About two months ago, before Mirrodin Besieged was released, I decided to put together a “budget” deck on Magic Online so I could play Standard again.
I ended up putting together a Goblin deck, and it turned out to be much better than I expected. To make a long story short, I played a physical copy of
the deck, updated for Mirrodin Besieged, in the StarCityGames.com Open in Edison, NJ, and ended up in eleventh place.
This is what I played:
- 4 Goblin Chieftain
- 4 Goblin Guide
- 4 Warren Instigator
- 4 Ember Hauler
- 4 Spikeshot Elder
- 4 Goblin Wardriver
Why you might want to play this deck:
This deck doesn’t quite have the ridiculous starts that decks based around Kuldotha Rebirth have, but its creatures can do a lot of damage very
quickly. Turn 5 kills are common, even against opponents who put up resistance. Goblin Chieftain, Goblin Wardriver, and Teetering Peaks all help turn
smaller creatures into big damage.
. This deck can mount a significant offense using just two creatures, so it can easily survive a Pyroclasm, Day of Judgment, or other mass removal
spell. And if an opponent does manage to stop its creatures, the deck’s burn provides a strong plan B. Even an opponent with a double-digit life total
is vulnerable; for example, two Staggershock and a Lightning Bolt adds up to a total of eleven damage.
It has a number of good matchups.
It’s very hard for RUG, Valakut, or other random mana ramp decks to beat this deck. They’ll give you plenty of time to hurt them while they try to get
mana to cast their big threats, and, after sideboarding, most of their big threats can be hit with Mark of Mutiny. Landfall-based Boros decks are
probably at a disadvantage, too; because you have a lot more removal than they do, they have to run extra land to support their landfall creatures,
and, after sideboarding, Molten-Tail Masticore trumps Kor Firewalker. I’m hesitant to claim that this deck is favored against Caw-Blade and its
variants, but the matchup is at least winnable.
It won’t slay your wallet.
The entire maindeck can be purchased for less than the cost of a single copy of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The most expensive cards in the deck I played
are Molten-Tail Masticore and Sword of Feast and Famine, both of which are in the sideboard, and, as it turns out, I never cast either one of them
during the entire tournament. If you want to save even more money, the combination of Devastating Summons and Goblin Bushwhacker makes a fine
replacement; you can run one Devastating Summons main instead of the Arc Trail, and the remaining seven cards in the sideboard.
It’s not Caw-Blade.
Caw-Blade is the Deck to Beat right now, and not playing it will let you dodge some of the hate. Or you might just be sick of it and want to play
something else that can still do well.
Why you might not want to play this deck:
It can’t beat Quest for the Holy Relic.
Many decks have a nightmare matchup, and for this deck, it’s Mono-White Quest. It’s almost impossible for this deck to beat a creature equipped with
Argentum Armor, and if Mono-White Quest gets a fast start, you’ll be seeing one very quickly. Sideboarding can help, but I really didn’t want to devote
too much space to a single deck that I don’t expect to face very often.
It’s not Caw-Blade.
There’s a reason Caw-Blade is considered the best deck, after all. You can’t go wrong by choosing to play it instead of a relatively unknown quantity
such as Goblins.
So, yeah, the obligatory matchup guide:
Goblins probably has the advantage here. Boros runs twenty-six land, which means they’ll be drawing lands while you draw spells. They have a lot of
creatures, but many of them have only one toughness. An active Spikeshot Elder can wreck their board, and they have far fewer removal spells than you
do. When sideboarding, take out all four Goblin Guides and all four Warren Instigators, and bring in Molten-Tail Masticore and Manic Vandal.
Molten-Tail Masticore trumps Kor Firewalker, and Manic Vandal will kill equipment while still providing a body.
Caw-Blade is the consensus “best deck in the format,” and considering how many Caw-Blade decks have been making Top 8 recently, I’m not inclined to
disagree. Nevertheless, you can win this matchup. You have to do as much damage as possible early on because their late game is extremely powerful.
Between Gideon Jura, Day of Judgment, Celestial Colonnade, and whatever other removal spells and large creatures they might be running, the Caw-Blade
deck will eventually be able to lock you out of the combat phase. On the other hand, Stoneforge Mystic and Squadron Hawk are little more than speed
bumps; it’s not hard to kill anything that your opponent tries to attach to a Sword of Feast and Famine or Sword of Body and Mind. If your opponent
plays Jace, the Mind Sculptor and immediately raises it to five loyalty counters, don’t bother trying to kill it; you can’t afford to take the pressure
off of your opponent’s life total. When sideboarding, take out Warren Instigator and bring in Manic Vandal.
