New Voices: Yet another Golos Deck Tech

by Gabriel Mahaffey

“You can’t keep me down”

Golos, Tireless Pilgrim, probably

I would like to talk to you about our lord and savior, Golos. When commander players see Golos, they might think of five color good stuff, powerful and spicy cards. The take I did for Golos is to really abuse him without activating him. If you’re like Patrick living under a rock, Golos is a 3/5 Legendary Artifact Golem for 5 generic mana, and when he enters the battlefield, you can search you library for a land and put that land onto the battlefield tapped, then you shuffle your library. You can also pay 2 generic mana and one mana of each color in order to cast the top three cards of your library without paying their mana costs until the end of the turn. This deck is designed in a way to not use the activated ability of Golos. 

Golos, Tireless Pilgrim

Blink and Now He’s Gone

The object of the deck is to rarely, if ever, activate Golos’s activated ability. How can we abuse the enter the battlefield effect? There is always recasting it. Eh, seems inefficient. Blinking it! There we go! There are several ways that we exile Golos and have him come back. One way is Thassa, Deep-Dwelling and Brago King Eternal, flicker him either at the end of turn or on combat damage. Another way is Venser, the Sojourner. Exile him and have him come back at the end of the turn. The final way is to use Astral Slide effects, send Golos on a journey that lasts until end of turn whenever a player cycles a card.

Thassa, Deep-Dwelling, Magic, Theros Beyond Death
Venser, the Sojourner, Magic, Scars of Mirrodin
Astral Slide, Magic, Onslaught

Stop It, You’re Enabling Him

There are cycling payoffs and cycling enablers in the deck. The enablers make it so my cycling abilities cost cheaper, from Gavi, Nest Warden and New Perspectives, to Fluctuator. Gavi and New Perspectives makes my cycling abilities free while Fluctuator makes them cost two generic less. The payoffs are Drake Haven and Lightning Rift. By paying 1 we can either create a 2/2 flying drake or deal 2 damage respectively.

Gavi, Nest Warden, Magic, Commander 2020
Drake Haven, Magic, Commander 2020
Lightning Rift, Magic, Commander 2020

Cycling is Fun

For those of you like Patrick Star, I’m going to go over what cycling is and isn’t. Cycling isn’t a spell, so if you want spell like effects but worry about counters, then you are in luck. Cycling is an ability that you can pay mana and discard the card with cycling to draw a card. Cycling can turn cards that are dead in certain circumstances into useful cards, be it dig for answers or just wanting to draw cards. Nearly half of the deck is just cards that have cycling. Some just plain cycle such as Barren Moor and Forsake the Worldly. Other cycling cards help you get the land you need in lieu of drawing in Eternal Dragon and Ash Barrens. One notable thing about Eternal Dragon is that by paying 3 and two white you can bring it back on our upkeep. And our final category of cycling cards are card that have effects when you cycle them. There is Renewed Faith where we gain 6 life if we cast it, but if we cycle it we may gain 2 life, and Krosan Tusker, which gets us a basic land when you cycle it plus the draw.

Barren Moor, Magic, Commander 2018
Eternal Dragon, Magic, Commander 2020
Renewed Faith, Magic, Masters 25

Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing…

With all the exiling and entering the battlefield effects that we have, we might as well abuse those as well. How do we do it? We include creatures that have an ability that triggers when they enter the ring. There is one creature that doesn’t have an enter the battlefield ability, but doubles up those abilities, and that is Yarok, the Desecrated. These enter the battlefield effects can range from drawing a card with Wall of Omens, scrying with Omenspeaker, to bringing back cards from the graveyard with Eternal Witness and Archaeomancer.

