Hello folks, and welcome to the last new From the Lab of the entire year! Yes, even talented and handsome Magic authors such as myself can't resist dropping the cards in favor of the festive holiday season. That means that for the next two weeks in this slot, you'll be seeing two columns that I chose from all of 2009 to feature as during the "Best of 2009" Weeks.
However, we're not there yet. Only this article separates me from two weeks of bliss, and by gum, it's a theme-week column. The theme? Goblins!
- Everlasting Goblins
As Mark Rosewater pointed out in his article on Monday, this web site has already seen a Goblin Week, which ran a whopping eight years ago. If you had told me in 2002 that Goblins would remain just as prevalent and popular in 2009, I probably ...would have straight-up believed you. Goblins have a somewhat mystical aura about them, and that's not just a reference to their overwhelming stench. Despite being so painfully dumb that they take relief-killers (anti-lenol?) and so hopelessly suicidal that they ran out of cousins (Fodder Cannon!), goblins somehow endure. The mythical concept of cockroaches simply never dying can reasonably be applied to Goblins throughout Magic. The difference is that I think we'd all rather a post-nuclear world be rebuilt by cockroaches than Goblins.
- Grab Bag O' Goblins
Hey, what's with all the headlines, Noel? That's your second one, and you haven't even built a deck yet! Well, I figured Goblin Week was as good a week as any to pull off what I think of as "grab bag" columns. Goblins themselves are recklessly impulsive and short-lived, just like these sections. Watch.
- Goblin Dance Party
See? This section doesn't even have a collective theme, mildly unlike the others! Also, like Goblins themselves, the headlines themselves are slowly upping their surrealism and downing (?) their overall importance. Over these eight years, we've seen surefire Goblins under many different monikers. Some of these names were simple clan names, such as the Krark Clan, or the Goblins of various Ravnica guilds.
Other names were just bizarre. All the goblins of Kamigawa were called akki for some reason, while in Lorwyn the goblins were dubbed boggarts, which I guess make some logical sense. And as for actual names of Goblin creatures, look no further than Ishi-Ishi, Akki Crackshot to make you choke on your eggnog.
- Goblin Drag Race
Another characteristic of Goblins is their unnatural knack for hastiness. See the classic example of Raging Goblin, or newer representative Goblin Chieftain. In fact, if I wanted to imitate a Goblin's pace, I'd simplybegintotypelikethis. Unfortunatelythatgetsannoyingafterashortwhile. Atleasttheyhaven'tgottensuperhasteyet.
- And Ib's Heart Grew Six Sizes That Day
What better Goblin to discuss under a Johnny lens than the less-than-competent Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician? Famous for his many quotes that appeared in flavor text, Ib can create Goblins out of thin air (or, more appropriately, thick rock) and can send them on suicide missions. For some reason, these Goblin tokens are willing to obey this often misguided request. But then again, some Goblin tokens yearn to be devoured by fearsome Dragons. Potayto, potahto.
The latest Goblin lord, Goblin Chieftain, combines fairly well with the Goblin Tactician. Curve into Ib Halfheart, and sacrifice all four of your Mountains to create four hasty 2/2 Goblins. Combine that with a possible turn-two Akki Raider (to amp itself up whenever Ib creates a small horde) and a turn-one Goblin Guide (which, despite its obvious drawback, is still a hasty 2/2 for ) and we're in the business of dealing a ton of damage.
Another recently printed Goblin that Akki Raider plays nice with is Goblin Razerunners. Sink enough mana and land into this Conflux rare and you'll wind up pumping both creatures. Skirk Volcanist is a saucy morphing Goblin that also causes some Mountains to hit the graveyard.
With all the lands being killed, I want to even things up by destroying some of my opponent's. Goblin Ruinblaster steps in as the land-destroying Goblin of the current spotlight. This guy's timely casting arguably won the World Championship for Andre C., so it can easily help out a casual Goblin deck.
Some land recursion might help as well. Petrified Field should get some style points on the board, but a splash of green for Life from the Loam should vastly improve the deck. Goblins don't mind being dredged if it means providing Ib with more Mountains to sacrifice.
Now that we're in green, we can add the green Goblin itself, Hungry Spriggan. It's not particularly synergistic with the land-killing theme, but I can't help but mentally chortle at the prospect of playing a hasty one courtesy of Goblin Chieftain.
Now, this is the column where I like to make use of underused cards. Something all these Goblins seem to share is their fragile toughness. Pumping Akki Raider won't do any good when it gets owned by a Tundra Wolves. So I added Dolmen Gate. Now your reckless attackers won't have to live in fear of dying in combat. The Gate also has some curious synergy with Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician. Your opponent will know that if he or she blocks, Ib will see to it that the blocker is Lightning Blasted. But when combat damage is nullified, blocking becomes a greater question. It's not often Goblins get to play mind games!
