Last updated on January 13, 2023

Dina, Soul Steeper - Illustration by Chris Rahn

Dina, Soul Steeper | Illustration by Chris Rahn

Commander is my favorite format, and if you’re here then you’re at least interested in it. It’s a format about choice and promotes self-expression through your deck and commander like no other format in Magic. But knowing how to express yourself and what commander or colors to play is half the battle.

Golgari () fights dirty. It’s full of sacrifice, betrayal, and monstrosities that run over entire villages. And that sounds great if it’s your monstrosities and your opponents being betrayed. Which is why today I’m going to go over the benefits of playing Golgari, list the top commanders, and provide a sample decklist in case you want to get started right away.

Let’s dive right in!

Why Go with a Golgari Commander?

Meren of Clan Nel Toth - Illustration by Mark Winters

Meren of Clan Nel Toth | Illustration by Mark Winters

Golgari offers up power and strength like no other color combination as long as you’re willing to pay for it. Sacrifice is at the heart of Golgari, taking green’s natural strength and amplifying it using black’s sacrifice outlets and benefits.

Most Golgari decks also play pretty simply. They can easily be summed up as “big green creatures with black removal,” and that’s great. Both colors also have great access and synergy with the graveyard which is an exceptional strategy in Commander.

#19. Sarulf, Realm Eater

Sarulf, Realm Eater

Sarulf, Realm Eater is truly a realm eater given its abilities, which allow it to exile nonland permanents equal to the number of +1/+1 counters on it during your upkeep. Throw Sarulf into a deck box with some +1/+1 counter synergy and you have a great creature deck with an easy way to threaten your opponents if they try to stop you.

This is also great removal since neither black nor green have easy ways to kill things with indestructible outside of sacrifice outlets. Just make sure to plan around this mechanic because you don’t want to end up wiping your own board in the process!

#18. Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest

Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest

Up next is Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest from Commander 2015, a 2/2 flier that gives each creature you control a +1/+1 counter whenever a player sacrifices another permanent. This is pretty incredible given how strong sacrifice decks are in Golgari, and getting an extra board wipe buff from each trigger is too good to miss out on.

Make sure to include plenty of sacrifice outlets in your deck since Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest isn’t one itself. The best ones are Viscera Seer, Blood Artist, and Demon's Disciple, but I’m sure you could find more interesting ones with some digging on EDHREC or Gatherer.

#17. Grismold, the Dreadsower

Grismold, the Dreadsower

In the #17 spot is Grismold, the Dreadsower, a 3/3 troll shaman with trample that generates Plant tokens along with getting +1/+1 tokens whenever a token dies. This is the first token commander to appear on the list today, but it won’t be the last.

Since Grismold, the Dreadsower also has synergy with creature death the list doesn’t need to rely so heavily on green for token synergy. An aristocrats and tokens strategy works better and can more easily use some of black’s best cards, like Dictate of Erebos and Village Rites.

#16. Carth the Lion

Carth the Lion MH2

Carth the Lion is a 3/5 human warrior that generates card advantage through planeswalkers whenever a creature or planeswalker dies. Planeswalker tribal isn’t something you expect to see in 2-color decks, especially Golgari, but here we are!

When it comes to planeswalkers in such limited colors you’re basically playing the top twenty. The deck’s real power comes from the synergistic artifacts and cards that interact with those planeswalkers. The Chain Veil is obviously the most important here, giving you double activations to further accelerate ultimate abilities. Proliferation effects are also important and come in the form of cards like Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider and Doubling Season.

#15. Abomination of Llanowar

Abomination of Llanowar

In the #15 spot is Abomination of Llanowar, which is just about the most Golgari name I can think of for a creature. Abomination has power and toughness equal to the number of elves in your graveyard and that you control, which means it’s elf time baby!

While you have direct reasons to have elves in the graveyard, you don’t want to stray too far beyond normal elf decks. Abomination of Llanowar isn’t so good that you want to run a sacrifice deck with elves as the creatures, plus the ability that looks at the graveyard also looks at the battlefield. Just throw in your elves along with Craterhoof Behemoth and Natural Order and call it a day.

#14. Old Stickfingers

Old Stickfingers

Next up on today’s rankings is the infamous Old Stickfingers from Midnight Hunt. Stickfingers wants to be your classic graveyard/reanimator commander, and it fulfills that role pretty well. It practically throws cards into your graveyard, and doing that just once should be enough to get the ball rolling.

Reanimator decks are pretty straightforward. Pick out your favorite creatures you want to animate like Sheoldred, Whispering One, put in as many reanimation engines as you can, and you’re ready to go.

#13. Skullbriar, the Walking Grave

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave

In the #13 spot is Skullbriar, the Walking Grave, a 1/1 zombie elemental that gets +1/+1 counters when it deals damage and keeps all counters forever, regardless of zone change. This is a pretty massive ability because it means you can stack flying, trample, and other counters in addition to +1/+1 counters to make a one-shot monstrosity that doesn’t ever really go away.

