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    [Deck] Vial Goblins

    Vial Goblins Primer

    (Join us on our Discord server!)



    0. Update notes

    23:23 1/24/2019
    * Thanks to the user GoblinLackey1: For having some information about the Grixis Control and Depths Matchups, along with the black splash in general.
    * Added GoblinLackey1’s Goblins Match-Up Percentages and performances into Goblin Related Literature.
    * Thanks to the discord user Dataspot: Noted a ruling mentioned in the primer that is no longer accurate.
    * Separated Cratermaker and Trashman into their own categories in Shatter Goblins.
    * Added a Stig on Rishadan Port and Wasteland.

    03:14 10/11/2018
    * Added a banner to lighten up the initial impact of the primer.
    * Cleaning up wording all around.
    * Added some to be tested cards.

    18:19 10/10/2018
    * Typos.

    I. Introduction
    a) History
    b) Strategy
    c) Why should I play Goblins?
    II. Maindeck
    a) Mana
    b) The Core
    c) Staples
    d) The Finisher Goblins
    III. The Two Faces of Vial-Goblins
    a) The Classic Goblin Deck
    b) The Winstigator List
    IV. Matchups & Strategy
    a) Matchups
    b) Sideboarding
    V. Outside the Box
    a) Already tested, bad card choices
    b) To Be Tested Cards
    c) Tested, Niche Potential
    VI. Literature
    a) Goblin Related
    b) Legacy Related
    c) General Magic Theory
    VII. Final Addendum


    I. Introduction

    a) History
    Here is a brief outline of the deck's development.
    Vial Goblins exists since the very beginning of the format Legacy. It came to life with the printing of Goblin Warchief, Goblin Piledriver, Siege-Gang Commander, Goblin Sharpshooter and Gempalm Incinerator – all of which were included in the Onslaught block. Later, AEther Vial was released which made the deck one of the most dominant decks in the format. The deck gradually lost it's dominant position with the power-creep that creatures since the Ravnica block are experiencing. In 2011 with the release of Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull the deck was once again said to be "dead". Goblins faced the problem that any creature-based strategy was more efficient: while Goblins always relied on their synergistic abilities to spam high CMC creatures like Goblin Ringleader and Siege-Gang Commander, other creature-based strategies were able to just play with any combination of cards that were strong in their own rights while having very low mana costs.
    However, people didn't lose interest in Goblins. Less than one year later (spring of 2012) some players were coming up with innovative deck lists and strategies to compete in the meta. Then, in May 2012 we were blessed with the printing of Cavern of Souls which initiated a come back for Vial Goblins. It had a tenuous lifespan though, as Deathrite Shaman made more decks play fair, but mostly at a disadvantage to itself, the whole while Sensei's Divining Top Miracles was dominant. We were in a 50-50 meta, beating Miracles and losing consistency to the shaman. As it turns out both of those cards were deemed unreasonable and were banned. Goblins is about to spring forth once again in 2018.

    Additionally this thread itself has some history.
    The First Thread.
    The Second Thread.

    b) Strategy
    So what do Goblins do? Goblins have two major strategies: (1) beating our opponents as fast as possible. and (2) grinding out games to win in late game via card- (and board-) advantage. The first strategy is made possible by a combination of Goblin Lackey, Warren Instigator, and Goblin Piledriver, while the latter strategy makes use of the huge card-advantage which the deck can create with cards like Goblin Matron, Goblin Ringleader and Mogg War Marshal. Which strategy to use is highly dependent from the matchup and the meta – oftentimes you will find yourself using a mixture of both roles even in the same game.

    c) Why should I play Goblins?
    Most of all, you should play goblins when you are looking for a deck that can beat control decks on a regular basis. In this sense Vial Goblins is a meta deck. You will realize that there are goblin-friendly metas and goblin-hostile metas. Goblins rewards knowledge of the metagame because the deck has a relatively large number of playable cards in the MD as well as in the SB that you can or cannot use to tune your deck for the metagame you are expecting. Goblins is also a deck with many faces: there is not ONE, but at least TWO "stock-lists" all of which have a different strategy and perform differently against the field. This makes it hard for your opponents to get a good grasp on the deck. Next, Goblins is a very old deck and many newer players won't know how to play against it. The deck has a lot of play to it. It is very easy to play the deck wrong, but many of these less than perfect lines can lead to game win. It's similar to Affinity in Modern in this regard, but these decisions come in the mid-game instead of the early game. That is not to say that the deck is so strong that it will beat many decks while your brain is on 'standby-mode'. Furthermore there is a ton of decisions to be made during the deck building process, and they matter as much as your game play. As I said, there are plenty of 'playable' cards, but it is essential that your card choices really fit the metagame requirements. This will come back at you when you have to decide whether to play, let's say, Goblin Chieftain or Goblin Warchief. The devil is in the details. So, you should also play Goblins if you are willing to invest some time in working out the details of the deck (the first step has been set once you fought yourself through this deck primer).

    If you enjoy a Midrange strategy that is a bit on the lean side, that has acceptable control AND combo elements to it, this deck is for you.


    II. The Maindeck

    a) Mana



    Let's talk about mana first. Goblins is a very mana hungry deck which needs to be provided with lands in the first three turns to ensure a fast and solid start. The high mana costs of cards like Goblin Ringleader and mana consuming abilities like those of Rishadan Port "force" us to play a number of mana sources: 22-24. (Note that successful attempts have been made to run 20 or 21 mana sources. However those cases are rare and usually only run smoothly in well balanced decklists. So for starters I'd advise to run 23 actual lands.