Quest White Weenie:
Every deck has (or ought to have) a weakness, and Goblins has a devil of a time winning this matchup. Pretty much the best you can do is hope your
opponent has a bad draw and then board in Manic Vandal in place of Warren Instigator. There are other sideboard cards that could help, but I really
didn’t want to devote the sideboard space. Fight your hardest, but be prepared to accept the loss and move on.
As I mentioned earlier, RUG decks tend to be easy prey. Often, the only cards that can actually cause you problems in game 1 cost six or more mana, and
if you kill Lotus Cobra on sight, there’s a very good chance you can do twenty damage before your opponent can start dropping huge creatures into play.
After sideboarding, they’ll probably bring in Pyroclasm and Obstinate Baloth, but you get to take out Arc Trail, one Warren Instigator, and two
Spikeshot Elders for Mark of Mutiny. If they play something scary other than Avenger of Zendikar, steal it and smack them with it.
If there’s anyone out there still playing the pre-Mirrodin Besieged version of this deck, just do your best to run them over before they kill you with
a Grave Titan. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas builds of U/B Control are actually easier because Tezzeret is actually less of a problem to have to deal with
than Grave Titan is. After boarding, you want to have Sword of Feast and Famine in your deck if they’re playing black removal, and if they’re playing a
Tezzeret build, bring in the Manic Vandals, too.
Valakut has always been a very easy matchup. Like RUG, Valakut decks will usually sit there and let you run them over while they put mana into play. In
general, the only really scary thing they can do is play Avenger of Zendikar, or, in game one, race you with a Primeval Titan. After you board out an
Arc Trail, a Warren Instigator, and two Spikeshot Elders for four copies of Mark of Mutiny, playing a Primeval Titan against you becomes suicidal.
You’ll steal it, attack, fetch up two copies of Teetering Peaks, and hit your opponent for eleven points of trample damage.
Vampires seems to be on the decline these days; Boros seems to have replaced it as the most popular aggressive deck. Playing against B/r Vampires is
like playing a Red Deck mirror match; you both have plenty of creatures and plenty of burn. I’ve played this matchup a lot online, and I still don’t
know which deck is favored. Some of the time, a player will just be overwhelmed quickly, but most of the time, it turns into a battle of attrition; the
first player who can’t answer a threat loses. Board out Arc Trail and all four Goblin Guides for all three Swords of Feast and Famine and two copies of
The report itself:
My alarm wakes me up at 8:30 am. I stagger out of bed, get dressed, grab my deck, two pencils, and a 20-sided die, and stuff them into my coat pockets.
I leave the house, eat breakfast at McDonalds, then drive to the Expo Center. I’ve played in tournaments at the Raritan Center complex before, so I
know the way, or so I thought. I’d never been to the Expo Center itself, and it turns out to be a rather long distance from the entrance to the
complex. I had to guess at the right way to go at a couple of intersections because there weren’t any signs until I got very close. I did manage to go
the right way, though. There was plenty of parking by the building, and I arrived with plenty of time to register and pick up the Mirrodin Besieged
cards I had ordered that I needed to complete my deck. I also bought a life total pad, which ended up inspiring me to take notes for a tournament
report: it had a section for opponent’s name, opponent’s deck, and round number.
Eventually, the tournament began. There were 584 players, so there would be ten rounds.
Round 1: Richard Fiorilli, playing RUG
Game 1: My opponent is stuck at two mana for a while. He counters a creature with Mana Leak and plays a Lotus Cobra that I kill, but he doesn’t end up
putting up any kind of reasonable defense while my Goblin Chieftain leads my hordes to victory.
Game 2: I have a bit of a slow draw, and my opponent has a Ratchet Bomb and an Obstinate Baloth. He uses the Ratchet Bomb quickly and ends up killing
only a single creature. I follow up by playing a couple more, but the Obstinate Baloth keeps me from attacking for value. He plays a Jace, the Mind
Sculptor and uses it to Brainstorm, leaving it with three loyalty counters. I kill it with a Lightning Bolt. Neither of us is making much progress, but
I’m accumulating burn spells in my hand, and my opponent can’t seem to draw anything that can actually kill me. Eventually I burn him out from
double-digit life totals.
Richard Fiorilli ends up finishing the tournament in 88th place, with a 6-4 record.
Round 2: Jim Davis, playing RUG
I refrain from making any remarks about the Garfield comic strip.
