The Goblinablers

Posted in Feature on October 10, 2002

By Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar

I made up a word this week: Goblinabler. I wanted something to describe non-Goblin cards that promote Goblin decks. Cards like Reckless One, Goblin Pyromancer, and Goblin Taskmaster obviously suggest that Goblin decks are again possible in Standard. But what I find interesting are those non-Goblin cards that also promote the use of Goblins. Goblinablers of old are cards like Goblin King, Goblin Grenade, and Dralnu's Crusade. These cards aren't Goblins themselves, but they require a deck with good Goblins.

Goblin King

Just so I'm clear: A Goblinabler has to promote the use of Goblins, not just any strategy using small, red creatures. Reckless Charge is a great card, but it isn't a Goblinabler. Neither is Goblin Bombardment, even though it has "Goblin" in its name and complements a deck with a lot of creatures. Custody Battle is a quirky, fun card with Goblins in its artwork, but it isn't a Goblinabler. Goblin Trenches makes Goblins, but it doesn't require the use of more Goblins, so it isn't a Goblinabler either. Goblin Caves . . . now there's a fine example of a Goblinabler.

You're probably wondering why I want a name for those few non-Goblin Goblin cards. Well, it's because Onslaught contains four particularly interesting Goblinablers. These cards throw interesting wrinkles into an otherwise normal Goblin deck and suggest weird deck creations as a result. If there is one thing I've shown in the past ten months, it is a love for weird deck creations.

Best of all, these four cards aren't rare. Recently, I've received numerous requests for more "lite" articles, asking me to show creative, fun deck ideas on a budget. As a result of your requests, expect a steady stream of lite articles in the coming months, much like today's article. The Goblinablers in Onslaught provide a terrific basis for lite decks, and really . . . shouldn't Goblin decks be affordable? They're Goblins, for crying out loud!

Goblin Burrows
Goblin Burrows

Goblin Burrows is probably the most obvious Goblinabler, because it speeds up speedy Goblin decks. In fact, I would say that Goblin Burrows probably belongs in almost every true Goblin deck in almost every format that uses cards from Onslaught. It's that good.

I also think that, due to its ubiquity, Goblin Burrows is the least interesting of the OnslaughtGoblinablers. That is, I don't think it promotes any unique or particularly interesting deck ideas on its own. Oh, I suppose you could figure out a way to continually untap Goblin Burrows to produce enough mana for a 103/1 Raging Goblin with Bloodshot Cyclops on the table, but that sounds really complicated. For now, let's just say that Goblin Burrows fits well into any self-respecting Goblin deck, and as a result will consistently show up in this article's decklists.

Airdrop Condor
Airdrop Condor

Now Airdrop Condor, on the other hand, is a really difficult card to fit into a Goblin deck (mostly because the thing is prohibitively expensive). Paying for a 2/2 flier is pretty bad no matter how long you stare at it. It is one fewer mana than the aforementioned Bloodshot Cyclops, and you can use its ability multiple times in a turn, which is all in Airdrop Condor's favor. But its hefty price is incongruous with the way Goblin decks are built. Goblin decks usually consist of fast, cheap, aggressive creatures along with a lot of red burn to remove blockers and end the game. Airdrop Condor is simply too slow for these traditional strategies.

To use Airdrop Condor, then, you must resort to nontraditional Goblin strategies. Besides being quick, Goblins also have a nice tendency to pump their critters' powers to explosive heights. Consider Flamestick Courier, Goblin Sledder, Goblin Taskmaster, and, of course, Goblin Burrows. These cards make Goblins bigger. With Airdrop Condor, you can attack with your temporarily big Goblin and then chuck it directly at your opponent's head before the pumping effect has worn off. This strategy also allows you to incorporate into your deck cards like Goblin Sky Raider and Goblin Glider -- Goblins that aren't aggressive enough to fit into normal Goblin decks -- because evasion makes them perfect for a deck running so many ways to make them bigger.