Since +1/+1 counters are easy to come by you’re really just worried about giving Skullbriar trample and other keywords. Ring of Kalonia is pretty great for this because it hits both sides and won’t go away when Skullbriar does. Ring of Xathrid is also solid as it lets you keep Skullbriar around through some basic kill effects.

#12. Belbe, Corrupted Observer

Belbe, Corrupted Observer

Belbe, Corrupted Observer gives two colorless mana per person a player attacked that was your opponent that turn. This makes Belbe a great big mana commander that also offers some defensive measure by incentivizing your opponents to attack each other instead of you.

This is also a very fun strategy. Green is great at generating lots of mana and both green and black have plenty of places to spend it. And the Eldrazi are all colorless and great ways to dump 10+ mana in a single turn. Kozilek, the Great Distortion is a great example since it refills your hand in addition to being a massive body.

#11. Gyome, Master Chef

Gyome, Master Chef

Gyome, Master Chef is here to greet us in the #11 spot as the only chef commander on this list. Gyome whips up some Food tokens whenever a nontoken creature enters the battlefield, which is a great workaround to being a lifegain commander since each token gains you three life.

Once you have your Master Chef online it’s only a matter of getting lifegain triggers to actually do something. Sanguine Bond and similar effects are about as good as they come. Get two or three of these kinds of enchantments out and your opponents are suddenly very pressed to find their one of Reclamation Sages.

#10. Grist, the Hunger Tide

Grist, the Hunger Tide MH2

We’re halfway through now and Grist, the Hunger Tide is here to meet us as the only planeswalker commander on today’s rankings. Grist is a creature when it isn’t on the battlefield which is what allows you to play it as your commander without the standard clause that most other planeswalker commanders have.

Insect tribal is the name of the game when it comes to playing Grist, the Hunger Tide, which means you’ll need as many insect creatures (and shapeshifters) as you can get our hands on. There are actually some pretty great insects worth including, like Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest and Carrion Grub. And since we’re a tribal deck you have to include Coat of Arms and Vanquisher's Banner. These cards are too good to pass up so you need to run them both 100% of the time.

#9. Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord was one of the first legendary creatures I ever interacted with, so it’s cool seeing it pop up on today’s rankings in the #9 spot. Jarad is a graveyard commander all the way which means you’re going to be leaning pretty heavily into a sacrifice theme to take advantage of its abilities.

Given the fact that Golgari Lich Lord is a sacrifice outlet in the command zone you want to make sure you always have something worth sacrificing. Even if the creature doesn’t have any on-death effects something else will ideally have a trigger for when something dies. Syr Konrad, the Grim, Disciple of Bolas, and Altar of Dementia love it when creatures die, making them perfect inclusions in any Jarad list.

#8. Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons

Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons

Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons is all about those -1/-1 counters, and its ability to create tokens and other synergies with them lands it in the #8 spot today. Golgari loves -1/-1 counters and there are just about infinite ways to produce them alongside green’s synergy with counter distribution.

There are plenty of ways to make -1/-1 counters and good creatures to put them on, but it’s important to know what cards empower the strategy the most. Skullclamp is an auto-include given most of your creatures will be in the one toughness range anyway. Zulaport Cutthroat helps pull some extra value out of your creatures’ demise, and Contagion Clasp is proliferate on a stick which helps your -1/-1 plague spread even further.

#7. Slimefoot, the Stowaway

Slimefoot, the Stowaway

Slimefoot, the Stowaway snuck into the #7 spot today and is interestingly only ever really used for Saproling-based decks. Slimefoot makes a Saproling for and deals one damage to each opponent while gaining you one life whenever they die.

There are surprisingly a lot of ways to make Saprolings in Magic, even in black. Tendershoot Dryad consistently makes plenty. Deathspore Thallid makes them along with giving you a way to kill them for free. And cards like Zulaport Cutthroat and Moldervine Reclamation provide more value whenever one of your Saprolings kicks the bucket.

#6. Beledros Witherbloom

Beledros Witherbloom

In the #6 spot is none other than the infamous Beledros Witherbloom itself! A whopping 4/4 flier for seven mana, Beledros generates 1/1 tokens that gain you life while giving you the option to pay 10 life to untap all your lands.

You want as much life as possible to make use of the Seedborn Muse on a stick that’s in your command zone. Green has some good ways to gain life but black’s sacrifice-for-life engines are the way to go. Dina, Soul Steeper, Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose, and Ayara, First of Locthwain are the good ones here. You’ll already have plenty of tokens that are dying so you might as well capitalize off of it.

#5. Chatterfang, Squirrel General

Chatterfang, Squirrel General MH2

Starting off the top five is… Chatterfang?

Chatterfang, Squirrel General is surprisingly powerful despite what the creature type of “squirrel warrior” may suggest. The 3/3 squirrel creates an equal amount of 1/1 squirrel tokens whenever you make tokens, and then for and sacrificing X squirrels will give a single creature +X/+X.

