Have you ever flicked a lighter just to see the flame? Even if it was for only a moment, it feels strange to hold such a primal force in your grasp. The rapid oxidation of combustible gases is mesmerizing to watch. Little bits of breeze and breath can alter it, but it will still sit there and hiss and pop.
Some people take the urge to hold and wield flame too far. To some
pyromaniacs folks, it's a way of life. You know who loves fire and doesn't really have a good reason why?
Goblins! These little boogers will light a match as quickly as they'd eat it. Regarding the flavor of Goblins in Magic, I see them as parasitic insects, swarming and overwhelming an unprepared opponent like locusts on a stalk of wheat. Goblins are a favorite tribe among Magic players, and they have resurfaced perennially for the last two decades. When you were learning to play Magic, it's nearly obligatory that you knew someone with "that sick Goblin deck" full of well-loved sets of Goblin Lackey, Goblin Matron and Goblin Piledriver. They're basic, instinctual, and riotous. How can you not like Goblins?
M13 prodded us into Goblin tribal, and with some solid inclusions thanks to Gatecrash, a fluid, fun, and reckless Goblin deck is just a couple playsets away from being a playable stack. As highlighted above, Goblins were given a fun little enchantment to toy with.
This enchantment has the power to kill, and a bunch of tiny Goblins doing a little bit of combat damage is a great way to finish off an opponent or to protect your rabble from a big creature. The investment is fairly small, and activating it twice seems pretty reasonable and realistic. Goblins naturally suit the flavor and practical support this card needs, so we'll build a Goblin base and fill it with complementary spells and a strong sideboard. Let's take a look!
- 2 Arms Dealer
- 1 Firemane Avenger
- 4 Foundry Street Denizen
- 3 Hellraiser Goblin
- 4 Legion Loyalist
- 4 Mogg Flunkies
- 4 Skinbrand Goblin
- 3 Krenko, Mob Boss
- 1 Odric, Master Tactician
One-Drops: Legion Loyalist and Foundry Street Denizen
This upgraded Raging Goblin is a natural choice for the deck; unfortunately, he's probably the hardest card in the deck to get, as it's bound to see ubiquitous play for a while in current, casual, and Eternal formats. This red Soldier suits up and helps make your team a bit tougher in combat, especially in combination with combat tricks.
Two-Drops: Skinbrand Goblin, Mogg Flunkies, and Krenko's Command
No one got excited about Bull Rush and no one is ever happy to play Goblin Piker, but if you put them together, you get a very strong toolbox card for an otherwise all-in deck. Skinbrand Goblin can slide right in at your curve if that's relevant; if not, he can pump another Goblin to help them trade in combat or to finish off a weakened opponent.
Mogg Flunkies is the muscle. He'll often have a buddy for whatever he needs to do, even another Mogg Flunkies. Together, they can effectively block most Standard creatures, and they can be a very aggressive ensemble, too. Krenko's Command is basically a creature, and adding two 1/1s is much better than adding one 2/2.
Three-Drops: Hellraiser Goblin and Arms Dealer
One of the more skillful Goblins in recent years, Hellraiser Goblin takes a fair amount of planning and finesse to use correctly. Rarely will you want to play him without knowing what your subsequent play will be. In other words, if he's the last thing in your hand, you probably don't want to cast him. Make sure you can cast him when you're able to protect the team because they have to get in there. Fervor and Mass Hysteria effects have always been powerful; this one just needs a little TLC.
Arms Dealer is probably my favorite Goblin since Goblin Guide. He gives Goblins more reach so they can kill larger creatures that would be out of reach of normal burn. Krenko can provide the ammo! Dealer gives the deck an opportunity for parity against strong creature decks and rarely at a loss of card advantage.
Four-Drops: Krenko, Mob Boss, Firemane Avenger, and Odric, Master Tactician
Krenko is our main man here. He can make a bunch of Goblins for free turn after turn, and the more you make, the faster your Fire grows! Protecting him is really crucial, so try to cast him when the coast is clear.
Firemane Avenger offers a bit of reach even if you're low on creatures. She swings in and Helixes all day, and getting two comrades for her in a Goblin deck is cake. Easier than cake actually; have you ever made a cake? They're pretty laborious pastries. Anyway, Odric, the pre-battalion stallion, deserves an outing. As a 3/4 first strike creature, he battles very well, clobbering Boros Reckoners and Thragtusks with ease. Blanking your opponent's blockers is absolutely necessary when your attackers rarely have more than one toughness.
A godsend for Goblin decks that can splash it, Boros Charm will mainly protect the fragile team from disaster, often self-inflicted disaster. It can go to the dome and can supercharge a lofty Foundry Street Denizen, but its most important mode is the Wrap in Vigor.
You'll be attacking (or blocking) with enough Goblins to make this a relevant, inevitable threat. Just hope it doesn't get "hosed" post-board...
