Today I am going to talk about one deck that is very near and dear to my heart and that has not been good in several years in Legacy. The deck is Goblins. This deck has not been good for quite some time and definitely has fallen from the grace it once held as a Tier 1 to 1.5 deck a few years ago. I will get into why Goblins went away and why I believe that they could make a come back given the current metagame. But first, I think I should introduce Goblins the deck. Goblins is a very old deck, it stretches back to the Extended deck that centered around Onslaught block, in which many of Goblin’s biggest tools were accessible. The deck continued to exist as a powerful Legacy deck and a semi-powerful Vintage deck. The core of the deck was centered around Goblin Lackey, Aether Vial, Goblin Matron, and Goblin Ringleader. As you can probably tell, this deck was a tribal creature deck that revolves around Aether Vial. This archetype was much more common once upon a time in Legacy and Goblins was the king of those decks. Unfortunately, the last six years of cards have seen more cards printed to make decks that don’t run goblins stronger. We have not seen a playable goblin printed in the past four years and that really hurts when staples have come in that old cards cannot necessarily answer.
Before we get into more history of Goblins I will supply you with a list that could be considered a contemporary Goblins list. This does, however, go against the current conventional wisdom, which is either to run mono-red Goblins, or splash exclusively black. I follow a bit of an older methodology, which involves White, Thalia, and a lot of cards that try to make the cards that beat you less effective. Here’s my current Goblins list:
The deck design of Goblins is not exactly conventional. It focuses on a critical mass of creatures, but, like most tribal decks, puts the priority on Goblins because they can be drawn and searched for more easily. The interesting pieces are the almost always worse Shock that Goblins runs, Tarfire. It is of course not strictly worse because Goblins gets to tutor for it or draw it off of Ringleader, but it is a funny inclusion nonetheless. This deck in the end is fairly standard for a Legacy Goblins deck from 2 or 3 years ago; it possesses a little more high end than what was required then and I believe that it could push it over the top in the current Legacy world.
So what are the problem cards and decks for Goblins? This will focus on past and present decks because some of the decks that forced Goblins out of the format have fallen by the wayside.
Stoneblade, specifically Esper Stoneblade, was a difficult matchup because of one card, Batterskull. Both Esper Stoneblade and Batterskull have shifted, more or less, into the memory of many Legacy players. The ability to tutor for and then play a 4/4 Lifelink, Vigilance body was game ending for Goblins. You can see that I still pack two pieces of Artifact hate in the main deck because of that card. Death and Taxes is really the only remaining highly played deck to still run Batterskull, which frees Goblins from one of its highly problematic cards. Another problem card for Goblins was Deathrie Shaman. The main problem was that it was a 1-drop that was also a 1/2. This meant that it could block a turn 1 Goblin Lackey all day. It, along with Delver of Secrets, is the reason that Tarfire is run in Goblins. This hurt Goblins against traditionally good to slightly unflavored matchups.
Goblins was able to run down Jund fairly effectively, but Deathrite Shaman put an end to the easiness of that game. Elves went from a 50/50 matchup to 40/60 matchup in their favor because this card could block most things that this deck could put on the field. It also helped Esper Stoneblade, in addition to Maverick, which would have been better matchups without those cards. The existence of Deathrite Shaman made the best turn 1 play in Goblins very bad (Aether Vial, then use it for Goblin Lackey).
The final problem card I will discuss today is Terminus. I have discussed before about how Terminus hurts Aggro decks because of its ability to have easy play around many creature decks. Goblins is no exception to this rule. Goblins has more play against this card than most other Aggro decks because of Goblin Matron and Goblin Ringleader, but Terminus must always be played around. The major issue with Terminus is that it prevents a deck like Goblins from alpha striking to win the game. Goblins’ most powerful attacking creature is Goblin Piledriver, which benefits immensely from more goblins on the board. Terminus effectively neutralizes Goblins’s offensive power but does not remove its engine. Given all of this, Miracles is still a very winnable matchup. You need to play carefully, but if you play well and don’t draw very badly, Goblins can easily lead you to victory.
Jund has only become a sideboard dependent matchup. The biggest struggle that exists for Goblins is still Combo decks, but that is answered in the sideboard quite effectively. One option that I don’t run, but you could if you are facing a lot of Storm opponents is Chalice of the Void. If it is dropped turn 2 after a turn 1 Aether Vial it can be placed on 1 or it can be placed on 0 turn one and make the game much harder for your opponent. All in all, I still believe Goblins can make a come back. After all, the only reason I gave up the deck is because I whiffed on too many Ringleader triggers.
Till next time.
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