    Mana-denial is an important part of Goblins' gameplan. So what do we do when we are flooding? We attempt to cause our opponent to drought, or screw. This is why a playset of Wastelands + X Rishadan Ports find their way into most Goblin lists.

    Wasteland simply put is one of the strongest tempo cards in the format. Since decks often run 0-2 basic lands it usually simply acts as Strip Mine, a card not legal in Legacy, and sets your opponent back. You generally should not Wasteland when you are behind early as the mana advantage is important, but it does allow plays such as tagging the opponents only non-basic Island to play around Daze, or simply to stop them from playing the game at all if they don't have more mana sources in hand. Wasteland should be seen as a mana producing spell, and keeping your opening hand often involves making sure you can still play the game after using Wasteland, or worse, getting hit by one.

    Rishadan Port is a really powerful way to mana deny your opponents without losing your land ala Wasteland. It is the best turn 2 the deck has access to sans builds than run Warren Instigator, and using it properly involves a lot of match-up experience and practice.

    Generally you use Port during your opponent's upkeep, to prevent them from having mana on their main phase. It is strictly correct from a technical standpoint to resolve each port one at a time, waiting for the stack to empty, as it makes your opponent make all of their decisions at the time of activation. If they float any mana in response to the activation of port, let them draw a card for turn and hold priority in their draw step and port the next land in question. This is still before their main phase, and will dissipate any floating mana they had in their upkeep. Consider this situation carefully, because they might be able to use that mana in their draw step, such as a Miracled Terminus, or a freshly drawn instant speed kill spell.

    If for some reason you deem it not correct to port during their upkeep, or simply forgot, you can still doing it during other critical points in the turn. Porting during combat comes up from time to time depending on the number of instant speed interactions you have on your opponent's turn. It should be noted that mana fizzles in between each phase of combat (Beginning of Combat, Declare Attackers, Declare Blockers, Damage, End of Combat). For instance a player might intend to Maze of Ith their own creature during the end of combat step, and you can port them before that occurs.

    At the end of the opponent's turn you may choose to port a land that your opponent left up to use on your turn. In our deck the most common case of this scenario is when you have an AEther Vial at a card you want for your turns combat in hand. Your opponent passes with a single mana up for Lightning Bolt, Swords to Plowshares, or even Fatal Push. In this case you can port their one land down and have an unimpeded turn of combat and casting. Goblin Warchief, Cratermaker, and Goblin Lackey appreciate this the most.

    Lastly you could port during your own upkeep or draw step, for the same reasons as above, to allow some creature to be useful later in the turn. Goblin Warchief is the obvious answer, but just not getting a lord (read Goblin Trashmaster or Goblin Chieftain) getting shot down mid combat helps a lot as well.

    [b][u]Manadenial lands can be used to deal with problematic cards like:[b][u]
    * so-called 'manlands': Mishra's Factory, Mutavault and Creeping Tar Pit
    * Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
    * Grove of the Burnwillows (in combo with Punishing Fire)
    * Maze of Ith
    * Dark Depths

    Non-Mana Denial Lands

    Cavern of Souls is an auto-include in every Goblin deck list. The default number if 4 copies. This card simply does so much for the deck, and it does it in a very subtle way.
    As far as splash colors are concerned, success has been reported with EVERY additional color. Given the limited space, there is usually room for only 1-3 dual lands to support your splash color. Also, don't hesitate to play a mono red deck. The deck is virtually mono red, even in multicolored lists. Playing Mono Red is not a question of low budget. By default you should build your deck mono-red. Only if you need certain cards (mostly SB cards) that are not red or colorless, you can think about splashing colors.

    And a non-comprehensive list of other options that are often run:
    * Pendelhaven - Protects Lackey from Punishing Fire and pumps it to get past early blockers like Mother of Runes and Delver of Secrets.
    * Karakas - Protects your own legendaries like Krenko, Mob Boss and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker; and bounces legendaries commonly played in Legacy, like Iona, Shield of Emeria and Griselbrand).
    * Volrath's Stronghold - Brings back cards like Gempalm Incinerator, Goblin Cratermaker, Goblin Matron, and Goblin Ringleader in the mid game allowing goblins to get ahead with more 1-1 or 2-1 value.


    b) The Core



    AEther Vial
    AEther Vial is one of the reasons why the deck can run such high CMC creatures. Oftentimes AEther Vial is ticked up every round, whereas one should carefully consider adding more than three counters.
    Did you know that?
    AEther Vial has an upkeep-trigger that reads "you may put a charge counter on AEther Vial." Therefore one should announce the trigger in each and every upkeep (you will NEVER forget that after a while) and then carefully think whether to add another counter or not. E.g.: It's our main phase and we control Vial with 2 counters on it (@2) – we have a Mogg War Marshal, Goblin Piledriver, and Goblin Ringleader on our hand and we want to cheat all of them through our opponent's counterspells. Actually we must leave AEther Vial @ 2 for two rounds to do that. At the end of our opponent's turn we tap it to bring in the 2 drop. In our next upkeep we announce the may-trigger and tap Vial in response to bring in MWM – after that, Vial's trigger resolves and we add another counter. So, in our next upkeep we can decide to bring in any cc3 Goblin or the 4 drop that is waiting in our hand.

