The Golgari Swarm is the guild that fuses the opposite values of life and death, fostering growth in Ravnica's decaying communities but also fostering decay in places of growth. The elves, zombies, insects, and undead-plant hybrids of the Golgari are like one massive, growing, feeding organism, collectively spreading across the plane wherever it can fit. The Golgari provide a necessary service in Ravnica, in that they dispose of the carcasses that civilization leaves behind, and mysteriously they also provide sustenance for the forgotten and the needy. They are the scavengers and decomposers at the fringes of the food chain, but yearn to be the predator at the top.
The Golgari guild is organized more like a single organism than a collective: it has a nucleus or nerve center that drives the direction and growth of the guild; elements that collect nutrients and convert them into usable resources; defenses that resist and fight off foreign bodies; and an instinctual drive to survive, reproduce, and overcome.
Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord Edit
The Golgari guildmaster is currently Jarad Vod Savo, an undead necromancer who managed to revive himself after death. In life, Jarad was an elvish archer and master hunter in the Golgari, and was the brother of the ambitious Savra (now deceased). Jarad learned the ways of necromancy and was able to rise as a lich after sacrificing himself to save his son from the demon Rakdos. Jarad now commands legions of piranha beetles and other flesh-eating pets, and can control the actions of insects and other decomposers. He has survived a number of assassination attempts from various upstarts, using the power of necromancy to feed off the power of his challengers.
Jarad maintains a council of shamans and rogues called the Cilia. The Cilia act as a combination of advisory parliament and spy agency and rarely all convene publicly or together at once. In combination with Jarad's insect minions, they act as his sensory apparatus to know what the outer reaches of Golgari are doing and as a messenger service to deliver instructions. It might be that an individual Cilium might be considered of higher rank than another by Jarad, but none know those rankings beyond the guildmaster.
The Golgari guild might have more changes in leadership than other guilds. The guild believes in the importance of continuous cycles, understands that assassination is a valid means of political conquest, and knows that being alive is not a prerequisite to rule.
Factions of the Golgari Edit
The Devkarin, elves of shadow Edit
The Devkarin are a brooding, winsome, and often ambitious race of elves who represent one of the main power groups of the Golgari. Of all of Golgari's factions, the Devkarin press most for the expansion of Golgari territory; they feel that most of the other guilds do not have Ravnica's best interests at heart and that the more land consolidated in Golgari hands, the better. The Devkarin elves are ruled by a high priest known as a matka, sometimes for centuries at a time; Jarad's sister Savra was a former matka. The current matka is Zdenia, a severe, black-haired young woman whose hands and arms are tattooed with images of insects and spiders.
The Lotleth, the ranks of death Edit
The Lotleth are the Golgari's irregular faction of undead, necromancers, fungus-binders, and other members associated with the restless dead. 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 serve as a labor force for the Golgari's constant program of reclamation and expansion, or as a weapon for Jarad or some shaman's personal agenda. Sentient beings among Lotleth feel used and underappreciated within the guild, and their numbers are larger than they seem. The current leader of the Lotleth is Wratislav, a skilled but conceited human necromancer who enjoys parading his undead retinue through the streets of Ravnica.
The Street Swarm, shepherds of the cycle Edit
The Street Swarm form Golgari's labor class, which helps drive the cycle of life and death by countless iterations of accelerating decay and seeding new life. This faction includes corpse scavengers, low-ranking street shamans, rot farmers, tunnel trolls, various elementals and fungal horrors, and most of the kraul (an insect-like race). Each neighborhood of Ravnica tends to have its own chapter of the Street Swarm, and each chapter is led by a local swarm-boss.
The Golgari Swarm is not an easy guild to lead; the unstoppable and constantly growing sub-factions of the guild are like mindless amoebas, each with its own agenda, and almost impossible to control. Jarad has held on to his position by bringing more power to the guild by actively reclaiming derelict districts of the plane. He knows the power-hungry Devkarin elves and the decomposing Lotleth undead will eventually dethrone him; in the meantime, he works to ensure a place on Ravnica for the Golgari and for his own family.
Golgari Locations Edit
Korozda, the Maze of Decay Edit
Korozda is the new Golgari guildhall, an arched cathedral surrounded by an immense, circular maze of overgrown, fungus-encrusted ruins. Korozda is the lair of guildmaster Jarad Vod Savo and the place where he meets with the Cilia, his irregular court of attendants. Korozda is patrolled by an array of swarming vermin, giant insects, zombies, and gleancrawlers.
The Stonefare is a network of ancient, arched brick tunnels that wind through the Golgari-controlled areas of the undercity, polluted with sticky slime, fungi, and cobwebs. The Stonefare is lined with—and, in places, architecturally composed of—the petrified bodies of gorgon victims.
At the center of the Golgari-controlled neighborhood of Deadbridge is a sinkhole large enough to swallow a church. Spanning the sinkhole is the Deadbridge itself, a massive platform supported by stone arches that are buttressed by vines, fungi, and bonewood. Deadbridge came by its name in a grisly fashion. After a deadly fire destroyed an adjoining neighborhood, the pit became a convenient, quiet way to dispose of corpses. The Golgari co-opted the sinkhole as a repository of raw materials, and eventually the guild came to be de facto in charge of the region.
Zanikev, the Great Rot Farm Edit
Whenever an area of Ravnica has fallen into ruin, the Golgari seek to sweep in, accelerate its decomposition, drain it of its resources, reseed it, nourish it, and—eventually—claim the revivified sector as their territory. Zanikev is one particularly large Golgari reclamation zone that encompasses several former neighborhoods, an area of moss-coated and slime-choked architectural ruins where many scavenger species make their lair.
Corpsefloat Valves Edit
The marsh-flooded tunnels and chambers of Ravnica's undercity are also a means of transport for the Golgari corpse trade. Valves constructed of fungal membranes close off certain sewerways. These valves open and close by Golgari command, allowing carcasses and other traffic to float through like a logging sluice.
Attitudes Toward Other Guilds Edit
Azorius: "To the Azorius, we are background processes. We are stomach sounds and effluvia. Yet we are the foundation on which their power rests."
Orzhov: "The Orzhov are despicable ghosts, always seeking to circumvent the cycles that welcome us back to the loam. Their arrogance in seeking power over decay can only last so long."
Dimir: "The Dimir share our tunnels and mine our secrets. They believe they rule the undercity, but they only rule those who care for possessions or status."
Izzet: "The Izzet's methods stink of societal progress; they're ignorant of the cycles they destroy. But they manage the city as we do, providing useful magics to maintain the structures beneath the structures."
Rakdos: "The Rakdos understand the proximity of death, but seek to hasten its cycle for petty ends. What the demon destroys, we nurture back to life again."
Gruul: "The Gruul are our brethren in the untamed wilds of the city, but they lack the vision to perceive the greater cycles at work."
Boros: "The Boros speak a language we will never understand. Their militant dedication to words and slogans confuses and disturbs us."
Selesnya: "The Selesnya strive to respect nature as we do, and their devotion to living systems is commendable. But they are night-blind necrophobes, useless in the face of unvarnished death."
Simic: "The Simic have spent generations scraping at the edges of a truth that is plain to any worm."