Building Boss Goblins

We’ve got just enough Goblins now for Jim Davis to take up his mantle as Goblin King and brew up something aggro! These are his results and his thoughts on the tribe in new Standard!

Goblins are surprisingly industrious.

We mostly just think of them blowing each other up and making

poop jokes

, but they’ve actually got a lot going on. Sure, Elves get to make tons of
mana and look nice, Dragons get to breathe fire and stuff, and Eldrazi get
to do… whatever it is that they do, I suppose, but is there a creature
type in Magic more capable and resourceful than the humble Goblin? Just
think about all the jobs they’ve had in the first quarter century of
Magic’s history:

Need to be lead into battle?

Broke your cool gadget?


Screaming kids got you down?

Looking to a hire a good Goblin?

It honestly never ends. Just imagine any profession and there’s a Goblin
out there ready, willing, and able to do it:

It gets to a point where you wonder if there’s any job a Goblin won’t do.

But through it all, there aren’t a ton of leaders in the Goblin ranks.
Sure, there’s Goblin King, but kings get dethroned and beheaded all the
time. Goblin General? There’s always a higher rank. Wort, Boggart Auntie?
Well, I honestly don’t know why being an aunt has any leadership
importance, but I can’t imagine it’s that relevant. All of the leadership
positions in Goblinhood seem tenuous at best.

That is of course, until now.

The truth is it’s good to be the boss.

Legion Warboss is our newest entry into the Goblin workforce from Guilds of Ravnica and boy is it a good one. While previewed as a
showcase of the new Boros mechanic, mentor, the seemingly made-for-Limited
mechanic is just the surface of this very powerful card. The ability to
create tokens each turn has had quite the hallmark for competitive play,
but clearly one doesn’t need to look too far into the past to find the
benchmark for Legion Warboss.

You can’t discuss Legion Warboss without talking about Goblin Rabblemaster,
one of the most played cards in Standard when it was legal, because the two
cards are extremely similar. Goblin Rabblemaster not only saw a ton of play
in Standard, but it has also shown up at times in both Modern and Legacy as
well as an extremely powerful singular red threat.

This, of course, bodes well for Legion Warboss, but there are some
differences. First, the bad stuff.

Con: Goblin Rabblemaster Kills Faster

For a three-mana creature, Goblin Rabblemaster is an astoundingly fast
clock. It deals one damage the first turn it’s on the battlefield, six the
following turn, then eight, and then (if necessary) ten.

This is very often why it sees play in older formats, especially Legacy
with its Ancient Tombs and City of Traitors. Blood Moon decks in Legacy are
always looking for fast kills, and while turn 1 Goblin Rabblemaster isn’t
quite turn 1 Blood Moon, it does kill very fast. In Modern, Goblin
Rabblemaster has mostly been seen in Mardu or Jund decks looking for a way
to close out games quickly after an early flurry of discard spells have put
their opponent off balance.

Legion Warboss isn’t too far behind that, attacking for one, then five,
then seven, then nine, but in terms of pure speed, Goblin Rabblemaster wins
the race. Adding a second copy of Goblin Rabblemaster to the equation also
leads to an even bigger damage disparity compared to a second Legion
Warboss. Lastly, Goblin Rabblemaster also does a better job of attacking
into one large blocker, as a 5/2 and three 1/1s attacks better into a 4/5
Tarmogoyf than three 2/2s and a 1/1.

However, that’s about the extent of the Goblin Rabblemaster comparison,
because it’s all upside otherwise.

Pro: You Don’t Need to Suicide All Your Goblins

This is perhaps the biggest and best upgrade over Goblin Rabblemaster, as
Legion Warboss comes with no downside and plays very well with other

Given Goblin Rabblemaster’s power level, I’ve often been asked if it had a
place in Legacy Goblins. The problem is that it’s really easy to understate
how big a drawback “you must attack with all of your creatures each turn”
is. Goblins are not the biggest creatures while also usually being a part
of “critical mass” strategies. You want to get a lot of Goblins on the
battlefield and then use them all do synergy-based things like cycle
Gempalm Incinerator or play a Volley Veteran, which may also include making
a strategic chump block here or there to get you to that point in the game.
It’s not hard to see that being forced to shove all of your small creatures
into the red zone mindlessly each turn isn’t going to achieve those goals.

The truth is despite being half of a Goblin Piledriver, Goblin Rabblemaster
played awfully with other Goblins- the drawback was just too devastating.
Legion Warboss contains almost all of the upside while also removing that
backbreaking drawback, posing it to be one of the most important cards in
the new Standard format. In fact, Legion Warboss is actively good in a deck
with lots of other Goblins and Goblin synergies.

