Goblins are surprisingly industrious.
We mostly just think of them blowing each other up and making poop jokes , but they've actually got a lot going on. Sure, Elves get to make tons of mana and look nice, Dragons get to breathe fire and stuff, and Eldrazi get to do... whatever it is that they do, I suppose, but is there a creature type in Magic more capable and resourceful than the humble Goblin? Just think about all the jobs they've had in the first quarter century of Magic's history:
Need to be lead into battle?
Broke your cool gadget?
Screaming kids got you down?
Looking to a hire a good Goblin?
It honestly never ends. Just imagine any profession and there's a Goblin out there ready, willing, and able to do it:
It gets to a point where you wonder if there's any job a Goblin won't do.
But through it all, there aren't a ton of leaders in the Goblin ranks. Sure, there's Goblin King, but kings get dethroned and beheaded all the time. Goblin General? There's always a higher rank. Wort, Boggart Auntie? Well, I honestly don't know why being an aunt has any leadership importance, but I can't imagine it's that relevant. All of the leadership positions in Goblinhood seem tenuous at best.
That is of course, until now.
The truth is it's good to be the boss.
Legion Warboss is our newest entry into the Goblin workforce from Guilds of Ravnica and boy is it a good one. While previewed as a showcase of the new Boros mechanic, mentor, the seemingly made-for-Limited mechanic is just the surface of this very powerful card. The ability to create tokens each turn has had quite the hallmark for competitive play, but clearly one doesn't need to look too far into the past to find the benchmark for Legion Warboss.
You can't discuss Legion Warboss without talking about Goblin Rabblemaster, one of the most played cards in Standard when it was legal, because the two cards are extremely similar. Goblin Rabblemaster not only saw a ton of play in Standard, but it has also shown up at times in both Modern and Legacy as well as an extremely powerful singular red threat.
This, of course, bodes well for Legion Warboss, but there are some differences. First, the bad stuff.
Con: Goblin Rabblemaster Kills Faster
For a three-mana creature, Goblin Rabblemaster is an astoundingly fast clock. It deals one damage the first turn it's on the battlefield, six the following turn, then eight, and then (if necessary) ten.
This is very often why it sees play in older formats, especially Legacy with its Ancient Tombs and City of Traitors. Blood Moon decks in Legacy are always looking for fast kills, and while turn 1 Goblin Rabblemaster isn't quite turn 1 Blood Moon, it does kill very fast. In Modern, Goblin Rabblemaster has mostly been seen in Mardu or Jund decks looking for a way to close out games quickly after an early flurry of discard spells have put their opponent off balance.
Legion Warboss isn't too far behind that, attacking for one, then five, then seven, then nine, but in terms of pure speed, Goblin Rabblemaster wins the race. Adding a second copy of Goblin Rabblemaster to the equation also leads to an even bigger damage disparity compared to a second Legion Warboss. Lastly, Goblin Rabblemaster also does a better job of attacking into one large blocker, as a 5/2 and three 1/1s attacks better into a 4/5 Tarmogoyf than three 2/2s and a 1/1.
However, that's about the extent of the Goblin Rabblemaster comparison, because it's all upside otherwise.
Pro: You Don't Need to Suicide All Your Goblins
This is perhaps the biggest and best upgrade over Goblin Rabblemaster, as Legion Warboss comes with no downside and plays very well with other Goblins.
Given Goblin Rabblemaster's power level, I've often been asked if it had a place in Legacy Goblins. The problem is that it's really easy to understate how big a drawback "you must attack with all of your creatures each turn" is. Goblins are not the biggest creatures while also usually being a part of "critical mass" strategies. You want to get a lot of Goblins on the battlefield and then use them all do synergy-based things like cycle Gempalm Incinerator or play a Volley Veteran, which may also include making a strategic chump block here or there to get you to that point in the game. It's not hard to see that being forced to shove all of your small creatures into the red zone mindlessly each turn isn't going to achieve those goals.
The truth is despite being half of a Goblin Piledriver, Goblin Rabblemaster played awfully with other Goblins- the drawback was just too devastating. Legion Warboss contains almost all of the upside while also removing that backbreaking drawback, posing it to be one of the most important cards in the new Standard format. In fact, Legion Warboss is actively good in a deck with lots of other Goblins and Goblin synergies.
