Tarmogoyf - Illustration by Ryan Barger

Tarmogoyf | Illustration by Ryan Barger

Lhurgoyf was my first MTG love. I started playing in Ice Age and this was the first build-around card my baby Magic brain understood. “Wait… it’s actually okay that my things go to the graveyard?!”

And the flavor text! A joke that takes more than 20 years to finish is the nuts. Being able to grab the “Not again” Revenant in Stronghold, Saffi Eriksdotter in Time Spiral, and finally Hans Eriksson in Commander Legends (with an Ach! Hans, Run! along the way) cemented my undying love for all things ‘goyf.

But you may be here because you’re either a Magic boomer who anchored a Jund () deck with Tarmogoyf or watched the Rhystic Study episode on boomers and their ‘goyfs. In other words, you might be looking for some good lhurgoyfs to add to your dredgy Commander deck, or maybe to build some ‘goyf tribal?

That sounds good to me. Let’s do it!

What Are Lhurgoyfs in MTG?

Necrogoyf - Illustration by Nicholas Gregory

Necrogoyf | Illustration by Nicholas Gregory

Lhurgoyf is a creature type based on that OG from Ice Age, Lhurgoyf. There’s no lore to the made up name aside from a vague Scandinavian sound. Based on that first model, lhurgoyfs grow from what’s in the graveyard, and that iconic first piece of art for Lhurgoyf by Pete Venters shows it having dredged up a skeleton to consume. Of course, the skeleton still has eyes and seems to be screaming in terror, so maybe there’s more to that particular story?

There was a lhurgoyf cycle in Odyssey and there have been a few here and there over the years, including one in Dominaria United. A key element of lhurgoyf is that they look to all graveyards for their triggers, not just yours, which leads to interesting gameplay.

Are these playable? Let’s see.

#11. Altar of the Goyf

Altar of the Goyf

Altar of the Goyf is sweet card design, but as the underwhelming samurai theme in Neon Dynasty made clear, a mechanic that rewards attacking alone doesn’t really work in Magic all that well.

The joke here is that it’s three card types (tribal being a type) if you get this in the graveyard, which adds three power to Tarmogoyf. That’s a lot to ask of a 5-drop that can’t find its own way into the graveyard.

#10. Magnivore

Magnivore

Magnivore is cheaper than the next card and lives in a similar space, but sorceries are tougher to trigger off of. How many sorceries do most decks run in EDH these days? Any given spell is better as an instant, so much so that a lot of players are willing to spend more mana or harder-to-cast pipped mana for something at instant speed, and that’s especially true in Commander when there are only so many slots for spells in a given deck.

This probably comes down reasonably large in a green ramp-heavy meta, but there’s got to be better things to do with four mana.

#9. Cognivore

Cognivore

Eight mana!? Look, if Cognivore hits the battlefield in a game of Commander it’ll be massive, like a totally swole Tolarian Terror that only looks at instants. But you have to cheat this thing into play to get it to work.

20 years ago this was a finisher in decks that used Oath of Druids to get it into play. So maybe this is good in EDH if you’re a Simic () Monster Manual-type deck that cheats things into play?

The trouble with this card (and most of the ‘goyfs to come) is that they don’t have any abilities other than being big. This gets cheated out as a 30/30 against some spellslinger opponents, but then it dies to Doom Blade or meets an Unsummon effect.

#8. Terravore

Terravore

Terravore could get big in a deck like Uurg, Spawn of Turg or other lands-into-and-out-of-your-graveyard sort of decks, but most of those decks have a Lord Windgrace element that wants to keep pulling lands back out.

This could come down pretty big for its three mana with a lot of self-mill or land sacrifice. It’s also useful for a deck like Slogurk, the Overslime that needs cards to not have black or red pips (which a lot of lands matter commanders do).

#7. Detritivore

Detritivore

Detritivore is just a really, really slow way to destroy lands in a normal game of Magic. That means the only Commander decks that use it tend to be land destruction decks with commanders like Numot, the Devastator and Zo-Zu the Punisher, which just bring joy and happiness to any EDH table they land on.

If you have some blue you can add Clockspinning to keep the slow grindy party going. You can’t typically counter the trigger, so that’s good?

None of that is very compelling, but this card has anchored a Modern deck that wanted to pair it with Crucible of Worlds to recur Ghost Quarter. Okay, that’s still just repeated land destruction. But there seems to be a space to add red to the classic The Gitrog Monster Golgari () decks that destroy (or mill) your own lands to recur them for fun and profit in a world of Soul of Windgrace.

