2023’s relentless power creep has left a lot of MTG cards in the dust. Even in the new Timeless format on MTG Arena, fan-favorite nostalgia-inducing cards like Snapcaster Mage and Tarmogoyf are seeing a little play, but definitely aren’t dominant forces in the format. That trophy instead goes to the backbreaking legion of One Rings and Bowmasters coming out of every format.
That said, every once in a while, an MTG player finds a way to make an old dog learn new tricks. In a recent Modern Challenge, one player managed to top four the event with a new take on the infamous Scam strategy.
Hit by the recent banlist, Fury was removed from the Modern format. The card was keeping creature-based strategies out of the format, and the Rakdos Scam deck, which used Fury as a core part of the strategy, took up a disgusting 30% of the metagame. Even with a core piece of the deck removed, Rakdos Scam is still very relevant, winning a recent 702-player event, and even winning the tournament that we’re highlighting today.
Regardless, many players have been looking for other colors to pair the powerful black Grief scam combo (referring to reanimating a Grief with Not Dead After All as early as turn one) with now that Fury is gone, and this recent take on Golgari Scam utilizes Endurance, Tarmogoyf, and even Glissa Sunslayer to make waves!
Magic Online player AlbertoSD piloted this Golgari Scam deck to a top four finish in a recent Modern Challenge. Other decks that top eighted the event include three Rakdos Scam decks, Creativity, Domain Zoo and Living End.
There’s a lot of overlap between the Golgari and Rakdos decks, but the differences are important. Living End is rather popular at the moment, so having three Endurance in the main deck is absolutely brutal to any strategies that are trying to utilize the graveyard. You can scam Endurance in an emergency, but the creature doesn’t offer a huge reward in exchange for three cards. As a result, even though this deck is running seven Evoke elementals, you will only see four Not Dead After All for actually scamming cards.
Since the deck already has four Dauthi Voidwalker, three Endurance in the maindeck may not be needed. Depending on how the meta develops, if players continue experimenting with Golgari Scam, this could change.
Perhaps the biggest addition that green offers the Scam strategy is actually Tarmogoyf. A turn one Grief Scam followed up by Tarmogoyf threatens to close the door quickly, allowing the Scammed body of Grief to acquire a lot more value.
Massive Removal Upgrades
One huge difference between Rakdos and Golgari Scam is the incredible removal option green grants access to. Maelstrom Pulse, while a somewhat bizarre choice, can remove almost anything threatening your board state. Notably, Pulse will kill every Rhino token that Crashing Footfalls creates, allowing you to effectively trade three mana for their biggest tempo play. If they end up going double Footfalls, you’ll four for one them!Assassin’s Trophy and Force of Vigor in the sideboard help demolish any hate that players could potentially bring to the battlefield. This doubles as removal for Amulet of Vigor in the Titan matchup, and can absolutely ruin the board states of Hammer players.
If this weren’t enough, this list also runs two copies of Tear Asunder. The card is Capable of exiling anything under the sun. More pressing artifact and enchantment-based threats like Urza’s Saga, Amulet of Vigor and Sigarda’s Aid can be removed in a timelier manner.
Considering how much artifact and enchantment hate is already here, Tear Asunder may seem like overkill. One thing some players may miss is that this card can deal with one very specific threat that nothing else in this deck can: The One Ring. The overabundance of enchantment hate may be present, but considering The One Ring’s ability to win the game on its own in multiple strategies, it may be a necessary evil. Regardless, this deck has very powerful gameplans for artifact and enchantment decks as well as graveyard strategies.
Tarmogoyf aside, adding Green to the Black Scam package grants access to even more powerful threats. Grist, the Hunger Tide, in particular, plays incredibly well in this strategy. Capable of removing opposing threats and creating consistent pressure, Grist is incredibly powerful when both players are on ‘topdeck mode’, can fuel Tarmogoyf, and can help stabalize a board state. Being able to pitch Griest to both Grief and Endurance is an additional upside.
Glissa, Sunslayer feels a bit like a test in this list, but it is also quite capable in topdeck scenarios. The combination of First Strike and Deathtouch is infamously powerful, allowing Glissa to pressure the opponent, as well as lock down any problematic attackers. Glissa can also blow up Urza’s Saga if she connects, which shuts down one grinding tool that could give this deck some issues.
As strong as Golgari Scam is, whether or not its better than Rakdos Scam is the awkward question to ask. For now, Golgari is a new idea, which means there’s a lot more refining to do, but the Golgari deck eventually fell to Rakdos Scam in the top eight, which went on to win the tournament.
Rakdos Scam runs a ton of removal that matches up well with the threats this deck has to offer. Terminate and Molten Collapse kill anything that this deck can resolve, and Fable of the Mirror-breaker as well as Seasoned Pyromancer are just as good as playing a grindy game as many of the Golgari cards are.
Rakdos has the added threats of Blood Moon effects and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer that can end games if left unchecked as well. Ragavan isn’t a big deal because of the amount of Fatal Push and Orcish Bowmasters running around, at least for this matchup, but one has to wonder whether or not the tools that red offers are just stronger into the overall metagame. That said, Rakdos Scam has traditionally had a questionable Rhinos matchup, and Golgari Scam has Maelstrom Pulse as a silver bullet. Both decks can run Engineered Explosives out of the sideboard, however, for similar payoff.
Either way, many players are excited that a new flavor of Scam seems to be on the menu. Offering the nostalgic Tarmogoyf another shot at Modern greatness, it will be interesting to see if Golgari Scam develops into a true metagame contendor.