Goblin decktech: colors and cards

Since my latest article about Goblins in Modern got a decent feedback from the community, I’m feeling motivated to further investigate the case. Wiser and with the help of other Goblin players, I present to you the decktech featuring color splashes and a look at what they bring to the table. We will go over latest Goblin decks and comment them while looking for possible variations and changes for those decks, so lets get it started.

Goblins by Stefano Di Pietro

Creatures (31)
Akki Avalanchers
Foundry Street Denizen
Goblin Arsonist
Goblin Bushwhacker
Goblin Guide
Goblin Piledriver
Legion Loyalist
Mogg Fanatic
Mogg War Marshal

Spells (12)
Faithless Looting
Goblin Grenade
Kari Zev’s Expertise
Lightning Bolt

Lands (17)
17 Mountain

Sideboard (15)
Forked Bolt
Molten Rain
Pillar of Flame
Smash to Smithereens
Stingscourger
Sudden Shock
Tunnel Ignus

Di Pietro piloted this spicy brew to the Top8 at Phyrexian Plaguelord Modern Event on 2nd of April 2017 among 54 competitors and we can agree that counts as an achievement for Goblin players all around the globe. So what stands out? Well, what doesn’t? While Akki Avalanchers remains a sweet yet an underpowered option, cards like Faithless Looting, Kari Zev’s Expertise and sideboard Tunnel Ignus are what really stands out. He also cut down to 17 lands which is stretching it, but it seems like it worked for him. Three Goblin Arsonists are interesting in addition to a full playset of Mogg Fanatics and while it has a better synergy with Goblin Grenade, it is also a worse topdeck midgame and can’t ping Thalia, Dark Confidant or mana dorks on command. His sideboard is packed with better Shocks that are useful in various creature match-ups but also acts as reach if needed (I like Sudden Shock against Walking Ballista when it doesn’t grow out of its range), and I just love Stingscourgers. Note that he doesn’t have any graveyard hate but that’s a meta call.

Faithless Looting is decent when flooded but can be a completely dead card and provides card disadvantage when used, yet fast aggro decks can usually handle that and it comes in handy when looking (looting) for that Bushwhacker or Grenade. I have to confess that I forgot Kari Zev’s Expertise existed soon after it was spoiled and that is strange since I remember calling it the best Act of Treason available for Goblins. If your metagame is full of decks that tend to barely stabilize with one or two beefy creatures, than look no further and give it a try. I feel this works best when casting a hasty threat or Atarka’s Command for free to setup a killing blow, but sadly both Bushwhackers don’t work here. Some options to try with Expertise are Spike Jester and Mudbrawler Cohort, but Atarka’s Command might be the best. Piledriver and Mogg War Marshals are decent as well, but in Di Pietro’s deck I see Loyalist and Guide as the best hits. Goblin Grenade is also powerful but losing an attacker before combat might occasionally be a deal breaker.

Spike Jester is an aggressive Goblin but casting cost of RB is its drawback as we rarely splash black. It also doesn’t look good in the face of many 1-mana spot removals, but against creature decks it can form a devastating swing when cast after Kari Zev’s Expertise, especially with an on board Legion Loyalist. As aforementioned, haste plays very nicely with the Expertise.

We can say that this deck is full of unconventional cards and that’s just what we needed. He brings a different view to the table and that means a lot. Tunnel Ignus is great against Scapeshift but it can also burn or delay various 3 color decks, especially those that prefer to tap out during their turn and have to immediately use a fetchland. Sadly it’s not a Goblin but Zo-Zu the Punisher is a bit too slow for us unless we are ready to increase our curve, however that would also make us slower and we lose the ability to go under some of the decks we race with. Either way, feel free to skip Ankh of Mishra effects if you don’t fear Scapeshift and Titanshift decks.