Plays Well With Others
The biggest and most important of these are Siege-Gang Commander and Volley Veteran, both of which provide you with a great payoff for putting lots of Goblins in your deck while also giving you the removal necessary in any Standard format. The biggest problem that tribal and synergy decks often have is that every Lightning Strike or Shock in your deck is one less synergy card for the rest of your deck to function. By getting to play synergy cards that also act as removal spells, we get to keep our Goblin count high while also being able to interact. Adding Goblin Chainwhirler to the mix offers us an impressive Goblin removal suite.
The problem with the Goblin decks I tried pre-Guilds of Ravnica was there just simply weren't enough playable Goblins! However, Legion Warboss puts us well on the path to actually having enough good Goblins to fill out a decklist. Legion Warboss is exactly what a tribal deck wants- an individually powerful card that's also prolific in its synergy. Every Goblin token that Legion Warboss makes is another damage for Volley Veteran, more fodder for Siege-Gang Commander, and more material for other future synergies in Guilds of Ravnica (we can hope). Legion Warboss also plays very well turn 2 off of Skirk Prospector, as you can gain the 1/1 right back immediately and the non-red decks in the format will struggle to answer Legion Warboss so early.
In fact, with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria poised to be one of the best cards in the format and U/W Control not losing much, it's very relevant that Legion Warboss can play around Seal Away and Settle the Wreckage with ease.
The hope is that Guilds of Ravnica can give us some help in the one- and two-drop department, but there's definitely a solid core of cards coming together around Legion Warboss. Between Fanatical Firebrand, Goblin Chainwhirler, Volley Veteran, and Siege-Gang Commander, this deck does a number on other creature decks, while Legion Warboss and Siege-Gang Command help against the format's slower decks.
Conclave Tribunal is another sweet card to watch for as it has various excellent applications in any deck with a lot of creatures like this. It's not there yet, but we've got almost a whole new set to go.
Still Singularly Threatening
Of course, just because we can pair Legion Warboss with other Goblins doesn't mean we have to pair it with other Goblins.
- 2 Ashcloud Phoenix
- 4 Deathmist Raptor
- 2 Den Protector
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Goblin Rabblemaster
- 4 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 4 Thunderbreak Regent
While we don't have much historical context of Goblin Rabblemaster in any sort of Goblin tribal decks, we have tons of context for playing it on turn 2 and going to town with a bunch of removal and other great creatures. What's that you say? We actually have Elvish Mystic in Standard? As well as some other powerful monsters like Rekindling Phoenix? Hell, red has been the best color for aggressively slanted midrange threats for well over a year!
Of course, the problem here is twofold.
First off, almost all the great red cards we've been playing for what feels like forever are finally leaving us. No more Glorybringer, no more Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Only Rekindling Phoenix and Goblin Chainwhirler remain, and playing Llanowar Elves and Goblin Chainwhirler in the same deck sounds mighty ambitious. However, there's an even bigger issue.
We don't get Gruul yet!
Gruul is not one of the five guilds in Guilds of Ravnica, meaning that we will not have Stomping Grounds to help fix our mana, nor any support at all from the multicolored cards of the set. Historically the multicolored cards are some of the best in each Ravnica-based set, meaning that G/R Monster dreams may just have to wait for now.
Of course, we do get both Boros and Izzet...
While there's no Azorius to complete the full wedge, the aggressive leanings of both Boros and Izzet serve to complement Legion Warboss better anyway. Goblin Rabblemaster was an unbelievable threat in these Jeskai decks, providing a fast clock and token-based card advantage while you fired off removal spell after removal spell to clear the way. Shock and Lightning Strike are both still very legal, and it wouldn't take that many cool Wizards to make Wizard's Lightning an option as well.
It's hard to sketch out what a neo-Jeskai tempo deck would look like without seeing all the awesome Boros and Izzet goodies we get from Guilds of Ravnica, but there's some serious potential there.
No matter where it ends up, it's very clear that Legion Warboss is the real deal. There's just too much raw power in the card for it to fail, so the only question is exactly what to do with it. Like Goblin Rabblemaster, Legion Warboss is going to be a format-defining card, likely across multiple decks across the duration of the format.
Given the somewhat obvious Goblin plants in Core Set 2019 into a format with almost zero support for the tribe otherwise, I think it's safe to assume there are some more Goblins down the Guilds of Ravnica pipeline. I know I'll be checking the previews as often as I can for them. Will you?