Legacy, Cheaper Than You Realise! Week 4 – Goblins!
Over my three years of playing Magic: the Gathering, I have played many different formats. The usual culprits, like Standard, Modern and Draft, but also everything from Judge Stack to Unhinged Constructed to Mental Magic. There are so many ways to play the game. Out of everything, though, my favourite format absolutely has to be Legacy.
Legacy hits the sweet spot between the incredibly powerful and game-warping cards in Vintage and the straight, linear strategies in Modern. It has incredible combo potential but also great removal suites, perfect fixing, and most importantly, excellent disruption in the form of counterspells and land destruction. It is much more a format that encapsulates really knowing the meta, reading your opponent’s plays and understanding when to act and react.
It’s saddening that many people will not experience this format in their Magic lifetimes, because they simply can’t justify the money for a deck. Legacy requires an investment if you want to play some of the most well-known decks like Delver, Storm or Shardless. The dual lands and Lion’s Eye Diamond being on the reserved list have sadly made a lot of decks unaffordable for those who don’t wish to spend a lot of money on the game.
However, I’m here to bring you the good news: this isn’t always the case.
Since the printing of Eternal Masters, which, granted, did not address the main issue, but did make some important reprints outside of the reserved list, the average price of Legacy decks has gone down a lot, and some tier 1 or tier 2 decks now cost the same amount as some Modern lists. If you think you can’t play Legacy, it might be time to think again. Over the coming weeks, I’m going to write about a few decks which are the same price as Modern lists (and, indeed, in some cases share cards with Modern), and which are not what you would call budget lists; they are exactly what people are running at GPs.
With more Legacy now approaching on the horizon with the Team Pro Tour, is it time for you to get stuck in?
Legacy Goblins – The Rundown
This week, I’m going to discuss the archetype Goblins. This deck is very different to how you might have experienced the tribe in EDH or Modern, where they are very whack-face and not so much for the thinking part of Magic. In Legacy, the deck is very grindy, and focuses on card advantage and mana denial.
Here is a recent decklist by Nicolas Geneis (mtgtop8.com):
4 Cavern of Souls
3 Gempalm Incinerator
3 Goblin Chieftain
4 Goblin Lackey
4 Goblin Matron
4 Goblin Ringleader
1 Goblin Sharpshooter
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Krenko, Mob Boss
3 Mogg War Marshal
1 Siege-Gang Commander
1 Tuktuk Scrapper
3 Warren Instigator
4 INSTANTS and SORC.
7 OTHER SPELLS
4 Aether Vial
3 Chrome Mox
3 Blood Moon
4 Leyline of the Void
3 Pithing Needle
1 Tuktuk Scrapper
This particular list can be found for $725 – about £600 – but by replacing the four Cavern of Souls with Rishadan Ports, which is equally viable, that would drop to $525 or £450.
Naturally, the red deck runs a lot of Mountains. Goblins is unique in that its mana base can actually be very different from deck to deck – some run Rishadan Port, some run Cavern of Souls, some (like this one) run Pendelhaven, some run fetch lands and splash colours in the side, some very rare examples even run Karakas. It all depends on how you like to play. The only lands that are ubiquitous across all Goblin decks are Mountains, and Wastelands.
You will need 4 Wasteland for this deck, because Goblins is very good at keeping up in cards and managing to pull ahead on board, but mana denial to stop the opponent getting ahead is a very important feature of this plan. Wasteland is an absolute key feature and will be able to win you games by cutting your opponents off the colours they need, or preventing them ramping out while you still get to cast your cheap creatures or put them through an Aether Vial.
Of the optional lands:
Cavern of Souls is very important against blue decks to make sure your cards resolve. If you don’t have an Aether Vial, it can be difficult to get on with your game plan if your early plays are countered. By including Cavern you can potentially make the Dazes and Forces in your opponent’s hand worthless.
Pendelhaven is a great inclusion even though you don’t run green. Goblin Lackey is one of the most important cards in your deck, and the fact that it can’t attack through Deathrite Shaman, Mother of Runes or even Stoneforge Mystic if you are on the draw, can be a very big problem. However, by including Pendelhaven you give your Lackey enough of a boost to get through your opponent’s early creatures. Failing that, you have other 1/1 creatures later on in the game for which Pendelhaven will be a useful buff. Goblins almost never runs out of 1/1s.
Rishadan Port is an optional inclusion which adds to the mana denial plan. Very good against the Delver lists that try to run on very few lands, and against four-colour manabases, it aids your Wastelands and helps you cut your opponent off plays while using your extra mana or a Vial to add a one- or two- drop to your side of the field every turn. I would usually include 2-3 of these in a list. The reason it is not in the above list is because this one is running Warren Instigator, which I’ll get to in a moment; you can diverge your deck depending on if you prefer to run this or Goblin Piledriver, and Ports normally go in the Piledriver version.
