With Survival so prevalent in the format, is four graveyard hate slots enough? Perish doesn’t
seem that great against them. Pithing Needle possibly? Personally, I find the matchup pretty poor. Survival is almost goldfishing, and Wonder just
trumps Goblins so hard.
I think it’s obvious from my own testing, the comments here, and other Goblin threads around the
place that Cedric either got really lucky in testing, or didn’t do too much of it against Vengevine. Perish really doesn’t do much to that deck. With
an active Survival, they can swing with four Vengevines (using two Rootwallas probably). You cast Perish. They Survival for the remaining two ‘Wallas
and bash for sixteen again. It’s happened to me both in testing and a tourney. Not to mention they might always have the Force of Will/Spell Pierce
anyways, and you just Time Walked yourself.
Is Goblins that good against Merfolk? I played Merfolk at Grand Prix Columbus and 2-1ed Goblins,
mostly due to my Coralhelm Commanders, which quickly grew to 4/4 or 5/5 fliers, which Goblins couldn’t deal with.
I continued testing the deck after hearing Cedric got those results, and I came to the same
conclusion. Their plan is basically combo, Survival. The only way to interact is Wasteland or connecting with Lackey and blowing them out. Otherwise, I
rarely won games.
It’s no blowout; it’s a 60-40. I think it might be worse now that more people are running more
lords and dropping their Standstills (bad in the aggro matchups). They are already more playing versions splashing for Engineered Plague or Absolute
The great thing about life is that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I, of course, am
also entitled to my own opinion. And my opinion is… that everyone who I quoted above me?
Last week, I explained in great detail why the two biggest decks in Legacy were positive
matchups for Goblins. Some agreed. Others
did not. So, in order to prove that I wasn’t talking out of my ass, I decided to put my money where
my mouth was.
On Sunday, September 26th, I went to a Black Lotus tournament in Seattle, Washington, with the
very Goblins I’d just wrote about days earlier:
- 4 Goblin Matron
- 4 Goblin Lackey
- 4 Goblin Warchief
- 1 Goblin Sharpshooter
- 3 Goblin Piledriver
- 4 Gempalm Incinerator
- 2 Siege-Gang Commander
- 4 Goblin Ringleader
- 4 Mogg War Marshal
The only change I made was cutting two Relics of Progenitus and two Tormod’s Crypts for four
Leylines of the Void. The reasoning is when playing against Dredge, you’re mulliganing for one of your graveyard hate cards during the sideboarded
games. If you’re going to go through the trouble of mulliganing for a graveyard hate card, it might as well be the best graveyard hate card of all
time, Leyline of the Void, instead of mediocre cards like Relic of Progenitus or Tormod’s Crypt.
So, with Goblins in hand, I sat down, not only just to win, but to prove a point.
Round 1 vs. Merfolk
Game 1, my opponent mulliganed to five on the draw. My opening hand had a Goblin Lackey, so I
felt quite favored. The game would end immediately on turn 2 unless his five-card hand contained a Force of Will + a blue card (which would put him
down to three cards) or a Cursecatcher to block with.
Goblin Lackey met a Force of Will removing Daze. This left my opponent with three cards against
my full grip. Having my Goblin Lackey countered was annoying, but I wasn’t all-in on Goblin Lackey resolving, though my hand was a slow one to
The next turn, I drew and resolved an Aether Vial. I expected that to be able to get the job
done because of my opponent’s lack of cards, but he had other ideas. First came Lord of Atlantis. Then another and an attack for three. Next turn came
Merfolk Reejerey and then a Coralhelm Commander. Suddenly I was under the gun a lot faster than I’d anticipated.
