Welcome, one and all, to this week's installment of Dear Azami. There's been big news in the Commandosphere this past week, what with the announcement of an end to the tuck rule. If you're interested to hear what I think about that, here's my opinion, interspersed with a series of vaguely relevant reaction gifs.
My Commander philosophy is to see the game more as an opportunity to do clever things with your friends than a fight to the death with grave consequences. It's hard when I get really invested in the results of a multiplayer game since there's always the chance someone's going to take you out as they're going down. I've had to get a lot more proactive about making myself alternative victory conditions, and those victory conditions often boil down to "having my deck do the neat things it was designed to do."
For that reason, I'm vaguely positive on this rules change. My concern is just that this might lead to some more banned commanders, but I think a way to get around that would be to end commander damage as well.
But I'm not holding my breath for that one.
This week's submission comes focused on the Goblin tribe. This particular plane has given us some interesting visual takes on Goblins, if not any specific standout cards. They're wee yetis, and it's vaguely adorable.
Take it away, submitter!
Hi, I just recently attempted to make a Goblin-themed Commander deck. I wanted to go with a commander that wasn't the norm for goblins. So I chose Wort, Boggart Auntie as the commander to give me access to black. And because the other goblin commanders tend to be obnoxious. Or at least too quick. And I figured I'd go with the stuff I had available to put in it as well as a few things I didn't. I included Conspiracy to make my non-Goblin creatures Goblins. I also included Oversold Cemetery to double up on the recursion and because Volrath's Stronghold is expensive. I figure Plague Wind and In Garruk's Wake will take care of the flyers that will be pestering me, hopefully. I love the work you do on all the Commander decks you choose. Some of the choices you make seem out there on the cards you put in the decks, but seem to work out. I'd like to say money is no object. Sadly that would be a lie. So I won't.
And anyway, here's the deck...
Commander: Wort, Boggart Auntie
1 Sol Ring
Goblins is Goblins, but I felt like this was a great opportunity for a microbudget build. Due to the breadth of the tribe, there are plenty of powerful Goblins out there that don't break the bank. I think that's a serious concern and definitely worth considering when you're putting together a deck. Not just for your own enjoyment but also for the enjoyment of the friends and potential friends with whom you might actually play the deck.
I don't think you should have to pay a lot to get a good Commander deck. It's one of the reasons I've been such a huge fan of the Commander preconstructed decks, and it's why I tend to dislike playing Commander with judges. There are a lot of really expensive cards out whose power is proportionate with their price tags, and the decks that contain these cards tend to win easily independent of the format. I'm talking about cards like Sneak Attack, Sword of Fire and Ice, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. They're all overwhelming and priced accordingly. No new player can be expected to match up against those cards, and the chance of them popping up in your meta leads to a mindset where every deck needs to be running all sorts of permanent removal, no matter the deck's natural role.
The presence of these cards in the meta thus dilutes every other deck, which are forced to run answers to a problem they might not even face. And if you're running the heavy money cards, you still have a fair shot of winning anyway through these answers since you get to build knowing you'll need to protect them.
Of course, this isn't true of all expensive cards, but the less format-warping ones tend to be unnecessary for the decks they improve. Take Mutavault. At times that card has been as expensive as $40, but even when its price soared it's been a fun inclusion in tribal Commander decks. Every once in a while it gives a relevant tribal body only for the expense of one colored land slot. It's down to $10 now, but I didn't include it in your build. Consider it if you're feeling flush, but it's not going to meaningfully change your experience or diminish the experiences of your opponents.
It's food for thought. Now, let's chow down on this week's build.
I'm a huge fan of Myriad Landscape, but it seems a shame to run it without enough Swamps to be able to use it to your advantage from time to time. Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle is going to be plenty powerful with fifteen Mountains, and it's worth it to be able to cast your commander even more regularly. I mean, you're also running Bloodstained Mire with no basic Swamps. That seems like a mistake, especially in a format where Veteran Explorer doesn't have to be one-sided.
I cut Tainted Peak due to that dearth of Swamps. Even adding four Swamps to your deck, you only have six total. Without a Swamp in play Tainted Peak is very marginal, so it seems like cutting it for an actual Swamp will make your manabase more reliable.
And they're snow lands because I believe in sticking to a scheme.
It's worth mentioning that I'm not a huge fan of running unrelated equipment in Commander. Even if I were, I think this new Commander rules change allows us to cut back on the shroud and hexproof effects. Spot removal is about to get a little worse, and there should be a little less of it going forward as a result.