Goblins by hellakevin

Creatures (30)
Foundry Street Denizen
Goblin Bushwhacker
Goblin Guide
Grim Lavamancer
Legion Loyalist
Mogg Fanatic
Raging Goblin
Vexing Devil

Spells (12)
Goblin Grenade
Lightning Bolt
Boros Charm

Lands (18)
Bloodstained Mire
Inspiring Vantage
Mountain
Sacred Foundry
Scalding Tarn
Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
Wooded Foothills

Sideboard (15)
Goblin Fireslinger
Grafdigger’s Cage
Grim Lavamancer
Harsh Mentor
Path to Exile
Shattering Spree
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

hellakevin needs no introduction in our Goblin community and he wrote an excellent description on his deck page, so be sure to check that out. He remains one of the most innovative Goblin pilots that also shares his findings and is capable of interpretations that lead to good decisions with deckbuilding. The only card that I don’t agree with is Vexing Devil, but that is due to my experience losing a game in topdeck mode because I couldn’t use Goblin Grenade with it. Triggering Foundry Street Denizen is huge, yet it usually ends up being the worse of the two options since it gives a decision to our opponents, albeit the options aren’t great for them.

Raging Goblin is one of his signature inclusions and I can get behind the idea. I tried them myself and they played well with Atarka’s Command. It’s hard to argue that haste is probably the best stat for Goblins, but it comes down to the playstyle and metagame. I believe it excels in Atarka Goblins, does its job in non-8-whack decks but is suboptimal if you run mono red 8-Whack since you could be better off playing any other 2-power one-drop (Goblin Cohort or Tattermunge Maniac). Another card that hellakevin goes with is Goblin Fireslinger and his reasoning is to side them in for Raging Goblins when opponents present blockers. Grim Lavamancer is an awesome card to play in Goblins, but it loses some value in mono red since fetchlands help to fill the yard. Mogg War Marshal, Mogg Fanatic and Goblin Grenade also help the cause of the Lavaman with less frequent but useful interactions.

Even without any cards in our graveyard, a Goblin Grenade that didn’t sacrifice a token puts two cards in the yard which turns on our Grim Lavamancer. This represents 7 damage without attacking and on two mana. You did lose a goblin but this might be enough to finish the game.

His decision to splash white gives Boros Charm and a sideboard of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Path to Exile. Boros Charm is an enormous reach that can act as a protection against sweepers and can even go around Leyline by giving double strike: Vexing Devil doing 8 damage and 3/1 Foundry does 6, ignoring the fact that Piledriver can hit for double digits as hellakevin opts to avoid two-drop creatures altogether. We all know how good Path can be and its drawback is not that bad in aggro decks that look to close out the game fast, but use it wisely. It is obvious but don’t Path a turn 1 mana dork, but go after Wurmcoil, Finks or a roadblock when looking for a game-ending blow. Thalia is great against decks that are tight on mana and slows down most if not all combo decks. It beats on burn and storm and both being relatively popular rises the stock of Thalia.

Goblins by Ardonas and SzULeR

Creatures (33)
Foundry Street Denizen
Frenzied Goblin
Goblin Bushwhacker
Goblin Chieftain
Goblin Guide
Goblin Piledriver
Legion Loyalist
Mogg Fanatic
Mogg War Marshal
Reckless Bushwhacker

Spells (8)
Goblin Grenade
Lightning Bolt

Lands (19)
19 Mountain

Sideboard (Ardonas) (15)
Dragon’s Claw
Forked Bolt
Goblin Chieftain
Goblin Piledriver
Smash to Smithereens
Tormod’s Crypt

Sideboard (SzULeR) (15)
Dragon’s Claw
Forked Bolt
Goblin Piledriver
Smash to Smithereens
Tormod’s Crypt

The duo of Ardonas (4th of June) and SzULeR (18th of June) finished a Modern MTGO League with a 5-0 result using the same maindeck with only a few differences in the side. Note that both of them and Di Pietro played three Goblin Piledrivers, which might be a sign to up our numbers. However, Di Pietro piloted his brew while those two made their finishes with a regular 8-Whack. It’s hard to say if the inexpensive cost of 8-Whack on MTGO and the ability to play Leagues non-stop combined to produce two 5-0 decks in June, but we also know WotC doesn’t publish all the data regarding 5-0 decks and therefore we are not taking anything away from those two guys who achieved great results.

