The Interactive Extended Tournament Report

I’ve been thinking for a while about how to improve tournament reports and make them more useful for the people reading them, and I’ve decided that what I’m going to try doing is a more interactive style of report. For each of the crucial decisions during the tournament which decided how I got on, I’ll explain the situation and then ask you what you would have done in this situation, before explaining what I did and what I should have done. If there’s anything that you want more information about, then just post in the forums and I’ll do my best to reply.

Dear readers,

I was really looking forward to this qualifier season, which is easily the best Constructed format that there has ever been for sanctioned Magic tournaments in terms of the variety of decks and the sheer fun of playing. Sadly, a conversation with my boss at work about how he needed me to work most weekends between now and May put paid to plans of spending all the hours when not at work testing Extended decks. But I am going to Eindhoven for the Grand Prix next weekend, and went to Colchester for a Pro Tour Qualifier last weekend.

I’ve been thinking for a while about how to improve tournament reports and make them more useful for the people reading them, and I’ve decided that what I’m going to try doing is a more interactive style of report. For each of the crucial decisions during the tournament which decided how I got on, I’ll explain the situation and then ask you what you would have done in this situation, before explaining what I did and what I should have done. If there’s anything that you want more information about, then just post in the forums and I’ll do my best to reply.

Due to work issues and the resulting inability to test other than reading articles on the internet, I was using this PTQ as an opportunity to test for the Grand Prix and future qualifiers as much as for the opportunity to go to Philadelphia. The first question which I had to decide on was which deck to play. For obvious reasons, it had to be a deck which included sufficient Mountains to cast Red spells, but there are a number of choices even so. Chad Ellis has written about the mono-Red Goblin deck that he played. Mike Flores has been championing Red/Black Goblins, while the best finish at Grand Prix: Boston by a Goblin deck was actually the Red/Green Goblin deck played by Vincent Chow. Alternatively, there is always good old Red Deck Wins, or as some humorists in our forums have started to call it, “Red Deck Loses” (help me, I can’t stop laughing, *ahem*). I had no idea what everyone else is going to be playing – it is likely that there will be a lot of RDW, Affinity and Blue/Green madness, just because those are relatively easy decks for people to put together and get good testing results with.

So, question one, what deck should I have played?

4 Mogg Fanatic

3 Goblin Sledder

3 Skirk Prospector

4 Goblin Piledriver

1 Sparksmith

4 Goblin Warchief

4 Goblin Matron

3 Gempalm Incinerator

2 Goblin Sharpshooter

4 Goblin Ringleader

1 Goblin Pyromancer

1 Siege Gang Commander

4 Wooded Foothills

4 Bloodstained Mire

7 Mountain

2 Forest

1 Land Grant

3 Chrome Mox

2 Barbarian Ring

3 Wasteland


3 Naturalize

3 Artifact Mutation

3 Ensnaring Bridge

3 Cursed Totem

2 Fledgling Dragon

1 Gempalm Incinerator

At a guess, probably not the answer you expected – splashing for Green cards, reactive cards like Naturalize in the sideboard, what’s going on?

I played this deck because it seemed really well tuned – I recommend having a read of Vincent’s postings in the Extended forums to find out more. Something Zvi said in his first Premium article here struck a chord, “While I have spent a decent amount of time looking at the situation, I cannot devote the amount of time it would take to figure out which version would be best. Magic at the PTQ level is a game for the fanatic who wants to spend his free time trying to make it back, and I am no longer that person.” This decklist had obviously been worked on for hundreds and hundreds of hours and been proven in tournament play, and I thought I’d learn more about what was good or bad in Goblin decks and the Extended format by playing it than by trying to put together my own version without the testing to back it up. It also seemed to have a lot of good or at least reasonable matchups against popular decks like Red Deck Wins, Affinity and Madness, and with the speed of the Chrome Moxes and Pyromancer, a good chance against the combo decks which have been becoming more popular.

Also John had all the cards for the new improved Red Deck Wins, which he was going to play, so I couldn’t just scrounge a copy of that.

Since I don’t have that much of a collection, and most of my cards are in any case at my parents’ house, I ordered the cards I needed from the trader who would be present, and arranged to borrow the rest. The trader, though, was sold out of Piledrivers, Sharpshooters, Incinerators and 2 Wooded Foothills which I needed. When I got to the venue, in that frantic period before the tournament started, I borrowed the Piledrivers and Sharpshooters and 1 Foothills from John, but no one had any Incinerators.

Especially in Extended, with such a big cardpool including cards dating back to 1997, those of you who aren’t card traders might find yourselves turning up to a tournament short of a few cards for your deck. So (ignore this question if you know it will never apply to you), what would you do if you found that you were short 4 Gempalm Incinerators and 1 Wooded Foothills?

