For a little over a year now, I've been creating content and playing with various archetypes and strategies, including the wackiest of Combos. But I've not played anything more than I have this one. I'm obsessed.
Can a Khalni Garden Control deck really be playable?
Golgari Gardens is primarily a black deck that uses Khalni Garden to produce sacrifice fodder for Deadly Dispute and Reckoner's Bargain. The green cards are typically in the form of threats like Avenging Hunter and powerful sideboard options like Weather the Storm and Fangren Marauder.
About Golgari Gardens
As you can see, this is a reactive Control deck at heart, it wants to remove all of your opponent's creatures, nullify your opponent's strategy and end the game with powerful threats.
The draw engine helps as it allows you to cycle through at an incredible rate, giving you the opportunity to have what you need at any given time.
Khalni Garden is the secret MVP here, it does so much and causes lots of issues for your opponent they wouldn't even realize. It's primarily here as sacrifice fodder for your draw spells, but it also provides protection for your threats against Chainer's Edict. You can also put the counters on it from The Initiative Card // Undercity Card to attack and block in a pinch, along with many other uses.
Bojuka Bog is a staple for black decks that can afford to run any utility lands, and it is no different here. It's perfect to stop combo decks like Familiars recurring their Ephemerate's and Snap's they have used early on. Slows down Dimir Terror from filling their graveyard with Thought Scours and Mental Notes. This land is free to run, so you may as well.
Crystal Grotto is a recent addition that I have had great success with. The card doesn't seem to do a lot on paper. Getting some form of card selection out of your lands can be pretty important. Additionally, turning your black sources into green when you run so few of them. Being able to turn the green from Golgari Rot Farm and Khalni Garden into more black sources is equally important, especially for casting multiple black spells in a turn or getting one extra damage off your Crypt Rats.
Golgari Rot Farm puts these utility lands to the next level. Being able to reuse Bojuka Bog or Khalni Garden is perfect, whilst also giving you access to both colors and allowing you to not miss on land drops.
Vault of Whispers is here just as an in case of emergency if you have no sacrifice fodder for your draw spells.
Guildsworn Prowler may just seem underwhelming and out of place. The card is very much at home in this deck. In some matchups, particularly Familiars or Terror, it can be like a removal spell or a way to push through damage. In other games where it is not so relevant, it does a great impression of mimicking an Ichor Wellspring, when sacrificed to a Deadly Dispute.
Ichor Wellspring accompanied by Deadly Dispute and Reckoner’s Bargain are the glue that holds this deck together, giving you the ability to draw all the cards you could need to slow or halter your opponent's gameplan.
Since Deadly Disputes printing it has been made clear how powerful these Costly Plunder style cards are and Deadly Dispute is the best one yet. Don't underestimate the power level of this draw engine. It works well for Affinity, and we try to compete with that here.
The Removal Package
Cast Down is the go to choice for basically any black deck, it is 2 mana remove any creature, and can't go too far wrong with it.
Chainer's Edict solves a lot of your issues in the current metagame, being able to answer ward, hexproof and indestructible creatures is really important. Additionally, not being targeted to removal avoids difficult situations when facing blink effects like Ephemerate and Ghostly Flicker.
Final Flourish is mainly here to have a way of dealing with Kenku Artificer's 3/3's. Having acces to it is useful, so our game plan doesn't fall apart because we can't kill Indestructible Bridge creatures.
Suffocating Fumes has been a solid option in almost all black decks in recent history as it helps against any go wide strategies. Then if the card isn’t useful, you can just cycle it away and have it replace itself.
Snuff Out, Spinning Darkness,Fungal Infection are the last removal spells and I ended up running 2 of each of these because of how they can interact in specific matchups.
Snuff Out allows you to tap out for threats and draw spells whilst still representing removal. However, the life loss for the alternative cost can be game defining.
Spinning Darkness allows you to do the same as Snuff Out but gives you some form of life gain. It, however, has a much more restrictive alternate cost.
