David Bowie's Army

Posted in Reconstructed on July 31, 2012

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

When I say "Standard tribal," you probably conjure up an image of the Innistrad tribes. Werewolves flipping back and forth, Vampires full of delicious +1/+1 counters, and Spirits flying over the heads of the wingless. Thanks to the uncommon Dark Ascension lords, the tribal attention has been shifted off the traditional races. For now, the horrors of the night run free.

But this summer, one ruler is looking to make his mark on a city. A new legend will rise.

It's time for a change of pace. It's time for... Krenko?!?

Krenko, Mob Boss | Art by Karl Kopinski

Yes, that's right—today is all about Goblins!

Despite Innistrad's complete lack of Goblins, Magic 2013 brings some exciting new tools to revitalize the archetype! Will it be enough to make up for an entire block? Well, I know one way to find out!

Like any good Goblin, let's waste no time. There are Mountains to tap, opponents to kill, and baby brothers to steal!

Today, we're going to take a look at Connor White's Goblins deck:

Connor White's Goblins

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The Battle Plan

In an unusual twist of fate, the plan with this Goblins deck is to attack!

However, amid all of the attacking, there are a few new synergies worth noting that really push this deck to a higher level. It's capable of one of the most powerful starts in the format.

Let's say you kick off the game with an innocuous Spikeshot Elder on turn one. Turn two, you amp up the innocuousness with a Krenko's Command. Turn three is where it starts to become exciting, as a Goblin Chieftain pumps up your ragtag army and pummels your opponent for 8 damage. But my favorite part is turn four, when Krenko hits the board.

Surprise! You're dead!

The synergy of Krenko, Mob Boss alongside Goblin Chieftain is too much to ignore. This powerful duo can singlehandedly overwhelm an opponent with hasted 2/2 tokens again and again. Your opponent practically must have some kind of removal spell on the spot or instantly fall behind.

The key to properly attacking with this deck is realizing which creatures in this deck are expendable. Most of the time, you're just going to want to send in all of your creatures every turn to maximize the amount of damage you can deal. Goblin Chieftain, Krenko, and occasionally Spikeshot Elder are the ones worth holding back, and if you have a Chieftain or Krenko coming down on the next turn you might not want to trade off your creature now. Otherwise, don't hesitate: push those creatures right into combat!

Deck Breakdown

Let's take a look over each individual card. While a lot of them might look similar, they have subtle enough nuances that they're worth talking about on their own.

Goblin Arsonist

While far from an exciting card, the Arsonist fills an important role in the one-drop slot. This deck wants to curve out every game and constantly attack, and having a one-drop is paramount to that plan. I prefer Arsonist over Goblin Fireslinger here because, thanks to Goblin Chieftain, you're going to want to continually attack, and the Arsonist is better at foraying into combat because of its death trigger. It also trades with 2-toughness creatures naturally, which means you can attack with it in more situations.

Spikeshot Elder

Now this is an exciting Goblin! Mons's Goblin Raiders has come a long way. Spikeshot Elder is one of the better one-drops in the format, and has a lot of powerful things going for him. On his own he can let you play a longer game and give you some reach while picking off random Birds, which isn't too shabby.

However, alongside Goblin Chieftain or Goblin Wardriver (or even Adaptive Automaton—more on that later) it starts to Shock things. If you can get into Shock range with the Elder, it turns from a pretty good one-drop into a game ender. Perfect!

Krenko's Command

This new Magic 2013 two-drop is perfect for what the Standard Goblins deck is trying to do. It helps fill the two-drop hole and works great with all of your lords, like Goblin Chieftain, Krenko, and...

Goblin Wardriver

While the primary lords you probably think of in a Standard Goblin deck are Krenko and Goblin Chieftain, Goblin Wardriver is pulling a lot of weight as well. It fills the two-drop hole and pumps all of your tokens on offense. A critical mass of lords makes stabilizing the game very hard for your opponent, and the Wardriver is just another in this deck's lineage of lords.

Goblin Chieftain

The fact that this card has been mentioned over and over by now should be telling, but Goblin Chieftain is a crucial building block of this deck. It pumps up all of your creatures and gives them haste—two perfect fits for a deck all about attacking.

Krenko, Mob Boss

Ah, Krenko. A goblin. A trickster. A warrior. This Ravnican denizen can cause a lot of trouble in a short amount of time. His ability gives you complete inevitability if the game goes long, providing tokens turn after turn. He can also nearly immediately close down the game alongside Goblin Chieftain.

His high power level and massive versatility makes me want to play four copies. Although he is a little expensive to cast and also a legend, if you have one and your opponent doesn't remove it, the game is going to quickly come to a close. I also want to maximize this deck's best possible draws, which involves Krenko. Yes, if you draw three of them early it can be a little frustrating, but it isn't that bad. It means your opponent is going to have a lot of powerful rare legends to fight through before he or she can beat you.


