This Just In! Goblins Set to Terrorize L.A.
By Scott Lemenager on October 17th, 2005 · Filed in Vintage (Type 1) · Comments not available just now
The Magic Pro Tour will be making a stop not so far from me at the end of October. Since I am not a Pro Tour player and generally try to avoid all things that aren't T1, I plan on playing in several of the side events, both Vintage and Legacy. So what deck should I play? Basically this brings up several problems for me.
#1: I dont play Legacy, thus dont have many deck options for the Legacy events.
#2: I dont own the complete set of cards I need to run my usual decks for the Vintage event.
This leads me to one possible conclusion...I better borrow a teammate's deck and go to town on it. "Which deck?" you may ask. Well Goblins of course; what else might be able to get me some wins in BOTH Vintage and Legacy in the same weekend without too many things to change up? In this article I am going to show you the two lists I will be playing for these side events, and try to justify any odd choices I might be making.
Of course I will begin with what I know best, Vintage. Food Chain Goblins is a deck that I have played time and time again. It was my first legitimate T1 deck and I know the ins and outs of the build better than most people ive seen try to play it. Besides the obvious reason of me taking this because it is one of the few options I truly have, I also want to be playing this due to the lone Vintage event being sanctioned. A sanctioned event can mean in some cases that the overall power level of the field is going to be weakend (since there are no proxies allowed in sanctioned tournaments), and I can generally expect to be playing against decks like Fish and SuiBlack more often than not, especially in the earlier rounds. Food Chain Goblins happens to Out-Aggro the aggro decks in most cases, and it is fast enough to compete against many of the top level decks in the format that players will full power might bring. For reference, here is the FCG list I plan on taking as of right now:
So you might be asking yourselves a question or two when looking at that list. The list is pretty basic FCG, with a few minor changes. Up front the changes found here are the lack of Skirk Prospector and the addition of a second Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker along with supporting cast members like Goblin Vandal and Goblin Welder, among several others. So how do I explain these choices being made in the deck?
No Black Lotus: Plain and simple....I dont have one, and im not sure if I will be able to borrow one yet or not.
Four Goblin Warchiefs: This has been a fundamental question for the past two years on the FCG deck. The argument basically comes down to this, "Does the mana base allow for four or more RR casting cost goblins?" With Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker in the deck this can be an even more difficult question, however you must remember that Kiki Jiki is rarely hardcasted and is usually either comboed out or put into play with Goblin Lackey. The question originated early on due to the use of running four Wastelands in the deck. The question at first was whether or not to use Wasteland. Wasteland is better if you are playing the aggro route more heavily, no Wastes is better if you are focusing on the combo. The other part of this stems from the fact that back then this deck was also generally running Ancient Tomb and sometimes Elvish Spirit Guide as mana acceleration, thus making RR an even more difficult prospect at times. The question was really never actually about running three or four Warchiefs due to card quality, it was a mana problem. In this build I am running Wastelands, however with the two on-color Moxen and Lotus Petal along with plenty of red producing lands getting into RR is not so much of a problem. If I can borrow Black Lotus from a teammate this will shore up the problem even more.
Goblin Vandal: This card is amazing for a first turn drop against most decks, and primarily against Workshops. By not only eating away powered mana bases, but also larger lock pieces in Stax, this guy can be a major tempo boost for the deck early on serving as a sort of red Oxidize that can be used over a number of turns. He also serves as an amazing blocker due to the fact that he forces players to leave something home so their artifacts do not get destroyed. You have to remember that in Vintage, there is hardly any aggro, so more often than not Vandal is going to be able to inflict damage to get his ability working even without the benefit of burn like in Extended and Legacy Goblin lists.
Goblin Welder: This guy cleans up everything left over by the Vandal, and can deal with big nasty himself: Darksteel Collosus. I use him as a tutorable one-of in the deck that I can nab with either Goblin Recruiter or Goblin Matron. If you have not tried this guy out in FCG as of yet I highly suggest it.
Kiki Jiki: Most FCG decks use at least one these days. He is simply amazing. I run two because A: I want to see him early off of a Goblin Lackey and B: He still makes a lot of mana in the combo with Food Chain. Kiki Jiki is easily the best thing since sliced lettuce in this deck and is a must-have, at least as a one-of, in any current FCG build.
NO Skirk Prospector!: Skirk Prospector is a worthless card to me more often than not. Sure he might be able to accelerate you into a Goblin Ringleader a turn earlier, but he is strictly worse than Goblin Lackey, and is not as useful in the meta as either Vandal or Welder. His primary goal many times is to allow for the direct damage combo kill when you are going off with Food Chain. However Moat is not an issue any more in T1 and I cannot think of any time where you cannot get at least one 20+/2 Goblin Piledriver through for the win. Thus I have also dropped out Goblin Sharpshooter and only run one Siege-Gang Commander.