Here's an example:

Goblin Droppings

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If you want to add rares, cards like Goblin King, Goblin Piledriver, and Goblin Pyromancer fit this strategy perfectly. My favorite addition, however, is a Goblin that normally sits neglected in your trade binder -- you can use Okk! How cool is that?

Brightstone Ritual
Brightstone Ritual

Brightstone Ritual is another "Huh?" card. It is virtually impossible to get a Turn 1 mana boost from the Ritual. Instead, Brightstone Ritual ensures that later in the game, when you have access to a lot of Goblins, you will have access to a lot of mana. Like Airdrop Condor, this idea doesn't fit perfectly well into the traditional idea of speedy Goblin decks. It promotes a decent way to empty your hand of Goblins on Turns 2 and 3. I suppose Brightstone Ritual could fuel a game-ending Urza's Rage, but most people would rather use four Shocks in a Goblin deck instead of the Ritual.

So what can you do with a lot of Goblin-fueled mana? The obvious answer is to use red "X" spells like Blaze and Firecat Blitz. You can drop your usual horde of 1- and 2-cost Goblins onto the table, and just when you are about to run out of steam . . . WHAM! It's time to end the game with a big doozy of a card. Or, as I've tried below, you can use Goblins that largely replace themselves -- like Goblin Matron and Embermage Goblin -- to ensure your steady stream of Goblins:

Mmmm... Shiny

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When adding rares, your options start to get silly. Mana Echoes can help produce additional mana for cards like Gratuitous Violence, Aggravated Assault, Shivan Dragon, or Volley of Boulders. Riptide Replicator actually has some nice synergy with a deck built around Brightstone Ritual. And of course you can always use Overmaster to make sure your big WHAM! resolves against a blue mage.

Cabal Slaver
Cabal Slaver

Cabal Slaver is probably my favorite Goblinabler in Onslaught. I like that it turns Goblin decks into something other than mono-red, and I like how dangerous it makes even a 1/1 Raging Goblin. I also like that it lets me use Festering Goblin, the lone nonred Goblin in Standard right now. Poor Festering Goblin.

There isn't a lot of subtlety when using Cabal Slaver. In fact, Cabal Slaver allows normal speedy Goblin decks to act like normal speedy black-red decks: A lot of disruption in the form of discard and creature removal, with a lot of aggressive critters to end the game. The real trick is figuring out which non-Goblin cards to use, as both red and black have some killer choices. Some examples of cards to consider are Shock, Firebolt, Volcanic Hammer, Smother, Chainer's Edict, Duress, Cabal Therapy, Chain of Plasma, Chain of Smog, Unholy Strength, and Mesmeric Fiend. Your choice will depend on the kinds of decks your friends tend to play and what suits your style. Pick any two or three off the list above, though, and you have a solid support strategy for your enslaved Goblins.

In the deck below, I have gone a little overboard trying to ensure my Goblins won't get blocked. The decks in "House of Cards" are meant to push this kind of mental envelope, but you should obviously try what you think is best.

Chain of Fools

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If this article were discussing rares, I might discuss the fifth and final Goblinabler in Onslaught: Tribal Golem. Suffice it to say, a Goblin deck with Tribal Golem won't resemble a normal Goblin deck either.

Other creature types get just as many "enablers" in Onslaught, and all of them can lead to some really wacky decks. Just look at Wirewood Savage, Thoughtbound Primoc, or Gangrenous Goliath as examples. I hope my discussion of Goblinablers today has helped you begin to not only think about "tribal" decks like Goblins, but to think about affordable, creative, and nontraditional decks, as well. Sure your buddy can bust out his . . . yaaaawwwwn . . . ultraquick Goblin deck, but won't he be surprised when your big Goblin Glider ends the game thanks to Airdrop Condor? Wheeee!

Next week: The results of Deck Challenge 3!

-- j

Jay may be reached at houseofcards@wizards.com.

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