Game 1: I come out swinging with a turn 1 Goblin Guide and a turn 2 Ember Hauler. I go on to kill two Lotus Cobras and an Oracle of Mul Daya. He gets
to five mana and plays Precursor Golem, but by this point, he’s already well within burn range. I take one hit from the three Golems, putting me at
eleven but burn him to death before he gets to attack a second time.
Game 2: I play some creatures and attack him all the way to eleven, but he plays Pyroclasm, wiping my board, and then follows up with an Obstinate
Baloth the next turn, going back up to fifteen. The race is on; he keeps attacking with the Baloth and killing my creatures, while I keep trying to
attack with my own creatures and throw burn at him and at any smaller creature he casts.
At some point, I notice that I have a Staggershock sitting in the exile zone that I must have forgotten the rebound trigger on. Unfortunately, it’s
been several turns since I cast it, so the judge says that it just sits there. He plays a Precursor Golem. I start daydreaming about playing a Mark of
Mutiny on it and attacking him with three 4/4 Golems for the game, but I haven’t drawn one yet. Instead of a Mark of Mutiny, I topdeck a Burst
Lightning. I play it with kicker and kill the Golems. Eventually, I end up in a situation where I’m at four life, he’s at three, I have no spells in
hand and no creatures in play, and he still has the Obstinate Baloth, ready to finish me off. I topdeck… Goblin Guide. If I hadn’t forgotten the
Staggershock earlier, he’d be at one, and I could attack with the Goblin Guide for the win, but I can’t. Instead, I just play it and say “go,”
intending to use it to chump block. He kills it with another Pyroclasm, attacks me with the Baloth, and kills me.
Game 3: He doesn’t put up much of a fight, and I basically run him over. I get him all the way down to five before he plays an Obstinate Baloth and
goes back up to nine, but I just play a Goblin Chieftain and attack for lethal damage.
Jim Davis dropped from the tournament after round 9, finishing in 101st place with a 5-3-1 record.
In between rounds 2 and 3, the tournament computer crashes. It ends up taking over an hour for the tournament staff to re-enter all the pairings and
results from the previous two rounds. I use the time to walk around and talk to people. I run into some people I recognize from the store I used to
play Friday Night Magic before it unexpectedly closed about a month ago. He said that they didn’t close; they just moved, but they’ve stopped running
Friday Night Magic. I also introduced myself to a pretty girl with blond hair who was carrying around a video camera. Her name was Sarah Rovang, and
she told me that she was a Ph.D. student at Brown University and was making a documentary related to Magic. I volunteered to be interviewed on camera
and answered a few questions about myself and Magic. I also met her boyfriend, who was playing in the main event. I wonder what the documentary is
going to be like when it’s finished?
Round 3: Joe Pace, playing U/W/B Caw-Blade with Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Game 1: He tries to slow me down with Tumble Magnet and Squadron Hawk, but they don’t do much against my Goblins and burn spells. He plays a Tezzeret,
Agent of Bolas and makes an artifact into a 5/5, but he has to hold the 5/5 back on defense. I kill Tezzeret with a burn spell, attack with my
creatures, and then burn him out.
Game 2: I have a slow draw. and he manages to hold me off, casting Day of Judgment twice, but he doesn’t manage to find a way to actually kill me. He
plays a Tezzeret again, but this time uses its +1 ability instead of making a 5/5 creature. He doesn’t find any artifacts in the top five cards, and,
once again, I burn Tezzeret to death, this time with Staggershock. He dies shortly afterward to my creatures and remaining burn spells.
Joe Pace dropped from the tournament after round 7, finishing in 270th place with a 3-4 record.
Round 4: Anthony Boccardi, playing Mono-White Quest
Game 1: My heart sinks as he begins the match with “Plains, Quest for the Holy Relic, Ornithopter.” I have yet to win a single game against Quest for
the Holy Relic when playing online. Luckily for me, his draw is slow, and he doesn’t manage to get five counters on it until it’s far too late to make
a difference. He also plays two copies of Contested War Zone. Looking to steal them, I attack with a pair of Spikeshot Elders into an Accorder Paladin
and the Ornithopter, forcing him to block with both. On the turn after that, I draw my third land, kill the Ornithopter with a Staggershock, and steal
both Contested War Zones. Soon after that, I’m attacking for lots of damage, and by the time he does manage to fetch Argentum Armor and attach it to a
Signal Pest, he’s at 13, and he’s forced to block with it or die. I pump my attackers to four power and then kill the 6/7 Signal Pest with a Lightning
Bolt. I finish him off on my next turn.
I just dodged a bullet there; if I hadn’t been really lucky and my opponent had a faster draw, with more creatures, I would’ve been toast.