Karakas is an option instead of Pendelhaven if you have a lot of Show and Tell or Lands in your meta. Although again, it’s more like a spell than a land, it will save your life in a lot of games against decks that Goblins is usually pretty weak to. It can also tap for white if you choose to go for the dual colour option explained below.
Fetch lands can be an inclusion in the Goblin deck just for thinning if you have them laying around and you’re not using them. In some matchups in Legacy life totals are binary anyway, so the extra .001% you gain from thinning can help. The main reason you would usually have them, though, is if you include a singular Plateau or Badlands, to splash for sideboard options. Mono red is notoriously not the best at dealing with the opponent’s deck, so in some metas you will want to splash white for Containment Priest, Rest in Peace or Thalia; or perhaps black for Earwig Squad and Thoughtseizes. It’s not ideal and not always necessary but it is certainly an option if there are decks you struggle to beat.
Instants, Sorceries, Artifacts and Enchantments
This section will be rather quick.
Chrome Moxen are in the deck to help you ramp out faster to your three-drops, which are very powerful, or to land a turn one Warren Instigator. These are not always included in the deck, normally only in the Winstigator version, but they certainly can help you get out of the gates fast.
Aether Vial is one of the most important pieces of your puzzle. Many of your goblins have ETB effects so being able to put them into play uncounterably and at instant speed can have a profound effect on combat steps. It also allows you to get very far ahead on mana when combined with Wasteland and Port. A hand with an Aether Vial and a couple of creatures in it will very rarely be a mulligan. It’s just that good.
Finally, Tarfire is in the deck to serve as removal for Deathrite Shaman, Thalia, Mother of Runes, Delver of Secrets, Stoneforge Mystic, Young Pyromancer or any of the other small and irritating creatures which get in the way of your goblins. It can be searched up with Goblin Matron since it is a Goblin Tribal spell, or hit off Goblin Ringleader, which is why it is included over Lightning Bolt.
Here we come to the main bulk of the deck: the actual goblins! These will serve not only as your win condition but also are like spells in themselves, and will help you to control the board state and stay ahead on cards while also bringing the beats.
Let’s start at the beginning. Goblin Lackey is almost certainly the best card in your deck. It has become worse since the printing of Deathrite Shaman and a shift in the meta to more low drop creatures, but without a doubt if you can drop this guy on turn one and find a way to connect then you are unlikely to lose the game. It puts you so far ahead on board so early that most decks will struggle to keep up, especially when combined with mana denial.
If Goblin Lackey wasn’t good enough, how about two taped together? Warren Instigator is just that. Although slower, because it’s 2 mana, it hits twice, so if you can connect then you get to drop, say, a Goblin Matron off first strike damage and then use the ability to search up whatever you want to put in with normal damage. Neat, right? Also worth noting is that it can trade with a Thalia, so you can attack safely into her or Vial it in and block to get her off the table. Warren Instigator is the build-around card in this particular type of list, which runs more red lands and less mana denial, aiming for some faster ‘free wins’. If you are aiming for a more grindy game plan you will usually not be running this card.
Goblin Matron is another cornerstone of the deck. She searches up whatever you need at that exact moment. Short on mana? Get out a Goblin Warchief. Late game and you need burn? Siege-Gang Commander. Want to remove a Delver? Tarfire. Irritating artifact? Tutor up a Tuktuk Scrapper. There are myriad ways to use this card, and all of them are great. She always replaces herself in your hand so you’re never down on card advantage and she makes the deck a great toolkit.
Goblin Ringleader is another of the deck’s power cards. Often you will be searching for him with a Matron trigger. Though he’s only a 2/2 for 4 mana, the ETB effect is insane in this deck which is – literally – half creatures, plus the 4 Tarfires which can be found from his trigger. You will normally average at least two cards off this, meaning he replaces himself and adds a card to your hand in addition to being a 2/2 haste. He is your main card advantage engine and a very good one at that.
Goblin Chieftain is one of your ‘press the advantage’ cards. You can do some neat tricks with him using Aether Vial or Warren Instigator, but primarily you will be playing him precombat and swinging with your team.
Mogg War Marshal is one of those cards that you look at and think ‘Really? This?’. Then you play with it and it blows your mind. It’s essentially three creatures in one card which is much more than market value for 2 mana, and the fact that one of them sticks around after it dies the first time is great. If you play it late game or have a Vial and can pay the Echo cost then it’s some boardwipe insurance, and if you play it early and let it die, it’s still two goblins and a free chump blocker for 2 mana which is a pretty good exchange rate.
