How to Beat Golos in Standard

Tom AndersonStandard

Throne of Eldraine Standard has well and truly arrived, and there are all sorts of fun new cards and mechanics at play. But of course, one card from the previous set threatens to keep the entire plane of Eldraine in its shadow. 

The first big Standard tournaments have looked like Romero movies, and left some players just as horrified. With a little help from Golos, Tireless Pilgrim, the Field of the Dead decks have survived the rotation of Scapeshift and come out even stronger. The Oko, Thief of Crowns and Garruk, Cursed Huntsman midrange decks that were anticipated to lead the new format pale in the face of Zombie token inevitability. Aggro decks have only the slimmest chance to sneak under a Realm-Cloaked Giant wrath effect before the door slams shut. As a result, we have a very early “best deck” to beat in Standard.


So, how do we beat it? Obviously, if this question had a simple answer, we wouldn’t be in this situation, but Magic has seen format-defining decks rise and fall without bans before. As the Field deck reaches a certain level of saturation, it will become easier and easier for a counter-strategy to find tournament success.

Already, we see Golos Field pilots cannibalizing main deck slots to gain an edge in the mirror with tech like Agent of Treachery. We can take the same approach to selecting other archetypes which might be successful either against Golos Field or its most obvious counters. The rock/paper/scissors matrix of Golos Field/Anti-Field/Anti-Anti-Field is going to be the next wave of Standard, so we might as well stand up and try to surf it!


1 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
1 Ayara, First of Locthwain
4 Cauldron Familiar
3 Gutterbones
4 Mayhem Devil
4 Midnight Reaper
1 Murderous Rider
2 Orzhov Enforcer
2 Priest of Forgotten Gods
3 Angrath’s Rampage
3 Claim the Firstborn
2 Light Up the Stage
1 Bedevil
1 Mask of Immolation
4 Witch’s Oven
4 Blood Crypt
2 Castle Locthwain
4 Fabled Passage
6 Mountain
8 Swamp

1 Bedevil
1 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
1 Claim the Firstborn
4 Duress
4 Flame Sweep
2 Noxious Grasp
2 Theater of Horrors

Anyone who follows my Magic chatter will know that I’m a big fan of Aristocrat-style decks. Aristocrats decks are small-creature lists that generate reach or other utility through repeated sacrifice effects. This unusual approach lets them take advantage of how uninteractive combo decks like Field (or U/G Nexus before it) plan to beat up creature aggro.

While a Golos Field player counts on using their life as a buffer and then using a horde of blocking Zombies to stabilize, non-combat pings from the Aristocrats can easily finish the job over a turn or two even from high life totals. Bant Golos, the dominant build of Field, can slow down creature decks with Realm-Cloaked Giant’s sweeper adventure. Death triggers and sacrificing our team in response make that trade much less advantageous. Instead, the Golos deck needs to quickly switch gears and try to finish off the Aristocrats player – which is quite tricky due to incidental blockers and lifegain from the Cauldron Familiar/Witch’s Oven combo.

The Aristocats is an engine deck much like Golos Field, but since its key cards can’t be searched up and are easy to kill, it can struggle against faster aggro or removal-heavy midrange. But the list is very flexible and red and black have great sideboard options, from Duress to The Elderspell to Flame Sweep. I find it likely that this archetype will be able to adapt into a favorable position so long as Golos is around.


1 Temple of Mystery
4 Tomebound Lich
4 Thought Erasure
2 Cry of the Carnarium
3 Ritual of Soot
4 Drakuseth, Maw of Flames
4 Watery Grave
1 Lotus Field
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Breeding Pool
3 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
3 Temple of Malady
3 Fabled Passage
3 Tyrant’s Scorn
3 Bond of Revival
4 Opt
3 Swamp
1 Forest
2 Island
4 Fae of Wishes

1 Ritual of Soot
1 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
2 Noxious Grasp
2 Duress
3 Ashiok, Dream Render
2 Assassin’s Trophy
1 Bond of Revival
1 Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
1 The Elderspell
1 Casualties of War

Another deck which has a distinct, consistent plan to target Golos Field decks is the Bond of Revival/Drakuseth list. More interactive than most combo decks while still delivering fast, powerful kills with Drakuseth, Maw of Flames, this might be the best reanimator deck since The Scarab God was around.

