Brews From Scratch: Explorer Golgari Tyvar Citadel
I’ve had feedback from a number of people saying they’d be interested in seeing the deckbuilding process rather than just the final result, so I’ve been doing a series over on the MTGAzone Youtube channel called Brews From Scratch, where I record myself building a new deck from the very beginning and explain my thoughts as I go. This is the fifth installment in the series, and this time I’m building Golgari Tyvar Citadel in Explorer.
I’m going to explain the final deck I ended on below, but if you’re interested in the building process, the thoughts behind the ratio of the cards, or you want to see the deck in action, then I definitely recommend checking out the video.
Table of Contents
Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler
This is a new card from the latest set that inspired me to return to the Bolas's Citadel archetype because of its interactions with Priest of Forgotten Gods and manadorks like Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic.
These are all cards that are integral to the Citadel archetype and the passive on Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler allows you to activate them all the turn they enter play which is huge, and you can untap them with the +1 ability in order to reuse the effects again.
On top of that, the -2 allows you to rebuy them from the graveyard (which you can then activate immediately because of the passive), and there are a number of other important 2 drops you can rebuy off the -2 like Zulaport Cutthroat and Prosperous Innkeeper.
This is really useful both with Bolas's Citadel (since you can use the -2 to rebuy something like Prosperous Innkeeper to ensure you don’t brick by running out of life), and without (since getting back a Priest of Forgotten Gods to activate immediately or Zulaport Cutthroat plays really nicely with fair sacrifice backup gameplan), whilst also being a threat that control decks struggle to deal with which is an otherwise difficult matchup for sacrifice because of sweepers like Farewell.
This is the namesake card in the deck, and it pairs really nicely with the sacrifice shell since having access to a combo finish helps to shore up matchups that regular sacrifice struggles to beat since they go bigger than you like Azorius Control, Enigmatic Incarnation, Mono Green Devotion, Angels etc.
The way this works is you’re trying to ramp into Bolas's Citadel off cards like Llanowar Elves, Prosperous Innkeeper, and Priest of Forgotten Gods, and once it’s in play the goal is to keep putting creatures into play off the top of your library until you have 10 or more creatures including a Zulaport Cutthroat.
At that point you can use Bolas's Citadel ability to sacrifice 10 creatures to make the opponent lose 10 life, and with a Zulaport Cutthroat in play that will cause the opponent to take an extra 10 damage because of the death triggers dealing 20 damage in one go (you can also keep comboing until you have multiple Zulaport Cutthroat if the opponent is above 20 life).
The two main ways you can brick when going off with Bolas's Citadel are either by running out of life, or hitting a land on top that you can’t play, and Prosperous Innkeeper and Woe Strider help to reduce the chances of that happening.
Prosperous Innkeeper gaining you a life each time a creature enters the battlefield allows you to keep comboing for longer without worrying about running out of life, and if you can get 2 in play that usually means you can keep going indefinitely until you hit a land you can’t play or clear off the top (Zulaport Cutthroat alongside a sacrifice outlet like Woe Strider can also help with this since it gains you life). Woe Strider is also very important at clearing lands off the top of the library to ensure you don’t brick since you can sacrifice a creature to scry it to the bottom.
Even outside of that both cards are very useful in their own right – Prosperous Innkeeper ramps into both Collected Company and Bolas's Citadel, and the lifegain is great against aggro, and ensuring you have a higher life total if you later resolve a Bolas's Citadel, and Woe Strider works really nicely with the fair sacrifice gameplan, and can be recurred from the graveyard which is really useful in longer, grindier matchups.
I’m a big fan of this card in Bolas's Citadel since it’s great when you’re comboing off (since it can help find key cards like Woe Strider, Prosperous Innkeeper, and Zulaport Cutthroat), and is a good top end card when you don’t have Bolas's Citadel too.
From my experience most Bolas's Citadel builds that don’t run Collected Company really struggle to have a solid plan B which makes you very vulnerable to discard spells, counterspells, and fast aggro since you’re too reliant on the combo side of the deck, whereas Collected Company alongside Priest of Forgotten Gods, Woe Strider, Zulaport Cutthroat etc. ensure that you can win matches without needing to resolve Bolas's Citadel.
When I was building this list I was slightly concerned that running 4 Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler, 4 Bolas's Citadel, and 4 Collected Company would mean our creature count is too low, but in the end the I managed to fit in 27 creatures which is a decent amount and should make Collected Company consistently strong even though 8 of those 27 are 1-drop manadorks.
Priest of Forgotten Gods
This is one of the central cards of the deck for a number of reasons. Firstly since we’re running 12 important non-creatures including Collected Company, we can’t really afford to maindeck any non-creature interaction or we won’t have enough creatures for Collected Company to consistently hit, and Priest of Forgotten Gods being a creature that doubles up as interaction ensures that we don’t have to rely entirely on racing which is really big.
Additionally, it producing mana allows us to ramp into Bolas's Citadel a lot faster (we can play Bolas's Citadel as early as turn 3 if you have turn 1 elf, turn 2 Priest of Forgotten Gods, turn 3 elf), and the card draw is huge at keeping the cards flowing.
Alongside Woe Strider it also gives us good use for low impact creatures that we draw later in the game like Elvish Mystic since we can sacrifice them for value, and it’s obviously insane with Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler since we can activate it immediatetly, potentially get a second activation off the +1 untap, and is a great target to get back with the -2.
Overall this is a great card for both ramping into Bolas's Citadel, and is a key part of our fair sacrifice backup plan too.
This is the flex slot in the deck but I’ve been really impressed with it – if you are going to replace this I’d definitely replace it with a 3 mana creature since your Collected Company will be much lower impact otherwise. This is another card that is great when comboing off with Bolas's Citadel and is really solid when you don’t have it too.