With the primary deck choices decided, this brings me to the important question for those of you that are not familiar with the deck. How does the "combo" work when trying to win via that route? Here is an example:
Basically you need to get Food Chain into play, then play Goblin Recruiter. Goblin Recruiter allows you to set up a string of goblins to feed to the chain to create a massive amount of mana, and lets you get four really angry Goblin Piledrivers and a handful of little buddies to be attacking you in one go. Here is how it works
#1: Play Food Chain.
#2: Play Goblin Recruiter, when he resolves you then set up a chain on the top of your library Goblins. I find this version to be the easiest, and it works the best against control who might still have a counter for your first Ringleader. Here is the first part of the stack:
Of course you need to remember that if your mana base is barely enough to get started, you should probably throw a Matron or Recruiter into probably the second spot there so you can break up your chain by shuffling. You do not want to get your mana base ruined after you have stacked 20 goblins, so if you are playing against a control deck such as Keeper (4cc or 3cc/EBA) that runs a full set of Wastelands and Strip Mine, then you should have a way out. Now, if you already have a Ringleader in your hand I would generally add a Goblin Warchief to that list as the 4th card since you need to get him into play early in the combo to help boost your mana ramping, he also makes the kill lethal the turn you initiate it as well. Play the Ringleader in your hand, or cycle a Gempalm Incinerator to draw into a Ringleader. You can sacrafice the Recruiter in play to the Food Chain to get the mana to play the first Ringleader. Once this Goblin resolves you now have three more Ringleaders in your hand. The rest of the stack needs to consist of all of your Goblin Piledrivers not in play already, at least one Goblin Warchief, and then basically every other Goblin in the deck. You sacrifice each Ringleader to play the next and start accumulating mana to play almost every Goblin in the deck in one turn. Once you get the Piledrivers out and a Goblin Warchief you then attack and win with some big Goblins. Note: this isnt the only way to stack it, and is definitely not always the best way to stack it, especially depending on the current game state and what you already have. For more information on the deck and to take a look at a lot of matchup analysis and stack ideas, check out the original FCG primer by Toad .
One of the nicest features of FCG is the ability to play aggro with it as well as being able to utilize a brutal combo win. Many players unfortunatly make the mistake at trying to only play this as a combo deck, when at least half the time that is the incorrect path. Learning this deck properly requires the ability to multi-task when in the middle of the game. Being able to switch from aggro to combo at a whim when the opportunity presents itself is not always as easy as it seems. The mana base can be fragile at times when trying to get to the combo since for the most part you are only going for Taiga when getting into Green mana, and Wasteland can often be a factor. Be careful when stacking Goblins with Recruiter that you do not leave your mana base open to destruction. If you make a big stack and your mana goes bye bye, then you are stuck for a multitude of turns and you will lose. This is probably the most common mistake I see FCG players make, and they make it time and time again.
Now, with the Vintage part out of the way I can get into the Legacy portion of this Goblin-themed article. As a warning to you hardcore Legacy format players out there, this portion of the article is strickly deck THEORY. I am not a Legacy player really, so I will probably be making some gross generalizations about the format and about the decks I will be writing about. All of what will be below will be Legacy from the Vintage player's point of view. But other than that I hope you have fun reading it and it gives you all some insight into how other people view the Legacy decks. So, let the show continue!
Legacy is currently home to two top notch Goblin decks: Vial Goblins and a sort of Goblin Sligh deck. So what am I to do? Personally I like both versions to an extent, and I will get into what I dont like shortly. I do have a feeling though that there will be Goblins running amok at the side events so I will most likely be running Goblin Sligh. Goblin Sligh is still almost pure aggro, however it retains a higher level of control due to having direct damage burn spells which can help clear out other aggro deck's creatures. I still cannot overlook the raw aggro power of the Vial Goblins deck. Here is an example of the Aether Vial build of Goblins that can be found here on this site in the Legacy forums:
So, "what's wrong with this deck?" you might ask. Well, not too terribly much, but enough that I personally would never run it quite this way. Several pieces in here just do not fit for me.
#1: Aether Vial - WHAT? you might be thinking to yourself. In my personal testing with MonoGoblins in T1, we tried over and over to justify running Aether Vial in Goblins as a replacement for Food Chain to make the deck mono-Red. It never really worked super well for us in real games. Testing made it look decent as a sort of secondary Goblin Lackey, but it too often turned out to be an awful one drop for Goblins which should be playing a first turn Goblin 99% of the time. Now that being said, this is Legacy and not Vintage, where everything is a little slower. However I see no reason why Goblins should actually slow itself down just because everything else is slower. If I personally was going to try this out in a tourney I would probably be packing a maximum of two Aether Vials. I have also received a "but they may laugh at you" comment on not running Aether Vial. In response I say that is fine. I might be wrong, but if I am right then great, we get four more spots in the deck that can go to better places than an anti-control element that shouldn't be a problem for an aggro deck that is supposed to have its way with control anyways.