    Goblin Lackey
    Cavern of Souls naming Goblin, Goblin Lackey, Go – is one of the best T1-play our deck has. His threatening, triggered ability enables fast and aggressive starts, even turn-3-kills. On the other hand he does very often not "connect" because opponents will try everything to throw removal, counter or Stifle at him. Placing creatures in his way is oftentimes a plan-B, because the creature in question could be removed to make sure that Lackey gets the party started.
    Did you know that?
    Lackey's oracle-text reads that he can bring in goblin-permanents, whereas Warren Instigator can only bring in goblin-creatures. This fact is often irrelevant because most goblin permanents have legs anyways. Also there is a nice interaction with Rakdos Charm that doesn't work for Warren Instigator.

    Goblin Matron
    Goblin Matron, along with Goblin Ringleader, is the backbone of the deck. Most often you will fetch a Goblin Ringleader with her ability, but you can also choose any other goblin, depending on what is needed at the moment she enters the battlefield. E.g. fetch Goblin Chieftain to counter Engineered Plague, or Goblin Cratermaker to destroy that pesky equipment.
    Did you know that?
    …a foil Goblin Matron is only available in the 7th Edition and costs a whole lot of money.

    Goblin Ringleader
    Sometimes Goblin Ringleader just reads "draw 4 cards". Goblin Ringleader has an immediate impact on the game by potentially creating huge card advantage. At the average low end he will replace himself (that is: you invest one card to get one card in return), but most of the time he creates raw card advantage. This card advantage ultimately leads to board advantage (most cards you reveal are creature cards), which means that you are winning the game. It is also important to play as many goblins as possible (34 goblins is the maximum number with 22 lands and 4 AEther Vials) in your maindeck to make the best card of the deck even better.
    Did you know that?
    Ringleader never lets you down. Have you ever revealed 4 lands in a row? Yes, almost certainly. Have you ever been disappointed about this fact? You shouldn't! Every time Ringleader reveals 0 Goblin cards, ask yourself how the game would have turned out if you had drawn those cards for the next 4 turns! However he usually should reveal 3 Goblin cards, with 4 and 2 cards lying within standards, while 0 or 1 is highly unlikely.

    How you fill the remaining 14 land-slots and which set of spells you choose for the MD is dependent from the metagame you are playing in. In other words: these slots are very flexible. What follows now is an explanation of proven subtypes of Goblin decks as well as a list of playable and unplayable cards.

    c) Staples



    Goblin Warchief / Goblin Chieftain
    Hastey goblins are happy goblins. Both, Goblin Warchief and Goblin Chieftain, make the deck more explosive and much harder to deal with. Players usually spend 3-7 slots on 'haste lords' Goblin Warchief and Goblin Chieftain, whereas Goblin Warchief is the more popular choice due his explosive ability, Goblin Chieftain tends to be a nod to Deathrite Shaman and other Squires.
    Suggested reading about Warchief and Chieftain: here.
    Cards you should NOT run instead: Goblin King, Mad Auntie, Goblin Wardriver, Frogtosser Banneret, Goblin Lookout

    Goblin Piledriver
    Goblin Piledriver is a common choice for the deck. His insane triggered ability causes heavy damage to opponent's life points, when unblocked. However this is often not the case, since opponents place creatures and removal in his way. He supports aggressive strategies and makes the deck more explosive. His triggered ability checks the number of Goblins on resolution. This has two implications: (1) Stifle turn an attacking PD into a Squire and (2) your opponent can destroy (or remove) goblins in response to the triggered ability and still weaken your PD. People usually run 2-4 copies in their decklists, for starters 4 should be the default option. I am in favor of 4 copies as well, as long as you are not expecting to face a ridiculous amount of non-blue creatures.

    Mogg War Marshal
    Mogg War Marshal is the best ancillary effect the deck has access to. It does exactly 1 thing, and that's put some goblins into play. This has a huge ripple affect across the course of a game: coupled with mana denial and their own ability to just chump for little loss, many creature based decks can be time walked while you set up mana and Vial in creatures; Gempalm becomes inherently more powerful due to the goblin count; and it puts you in a good spot against spot removal. I often joke that "Mogg War Marshal is the glue that holds the deck together." This glue comes at a cost though, and that's against Combo. Many of the creatures in here can battle, and battle rather quickly when unchecked, such as against a creatureless combo deck, but War Marshal is not one of them. 2-4 are very common numbers to see on this card.