Wall of Omens
Omenspeaker, Magic, Core Set 2019
Eternal Witness, Magic, Commander Anthology Volume II

I Never Miss My Target

There is a suite of targeted removal. When there is an annoying creature or permanent that you want gone, then do we have the right product for you. Here is Pongify and Rapid Hybridization for when you want that annoying creature gone. Not to your liking? Okay, moving on! You might like this one, Oblivion Ring and Cast Out. You can get rid of the annoying creature and you can also get rid of the annoying nonland permanent that you want gone. One other note is that Astral Slide and Astral Drift can also remove those pesky creatures for the turn as well.

Pongify, Magic, Planar Chaos
Oblivion Ring
Astral Drift, Magic, Commander 2020

Wipe Out!

An essential part of any commander deck is the suite of board wipes. These board wipes come in two varieties, symmetrical and asymmetrical. The asymmetrical board wipe is Archfiend of Ifnir, where whenever you discard or cycle a card you put a -1/-1 counter on each creature your opponents control. The symmetrical board wipes are Wrath of God, which destroys all creatures, Decree of Pain where you can either cast it to destroy all creatures and you draw that many cards or cycle it to give each creature -2/-2 until the end of turn, and Akroma’s Vengeance which destroys all artifacts, creatures and enchantments.

Archfiend of Ifnir, Magic, Amonkhet
Akroma's Vengeance, Magic, Commander 2020
Decree of Pain

I Don’t Fit In

There are six cards that don’t fit into the above categories. I’m just going to go over the notable ones. One helps our engine go into hyperdrive. That card would be Ephara, God of the Polis. She will very rarely become a creature, but her ability draws us a card at the beginning of the next upkeep if a creature entered the battlefield last turn. With our cycling engine going, that is exile a creature and having it enter the battlefield at the end of turn, or with Gavi out, we can reliably draw a card every turn. The other card is Shadow of the Grave. Sometimes we may get carried away and cycle our entire hand in one turn and not draw any more cyclers. This is where Shadow of the Past comes in. When you cast it, you return all cards that you have discarded to your hand. You essentially refill you hand with cyclers. The final card is Reliquary Tower. Sometimes you draw a lot of cards with Decree of Pain or bring back four cards with Shadow of the Grave and at the end of the turn you would have to discard a card. Reliquary keeps you from discarding those sweet, sweet cards.

Ephara, God of the Polis, Magic, Secret Lair Drop Series
Shadow of the Grave
Reliquary Tower, Magic, Commander 2020

You Better Watch Out!

With the commander death trigger rule change. For those that don’t know what the rule is: 

“If a commander is in a graveyard or in exile and that card was put into that zone since the last time state-based actions were checked, its owner may put it into the command zone.

If a commander would be put into its owner’s hand or library from anywhere, its owner may put it into the command zone instead. This replacement effect may apply more than once to the same event.”

There is one thing that you might want to be aware of is an opponent using cards that counter triggers like Stifle and Disallow. Astral Slide and Astral Drift have a delayed trigger of the creature coming back to the battlefield at the next end step. One way to combat this is running Rift Sweeper. Although this card is not in the deck, it might be worth running.


The Close Out

This deck has plenty of ways to close out the game. We’re not monsters and build a deck with no win conditions. We have Maze’s End, where we use our engine to get every gate onto the battlefield with Golos. The second way the deck can close out the game is Decree of Justice. We can cast it for its mana cost and get maybe one to three angel tokens or we can cycle it for three or less and create twice as much 1/1 soldier tokens than angel tokens. The other way is to cast Approach of The Second Sun twice. When you cast it from your hand for the first time, it will be the 7th card from the top of your library. Since we are cycling cards, instead of being seven more turns, it will become at least one more turn to three more turns before it will be the second time you cast Approach, in which case you win the game.

Maze's End, Magic, Dragon's Maze
Decree of Justice
Approach of the Second Sun, Magic, Mystery Booster Cards

Sliding Out

In playing this deck, I find it very fun to play with and can win fairly quickly without going infinite. I have included a link to my deck list for you:

Gabriel Mahaffey lives in Arizona and has been playing Magic since Onslaught block and has been playing Commander since September 2008, when From the Vault: Dragons debuted, in what he calls “the first officially-recognized Commander set.” You can catch him as a regular in chat on streams such as the RC’s and AffinityArtifacts.