I decided to replace them with 1 Sparksmith and 2 Cursed Scrolls in the main deck, and an extra Fledgling Dragon in the sideboard, and to replace the Foothills with a Karplusan Forest. Scrolls and Sparksmith tend to be good in the same matchups as Incinerators – neither are very exciting against Desire, for example, while both are good against Rock decks or Red Deck Wins. It’s not something I’d recommend if you have access to whichever cards you need (for reasons which I’ll get to), but knowing which cards can replace ones which you can’t find is a skill which I’ve found useful in quite a few tournaments, and helps if you’re building on a budget and don’t want to get beaten too badly.

Anyway, on to round 1.

Round 1 vs Paul Evans

Paul is a tournament regular who I’ve played against many times before over the years. We’re chatting before the match, and he tells me that he decided against playing Reanimator, which I am pleased to hear. I lose the dice roll and have a nice hand of Fanatic, Piledriver, Matron, Scroll and 3 land, just the hand when you’re playing a deck for the very first time.

He starts with Plains, Soul Warden. I Fanatic the Soul Warden, and we each play out some creatures, with him adding a Crusade. The Scroll turns out to be good, as it lets me Scroll his blockers and race his Soltari Monks (hooray for Tempest Block) with Piledriver and friends.

I bring in 3 Naturalize and 3 Fledgling Dragon for the Pyromancer, 1 Ringleader, a Wasteland and 3 other Goblins whose names escape me. He spends rather a long time bringing in quite a lot of cards.

I soon find out why as he plays out Absolute Law, Crusade, Story Circle and Worship to go with a bunch of creatures.

We get to a situation where he has 2 Soltari Priests, a Samurai of the Pale Curtain, Crusade, Worship and Absolute Law in play and 15 life. I have a Scroll, 2 Goblin Warchiefs, a Sledder, a Ringleader, on 11 life and with a Naturalize and a Goblin Matron in hand and 5 land in play. I play the Matron, and decide to play badly. For some reason I think Siege-Gang Commander costs 2 mana with 2 Warchiefs in play, so I get that and then look at my lands and realize that I can’t cast it this turn. On his turn, I Naturalize the Absolute Law when he attacks, and trade my Sledder and Ringleader for the Samurai and fall to 5. He then plays out two True Believers. On my turn I draw a non-land card, so I’m stuck with the stupid Siege-Gang Commander in my hand, and die when I miss with my attempt to Scroll one of the Priests.

If, instead, I had got a Goblin which I could actually cast, then for all the hate I could easily have stabilized and got my Scroll going. Ho hum.

Have No Fear

Game three I get a decent curve of Goblins, and he gets lots of enchantments, but only one creature. And good as Isamaru, Hound of Konda is, it can’t hold off a whole horde of Goblins even with Crusade and Absolute Law in play.

So, round one over, and I’d survived the random deck with the massive anti-Red hate. So I thought.

Round 2 vs David Everett

David had a Rock deck. Having played this matchup, it is amazingly in favor of the Goblin deck because of the Ringleaders. We would keep on trading creatures in the first game, and then I would have seven cards in my hand and he would have none, and that would be that. He won game two with his Troll Ascetics and an Engineered Plague at an unfortunate time. Game three, I had a reasonable start, and then on turn 4 he cast Engineered Plague, leaving him on 14 life and me with a 0/1 Piledriver and a 1/1 Warchief and four Mountains in play. Can you guess who won this game, and how many more turns it took?_

I sat there for a few minutes, trying to count up to fourteen (I had to take my shoes off to do this, which got me a warning), and then I cast the Goblin Pyromancer and attacked for lots. “Lots” in this case being his life total plus one.

Round three vs Ed Barker

At the beginning of the round, we got deck-checked, so I watched John at the next table. He was playing Red Deck Wins, and his starting hand for game one (opponent unknown) was Mountain, Mountain, Wooded Foothills, Lava Dart, Volcanic Hammer, Firebolt, Seal of Fire. Next question – do you keep this or mulligan it?

John mulliganed, and then mulliganed again, and kept a hand with Cadet, Fanatic, Volcanic Hammer, Mountain, Mountain. Turned out his opponent was playing Life.

Just as I got my deck back having passed the deck check, John was one-nil up. He Hammered the opponent’s Daru Spiritualist, and drew a timely Wasteland and Rishadan Port to keep his opponent from ever having three mana in his main phase before he was dead.

