a fine block as it makes me pay life to prevent the trade). Still, it breaks Sam’s back. Down to 3 with no relief in sight, she scoops after her next draw.

Game Three

Sam’s on the play with a Mountain while again I find my early Elves of Deep Shadow. The nightmare begins next turn, however, when Sam plays the Isochron Scepter- again imprinting Fire // Ice. I drop a Tranquil Thicket, and send my now-doomed Evles in to nick Sam for 1.

Now turn 3, Sam then adds Wee Dragonauts, while I play a Swamp and pass. Next turn Sam Fires the Elves with the other point coming my way, then sends in the Dragonauts for 3. As for me, it’s another Swamp.

Between Fire and the Dragonauts, I’m down to 11 next turn, with little I can do about it. The final nail in the coffin arrives in the form of a Kiln Fiend. My turn-5 Boneyard Wurm is a 1/1, but isn’t expected to survive. It doesn’t. Battered to 3 life on turn 6, Sam completes the utter rout when I scoop after my draw.

Thoughts & Analysis

In the end, we weren’t quite as impressed by the Golgari deck as we had hoped. My love of intricate, sacrifice-themed strategies is well-established, but it never quite seemed to reach the potential it offered when we took the deck apart and had a look at it. Nevertheless, our second round of play revealed some interesting dimensions to the pair.

First, aside from Game Two, the same trend we noted the first time was present in this round every time. Namely, the decks seemed to hit a critical mass early, with one or the other getting out ahead fast enough to outpace its rival, with the winner taking very little damage overall. Sam finished both her wins at 20. Although it’s cheating to an extent, it’s worth noting that the bulk of the damage I took in the game I won was self-inflicted, a result of Putrid Leech activations.

Golgari Thug

This is put into sharpest constrast with the outcomes of our last two games. I steamrolled Sam with “Golgari Aggro,” while she then turned around and completely dismantled me with the Izzet version. Given that these decks are built for heavy replayability, seeing these various outcomes was a rather enjoyable experience for us, insofar that you can enjoy games where the outcome is all but assured. Although the other games had more give or take, one does have to wonder to what degree were our experiences typical. We were expecting some struggle between incremental advantages given the synergistic tactics each deck employed, but what we seemed to find instead were “zip strips” a la RC Pro Am (or a million other car-racing games).

Overall, though, this is a very strong release, and a worthy issue for the Duel Decks line. Both decks were a ton of fun to play, and were very different experiences. Contrary to expectation, we’re putting this one behind the Izzet deck- but not by much.

Hits: Super tactical/strategic integration, with a number of overlapping lines of play that furthered the deck’s overall game plan; deviously intricate sac engine/graveyard theme provides a good challenge to its pilot; Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord is a one-card beating in a box

Misses: A slight case of “too-much-itis” can hinder the deck when you happen to draw the wrong parts of the engine; ability to impact the Izzet’s board felt a little constrained, particularly after the Izzet experience

OVERALL SCORE: 4.45/5.00

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Icehawk7
    Sep 10 2012

    Agree with your review. I can’t wait to get my hands on these decks. It’s going to be great and with upgrades right around the corner in RtR. Hopefully the Golgari Charm fit nicely in this deck.

  2. elias
    Sep 10 2012

    Told ya!! Although the friendly game is not officially considered, it would be interesting to know. Perhaps you could provide the outcome of the friendly match in every review as opposed to only occasionally soing so? A word of warning in regards to tuning these decks. Four lightning bolts slipped into izzets deck is the pinnacle of unfun for many opponents.

  3. Robin
    Sep 11 2012

    These are our first duel decks ever purchased, and it’s great to hear positive reviews on what is turning out to be one of the best duel decks in the series. I picked up two and will keep one sealed. We had three games so far and it’s Golgari 2, Izzet 1. Look forward to more!

  4. Diennea
    Sep 11 2012

    My Izzet deck, composed of the best of two izzet decks, is very competitive in our playgroup. Isochron Scepter is simply devastating, not to mention the many times I won by drawing cards (thanks Niv!)
    On the other hand, Golgari deck require a setup time before shining and it find itself often outpaced.

  5. Rottcodd
    Sep 11 2012

    I think the problem is that Izzet has more cards that ruin the Golgari strategy (Dissipate, Reminisce, etc.), while the Golgari doesn’t have more specific anti-Izzet cards. Also, things like Isochron Scepter were given free rein over utility spells, while not much interacts with, say, Life from the Loam (itself a powerful card).
    All in all, though, it’s great to see two indubitably excellent decks face each other. The future looks good for Duel Decks!

    • Icehawk7
      Sep 11 2012

      It needs some meddling and probably some time study and strategizing. Izzet draws like crazy. Golgari has to decide if they dredge or draw. An easy meddling of two copies of the deck I think would greatly improve it.

      This decks also gave us two great Commanders!

    • fallenvash
      Sep 19 2012

      From what I remember, Life from the Loam was considered an absolute essential for dredge decks and heavy graveyard decks in general. If you are sending a lot of cards from the Library itself to your graveyard, you got a good chance of sending quite a few lands in there. Life from the Loam makes it so you don’t have to worry about wasting all those lands, especially since Life from the Loam also has dredge so you can keep using it.

      What I noticed about the Golgari deck that I wish was addressed in more cards, is the fact that you can screw yourself by saccing instants, sorceries and enchantments with the dredge that contain both a vital portion of your control cards and some nasty game changers like twilight call. But I am pretty darn sure there is but a single card in the whole deck that allows you to grab one of these from the graveyard and that is the singleton eternal witness.

      I have the feeling that after I do some card fixing to address this problem, there will be a much greater sense of freedom when being able to pull things from the graveyard. I am DEEPLY regretting not putting the money in last year for the Graveborn deck, I was looking forward to it but unable to find the money for it during the last few quarters of college. The Graveborn deck would help out so much more with this deck.

  6. Jan 5 2013

    Hello! Nice review. I enjoyed playing these decks very much.

    I especially liked how the the Golgari deck actually pulled off the dredge strategy while not dedicating every card in the deck to it. Sometimes you’d win with a turn four reanimated Doomgape, but other times you’d play normal Magic and beat down with a Putrid Leech and a Dreg Mangler. That being said, the deck did feel a bit conflicted. The pseudo-dredge all too often led to a whole lot of nothing.

    I put together heavily modified versions of decks and wrote about them here:

    I pushed the dredge theme a bit further with a little help from some Graveborn cards. Izzet teamed up with Eventide.

    Keep the good precon reviews coming!

    • Icehawk7
      Jan 5 2013

      Nice to see another meddler!


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