I was able to deal with the Coralhelm Commander via Gempalm Incinerator, but I was still stuck
on two lands. I had a Wasteland ready to deal with his Mutavault, but he peeled a Wasteland of his own to put me down to one land. I was beginning to
stabilize the board with Aether Vial and Mogg War Marshal, but I needed a second land to really start
The next turn, my opponent sent in a 4/4 Mutavault, and I went down to eight life. Chumping
seemed poor at that point, and I was prepared to set up a big turn if he bricked that turn or if I drew a land. He drew…
Two more turns without a land, and we were off to game 2.
Game 2 was a much easier game. The combination of an active Aether Vial and lands is very tough
for Merfolk to beat, and that’s exactly what I had here. Goblin Ringleader buried my opponent in card advantage, and Siege-Gang Commander finished
things up quite nicely.
Game 3 is always tense for Goblins in this matchup when you’re on the draw. You can’t really
count on Aether Vial resolving due to Force of Will and Daze, but as long as they don’t have an absurd start with lords, the game is fairly easy.
My opponent started with an Aether Vial and was able to Force of Will mine. The next turn he
cast a Silvergill Adept revealing Cursecatcher and then Vialed the little guy in. His next turn was spent Vialing in Lord of Atlantis and attacking me
for five. I was behind on the board, but not even close to out of it when I peeled…
Round 2 vs. Vengevine Survival
This round I was paired against my new roommate, the Hall of Fame-eligible Mike Thompson.
On turn 3, I ticked the Vials up to two and one, played my third land, and had a decision to
make. I could either cast Goblin Sharpshooter or Goblin Warchief. I knew how quickly Vengevine Survival could kill someone with an active Survival of
the Fittest, so I felt I needed to put the pressure on with Goblin Warchief. The problem was if Mike had a Daze or Force of Will.
I really needed the Goblin Warchief this game, and it would be “free” next turn, so I decided to
cast the Goblin Sharpshooter instead. If Goblin Sharpshooter got Dazed, it wasn’t the end of the world, as it limited the amount of Survival
activations for Mike’s next turn. And if Mike chose to burn a Force of Will on it? My next turn of Goblin Warchief + Goblin Ringleader looked a lot
better because they were both going to resolve.
Keep in mind that Goblin Sharpshooter, while not the best card in this matchup, is still
relevant due to the Basking Rootwallas and Noble Hierarchs it gets to shoot down in order to, not only prevent them from attacking (or triggering exalted),
but to prevent them from blocking when we’re racing.
Mike’s turn 3 consisted of putting two Basking Rootwallas and a Vengevine into play to attack me
down to fourteen. His wasting of two Basking Rootwallas was irrelevant, as they were never going to get better over the course of the game,
and I could tell I was only getting, at the most, two more turns this game.
My next turn, my Aether Vials moved up to three and two. I put a Goblin Warchief into play, cast
a Goblin Ringleader (hitting Goblin Lackey, Goblin Piledriver, Siege-Gang Commander, and Goblin Matron), cast a Goblin Lackey, and Vialed in a
Goblin Piledriver. I sent in for a total of fifteen damage, put Siege-Gang Commander into play off of the Goblin Lackey trigger, and hoped Mike somehow
couldn’t kill me.
My turn 1 was a Goblin Lackey followed up by cycling a Gempalm Incinerator on Basking Rootwalla.
My attack gave Mike the option of blocking with Noble Hierarch to leave himself mana-screwed or hope I had nothing in my hand with Goblin Lackey.
Either prospect is unexciting, wouldn’t you agree?
Round 3 vs. Dredge
Game 1 against Dredge is pretty miserable. You have to mulligan for Goblin Lackey because Aether
Vial is too slow. Not only do you have to mulligan for Goblin Lackey, but you have to hope that your opponent doesn’t have a Putrid Imp or Tireless
Tribe to block with as well.
Game 2, my opening hand had a Leyline of the Void. Joe played a few turns before realizing that
I had a decent enough hand, conceded, and went back to his sideboard (presumably to get his Ray of Revelation).
Joe chose to mulligan rather quickly, so now I had a decision to make. Did he mulligan because
he didn’t have a Ray of Revelation? Or did he mulligan because his hand was just a poor hand? Was he mulliganing to find an answer to Leyline of the
Void in his opening hand?