    Gempalm Incinerator
    Gempalm Incinerator is the most common spot removal of choice in Goblin lists and usually a 4-off. It trades 0 for 1 (in the worst case 0:0) with other creatures, can't be countered by ordinary countermagic, and even has a body to block/attack with. One should carefully count all Goblins in play (even Mutavault is a Goblin once in a while) and take opponent's removal into account (which can decrease the number of Goblins in play while Gempalm Incinerator's ability is on the stack) before using cycling. Cycling is an activated ability that can be used at instant-speed. This means that, since it is an ability, not a spell, Force of Will and Daze won't work on Cycling. Cards with cycling usually have an additional triggered ability printed on it, that triggers when you cycle the card (which is the case with this card).
    The problem with Gempalm Incinerator is, that you need a board state to kill a targeted creature. In some MUs it is hardly possible to develop such a board position which means that you sometimes need removal spells that are dealing damage more reliably. Tarfire is an alternative for such situations (e.g. when most of the creatures in your metagame are power 2 or less and are to be dealt with immediately and reliably). Additionally Pyrokinesis, a card often in the sideboard of Goblins, is a fine card in the maindeck as well.
    By default you should play 3 copies of Gempalm Incinerator.
    Suggested reading about Lightning Bolt (and Tarfire for that matter), click here.
    Cards you should NOT run instead: Path to Exile, Swords to Plowshares, Mogg Fanatic

    Goblin Sharpshooter
    Goblin Sharpshooter is another common choice for Goblin decks. He helps in the mirror-match, against hordes of Elves and counters a lot of strategies that rely on x/1 creatures (oftentimes tokens), such as Young Pyromancer, Monastery Mentor, Empty the Warrens, every elf but the good one. He also has interactions with Skirk Prospector and echo cards like Mogg War Marshal and Stingscourger. Sparksmith is another, tap-for-damage-spell that you can use multiple times. The downsides are basically the same as with Gempalm Incinerator with the addition that your opponent will oftentimes see him coming. The fact that he eats your life points has surprisingly little impact on the game, especially when you consider what you get in return.
    Cards you should NOT run instead: Lightning Crafter

    Goblin Chainwhirler
    Goblin Chainwhirler is a "faster" Sharpshooter with a stronger body and a harsher mana cost. In general Sharpshooter should be seen as a combo / lock piece, while the Whirly Girly should just be seen as a tempo piece that happens to also board wipe x/1s. They are comparable though, and can be run instead of, or in addition to each other. (R)(R)(R) is really, really hard to cast. You can get away running 1, but the moment you start running two the mana base needs real concessions to run it. More red sources for instance. This pay off can work in certain meta's but be very careful if you do it.
    Cards you should NOT run instead: Lightning Crafter

    Goblin Cratermaker
    Goblin Cratermaker is a very recent card in goblins history that actually does something Goblins has wanted for a decade. It's a Tin Street Hooligan mixed with a Ember Hauler. This card is very good, and just slots right in. It will be very common to see 1-3 of this card in lists.
    Cards you should NOT run instead: Abrade

    Skirk Prospector
    Skirk Prospector is an unassuming little guy that does way more than he looks like.

    1) He's a sacrifice source. This allows you to dodge counters from Umezawa's Jitte, and / or life gain from combat with Batterskull, or Griselbrand. Simply sacrifice a creature after blocks are declared.

    2) Prospector produces red mana. This is something that traditional lists actually can have a hard time doing. The power of Wasteland, Rishadan Port, and Cavern of Souls are usually worth the loss in use consistency for Gempalm Incinerator, or perhaps even Tarfire. This can come up in games where you can only use AEther Vial as mana source.

    3) He is ramp. At his worst, Wild Cantor casts Goblin Warchief, a very important type of card for our deck, on turn 2. Sometimes he produces a lot of mana. Frankly, he enables the most powerful lines available to the deck with this ability. Sometimes you just get to play "everything" into a powerful, hasty, Goblin Piledriver chain for lethal. This is really good against The Tabernacle of Pendrell Vale allowing you keep more goblins than you have lands in play.

    4) Goblin Sharpshooter loves this guy. With both out you gain a very powerful form of board control. The rest of your deck just has a pile of synergy by being able to be sac'd to cause Sharpshooter to either remove all of your opponents threats, make them unable to attack, or just outright kill the enemy player (through a Moat if you are fancy).

    Cards you should NOT run instead: There really is no other comparison here.

    Stingscourger
    Stingscourger is a typical 1-off (or silver bullet) in the 75, which gives you the flexibility to bounce huge blockers and go for the alpha strike. He is also a popular choice in fields where Sneak & Show and Reanimate decks are around, since it effectively counters their effect. Even Emrakul, the Aeons Torn isn't protected against this card, as the spaghetti monster will be sent back by an ability, not by a spell. Another nice thing about this 'removal' spell is that it usually circumvents counter magic with AEther Vial or Cavern of Souls.
    If you want a card that actually handles large creatures permanently you are probably looking for Warren Weirding. It is only comparable to Stingscourger in that it is usually meant to handle the big guys, but other than that the cards are quite different in how you manage them during the game. That is Warren Weirding is usually not run instead of, but in addition to, Stingscourger.
    Cards you should NOT run instead: Goblin Tunneler

    Shatter Goblins



    With the introduction of two great cards in Goblin Cratermaker, and Goblin Trashmaster goblins has an easy maindeckable way to answer annoying artifacts such as Umezawa's Jitte and Ensnaring Bridge. This is new as of those card releases, as previously no shatter goblin really was good enough, but was simply run as a requirement to not lose to the mentioned cards and more.

    Goblin Cratermaker
    Goblin Cratermaker is often in the maindeck due to his sheer versatility, everything with 1-4 copies being seen as successful, but commonly at 2-3. Cratermaker does way more than shatter artifacts though. His ability actually hits Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, allowing you to skimp on Stingscourger effects a little, and cards like Thought-Knot Seer. But that's just one of his abilities. His other ability is to deal 2 damage to target creature, and this mode get's used more often. Most creatures in Legacy actually die to 2 damage. Delver of Secrets, Stoneforge Mystic, Young Pyromancer, none of these cards like seeing a Cratermake come down from a Cavern or a Vial. This card is a staple of maindeck in addition to being a shatter.

