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Golgari Swarm
Golgari Logo
Alternative Names
The Swarm
Lore Information
Parun Svogthir (deceased; return possible)
Guild Leader Sisters of Stone Death (?-10,000)
Savra (9999)
Jarad vod Savo (9999-10,076)
Vraska (10,076-)
Guild Champion Savra (deceased)
Guild Hall Svogthos
(surrounded by Korozda)
Game Information
Colors {B}{G}
Mechanics Dredge
(Ravnica: City of Guilds)
(Return to Ravnica)
(Guilds of Ravnica)
Featured Sets
Ravnica: City of Guilds
Return to Ravnica
Duel Decks: Izzet vs. Golgari
Guilds of Ravnica
Signet Flavor Text
"Depending on your point of view, the seal represents a proud guardian of the natural cycle or one who has sold her soul to darkness for eternal life." — Golgari Signet
Scryfall Search

The Golgari Swarm is a black/green guild from the plane and city of Ravnica. Introduced in Ravnica: City of Guilds, the guild is also featured in Return to Ravnica, the Izzet vs. Golgari set[1] and in Guilds of Ravnica.

GRN Golgari basic lands

Golgari basic lands from Guilds of Ravnica

Background[ | ]

The Golgari Swarm is the embodiment of life and death.[2][3] The teeming masses of the Swarm believe that life and death are both natural and equally essential.[2][4] To them, life and death are natural elements of a cycle with no intermediary break.[5][6] Growth is power that comes slowly, but it is also ruthless and inevitable, and this makes growth a key virtue of the Swarm's power.[5][7][2] With their dead being planted and regrown as plant zombies,[8] their reanimation magic has made the Golgari the largest Ravnican guild.[9][10] Much like a swarm of insects, the Golgari often seem to behave more like a single organism than as a group of individuals.[11] The whole Swarm is driven by a primal instinct to survive and reproduce.

The Golgari are one of if not the largest food suppliers on Ravnica, serving a cheap, plentiful, nutrient-packed gruel to those who can't afford expensive meat or magically-generated produce.[12]

The Golgari Swarm consists of many sub-factions, each with its agenda. Their revered parun is the legendary necromancer Svogthir, the "god-zombie".[13]

Teratogens[ | ]

Up until the Decamillennial, the Teratogens were the ruling class of the Golgari. It consisted mostly of non-humanoids such as plants, mutants, harpies, nagas, griffins, and centaurs. Nowadays they, as a class, hold no status. However individual members, such as a gorgon, may still hold authority over some of the Swarm.

The Devkarin[ | ]

The Devkarin is a brooding, winsome, and often ambitious race of elves. Of all of Golgari's factions, the Devkarin press most for the expansion of Golgari territory. The Devkarin are presided over by their "Matka", a high priestess (currently Izoni, Thousand-Eyed).

The Cilia[ | ]

A council of Devkarin shamans and rogues called the Cilia acts as a combination of Jarad's advisory parliament and spy agency and rarely all convene publicly or together at once.[2][14]

The Lotleth[ | ]

The Lotleth are the Golgari's irregular faction of undead, necromancers, fungus-binders, and other members associated with the restless dead.[2] Although most Golgari undead are mindless fungal constructions maintained by necromantic magic, the Lotleth do have some more or less intelligent undead among them, plus a few higher-ranked necromancers who speak for the faction. Generally, the Lotleth served as a labor force for the Golgari's constant program of reclamation and expansion. The current leader of the Lotleth is Wratislav, a skilled but conceited human necromancer.

The Kraul[ | ]

The Kraul lived for ages on the periphery of the Swarm, but are now an ascendant group with the Swarm. These six-legged insectile beings are hard-headed and literal-minded. Under Mazirek, the Kraul are loyal to Vraska, rather than to the Swarm as a whole. Their military are known as the Krunstraz.[15]

The Street Swarm[ | ]

The Street Swarm forms Golgari's labor class. This faction includes corpse scavengers, low-ranking street shamans, rot farmers, tunnel trolls, various elementals, and fungal horrors. Each neighborhood of Ravnica tends to have its chapter of the Street Swarm, and each chapter is led by a local swarm boss. Spore Druids specialize in fungi, moss, molds, and other decomposers. Reclaimers are elf and kraul scavengers who patrol the city and gather the dead to be recycled.[16]

The Ochran[ | ]