I like what this card is doing for this deck, essentially functioning as an extra lord. It even has haste built-in for those times when there isn't a Goblin Chieftain around. It's very good alongside your aggressive draws—but the draws I'm most concerned about are when you have to play the long game.

I don't want many four-drops because I'm so focused on the early game, and the times when I do want a four-drop I want it to be something that can push me through a sticky long game situation—like Krenko. While I do enjoy riding my way to victory, I'm going to opt for filling out my set of Krenkos in this deck.

The Burn

This deck has quite the red removal suite, featuring Brimstone Volley, Pillar of Flame, Shrine of Burning Rage, Goblin Grenade, and Galvanic Blast. I can certainly respect wanting to clear creatures out of the way so you can attack through. For most red mages, burn is something you don't leave out of your spellbook. However, I have a maxim for times like these.

Seriously, play more lands Goblins.

All I want in this deck most of the time is to hit my curve and attack, attack, attack! Most of my creatures are expendable, and in most cases I just want to draw Goblins where burn spells would be. By playing more Goblins, our best cards like Krenko and Goblin Chieftain are always at maximum power and we can always put pressure on our opponents. I don't mind sideboarding some burn for those matchups where you really need to fight off creatures, but in the main deck I just want to maximize our Goblinocity.

The one burn spell I want to keep is Goblin Grenade. The damage output on that card is completely ridiculous, and gives the deck some reach out of nowhere. With so many Goblins and Goblin tokens around, the price isn't that high.

Goblin Grenade

Normally I would cut down to three copies of a card like Goblin Grenade in a tribal-focused deck; you don't want to draw three of your removal spell because it'll slow you down and reduce your chances of curving our. However, if you happen to draw three Goblin Grenades early on, your opponent just accidentally starts at 5 life. Yeah, I'll take that.

Warren Remodeling

There are only so many Goblins to play in Standard, and when the goal is to jam as many into the same deck as possible there isn't a ton of extra room to maneuver. Still, there are a few extra additions to the mogg squad.

Adaptive Automaton

Drawing lords in this deck is fantastic with all of the cheap creatures and token generation, and Adaptive Automaton gives you added redundancy in that department. It's certainly no Goblin Chieftain, but it still does a good job.

Mogg Flunkies

With so many one-drops in the deck and a hasted three-drop, there's a good chance the Flunkies will be serving in on turn three. While it does make your opponent's removal a little better, the power of a 3/3 for is huge in a deck mostly full of small creatures. If you think your opponent can make your turn-two Flunkies weak by killing your one-drop, then you might want to hold it off to cast later—and it'll still be mighty sizable come turn four or five.

Goblin Fireslinger

I wanted a little extra one-drop redundancy, and there was a single slot left in the deck. While I could go for something cute like Burn at the Stake, I'd rather just have another consistent one-drop to put on the pressure early and also help turn on my Flunkies.

Combined with filling out some of the slots and adding a land, these changes bring the decklist to:

Gavin's Goblin Raiders

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This deck looks quite powerful. Some of its draws will outgun practically any other popular deck, and if a slower deck stumbles it's going to absolutely run over that deck. It has a deadly mix of quick aggression and long reach. Let's take a look at the sideboard, too!

Sideboarding Breakdown

Before running through how to sideboard against each archetype, let me do a quick breakdown on what each card is for.

Arc Trail

While against any kind of slower deck you don't want to have a ton of burn lying around, in a beatdown mirror a card like Arc Trail is invaluable. In many cases it's a two-for-one, and it beats up on the Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elf-centric decks that have been populating Standard. Finding ways to get card advantage in the beatdown mirror match is always powerful, and Arc Trail does that beautifully without giving up much tempo.

Torch Fiend

Sword of War and Peace is a natural enemy for this deck, and you absolutely must have ways to combat it. While Connor opted for Smelt's instant-speed surprise versatility, I avoid sideboarding solely reactive cards in my beatdown deck unless I absolutely need to. They clog your hand in multiples, and if your opponent doesn't draw one of the two or three Swords, each one is just a virtual mulligan.

Torch Fiend still allows you to blow up a Sword on your opponent's turn when it comes down, while also providing a 2/1 body in the meantime. It's worse than Manic Vandal against Birthing Pod because you have to sacrifice it, but I'd rather have the better-costed creature.

Traitorous Blood

This is one of the few places I will play a reactive card in my beatdown deck. I only want a couple so I don't draw too many, but it's a trump against cards like Griselbrand and Inferno Titan. You often need to buy one more turn against decks that quickly produce those kinds of threats, and Traitorous Blood not only gives you a turn but also sends a ton more power into your opponent's face.