Goblins normally win through combat; Rally the Peasants gives you a way to make direct combat a viable course for an unorthodox Goblin deck. The ability to flashback is relevant if you want to do it as a defensive play (to give the tokens real blocking power) or as another chance if a botched combat threw off the plan the first time you cast it. Unlike something like Trumpet Blast, the pump is unconditional and flexible. What a peasant surprise!
Nothing out of sorts with the land. I like Cavern of Souls on Soldier to reduce Odric's double-white burden while still being able to cast Legion Loyalist on time. Otherwise, it'll probably sit on either Goblin or Warrior (possibly even Angel). With how cheap the Goblins are, Slayers' Stronghold seemed like a nice choice, turning a topdecked Goblin into a moderate, vigilant threat for very little investment. I imagined only needing one or two white sources at a time, so I kept them secondary.
The sideboard is meant to be pretty specific in dealing with threats that beat this deck. Mizzium Mortars, while most often being just a Flame Slash, can overload to get there in long games. This will probably be sided in during most matchups with ten+ creatures. Similarly, Blind Obedience is here for the high creature count decks, especially those which rely on haste, but you knew that. Because of the red-centric nature of this deck, you should always have a white mana available while casting most of your spells, giving your Goblin deck a bit of life gain.
Safe Passage serves a dual purpose. Damage-based removal hangs around everywhere in this environment, and Safe Passage is a white counterspell and Fog all rolled into one. It can either serve as insurance in case of (Bon)fire or can help incubate your team for another round after a Hellraiser-incited attack. Much like Boros Charm, you can vastly improve your blocks with this card in hand. Just watch out for Skullcrack!
Faith's Shield also acts as a barrier, deflecting a targeted spell or ability from wiping out your whole team (with, say, Detention Sphere or Sever the Bloodline). If the hour is fateful, it can be a huge blowout, giving you unblockability or an impregnable defense. Intangible Virtue is also secretly a defensive spell. It gives your squad double the power, and making them vigilant leaves you up for more Five-Alarm Fire activations. It protects your tokens from Illness in the Ranks, Curse of Death's Hold, and Izzet Staticaster's lethal ping, too. I do wish there was just a Glorious Anthem in this color combination right now, but we'll take what we can get.
Soul Tithe and Pithing Needle are here to answer certain questions. I like Soul Tithe because in the matches I'd bring it in, they're either tapping out every turn to stave off sacrificing their overpriced permanent or it will be a two-mana Oblivion Ring. I've long wanted to take Soul Tithe for a spin, and I can develop my board effectively while they struggle to maintain theirs. Either way, you win.
Pithing Needle is tailor-made to stop Izzet Staticaster here, but like always, it stops planeswalkers, Olivia Voldaren, Deathrite Shaman, and problem lands. I added a single Burn at the Stake against non-sweeper and/or life gain decks as an alternative way to finish the job. Being in only two colors is a bit of a liability. You exchange depth and variety for consistency and focus, but these evergreen answers should help keep the Goblin Balloon Brigade afloat.
After some playtesting, this deck proved to be much scarier than I originally suspected. Foundry Street Denizen was an actual monster against non-first strikers, and with the Loyalist he was a regular haymaker. Skinbrand Goblin was also huge; making a combat trick out of him is just outstanding, and he contributed to the Goblin presence about as frequently. Bloodrush is quickly becoming my favorite mechanic from Gatecrash. Firemane Avenger was by far the best follow up after Hellraiser Goblin, and I always had two pals to rally the battalion. Odric was fine, and casting him rarely posed an issue.
I was a bit disappointed with Arms Dealer. A lot of the time, he was just a five-mana burn spell, heaving himself at the target. Boros Charm was a lifesaver against most control decks that played red- or white-based sweepers. Five-Alarm Fire was surprisingly easy to roll up, and it was not uncommon to be in a situation where I could hold back its counters for a couple turns before I unloaded onto a nuisance creature or against the player.
Except for the Loyalists, the Cavern of Souls, and the dual lands, this list is pretty inexpensive to build. At the time that I'm writing this article, the whole thing minus the expensive bits is about $50-$60, and that's with the sideboard. The deck doesn't need duals as much as some of the other decks out there, so don't feel pressured to get them if you don't have them!
Everyone at one time or another has loved turning Goblins sideways. There's just something exciting and liberating about seeing your opponent's complex and intricate game plan unfold, saying, "I don't care a flying flip," and getting angry in the red zone. This is a slightly more skill-intensive Goblin build than some of the more "blunt instrument" strategies prevalent in past years, but it still provides uncompromising giddiness when attacking with double digits worth of little, grubby bottom feeders.
Get your hands dirty, and bring the kerosene! This weekend, I'll be heading right around the corner to the SCG Classic Series in Louisville; I'm not sure what I'm playing yet, but that's half the fun! I'll have a Modern combo list for all you Johnnies soon, so keep an eye out here for more Magic!
Until next Tuesday, don't forget to untap!