Before we begin our look into the Golgari, I’d like to take a moment to apologize for the lack of Lore Bits articles recently. All of us have had quite a bit going on within our personal lives which led to the delay of the Simic article being released and the absence of articles for Dimir, Gruul, and the Orzhov. Rest assured, I will be releasing Lore Bits dedicated to each of those guilds; one article for House Dimir and one that covers both Gruul and Orzhov. The reason for combining Gruul and Orzhov is that they are two guilds that do not have much back-story to them so one article will be sufficient. Once again apologies for the apparent halt in Lore Bits, I do not foresee it happening again. With that out of the way, lets study the swarm of Ravnica.
The Golgari Swarm is the self-proclaimed “masters of life and death” on Ravnica. They work as the agricultural sector of Ravnican society and do good work in the form of providing affordable food for the needy, despite the fact that sources of said food are questionable at best. You get what you pay for I suppose. Because of the guilds affinity and history with Necromancy, the Golgari is the largest of the ten guilds given that their members simply do not die, or in the event that they do, the deceased are quickly replaced with fresh recruits. Like two guilds that have been discussed previously, the Golgari have been rather important to the history of Ravnica and the guilds themselves, and with such a position comes many changes in leadership and location.
The Swarm was originally founded by a human necromancer by the name of Svogthir. Svogthir brought together a group of outcasts including humans, elves, and a wide assortment of strange and disgusting creatures, and gave them a new home within the swarm. Svogthir also worked together with Szadek, Dimir’s Parun, in convincing other Paruns to sign the original guildpact. Some time before the events of the first Ravnica block, Svogthir died as any human will, but with his mastery over Necromancy he was able to survive and become a zombie lich. After his transformation, he began to create a new and perfect body for himself. To do this, he incorporated several body parts from various unwilling subjects; the most notable of these pieces was the torso of the Gruul Clans very own Parun, Cisarzim, ancestor to current Gruul leader, Borborygmos. After Svogthir’s new body was complete, the only original body part that remained of the necromancer was his own head.
So we have Frankenstein the necromancer leading the swarm, and everything seems fine within Golgari land, right? Well not really. Fast forward a bit more to right before the events of the first Ravnica block, and we see five Gorgon sisters challenge Svogthir over his right to rule the swarm. Because nobody ever has successful negotiations within the Magic universe, a fight breaks out with the end result being two of the gorgons are killed, but Svogthir also falls in battle. The three remaining sisters then rot away Svogthir’s grotesque body, but fail to destroy the head as Svogthir ensured that the only part left of his original body would be indestructible. So the sisters then decide to seal the head away into what would become Svogthos, the Restless tomb as well as the Golgari guild hall. There Svogthir would remain for over a century. Imagine the conversations you’d have with yourself to be entertained.
Now we come to the time of the first Ravnica block, and we see that the Sisters of Stone Death are a bit of a trendsetter. Now the position of leadership becomes contested time and time again since all of the factions within the swarm want to give it a try since the Sisters made it look so fun. The most prominent of these upstarts were the Devkarin, the dark elves of Ravnica, and the Teratogens, which is a fancy name for the collection of plant/zombie hybrids and other creatures such as more gorgons, giant bats, harpies, etc. etc. Up until the Decamillennial, the Teratogens managed to maintain some semblance of control. However, at the turning of the Decamillennial, the Dark Elves, led by matka (fancy elf word for high-priestess) Savra, managed to overtake the guild with the assistance of none other than, Szadek (at this point who else could it be really?).
Dimir assistance aside, how does Savra manage to take control of the guild? Excellent question! Do you remember Svogthir? Talking head, imprisoned in a tomb for well over a century? Well Savra, gets the bright idea to resurrect Svogthir as an assistant and uses the vast powers of the “god-zombie,” as he’s known within the swarm, to overthrow the Sisters. Not bad really! Savra gets what she wants and Svogthir gets revenge on the gorgons that overthrew him in the first place, win-win, everyone’s happy. Well, everyone except Svogthir of course, because after the Sisters are defeated, Savra uses fancy ancient dark elf magic to liberate Svogthir’s spirit and add it to her scepter to increase her power. After doing this she declares herself leader of the Golgari.
So here Savra sits, leader of the Golgari Swarm, and the power of Svogthir the god-zombie at her beck and call. Her next move is to then try and infiltrate the Selesnya Conclave of course. Why only be the master of one green aligned guild when you could be master of two? It seemed like a good idea except for the part where Szadek double-crosses her and snaps her neck…oops. But, if Savra is dead, then what happens to Svogthir? Another excellent question, Svogthir decides a bit of payback is in order and uses Savra’s corpse as a new vessel. After that is when Svogthir strikes up an alliance with Momir Vig, parun of Simic, to unleash Project Kraj upon the city (as discussed in the Lore Bits for the Simic Combine). So we know what happens here, Svogthir and Vig are almost completely successful, except that the spirit of Agrus Kos overpowers Svogthirs will and kills Vig, and leaves the god-zombie to his fate within the destroyed Simic Laboratory. It is unclear if Svogthir survived the lab’s destruction, but given the tenacity of the Parun, it is quite possible he is still alive in some form.
Meanwhile, the question still remains: How do we go from the leaderless swarm to the leadership of a new lich-lord named Jarad? Well, as it turns out, Jarad is the twin brother to Savra. His normal day to day job was working as a bounty hunter throughout the undercity of Ravnica. Once Savra seized control of both Svogthir’s spirit and the Golgari, however, Jarad found himself at odds with his twin. To oppose and interfere with the potential upset of the balance of power among the guilds, he allied himself with Agrus Kos and a Selesnya Conclave member, Fonn Zunich, to help defeat Szadek and prevent his coup at the festival of the guildpact. After his sister’s death, Jarad then took control of the Golgari. After that, he marries Fonn and they have a child named Myc. Their marriage is short though because of their obligations to their respective guilds, and differing philosophies on how to raise their son. For the most part, Jarad’s life becomes business as usual. That is until the cult of Rakdos captured Myc with the intention of offering him as a sacrifice to Rakdos himself. Both Jarad and Fonn succeed in disrupting the ritual, but at the cost of Jarad’s life. Not too long after the awakening of Rakdos and his battle against Experiment Kraj, Jarad manages to possess his own corpse and become a zombie lich-lord, retaining his leadership over the guild. After learning his father’s fate, Myc decides to join his father and learn the ways of the Golgari.
And that has been a look at the history of the Golgari. As for the Swarm’s activities during the Return to Ravnica block, there isn’t much. What we do know is that Korozda, what was once an Orzhov cathedral, has become the new seat of power for Jarad, and the place where he meets with the Cilla, an irregular group of counselors. Vraska the Unseen, a gorgon Planeswalker also works within the Swarm, but at time of writing, Jarad is unaware of her capabilities, similar to how Niv-Mizzet is unaware of how Ral Zarek is a ‘walker. For the upcoming Dragon’s Maze run, the Swarm has chosen Varolz, Golgari Troll to be their runner. Given the fact that characters from the books like Emmara Tandris are premiering, it would’ve been nice to have seen Myc, son of Jarad in place of Varolz, but that is just my humble opinion. Overall, we can see how the Golgari is a guild rich with history in relation to the events of Ravnica, as well as despite their color-alignment and aesthetics, they are actually not always evil.
This has been another installation of Lore-Bits. If there is a person, place, thing, group, or event you would like to see discussed, leave a comment below or send a tweet to @RhoxNews or @VOBpodcast. Keep in mind also that this very article was a request from a reader so send in your ideas and you may see it up on the website. Thank you all very much for reading and I’ll see you next time.