I decided to keep this hand because it was a hand that demanded Joe to have Tireless Tribe. A
lot of the threats Joe could present to block Goblin Lackey were handled by Pyrokinesis. I could’ve tried to mulligan into Leyline of the Void, but
if he trumped me with a Ray of Revelation in hand, I wouldn’t be too pleased. I suppose I could’ve trumped him with a hand of Leyline of the Void,
Cabal Therapy, a black source of mana, and some mystery cards, but that didn’t seem too appealing at the time.
It was a risk, but I went with it.
Joe tanked on his turn 1 for a while and then decided to move all-in with a Breakthrough for
zero. This was a quite a good thing for me, since that meant he was all-in on how good his dredges were. He did discard a Bridge from Below, Ray of
Revelation, Narcomoeba (important), and Golgari Grave-Troll to Breakthrough, so we certainly still had a game on our hands, but not a blowout
like game 1.
On my turn, I drew another Goblin Lackey. I went in with my initial Goblin Lackey to trade with
his Narcomoeba and Bridge from Below, and Joe obliged. After casting my next Goblin Lackey, I passed the turn and crossed my fingers again. For
Christ’s sake, no Narcomoeba!
Joe sent in with his Zombie token and tanked for a while. I really needed him to flashback Cabal
Therapy with his Narcomoeba, but I didn’t want to make it too obvious that that’s what I needed, so I sat there nonchalantly.
Chances were that he was going to make that play, but mentioning it might send a trigger off in
his head. When he finally pulled the trigger on the play, I let the Bridge from Below trigger resolve, Pyrokinesised his team, removing Goblin
Piledriver, and hoped he didn’t name correctly with Cabal Therapy. He named…
Which was a hit, but not the hit I cared about. Siege-Gang Commander was coming into play next
turn, and he was pissed.
Now all I needed was to draw a land to control his Bridges from Below, and the next turn I was
able to do so. It took a few more turns after that, but I finally was able to whittle him down to zero.
Round 4 vs. Merfolk
Game 1 here was pretty lopsided. My opponent had a turn 1 Aether Vial and a Daze for my attempt
at one. I was able to resolve one on turn 2, but I was way too far behind with only one land to operate with. I needed to be able to play two spells
per turn (one from Aether Vial and one naturally) and was never able to do so. Soon, the lords were teaming up to crush my face, and I conceded in
Game 2, we again both have Aether Vial, but this time mine resolves. As I explained last week,
Aether Vial is a lot better for Goblins than it is for Merfolk, and after a lot of Goblin Sharpshooter + Siege-Gang Commander activations, we were
shuffling up for game 3.
Game 3, much like game 1 and 2, was an Aether Vial war. We both had one on turn 1 and to my
surprise, mine resolved. Thankfully I was going to be able to play a game with him. Or so at least I thought.
On his turn 3, my opponent Vialed in a Silvergill Adept, searched out a Plains with Flooded
Strand, and cast Absolute Law. This, ladies and gentleman, I didn’t see coming. The Gempalm Incinerator I had been planning on ruining him with had just
become an overpriced 2/1 for three.
Things had just gotten tougher for me, but I had no reason to panic. So far, all he had was a
Silvergill Adept, right? I slowly began to build up a critical mass of Goblins, which included a Goblin Piledriver and sent in just the lone 1/2 with
protection from blue. I was pretty sure my opponent had a Swords to Plowshares/Path to Exile, so instead of ruining my team, I decided to see exactly
where he stood.
Swords to Plowshares it was. Now it was time to rebuild a critical mass. Throughout my building
of said “mass,” my opponent wasn’t really playing too many creatures. Sure he had a Coralhelm Commander, but my board was beginning to explode faster
than he could keep up. It was at that point that I realized that he was mana-flooding pretty poorly or drawing irrelevant Aether Vials,
counterspells (I had an active Aether Vial), or additional Absolute Laws.