Goblin Chieftain might be a little better in the new age of Fatal Push replacing Lightning Bolt, yet it remains a high priority target that usually gets killed on sight, resulting in a tempo loss for our deck. However, I can see how this deck loads up on strong cards like Piledriver and Chieftain and if our opponent is light on removal, our heavy-hitting threats get through. The problem is that 8-Whack is a mana-hungry deck with only 19 lands and Chieftains can clog our hand together with Reckless Bushwhackers. I like the inclusion of Frenzied Goblin which serves as a nice mana sink and helps us to hit face. While Forked Bolt has its uses, I dislike Dragon’s Claw. Burn might be a popular deck online, but I feel that match-up is decent enough and I would rather pack something like Molten Rain or an answer to Kor Firewalker, which is the only card that really takes the game away. We can play through Lightning Helix, but Firewalker stonewalls us hard. Skullcrack works against both so it might be a decent budget option on MTGO.

The Splash

With three out of four decks being mono red, I feel like I have to expand this article in order to fulfill my statement in introduction about splashing colors. White splash was already mentioned with hellakevin’s deck and could be the current go-to for Modern Goblins. We will skip blue as it’s not the most popular or useful option. In theory, Spell Pierce could sound good but being reactive is only viable against faster combo decks that we have to race, and we can usually do so with better options that help us win games and not just avoid losing it.

Red is the best color for Goblins and a requirement, but lets check out our options.

Green

Green was first looked upon after Destructive Revelry came in Theros as the best thing to hit Enchantments, but when Atarka’s Command was printer it became hands down the best option. Other cards that open up are Tin Street Hooligan, Ancient Grudge, Gruul Charm, Domri Rade, Become Immense and even Tarmogoyfs if you expect a lot of bolts. Green also offers lifegain but as aforementioned, Burn is a decent match-up and we shouldn’t dilute our sideboard with suboptimal cards. There used to be a brew on GatheringMagic with Burning-Tree Emissary, Tattermunge Maniac, Spike Jester and Jund Hackblade package but it can be achieve without having any green mana to begin with despite having multiple “green” cards (it should be under black section).

To this date, Atarka Goblins are one of the most popular options for Goblin players and rivaled only by the recent 8-Whack that appeared after the printing of Reckless Bushwhacker.

White

hellakevin is not the first to try splashing white, but only with Inspiring Vantage did the splash become as easy as we wanted. Fast land provide us with a pain-free and an untapped source most of the time and it is one of the ofter overlooked reasons why splashing in Goblins is so smooth. Boros Charm is a no-brainer and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben already showed her worth in Legacy Goblins as she excels at slowing spell based decks in non-rotating formats. Path to Exile is the best removal for our deck since giving a land but removing a blocker for 1 mana and winning on the spot is something we can make happen, we just have to use it aggressively when looking for a win and avoid ramping our opponents.

White also gives us Enchantment hate with Wear // Tear, which is a versatile card but lacks the firepower of Destructive Revelry despite costing one less to go after Worship, Daybreak Coronet, Phyrexian Unlife and the likes. Use Burrenton Forge-Tender only if you are surrounded by Skred Red or other red-based sweeper decks and Kor Firewalker should be a no-go. Rest in Peace could be an option if you feel Tormod’s Crypt or Relic of Progenitus can’t do all the work in your metagame, but don’t forget the non-bo with Grim Lavamancer if you play one. Stony Silence should be avoided as we have so many better options in red alone. One interesting choice is Chained to the Rocks, a decent removal without a direct drawback but can be destroyed and is not an instant, which usually doesn’t matter as much but when splashing white, leaving mana open for Boros Charm and Path at the ready can be huge in comparison with tapping out sorcery speed. Path also hits manlands and flashed creatures before declaring blocks and in rare cases, you can also ramp yourself if in need of a land. All in all Path is miles ahead.

In this era of Death’s Shadows, Delve fatties and giant Eldrazi creatures, splashing white might be the best option. Lifegain is not at its best these days since unless you go infinite, you cannot out-gain Eldrazi, BGx, Control, Death’s Shadow decks and even Affinity, while Path provides a clear answer to Kitchen Finks, Wurmcoil Engine and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, just to name a few. Boros Charm also brings its share to the table and despite having less potential than Atarka’s Command, it does 4 damage unconditionally and can protect your board. I for one will try it out, or maybe even go Naya.