Grafdigger's Cage

This is one of the few places I recommend playing a card that does little on its own in a beatdown deck, although I still wouldn't play too many in case you draw multiples. Against decks like Reanimator, a single Cage should buy you enough time to win.

Against midrange decks, the game will go long and you will run short on profitable attacks. Burn at the Stake is an alternative route to victory. It acts kind of like an Overrun in this deck, sending a ton of damage right to your opponent's head. The extra land is because Burn at the Stake costs five, and Crucible is pretty good anyway in long games since you'll end up with a bonus 4/4 at some point.


Your Delver matchup is generally pretty good, but Restoration Angel blocking at just the right time can be a problem. A single Combust is there to help fight off Restoration Angel, Delver of Secrets, or otherwise.

As for what you want to be doing in each kind of matchup:

Versus Beatdown

-1 Goblin Fireslinger, -1 Goblin Grenade, -2 Mogg Flunkies
+4 Arc Trail

Versus a quick, aggressive deck you just want cards that are consistently powerful and prevent you from being overrun until you stabilize the board. Your play set of Krenko gives you huge inevitability in this matchup, and if you get him online you will usually win. Just use your Arc Trails to shut down your opponent early and don't be afraid to block with cards like Goblin Arsonist.

Versus Control

-1 Mountain
+1 Hellion Crucible

A lot of the sideboarding here really depends on what kind of control deck it is. If it's sporting Restoration Angel, bringing in your single Combust over another Automaton is pretty reasonable. If it's heavy on artifacts ,Torch Fiend could be a card to consider; heavy on Wurmcoil Engines and Traitorous Blood might be a card to look at. But if it's just a general two- or three-color, slow control deck, you're in pretty good shape. Just don't overextend and you'll be fine.

Versus Midrange

-1 Goblin Fireslinger, -2 Goblin Arsonist, -3 Goblin Wardriver, -4 Goblin Grenade
+1 Hellion Crucible, +2 Burn at the Stake, +3 Torch Fiend, +4 Arc Trail

Against midrange decks, the games will likely go long, with you slamming in for a bunch of damage on the first few turns and then them stabilizing. Use Burn at the Stake to take them down once they start to stabilize. There's not a lot they can do against it.

Torch Fiend is for Swords or Birthing Pods, depending on the midrange deck. If they don't have any or many good targets, I wouldn't bring it in.

It's too bad that Goblin Grenade has to be cut, but you need to preserve your creature count and want to bring in Arc Trail; against all of the decks that use a bunch of Birds early on, Arc Trail is fantastic. If it's a different kind of midrange deck, leave in the Grenades, but otherwise you're going to want Trails to fight it with.

Versus Combo and Ramp

-4 Krenko, Mob Boss
+2 Grafdigger's Cage, +2 Traitorous Blood

Against these decks you want to be as quick as possible, and the inevitability of Krenko won't end up trumping the inevitability of something like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite or Griselbrand. As a result, you just want to be as fast as possible and remove your four-drop inevitability card.

If it's a deck like Reanimator that has a bunch of Elves for acceleration, I would bring in Arc Trails to fight it, removing a land and three Automatons. If it's Ramp, I would not bring in the Cages, instead leaving in two Krenkos or bringing in two Torch Fiends just for the cheap body and occasional value if the deck seems to have any artifacts.

Honorable Mentions

Goblins wasn't the only cool deck I received this week! Deceiver Exarch Combo, Slag Fiend Beatdown, and a Gutter Grime deck are just a few of the options on display this time around. Take a look!

Horde of Notions Podcast's Blinking Lotus Combo

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J.L.'s Smallpox Beatdown

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Andrew Mickle's Grime Pod

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Andrew Wilson's Grow from the Grave

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Brian West's Primal Elves

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James Wendt's Ajani's Vengeance

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Nate K.'s Slag Fiend Beatdown

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The World Magic Cup Approaches!

In just over two weeks, the World Magic Cup will be upon us! It's time to buckle down and think about serious Standard play—which is exactly what we'll be doing.

Format: Standard
Restrictions: Your deck is aimed to be highly competitive
Deadline: Monday, August 6, at 6pm Pacific Time
Send all decklists via email by clicking the "Respond via Email" link at the bottom of this article

This time around, please send me your serious competitive Standard decks that you've had a lot of success with. We're going to take a deep look at tweaking a deck that could very well be played at the World Magic Cup. I'm looking forward to diving deep into the competitive waters this time around—let's see what we can come up with!

If you have any comments on this article, feel free to contact me on Twitter (@GavinVerhey) or by posting in the forums. I read through all of your feedback, so go ahead and send it my way if you have any thoughts.

I'll be back next week, going zero to sixty. Until then, may you be as awesome as Jareth's hair.

Gavin (@GavinVerhey)

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