Look, I swear it's not about Chainy Boy…
...like, not entirely anyway. Red's just, like, you know, a really nice color. It's got real short wavelengths, helps keep rainbows in life, lets you know when to stop at intersections. It's just a real swell color all the way around.
That said , Goblin Chainwhirler is a Goblin, and it just so happens that Core Set 2019 contains a lot of Goblins and a Goblin "lord," of sorts.
Okay, so admittedly, this isn't the most breathtaking rate for a tribal lord. These days, there's a surprising number of 2/2s for two that give +1/+1, and a 2/2 for three that gives +1/+1 needs to have another really good ability to excite us. A 3/3 for four is substantially weaker than a 2/2 for three most of the time, and with competition like Hazoret the Fervent, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Rekindling Phoenix, and Karn, Scion of Urza, the bar is pretty high.
...Which brings up a good point: Goblin Trashmaster's ability is also good with God-Pharaoh's Gift. After all, it is another zero-cost sacrifice outlet that helps fill your graveyard.
What if they don't have any artifacts?
Glad you asked! Let's say you've got a Gate to the Afterlife and four creatures in your graveyard. You can actually sacrifice two Goblins, targeting Gate to the Afterlife both times. Then, with both Goblins now in the graveyard, respond to their abilities by paying two and sacrificing Gate to the Afterlife to go get God-Pharaoh's Gift!
Goblin Instigator is mostly a small upgrade to frequent Standard role-player Dragon Fodder. The main advantage is that one of the 1/1s being attached to an actual card means one more creature in the graveyard for Gate to the Afterlife and a little less vulnerability to bounce or cards that care about the names of your tokens (such as Bile Blight type effects, should anything like that enter Standard).
Having two small bodies for one card is great whenever you can trade them up. Siege-Gang Commander costs a lot to operate, but it can obviously put them to use sometimes. Goblin Trashmaster is very efficient at turning them into artifact destruction. The Core Set 2019 card that really jumps out at me, however, for sacrificing Goblins, is Dark-Dweller Oracle.
Dark-Dweller Oracle being a halfway respectable body (2/2 for two) helps hide the true power of this ability. For starters, let's consider how DDO performs when we're flooded. Now we can trade a token and a mana for a card. If we've got enough mana to play anything in our deck, we're rolling. Unlike Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Vance's Blasting Cannons, we can play lands off Dark-Dweller Oracle, so we're not skipping that 40% of the cards.
What if we're short on mana? Well, ideally, we're using what mana we have to play something. However, if we've got nothing able to advance the battlefield a meaningful amount, sacrificing a Goblin token for a 40%+ shot at land can be a really good deal because even when we miss, we're effectively getting a scry 1. Remember, the top card of your deck is definitely either the land you need or not the land you need. If it's the land you need, great! If it's not, you were definitely not going to draw the land you needed next turn, and now you have increased your odds from 0% to 40%+. What's more, if you miss and have more Goblins, you can try again.
Now, what if we're in a jam? We've got mana, but our opponent is developing a pretty strong battlefield? If we don't have the tools we need, maybe we go looking for them with DDO. If the top card isn't going to help us enough, we don't have to actually cast it. We can just go deeper, playing to our outs. If we need an Abrade, we need an Abrade, for instance.
Finally, DDO's ability can be played at instant speed, so there are going to be times and places where we can use it to disrupt our opponent's game plan. For instance, if they try to Vraska's Contempt one of your creatures, sacrificing it will deny them the two life, even if you can't play the card you exile.
One of the biggest challenges to this entire approach, however, is Goblin Chainwhirler's own effectiveness and ubiquity. When everyone is able to sweep the battlefield of one-toughness creatures effortlessly on turn three, it makes it hard to want to invest in Skirk Prospector, Fanatical Firebrand, Goblin Instigator, Combat Celebrant, Siege-Gang Commander, and the like.
That's also kind of the biggest problem with Lightning Mare.
Lightning Mare would be absurd in a lot of formats. It hits hard to start with, hits like a truck when it wants, and is even uncounterable and has limited evasion…
It'll have its spots, of course. For instance:
It's just not clear how much we're going to want to be exposed to Chainwhirlers maindeck. That said, the card has a lot of appeal as a sideboard option for decks without small creatures. Once they don't have Fatal Push or Chainwhirler, Lightning Mare is one of the best two-drops you could ask for.
What about going harder on Goblins? More Trashmasters means more ways to invalidate Goblin Chainwhirler, right?