Fungal Infection is a good option against one of the most popular decks. It allows you to deal with Kuldotha Rebirth a lot more reasonably, by killing 2 tokens for one card, it also has some niche ability to impersonate a Disfigure if needing to kill a X/2. Another matchup Fungal Infection is great against is Faeries. It is a cheap way to interact with Spellstutter Sprite with its ability on the stack and still provides a blocker for Ninja of the Deep Hours. This can be really useful for stabilizing, especially in one card.
Avenging Hunter and the Initiative has given this archetype a new lease of life. Having access to the The Initiative Card // Undercity Card against Control and Combo decks opens up those matchups significantly, providing a way to close the games out quickly.
Vampire Sovereign is another recent addition thanks to Double Masters downshift. Being a 3 / 4 with flying for 5 is already a strong stat line, but also giving the deck access to some small amount of lifegain helps to stabilize and close out the game in one card.
Crypt Rats is a card similar to Suffocating Fumes, but against certain matchups like Affinity where they go wide whilst also having much bigger threats like Myr Enforcer. It can be a clean way to answer the board in one card. However, dealing damage to you and your opponents isn’t necessarily a positive. It can be a win condition when accompanied by Blood Fountain, but can equally put you in range of dying to sequential Lightning Bolts and Galvanic Blasts.
Blood Fountain is almost like a threat in this deck as it does multiple things for you. It provides you with sacrifice fodder for Deadly Dispute whilst also being on the board threatens your opponent with having to answer your Avenging Hunters and your Vampire Sovereigns all over again.
Mulligans & Ideal hand
Keeping a hand with a lot of drawing potential against an unknown opponent is advised, as this allows you to adapt your strategy as soon as the matchup is identified. However, keeping no removal or early game plays can be problematic.
My Ideal hand is:
What this provides is a good amount of mana early game, whilst also providing you with sacrifice fodder for both Deadly Disputes. This is just a theory crafted hand, but any hand with one castable removal spell, a Khalni Garden, a black source and a Deadly Dispute / Reckoner’s Bargain I would keep.
You can check me out playing Golgari Gardens here:
Time to look into the sideboard and the card choices I feel works best to tackle the meta.
Weather the Storm is the second reason to splash green after Avenging Hunter. This allows you to have a chance and be able to compete with the power of the Red Aggro decks like Kuldotha and Burn.
Nausea is another card that is useful to deal with the Red Aggro decks. It also has uses against Faeries and other go wide strategies like elves.
Avenging Hunter is here for Midrange and Control matchups where The Initiative Card // Undercity Card is really going to run away with the game. I believe four is too many to have in the main deck with how much red is represented in the meta game.
Duress is a solid card as it is very flexible, this can be boarded against a lot of different strategies. It can be useful to push through a threat by taking their Counterspell. Remove a combo piece out of their hand, like First day of Class.
Nihil Spellbomb is great as a cheap form of graveyard hate, especially as it is free to activate. I chose this over something like Relic of Progenitus, due to having our own, even though slight graveyard interactions.
Fangren Marauder is a great threat against Affinity as it prevents them from closing out their game plan. It's also useful to have against a deck with a lot of removal, so you can have more threats in the post board games.
Deglamer is the chosen piece of artifact hate because it also targets enchantments for when versing Bogles, but also can shuffle in indestructible artifact lands. Doubling up as a Land destruction spell or a kill spell for pretty much anything against Affinity is great.
Alternative card choices
Being a black-based control deck, there are plenty of different options which you can consider in all sorts of different numbers depending on what you feel like you are going to be up against.
These are just some of the cards I have had in the deck throughout me playing it.
Thorn of the Black Rose - similar to Avenging Hunter, this card is great against the slower more Midrange and Control strategies. The Monarch takes over the game, the only difference between this and The Initiative Card // Undercity Card is that the Monarch doesn't actually kill your opponent.
These are just some of the removal spells I have tried over the past few months. They all have their pros and cons, some are better at dealing with problematic cards better than others.
Ultimately, I have settled on the configuration in my deck due to having more game against a general meta.