Game 2: My opponent mulligans twice and ends up with a one-land hand. That hand does have Quest for the Holy Relic in it and a few creatures that he
can cast, but he doesn’t play a second land, and he doesn’t manage to reach five counters. I kill his creatures and then kill him.
Anthony Boccardi finished the tournament in 77th place with a 6-4 record.
By now, I’m getting hungry. I go to the “Expo CafÃ©” in the expo center, and it’s charging inflated prices for what turns out to be pretty bad food. I’m
hungry, though, and I don’t want to leave the tournament site and risk being late for the next round, so I buy and eat it anyway. I’m pretty excited
about being 4-0 (8-1), so I decide that, starting this round, in addition to keeping my family informed on how I’m doing, I’ll send a text message to a
friend of mine and fellow member of the New York Less Wrong Meetup Group, Zvi Mowshowitz, letting him know how I’m doing. Incidentally, Zvi
gave me absolutely no help whatsoever with the deck itself — he just doesn’t play Magic that much any more — although he did give me permission to name
drop him in this report. 😉
Round 5: Harrison Greenberg, playing G/W Aggro, aka “Caw-Vine”
Game 1: My opponent opens with “land, Birds of Paradise.” I play a Spikeshot Elder. On his turn, he plays a second Birds of Paradise but misses his
land drop. That’s not good for him, what with my deck being full of burn spells and all. I play Teetering Peaks, pumping my Elder, use a burn spell on
his untapped Birds of Paradise, and attack for three. On his third turn, he plays a Lotus Cobra.
On my turn, I kill the Lotus Cobra with my Spikeshot Elder and attack for one. Still stuck on one land, he plays a second Lotus Cobra. I kill that one,
too, — this time with a burn spell — attack for one a second time, then play a Goblin Wardriver. He finally manages to draw a second land, but it’s
pretty much too late for him. I kill his remaining Birds of Paradise and attack for four, putting him at 11. He’s out of two-mana spells, and on my
turn, I play a Teetering Peaks and pump the Spikeshot Elder, attack him down to five, and then shoot him with the Elder for four damage, putting him at
one. He concedes.
Game 2: I start hitting him pretty hard, and, as it turns out, he’s got mana problems once again. He doesn’t do much this game except play a Journey to
Nowhere, and I bring him to 18, then to six, then kill him. After the game, he shows me a hand full of spells that all cost five mana and a Linvala,
Keeper of Silence that he can’t cast because he doesn’t have a second source of white mana.
Harrison Greenberg finished 14th, with a record of 8-2.
I’m 5-0. Obviously I’m doing something right. If I keep this up, I could even make Top 8! On the other hand, the matches are only going to get harder;
after all, my next opponent will also have won five rounds in a row, too! Before the round starts, I go to the people in the coverage booth and tell
them I’ve gone 5-0 with a rogue deck, suggesting that they might want to do a Deck Tech segment on it. They say they might, if I keep winning.
Round 6: Edgar Flores, playing U/W Caw-Blade
Game 1: I keep a one-land hand on the draw, and I draw my second land somewhere around turn 6 or so. Needless to say, I don’t win. I’ve done the math
on keeping one-land hands on the draw in a 21-land deck, and I’m supposed to make my second land drop 77% of the time, and keeping one-land hands on
the draw paid off several other times during the tournament, so I do think my decision was correct.
Game 2: I get in a few early hits, but my opponent stabilizes and drags out the game. Gideon Jura makes sure I can’t attack for damage, but I can still
burn my opponent. I manage to get him all the way to two life before I die. I had an opportunity to topdeck a burn spell for the win, but I draw land.
Such is life.
Edgar Flores was one of two players to go undefeated in the Swiss rounds. He lost to Patrick Sullivan in the quarterfinals.
Well, there goes my winning streak. I’ve still got a decent shot at making Top 8, though. I just need three more wins.
Round 7: Dan Jordan, playing Caw-Blade with Red
Dan Jordan is part of the old TOGIT crowd that included Osyp Lebedowicz and Gerard Fabiano. Gerard happens to be sitting next to me, and we reminisce
about old times. I’m flattered that he actually
Game 1: I play creatures and attack with them, taking him first to 18, then to ten. He kills them, but I play more. He reaches six mana, but his only
actual threat is a Celestial Colonnade. Eventually I’m left with just a Goblin Guide in play, but he’s at four life, and I have a Lightning Bolt and a
Staggershock in hand. He had been countering my burn spells with Mana Leak and Spell Pierce, so I attack with the Goblin Guide in order to make him tap
out to activate the Colonnade and block, which he does. I play Staggershock, leaving only one Mountain untapped, and he counters it with Spell Pierce.