Black

One of the main benefits of adding black is disruption with targeted discard and spot removal like Fatal Push or Dismember, but the latter doesn’t require actual black mana and is also falling out of favor in the current metagame. Thoughtseize and Duress are always an option in a combo and big-mana heavy metagame or to snipe opponents sideboard cards, but they do nothing to further our gameplan and can leave us hanging. Rain of Gore would be excellent if it would stop lifelink, but as it is, I wouldn’t bother. Kolaghan’s Command is a bit expensive for our taste and while returning a Bushwhacker looks good on paper, it might be too attrition-based for our deck, but testing it can be plausible. I personally like Rakdos Charm and despite it lacking a direct damage mode I have won a few games on the back of it. It is also artifact and graveyard hate all packed in one card. I find its main use to be versatility and therefore freeing some precious sideboard slots.

Black offers a lot of cards but not all are suitable for our aggro approach. Most of black Goblins slow us down, with Spike Jester being the one exception. Frogtosser Banneret could make a case for itself in a bigger Goblin deck, but Boggart Mob, Mad Auntie, Boggart Harbinger, Knucklebone Witch and Auntie’s Snitch don’t bring much. However, Warren Weirding and Earwig Squad have some uses for aggro decks as they can slow down our opponents and/or put bodies on the board.

Multiple splashes

I already mentioned Naya but you can also play around with Jund and Mardu to mix benefits of colors. However, bear in mind that you lose some consistency and painful manabase results in a drop of win percentage in our Burn and Zoo match-ups. Nonetheless, mana is doable with all the fast lands and Auntie’s Hovel so don’t shy away from testing. I had some success with Jund Goblins back in the day of Twin and will probably go with Naya to try it out.

Splash vs. 8-Whack

When splashing a color (or two) we usually pack a full playset of fast lands and that can make the inclusion of Reckless Bushwhacker a liability unless we focus on 1-drops, but most if not all colors worth a splash have good options at 2-cmc. This results in little to no Surgewhackers in multicolor Goblin decks, with the exception being black since Spike Jester can be skipped as well as Auntie’s Hovel enabling us to cast two 2-drops without any fear of hitting a fast land as a fourth land drop. Atarka Goblins have the problem of casting Atarka’s Command followed by Goblin Bushwhacker if your fourth land is Copperline Gorge, something that happened to me rarely but more than once.

Gobots

Ever since Kuldotha Rebirth came to be, players were drawn to its potential to be fast and game-breaking, so the community started to look for the best version of the deck. In January 2017 yhudiwasa5 managed to 5-0 a Modern League with it, featuring new cards like Bomat Courier, Toolcraft Exemplar and Kytheon, Hero of Akros. Various other players also achieved results on local and regional tournaments and Kuldotha Red is a fringe deck that is a breed between Goblins and Robots (Artifact aggro), hence the name Gobots. Lately, the go-to list feature Atarka’s Command as a payoff card since the deck goes wide really fast and Command supports that plan.

Going big

This is an idea I got from reading various articles about Sligh and The Wakefield School but can’t seem to find where I found out about it, but one of the old school players used a mono red aggro deck that went bigger after siding in Mutavaults and Siege-Gang Commanders. It is probably a bad idea to begin with, but it could improve those attrition match-ups that cannot be raced and require some value cards to pull ahead. It would be a meta-call as this kind of a deck would just stumble against the current field, yet it was interesting since I never thought about something like this before. However, it cannot be done with regular aggro Goblins, this kind of a deck probably needs to have a higher curve to begin with, slowing it down for a turn while not giving up all the firepower. It is a delicate line to walk and I believe it will never see the light of the day, but who knows?

Conclusion #2

While all Goblin decks play out similarly, they do have suble differences and pros and cons. Gobots are definitely the fastest and can go under any deck, while Atarka and Boros offer more longevity and reach with its Command and Charm. Black gives disruption but not much else, and you can feel free to combine any color as long as you remain focused on red. What awaits is more testing in a search for personally prefered decklist while having hopes up for some playable cards in Dominaria.

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