Plays Well With Others

I’ve touched on them briefly both here on
and in some of my Youtube videos, but there
are actually a small handful of powerful Goblin cards legal in Standard.

The biggest and most important of these are Siege-Gang Commander and Volley
Veteran, both of which provide you with a great payoff for putting lots of
Goblins in your deck while also giving you the removal necessary in any
Standard format. The biggest problem that tribal and synergy decks often
have is that every Lightning Strike or Shock in your deck is one less
synergy card for the rest of your deck to function. By getting to play
synergy cards that also act as removal spells, we get to keep our Goblin
count high while also being able to interact. Adding Goblin Chainwhirler to
the mix offers us an impressive Goblin removal suite.

The problem with the Goblin decks I tried pre-Guilds of Ravnica
was there just simply weren’t enough playable Goblins! However, Legion
Warboss puts us well on the path to actually having enough good Goblins to
fill out a decklist. Legion Warboss is exactly what a tribal deck wants- an
individually powerful card that’s also prolific in its synergy. Every
Goblin token that Legion Warboss makes is another damage for Volley
Veteran, more fodder for Siege-Gang Commander, and more material for other
future synergies in Guilds of Ravnica (we can hope). Legion
Warboss also plays very well turn 2 off of Skirk Prospector, as you can
gain the 1/1 right back immediately and the non-red decks in the format
will struggle to answer Legion Warboss so early.

In fact, with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria poised to be one of the best cards
in the format and U/W Control not losing much, it’s very relevant that
Legion Warboss can play around Seal Away and Settle the Wreckage with ease.

The hope is that Guilds of Ravnica can give us some help in the
one- and two-drop department, but there’s definitely a solid core of cards
coming together around Legion Warboss. Between Fanatical Firebrand, Goblin
Chainwhirler, Volley Veteran, and Siege-Gang Commander, this deck does a
number on other creature decks, while Legion Warboss and Siege-Gang Command
help against the format’s slower decks.

Conclave Tribunal is another sweet card to watch for as it has various
excellent applications in any deck with a lot of creatures like this. It’s
not there yet, but we’ve got almost a whole new set to go.

Still Singularly Threatening

Of course, just because we can pair Legion Warboss with other
Goblins doesn’t mean we have to pair it with other Goblins.

While we don’t have much historical context of Goblin Rabblemaster in any
sort of Goblin tribal decks, we have tons of context for playing it on turn
2 and going to town with a bunch of removal and other great creatures.
What’s that you say? We actually have Elvish Mystic in Standard? As well as
some other powerful monsters like Rekindling Phoenix? Hell, red has been
the best color for aggressively slanted midrange threats for well over a

Of course, the problem here is twofold.

First off, almost all the great red cards we’ve been playing for what feels
like forever are finally leaving us. No more Glorybringer, no more Chandra,
Torch of Defiance. Only Rekindling Phoenix and Goblin Chainwhirler remain,
and playing Llanowar Elves and Goblin Chainwhirler in the same deck sounds
mighty ambitious. However, there’s an even bigger issue.

We don’t get Gruul yet!

Gruul is not one of the five guilds in Guilds of Ravnica, meaning
that we will not have Stomping Grounds to help fix our mana, nor any
support at all from the multicolored cards of the set. Historically the
multicolored cards are some of the best in each Ravnica-based set, meaning
that G/R Monster dreams may just have to wait for now.

Of course, we do get both Boros and Izzet…

While there’s no Azorius to complete the full wedge, the aggressive
leanings of both Boros and Izzet serve to complement Legion Warboss better
anyway. Goblin Rabblemaster was an unbelievable threat in these Jeskai
decks, providing a fast clock and token-based card advantage while you
fired off removal spell after removal spell to clear the way. Shock and
Lightning Strike are both still very legal, and it wouldn’t take that many
cool Wizards to make Wizard’s Lightning an option as well.

It’s hard to sketch out what a neo-Jeskai tempo deck would look like
without seeing all the awesome Boros and Izzet goodies we get from Guilds of Ravnica, but there’s some serious potential there.

No matter where it ends up, it’s very clear that Legion Warboss is the real
deal. There’s just too much raw power in the card for it to fail, so the
only question is exactly what to do with it. Like Goblin Rabblemaster,
Legion Warboss is going to be a format-defining card, likely across
multiple decks across the duration of the format.

Given the somewhat obvious Goblin plants in Core Set 2019 into a
format with almost zero support for the tribe otherwise, I think it’s safe
to assume there are some more Goblins down the Guilds of Ravnica
pipeline. I know I’ll be checking the previews as often as I can for them.
Will you?