This is part of the problem with this kind of sideboard plan for Merfolk against Goblins. Swords
to Plowshares, Path to Exile, and Absolute Law are great cards against Goblins, but they force you to dilute your deck so much that you’re threat
light and can’t apply enough pressure on your opponent. If you’re looking to beat Goblins, the black splash for Engineered Plague is much more
effective, as it’s only four cards, and those four cards are a lot higher impact.
Turns out my read was correct, as I searched up two more Goblin Piledrivers and put my opponent
out of his misery. The match would’ve been a lot closer had he drawn threats, but such is life.
Round 5 vs. Zoo
Draw. Not a bad deck to have in the Top 8 because I feel the Zoo vs. Goblins matchup is a lot
closer than people think.
Round 6 vs. Lands
Draw. I was a lock at this point, and my opponent needed a draw pretty badly. I could’ve played
it out and tried to knock him out to get a friend in, but I wasn’t looking to make any enemies in my new home.
Top 8 vs. Counterbalance
My opponent was James Nguyen. You might know James from StarCityGames.com Standard Open: Seattle
where he made Top 8 with the Brilliant Ultimatum Control/Combo deck. Now, I personally thought that that deck was abhorrent, but James felt
otherwise. I think it’s a tribute to how good James is at Magic that he was able to make the Top 8 of any tournament – let alone a StarCityGames.com Open
– with the deck.
James, like me, had also just moved to Seattle looking to start a career, so we became pretty
good friends over the past two weeks. But at the time, James was just like any other opponent I faced on the day:
Someone in the way of my Unlimited Black Lotus.
Game 1 was a extremely long game. So long in fact that I cannot even attempt to give you a good
game analysis. I took down a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I took down an Elspeth, Knight-Errant (that one took many turns). I even battled through two
Firespouts. And in the end, I needed James to miss on a Sensei’s Divining Top activation to finish him off. The game was extremely back and forth and
took at least thirty minutes. For those who got to watch it, it was probably a blast because I loved playing it.
Game 2, I had a turn 1 Goblin Lackey that was met by a Swords to Plowshares. The problem for
James was that this game his lands were Tundra and Academy Ruins. He began missing land drops, and when I Cabal Therapy-ed him, he responded with a
Brainstorm. After much deliberation on his part, he finally put two cards back and allowed me to name a card.
“I can’t even cast it!”
James discarded two. It was quickly over after that, as he never found another land, and I had
nothing but gas.
Top 4 vs. Dredge (Joe again)
I sat down, weighed my options, and decided to see if Joe was interested in a split. Joe said
that he was. I asked the rest of the top 4, and after some quick math, everyone agreed to a split of $260 + a DCI Polluted Delta.
I offered Joe the split for a few reasons:
If you read the recap of our match, I felt that I got fortunate to come out with a win in that
match. A big part of why I won that matchup was because Joe was unaware that I had Leyline of the Void in my sideboard. With that new information,
things changed drastically, as I wouldn’t get another free win like I previously did.
Game 1 I am already a pretty big dawg against Dredge, and games 2 and 3 are much different now
that my opponent has access to my sideboarding plans.
Joe knew about Leyline of the Void, knew about Pyrokinesis, and knew about Cabal Therapy. The
only advantage that I had was a minor play skill advantage, but that gets thrown out the window if the Dredge player knows how to play their deck
correctly even a little bit, and Joe did.
So, after putting my money where my mouth was, I walked away with $260, a DCI Polluted Delta,
some new friends, and the feeling of winning again.
I’ve documented my first year on the Pro Tour every week for all to read, and most have seen
that I haven’t won very many relevant matches this season. I started off with a bang at Grand Prix Oakland when I played Dredge, but haven’t had much
success past that. I was beginning to forget what it felt like to win.
Trust me. It feels good.
Cedric A. Phillips