Of course, attacking like crazy each turn leaves you open to counterattack. Fortunately, since we're in red, we'll have the burn to put the opponent to zero in a quicker fashion.
Here's another Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician deck. This one's isn't nearly as Goblin-y, but it does use a ton of changelings, which technically makes it Goblin-y in a cheesy way. I built this deck way back during the insanely large Standard environment of Time Spiral block and Lorwyn block, with Tenth Edition and Coldsnap also available.
The main combo of the deck was Ib Halfheart + Kithkin Mourncaller + changelings. Kithkin Mourncaller, as you definitely don't know, lets you draw a card whenever an attacking Kithkin or Elf hits the graveyard. Ib, of course, forces attacking Goblins into suicidal and explosive situations. If only we had some Goblin Elves, I thought at the time. The various changelings were the answer, along with Runed Stalactite. My perfect find for the deck was Rimehorn Aurochs, offering yet another astounding tribal affect as well as the ability to force opponents to block. With Ib on the battlefield, the ensuing melee should swing in your favor.
The deck is pretty straightforward: Attack with changelings and reap one reward or another. Some creature type lords are in there, and actually the deck is far more Elf-based than Goblin based. I'm sure there are many ways to update this skeleton for 2009 (Bloodbraid Elf comes readily to mind) but this was my favorite quirky Standard deck of that time, complete with one of my favorite commons, Evolution Charm.
- Goblin Lackey II
That's what some are calling Warren Instigator, the first new mythic rare Goblin. These folks are referencing the powerful card Goblin Lackey, which became one of the few Goblins ever to get banned, due to its insane synergy with later printed Goblins such as Siege-Gang Commander and Goblin Piledriver. Since then, Goblin Lackey saw the light of day in the From the Vault: Exiled product earlier this year, while its spiritual descendant entered the Standard fray not much later.
Warren Instigator has literally the same combat triggering effect that Goblin Lackey does. But just to ramp up the craziness, the Instigator also has double strike. So if you have two expensive Goblin creatures in your hand, one unbothered swing from an Instigator can pop them both onto the battlefield.
The key word (or more accurately, lack of word) in Warren Instigator's text box is "damage." That is to say, any old type of damage will work, not just combat damage.
Thing is, I already did the straightforward aggro thing during the last two decks. So I'm going unwieldy Johnny multi-card combo here.
You want to have a Power of Fire on the Instigator early. Then, either cast or Instigate an Amoeboid Changeling onto the battlefield. Use Goblin Matrons to find everything, including your key Goblins. Finally, stick a Cloudstone Curio on the board. When you're all ready ....
Using the changeling, transform your Instigator into a Goat. Ping your opponent once with the Instigator. Pop a Goatnapper onto the battlefield; it will untap the Goatified Instigator. Ping your opponent again. Pop a second Goatnapper onto the battlefield. This time, use the Curio to bounce the first Goatnapper to your hand. In this way you will always have a Goatnapper to pop in. Repeat until opponent is pinged to death.
Goblin Matron has a toolbox of Goblins to work with, and a Powered Instigator can pop them in at instant speed. Use a Shrieking Mogg to tap down an attacking force, a Stingscourger to bounce a big attacker, chain Embermage Goblins, and more!
- About the Planeswalker Contest
As promised, I'll answer questions about the Planeswalker Contest I introduced last week before I sign off for 2009. I'll also take this time to express my thanks to those of you who have already submitted what seem like fun entries.
A quick clarification: I may have stressed singletons too hard last week. Let me say officially, I'm not really looking for a deck that has four copies of the chosen planeswalker and a singleton of everything else. Definitely mix up the numbers as you will; I just didn't want to see a bunch of four-ofs. On to some other questions.
Sideboard? No, a sideboard is not required.
Multiple planeswalkers in one deck? I was initially hesitant about this, as I had intended each deck to just focus on one planeswalker. However, if you really want to divide the deck between two 'walkers, go ahead. Such a deck had better knock my socks off, though. (Note that different versions of the same 'walker, such as the two Ajanis, can definitely go in the same deck if so desired. See last week's Chandra deck.)
Elder Dragon Highlander? No, please don't build an EDH deck for this contest.
When does the contest end? Decks are due on or before Friday, January 15.
Can I give a bulleted list of deck synergies? Yes.
Can I submit multiple entries? For this contest, I'm going to say Yes.
Standard Legal? Nope. All cards, even silver-bordered ones, are fair game.
What does "close to 60 cards" mean? Sorry to be harsh here, but it means a maximum of 62 cards.
That's all the questions I received. And now for a quick hint: I would love to be able to feature all thirteen planeswalkers in the results article(s). I say this because I've already noticed that some 'walkers are getting more deck lists than others. Some haven't gotten any at all yet. I know it's only been a week. Still, this is food for thought!
Thanks for a great year of Johnnyness. See you all in 2010!