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    [Deck] Vial Goblins

    Vial Goblins Primer

    (Join us on our Discord server!)

    0. Update notes

    11:44 PM 2/2/2018
    * Matchups section updated to match current meta.
    * Added a stig on Goblin Chrirugeon
    * added a note about our Discord!

    10:23 PM 5/24/2017
    * Added more detail to a few match-ups, Thanks Fourburr.
    * Updated several notes on the Matchups section, adding a few matches entirely.
    * Updated the Finisher Goblins section, in reference to Krenko, and Fatal Push.
    * Added Sandro's SB article to the literature section.
    * Added a stig on Skirk Prospector in the Staples section.

    9:49 PM 1/12/2017
    * Updated some notes on the Matchups section.

    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 cardchoices
    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 decklists 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.

    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 (MU) 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 cardchoices 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 deckprimer).

    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 manacosts 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. Apart from purely shutting our opponents off a single color, manadenial lands can be used to deal with problematic cards like:
    * so-called 'manlands': Mishra's Factory, Mutavault and Creeping Tar Pit
    * Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
    * Grove of the Burnwillows (in combo with Punishing Fire)
    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. Approximately 95% of the deck is 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.
    Other prominent utility lands in Goblins are Pendelhaven (which protects Lackey from Punishing Fire and pumps it to get past early blockers like Deathrite Shaman and Delver of Secrets) and Karakas (which 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).

    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 Tuktuk Scrapper 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.
    It's also good to know that Goblin Matron's triggered ability is obligatory. That means that (1) if you forget to fetch a creature and move on to the next step of the turn, your opponent can be a dick and not allow you to still fetch a creature afterwards. That's not the case with triggers that must be resolved, i.e. such abilities without the word "may". (2) When Matron is the only card in your hand and you have a Vial @3 and your opponent plays a discard spell, like Thoughtseize, you can put Matron into play without having to look for something to put into your hand. Also, you can search your library and declare NOT TO FIND ANYTHING, in case you want to shuffle your library.

    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 very least 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 un-playable 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 4-7 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 opponents lifepoints, 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 lifepoints has surprisingly little impact on the game, especially when you consider what you get in return.
    Cards you should NOT run instead: Lightning Crafter

    Skirk Prospector
    Skirk Prospector is an unnassuming 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 lifegain from combat with Batterskll, or Griselbrand. Simply sacrifice your 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 casting consistency for Tarfire, and Gempalm Incinerator. 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.

    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 outrite 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), 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 countermagic 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



    Tin Street Hooligan / Tuktuk Scrapper
    1-off artifact hate is commonly seen in Goblin deck lists. The most important reason is flexibility. Artifact hate in MD is basically never irrelevant because decks today are rarely artifact-free. The most prominent reason to run those so-called Shatter-Goblins is, of course, equipment. If your list is green, Tin Street Hooligan is a cheaper alternative to Tuktuk Scrapper. Many players simply have the green splash for this card, as Legacy is a fast format.
    Suggested reading on Tin Street Hooligan and Tuktuk Scrapper: Hot Topics of Vial Goblins
    Cards you should NOT run instead: Goblin Tinkerer, Goblin Vandal

    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 removal spell. The cost of paying 2 mana and a goblin to shock target creature or player is the other powerful affect 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 Midrange strats such as Shardless and Eldrazi.

    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. 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 put's 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 opponents 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 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.

    Goblin Pyromancer ends games. One way or another someone is losing. The issue is that he is not very castable unless you have a sacrifice source (so you don't lose your board), or you are killing your opponent right now. This makes him very polarizing and inconsistent. Once upon a time he was used as tech in the mirror match, as he destroys all Goblins in play.



    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-decklists 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 Bood 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 manacosts (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.


    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 relevant factor.
    (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 Even
    How the matchups works: Grixis Delver is a tempo deck first, and a midrange deck second. If it can it will try to win the game with an early Delver of Secrets or Deathrite Shaman backed with the lategame power of Young Pyromancer and Gurmag Angler. They are a 3 color deck splashing green for a tiny amount of SB options plus the shaman. The big thing to worry about here is the Black Spells. Deathrite Shaman, Cabal Therapy, and Gurmag Angler are the cards that do the most damage. Therapy makes holding Goblin Ringleader look worse. Deathrite Shaman makes the deck very resiliant to actual mana denial, and is excellent during board stalls (not to mention it's Goblin Lackey stopping power). Gurmag Angler is their true "finisher" against us. The card is bigger than most of our removal, and despite delve cards being "bad" against Stingscourger, it is only a tempo play, not a solution. That said if you can manage to take out their black mana the deck ceases to function in a way that is scary, and is merely a tempo deck. They have a really rough time recouping card advantage sans SB Painful Truths; sticking a Goblin Ringleader, or a finisher goblin do a ton of work here. The fastest way to lose is to let a Gurmag Angler come down when unready, you need chumps for this match. The game is won generally when the fish and the shaman don't do what they were intended to do. Prioritize stopping that. Post board they actually bring in red or black pseudo wipes (Toxic Deluge, Fire Covenant, Electrickery) and whatever spot removal they have over their counterspells. They could also have Umezawa's Jitte or Darkblast, as a heads up. It's also possible to run into builds that run Snapcaster Mage over Young Pyromancer as additional information.
    Which version to pick: Their deck operates well with a small amount of mana. In addition to that, grinding out games is not necessary. For these reasons the two major strength of the Classic version don't carry weight. The Winstigator list should be your version of choice, as it brings a very strong early game.
    Cards that support this strategy: Warren Instigator, Goblin Chieftain, Tarfire, Gempalm Incinerator, Finisher Goblins
    Meaningful SB cards: Pyrokinesis, Goblin Sharpshooter, Blood Moon, Carpet of Flowers (on the draw)
    Red Herrings: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (they will aggressively Wasteland you, and if possible shut down AEther Vial, making her hard to get out in the mid-game).
    DRS should be higher priority kill than Young Pyromancer. You can beat a ton of x/1S, and have a really hard time with a 1/2 comparitively.

