Goblins And Teshar In Modern, Knights In Standard

Wow. And we thought we’d seen all the brews for Dominaria! Sam Black is going in a ton of directions, and none of them have gotten their proper respect yet! Get your hands on all of them here!

I was talking to a friend at WotC who teased that there was one other
Goblin that was getting reprinted that hadn’t been previewed yet, and I
said, I’m not sure exactly, something about how I’d only be interested if
it was Skirk Prospector, and sure enough–wow.

Skirk Prospector is an extremely powerful card. It’s been best with cards
like Goblin Matron and Goblin Ringleader – cards that give you additional
Goblins to cast – and Modern doesn’t have cards like that, but it does have
cards like Mogg War Marshal, Siege-Gang Commander, Krenko, Mob Boss, and,
if you want to get really ambitious, Empty the Warrens. Adding Skirk
Prospector and Goblin Warchief to Modern means that the Goblin decks that
can be built now are completely different from what’s been available
before. I don’t know if that means that they’re good enough, but they’re
definitely different. Here’s my first take:

There’s a lot I’m not sure about here. I like Knucklebone Witch more than
Goblin Guide, but I doubt that’s a common position. Still, I think it makes
your deck more explosive. I think Claim is a really good fit with Mogg War
Marshal and Goblin Piledriver, and I think Thoughtseize is extremely
important to decks like this, so I like the black splash regardless of
whether Knucklebone Witch is the right one-drop. I’m not sure how many
haste lords is correct, but they seem busted with Krenko, Mob Boss, so I
figured I’d start by pushing that. Missing out on Goblin Rabblemaster feels
bad, but it’s worse the more Goblins you have in your deck, since it forces
all your creatures to attack.

The curve might be too high for Aether Vial, I’m not sure. It’s possible
that without Goblin Matron and Goblin Ringleader we just run out of Goblins
to play with it, but it’s good in Humans and Merfolk, so I think I’d start
by giving it a shot.

I’m not sure if we want more payoff for Goblins dying, like Blood Artist,
Zulaport Cutthroat, or Boggart Shenanigans. For now, I’m focusing on
Goblins, but I have a couple Blood Artists in the sideboard for opponents
who don’t have a lot of removal, especially if they’ll be hard to attack.

Goblin Grenade is my removal spell of choice, since it’s a powerful card
that doubles as player removal, but it’s not where I want to be in the
maindeck because I really want to push my goblin synergies.

The rest of the sideboard is full of haymakers because this isn’t the kind
of deck that wants to do a lot of tuning, and it’s very vulnerable to over
sideboarding, so I’m sticking with high impact cards with clear intentions.

Another way to approach it would be to focus on Bushwhackers, and there are
a few different ways to do that. First, we might emphasize tokens:

Skirk Prospector allows a deck like this to do some extremely powerful
things, but I’d worry that it might be too important to draw Skirk
Prospector for the deck to function properly, which is to say that it’s
certainly necessary to casting Empty the Warrens and a Bushwhacker in the
same turn. Another way to try to do something like this lowers the curve
and puts emphasis on Empty the Warrens to take pressure off Skirk

Kuldotha Rebirth and Mox Opal offer a variety of more explosive plays that
don’t require Skirk Prospector, and Kuldotha Rebirth gives tokens that
Skirk Prospector can use to enable explosive plays with Bushwhackers.

Without further testing, I’m not sure what other approaches might be worth
pursuing in Modern. In Standard, I expect that Skirk Prospector will see
play before it rotates but given that the last two blocks haven’t had any
Goblins, I don’t think there will be enough after this set, but I suspect
the tribe will get more support moving forward.

Another tribe that might have more support in Standard is Knights, a tribe
we haven’t really seen before. Building Knights is interesting because
there’s a lot of overlap with Vampires, as most Knights that already exist
in Standard are Vampires, including Legion Lieutenant. The primary payoffs
for building around Knights are History of Benalia and Aryel, Knight of
Windgrace. Building around two tribes with partial overlap can be
tricky–but let’s look at things we might be able to do with it:

This deck features primarily creatures that are both Vampires and Knights
with payoff for both types, but only as incidental text on independent
threats, rather than dedicated cards that only help a single type like
Radiant Destiny.

Forerunner of the Legion is an interesting toolbox card. I think the most
exciting bullet for the card to give access to is Champion of Dusk, which I
see as the default target, but there are a lot of others that you might
want, many of which I’ve included in the sideboard, so that you can bring
one in to have access to a “functional five copies” for the matchups where
the creature would be particularly well positioned.