I then Lightning Bolt him down to one and pass the turn. He draws and passes back, and I topdeck another Lightning Bolt for the win.
Now, as Dan was so kind enough to inform me of after the game, what I should’ve done was cast my burn spell during the declare attackers step, before
he declared blockers; if he wanted to counter the Staggershock, he’d have to tap the Celestial Colonnade and let the Goblin Guide through. I should’ve
been paying more attention to his land, I guess, but as they say, better lucky than good. 😉
Game 2: He gets stuck on two land. I kept a one-land hand, but this time, I do draw a second one. He eventually manages to play Day of Judgment, but by
then it’s far too late, and I burn him out.
Dan Jordan finished in 30th place with a 7-2-1 record.
Round 8: Gery Pawelzik, playing Caw-Blade with Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Game 2: He holds off my creatures with Tumble Magnet and removal spells, but I draw an awful lot of burn spells and kill him with those.
I didn’t actually see a Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas during the match itself, but when it was over, he confirmed that he was indeed playing it.
Gery Pawlezik finished in 60th place with a 6-2-2 record.
It’s now the do-or-die round. If I win, I make Top 8. If I lose, I play for Top 16 next round. I do have really good tiebreakers, though, so if an 8-2
does end up making it, it will be me.
Round 9: Rob Vaughan, playing Caw-Blade with Red
Game 1: He gets stuck on two land, an Island and a Mountain, and the third land he draws is a Scalding Tarn. I play creatures and kill him before he
manages to get the two white mana he needs to cast Day of Judgment.
At this point, I’m left with a difficult choice: whether to play or draw. Sure, you might think the choice is obvious, but hear me out. I didn’t
win a single coin flip during the entire tournament. Every single one of those matches I won 2-0, I started both games on the draw. Being on the
play does indeed give me more attack phases before my opponent gets to play Day of Judgment, but it also gives me one less card to work with, which
makes me more likely to be mana-screwed and less likely to topdeck a game-winning burn spell.
Eh, screw it. I’m an aggro deck; he’s a control deck. I’m going to play.
Game 3: My draw isn’t quite fast enough to wipe him out, unfortunately. He plays a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and immediately raises it to five loyalty.
He’s at fourteen life, and I have four power worth of creatures on the board. I decide that going after the Jace is a waste of damage; trying to wipe
out Jace will just give him time to set up Gideon Jura for the win, so I attack him down to ten. He uses Jace to Brainstorm and then plays Day of
Judgment. Gideon Jura soon follows, but I keep playing burn spells. I get him down to three life, but he plays a Basilisk Collar that he had searched
for earlier, equips it to Gideon Jura, and goes back up to nine life. There’s basically no way I can win from this position. He accumulates loyalty
counters on Jace, the Mind Sculptor and kills me with its ultimate ability.
Rob Vaughan finishes the Swiss rounds in 8th place with an 8-1-1 record. He loses in the quarterfinals to Mike Eisenhauer.
Thus ends my quest for a Top 8 finish. If I win next round, though, I’ll be a definite lock for Top 16.
Round 10: Alex Artese, playing RUG
Game 1: My opponent mulligans to six. He never manages to put up a reasonable defense, and I run him over. A highlight of the game was when he played
Jace, the Mind Sculptor and immediately used it to bounce a creature, leaving it at two loyalty counters. I have an Arc Trail in my hand, but he has no
creatures in play, so I kill the Jace by playing Arc Trail targeting him and targeting me.
Game 2: This time he mulligans to five. I keep a one-land hand, and the top of my deck rewards me with my second Mountain. I beat him down to eleven,
and he plays Inferno Titan, using its three damage to kill the two creatures I have in play. I untap, play Mark of Mutiny on the Inferno Titan, and do
ten damage to him, putting him at one. On his turn, he attacks me down to ten, and then I untap and finish him off with a Staggershock.
Alex Artese finishes the tournament in 36th place with a 7-3 record.
I go look at the standings again; there are more players at 8-1 than there are Top 8 slots for them, so some of them are going to have to play. I go
check on Rob Vaughan. He’s stuck in a long, drawn-out mirror match, which ends up going to time and finishes in an unintentional draw. He’s frustrated
at this, saying that his tiebreakers going into round 10 were bad, but they end up being good enough, and both Rob and his opponent make Top 8. I have
the best tiebreakers of all the players with 8-2 records and finish eleventh.
Thus ends the story of Goblins at the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Edison, NJ.
The New York Less Wrong Meetup Group
Convention center food