Hello, Old Friend

If Brian Kibler is the Dragonmaster, then Jim Davis is the Goblinmaster. If anyone is inclined to have the right idea about what Goblin Piledriver’s impending reprint in Magic Origins means for Standard, it’d be Jim.

Magic Origins has my attention.

Well… fancy meeting you here. I had thought we’d seen the last of each other.

Goblin Warchief Gempalm Incinerator Goblin Ringleader Goblin Matron

Where are your old friends? We’ve all had many good times together. What’s that you say? “Retired?” “Hung ’em up?”

Foundry Street Denizen Frenzied Goblin Goblin Rabblemaster Dragon Fodder

These new cats you’re hanging with seem like a pretty motley crew, except for that Goblin Rabblemaster. That one seems talented but mighty self-centered. It’s always “Goblin Rabblemaster this” and “Goblin Rabblemaster that,” all other Goblins be damned.

Well… you’re here. Now what?

Let Us Look To The Past

Goblin Piledriver is a powerful card, but it is very important to note how much of an outlier it was in the classic Goblin deck. While Goblin Piledriver is a blitz-style card that can end the game quickly, its ability to kill quickly was only extremely relevant in Legacy and Extended Goblins as a way to quickly turn the corner and put people away or as a way to clock combo decks.

Goblin Ringleader Goblin Matron Gempalm Incinerator Siege-Gang Commander Rishadan Port Wasteland

The true heart of the old Goblin decks was the grind. A never-ending stream of Goblin Ringleaders would bury your opponent in an avalanche of card advantage while you used the mana denial of Rishadian Port and Wasteland to keep your opponents from executing their own game-plan.

With Goblin Ringleader confirmed out of Magic Origins (due to not fitting the set’s alphabetical number crunch), any Goblin deck we are going to build in Standard or Modern is likely going to have the feel of a blitz deck, not of the ‘classic’ Goblin deck. Legacy Goblins felt like a blue deck, but Standard or Modern Goblins is definitely going to feel like a red deck through and through.

This is not to say that Goblins won’t be good, just that it will certainly be different.

How different?

Let Us Look To The Present

Thankfully for us, Bobby Birmingham provided us with a possible look into the future last weekend when he made Top Eight of SCG Baltimore with a Mono-Red Goblin deck based around Obelisk of Urd. While he fell in the quarterfinals and his deck looks a little underpowered, it provides us with the perfect shell for looking ahead to a future with Goblin Piledriver.

There are a surprising number of Goblins in Standard, ranging from one-drops to token makers, but not a lot of payoff.

Goblin Rabblemaster is a phenomenal Magic card, but interestingly enough it does not play exceedingly well with other Goblins. While it does grow bigger for each attacking Goblin, it can also force you to suicide your non-token Goblins into their larger creatures when you don’t really want to, which can get very awkward when you lose actual cards to this predicament rather than his free 1/1 tokens.

Aside from Goblin Rabblemaster, the only actual payoff in Bobby’s deck for having cards with the type line “Creature – Goblin” is Obelisk of Urd.

Fortunately for the deck, both of its token makers produce Goblin tokens, and that combined with the eight one-drop Goblins makes Obelisk of Urd quite the workhorse. When Hordeling Outburst is making three 3/3s and you are stuck staring down at the Drown in Sorrow in your hand, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Let Us Look To The Future

At the time of writing, there are currently only three Goblins on the Magic Origins spoiler, but they are all worthy of consideration. Bobby’s deck certainly had some filler cards, as Monastery Swiftspear and Titan’s Strength really don’t jive with the rest of the deck. Now those cards can be replaced with actual Goblin cards, increasing the overall power of the deck’s Tribal interactions.

A lot of the power of Goblin Piledriver came from how well it worked with Goblin Warchief, either as a two-three curve or by firing off one-mana hasty Goblin Piledrivers out of nowhere in the midgame. Haste is a very powerful ability to have in conjunction with Goblin Piledriver, and unfortunately right now we don’t have a ton of hasty options. What we do have is a ton of Goblin token producers, all of which play fantastically with Goblin Piledriver.

