Conspicuous Snoop Has Made Rakdos Goblins Top-Tier In Modern

Core Set 2021 and Conspicuous Snoop have made Rakdos Goblins a contender in Modern! Gerry Thompson breaks down successful lists and offers his own.

Conspicuous Snoop, illustrated by Zoltan Boros

Modern could always use more tribal support, although this certainly wasn’t what I was expecting.

Conspicuous Snoop

This gives Goblins a reasonable body, a consistent source of card advantage, and a nonzero amount of filtering alongside fetchlands. Overall, it’s a must-remove threat that will take over any game it’s unanswered. 

The kicker? There’s also an infinite combo.

Boggart Harbinger Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

If you have Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker on top of your library and Conspicuous Snoop doesn’t have summoning sickness, you can make infinite tapped 2/2 Goblins. At that point, you can make infinite red mana with Skirk Prospector or sacrifice them to Sling-Gang Lieutenant. If your opponent can’t break up the combo, you can make those 2/2s during your opponent’s end step, which will let them stick around until your turn, allowing you to attack. 

Consider this:

You can also cast Snoop on Turn 2 and Boggart Harbinger on Turn 3 if you naturally draw them, setting up a virtual kill barring no interaction. If you cast Skirk Prospector on Turn 1, you could Goblin Matron for Pashalik Mons and win the game on the spot. In terms of speed, this combo is on par with Modern’s best decks. Whether or not it’s viable is determined by the rest of the deck but I think we’re there.

If Snoop weren’t an engine on its own, I doubt the combo would be worth pursuing. Since Snoop is a great card, it’s worth going the rest of the way by including some Boggart Harbingers, even if the card is well below the bar for what’s considered playable in Modern. Kiki-Jiki is fine as a top-end for Goblins, although not necessarily something I’d be playing. 

The combo itself is vulnerable to any removal spell or even a Field of Ruin or Surgical Extraction that will shuffle your deck, which is why it isn’t the main gameplan. However, having something you can always be working toward is incredible. Your opponents will always have to respect the possibility, clutching their last removal spell while you beat them down with 1/1s and 2/2s. 

Over the weekend, Magic Online hosted various tournaments, including a pair of larger Modern Challenges, one of which was won by Goblins.

SebastianStueckl won the tournament and a similar decklist finished in the Top 32. A version that combined Goblin combos finished tenth.

The winning list is truly genius. Unless you need the sacrifice outlet for your combo, Skirk Prospector isn’t ideal. It used to overperform when you could get Goblin Warchief onto the battlefield on Turn 2 but that’s no longer a focal point of the deck. You need to be doing something on Turn 1 and you won’t have Aether Vial every game.

Thoughtseize Inquisition of Kozilek

Adding some discard spells to the mix is a great idea. Not only do you get to front-load some potential sideboard cards against your worst matchups, you get extra information on whether you should work toward assembling the combo or a war of attrition. They are powerful one-drops in a deck that wouldn’t otherwise have them.

Even though there’s a combo, being able to win through disruption is important. That’s why the rest of the deck is focused on being a normal Goblins deck that adds various bodies to the battlefield, removes opposing threats, and gains some card advantage. 

Aether Vial is a messed-up Magic card. Expensive creatures that gain card advantage that are typically too slow, like Goblin Matron and Goblin Ringleader, are more than acceptable when Aether Vial is effectively doubling your mana output each turn. Games where you have Aether Vial are dramatically different from games where you don’t.

Aether Vial Munitions Expert

Munitions Expert is incredible and this deck probably wouldn’t be able to exist without it. Making a pile of 1/1s and 2/2s will beat some people but you typically need to remove big walls like Tarmogoyf or Death’s Shadow. Sometimes your opponent will have a flying threat you can’t race or a Walking Ballista that keeps growing larger. 

You’ll need ways to interact and Munitions Expert solves that problem. Being able to search for it with Goblin Matron and draw it with Goblin Ringleader puts it over the top. Those cards are supposed to be limited to drawing creatures but Munitions Expert is effectively a spell. 

The printing of Unearth also helps decks like these. You have some key components, many of which will die over the course of a game, leading to you hoping to piece together more threats than your opponent can answer. Unearth gives you more copies of your best cards while also doing a small Aether Vial impression on critical turns by getting you something like a Goblin Matron for only one mana. Recurring Munitions Expert helps give Goblins an enormous edge in creature mirrors.

Unearth Mogg War Marshal

Mogg War Marshal isn’t great in this deck but it does stem the bleeding from your opponent’s early threats. It tends to over-perform when things like Goblin Warchief and Skirk Prospector are in the mix but that isn’t what this deck is trying to do. Instead, be satisfied with a Dragon Fodder that fills your mana curve and provides bodies for Munitions Expert.