Similar to Dimir Faeries, Unexpected Fangs can appear in and out of lists. Whilst it is a great card to combo with Crypt Rats, or turn the game with a 6/5 lifelinking dragon, those tend to be just a pipe dream, and is the reason I no longer register this card in my versions of the deck.
Wilt in Golgari Gardens is like Dawnbringer Cleric out of Caw Gate, Wilt is rarely dead. There are a surprising number of targets across almost all of the current metagame, Journey to Nowhere, The Modern Age, along with a plethora of targets against Kuldotha and of course affinity. But ultimately, if it is a dead card in the game, you can simply cycle it away like Suffocating Fumes.
Finally, Gurmag Angler is a different threat to close the game out over Avenging Hunter and Vampire Sovereign. The card really adopts itself into your gameplan. It can easily be cast for 1 or 2 mana, which allows you to still hold up mana to execute your game plan. However, not physically closing out the game like The Initiative Card // Undercity Card or not having flying like Vampire Sovereign led me to not choose the zombie fish as my threat of choice.
These are just some of my suggestions on how I think you should sideboard versus the biggest decks in the metagame.
Firstly, I must explain that I believe this is the sideboard strategy if you see the card Kuldotha Rebirth. This is because the current iterations of the Red decks with Wrenn's Resolve in aren't even playing Kuldotha Rebirth. The only X/1's your nausea may end up killing are your own Guildsworn Prowlers and maybe a couple of Voldaren Epicure.
Fangren Marauder may seem expensive, but if you can get it down, it will most likely win you the game. Gaining effectively two burn spells worth of life by sacrificing your treasure token or wellspring is incredibly powerful. Not to mention every time they want to sacrifice their Synthesizer or implement it comes at the cost of giving you 5 life.
Your basic game plan against Affinity is to try to answer all their important creatures and time it right with Bojuka Bogs and Nihil Spellbomb, so they don't get the opportunity to recur with Blood Fountain.
Maximizing on Avenging Hunters is key, because The Initiative Card // Undercity Card is great at stealing games from under their feet. Hopefully you can get Avenging Hunter down before they flood the board with free 4/4 creatures. Marauder and Deglamer are great cards here just for disrupting their game plan wherever possible.
Vs Caw Gates
I believe this match up should be fairly favoured. They have surprisingly few threats and very little permission, so answering every threat can be relatively easy. However, throwing away Chainer's Edict can be a sure way to lose this match up. You can just lose to a surprise Guardian of the Guildpact.
Fairly straight forward sideboarding here. Nihil Spellbomb is great at slowing down the Dimir Terror Game plan. Duress is great at making sure you get to take the troublesome spells like Counterspell and Chainer's Edict.
All those are basically free as Spinning Darkness and Fungal Infection doesn't answer anything.
Guildsworn Prowler is surprisingly problematic for the Terror player, being a Black creature with Deathtouch means unless they have a well timed Chainer's Edict, they're going to have to trade a 5/5 for your 2/1.
Vs Mono Blue Faeries
Nausea is obviously a great card for dealing with the faeries in the air, which should in turn allow the Chainer's Edict and other removal spells to deal with the Ninjas.
Avenging Hunter is a great card here for finishing the game and killing your opponent even through Snaps. However, with all their combat tricks and flash creatures, you really need to make sure you can answer everything they could before playing it.
Familiars has been the secret best deck for the past few years, but with the release of Meeting of Minds the secret is out.
To beat this match up, we are taking out the cards that we don't need, like the useless removal spells and blood fountains. These are for cards that disrupt their game plan and a big threat that closes the game once we have disrupted their plan.
We are not the control deck in this match up. I have found being aggressive and pressing as much damage as possible is the key to success. Finding answers to their familiars and avoiding wasting removal on signalled Ephemerates and Ghostly Flickers is a sure way to get you the win in this somewhat difficult match up.
Golgari Gardens is a tonne of fun to play, and you can add your own flair when building it.
With a strong pilot and an understanding of what your role is in every match up, I'm certain this deck can take on anything the meta throws at it.
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