#2: 4xGempalm Incinerator - Too many...even in an aggro meta, four of these is just too many to justify, since now along with Aether Vials and Mogg Fanatics you are not going to always have a high number of Goblins in play to kill really big threats early enough, plus Incinerator is a sub-par Goblin to be hardcasting to attack with. I would also drop this down to either two or three total here depending on the meta expected.
#3: Goblin Vandal vs Goblin Tinkerer - The deck runs thirteen 1cc spells, which is another reason I actually don't like Aether Vial, since I wouldnt always want to start ramping it up. You should never have any problems dropping something on turn 1. Mana curves are important for an aggro deck like this. Couple that with the fact that against a large amount of aggro decks Vandal doesnt work super well and it seems to be an easy choice to make this 2xTinkerer in the deck.
#4: Black Splash - This one is something that I simply do not have a lot of experience with. On first glance this is awful, weakening the mana base to splash for a couple of sideboard options that im not 100% sure are even worth it in the first place. I would like Cabal Therapy considerably more if this deck was running something like Living Death or Patriarch's Bidding.
So where does this leave me? Well I am pretty sure I'm not a gigantic fan of Vial Goblins, so this leaves me with Goblin Sligh. Here again though I am faced with several things I am not a big fan of. This is the list as posted on our own Legacy forums.
On first glance this deck looks powerful as all hell. However there are still some things that need to be fixed in the deck that dont quite flow with what needs to be happening.
#1: Skirk Prospector - I just dont get it. What is the role of this card supposed to be in this deck? Acceleration? First off this deck should be running some other sort of acceleration like Lotus Petal or something to be plugging out Goblins quicker, earlier. Second off there is really just nothing in here that I would want to sacrifice my aggro for to play. Siege-Gang Commander is about the only thing that warrants sacrificing anything to get into, but Lacky is the primary Commander delivery system. On that note however it takes me to...
#2: Siege-Gang Commander - Why three? I just know that more often than not my Lacky is going to have a blocker that I cant burn away for some reason and im not going to be able to hardcast Commander, EVER! Especially with Fireblast in the deck, the chances of having enough mana to hard cast this guy reliably are slim, even with Prospector in the build, I do not like to have to sacrifice other Goblins just to play this guy, even if he is pretty good.
#3: Mana Splashing only for SB options - Here again is a mono colored deck that features dual lands concievably for SB options only. Is it just really that hard to find answers within the Red card base? I'm sure there are better options, the question is will I be able to find the correct answers without for sure knowing what the general meta will look like in LA.
"So what then Mr. Smarty Pants are you going to do about putting a Goblin deck together?" Well how about taking what I feel are the best parts of both and slapping them together? Worth a shot, right, and why not? I dont have anything really to lose, and if it works as well as I hope it should, I might get some decent results at these events. So how would I set up the deck then?
Straight from a guy who plays strictly Vintage and has never played in a Legacy event, pretty exciting. So let's go over a few of the key choices in the deck.
Goblin Vandal - Since im running both Mogg Fanatic and Burn, the Vandal is probably the best choice for maindeck artifact disruption. He is reusable and is pretty hot for the reasons mentioned earlier in the article. He gets the nod over Tinkerer or Welder here.
Lotus Petal - Because sometimes first turn Goblin Piledriver is a good thing, same goes for turn two Warchief. Why people aren't using acceleration in these decks other than Skirk Prospector is beyond me at this point, maybe this is just a Legacy thing that doing slightly broken things isn't good in Goblins. Possibly with some Legacy tournament experience with the deck I will understand it, but for now these are too good. Another favorite with Petal is that it allows me after sideboard to play land, Petal, Lackey and still have a mana availible for Red Elemental Blast against Force of Will. It has worked in the past for me in Vintage, and I do not see why it will not work for Legacy. I've received comments about Skirk Prospector being a late game mana accelerant. Why? Why do we need this? Perhaps this is just me being a Vintage player at heart shining through, but why on Earth would a deck like this need late game acceleration? In this deck there are exactly three spells that cost more than three mana to play. With twenty four total mana availible for the deck reaching at least three should never ever be a problem, and the other three spells are creatures that are meant to be sent in the fray via Goblin Lackey.
Blood Moon - Wow, really? Yeh, Blood Moon is good. I enjoy shutting off dual lands and forcing decks into one color, especially if they dont normally run red in their deck. This is probably better as a meta consideration, but I am willing to take the risk that this might pay off big time for me.