    Goblin Trashmaster
    This guy does two things, and he does them well. First, he is a reusable shatter, so one copy of him can often end match-ups like Steel Stompy, or The Antiquities War. This is very good, but beyond that he is maindeckable with zero shame simply because he is a lord. Goblins get +1/+1 is a relevant ability on a body that is not Abrupt Decayable. Goblins are kind of small to start, but +1/+1 dramatically changes most board states. Trashmaster being a 4 cost, and being a lord, puts him in the deck as a pseudo Finisher goblin as well, since he often comes down around the same time frame while boosting the field.

    Cards you should NOT run instead of these: The two old options people ran were Tuktuk Scrapper, and Tin Street Hooligan. (Rest in a Searing Blaze you garbage cards, glad to see you gone.)

    d) The Finisher Goblins

    Finisher goblins are the the most impactful creatures the deck can afford to play. These guys usually have an immediate impact on the board and most importantly are must answers from the opponent's point of view due to how fast they tend to end games or accrue advantage. These guys are parity breakers.

    You do not need to run them to win a game, and some have eschewed them in certain metas. But Goblin Matron's consistency makes it very tempting to run 1 or more of some of these cards due to their game ending abilities.



    Siege-Gang Commander
    Siege-Gang Commander was, and perhaps is, the most commonly seen finisher goblin for the deck. At the cost of 5 mana it's hard to run more than 1 or 2 of him, but he hands down gives the most consistent bang for your buck. He creates an instant board state. An early Goblin Lackey putting this guy into play usually puts your opponent so far behind, even if they deal with it, they've spent so many resources the game tends to fall in your favor. He is one of the best available top decks in the late game as he can put you from a losing board to either parity, or close, immediately. He also facilitates a couple of the turn 3 kills available to the deck. But he is more than that, he is also a re-usable burn spell. The cost of paying 2 mana and a goblin to shock target creature or player is the other powerful effect he presents. This kills numerous X/2's in the format, in addition to figuratively lobbing Goblins over a Moat as a way to finish the game without combat damage. Just like Mogg War Marshal he is also rather "good" against spot removal as killing the Commander leaves you with 3 Goblin tokens.

    AEther Vial does very little on 5 other than put this man into play though, and this reason alone is why many players eschew him. Additionally he's simply not as powerful as some other options. He requires a mana investment to gain full use, and sometimes he's simply 4 chumps.

    This card does many of the things the deck already wants to be doing, and he does most of it "alone." He is a solid, conservative, choice.

    Krenko, Mob Boss
    Krenko, Mob Boss is one of the other common finisher goblins for the archetype. His ability to put so many tokens into play is by far, and large, one of the more powerful things you can be doing with a Goblin card. His natural resilience to Abrupt Decay, Disfigure, and to some extent Golgari Charm, are some of the main reasons people run the Boss. Many goblin pilots run an increased amount of "Haste Lords" to make sure that he can tap the turn he enters the battlefield. A hasty field with Krenko, Mob Boss can end a game in very, very short order. It should be noted that he is one of the best available tools against low removal fair decks like Eldrazi and Aggro Loam.

    His biggest downside is his weakness to all sorts of 1 mana answers (Lightning Bolt, Swords to Plowshares, Fatal Push. He does nothing the turn he comes in, unless you have a haste lord out. Therefore those spells can be Time Walk for 1 mana. Since he does not naturally have haste, it's possible he may die before putting any goblin tokens into play. Additionally if you very few, or just Krenko, Mob Boss in play his first activation might not be enough to change the current game in a meaningful way. The last thing to be wary of when running this finisher is his Legendary status. He can be hit by Karakas, and over the course of a larger tournament, probably will be.

    His raw power level is pinning the needle to the edge of the meter, and ends games very, very quickly. But he is bit more vulnerable. And being vulnerable at the cost of 4 mana this turns some people off of using him.

    Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
    Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is another Legendary Goblin who's fairly unique ability puts him up as a contender for a Finisher Goblin. Pilots running this finisher are able to boast some of the best card draw available in Legacy as re-abusing the already powerful Goblin Matron and Goblin Ringleader pushes the deck right past cards like Ancestral Visions. Pretty much every goblin that see's play in the deck is worth copying for one reason or another. Multiple Goblin Chieftains push the deck past most blockers, multiple Goblin Lackeys mean more cards put into play for free etc. He is often run alongside Warren Instigator as those builds of the deck tend to be more aggressive and can take the most advantage of the effect. Not to mention his ability with Goblin Settler can cause a total lock-out in some scenarios. He also facilitates a couple of the turn 3 kills available to the deck. He is vaguely resilient to removal if there is any goblin in play worth copying. Thanks to him naturally having haste, it would take 2 pieces of instant speed spot removal to blank him entirely. An important 'trick' for Kiki-Jiki is to use his ability in during a player's end step. After the "beginning of end step" make a copy of a creature and it will stick around until the next "beginning of end step". This way the copy will survive a whole turn. Do it during your own end step to have an extra blocker, or during your opponent's for another attacker.

    Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is rather lackluster on an empty board or one with only tokens. The cost of 2 generic 3 red mana to cast him is nothing to scoff at either, as many lists run Wasteland and Rishadan Port. Since Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is a Legendary creature he has a built in weakness to Karakas, but his natural haste mitigates this some. And lastly an AEther Vial at 5 tends to be turned off for the remainder of a game.

    This finisher generates game winning advantages very quickly, but he is ultimately a 2/2, and doesn't really work when you have low board presence.

    Honorable Mentions

    Some lists run more unorthodox methods to break parity and win though. Just running a high number of Goblin Chieftain or Goblin Trashmaster naturally helps this for instance.

    Goblin Chirurgeon appears similar to Skirk Prospector, and is often run in place of him. He's still good at anything that sacrificing a creature is, but with the upside of turning opponents spot removal into Diabolic Edicts instead. He's at his best against damage and destroy based control strategies. Additionally he can sacrifice a goblin to save a non-goblin if that ends up mattering.

    Earwig Squad runs a double role of being a rather large creature with a good anti-combo / anti-tutor package ability. This guy is usually run as a combo hoser. He is being mentioned here mostly because he tends to take up the slot of a finisher goblin.

    Grenzo, Dungeon Warden can accrue a lot of advantage and can be large, but is very mana intensive, and a little inconsistent. He can be played as a small or large creature at your convenience of mana. He has some anti-synergy with Goblin Ringleaders ability. Other than that he does everything Goblins wants to be doing, and fixes nothing the deck can't do. He does make the base gameplan better if you are truly trying to win a meta that is weak to goblins.


    III. The Two Faces of Vial-Goblins



    In the long history of Goblins, two decklists have been established. In the following section I will discuss them one by one and provide sample-deck lists that are as close to the basic of the respective subtype as possible. That means: there is no recipe how to build these two archetypes, neither is there a set-in-stone 60-cards-MD . The lists I present serve as examples to show the advantages and disadvantages of each subtype.

    a) Face 1: The Classic Goblin Deck

    At first we are looking at the lands. The deck is monored and uses the full number of mana-denial lands. This has two important advantages. First, it is hard, if not impossible, for your opponent to mana-screw this deck as you have 10-14 red mana sources, 10 of which are unaffected by any land destruction played in legacy, including Back to Basics and Blood Moon. Second, the lists is very good at punishing greedy, multicolored mana bases – which will sometimes give you free wins just by tapping your lands. Another important element is the choice to play a higher number of Gempalm Incinerator, which goes hand in hand with Mogg War Marshal. Gempalm Incinerator is, provided you have enough Goblins in play, the best removal spell available. It is uncounterable, it draws a card, it occasionally can be a creature and most importantly it is a Goblin. So why not play the best removal spell? Mogg War Marshal makes it possible. Mogg War Marshal works in perfect harmony with your mana denial: tapping lands with Rishadan Port can mean a Time Walk – but only when you keep your opponents creatures in check. MWM does exactly that. Together they support a grindy strategy that gets the deck where it wants to be: turn 5. From that point on your card advantage engine takes over to quickly outperform your opponent on all fronts: the hand and the board. Siege-Gang Commander is just another testament to the fact that the late game will be yours and that you want to play grindy games, preferably with AEther Vial on turn 1. Those four cards I separated from the rest of the deck are silver bullets for your Matron-gun. Since your are going for the mid-and late game it is essential to have answers to a variety of (un-)expected situations. After all this is legacy, which means that unexpected things will happen. Going for mid and late game also has a huge drawback: this list is not as consistent at racing, making this list worse against combo.

    b) Face 2: The WInstigator List

    The two most defining elements of this list are Chrome Mox and Warren Instigator. Chrome Mox is not only used as a tool to dish out Warren Instigator on turn 1 (which effectively gives you 8 Goblin Lackeys, and who wouldn't want that?). It also enables Goblin Chieftain / Goblin Warchief on turn 2 and Goblin Ringleaders as early as turn 3. It is essential to know which card to put under a Chrome Mox, which can be a real challenge on turn 1 or 2, but less so when you cast it later on. The combination of Winstigator, Chieftain, and the Mox makes the deck much more explosive and aggressive than the Classic version. In contrary to those lists, Winstigator lists do not try to grind out games, but catch people off guard that can't handle early aggression in form of Winstigators. The full playset of Goblin Piledrivers is a must. Goblin Chieftain is played in favor of Goblin Warchief because the cost reducing ability is less relevant: your list in general has more double-red mana costs (which is also a reason to cut / shave onRishadan Ports) and you have Chrome Mox which partly makes up for the mana boost you want to get out of Goblin Warchief. A downside is that Chrome Mox creates card disadvantage, which you should usually be able to make up for. But still, there will be games where your opponent's discard spells and the card you imprint for Chrome Mox add up to a critical degree. Another remarkable feature of those lists is that Gempalm Incinerators are cut to 2, sometimes even down to 0 copies. This is because the list is more focused on pushing through early Goblin Lackey effects, and this strategy is best supported by reliable removal. In a world where 75% of the field is playing either Deathrite Shaman, and/or Stoneforge Mystic and/or Delver of Secrets, Tarfire is more reliable than Gempalm Incinerator. Pendelhaven has recently proven to be a good card for Winstigator-lists for it's ability to get past Squires.