I don't think I'd use the word "invalidate," but yeah, I mean, I guess it'd help a little. You sure are setting yourself up to have your four-drop killed by a Lightning Strike or Abrade, though. What are you trying to do? Like, are we talking something along these lines?
Are we really beating other red decks? It's not just stuff like Hazoret, which is traditionally good against red decks. After all, we're not exactly bad at chump blocking. I'm just not sure we're really getting enough out of playing all these Goblins instead of the Bomat Couriers, Scrapheap Scroungers, Rekindling Phoenix, and Glorybringers that we could be playing.
It is not this guy's fault, though, just to be clear. They know what they're doing. They made this a 4/2 to help really drive home the message. Play Goblins and you'll be rewarded with Flametongue Kavus. Of course, it's not always a given that you'll have enough Goblins (particularly with Chainwhirler running around), but this is at least a respectable contributor to a dedicated or somewhat dedicated tribal deck. Even the God-Pharaoh's Gift deck above could probably make excellent use of a couple Volley Veterans out of the sideboard.
While Goblins may be worth a look, it's the Dragon tribe that I'm more interested in out of Core Set 2019. Sarkhan, Fireblood is a really interesting new Planeswalker that could be used in a more straightforward red deck, but if Glorybringer is your only Dragon, you're not going to be getting nearly as much as the card would provide a more dedicated list.
Sarkhan's +1 that adds two mana is extremely strong when you've actually got a Dragon to make good use of it, making it sort of a Garruk Wildspeaker for three mana, instead of four. It can actually be even better, however, when you're trying to cast multicolored Dragons, like Nicol Bolas, the Ravager.
Sarkhan's top +1 is kind of a nice fallback, giving you a way to keep making progress, but it has more to do with Dragons than may be visible at first blush.
Spit Flame is fairly efficient interaction and quite flexible. Even if you never rebuy it, you're not necessarily doing too badly. However, the ability to rebuy it for one mana each time you play a Dragon means your Dragons are now leading to card advantage.
Having a repeatable source of damage against creatures with four toughness or less is going to be great against some decks, but Spit Flame can also have some interesting potential against control decks when combined with Sarkhan. Now, you can discard Spit Flame to draw a new card, using Sarkhan's top ability. Then, drop whatever Dragon and pick the Spit Flame back up. This effectively turns Sarkhan's "loot" ability into a "tome," drawing an extra card every turn.
Tormenting Voice is obviously not repeatable the way Sarkhan is, but it is another way to put Spit Fire to good use. Tormenting Voice is a solid role-player in its own right, but with Spit Fire, you can turn it into a Divination when you want, and you even get to pay the third mana later.
Finally, Sarkhan's ultimate doesn't represent the deadliest threat ever, but twenty power worth of fliers across four bodies is still a big game, and since both abilities tick Sarkhan's loyalty up, the +7 isn't that far away for a three-drop.
What might a dedicated Sarkhan deck look like?
Well, if we want to go hard while staying mono-red, we might try something along the lines of:
What happened to not being about Goblin Chainwhirler?
Sarkhan really puts Verix Bladewing in a new light. It's not like a 4/4 for four is a terrible deal, but Sarkhan is absolutely excellent at getting us the mana we need to kick it and get ourselves a second Dragon.
Demanding Dragon is kind of a 5/5 flier with haste, but with the drawback that they can sacrifice any creature they want to "chump block" the first time. However, where it really shines is when facing an opponent with all removal instead of creatures. While most hasty fliers would get hit by whatever removal spell, Demanding Dragon does five on the way in. It's likely to be overshadowed by Glorybringer, but I'd guess it's more likely that we'll just want more Demanding Dragons, rather than play Lathliss, Dragon Queen.
Of course, I still want to try one, because she's not without merit, especially with Sarkhan curving into her so perfectly. She's just about as "win more" as they come since she basically rewards you for playing another Dragon after you untap with a six-drop. Nevertheless, she sure breaks the game open if she lives, and she's not small.
Dragon's Hoard is another accelerator for helping us play like a ramp deck, with the added benefit of better card draw than most red decks usually get. A turn three Dragon Hoard means Glorybringer or Demanding Dragon ahead of schedule, and now we're effectively up a card once we "pay" the mana of tapping the Dragon Hoard to cash in the gold. Remember, Verix and Karox both count, bringing two cards worth of gold.
Dragon's Hoard is vulnerable to Abrade, but if we tap it for mana the turn we play it, we're not necessarily getting the worst of it. This makes cards like Shock and Fatal Push particularly appealing. This brings up another interesting feature: Dragon's Hoard producing mana of any color, Sarkhan producing mana of any color for Dragons, and Unclaimed Territory naming Dragon means there's actually a ton of support for any color of Dragon deck you want.