Although many discount them as an urban legend, "the assassins of the Ochran" are a Golgari cult of mercenaries operating out from the Undercity and specializing in vengeance killings. The cult was led by Vraska before she became the guild leader.[17][18] The Ochran, most of them Devkarin elves, are known for the virulence of their poisons.[16]

The Erstwhile[ | ]

A delicate and sophisticated race of elves known as the Erstwhile once was an important faction in Ravnica. They were laid to rest in coffins in Umerilek, Mausoleum of the Erstwhile.[11] They returned as Zombie Attendants of Vraska. In contrast to the regular fungus-animated zombies of the Golgari, they retain a higher degree of intelligence and agency. They continue to wear their stately attire, despite its moldering and rot.[16] The leader of the Erstwhile is the lich Storrev.

History[ | ]

Founded by parun Svogthir, a devkarin necromancer-turned-lich, the Golgari Swarm functions as the agricultural sector of Ravnican society.[2] Following his mortal death, Svogthir reanimated his corpse. He also modified his body by incorporating body parts from others - he used the chest of Gruul Clans parun Cisarzim, for instance, to create a more perfect, stronger being.[13][19]

Ravnica block[ | ]


Savra, Queen of the Golgari

During the Ravnica block storyline, the leadership of the Golgari was contested time and again, in large part due to the numerous factions vying for control of their guild.[7] The most prominent among these were the Devkarin (dark elves), of which Savra was the head, and the Teratogens, which was predominantly composed of plant–zombie hybrids as well as, albeit to lesser extents, giant bats, gorgons, harpies, and other monstrous creatures.[7][13] Up until the events of the Decamillennial, the Teratogens maintained hegemony over the Golgari Swarm.[13]

Less than a millennium before the Decamillennial, the Sisters of Stone Death, originally a quintet of gorgons, attempted to overthrow parun Svogthir. Although two of the sisters died, they were successful in their coup and were able to destroy, and rot away, all but Svogthir's head, which his necromantic magic kept intact.[13] The remaining three sisters — Ludmilla, Lexya, and Lydya[6] — kept Svogthir under arrest in a tomb in Grigor Canyon.[13]

At the turn of the Decamillennial, the Devkarin, led by matka (high priestess) Savra, with the help of the House Dimir parun and guildmaster Szadek, overtook control of the guild. Savra resurrected Svogthir, whom she used to overthrow the Sisters of Stone Death, and then used ancient, powerful matka magic to liberate his spirit from his head so that she could add it to her scepter. After this, Savra proclaimed herself as the new Golgari guildmaster.[13]

Power-hungry as always, Savra then attempted to infiltrate the Selesnya Conclave with her quietmen and tried to subtly seize control of the Conclave; but, she was double-crossed by Szadek, who snapped her neck to weaken the Conclave.[13]

In Dissension, Szadek is defeated with the help of Savra's brother, Jarad, who assumes control of the Golgari Swarm. He was later sacrificed by Izolda (Lyzolda, the Blood Witch) as part of a ritual to arouse Rakdos, the parun of the Cult of Rakdos.[20] Jarad, however, "survives", by using necromancy to become a zombie/lich, and retains his mantle of leadership over the Golgari.[21]

The guildhall of the Golgari Swarm in the Ravnica block is Svogthos, a former elaborately decorated and gilded cathedral of the Orzhov Syndicate. Svogthos is a semi-living structure in which the detached, severed head of Svogthir, is housed,[13] and is claimed to move as the center of Golgari territory shifts.[7]

Return to Ravnica block[ | ]

Jarad was the next guildmaster of the Golgari Swarm.

After the dissolution of the guilds, the Golgari had stayed more or less as they were. For 10,000 years, they had been the silent machine that kept the unsavory but essential parts of Ravnica running and knew no other life apart from the dank tunnels of the undercity.

Jarad maintained his power, quelling without mercy any rumblings of mutiny or dissent from the Teratogens. He bided his time, knowing that the surface world was suffering without the structure and support of the guilds, and it was only a matter of time before things returned to business as usual.[20]

Korozda is sometimes named the new Golgari guildhall.[2] Actually, this immense circular maze of overgrown, fungus-encrusted ruins surrounds the arched Svogthos cathedral.[11] Korozda was the lair of guildmaster Jarad and the place where he met with his irregular court of attendants. It's patrolled by an array of swarming vermin, giant insects, and zombies.

