Hello and welcome to Svogthir’s Study: a place to appreciate Golgari in Commander.
When I first conceived of this series I had intended to go in chronological order. It made sense to follow the progression of a color pair as the game itself evolved. For whatever reason I forgot that we are almost always in spoiler season these days and as such there are going to be opportunities to discuss new Golgari Commanders as they are revealed. I’m seizing that opportunity today.
Belbe, Corrupted Observer does something new in Golgari: it encourages mass aggression. This plays on Belbe’s character in the Magic storyline as the emissary of Phyrexia who tested potential Evincars of Rath before the invasion (from Invasion). She is literally pitting contestants against each other. The secret with Belbe is to not treat her like a two drop but rather as a card that comes down later in the game once you can fully take advantage of her mana generation. This ability also ties into her lore as she is the compleated daughter of Eladarmi and his eponymous Vineyard made mana during the precombat main phase.
Golgari is about the cycle of life and death. Here we see a uniquely Phyrexian take on that cycle: depleting your adversaries health gives you a new resource in mana. The fact that this mana is best used to cast Artifacts (and fine, Eldrazi) is incredibly Phyrexian and rather on the nose. In this way Belbe is similar to Rakdos, Lord of Riots, except she is far easier to resolve and doesn’t paint a giant target on your head. Whereas Rakdos wants other players to lose life for your benefit, Belbe wants everyone but you to lose life for your opponent’s (and your) gain.
There are a few things you can do with Belbe. I think you can use her in an artifact centered deck. You will want to use cards like Staff of Nin and Ticking Gnomes to ensure you have a steady source of damage. Viridian Longbow can ensure that you will, at the very least get two colorless on each of your turns. Angel’s Trumpet could be a sleeper here, encouraging everyone to attack. Load up with cards like Dread to discourage folks from attacking you and then pump your extra mana into a Walking Ballista. You can also take this build in another direction and use Belbe to help cast large threats with significant colorless mana requirements – both Pestilence Demon and Woodland Bellower spring to mind. You could even run Helix Pinnacle for fun. The key here will be bridging to the point in the game where Belbe starts churning out six mana a turn and it might involve using Curses to incentivize attacking players other than you.
That’s now how I would build Belbe because I’m not a nice person and I hate fun. When I saw Belbe I realized I wanted to pit my opponent’s against each other and reap the rewards. My mind immediately went to Elephant Grass. I want all my opponents to feel the pain and that means cards like Vindictive Vampire, Zulaport Cutthroat, Poison-Tip Archer, and Bastion of Remembrance. The real spice here, though, is Slimefoot, the Stowaway. Once you have a sacrifice outlet available, Slimefoot can make sure his lady in waiting is always well tended. I’d lean hard on artifact sacrifice outlets as well – Spawning Pit, Blasting Station, and Smokestack. Your goal should not only be to deter your opponents from attacking you, but slowly strangling them to death while you reap the rewards.
Treasured Find: Plague Spitter