Webster’s Dictionary defines Durdling as “spinning your wheels in a game of magic until you have completely and utterly out-valued your opponent.” And next to that definition is a picture of me with a big grin on my face that reads “A Durdler.”
It’s no secret that my favorite way to play magic is to win by virtue of not losing. In Ravnica Allegiance, two copies of
Clear the Mind gave players the opportunity to continually loop their graveyard into their library so they could never lose by decking. If your deck had enough defensive speed and velocity to power through your library, you didn’t have to worry about winning the game, you just had to worry about not losing. And I’m delighted to announce that we have another deck just like that on our hands in M20 Limited. The colors are different, but the main idea remains the same: as long as you don’t lose, you’re going to win.
Redundancy of Recursion
There are two main pieces that allow this archetype to operate in the way that it does. The first is any and all of the four ways to return creatures from your graveyard:
Blood for Bones, and
Pulse of Murasa. The second is
As long as Shaman ends up in your graveyard, you can get it back with one of the aforementioned spells and continue to shuffle back in any number of cards from your graveyard into your library. Unlike
Clear the Mind, Shaman lets you select the cards you want to shuffle back in so you can ensure your deck will be chock full of the spells you want and none of the irrelevant ones that you don’t. You can even use two copies of
Loaming Shaman so that one shuffles the other back in. Rinse. Repeat. Again, this is contingent on the Shaman ending up in your graveyard, which can often just happen in combat, but
Bone Splinters and
Bloodsoaked Altar are cards that you actively want in this deck and can help Shaman find its way to the bin.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman
Once you’ve got the core of inevitability in the graveyard recursion and
Loaming Shaman, you need to fill out the deck with cards that are all working towards the goal of not dying. With the prevalence of flying in this set, you need to make sure you can combat your opponent's air force with a good number blockers.
Mammoth Spider, and even
Howling Giant are all key pieces in holding off attacks from the other side of the battlefield. If you don’t get a good number of these,
Plummet can work in a pinch. I often say for decks like these that if Plummet is a dead card, it probably means the rest of the deck is matching up well since flying is the number one way these decks can fall behind.
There are two major things to keep in mind when drafting this deck: ETB triggers and lifegain. Because so much of the deck is trying to recur creatures from the graveyard, if they do something as they come into play it only compounds the value you’re accruing.
Gorging Vulture is the all-star here as it sits in the center of the venn diagram. It gains you a little bit of life and also helps fill your graveyard to turn on your
Soul Salvage earlier than usual. Beyond that,
Meteor Golem, and
Boneclad Necromancer are cards I’m actively seeking. Any incidental lifegain you can find from cards like
Pulse of Murasa,
Agonizing Syphon, and
Moldervine Reclamation (another fantastic card in the deck) not only gives you a buffer to set up the long game, but provides additional synergies for cards you’ll find along the way like
Bloodthirsty Aerialist and
Epicure of Blood.
Over and Under Performers
This deck still wants the good removal it can get its hands on:
Agonizing Syphon, and
Rabid Bite. Even
Bone Splinters is strong as a one or two-of depending on how it synergizes with the rest of the deck. Beyond the usual cast of black and green’s top commons and uncommons, there are some cards to look out for as particularly valuable.
Sanitarium Skeleton is chief among them. It gives you fodder for
Bone Splinters and
Bloodsoaked Altar, can halt your opponent’s ground forces in conjunction with
Moldervine Reclamation, and can be a free draw if it gets milled off of a
Gorging Vulture entering the battlefield.
For similar reasons,
Ferocious Pup is better than normal in this archetype because of how valuable the two bodies for one card can be.
Sedge Scorpion and
Vampire of the Dire Moon are excellent as cards that can trade up on the ground, ensure
Rabid Bite can kill anything, and are cheap enough to deploy the same turn they’re returned from your graveyard.
Sorcerer of the Fang is another card that I like to have in this deck as it can be a way to close out a game in a boardstall if you’re lighter on the recursion loop pieces.
On the other hand, there are a number of cards that I’m generally happy with that I think are worse in this archetype. This deck gets particularly clogged on four-drops with
Blood for Bones, and
Agonizing Syphon, so you don’t have room for others like
Thicket Crasher and
Brightwood Tracker. Tracker is a card you might think fits in a grindy deck like the one I’m outlining, but you should have many other places to put your mana and get two-for-ones that this usually doesn’t make the cut. Random cheap bodies like
Centaur Courser, and
Blood Burglar are filler in this deck and you hope to not run them. You’d much rather have creatures that aren’t dead late in the game, which is a reason why the one-drop deathtouch creatures are so good.
This deck is such a blast to play. Everytime you get to trade one-for-one on resources with your opponent, you feel like you’re winning because your deck is chock full of creatures with ETB triggers and
Soul Salvage that eventually pull you so far ahead. There are a lot of moving pieces to this archetype, but when they all come together it is a thing of beauty! Here’s an example of a version I drafted the other day in BO1 on Arena.
Have you had success with this archetype? Or are you building Golgari differently? Let me know on twitter! And, as always, happy drafting!