Magic Memories: Goblin King (and his kingdom)


The Tentacled One
I was just starting another post in this thread when it occurred to me that I should talk about CPA Tribal Game 15. It's something easy for me to look up because it happened here, and it was around the same time as some of the other events I've described. The era I'm calling the "fifth chapter" was kind of lousy for goblins in tournament formats anyway.

I've apologized for my mistake in Tribal Game 15 already, and I won't devote too much of this thread to that. I find that I actually wrote an excellent recap of the events leading up to Tribal Game 15 in this thread. Just to summarize the background information...
  • In September of 2005, Spiderman and I had a discussion that resulted in a series of multiplayer games under a modified "Tribal Wars" ruleset. Originally it was just a change of pace from the first couple forum games I'd played in here, but it became a rather long-running series with a surprising amount of depth and structure for something that was never fully organized.
  • From 2005 to 2010, we held 13 games in the main line of this series, and they were generally fun experiences. But after winning 3 in a row and instigating a bit of a miscommunication on the nature of the format as a whole, I went a bit overboard and built a broken deck. After an explosive first turn, the game went on hiatus for a year. After we somehow managed to get the game back on track, everyone had to watch my constructs murder everything for 5 turns.
  • In 2013, a new member with the moniker "CanadianBrad" showed up and was really active at the CPA for a brief time. He posted in lots of threads, then vanished abruptly within two months or so. In one of the discussions, he asked a lot about our tribal games and expressed interest in getting them started up again. To help ensure that decks were focused on their tribes, we devised the concept I'd later name "Lowlander." At least one third of the starting deck must be creatures that all share a creature type. All cards that are not either basic lands or creatures of that type are automatically restricted to one copy per deck. After we'd reached a consensus on that new rule, CanadianBrad convinced us not to ban any tribes.
  • Around this same time, I'd been messing around with goblins in the Legacy format a lot. I suspected that CanadianBrad was going to bring a goblins deck to the upcoming game, and I thought it might be a fun challenge to try to one-up him with a better goblins deck of my own. CanadianBrad ended up taking a single turn and then never posting at the CPA again. My deck wiped out 3 more players on turn 4 and finished off the last opponent (Mooseman) on turn 5.
So yeah, a definite fumble when it came to goodwill and a casual atmosphere for our forum games. But I still think it was a decent take on a multiplayer-focused goblins deck under the rules as we had them written at the time. It's a bit too blatantly ripped off from a Legacy tournament deck of the era, but here's the list...

4x Goblin Lackey
2x Goblin King
4x Goblin Piledriver
4x Goblin Chieftain
4x Goblin Sharpshooter
4x Goblin Warchief
2x Kiki-Jiki, Mirror-Breaker
2x Siege-Gang Commander
1x Skirk Prospector
4x Goblin Matron
2x Krenko, Mob Boss
2x Lightning Crafter
1x Æther Vial
1x Patriarch's Bidding
1x Oversold Cemetery
1x Mana Echoes
1x Goblin Warrens
1x Braid of Fire
1x Bloodstained Mire
1x Wooded Foothills
1x Cavern of Souls
1x Badlands
1x Dragonskull Summit
1x Blood Crypt
4x Snow-Covered Mountain
6x Mountain
3x Swamp


The Tentacled One
Let's move on to the sixth and final chapter I've made up to describe the history of goblins. The fifth chapter covered some important developments, but was something of a letdown when compared to the glory of the fourth chapter. And the drag was long-term. I placed the fourth chapter between 2002 and 2007. The fifth chapter ended up being over twice as long, and its last few years were especially lackluster. Following a brief point of interest with the advent of Goblin Rabblemaster in 2014, prospects for goblin decks mostly just went downhill for a while. The competition in Legacy just kept getting better, while goblins couldn't adapt. The tribe also didn't see much success in other formats. If things had stayed on that trajectory, the entire concept of a tribal goblins deck might have fallen into disuse permanently.

It's been convenient to start these chapters with some set that introduced a bunch of new goblin cards to the game, but that kind of fails in the case of our most recent chapter, and that requires some explanation. 2017 had practically nothing to offer goblin decks, and the previous few years hadn't been much better. This trend turned around in 2018, but not with a single splashy set that gave us lots of great goblins. Instead, there were a few decent roleplayers coming out across multiple new sets, with this gradually ramping up as we received some revolutionary new options in 2019 and 2020. The reversal of doldrums for goblins came into fruition by the time Muxus was printed in 2020, but it started in 2018 with Dominaria. The set wasn't too crazy, but we got some good goblins for the first time in years. Chronologically, that begins with Dominaria, followed by Core Set 2019 and Guilds of Ravnica. And in the case of Legacy tournament play, another crucial development in 2018 was the banning of Deathrite Shaman. Despite a paucity of new toys for goblin decks and some overall improvements to the competition, goblins still had plenty of good matchups in Legacy. The problem was that their worst matchups were primarily Deathrite Shaman decks, and Deathrite Shaman virtually dominated the format.