If you really needed the haste, I could see adding in the Lightning Greaves and the Swiftfoot Boots, but between your goblin haste-lords and the newly added Ogre Battledriver, you still have a fair number of ways to get haste across your team, not just on your most combat-ready new soldier. And sure, Goblin Chieftain and Goblin Warchief don't speed up your dragon and other non-goblin creatures, but let's give the deck a reason to play Conspiracy. That means using creatures for your effects and not watering down the potency of such an enabler by putting it on an artifact.
Even with Conspiracy in play, you can't get the artifacts back. This inability to recur weakens a card like Expedition Map, particularly when you're running enough land to hit your land drops reliably.
Demonspine Whip is underwhelming to me because there are better ways to give a creature firebreathing. If you're dying for that effect, try Homura, Human Ascendant, which should be easy to flip in a deck like this. It's oft-overlooked, and it's another creature to synergize with Conspiracy.
Fireshrieker is another card that I think would be better left out of the deck. If you really are set on the double strike, a better card to run would be Berserkers' Onslaught, a new rare from Dragons of Tarkir. Getting double strike for your whole team more than makes up for the loss of double strike on defense; if that's a deal breaker, you can pony up $1.50 more and pick up a copy of Rage Reflection, but I don't think that's strictly necessary. They both compare favorably to the true cost of Fireshrieker, which is going to be five mana if you're swinging, and seven mana if you're swinging and holding up some double strike on defense.
But do you really want double strike? Doubling up the damage of your creatures is a major way to speed up a game, and you've expressed a concern with running one of those Goblin decks that wins too quickly. That's why I didn't add either of those cards to the deck; you, of course, are free to make a different decision.
Skirk Prospector is a pretty clear inclusion. It's a sacrifice engine, which will be nice if you want to recur a Goblin when Wort, Boggart Auntie is in play. It also has the potential to ramp you in a pinch; I've seen it used in a Krenko, Mob Boss deck to particularly brutal effect.
Pyrewild Shaman is a bit more out there, but I think it earns its slot. The most immediate reason to include it is that it's a Goblin that recurs itself fairly easily, but it's also a fairly powerful combat trick. People don't play around combat tricks nearly as much as they should in Commander, and once they know you have it, they have to respect it since you can get it back in the same combat you use it.
I'll be honest… I don't totally understand the inclusion of some of these cards. Crazed Goblin is a Mons's Goblin Raiders with a drawback, Thick-Skinned Goblin is just pro-red since you're not running Goblin Marshal, the most expensive echoing Goblin, and Goblin Outlander is just pro-white. So, those three got cut fairly quickly.
Reckless One was a harder cut. In the end, I cut it because it lacked evasion. You're running two other versions of this effect, Horde of Boggarts and Battle Squadron. One has two-headed evasion, and the other actually flies. When you have Goblin Warchief or friends in play, those cards get better for their synergy, while Reckless one does not. You don't need a ton of Baneslayer Angel-type cards in your deck when you're just as likely to swarm out your opponents through tribal synergy.
Tuktuk the Explorer is interesting because it's half there for its sacrificial synergies. With cards like Goblin Bombardment and Skirk Prospector, in the right deck it might be enough to just run it for its ability to self-replace; I've run Mogg War Marshal in a fair number of Goblin decks for just that reason. But the body is not just a large Goblin, it's also a colorless artifact. Fear isn't unheard of in Commander, and protection from red and black are reasonably common. Having an out to those abilities seems worth running.
You're still in trouble if they drop Iona, Shield of Emeria, but when is that not true?
Guttersnipe was marginal in the initial list. I'm a fan of the card in the right deck, but even without my changes there were only eleven cards to trigger them. I think it would be more reasonable to run Lobber Crew in that spot since it at least triggers off your commander, but realistically that's probably a slot you can free up for something more interesting.
I've always been a little skeptical of the charms of Mogis, God of Slaughter, but that skepticism is magnified in Commander. Abyss effects are irritating to play against, but the two life is such a minor injury that they'll only be sacrificing a creature when it benefits them to do so… which will probably be often given how many Commander decks play from the graveyard.
Sulfuric Vortex is a dangerous card to run. I understand the appeal of a card that turns off your opponents' ability to gain life, but it's a much less threatening thing to see on a creature, which can usually be exiled, than on an enchantment, which is a permanent type impervious to entire colors. It's a lot less threatening on Erebos, God of the Dead, particularly when it's not the main reason to run the card. But Sulfuric Vortex sets the stage and makes it clear what type of game you're playing, and I don't think it's worth the relatively minor extra two damage per turn.