I can’t stress how poor of a card Boggart Harbinger is. The 2/1 body is pathetic and there are a few commonly played ways to break up the tutoring aspect of the card. However, it’s necessary to raise the power level of the deck, so I’m fairly certain you should be playing four. I could see a metagame where the combo is less relevant and you only play a couple of copies but I don’t think we’re there. 

Krenko, Mob Boss Lightning Crafter

Krenko, Mob Boss and Lightning Crafter are two cards you could play if you’re expecting your opponent to be waiting for you to assemble the combo before using their removal spell. It would be a solid way to punish them but you could also search for something like Goblin Ringleader in those spots and punish their spot removal by drawing more cards. In many of those situations, you find Kiki-Jiki and target a Goblin Ringleader or Munitions Expert with your Snoop, which also punishes spot removal. Then you get to draw Kiki-Jiki and cast it.

I could be interested in a second copy of Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, especially in variants with multiple Goblin Ringleaders maindeck. If you end up drawing the single copy, the ability to combo is off the table, which could hurt you. 

The manabase is interesting. Overall, there’s no shortage of options, but where you go depends on a few things. Cavern of Souls is mostly a given due to how powerful it is as a color fixer and a way to fight through countermagic. Since your deck is almost entirely Goblins and Aether Vials, Unclaimed Territory is also on the table. 

However, there are sideboard cards to be concerned about. I also prefer the maindeck discard spells and Unearths, so I like having the Rakdos multicolor lands instead of Unclaimed Territory and the like. If you want to sideboard things like Collective Brutality, those cards look even less appealing. If you want to splice combos, some combination of additional fetchlands and/or Unclaimed Territory will be necessary as a way to consistently cast Grumgully, the Generous and Putrid Goblin.

Cavern of Souls Unclaimed Territory

If you’re playing Rakdos with no splash, the manabase might be good enough to play Ghost Quarter or Field of Ruin to help the Mono-Green Tron matchup. If you’re willing to play additional lands, that makes it even easier because you’ll still be able to have the requisite number of Turn 1 black sources. 

I was mulliganing too much with 22 lands, so I added a 23rd. In a deck that often wants to make every land drop, playing fewer lands doesn’t seem like a great idea. If you fall behind, there’s not much you can do to come back, so I’d prefer to be able to cast my spells. Plus, with so much card advantage, you rarely feel mana-flooded. Each non-Goblin you add to your deck will hurt your Goblin Ringleaders but I’m fine with 28 Goblins.

Your sideboard, especially in Modern, should be aimed at solving problems. I wanted to address Mono-Green Tron, Burn, stack-based combo, and graveyard decks because you can easily beat up on anyone playing fair. 

Relic of Progenitus Collective Brutality Plague Engineer

Relic of Progenitus could be Nihil Spellbomb but there’s no guarantee you’ll have black mana early. Relic also has the added upside of shrinking Tarmogoyfs. It does shut off your Unearths, but in most of the unfair matchups where you’d bring in Relic, you won’t want Unearth anyway. I’d rather have Relic to shrink Tarmogoyfs than Unearth too. Grafdigger’s Cage is another option, especially if you expect Neobrand. 

One of the best cards against Burn is still Collective Brutality. Plague Engineer is the most powerful card for the mirror match but I’d rather be ready for it with Tarfire than try to play it myself. It’s too narrow, at least for now, and doesn’t necessarily get the job done. 

This is what I settled on.

There are plenty of tempting tutor targets, including Goblin Warchief, Tarfire, and Pashalik Mons, but I rarely wanted to search for them. Conversely, Goblin Ringleader was a popular tutor target and I was always happy to have it. 

This is a creature deck with that capability of playing longer games, which basically every decklist I’ve seen has tried to incorporate to some degree. They just didn’t go hard enough. Even against matchups like Mono-Green Tron and Burn, you’ll be looking to cast Goblin Ringleader at some point. Against things like Jund and the Uro decks, it will be your best card.

You could tempt me to swap the Sling-Gang Lieutenant or a Goblin Ringleader for another Kiki-Jiki or cut the Scalding Tarn for a Gemstone Caverns. I also wouldn’t mind trying a third Unearth but that means our overall Goblin count starts getting low. 

Goblins doesn’t necessarily like to play against Mono-Green Tron, Burn, or stack-based combo, so the sideboard addresses that. Graveyard decks aren’t heinous matchups, but they’re close, so having the Relics makes sense. Against everyone else, you’re happy to have Goblin Ringleader

Other than that, I’m very happy with this 75 and would happily play it in my next Modern event. You can expect to be playing against versions of this deck for quite some time because it’s here to stay.

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