    4c Control - Czech Pile Even
    How the matchups works: This is another control deck, but with A healthy dose of Deathrite Shaman, Baleful Strix, and often Snapcaster Mage, and Leovold, Emissary of Trest. Their removal suite truly is a pile, often involving some Abrupt Decay, some Fatal Push, some Lightning Bolt, 2-3 Kaloghan's Command, and 4 Force of Will, some Counterspell, some discard (Thoughtseize, Hymn to Tourach, or even some Liliana of the Veil). I imagine writing their deck list down requires more columns than available to most deck registration sheets. They win with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, or whatever's left of the creature suite in play, and have a rather good end game. On the bright side, this does mean that our decks main gameplan is at full value here. We are very good at accruing cards. Basically, just kill their stuff and chug along. There could be 1, maybe 2 pseudo wipes in their maindeck, but game 1 shouldn't be so bad so long as you don't let them recur Kolaghan's Command. Their mana is rough, so kill Deathrite Shaman, and their Red sources, and the rest should just be a grind fest. After boarding they drop counterspells for more interaction. Goblin Piledriver is rather good in this match, only being blocked by Deathrite Shaman. Do not get too aggressive, they almost certainly have the kill spell to punish you. Builds low on Goblin Piledriver and high on Finisher Goblins have the edge here.
    Cards that support this strategy: Goblin Matron, Goblin Ringleader, Finisher Goblins, Goblin Chirurgeon, Wasteland, Rishadan Port.
    Meaningful SB cards: Blood Moon, a small number of Relic of Progenitus (as it can cycle away for no card loss)
    Red Herrings: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (looks good at first glance, but is actually worse for our grind plan versus their kill spell plan)

    Sneak & Tell Slightly Unfavorable
    How the matchups works: This is the most popular, and best performing, version of Show & Tell right now. Get a Stingscourger or Goblin Matron on your hand as quickly as possible, as this will effectively shut down the creature half of Show and Tell. They are more likely to get you in Game 1 than normal just Sneak & Show due to the spell based combo portion of their deck, but in turn the deck became a bit clunkier and can fall to itself a bit more often. Post board bring in all of your hate for both archetypes and rely on them having the creature portion, as it's 2/3s of their wins. You should be wary of Kozilek's Return in this match, via Cunning Wish. Take note that it is indeed an instant.
    Which version to pick: Winstigator's strength is to end the game in a timely fashion, while the classic list has additional manadenial to delay the mana intense win conditions of Sneak Attack and Through the Breach. They are close to even.
    Cards that support this strategy: Stingscourger, Goblin Matron, Chrome Mox, Goblin Lackey, Warren Instigator, Goblin Piledriver, Rishadan Port
    Meaningful SB cards: Everything that works against either version is good here. Cards that hit both are great. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Red Elemental Blast, Demystify Effects, Cabal Therapy, etc. Confusion in the Ranks / Ashen Rider also do the job wonderfully, but are very, very narrow.

    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 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 don't have Sensei's Divining Top, as it was banned, and therefore don't have Counterbalance. This does actually make the match-up a tad harder as their maindeck is almost entirely interaction. They run 2-3 Counterspell, which we beat rather easily. Watch out for SB Supreme Verdict, or more likely a surprise Containment Priest, along with more Vendillion Cliques. It's also not impossible to see Back to Basics, if your build would care about it.
    Cards that support this strategy: Goblin Matron, Goblin Ringleader, Rishadan Port, Finisher Goblins
    Meaningful SB cards: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, maybe a Pithing Needle for Jace, the Mind Sculptor

