The Many Flavors of Goblins in Modern

krenkos command art

Hi all,

Everyone goes gaga over tribes, and Goblins are no exception. They’re cheap to buy and cheap to cast, and droves of them often swing for lethal by the critical turn four. Still, they aren’t producing results. Perhaps it is because we are giving them the wrong role. Consider where they are most powerful in Legacy: a slew of them mix with [c]Rishadan Port[/c] and [c]Wasteland[/c] for a control deck. Again, in Vintage, where many decks win with a few cards, the go-to game plan is [c]Goblin Lackey[/c] on turn one into [c]Goblin Warchief[/c] and [c]Earwig Squad[/c] on turn two. This is a very controlling strategy.

In Modern, we have been focused on one thing: attacking quickly, and reaching with [c]Goblin Guide[/c]. The most recent exciting thing for many Goblins enthusiasts has been [c]Howl of the Horde[/c]. A turn four triple [c]Goblin Grenade[/c] still doesn’t launch our green friends to success, though.

Instead of the aggressive strategy, then, let’s try and take Goblins through the other two modes of play: Control and Combo.

Control Goblins

What exactly are we trying to control with a red-based deck, and how do Goblins contribute to it?

Looking at Modern as a whole, we want to have favorable percentages, or at least plans, against Twin, Abzan, Affinity, Infect, Burn, and Amulet Bloom.

vs. Twin – First of all, we can assert the aggressor role and race. Traditional Goblins decks have been blown out by [c]Electrolyze[/c] in the match-up, but we can do better than a horde of x/1 creatures. Sideboard [c]Combust[/c] and [c]Rending Volley[/c] keep them off their combo plan, and other pieces of burn removal ensure that we can get there.

vs. Abzan – This is a nightmare matchup for Goblins. If they develop their mana, we will throw fodder into massive rhinos and lhurgoyfs until finally succumbing to the stampede. Goblins do not have to allow them to develop their mana, though. We have two of the most powerful effects against Abzan available: [c]Magus of the Moon[/c] and [c]Blood Moon[/c]. We can bolt their birds or target them with [c]Mogg Fanatic[/c].

vs. Affinity – It is strictly a race, but we can play cards that give us the edge in the race: [c]Tin Street Hooligan[/c] seems limited in scope, but a beater for two that grows is efficient enough. [c]Mogg Fanatic[/c] keeps [c]Arcbound Ravager[/c] shenanigans at bay, and our sideboard has the most powerful effects available to beat Affinity.

vs. Infect – Infect folds to sufficient removal. [c]Mogg Fanatic[/c] and [c]Lightning Bolt[/c], coupled with a nice clock should eliminate their [c]Blighted Agent[/c] and [c]Inkmoth Nexus[/c] so that we can keep blocking and establishing a clock.

vs. Burn – Like Affinity, we are out to race Burn, but [c]Aether Vial[/c] keeps us from just losing whenever they have an [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c] and are ahead, and [c]Dragon’s Claw[/c] post side will give us a lot of life since we are casting red spells as well.

vs. Amulet Bloom – We have the only relevant cards against the [c]Primeval Titan[/c] plan and the [c]Hive Mind[/c] plan: [c]Magus of the Moon[/c] and [c]Blood Moon[/c].

So why choose Goblins for a control deck, anyway? Well, [c]Goblin Rabblemaster[/c] has shown himself to be a capable card even in Jund Midrange, so if those same wheels get turning in Goblins, the train will be hard to stop.

Now that we know what we need to have a plan against archetypes, let’s see if we can build a deck with consistency and pressure.

[d title=”Control Goblins (Modern)”]
Lands
4 Copperline Gorge
8 Mountain
4 Stomping Ground
4 Wooded Foothills

Creatures
4 Ember Hauler
1 Goblin King
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Magus of the Moon
1 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Simian Spirit Guide
3 Tin Street Hooligan
4 Warren Instigator

Other Spells
4 Aether Vial
3 Blood Moon
4 Lightning Bolt

Sideboard
1 Blood Moon
4 Dragon’s Claw
4 Rending Volley
4 Searing Blaze
1 Shattering Spree
1 Tin Street Hooligan [/d]

If we’re being honest, this is really a deck that is looking for free wins with turn 2, [c]Simian Spirit Guide[/c] and [c]Blood Moon[/c] or [c]Magus of the Moon[/c]. Of course, while this works against a massive portion of the format, we have to place it in a shell that can still win otherwise.

Looking back at the list, I like our chances here against the format. The only deck that gives me a lot of pause is Zoo, and that is why the 4 [c]Searing Blaze[/c] are in the sideboard.

Combo Goblins

Modern does not have anything remotely close to [c]Food Chain[/c] in terms of power level, but when we fail to port a list from Legacy or Vintage into Modern, we know our next step: old Extended.

There is a long-forgotten piece of equipment that combined nicely with Goblins and Shamans there: [c]Thornbite Staff[/c]. Together with [c]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/c], a number of infinite combinations are present. The easiest two are [c]Mogg Fanatic[/c] and [c]Lightning Crafter[/c], winning on the spot. [c]Ember Hauler[/c] may or may not win immediately, but he will certainly get you close. Aside from those, we can likely easily clear the board with [c]Siege-Gang Commander[/c] or [c]Lightning Crafter[/c].

[d title=”Combo Goblins (Modern)”]
Land
20 Mountain

Creatures
4 Ember Hauler
4 Goblin Chieftain
4 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Krenko, Mob Boss
4 Lightning Crafter
4 Mogg Fanatic
2 Mogg War Marshall
1 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Warren Instigator

Other Spells
4 Aether Vial
4 Thornbite Staff

Sideboard
4 Blood Moon
4 Dragon’s Claw
4 Rending Volley
3 Shattering Spree[/d]

Finally, since so many want to do stuff like this …

[d title=”Aggro Goblins (Modern)”]
Land
20 Mountain

Creatures
4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Goblin Buswhacker
4 Goblin Chieftain
4 Legion Loyalist
4 Mogg War Marshall

Other Spells
4 Dragon Fodder
4 Hordeling Outburst
4 Krenko’s Command
4 Obelisk of Urd
4 Shared Animosity[/d]

If it isn’t [c]Foundry Street Denizen[/c] into [c]Krenko’s Command[/c] (attack for 3) into [c]Hordeling Outburst[/c] AND [c]Obelisk of Urd[/c], then my friend, it isn’t curving out.

So will any green men rise to the top besides Elves, aided now by [c]Collected Company[/c]? I think if we shift gears away from Aggro, Goblins can do it!

-drinkard