Turned out that Ed was playing a Rock deck. In game one I overwhelmed him as per the plan. Game two saw me beat him down to 14 life, when he cast Engineered Plague. So I beat him to 12, whereupon he cast a second Engineered Plague.

Better than Hungry, Hungry Hippos!

I cast a couple more Goblins just to stock up the graveyard and then cast my Fledgling Dragon. Which proceeded to engage in a spot of the enjoyable childhood game “Beat Your Head In”. Even had he cast Pernicious Deed, I had a handful of Goblins ready for the end of the Plague which Deeding away the Dragon would have involved.

Unfortunately, that was the last Rock deck that I had the pleasure of playing against. In Extended fashion terms, Rock is this season’s Ponza – the deck which only has a good matchup against itself, and then only when going first.

Round four vs Michael Groves

By this stage, the top tables were a pleasing sight of Red Decks, except for table one, which there were two people with Islands in their decks. I saw one of them tap out to cast a Morphling, and the other steal it with Vedalken Shackles, which was definitely the oddest sight of the day.

Michael had a Red-Black Goblin deck. My start was land, Mox (imprinting Goblin Sledder), Goblin Piledriver, turn 2 Warchief, turn three Siege-Gang Commander. So who won that game?

The Goblin mirror matchup is a lot about card advantage, and I lost a lot of card advantage when he used 2 Gempalm Incinerators to remove my Piledriver and Warchief (though going to nine life in the process). I cast a Ringleader, which got me one Goblin, and then he cast one which got three. He had another Incinerator to remove another Goblin, and basically overwhelmed me. Probably the one deck in the format against which the start I had was not optimal.

Game two I kept a hand with Mountain, Wasteland and five Goblins and never drew another land. It happens.

Round five vs Simon Marshall-Unitt

I draw my hand for this match, playing first, and I find the following:

Bloodstained Mire

Chrome Mox

Goblin Warchief

Goblin Warchief

Goblin Sharpshooter

Goblin Matron

Goblin Ringleader

Keep or mulligan?

I kept, because with just one more land, this hand is amazing – potentially turn 2 Warchief, turn 3 Warchief + Matron (get Piledriver), turn 4 Ringleader, Sharpshooter, Piledriver, win. Even if I miss a land drop, playing a Warchief and following up the next turn with a hasty Sharpshooter will often get me right back into the game.

Simon turned out to be playing Affinity, and I never got to cast any of those spells as I sat there with my Bloodstained Mire on the table watching him demonstrate what happened when an Arcbound Worker got two Cranial Platings.

I sideboarded in my Artifact Mutations and my Naturalizes, and took out 2 Ringleaders, 1 land and 3 Piledrivers.

Before game two, we shuffle and sideboard. We then shuffle each others’ decks, and I pile shuffle his deck and find that I can only count 59 cards. As I am not very good at counting, I try again a couple of times, and get the same result. I give the deck back to him to count, and then we notice the Frogmite sitting face up on the tabletop from his graveyard in game one.

In this situation, what would you do?

I’ve already explained my attitude to this sort of thing in some detail. I don’t particularly care what the floor rules say. Simon was a very pleasant opponent and was obviously not trying to gain any sort of advantage. He put the Frogmite back in his deck, we each shuffled his deck and then started the next game. The way things should be.

Game two, I had a mix of lands and spells, which came as some relief, I played a couple of Goblins and Naturalized his Ravager. On turn 4 he played a Myr Enforcer. I tapped one Red and one Green mana, he read the card that I played, and then it was time for game three. Attacking with seven Saprolings (which apparently is what Artifact Mutation makes) was a lot of fun. Y’see, playing nice gives you good karma. Or something like that.

Game three, he got to show me his sideboard cards. He played turn 1 Aether Vial, turn 2 Chill (which I Naturalized), and on turn 4 an Engineered Plague which made me ecstatic about the choice of Naturalizing the Chill and let Arcbound Ravager do the things which have made Affinity the best loved of decks in a variety of Constructed formats.

Round six vs Ioannis Kirizas

Ioannis had an Aluren deck. In the first game I managed to kill him, despite his Wall of Blossoms, before he could assemble his combo. So, for the final question, what should I sideboard, and, specifically, was I right to bring in 3 Naturalize and 3 Cursed Totem for the 2 Scrolls, one land and 3 Goblins?

Game two, I get a reasonable start, and get to a situation where I have 2 Goblins (Warchief and Matron) on the table, 2 Cursed Totems in play and Ioannis is on six life, so life seems good. Then he plays Aluren, Auriok Champion and gates Cavern Harpy a few million times. Yay for Cursed Totem. What makes it even better was the Goblin Shapshooter sitting in my hand, looking not all that impressed at my performance.