Guilds of Ravnica block[ | ]

At an unspecified time, Jarad was taken captive in a sparsely populated corner of the city. Pleased with the planewalker Vraska's role in securing the Immortal Sun in Ixalan, Nicol Bolas rewarded her with the information where Jarad was imprisoned.[22] As the leader of the disenfranchised among the Golgari, she vowed to bring justice to Jarad and replace him with a worthier guild leader. She took Jarad out and became the new leader herself.[10]

The Golgari were convinced that Ravnica's institutions were on the verge of collapse and that the absence of the Living Guildpact proved it.[23] However, the Golgari were neither surprised nor panicked by this, for they believe that all things eventually rot and die, and from this decay, new life blooms. As such, the Golgari saw the looming intraguild conflict as a necessary final push to bring about a new era - their era. The Golgari were preparing for upheaval, having sealed many of the passages leading into the Undercity, making their territory seem like an impregnable subterranean fortress.

After Vraska killed Isperia, she planeswalked to Ixalan to escape from being killed by Ral Zarek leaving the various Golgari factions fighting for supremacy. As a result, she was not present in Ravnica when Bolas' invasion began. However, she worried that the Golgari Swarm would fall apart without her, and she eventually decided to return to Ravnica out of concern for her people.

Upon returning home, she encountered Ral and Kaya in the Undercity, where they were trying to convince the other Golgari leaders to support their cause. Despite Ral and Kaya's suspicion of the gorgon, Vraska united the Golgari once again and pledged the guild to the fight against Bolas. With the help of Ajani and his team of planeswalkers, they were able to evacuate many civilians to the tunnels beneath the city, where they would be safe from the Dreadhorde.

After the War[ | ]

Although Vraska was still guildmaster of the Golgari Swarm, during her absence, her position was contested. The elf shaman Cevraya, the Devkarin Izoni, the troll Varolz, the kraul Azdomas, and the Erstwhile leader Storrev all claimed to have a right to the title.[24] When she returned all accepted her leadership again, except Matka Izoni. There were rumors of Devkarin rebellion.[25]

Phyrexian Invasion[ | ]

During New Phyrexia's Invasion of the Multiverse, a recently Compleated Vraska led the Phyrexian forces on Ravnica. As a result, the Golgari fell to Phyresis faster than any other guild, experiencing near-total compleation, eventually swarming up through the Undercity to launch an all-out attack on the largely uncompleated surface.[26][27] Korozda was brought to the city's surface by the Invasion Tree, cracking the guildhall's surface and destroying many Golgari homes.[28]

After the invasion[ | ]

As the guild that spearheaded the Phyrexian invasion of Ravnica, the Golgari Swarm suffered consequences.[29] The Golgari were unanimously denounced by the other guilds, its members shunned and reviled. Many of the surviving Golgari were affected in droves. Those few who remained fell into two categories: those who still believed in the guild and were determined to see it rehabilitated, and those who were so notorious that they had no other options.

There is no acting head of the guild.[29] In Vraska's absence, the remaining leaders of the various Golgari factions, in a rare show of unity, resoundingly denounced her and stripped her of her title in the hope of distancing themselves from her acts. Each faction would have liked to claim the title for themselves, but none had been able to gather enough followers to gain a decisive victory and consolidate the guild once more.

In the game[ | ]

Guild mechanics[ | ]

Ravnica: City of Guilds: Dredge[ | ]

Main article: Dredge

Conceived by the head Magic designer and design team Mark Rosewater, Dredge is a static ability that exemplifies the belief that life and death are similar.[30] It allows a player to put that number of cards from the top of their library into their graveyard if they would draw a card to instead return a card with dredge to their hand.

Due to its recursive nature, interactions with cards that deal with the graveyard, and strength as a mechanic, dredge has been featured in numerous competitive decks and has spawned archetypes centering on the mechanic.[31][32]

Return to Ravnica: Scavenge[ | ]

Main article: Scavenge

Scavenge is a keyword ability solely featured on creature cards and represents two static abilities, one of which functions while a creature card is in the graveyard and another while the ability is on the stack. Scavenge represents using the graveyard and dead as a resource.[32] Both black and green have much overlap with each other, sharing two creature keywords (deathtouch and regeneration) and a focus on the graveyard, concerning recursion, using the graveyard as a resource, abilities that trigger when something dies or is put into a graveyard from play, exiling cards from graveyards, and abilities that are active if a card is in a graveyard.[33]