Notable goblins released in 2018 include...


The Tentacled One
2018 introduced some cool utility options for goblins, but the standout of the bunch was always Goblin Chainwhirler. It's not the most explosive aggressive option, doesn't get discounted by Goblin Warchief, and it doesn't combo off, but it's great against some opponents. It still sees use today as a toolbox target for Goblin Matron. 2018 was also the year that I first started playing Goblins in the Canadian Highlander format. Unfortunately, I don't have any decklists saved for that. But I know that I found Torch Courier to be a useful backup haste enabler, Goblin Instigator to be useful value, and Goblin Cratermaker to be one of the best utility goblins. I even bought a playset of Goblin Cratermaker after failing to pull even a single copy in any of the numerous Guilds of Ravnica booster packs I opened. But Goblin Chainwhirler won me some games almost singlehandedly. Against ElfBall, White Weenie, and CradleHoof in particular, the presence of Goblin Chainwhirler could dramatically swing a game in my favor.

2019 continued the trend of relevant new goblin releases. In particular, I've got to give special recognition to Modern Horizons, a set which not only introduced two of the best new goblins (Pashalik Mons and Munitions Expert), but also reprinted Goblin Matron and made it available for use in the Modern format...


Ever since these sets, Modern Goblins decks have been prominently built around cards that came out around this time (Sling-Gang Lieutenant, Munitions Expert) or were reprinted around this time (Goblin Matron, Goblin Ringleader). And for the first time, Legacy Goblins decks started to actually get some real updates too. A 2017 Goblins list from a Legacy tournament might not look out of place for 2010, and that was becoming a problem as the rest of the format kept evolving. But a 2019 Goblins list would look pretty different.


The Tentacled One
I played Goblins in Canadian Highlander for a while, tweaking my deck a bit, but I can't find a saved decklist for what I played. Originally, my deck was an exact copy of a "Mac Goblins" list I found online, but that deck, which seems to have first popped up in 2016, evolved over time. The exact version I copied seems to have been lost to history. Here's the "Mac Goblins" list that I can find online now...

1x Boartusk Liege
1x Boggart Ram-Gang
1x Ember Hauler
1x Foundry Street Denizen
1x Frenzied Goblin
1x Gempalm Incinerator
1x Goblin Arsonist
1x Goblin Bushwhacker
1x Goblin Chieftain
1x Goblin Fireslinger
1x Goblin Firestarter
1x Goblin General
1x Goblin Guide
1x Goblin King
1x Goblin Lackey
1x Goblin Matron
1x Goblin Piledriver
1x Goblin Rabblemaster
1x Goblin Recruiter
1x Goblin Ringleader
1x Goblin Settler
1x Goblin Sharpshooter
1x Goblin Sledder
1x Goblin Vandal
1x Goblin Warchief
1x Goblin Wardriver
1x Hellraiser Goblin
1x Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician
1x Intimidator Initiate
1x Krenko, Mob Boss
1x Legion Loyalist
1x Magus of the Moon
1x Mardu Scout
1x Mogg Fanatic
1x Mogg Raider
1x Mogg War Marshal
1x Moggcatcher
1x Pyrewild Shaman
1x Sensation Gorger
1x Skirk Drill Sergeant
1x Skirk Prospector
1x Sparksmith
1x Spikeshot Elder
1x Stingscourger
1x Tattermunge Maniac
1x Taurean Mauler
1x Vexing Shusher
1x Warren Instigator
1x Zo-Zu the Punisher
1x Arc Trail
1x Chain Lightning
1x Dragon Fodder
1x Forked Bolt
1x Gamble
1x Goblin Grenade
1x Hordeling Outburst
1x Krenko's Command
1x Mogg Alarm
1x Barbarian Ring
1x Cavern of Souls
1x Goblin Burrows
26x Mountain
1x Mutavault
1x Strip Mine
1x Burst Lightning
1x Fireblast
1x Fury Charm
1x Lightning Bolt
1x Mental Misstep
1x Price of Progress
1x Stoke the Flames
1x Tarfire
1x Sol Ring
1x Winter Orb
1x Sulfuric Vortex

It's definitely similar, but I know that it doesn't quite match what I played. I definitely used Metallic Mimic, Adaptive Automaton, Ember Hauler, Goblin Chainwhirler, Goblin Instigator, and Goblin Cratermaker once those cards were available, and my impression is that those weren't released yet at the time this list was put together.

I've followed Goblins in Canadian Highlander since this time, and the archetype has evolved quite a bit since those days. But one thing I like about this is how the general concept of a goblin tribal aggro deck has to use different tools from the ones it would use in Legacy in order to operate in a different format. Cards like Tattermunge Maniac and Intimidator Initiate would never normally make the cut in Legacy, but in the context of Canadian Highlander, they were good goblins.