Gavin’s Format of the Month – July 2020: Augment All The Things

This is going to be the first of an occasional “series” discussing ways to use Silver-bordered “Uncards” in Commander games, for fun and value. Please let me know in the comments if you try this out and what happens for your group.

During a recent game with the other RC members I posited that, while it wouldn’t fly to make Un-cards legal all the time, there are a lot of fun mechanics buried in silver-bordered land. Toby has been killed on stream by his own Baron Von Count (twice, in the same game) and I enjoy getting chat involved with “bystander” cards. Splashing silly cards into a deck can introduce novelty, which is one of the ingredients for creating humour.

We’re not just looking for a balanced solution, we’re looking for something we can easily convince other players is balanced.

One such mechanic was the Unhinged mechanic Augment, which was really interesting in draft. Augment was a spiritual precursor to Ikoria’s Mutate mechanic (in a future variant, I’ll explore synergies between them), but the cards were somewhere between Mutate and Auras. Augments could

1) Only target a creature with the Host supertype. Each host was a small creature with a single ETB ability.

2) Provide an alternate means to trigger that ETB again.

3) Add a small buff* to the host’s power and toughness.

4) Stay in the owner’s hand* if the target became illegal in response.

5) Not augment a creature which was already augmented.

Unfortunately, there aren’t really enough Augment (or Host) cards to build a Commander deck around. So, I went looking for ways to pad out the mechanic’s card pool. I figured I won’t have any difficulty finding people willing to allow it if I did it in a way which was fun and interesting, and don’t play it too often.

A Masterful Transmutation | MAGIC: THE GATHERING | Mtg art ...

The basic idea

All of the host creatures in Unstable were simply costed creatures with a single ETB ability… in fact, many of them have a black-bordered analogues which are costed the same:

We can also see most of those effects are pretty small, so Host creatures weren’t anything special; they were just visual cues as to which creatures had ETB abilities, separating the trigger condition (ETB) from the effect. Given that, it seems reasonable that we can redefine “Host” as any creature with a single ETB ability.

What if we redefine “Host” as any creature with a single ETB ability.

Each Augment card then reads:

{Cost}: Combine with with target non-augmented creature that has one ETB ability.  (If this ability would resolve and its target is illegal, it stays in its owner's hand). 

Augmented creature gets +X/+Y.

{Conditon}: Augmented creature's ETB abilities trigger (again).

Does this work?

It’s silver-bordered land, so you’re always going to need to apply some creative interpretation occasionally, but for the most part the rules implications are no worse than normal cards. The creature’s ETB ability triggers, but it didn’t actually leave the battlefield or enter it again. That means:

  • Other cards’ abilities won’t trigger.
  • Effects which would replace entering the battlefield (like arriving with additional counters or making choices “as” it enters) don’t happen.
  • You can use Panharmonicon as a rules reference for what happens when the ability triggers/is activated.
  • The cards are combined, so anything which exiles the creature exiles both cards (just like Meld or Mutate).

We could have treated the cards more like Auras which sit “on” the creature, but IMO Meld/Mutate are better matches for the flavour intent of the cards.

All things considered, Augment was a very well designed mechanic.

Is this fair?

Our new ersatz-flickerforms aren’t quite the same as a flicker because they can’t be used to dodge removal, but can be used to exile multiple targets with e.g. Banisher Priest. We’re in the the same neighbourhood though, so it’s worth asking whether this idea is (a) too powerful or (b) unsellable? There’s a reason Flickerform costs four mana to activate. Fortunately, all of the augments take time or resources to use:

  1. At the end of each turn, if an opponent lost three life…
  2. Whenever you’re dealt damage…
  3. Whenever a non-token creature enters the battlefield…
  4. Whenever you attack with two or more creatures…
  5. Whenever a non-token creature you control dies…
  6. Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player…
  7. Whenever this creature blocks…
  8. At the beginning of each end step, if you ETB’d an artifact…
  9. Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control…
  10. Pay {5}: …
  11. {2B}, exile a creature card from your graveyard: …

Pretty vanilla black-bordered magic stuff, and nothing which is easy to “go off” with. All things considered, Augment was a very well designed mechanic.

