Goblins in Modern are an aggro deck that tends to flood the board with smaller creatures and hit fast’n’hard. Today we’ll look at the possible 1-drops to play in addition to staples, but before doing so, lets check out the core creatures of the deck, the staple one-drops of Goblins:
Now bear in mind that most Goblin decks pack a playset of Lightning Bolt and Goblin Grenade, and rightfully so. But since those are not creatures I won’t talk about them this time around. However, both of the cards are much needed reach for greenskins and a must for any pilot playing with our favorite tribe. I’m also leaving 2-drops out of this article, but that doesn’t mean Piledriver and Mogg War Marshal are bad, but today it’s about one drops. Now, lets see what our other options are:
Akki Avalanchers – a somewhat decent option, especially in the past before all the Foundries and Loyalists. Relevant against Merfolk (Spreading Sea), but opens up a 2-for-1 for your opponent. Can offer the additional reach when needed and could be called a weird anti-flood card, but I would not play it myself. If it weren’t for only once per turn clause, then it would be a different story as it would enable the alpha strike easier, but that’s not the case.
Bloodcrazed Goblin – 2/2 for 1 mana is always something to look for, but its downside is just too big for it to be playable. Using Bolt or Fanatic just to enable this Goblin to attack is out of the question. No go.
Frenzied Goblin – one of the more popular options beyond the “goblin staples” as its cannot block ability is more than relevant if Frenzied sticks, but the downside of costing one mana to activate is kind of a deal-breaker since the deck is mana-hungry but usually short on lands. Some play with a few, others use it from the side, but most players just don’t pack it at all. All in all not bad, but could be better.
Intimidator Initiate – a different take on Frenzied Goblin that does the same thing. However, it can trigger off of opponents spells as well, so there is that. It can also affect the board the turn it comes even without haste, but you have to play another spell and use more mana, which is not really ideal. Less popular but very similar to Frenzied.
Goblin Arsonist – while Arsonist looks good on paper, it remains inferior to Mogg Fanatic who can ping on command, albeit the former has more synergy with Goblin Grenade. However, opponents can just ignore it when you want to kill an elf, Thalia or Dark Confidant with it, making it a vanilla 1/1 and we can do better than that.
Goblin Cohort – pauper “staple” is another 2/2 body for one, but it’s downside is not as bad as with Bloodcrazed Goblin since we love casting creatures. However, the drawback is real when running out of gas and in need of an all-out attack only to leave Cohort back, unable to do its job. But I still view it as one of the better options, since we also love to kick/surge Bushwhackers and Cohort plays nicely with it. As stated, casting creatures is our calling and in my limited experience, I found it decent. Another downside is that it competes with Foundry as the ultimate turn 1 play, so I would not play more than three, if at all. It is also better with Bushwhackers than Atarka’s Command.
Goblin Fireslinger – another underpowered goblin that could be viable in some match-ups as it supports the idea of the deck, yet it’s nothing flashy. If it would have haste, it would be a different story, but as it stands it’s mostly a sideboard option, popularized by hellakevin.
Goblin Glory Chaser – has a potential to be a 2/2 with menace for 1 mana on turn 2, if it connects. That if, however, is pretty big in Modern. One of the newer goblins around, but it sadly falls short.
Raging Goblin – a vanilla Loyalist, and haste is one of the more beloved abilities for our tribe. Also popularized by hellakevin, this legendary rager is worth it if you need 1-drops that goes well with Atarka’s Command. However, in 8whack builds, I would prefer Cohort (or a split between the two). Sadly there are not that many match-ups where a vanilla Loyalist is good.
Kill-Suit Cultist – this guy is a wannabe removal on foot, but it’s going to be a 2-for-1 for your opponent most of the time, unless paired with first strike. Still, there are not many situations where I would prefer this guy over either Frenzied Goblin or Intimidator Initiate, or at all..
Tattermunge Maniac – one of the better 2 power 1-drops and as much as casting creatures is our calling, so is attacking. There are scenarios where you want to build up the board for the alpha strike, and its 1 toughness hurts against Electrolyze and Forked Bolt, but it plays nicely with Jund Hackblade, another fringe option in goblin decks. I would say it’s a tie between this guy, Cohort and Raging Goblin as the best non-staple 1-drop. However, both Frenzied and Intimidator bring some interaction to the table, so there is that as well.
Mogg Sentry – sadly this guy fails the Bolt test and while it may hinder some stuff, it’s not good enough to warrant a place in our decks. It’s decent against blue decks, or is it? Most of the time it will be a 1/1 for 1 mana, which is not enough.
Spikeshot Elder – trying to emulate Grim Lavamancer is good and all, but this Goblin Shaman requires a large mana investment as well as some anthem effects. Goes well with Shared Animosity, but if you have a good board and that enchantment out, it’s a win-more in most scenarios.
Knucklebone Witch – this buddy is somewhat of a pet card of mine, but I can’t find a shell for it. It’s a total non-bo with Foundry Street Denizen as it competes for the turn 1 play as well as not triggering the Foundry, but has the ability to grow bigger with other goblins dying. Plays well with Mogg War Marshal, Fanatic and Goblin Grenade, but would demand a more midrange approach. The need for a black mana on turn 1 also hinders the mana base, and I doubt it’s worth it. It will probably stay a bulk rare even for Goblin standards.
Facevaulter – not only it costs 1 black mana, it also needs an investment of additional black source. However, it should be viewed as a response to removal and not an enabler for our opponents to 2-for-1 us. Mediocre at best.
Prickly Boggart – not worth the trouble for its almost unblockable clause. Again, not triggering Foundry is a big downside, as is the black mana cost.
Shambling Goblin – a worse Goblin Arsonist that has black casting cost. Enough said.
Looking back at all the mentioned 1-drops, we have to conclude that other than a few of them, they are mostly unplayable. Intimidator Initiate and Frenzied Goblin both have its uses with the interaction they (might) provide. Tattermunge Maniac, Goblin Cohort and Raging Goblin are playable when in need of additional 1-drop Goblins, but not much else. Goblin Fireslinger can be decent in board-stalls, and Goblin Arsonist can act as a Fanatic 5-6, and so can Spikeshot Elder. Akki Avalanchers could see some play in a linear metagame without much removal, but it ends there. Sadly there is much left to desire in the 1-drop department of Goblinkind, but lets hope future sets brings us something better than Goblin Glory Chaser or Lavastep Raider. Speaking of which, no, Lavastep Raider is not better than any of the mentioned ones. If only we could change his power and toughness …