#6. Cantivore

Cantivore

No one runs Cantivore. That’s partly because it’s old and weird. But also because it suffers in an EDH meta with tons of enchantress decks from being printed many years before there was such a thing as an enchantment creature that reduces some of its synergies.

Still, this isn’t terrible in my Ghen, Arcanum Weaver deck, and I think it could find a home as a finisher in a heavy Ertai, the Corrupted control shell. This is a reasonable addition to a saga tribal deck alongside, say, a Faith Healer.

#5. Lhurgoyf

Lhurgoyf

The original Lhurgoyf has been eclipsed by more powerful cards. It still has a place (mostly driven by nostalgia, probably) in dredge decks like Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, and you absolutely have to run it on principle in Saffi Eriksdotter and Hans Eriksson decks.

#4. Mortivore

Mortivore

This riff on Revenant is just better on its face than the OG Lhurgoyf. Mortivore dies when all graveyards disappear, unlike the original, but in almost all cases the regeneration is better.

Plus this is black, which opens up EDH decks that can’t run green like Phenax, God of Deception and Lazav, the Multifarious.

#3. Urborg Lhurgoyf

Urborg Lhurgoyf

Less good on raw power than the last two cards because it only looks to your own graveyard, Urborg Lhurgoyf can drop faster and the Sultai () kickers allow for the kind of self-mill that you want in these sorts of decks.

This card would absolutely see more Standard play in a world of Old Rutstein and Old Stickfingers if Graveyard Trespasser wasn’t a great card in the best decks. I feel like this should go in your Tasigur, the Golden Fang decks.

I also run this in any EDH deck that can play Sultai until I tire of cracking myself up with “rural juror” jokes.

#2. Necrogoyf

Necrogoyf

This Modern Horizons card slots right into madness decks helmed by Anje Falkenrath and discard decks like Tinybones, Trinket Thief. It also has a home in other graveyard-focused decks of all sorts, which are abundant for a black card.

Necrogoyf‘s cost is a downside, but that’s a problem with various low-cost solutions in a reanimator deck.

#1. Tarmogoyf

Tarmogoyf

The official membership card of Boomer Magic Nation! Tarmogoyf dominated Standard and then Modern for a long time (shout out again to the video history of it).

There are still folks trying to keep this going in Modern, especially in the emerging category of Soul of Windgrace decks. It’s probably not going to work. This card doesn’t really make sense in EDH, but it’s hard not to look at something that can be really big on turn 2 and not think about a shell for it. So a bunch of folks are pairing this with Urborg Lhurgoyf in 8-goyf shells, which are probably not quite good enough for Historic, much less Modern.

Still, it’s hard to blame them, Hans.

Best Lhurgoyf Payoffs

Self-Mill Decks

Grisly Salvage

Any deck where a card like Grisly Salvage makes sense could do with a ‘goyf or two, I think. They’re persistently big threats for low mana in those kinds of decks.

RevenantWild Mongrel

I loved my ‘goyfs and Revenant in a casual deck years ago paired with Wild Mongrel and other threshold enablers that let you pitch cards for value.

Sac Decks

Teysa KarlovMeren of Clan Nel Toth

Lhurgoyfs are a bit too niche for most streamlined aristocrats decks, which tend to like exploiting death triggers with Teysa Karlov. But the green and black themes make them interesting inclusions in a deck like Meren of Clan Nel Toth.

Jokes

Hans’ big day out with his sister has got to be Magic’s longest-running gag, and from that perspective these cards have got to go in whatever 5-color nostalgia tribal deck some mad genius boomer is brewing even now.

So add these to your funniest Magic cards and funniest flavor text cards as you pour one out for Jaya Ballard to celebrate Magic’s 30th anniversary the way it all began, with a bunch of nerds crowded around a kitchen table.

Wrap Up

Mortivore - Illustration by Anthony S. Waters

Mortivore | Illustration by Anthony S. Waters

I can’t promise you that any of these cards should slot into any of your Commander decks on rate alone. But I have played a lot of lhurgoyfs in my years in Magic, and I’ve never not had fun with one on the table. To me these are the essence of casual Magic in a creature type, and I’ll always be loyal to my first MTG love.

What’s your first Magic love? Let me know in the comments below or over on the Draftsim Twitter.

#TeamGoyf

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