Goblin Glory Chaser is not as powerful as Monastery Swiftspear in a vacuum, but it does pretty much exactly what we want it to do – it’s a one-drop that should have two power, it has pseudo-evasion, and it’s a Goblin.

Subterranean Scout is also a fairly underwhelming card, but it does two important things: it fills in the two-drop hole, and (more importantly) it can give Goblin Piledriver or Goblin Rabblemaster a free pass into the red zone. The Scout may not look like much, but after turn two it actually has the potential to cause an opponent who thought they were safe to take a huge chunk of damage. It can also just turn on Goblin Glory Chaser on turn two, which is functional but not particularly exciting.

There’s definitely a number of ways we can go with Goblins in Standard, so lets look at three possible options.

The first is just the logical extension of Bobby’s deck. Mono-red, no frills, just play a bunch of Goblins, convoke Obelisk of Urd and attack for lethal.

Goblin Piledriver and Goblin Glory Chaser stand in to fill the curve, and Goblin Heelcutter fits very nicely as both a way to help push your Goblin Piledriver through blockers and as a haste threat to help pump it up as well. It’s hard to know if Lightning Strike or Wild Slash will be a better choice in the new format, but costing only one mana has a huge upside and it seems like there will be an influx of cheaper creatures entering the format.

Regardless, this is definitely the “level one” of Goblin Piledriver decks in the new Standard.

The next two decks are clearly rough thought experiments, but both are interesting looks at what could be possible in post-Origins Standard.

A pretty wild one for sure.

This deck looks to pass up on the token synergies in favor of becoming more of a straightforward aggressive deck. Well, somewhat straightforward.

If we can’t exactly give our Goblins haste, we could always do the next best thing by putting them into play on our opponents’ end step. Putting a pair of Goblin Rabblemasters or a Goblin Rabblemaster and a Goblin Piledriver into play represents an absolute ton of damage on the following turn, and I could see this easily catching our opponents completely off guard. The oft-forgotten Prophetic Flamespeaker gets another shot here, as it is another card that would greatly benefit from both haste and having untapped mana on your turn. It’s not quite Goblin Ringleader, but it’s close.

Break Through The Line is a card that you’d probably have to look up if you saw it on a decklist, but does a lot in conjunction with Goblin Piledriver, Goblin Rabblemaster, or Prophetic Flamespeaker. Against decks that are light on removal, Break Through The Line and Goblin Piledriver seems almost unbeatable, as it does not take very long at all to deal lethal damage. The card is somewhat weak otherwise and obviously additional copies offer diminishing returns, so only time and testing will tell if its synergy with Goblin Piledriver, Goblin Rabblemaster, and Prophetic Flamespeaker is worth it.

Jeskai Tokens has completely fallen off the map as of late, and maybe some Goblins can bring it back into prominence.

While focusing on Goblins and Goblin tokens limits our access to cards like Raise the Alarm and Secure the Wastes, it does give us the ability to use Obelisk of Urd, which can make for some turns that are completely bonkers.

Imagine we’ve got three Goblin tokens, a Goblin Piledriver, and a Jeskai Ascendancy in play with some lands. We tap our four creatures to convoke Stoke the Flames targeting their Courser of Kruphix, resolve our triggers, untap our creatures, tap them again to convoke out an Obelisk of Urd, resolve our triggers, untap our creatures again, and then attack with our now absolutely monstrous team.

The synergy between Jeskai Ascendancy and convoke is not to be underestimated.

Of course, the question needs to be asked: whether this this deck is actually better than a Standard Jeskai Tokens build, or if Goblin Piledriver is even worth it in this build. This is the least Goblin Piledriver-centric build of the three, and part of the allure of the Jeskai Tokens deck is that there are no good individual targets for an opponent’s targeted removal in the entire deck. Having Goblin Piledriver or Goblin Rabblemaster somewhat negates that advantage.

Regardless, all three lists are fun brainstorming exercises.

Goblin Piledriver is back, but it has been a long time since it has been legal in Standard or playable in other formats. Even without Goblin Ringleader or Goblin Matron around, Goblin Piledriver was still a premier threat when it was in Standard.

How will it fare over ten years later when pressed up against a decade of power creep?

We shall see.