I dislike pure damage spells in Commander unless there's a specific synergy you're exploiting. For example, Rakdos, Lord of Riots turns direct damage spells into a weird type of ramp. In that deck, Breath of Malfegor might be reasonable. But you can't recur it with Wort, it's not a creature to synergize with Conspiracy, and it adds almost nothing to your deck. So it's a cut.
Goblin War Strike is a little more defensible due to its tribal implications, but I'm still not a huge fan of that type of effect. If I were, I think I'd be looking more at Foul-Tongue Shriek. They're very similar effects, only the non-tribal one represents a Lightning Helix, not just a Lava Spike.
I'm also not a huge fan of X spells outside of dedicated ramp decks. This is even true when the X spell is weirdly complicated, which they both are.
The damage sources I replaced them with make a bit more sense for your Conspiracy and your Wort. Lightning Crafter throws Lightning Bolts around and gets you a second enters-the-battlefield trigger off your Boggart Harbinger. Murderous Redcap does more damage when your anthems or lords are in play and can even be stacked with an effect like Ogre Battledriver. Stack those abilities accordingly.
Note that I am not a judge, nor a lawyer.
Or even a rules lawyer!
Finally there's Tar Pitcher. The Shock isn't a huge amount of damage, and if you want to double down on the direct damage angle, it would be reasonable to replace Tar Pitcher with Tymaret, the Murder King. I think having the ability to pick off morphs is going to be pretty relevant for the next few years before the morph craze dies down again and the marginal ones start creeping out of the format.
Editing the Board
I understand wanting to have a way to take out the enemy fliers without tearing up your board. I think I have a neat way to do that in the next session, but meanwhile, I feel like it's important to point out that a nine-mana spell isn't the best way to handle aggro from fliers. Any individual dragon is going to dome you for at least ten before you can play it out, and that's assuming you hit all your land drops. Or have Sol Ring, but I tend to not build assuming Sol Ring.
That's why I brought in Blasphemous Act. Yes, it's not one-sided, but again, it's a good way to slow down the game. So long as you slow roll the spell a bit, you'll probably be able to recast Wort, Boggart Auntie after you Blasphemous Act, and that head start should pay dividends down the line. Plague Wind is an Overrun, but if you're worried about being one of those fast Goblin decks, you definitely want a Wrath of God instead.
Arms Dealer should be pretty obvious. It's a sacrifice engine that can take out almost anything, all for the cost of one or two Goblins. I was so happy when they reprinted it in M13 since it exposed an entirely different generation of Magic players to one of the more ridiculous cards in a Goblin player's arsenal.
So here's my grand solution to your fliers problem: Chaosphere. A) No one will expect this, which is more than enough to make up for the inconvenience of having to pay attention to enchant world cards. B) Not only does it allow you to snag fliers on defense, but it gives all your ground-pounders Gnat Alley Creeper-style evasion. That's pretty cool for a red enchantment from Mirage!
Goblin Rimerunner seemed a little passive since you're playing a Goblins deck, and it seems like you want to turn your Falter creature sideways. That's why I brought in new dash common Goblin Heelcutter. I think it's reasonable to go either way on which of these is the better card, but clearly my preference is for the newer one.
Pyreheart Wolf is another version of Goblin War Drums, but on a creature. This will be good since you're running a Conspiracy tribal deck, but it's also a better version of this effect than some of the other cards you're running (like Caterwauling Boggart, as these effects are not cumulative).
But War Cadence is in because it's the grossest pseudo-evasion for a swarm deck: reverse Propaganda! The best part is that with Goblin War Drums you don't have to activate this for all that much to just ruin your opponents' blocks. And again, since it's sitting around on the board, your opponents need to respect it, which means slowing their game down while they try to hold up enough mana to make it seem inadvisable to attack them.
Pump You Up
Anthem of Rakdos is a very suicidal card. It's not symmetrical, which is a major boon as far as I'm concerned; I'll back Furnace of Rath effects when they get rid of commander damage, thank you. But Anthem of Rakdos does two damage to you every time you attack hellbent. Best case scenario, this is providing pseudo-double strike, which speeds up the game a tremendous amount; worst case scenario, this card locks you out of attacking in the tail end of a race because to do so would be to auto-terminate.