More Gobbos than Burn - I want the more focused effort of a team of goblins working for me, I still wanted some burn though to clear the way for a Lackey or Vandal, and Goblin Grenade is a great finisher for the deck and can help clear out some bigger creatures that might be in the way. I am running twenty four creatures and only ten burn which makes this far from classic Sligh decks which generally focus on a ratio of nearly 1:1:1 for creature/burn/mana. The primary goal of the burn here is to A: clear a path for my Lackeys and B: Help deal with creatures across the board that are bigger than Goblins. This is also part of the reason why something like Cursed Scroll is not included, I want my goblins to do the winning, I also wanted to limit the use of low value burn, trading overall card advantage for one-shot timing and quality advantage. Of course being able to deal the final 3-10 damage with burn is always a nice little bonus.
The sideboard - This is the most difficult part of going into an unknown meta: what on Earth should I sideboard?. Upon quickly glancing at the global Legacy meta I wanted a pretty well rounded side to take with me, the best part of course is that since there are multiple Legacy events, I will be able to improve on the sideboard as I go.
Umezawa's Jitte - Aggro is everywhere, so an aggro killer is a good idea, this also helps taking down larger creatures such as angels as well.
Goblin King - Against every non-Goblin matchup this will probably go in for a Commander or a Warchief. Kinda like a Glorious Anthem for Goblins; not to mention it is kinda good with a Blood Moon in play.
Damping Matrix - There are activated abilities everywhere; might as well shut them off so they cant be used against me.
Pyrostatic Pillar - Decent against Solidarity and Aluren and any other combo deck I might see over the course of the day.
Red Elemental Blast - Good against Blue-based control...well...last time I checked anyway, heh.
So thats my deck, badger me, tear me apart, do me wrong in the forums, but be prepaired to actually have me answer the questions. I'll be ready. And dont worry, I will be following this article up with another on my overall report on Pro Tour LA.
Before I leave you all to ponder my choices here, I wanted to give a brief rundown of why you all should try to attend events like Pro Tour LA even if you aren't a professional player.
Going to these major events is an eye opening experience for everybody that has never been to one. This means that everybody from a casual dinner table player to a PTQ player that has never made the next step will be amazed at just how big of a deal these things are. For example, this Pro Tour LA event is four days long, from the Thursday early registration and last chance qualifying event, all the way to Sunday's Top 8 showdown of the best Magic players in the world. But beyond the overall size of the thing, these events can be a cultural experience many of you have never had a chance to encounter. Players from all over the world will be in attendance, and especially late on Saturday you might get a chance to play against many of these players as they drop out of the main event. As another bonus of attending: the amount of cards available to you is spectacular. Imagince having access to hundreds of trade binders you've never had the opportunity to look at before. Every card imaginable is for trade, and some of the deals you can find are sweet. Another highlight is of course the artist appearences, for example at this Pro Tour event, Terese Nielson, Pete Ventners, and Thomas Baxa will be signing cards all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This is a must do activity for all of you interested in making your decks look nice and shiny. To get some more details on event scheduals and the time frame of the event please take a look at the link at the bottom of this page.
Well, I've come to yet another ending. I hope to see any of you out at the event; take a look for me at the Legacy and Vintage side events and you can have the pleasure of sneering at my card choices. Don't worry, I won't mind, and hey, maybe I will even suprise you. Please though, this article is meant to provoke discussion, I hope that you readers react to this, be it positive OR negative. Challenging the norm is a goal of mine for this particular article and event. If I am wrong I am wrong, and I will be a better Magic player for it, but if I am correct in at least some of my assumptions then maybe everybody will be a better Magic player for it. Regardless of the results, I just hope you all enjoyed the article.
For questions and feedback feel free to send me a PM here.
Scott Lemenager aka Lunar
For more information on Pro Tour LA and the side events and artist signings check this out.
IloveAtogs for help with the banner and pictures...great job as usual!
The editing crew usual suspects ie Goblinboy and Binary, with some content help from Belgareth as well.
By Scott Lemenager on October 17th, 2005 · Filed in Vintage (Type 1) · Comments not available just now
About Scott Lemenager
Scott Lemenager is one of the best up in coming Vintage writers in the United States. Recently voted as "Best Vintage Strategist" on MTGSalvation and published on the front page at Star City Games, Scott continues to write solid articles on the Vintage format. Other recent accomplishments include the startup of www.norcalmagic.tk , a site dedicated to Vintage Magic on the West Coast, and the startup of his own proxied Vintage tournament Series. A shift in career goals also has Scott headed to the California Culinary Acadamy to continue his training as a World Class Chef and one day small business owner.