    Both lists are viable, and both are powerful for different reasons. It's not uncommon to see the lines blur in brewing for certain metas.


    IV. Matchups & Strategy (7:12 AM 12/8/2016)

    a) Matchups

    In this section I will present my view on a number of relevant MUs as well as some suggestions how to play them right. I will try to update this regularly, but please keep in mind the date when I last edited the list. Also, this is but one view that is presented here, so please feel free to test the MUs yourself and work out strategies that are different from what I am presenting here.
    I am using the following five "ratings" for MUs.
    (1) Favorable: Most iterations of Goblins will have good chances of winning against most iterations of the deck in question. Usually you don't need to reserve any SB cards for this MU.
    (2) Slightly Favorable: Your chances of winning range from even to good, depending on your version of the deck as well as some SB cards
    (3) Even: Generally chances are evenly distributed. Sometimes the outcome of this is MU decided by certain MD or SB cards that you, or your opponents, are playing. Also, skill and experience will be a more relevant factor in these matches.
    (4) Slightly Unfavorable: Your list will need some specific tuning to win this MU. SB cards can turn the tides and drag the odds down to 50%. These MUs are usually what you need your SB cards for.
    (5) Unfavorable: Most iterations of your opponents deck will have good chances of beating yours. In some cases you can dedicate a lot of SB cards to make this MU even, but sometimes it is better to accept that you can't beat every deck.

    Grixis Delver – Favorable
    How the matchups works: This is a Daze match up so they want to win fast, and win with you off kilter. A traditional game involves them starting with Delver of Secrets or Young Pyromancer with a supporting cast of Daze and Wasteland. You will answer these cards with your base deck's strategy and the follow up Gurmag Angler or True-Name Nemesis are where the real wins and losses are made. You are likely to see Bitterblossom at some point as well, but the life loss can actually get them worried. Post board you might see Marsh Casualties, Izzet Staticaster, Abrade / Goblin Cratermaker and perhaps a Darkblast. The goal here should be to get your opponents creatures down to just 1 of the "phase two" cards mentioned. If that's the case their deck will be forced into a defensive position and it's not particularly good at being control. Doing this will lead to wins via swarm.
    Cards that support this strategy: Pseudo wipes, Goblin Cratermaker, Finisher Goblins
    Meaningful SB cards: Pyrokinesis and possibly Chalice of the Void if you have it.
    Red Herrings: Blood Moon is not incredible against the tempo oriented strategies since we generally cast it on time instead of ahead of curve.

    Miracles – Favorable
    How the matchups works: This, just like the original Miracles deck, is a breeze. The scary things to watch out for is a late game Entreat the Angels, a mid-game Back to Basics, or an early game Monastery Mentor. Other than that you can just grind as hard as you like and come out ahead in the long run. Don't over commit and keep socking them for 2-4 a turn. They run various card advantage sources, differing from list to list, but ours puts bodies on board giving us an advantage. Watch out for SB Supreme Verdict, or more likely a surprise Containment Priest, along with more Vendillion Cliques. The big one though is Back to Basics. Despite our mostly to actually mono red deck, half of your lands in play are probably hit by this, and is an easy way to get got.
    Cards that support this strategy: Goblin Matron, Goblin Ringleader, Rishadan Port, Finisher Goblins.
    Meaningful SB cards: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Red Elemental Blast.

    Grixis Control – Unfavorable:
    How the matchups works: This deck is the "Jund" of Legacy currently and thrives on the 2-1 advantage. One of the grindiest match-ups in the format, you are beatdown. The deck does not rely on any one piece to be powerful, and is truly difficult to hate out. Winning the match-up usually involves them being mana screwed in some way, hopefully with our help using Waste and Port. The most important cards from them to us are Liliana, the Last Hope and Hymn to Tourach with Kolaghan's Command being cleanup. Porting them off of double black is the number one priority, as Lili and Hymn to Tourach are the cards we fear in the match. The red for K-Command is very good, it isn't why we lose.Their goal is to assemble a walker, or Gurmag Angler, and 5 lands. If they can achieve this state, then winning becomes very difficult as their 2-1 engine starts to take over because of Snapcaster Mage rebuying the 2-1's. They usually don't run any form of wipe mainboard, but post board expect 1-3 Toxic Deluge / Marsh Casualties type cards, possibly with a rare Darkblast, and the 2nd or 3rd Liliana. You really just need to keep on chugging. It's very hard to be up a beat, but thankfully they don't run their own Wastelands so you can run out any land you want.
    Cards that support this strategy: Goblin Piledriver, Goblin Matron, Goblin Ringleader, Wasteland, Rishadan Port, Volrath's Stronghold
    Meaningful SB cards: Oath of Ghouls (wins the match alone, super narrow), Cabal Therapy (good against Hymn to Tourach, and handles threats we can't answer easily on board), [cards]Red Elemental Blast[cards] / Pyroblast, Pyrostatic Pillar, Chalice of the Void
    Red Herrings: Relic of Progenitus feels like it should do something, but frankly it just doesn't matter. You are better off drawing any goblin, even Stingscourger. Blood Moon traditionally is good against 3 color decks, but this one actually uses its red and runs multiple basic lands. You are 50/50 to have this be a dead card in the match-up, and it's not particularly a knockout punch, especially since it's coming down on turn 3 instead of faster like most decks than run it. Also any expensive Spells that are good in a grind. They have a lot of discard and usually tag it. The cost of making your top decks better comes at the cost of making openers anemic, it's not necessarily wrong, but respect your curve.