For instance, what about something like:
- 1 Demanding Dragon
- 4 Glorybringer
- 4 Goblin Chainwhirler
- 1 Darigaaz Reincarnated
- 4 Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
- 1 Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner
- 3 Verix Bladewing
Despite being able to Goblin Chainwhirler, we've got sixteen sources of blue and green for Dragons, and even more black and blue. Maybe this list is going too far in the ramp direction, but there's a lot of appeal to a two-cost accelerator, especially when it solves most color problems we could possibly have.
Pillar of Origins lets us curve into Verix or Nicol Bolas on turn three, but even if we draw it later or need to play it off-curve, it not entering the battlefield tapped means we can play it and then tap it immediately for mana to be more mana efficient.
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager is seriously hardcore. For starters, a legendary 4/4 flying Dragon for four isn't embarrassing, but then getting to make them discard a card and we've already got our money's worth. However, that's not the end of the story with Nicol Bolas. Our 4/4 is even a must-kill threat, or else we can pay seven to flip him into Nicol Bolas, the Arisen, a Planeswalker worth a helluva lot more than seven (which is why we need extra black and blue mana, since some of our fixers can't be used to pay the activation cost).
Okay, to start with, +2 to draw two cards on a seven loyalty planeswalker? That's a lot of pressure on our opponent to answer him quickly. As if six extra cards wasn't enough, his -12 means they better win the game next turn.
As for impacting the battlefield, -3 to deal ten damage to a creature or planeswalker means Nicol Bolas is pretty reliable for being top of the food chain. And as if these three abilities weren't enough, Nicol Bolas has that -4, letting him reanimate your choice of creature or Planeswalker from either players' graveyard. We don't have to contort our deck to make this a powerful way to ensure we have a battlefield capable of maintaining the lead even if our opponent finds an answer to Bolas.
Of course, if we do want to contort our deck, there's a lot of overlap in incentives with Yawgmoth's Vile Offering. Besides, Nicol Bolas is an excellent legend for helping up the legend count. He's also a powerful creature to get back with Yawgmoth's Vile Offering later, quickly morphing from a four-drop into the biggest game in the format.
Sarkhan, Fireblood and Nicol Bolas really increase the amount of cheap, attractive legendary permanents, of course, and they obviously work great together. Sarkhan is also such a good discard outlet, we've got reason to revisit a more "all-in" approach with threats like Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh.
Turn 2: Baral, Chief of Compliance
Turn 4: Yawgmoth's Vile Offering getting their best permanent and returning Nicol Bolas… sign the match slip.
Chandra is also a fine backup plan for casting the God-Pharaoh while also being an excellent Yawgmoth's Vile Offering enabler. She also can help us power out Karn's Temporal Sundering ahead of schedule, which can be an accelerator itself.
Imagine if we have a Nicol Bolas, the Ravager and our opponent is thinking they'll be able to kill it before we hit seven. If we Karn's Temporal Sundering on six, we can take an extra turn and go straight into seven, flipping Bolas a turn ahead of schedule. We even get to bounce something of theirs (which can be sweet with Nicol Bolas, the Ravager himself sometimes).
Karn's Temporal Sundering does put some pressure on our manabase. If we wanted to make things a little more consistent, we could give it up for more early game interaction. Spit Flame might be an attractive option, particularly if we end up making room for some Glorybringers. We might also want to look at something like Never to give us more diverse interaction; however, Yawgmoth's Vile Offering is often going to do a lot of that kind of work, for us.
Supreme Will, Essence Scatter, and Negate might also be worth considering in small numbers (get that Baral value!), though we might just be better served to find more proactive cheap legends, like Pia Nalaar and Gonti, Lord of Luxury.
Depending on what direction we go with the reanimator package, a Scarab God or two might be just what Yawgmoth ordered. It can't reanimate the God-Pharaoh, of course, but if we move towards more Dragons or even just something like Razaketh, the Foulblooded or Zacama, Primal Calamity, we could also look at Liliana, Death's Majesty.
Once we go down this path, every durable legendary creature and planeswalker that costs four or less gains a lot of value. Gonti and Pia are deceptively good for enabling Yawgmoth's Vile Offering, given that they give you value even if they're killed. Karn is quite durable, and Baral is nice for dropping on turn six, then Offering immediately. Palladia-Mors can be an attractive way to power legendary sorceries, but even Verix Bladewing might work for our purposes...