Guilds of Ravnica: Undergrowth[ | ]

Main article: Undergrowth

Undergrowth lets you do bigger things when you have more creatures in your graveyard.[34]

Creature types[ | ]

Species and races[ | ]

Species and races associated with the Golgari Swarm include:

Classes[ | ]

Classes associated with the Golgari Swarm include:

Notable members[ | ]

Gallery[ | ]

See also[ | ]

References[ | ]

  1. Duel Decks: Izzet vs. Golgari — Wizards of the Coast
  2. a b c d e f g Magic Creative Team (May 9, 2012). "Planeswalker's Guide to Return to Ravnica", Part 2". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Chris Gleeson (October 26, 2018). "Building the Guilds – Golgari Swarm". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Rei Nakazawa (September 5, 2005). "Life in the Big City". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on August 15, 2020.
  5. a b Mark Rosewater (October 24, 2005). "Life and Death". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. a b Matt Cavotta (October 26, 2005). "Green Thumb, Black Heart". Wizards of the Coast.
  7. a b c d Ravnica: City of Guilds: Golgari Swarm Minisite — Wizards of the Coast
  8. Magic Arcana (October 27, 2005). "Ravnica Style Guide: Golgari". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Magic Arcana (March 07, 2006). "Ravnica's Busy Afterlife". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. a b Chas Andres (October 3, 2018). "A Flavorful Guide to the Guilds of Ravnica". Wizards of the Coast.
  11. a b c Alison Luhrs (May 31, 2017). "Pride of the Kraul". Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Doug Beyer (May 30, 2013). "Where are all the farms?". A Voice for Vorthos. Tumblr.
  13. a b c d e f g h i j k l m Cory J. Herndon. (2005.) Ravnica Cycle, Book I: Ravnica, Wizards of the Coast. ISBN-13 978-0786937929.
  14. Django Wexler (June 2019), The Gathering Storm/Chapter Two. Del Rey.
  15. Nicky Drayden (November 7, 2018). "Death's Precious Moments". Wizards of the Coast.
  16. a b c d James Wyatt (January 2019). "The Art of Magic: The Gathering - Ravnica". Wizards of the Coast
  17. Jenna Helland (October 29, 2012). "The Azorius Ten Most Wanted". Wizards of the Coast.
  18. R&D Narrative Team (September 20, 2017). "The Talented Captain Vraska". Wizards of the Coast.
  19. Anominal. (July 21, 2011.) Ravnica: City of Guilds - Chapter 8, MTG Fiction.
  20. a b Adam Lee (August 29, 2012). "Ravnica, Then and Now". Wizards of the Coast.
  21. Cory J. Herndon. (2006.) Ravnica Cycle, Book III: Dissension, Wizards of the Coast. ISBN-13 978-0786940011.
  22. R&D Narrative Team (February 14, 2018). "Wool over the Eyes". Wizards of the Coast.
  23. James Wyatt and Jeremy Crawford (November 2018). "D&D Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica", Wizards of the Coast.
  24. Greg Weisman (May 29, 2019). "War of the Spark: Ravnica – Desperate Operatives". Wizards of the Coast.
  25. Greg Weisman (November 2019). "War of the Spark: Forsaken". Del Rey.
  26. Emily Teng (April 11, 2023). "Planeswalker's Guide to March of the Machine: The Phyrexian Invasion of the Multiverse". Wizards of the Coast.
  27. No Sparks Allowed – Aftermath Lore ft Rhystic Studies (Video). YouTube.
  28. Seanan McGuire (January 15, 2024). "Rot Before Recovery, the DVD extras". Seanan McGuire.
  29. a b Emily Teng (February 1, 2024). "Planeswalker's Guide to Murders at Karlov Manor". Wizards of the Coast.
  30. Aaron Forsythe (October 28, 2005). "Golgari Query". Wizards of the Coast.
  31. Scott Wills (October 11, 2005). "Exploring Ravnica – Part II". Wizards of the Coast.
  32. a b Erik Lauer (September 10, 2012). "Developing the Return". Wizards of the Coast.
  33. Mark Rosewater (November 26, 2012). "Designing for Golgari". Wizards of the Coast.
  34. Matt Tabak (September 4, 2018). "Guilds of Ravnica Mechanics". Wizards of the Coast.