    Storm Combo - ANT (Ad Nauseum Tendrils) – Unfavorable
    How the matchups works: You can steal games by killing them on turn 3 or 4. However, your lack of disruptive elements usually makes you an easy target. When you evaluate your opening hands you should aim for a kill on turn 3 or 4. Every piece of hate should delay your opponent by at least 1 turn. If it doesn't then don't play it. Accept the idea of being killed on turn 1 or 2 without any interaction. Post board they bring in bounce spells or Abrade effects in order to combat permanent based hate. Your goal changes none, but if you have to choose between lock or clock, lock em.
    Cards that support this strategy: Goblin Lackey, Warren Instigator, Goblin Piledriver
    Meaningful SB cards: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Mindbreak Trap, Discard Spells, Chalice of the Void, Amulet of Safekeeping, Thorn of Amethyst, Cabal Therapy, Grafdigger's Cage and less spectacularly Relic of Progenitus.
    Red Herrings: Surgical Extraction is 100% playable, but ultimately worse than Grafdigger's Cage, and Relic of Progenitus, here as they can run Threshold cards in addition to Past in Flames. Board it in, but don't keep a hand on it.

    Death & Taxes – Favorable
    How the matchups works: The worst thing that can happen is that they have an equipment at a moment when you can't deal with it yet. This would be the case when they have Stoneforge Mystic on turn 2 and you can't kill SFM before the equipment comes down. Try to grind them out, make favorable trades (or even one-for-ones). We have a way better draw engine, while they have Recruiter of the Guard + Equipment / Flickerwisp. You do have to respect Flickerwisp interaction with Recruiter of the Guard, as it often generates multiple 3/1 Flying creatures. Other potentially problematic cards in their deck are Mother of Runes and Phyrexian Revoker (which shuts down a range of valuable cards). All of that said, we have the ability to get 2 for 1'd a few of times and still keep chugging, where as they are generally at the mercy of the non-lands they drew only. This match-up really does come down to a skillful grind, and sideboard choices from both players. You will have a hard time if someone has a Kor Firewalker or Absolute Law, and an easier time against Sword of War and Peace as SB cards for instance.
    Cards that support this strategy: Goblin Cratermaker, Goblin Trashmaster, and pseudo wipes.
    Meaningful SB cards: Shatter affects, Pithing Needle, Pyrokinesis.
    Red Herrings: Do not expose your shatter / Pithing Needle effects preemptively unless you are intending to get some major tempo or the game itself out of it. It's okay if they have nothing going on and you don't. You win that topdeck war thanks to natural card advantage draws; just hold it.

    Eldrazi Stompy – Favorable
    How the matchups works: In this MU your goal is to buy enough time until you can block their way with your hordes. Reality Smasher and equipment stand in the way of that plan. Their major weakness is their mana base. Their best spells cost 4+ mana and demand colorless mana, so any form of mana disruption is effective. Try to read what cards they have in hand. You can read that from the amount of mana they have available and what cards they played last turn. Watch out for some interactions of their spells and lands. A few examples: Eye of Ugin doesn't actually produce mana, but reduces the mana costs. So, no playing Umezawa's Jitte with Eye of Ugin. Make sure that they tap at least 1 colorless mana when casting their spells. Under a Blood Moon they will usually not be able to cast any spell with <> in their mana costs. Over a course of several games you will be favored, as their mana base is shaky and their mulligan decisions are more difficult - their deck is less consistent than yours. It should be noted that games with this deck tend to be lopsided, whether you win or lose.
    Cards that support this strategy: AEther Vial, Wasteland, Rishadan Port, Mogg War Marshal, Goblin Cratermaker
    Meaningful SB cards: Blood Moon, Pyrokinesis, Shatter Effects
    Red Herrings: Kill spells that can't handle a Thought-Knot Seer. Often you can just use your board to handle any non 4 toughness creature. Damping Sphere Often whiffs on doing anything due to them already having board presence.

    Eldrazi Post – Favorable
    How the matchups works: This match-up plays out similarly to Eldrazi Stompy, but with less creatures in the interim, and more absolute bombs against us like All is Dust, and Ugin the Spirit Dragon. These are brought into play with the power of Cloudpost and the like. For the most part Wasteland and Rishadan Port are even better than they are against the stompy build, as the payoff they run is more expensive, along with Gobln Cratermaker providing 1 for 1 outs against their best threats. Their end game is better than goblins so you are beatdown in this match-up. Don’t let it go too long. If All is Dust is not in the main it will be boarded in, and possibly Oblivion Stone. You are also likely to see Sorcerous Spyglass post board.
    Cards that support this strategy: AEther Vial, Wasteland, Rishadan Port, Mogg War Marshal, Goblin Cratermaker
    Meaningful SB cards: Blood Moon, Damping Sphere, Pithing Needle, Shatter Effects
    Red Herrings: Pyrokinesis, while this card has text against the Eldrazi Stompy build, it doesn’t have nearly enough targets against the Cloudpost build.
    Last edited by Olaf Forkbeard; 01-28-2019 at 02:34 PM. Reason: Updates

    If I edit a post without an explanation, I am just correcting typos and / or formatting.
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