    Death & Taxes Even
    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. Thalia, Heretec Cathar is another good card against us, as it prevents haste swarms, in addition to having first strike. 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. The red build of the deck basically only adds Pia and Kiran Nalaar that you have to care about. Just don't be surprised by it.
    Which version to pick: Both versions will do equally well. The Winstigator version has easier times going into profitable combat situations, while the Classic list is better at grinding out games until you get key cards on the table. That said builds low on Goblin Piledriver and high on Finisher Goblins have the edge here.
    Cards that support this strategy: Tarfire, Mogg War Marshal, Goblin Sharpshooter
    Meaningful SB cards: Shatter Affects, Pithing Needle, Pyrokinesis

    Eldrazi Stompy Favorable with Port and Waste / Slightly Favorable with just Wasteland.
    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 manabase. 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 manacosts. 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 manacosts. Over a course of several games you will be favored, as their manabase 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.
    Which version to pick: The Classic build really shines here as it is able to run 8 manadenial lands. The Winstigator build is better in MUs where you want to win the early game and Eldrazi Stompy is none of them, since their early game is much better than ours. I often find that a critical part of the game is handling the first Thought-Not Seer, which Pyrokinesis does "alone." Stingscourger tends to be better than Tarfire in this match-up.
    Cards that support this strategy: AEther Vial, Wasteland, Rishadan Port, Mogg War Marshal
    Meaningful SB cards: Blood Moon, Pyrokinesis, Shatter Affects
    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.

    Sneak & Show Slightly Unfavorable
    How the matchups works: Get an Stingscourger or Goblin Matron in your hand as quickly as possible, as this will effectively shut down Show and Tell. The only card really left to care about is Sneak Attack. As with other combo decks, your plan is to kill them as fast as possible. Due to their lack of interaction with your setup (other than a little countermagic) you can usually go all-in. After Game 1 they will bring in some Pyroclasm / Sudden Shock, and possibly Through the Breach (which work as additional copies of Sneak Attack). Your gameplan doesn't change much though, only will you replace your spot removal with some hate cards. Generally speaking you have an easy time with Show and Tell and a poor time with Sneak Attack. This match ends up being rough as you basically have to play into their SB Pyroclasms to kill them fast enough. If they happen to be running Sudden Shocks instead you are way better off.
    Which version to pick: Winstigator's strength is to end the game in a timely fashion, while the classic list has additional manadenial to delay the mana intense win conditions of Sneak Attack and Through the Breach. They are close to even.
    Cards that support this strategy: Stingscourger, Goblin Matron, Chrome Mox, Goblin Lackey, Warren Instigator, Goblin Piledriver, Rishadan Port
    Meaningful SB cards: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Pithing Needle, Red Elemental Blast, Cabal Therapy, extra Stingscourgers matter a lot here. Confusion in the Ranks / Ashen Rider also do the job wonderfully, but are very, very narrow.

    Omnitell Unfavorable
    How the matchups works: This plays out similarly to Storm variants, but slower. You generally don't have a mainboard out to them going off. They still run Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, so you need to respect that card coming down in the first few turns, but ultimately they are trying to get an Omniscience into play to win with Cunning Wish. They have access to their SB game 1 so be wary of Kozilek's Return or Sudden Shock off of an end of turn Cunning Wish.
    Which version to pick: Both are poor in the match, but Winstigator is faster against an empty board.
    Cards that support this strategy: Stingscourger, Goblin Matron, Chrome Mox, Goblin Lackey, Warren Instigator, Goblin Piledriver, Rishadan Port
    Meaningful SB cards: Red Elemental Blast, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Mindbreak Trap, Demystify Effects, Cabal Therapy. Confusion in the Ranks / Ashen Rider also do the job wonderfully, but are very, very narrow.

    Esper Stoneblade Even
    How the matchups works: As with all equipment based deck, you must be able to handle their package of Umezawa's Jitte, and often Sword of Fire and Ice. This IS the reason goblin lists run 1 shatter goblin in their maindeck. The majority of their deck is a control list, so you are favored when the equipment doesn't matter, and a properly built deck should have sufficient answers to the equipment. Remember Skirk Prospector can negate Umezawa's Jitte counters, and lifegain from Batterskull. Things get harder when True-Name Nemesis lands, but their deck is rather clunky and will often just give you enough time to race with Goblin Piledriver. Post board they will bring in removal and most notably Toxic Deluge, or Zealous Persecution. Try not to get blown out. Just kill or Pithing Needle the Stoneforge Mystic, or your specific issues, and the rest of the match should just be about True-Name Nemesis. Leave in 2-3 Goblin Piledrivers here, as it runs past a TNN.
    Which version to pick: Both versions will do equally well.
    Cards that support this strategy: Tarfire, Mogg War Marshal, Goblin Sharpshooter
    Meaningful SB cards: Shatter Affects, Pithing Needle, Pyrokinesis, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (They are ultimately a control deck with fewer Wastelands.)
    Red Herrings: Blood Moon (They are a 3 color deck with several basic lands.)
    Last edited by Olaf Forkbeard; 02-07-2018 at 03:05 PM. Reason: Updates

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