Gempalm Incinerator is just a removal spell that looks like a goblin. Similar to Tarfire, it is a part of your removal suite, and you will almost never be actually casting it. This can deal with things like Gurmag Angler and Tarmogoyf that you may not be able to handle with the smaller removal spells.
Two creatures that are not in this list, because it is the Winstigator version, are Goblin Warchief, which reduces the cost of all your creatures and gives them haste (excellent with mana denial and Lackey) and Goblin Piledriver, which is a huge hitter and sometimes very hard to deal with. Depending on your meta, Piledriver is usually a very good call, and Warchief is excellent in almost any situation, so if the Warren Instigator plan isn’t where you want to be, this is an alternate plan of attack. This would usually go hand in hand with Rishadan Port and results in a slower game plan with less ‘free wins’ than Winstigator gives you, but also allows you to play a longer, grindier game.
The rest of the deck is a toolbox, and you will usually run some of these cards or all of them as one-ofs:
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker: A good way to finish out the game quickly by duplicating Chieftains, or just making more Ringleaders for extra card advantage.
Krenko, Mob Boss: Your primary finisher. When you untap with him, he will end the game very fast – barring boardwipes, it will take two turns at most.
Goblin Sharpshooter: Great for clearing up small creatures that get in your way, or as a way to ping face if necessary for the extra few points.
Tuktuk Scrapper: Deals with annoying artifacts. Some lists run Tin Street Hooligan instead since it’s a little cheaper, using Cavern of Souls or Pendelhaven to pay green.
Sparksmith: Another way to deal with large blockers if you can’t get through.
Skirk Prospector: Included in the non-Winstigator lists, it’s an inclusion that works very well with Goblin Sharpshooter and can utilise your creatures to make mana in a pinch.
Siege-Gang Commander: Another finisher. Expensive at five mana, but gets you four bodies, and will use up all your spare mana and turn it into burn if not dealt with.
Finally, not included in this list but another card I have seen frequently is Goblin Rabblemaster. Again, it’s expensive but if left unchecked will be game-ending, and usually at least leaves behind a friend or two, even if he dies. Though the ‘all Goblins must attack’ clause is a downside, in the faster Winstigator lists you can sometimes win before it matters. Definitely worth considering if you like this card.
There are many different sideboard options if you opt to go with the white or black splashes, which are detailed in the primer below. For now, I will stick with the standard mono-red sideboard options:
Blood Moon/Magus of the Moon – Obviously great against any kind of Delver or midrange strategy which utilises multiple colours, and hoses the Marit Lage decks. An obvious inclusion in any mono-red sideboard in this kind of format and will on occasion just pick up free games for you.
Pyrokinesis – An option for when you need extra bits of reach, or in matchups where they can flood the board out with small and irritating 1/1s (see: Elves).
Pithing Needle: Another way to deal with Marit Lage, but also handles Griselbrand, Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor very well. An all-round good card which will help in a number of matchups.
Leyline of the Void: An option against graveyard decks. You will need some amount of graveyard hate in Legacy, and Leyline is always a good option. You could also use Nihil Spellbomb if you are running the black splash, or Relic of Progenitus/Surgical Extraction/Grafdigger’s Cage – the possibilities are wide and varied depending on exactly what you need it to do.
Stingscourger: A hedge against Show and Tell or Marit Lage. These combo decks can be, by far and away, your worst matchup as you are a deck without Force of Will, so having cards that can deal with things after the fact is very important. Also potentially good against flipped Delvers or Gurmag Anglers if it comes to that.
Another couple options I would look to personally include:
Chalice of the Void: Surprisingly few of your creatures are 1 mana, and those can easily be Vialed in or cast with Cavern of Souls. A Chalice on 1 or even 0 on the play can just win the game by itself in some matchups, and will help you out a lot against Storm which is difficult to beat. This is a very good sideboard card to have access to.
Engineered Explosives: Use with caution as it can easily be detrimental to you, but if you are expecting the Storm player to sideboard into Empty against your graveyard hate, or you want to clear up the Elves player’s board, or you need help against Taxes then this can be a potential option.
Price of Progress: You’re not a burn deck. Price of Progress, though, is almost free in a mono colour deck against a greedy field, and can be up to 8 or even 10 points of damage to push you over the top. If your meta is skewed a certain way then this or even Fireblast can be options to consider.
If you are interested in learning more from a detailed primer, you can find one here:
So, there you have it! Goblins. The tribe that doesn’t stop giving. Or whacking.
I hope you have enjoyed this week’s chapter of cheap Legacy. Next time I will find something particularly spicy to speak about, so if you are wanting to get into Legacy on a budget but still haven’t seen anything you like in this or my previous three articles (Burn, Pox, Dredge – see my author page for details!) then fear not, one day we will find the deck you want to play!
Thanks for reading and see you next time,