Will other players allow this?


  • It’s a very clean rule… easy to explain.
  • Lots of interesting applications.


  • There are some pretty powerful ETB creatures in Commander.

In theory, the existence of powerful ETB abilities shouldn’t be a show-stopper… like an aura, Augments are easy to kill, expensive to lose, and we have to resolve the creature first to get its ETB ability anyway. Having a Zombified Craterhoof Behemoth isn’t going to win the game any faster than the first trigger did. A Bat-Terastodon is splashy but hardly quick once you’re into the late-game.

Nevertheless, there are some scary combinations possible; stuff like Monkey-Baloth Null would yield an hard-to-kill regrowth engine, and a Half-squirrel, Half-Kederekt Leviathan would elicit many groans. Even if most of that power comes from the non-Augment half of the combo (Kederekt Leviathan + Baloth Null is already saucy), the blame will fall on the formerly “illegal” part. The fact that your Monkey Baloth recurring nightmare cost 6GGB and two cards might be enough to convince some people it’s ok, but 6GUU for Squirrel-Leviathan isn’t going to save you any friends.

There are lots of things you can do which will leave you unable to ever play your deck again.

In practice, even if the power level isn’t higher than “real” cards in the format, potential for abuse can be deal breaker when proposing an alternative format. Many potential opponents are going to (quite rightly) be conservative about what they allow in the way of rules-twisting. They’re going to think about worst-case scenario and assume that, with some planning, you can make it even worse… spoilers: you can. There are things you can do with such a rule which will leave you unable to ever play your deck again.

As such, it’s important to remember that, if you’re going to muck with the rules, you’re not just looking for a balanced solution, you’re looking for something you can easily convince other players is balanced. Depending how much they trust you, that might be a big gap so play it safe. Reveal your deck to everyone beforehand… the surprise will still come, but the lack of huge ETB abilities will go a long way getting your deck a chance to shine.

The secret to making this work will be to tell a good story with what you do.

Spontaneous Mutation | Mutação Espontânea - carta de Magic: the ...

Let’s Brew!

Surgeon General Commander or Dr Julius Jumblemorph are the two obvious places to start an Augment deck, but the former has too many colours and the latter doesn’t have enough. Karador is an old favourite for creature-heavy decks, and lets me get creatures back from our graveyard, which will be useful. Unfortunately, I can’t cast the augments from the graveyard, even though they’re “Creature” cards, because they don’t have a mana cost, but he’ll make sure I always have hosts available.

Keen eyes will note that I’ve included most of the relevant Hosts from Unstable, even though there are certainly better ETB cards. This is a concession to the aforementioned rhetorical challenge of convincing people to play against the deck… if I skip the “real” hosts, it moves the deck away from a theme and towards just “min maxing.” I’ve also excluded any Human creatures, as a hat-tip to Mutate’s non-human host restriction.

So, there we have it… a Timmy-Johnny monstrosity-creation-machine ready to shuffle up and induce all sorts of hilarity. There’s enough value engines to keep us in the fight, even with all the removal in a long multiplayer game.

It’s definitely not optimal, even discounting power levels… I should either have more non-creature enchantments, or cut the enchantment-creature subtheme. Some of the smaller hosts are probably unnecessary, but hopefully the payoff for building such a menagerie is worth it.

I’ll try to play this against the other RC members in an upcoming stream, so be sure to tune in on Thursday evenings to kibitz and cheer for team monsters!