The core idea of the deck is to hit your first five land drops and put a Drakuseth (or other target) into your graveyard. You can achieve this while still seeming like you’re playing Magic thanks to interactive spells like Thought Erasure and Tomebound Lich, which also help you sculpt your hand. Then, with the way hopefully clear, you cast Bond of Revival targeting Drakuseth and cross your fingers!

While winning with a single big flier seems antiquated in 2019 Standard, a hasty Drakuseth is hard to block, kills the next turn, and will have significantly impacted the board by the time the opponent untaps.

Golos Field decks are some of the softest targets for a dragon attack. While Arboreal Grazer and Hydroid Krasis can block fliers, it seems unlikely that they will survive Drakuseth’s attack trigger. Planeswalker options like Oko and Teferi, Time Raveler, which normally punish huge creatures, can be cleared away with your first Drakuseth swing, if you don’t manage to counter them before that.

Drakuseth Reanimator exploits the relative lack of instant-speed interaction from Golos Field the same way Aristocats exploits its lack of cheap spot removal. But even better, the second-most popular deck right now is Fires of Invention, which also plays at sorcery speed thanks to its namesake card. While this list is less flexible than Aristocats, it’s an excellent choice for the time being.


4 Frilled Mystic
4 Nightpack Ambusher
4 Spectral Sailor
4 Once Upon a Time
4 Brazen Borrower
4 Brineborn Cutthroat
4 Wildborn Preserver
3 Hypnotic Sprite
3 Unsummon
2 Quench
2 Castle Vantress
4 Temple of Mystery
4 Breeding Pool
7 Forest
7 Island

2 Vivien’s Arkbow
3 Mystical Dispute
3 Aether Gust
1 Selective Snare
3 Questing Beast
3 Cerulean Drake

I recently wrote an article laying out a case for Simic Flash as a top archetype in the upcoming Standard season. Despite Field coming out ahead as the meta leader, I still stand by my argument. None of the Flash cards have changed, nor have they become less good – the deck is just specifically countered by Golos Field. This one terrible match-up is hiding one of the strongest archetypes in Standard from scrutiny, and if someone wanted to really look ahead, and try to beat the next wave of tournament decks, I would be very tempted to sleeve it back up.

Why is Field so bad for Flash? Well, the Flash deck creates easy board advantage by tightly controlling which spells an opponent resolves – countering anything dangerous, and punishing less impactful turns by playing a threat of their own. This approach does not win quickly, but if you don’t allow your opponent to resolve key cards, your Frilled Mystic will eventually get there.

But you can’t counter Field of the Dead, and you can’t bounce sixty-seven Zombie tokens. Even if you stop Golos Field from resolving its ramp spells, the scrawny creatures Flash plays are easily stonewalled by Oko, Deputy of Detention, or even Arboreal Grazer. Eventually, the Field itself will overwhelm you. Sultai Flash builds can play Assassin’s Trophy, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem of Golos Field beating us at our own, glacially-slow game.

Against all the other decks that need to resolve spells to win, Flash is still strong. It’s an especially good choice when it’s less popular in the meta, as playing to beat Flash decks requires most opponents to take a very different approach, and it’s tough to switch gears like that without practice. If you sense that Field is on the downswing, it’s time to punish your meta for forgetting about Nightpack Ambusher!

Even if a faster pace of testing and information exchange thanks to Arena and Twitter makes it feel like months have passed, Throne of Eldraine Standard is only beginning. There is still plenty of room for the myriad possible archetypes unlocked by the new cards to make an impact. Find the answer to the Standard puzzle, and you will be handsomely rewarded.