The Tentacled One
I've got to take some time to give some recognition to Pashalik Mons, which has become one of my favorite goblins. As a 2/2 for 2R that doesn't boost the power of goblins or anything, Pashalik Mons doesn't really fit the profile for an aggro contributor to the Goblins archetype. But the explosive direct damage potential of the card has given it a niche in Legacy Goblins decks. It's also seen play in Modern and even Vintage (not sure if it's ever done especially well there, but it has cropped up).

The advent of Pashalik Mons also got me to scrap my Canadian Highlander Goblins deck and put together an EDH deck helmed by the thunderhead that leads the storm.

Probably because of the outsized popularity of Krenko, Mob Boss as a commander for goblin-based decks in EDH, Pashalik Mons hasn't gotten much love as a commander. It only has 301 decks on EDHrec. But hey, that's more than double the number that I complained about last year...

Oversoul said:
No, I didn't run out of ideas. This is something I've been wanting to do for a while. Pashalik Mons is a really cool commander that gets overshadowed by other options for Goblin Tribal. On EDHrec, the top commanders for this tribal theme are...

Krenko, Mob Boss: 5,262 decks
Wort, Boggart Auntie: 699 decks
Muxus, Goblin Grandee: 546 decks
Purphoros, God of the Forge: 418 decks
Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin: 364 decks
Zada, Hedron Grinder: 365 decks
Grenzo, Dungeon Warden: 344 decks
Korvold, Fae-Cursed King: 298 decks
Shattergang Brothers: 229 decks
Pashalik Mons: 120 decks
Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician: 110 decks
Grenzo, Havoc Raiser: 105 decks
Grumgully, the Generous: 100 decks
Wort, the Raidmother: 86 decks
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death: 47 decks

That's insane. Goblins with abilities that are better-suited to non-Tribal decks and commanders that aren't even goblins easily surpass Pashalik Mons.
That list is from April of last year. The same list now is as follows.

Krenko, Mob Boss: 12,190 decks
Wort, Boggart Auntie: 1,423 decks
Muxus, Goblin Grandee: 1,064 decks
Purphoros, God of the Forge: 837 decks
Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin: 770 decks
Zada, Hedron Grinder: 758 decks
Grenzo, Dungeon Warden: 621 decks
Shattergang Brothers: 506 decks
Korvold, Fae-Cursed King: 462 decks
Pashalik Mons: 286 decks
Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician: 248 decks
Rulik Mons, Warren Chief: 244 decks
Gut, True Soul Zealot & Haunted One: 218 decks
Grumgully, the Generous: 194 decks
Grenzo, Havoc Raiser: 190 decks
Wort, the Raidmother: 179 decks
Mishra, Claimed by Gix: 109 decks
Garna, Bloodfist of Keld: 99 decks
Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph: 99 decks
Ovika, Enigma Goliath: 68 decks
Ognis, the Dragon's Lash: 56 decks
Squee, Dubious Monarch: 49 decks
Slimefoot and Squee: 25 decks
Goro-Goro and Satoru: 18 decks

That's looking a lot better. Way to go, EDH players.


The Tentacled One
2020 didn't bring many new goblins, but it did introduce two of the most interesting new tools in a long time. The first is something of a build-around that quickly rose to prominence in Legacy, but has since mostly fallen out of favor. The second is easily the best top-end card for goblins.


There's enough to say about both cards that I'll have to tackle them separately. But first, it's worth pointing out that (in part due to COVID-related production delays) the cards were essentially released two weeks apart. So they have separate set symbols, but for all practical purposes they were released simultaneously. Either one alone would have made a big splash for Goblins decks. Together, alongside some of the other new goblins from the previous two years, these started to shake up Goblins decks pretty significantly. I said that the fourth chapter, from 2002 to 2007, probably represented the most momentous years for goblins. The developments of the sixth chapter could probably take second place there, kicking off with Goblin Chainwhirler in 2018, building to a crescendo in 2020 with Muxus, and sort of still continuing to the present day.

Conspicuous Snoop can serve as an engine and a combo enabler. In Legacy, it fills both roles but is primarily used as a combo enabler, since Goblin Lackey is a faster engine and the two cards don't really synergize. Modern is a slower format with less disruption, so decks often lean even harder on the combo aspect of Snoop. To further complicate things, we also had a new format: Pioneer. Conspicuous Snoop became the engine of choice for Pioneer Goblins decks. Muxus isn't legal in Modern or Pioneer, so those formats have, in part, escaped. At least for now.
Both Muxus and Snoop are awesome but in different ways, sorta. Both are good in doing the combo thing and also the fair thing. Snoop shines more in Modern but Muxus is much better in Legacy and Vintage where you have access to more ramp and Goblins like Lackey and Recruiter. Both are sweet cards but I'm not saying anything you don't know!