It seems weird to build a W/B Knight deck without using Knight of Grace or
Knight of Malice, but I think the Vampire stuff is better. If you wanted to
try pushing just Knights, that would look more like this:

The curve here is definitely higher than I’m comfortable with. I think this
deck really needs another good one-mana Knight. It’s possible you’re just
supposed to play Skymarcher Aspirant instead of some more expensive spells,
but I’m not sure which to cut.

Isolated Chapel really revolutionizes the mana of this kind of deck, and I
think we’ll see a lot more exploration of enemy color aggro decks,
especially U/R Pirates, U/G Merfolk, and W/B Vampires in the early days of
the new Standard.

Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle is clearly an extremely powerful card,
particularly in Modern, where there are an incredible number of options
available for cheap artifacts and powerful creatures that cost three or
less mana. If your opponent’s tapped out, it should be fairly easy to win
the game immediately when you cast Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle, so the
question is just finding the most reliable way to build a combo that allows
you to do this. To do that, we need to identify a loop that will win the
game, and then find the best way to get all the pieces together.

As an example, if we control Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle, and we control a
creature that allows us to sacrifice a creature, and we have Aether Adept
in the graveyard, and we cast Ornithopter or Memnite, we have established a
loop; we can return Aether Adept to the battlefield, bounce the artifact
creature, sacrifice the Aether Adept, and repeat the process. This will
generate an infinite number of whatever the sacrifice effect was, so if the
sacrifice outlet is Blasting Station or something equally impactful, we’ll
win the game. If the sacrifice outlet doesn’t do anything productive, we’ll
need another card in the combo, something that cares about any part of the
loop iterating. Aviary Mechanic, Deputy of Acquittals, Dream Stealer,
Faerie Imposter, Glint Hawk, Kor Skyfisher, Leonin Squire, Quickling,
Stonecloaker, Treasure Hunter, Whitemane Lion, and Workshop Assistant all
do this for as much mana or less.

More importantly, Sidisi’s Faithful, the cheapest way to execute the combo,
doesn’t require another sacrifice outlet. Just cast Ornithopter, return
Sidisi’s Faithful with Teshar’s trigger, sacrifice Sidisi’s Faithful to its
own exploit trigger, return Ornithopter to your hand and repeat; now you
just need a payoff for iterating the loop.

If we use Mox Amber instead of Ornithopter or Memnite for our loop, which
we can do with Dream Stealer, Glint Hawk, Kor Skyfisher, and possibly
Leonin Squire or Treasure Hunter, depending on our sac outlet, we can
generate a mana every iteration even if our sac outlet doesn’t do anything
itself. We’ll still need a way to turn that mana into doing something
productive, but we can return any creature in our graveyard with converted
mana cost three or less to the battlefield to use its ability, so it might
be easy for us to find a mana sink.

So how can we put this together into a coherent Modern deck?

The idea here is to play the smallest possible number of the bad cards and
rely on Collected Company, Chord of Calling, Satyr Wayfinder, and Trinket
Mage to find whatever the missing piece of your infinite combo is.

Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit and Zulaport Cutthroat provide a payoff for
iterations of moving creatures between zones. Reki, the History of Kamigawa
can fill a similar role if your loop involves Mox Amber. Yahenni, Undying
Partisan and Viscera Seer offer sacrifice outlets. Ornithopter gives you a
zero-mana artifact to loop with if you have Sidisi’s Faithful and Teshar,
Ancestor’s Apostle. Walking Ballista or Ornithopter let you loop with
Eternal Witness if you have a sacrifice outlet and Teshar, Ancestor’s
Apostle. Glint Hawk and Kor Skyfisher let you loop with Mox Amber if you
have a sacrifice outlet and Teshar, and Walking Ballista gives you a mana
sink. The deck can also loop without Teshar with Anafenza and Kitchen Finks
and a sac outlet.

There’s a lot going on here, and a lot of this can be iterated on. I
started with a bunch of one mana legendary creatures to turn on Mox Amber,
but decided they weren’t worth the space, and that Birds of Paradise was a
better way to do that, especially since you’ll often want to hold Mox Amber
until Teshar is on the battlefield anyway.

This has been a bit scattered, but it’s nice to see when a set can get
people excited about a lot of different kinds of decks in different
formats, and it’s interesting to see Skirk Prospector in this set; I wonder
if this points to a philosophy of trying to include more single impactful
creatures from Legacy in Modern through reprints, especially tribal
creatures where they can safely go through Standard as long as the support
is balanced around them.