Daily Digest: Piledrive ‘Em

A rotation in a Magic format can be a pretty crazy upheaval in the way things work. Goblin Piledriver hasn’t been anywhere near the tournament tables, but as Ross Merriam points out, that could change in a hurry!

Grand Prix Washington, DC: March 11-13!

When Magic Origins was entering Standard, Goblin Pildriver received an undue amount of hype based on the important role it played in the Onslaught-era Goblin decks that were a staple of the format. In reality, that was a lesson on the power of Goblin Warchief, Siege-Gang Commander, and Patriarch’s Bidding, which proved to be more important than most had previously given credit for, making Goblin Piledriver languish in Standard obscurity.

But with the impending rotation we are looking at a format that is ripe for exploitation by aggressive red decks, which makes Goblin Piledriver a perfect candidate to break out in a big way. When revealed as a reprint for Magic Origins, the community went overboard hyping the former Standard all-star as a potential broken build-around-me, especially with the damage potential brought around by token makers like Dragon Fodder and Hordeling Outburst.

While the support seemingly existed, the format ultimately proved to be better-handled by more direct red decks that relied as little on internal synergy as possible; however powerful Goblin Piledriver proved to be, it was ultimately outshined by a red deck that did not need to play a bunch of subpar Goblins in order to execute its gameplan.

As players noticed this trend, the notion of a Goblin-themed aggressive deck in Standard died, only to be resurrected just in time for Shadows over Innistrad. The graveyard theme was strong in the last Innistrad block, so I am expecting more of the same, and coming off a format in which we were able to make four-color manabases work without issue, the tournaments directly following SOI are ripe for the picking by aggressive decks.

Even players prepared to deal with Goblin Piledriver as a two-mana 5/2 at worst may find themselves unprepared for countering the swarming strategy that Piledriver incentivizes, and without any true swarming aggro deck in the current Standard format, it would be easy to catch a large swath of the field unprepared.

For now the deck is looking to take advantage of the fact that most opponents are more prepared for single, large creatures than a swarm of small ones, and I think it fills that role well, even without splashing for Atakra’s Command, which it could easily do. Post-rotation, while this deck loses Hordeling Outburst, that is a relatively minor loss compared to the sweeping changes that will happen to the format at large, and in a new format filled with untuned decks, we have repeatedly seen those who are willing to show up with red aggressive decks be rewarded.

I could easily see this pattern repeating with a Goblins archetype that has been more powerful than anyone gave it credit for, and only broke out in a climate where the metagame is vulnerable to swarming aggressive decks backed up by direct burn. It is important in the early weeks of a new format to keep close tabs on the most prominent aggressive deck to provide an accurate baseline of the format, and it would not surprise me if Goblins proved to be precisely that deck after Shadows over Innistrad.

Grand Prix Washington, DC: March 11-13!