Game three I have a slowish draw, and Ioannis has a couple of Wall of Blossoms and then a Pernicious Deed, which gives him plenty of time to get his Aluren and whatever creatures he feels would best complement it.

The answer’s no, my sideboarding wasn’t right, in case the above wasn’t clear enough. Much better not to mess about with silly cards and just go and kill them.

Round seven vs Ben Twitchen

I include this round because it was the last and for completeness’ sake. Ben has some kind of Blue/Black deck, but my draws are so amazing that I don’t get to see much of it (good timing, deck). In the first game, my first Ringleader hits four Goblins, and the second is over brutally quickly.

On turn 1, I played a Mountain, and two Chrome Moxes, imprinting a Matron and a Ringleader, and cast a Goblin Matron, fetching a Warchief. On turn 2, I played a Warchief and attacked for three. On turn 3, I summoned a Ringleader which got me three more Goblins, including 2 Piledrivers, which I played and used to attack for more damage than I can count up to.

For those that are interested, the Top 8 was as follows:

2 Red Deck Wins

1 Mono-Blue Ankh-Tide

1 Red/Black Goblins

1 Life

1 Madness

1 Affinity

1 Rock

So, what did I learn from all of this?

Goblins is definitely a powerful deck, despite the considerable hate – in the first five rounds I had one mirror match, 3 decks with Engineered Plague, one with Chill as well, and one with Absolute Law, Story Circle and Worship. The only deck which I felt I had a disadvantage against was the other Goblin deck, and then only because I didn’t have Gempalm Incinerators. This version with Chrome Moxes, 10 one-drops and a Pyromancer is also considerably more explosive than the Red/Black versions with Aether Vial and fewer one-mana Goblins, and I definitely think that the mix of Goblins is the correct one, though I can definitely see replacing the Moxes and a land with Aether Vials, which sacrifices some early game for a more consistent stream of Goblins. Enough’s been written about Aether Vial that you’ll know whether this is a change that makes sense for the opposition that you expect to face.

The other thing that I learned was that I was right all along about not putting Green cards in your Red deck. If I had not put any Green cards in my deck, and had instead had something like Pulverize and Overload instead of Naturalize and Artifact Mutation, then I would have still won all the rounds that I did. Even when it seems like enchantments are really problematic, it turns out that having a reactive card isn’t as good a plan as just trying to kill them as quickly as possible. Also, every card that you bring in which doesn’t deal damage and isn’t a Goblin weakens your deck, because it makes the Ringleaders considerably weaker.

I know that some people like splashing Black and having 1 Dralnu’s Crusade to tutor for against decks with Engineered Plague, but I’ve noticed that the decks with Engineered Plague (Affinity, Rock, Aluren) tend not to have targeted removal. I don’t like Dralnu’s Crusade, because by itself it does nothing, like all those White enchantments that I happily ignored in round one. The card which I like for that problem is Goblin King, which attacks for two, counters the Plague and can help speed up your kills. What’s not to like?

With that in mind, here’s the Goblin deck that I would play, if there was a PTQ tomorrow (and, no, there aren’t any Betrayers of Kamigawa cards in it because for this deck no Betrayers card is nearly as powerful as the other options):

4 Mogg Fanatic

3 Goblin Sledder

3 Skirk Prospector

4 Goblin Piledriver

1 Sparksmith

4 Goblin Warchief

4 Goblin Matron

3 Gempalm Incinerator

2 Goblin Sharpshooter

4 Goblin Ringleader

1 Goblin Pyromancer

1 Siege-Gang Commander

3 Chrome Mox

4 Wooded Foothills

4 Bloodstained Mire

4 Barbarian Ring

4 Wasteland

7 Mountain


3 Goblin King

3 Ensnaring Bridge

3 Cursed Totem (still good vs. Life even if not so good against Aluren)

2 Meltdown

2 Pulverize

1 Goblin Goon

1 Gempalm Incinerator

The aim is to try to sideboard as little as possible – Goblin King in vs. any decks with Plagues, Incinerator and Goon for other creature decks and Red Deck Wins, Bridge vs. Reanimator, Totem vs. Life and Meltdown and Pulverize vs. Affinity and the Sundering Titan deck. After sideboarding, when doing second it is often a good idea to sideboard out a land, as it is easier to keep land light draws when you have an extra card to draw before your first turn.

But I won’t be playing this deck at the Grand Prix. Because I’ll be playing the new, updated version of Red Deck Wins. Which I’ll write all about tomorrow.

‘Til then, may you never be short an Incinerator when you need one,

Take care

Dan Paskins

Dan Paskins

[email protected]