Tokens is by far the best strategy to properly put Squirrel General to use. That’s going to be a lot of work done by green in the deck, but black brings a lot of creature death triggers that you’ll love to use. Bastion of Remembrance, Zulaport Cutthroat, and Blood Artist are by far the best cards and should be automatically included in any list you run.

#4. Dina, Soul Steeper

Dina, Soul Steeper

Dina, Soul Steeper is a 1/3 dryad druid that drains each opponent for one whenever you gain life while also being a sacrifice outlet. In this case the lifegain mechanic is far more relevant than sacrificing a creature for , and that means that Dina is actually a lifegain commander (in black no less!).

When I first realized that Soul Steeper is a lifegain commander I was instantly confused as to what cards supported that strategy. Aren’t all the best lifegain cards in white? Apparently not, because there are a lot of lifegain-empowering cards in black! Marauding Blight-Priest, Deathgreeter, and Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose are all incredible. Black has plenty of lifegain support, it just needs some poor creature to die to turn it on.

#3. The Gitrog Monster

The Gitrog Monster

In the #3 spot is an all-time classic Golgari commander, The Gitrog Monster! Gitrog is your classic lands commander that lets you play an extra land per turn at the expense of having you sacrifice one on your upkeep. On the plus side you draw a card whenever a land enters the graveyard from anywhere.

All the support for land strategies in Golgari comes from green which is a surprise to nobody. Scapeshift, Avenger of Zendikar, and Courser of Kruphix are some of the greenest cards you can get. Black is just kind of here to give better removal and some discard outlets.

#2. Meren of Clan Nel Toth

Meren of Clan Nel Toth

Up next is Meren of Clan Nel Toth, another commander from Commander 2015 that’s all about those experience counters. Meren gains an experience counter whenever another creature dies under your control and then reanimates a creature in your graveyard with mana value less than the number of experience counters on it. This calls for classic Golgari aristocrats.

Since you greatly benefit from having creatures dying you want more than the average number of sacrifice outlets. In any given Meren sacrifice deck you should include Plaguecrafter, Victimize, Caustic Caterpillar, Viscera Seer, Fleshbag Marauder, and any other cheap way to get sacrifice triggers. If they do something in addition to dying, like Caustic Caterpillar, then that’s even better.

#1. Lathril, Blade of the Elves

Lathril, Blade of the Elves

In first place is Lathril, Blade of the Elves. Lathril is an elves commander, believe it or not, and is by far the strongest Golgari commander. Elves are a mechanic that’s as fun to play as it is simple. You start off with some early acceleration, generate some card advantage mid-game to keep the creatures flowing, and then close it out with Craterhoof Behemoth or some other trample effect. It’s an ancient strategy but it works fantastically well.

For acceleration the classic mana dorks will do (Elvish Mystic, Llanowar Elves, Fyndhorn Elves, Circle of Dreams Druid, etc.). Creatures like Beast Whisperer and Elvish Visionary excel for card advantage. You don’t want to miss out on going wide whatsoever.

Craterhoof Behemoth is king for a reason. You can wipe the table with just 8 to 12 creatures and it’s easy to get consistent Craterhoof ETBs with things like Natural Order and Finale of Devastation.

Decklist: Lathril, Blade of the Elves in EDH

Lathril, Blade of the Elves - Illustration by Caroline Gariba

Lathril, Blade of the Elves | Illustration by Caroline Gariba

Lathril, Blade of the Elves is by far the best commander in Golgari, and it’s that power as an elf commander that made me want to showcase a sample decklist for you today. Elves are a strategy powerful enough that it doesn’t need to rely on its commander to win, but Lathril helps push damage through blockers that would otherwise hinder the strategy.

The strategy’s simple and easy to understand: keep a hand with early ramp cards like Arbor Elf, Circle of Dreams Druid, and Elvish Archdruid. This helps you ramp into some more powerful board-filling cards like Ezuri, Renegade Leader and Marwyn, the Nurturer. Your goal is to put up a formidable force, attack for a lot of damage, and blow up straggling players with Lathril, Blade of the Elves.

But if your commander is repeatedly getting shut down and everyone is making fun of your small little 1/1 elves, you’re in luck. This list also runs the killer combo of Natural Order and Craterhoof Behemoth.

Commanding Conclusion

Beledros Witherbloom - Illustration by Raymond Swanland

Beledros Witherbloom | Illustration by Raymond Swanland

That concludes everything I’ve got for you today! I love making these different Commander rankings and I hope you enjoy reading them. Elves is an excellent creature tribe for players of all skill levels and it’s great here in Golgari.

What did you think of my rankings? Were there any you’d change around or remove all together? Let me know in the comments or over in the Draftsim Discord.

Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!

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1 Comment

  • Avatar
    Serg_Maliy April 11, 2022 5:54 am

    Where is Nath of the Gilt-Leaf?

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