Instead, play something like Quest for the Goblin Lord. Dropped early it won't take long to trigger, and there aren't a tremendous number of one-drops competing with it for the all-too-rare turn 1 play. Plus, once it does rack, it applies to your whole team on attack or defense. It's a card that gets better as the game goes long, while Anthem of Rakdos gets worse.
Draw Some Cards
When making a deck, it's rare that the most expensive card I add is a Standard rare, but here we are. Outpost Siege is just too good a card to skip. It fixes two weaknesses of this archetype: It's a draw engine in the earlygame, and it's a better Boggart Shenanigans in the lategame. This means it's always going to be live, and it should always swing the game a little bit in your favor when you drop it.
It's also only $3. That should give you a sense of the scale I've been working on.
Goblin Ringleader is one of those cards that's really good when you have Conspiracy in play. With 49 creatures, it's probably going to hit at least two when it enters the battlefield, and even without Conspiracy, at least one of those should be a Goblin. Since you can get it back with Wort, Boggart Auntie, this card advantage adds up fast.
Brass Herald is what happens when you weld a Goblin Ringleader to an Adaptive Automaton (which was a little too pricey for the microbudget, but it is otherwise definitely worth considering). You can't recur it with Wort, Goblin Auntie unless you're actively engaged in a Conspiracy, but it has the minor ability to pump itself when it is a Goblin.
Finally, there's Sensation Gorger. It's another card that gets better with Conspiracy, although I think it's a defensible choice even when you've only got around 40 Goblins in your deck. Since Wort, Boggart Auntie is your commander, you have a little less to fear from dumping your hand, and a weak Wheel of Fortune can do a lot to screw over the Azami, Lady of Scrolls players with the Reliquary Tower in play. Plus, as a may effect you never have to pull the trigger if it's not to your benefit to do so. That seems pretty cool to me.
Plus, look at that crazy sensation addict! It has a skunk for a hat!
Take One for the Team
Skirk Drill Sergeant doesn't quite belong here, but it doesn't quite belong anywhere else, and it's definitely a stronger ability when you're controlling the death triggers. Like Sensation Gorger, it's going to have a solid hit rate even without Conspiracy, but it gets a lot better if you've got that card in play as well. If you're interested in combos, you can pair it with Ashnod's Altar and Goblin Recruiter, which is inexplicably legal in Commander. I'm not a huge fan of that type of interaction myself, which is why I kept it out of the deck, but neither of those cards are particularly expensive.
Weirding Shaman is supposed to be the Goblin performing Warren Weirding rituals for your team. The purple stripe is the same as the Warren Weirding cut mark, you see? Crazy! The rate's not amazing, but it's better than Goblin Warrens, and it's a Goblin creature to boot. Great when you have Boggart Shenanigans or Outpost Siege in play, defensible otherwise.
Finally, there's Clickslither. Compare Clickslither to Reckless One. Superficially they're both big hasty things that come down and hit your opponent for a lot of damage, but Clickslither is a much better card. It allows you to get rid of goblins you want to reuse, it threatens being much bigger than it seems to be, and it has trample. Reckless One just has haste. It's even better if you have Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx in play, but that seemed like a pricey addition (if worth it).
If Empty the Warrens were an instant, I think it would be more playable in Commander. While this deck is not going to be a Storm deck, and thus it will be difficult to get more than four bodies off this card, if it were an instant, you could piggyback on a big turn for one of your opponents and storm away. But it's not. You either need to be casting a bunch of spells on your own turn or you need to prompt your opponents to do so, and neither one seems like it's all that good for you. If you want a four-mana token generator, choose Beetleback Chief. It's a card you can recur with Wort, or flip off Skirk Drill Sergeant, and the four power over three is basically on par with the most reasonable expectations you can have for Empty the Warrens. Plus, it's a much better topdeck, which isn't hard, because Empty the Warrens is a particularly terrible top deck when you're out of gas.
Goblin Offensive is another expensive card for what you end up getting. For example, seven mana for Goblin Offensive gets you four Goblins; seven mana can also get you a Chancellor of the Forge, which itself promises at least six power for that seven mana, and potentially significantly more. As a non-Goblin creature it interacts favorably with Conspiracy, which is important; since Conspiracy does nothing on its own, it really needs to work with enough cards to merit its inclusion, while keeping you from overloading your deck with non-tribal cards that weaken your synergies when Conspiracy isn't in play. It's a fine line to walk, and a giant that spits out goblins is definitely on the right side of that line.