If you have Bolas's Citadel in play, you cast Callous Bloodmage off the top and the next card is a land you can use the draw ability to clear that land off the top. If the next card isn’t a land you can instead make a 1/1 which makes the card only cost 1 life with Prosperous Innkeeper in play, it counts as 2 creatures towards the Bolas's Citadel activation, and you can gain a life back by sacrificing the token to Woe Strider too.
If you don’t have Bolas's Citadel then all three modes are still great – at worst it replaces itself which is great at digging for whatever you need, making the 1/1 is useful if you’re under pressure from an aggressive start, and being able to exile the graveyard is really useful against decks like Greasefang and Phoenix too (the fact you can exile the graveyard at instant-speed off Collected Company can be really clutch in those matchups as well).
21 lands has felt like a good amount so far – you ideally want to be running a low land count since it reduces the chances of you bricking off the Bolas's Citadel, and you’re running 8 manadorks in addition to ramp from Prosperous Innkeeper and Priest of Forgotten Gods, plus you can scry off Woe Strider and draw off Callous Bloodmage, so the deck is built to be able to operate from a low land count even though you’re trying to resolve a 6 mana card.
On the flipside you can sometimes run into issues if the opponent has removal for your early manadorks and you can be left in spots where you struggle to draw lands, but this doesn’t happen very often and having played a good amount of Citadel decks in the past you can definitely get away with 21 lands. I could potentially see an argument to going up to 22 but you’d probably then have to cut a Callous Bloodmage which makes your Collected Company a fair bit worse, and increases your chances of bricking off Bolas's Citadel too.
In terms of the lands themselves I’m basically just running all of the good golgari dual lands, a few basics, and the channel lands as 1 ofs.
One of the big advantages of only running 2 colors is that the manabase is a lot less painful which is very important alongside Bolas's Citadel because you want as much life as possible to be able to combo – this is partially why I’m opting to run Zulaport Cutthroat over Mayhem Devil as a finisher, but being able to rebuy Zulaport Cutthroat off the Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler -2 is a big advantage too.
Because your life total is important, having to run Llanowar Wastes isn’t ideal but I feel it’s necessary because you need to consistently have green on turn 1 for your manadorks as well as triple black for Bolas's Citadel.
It’s very important to me to be able to keep Collected Company in post-sideboard in every matchup and so I made a big effort to run all creatures in the sideboard outside of Fatal Push so Collected Company is consistently good post-sideboard.
Fatal Push: One weakness of Bolas's Citadel is that it’s not great against fast aggro decks that pressure your life total since you usually won’t have enough life to be able to combo. For that reason I wanted to board out of Bolas's Citadel against faster decks and Fatal Push is a great replacement because it allows you to bring in really efficient interaction without affecting the number of creatures for Collected Company.
The reason why I like this gameplan is because sacrifice as an archetype is naturally good against creature decks, and so running Bolas's Citadel allows you to improve your matchup against decks that go big and are typically tough matchups for the achetype, and then post-sideboard you can board out of Bolas's Citadel for Fatal Push, and you get to take advantage of sacrifice’s natural strengths against the faster aggressive decks too.
Cankerbloom: This is here mainly for Enigmatic Incarnation and Fires of Invention decks, and Azorius Control. I much prefer this to alternatives like Reclamation Sage since you don’t have to wait to play Cankerbloom until the opponent plays an artifact or enchantment you want to kill, and this can be replayed off the Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler -2 ability to kill an additional target.
Phyrexian Revoker: This is here predominantly for Mono Green Devotion and Greasefang, but I could see it being reasonable against Control too potentially. Against Devotion this can name either Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner to stifle the opponent’s ability to ramp, Karn, the Great Creator in order to shut off their wishboard targets, or even their manadorks like Llanowar Elves if you can get it down early.
Against Greasefang this can be used to name whichever vehicle the opponent has in their graveyard to stop them crewing it, and against control you can use it to shut off their planeswalkers like The Wandering Emperor and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Soulless Jailer: This is here as graveyard hate primarily for Greasefang and Phoenix. It’s important to note that this doesn’t stop cards that enter the graveyard through the stack like Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger but it will stop vehicles coming back off Greasefang, Okiba Boss, and Arclight Phoenix without needing to hold open mana, and unlike Grafdigger's Cage it won’t shut off your Collected Company or Bolas's Citadel.
I haven’t drawn this card yet and it does interfere with the -2 on Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler so there’s a chance a card like Scavenging Ooze might be better, but the fact you don’t need to always hold mana open is quite appealing to me.
Midnight Reaper: This is here pretty much exclusively for the control matchup since it’s really strong against the most common sweepers like Supreme Verdict, and even if the opponent has an exile based sweeper like Farewell, you can often get a bunch of card advantage off this anyway if you also have Woe Strider in play to sacrifice everything before it resolves.
The deck’s been performing well so far – I went 4-1 in my very first event with the deck only losing to mana screw twice against Azorius Control which felt like bad variance more than anything else – I’ve also played with the deck some more after that and the intial results have been very promising.
I think Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler is a great addition to the deck that works very well with cards you’d want to be running anyway, and I like where Bolas's Citadel as a deck is positioned right now since having a combo really improves your matchups against the bigger decks like Control, Enigmatic Incarnation, Angels etc., and sacrifice naturally has a good matchup against aggro too so you can pivot out of Bolas's Citadel post-sideboard to leverage that strength.
There definitely feels like there’s room for improvements and tweaking particularly in the sideboard so I’ll definitely be working on the deck more. If you enjoy either combo or sacrifice then I’d definitely recommend giving it a try, and thanks a lot for reading!
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