Finally, there's Goblinslide. Goblinslide was like Guttersnipe, in that I can see it being good in the right deck, but this was not that deck. I think there's potential for an all-spells Narset, Enlightened Master deck that makes great use of Goblinslide; it would probably include Jeskai Ascendancy, Cathars' Crusade, and the Dragon Fodder-style token spells. That would be a deck for Empty the Warrens, that's for sure. In its place, I put in Boggart Mob. Not only is champion a generally strong ability in tribal decks since it gives you a slight degree of Wrath of God immunity and lets you reuse a Mulldrifter, but this is a token maker that rewards you for swinging with creatures.
- 1 Brass Herald
- 1 Arms Dealer
- 1 Auntie's Snitch
- 1 Battle Squadron
- 1 Beetleback Chief
- 1 Bloodmark Mentor
- 1 Boggart Harbinger
- 1 Boggart Mob
- 1 Caterwauling Boggart
- 1 Chancellor of the Forge
- 1 Clickslither
- 1 Gempalm Incinerator
- 1 Goblin Battle Jester
- 1 Goblin Chieftain
- 1 Goblin Heelcutter
- 1 Goblin King
- 1 Goblin Piledriver
- 1 Goblin Rabblemaster
- 1 Goblin Ringleader
- 1 Goblin Sharpshooter
- 1 Goblin Warchief
- 1 Horde of Boggarts
- 1 Ignition Team
- 1 Knucklebone Witch
- 1 Legion Loyalist
- 1 Lightning Crafter
- 1 Mad Auntie
- 1 Murderous Redcap
- 1 Ogre Battledriver
- 1 Pyreheart Wolf
- 1 Pyrewild Shaman
- 1 Sensation Gorger
- 1 Siege-Gang Commander
- 1 Skirk Drill Sergeant
- 1 Skirk Fire Marshal
- 1 Skirk Prospector
- 1 Stingscourger
- 1 Tar Pitcher
- 1 Voracious Dragon
- 1 Weirding Shaman
- 1 Grenzo, Dungeon Warden
- 1 Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician
- 1 Krenko, Mob Boss
- 1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
- 1 Tuktuk the Explorer
- 1 Wort, Boggart Auntie
- 1 Erebos, God of the Dead
- 1 Purphoros, God of the Forge
- 15 Snow-Covered Mountain
- 4 Snow-Covered Swamp
- 1 Auntie's Hovel
- 1 Badlands
- 1 Blackcleave Cliffs
- 1 Blood Crypt
- 1 Bloodstained Mire
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Dragonskull Summit
- 1 Ghost Quarter
- 1 Goblin Burrows
- 1 Graven Cairns
- 1 Myriad Landscape
- 1 Opal Palace
- 1 Rakdos Carnarium
- 1 Rogue's Passage
- 1 Shadowblood Ridge
- 1 Sulfurous Springs
- 1 Temple of the False God
- 1 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
As you can see, the deck still contains a large number of creatures while upping the draw and the interaction at the expense of some of the larger bodies. Total price of this upgrade? $18.58, plus shipping. Pretty sweet, considering that you get a $20 store credit for your submission to Dear Azami (which all readers should consider doing, the email address is DearAzami at gmail dot com). Of course, if you still have money to spend, you can flesh out the order with some of the alternate suggestions I included above, plus tribal Goblin staples like Goblin Lackey, Goblin Matron, and Warren Instigator.
There's nothing wrong with spending a little money on a deck so long as what you end up with leaves plenty of room for everyone to have a good time.
That's it for this week's Dear Azami content. I hope you like what I did with your deck, and I hope that more people will submit to DearAzami at gmail dot com. It's a pretty good time to submit, so if you're dying for feedback, send us your list!
While I can't say that I quite live for this stuff, I do enjoy it a great deal, and I hope you do too.
Want to submit a deck for consideration to Dear Azami? We're always accepting deck submissions to consider for use in a future article. Only one deck submission will be chosen per article, but being selected for the next edition of Dear Azami includes not just deck advice but also a $20 coupon to StarCityGames.com!
Email us a deck submission using DearAzami at gmail dot com!
Like what you've seen? Feel free to explore more of Dear Azami here, in the Article Archives! And feel free to check Jess's own Command of Etiquette column on Hipsters of the Coast, for more Commander and casual content. Now on Thursdays!
Like what you've seen? Feel free to explore more of Dear Azami here, in the Article Archives! And feel free to check Jess's own Command of Etiquette column on Hipsters of the Coast, for more Commander and casual content. Now on Thursdays!