Magic Memories: Mogg Fanatic


The Tentacled One
In the Memories thread for Hypnotic Specter, the discussion turned to some analysis of how cards can get worse over time. It's happened a lot. Broadly speaking, old cards either become weaker with age or stronger, and I suspect that the former is more common. Many classics have faded from their seeming peaks of power. And for various reasons. Sometimes a card is made weaker, then bounces back due to some other change, only to be struck down again. Time Vault is the most extreme example of that, with more elaborate rules changes and Oracle text changes altering the gameplay value of the card than anything else seen in Magic. Most developments that help or hinder a card a stickier. The majority of old cards that were weakened by a change or series of changes took a hit and never recovered.

Probably the biggest factor in the downfall of old Magic cards could be abbreviated "power creep." New stuff comes along that either does a better job than the old stuff did, or new stuff comes along that the old stuff can't effectively fight. In my example of Hypnotic Specter, it was almost entirely the latter. No new cards were coming out that replaced Hypnotic Specter. It remained the most cost-effective creature in the game for hitting the opponent with evasive damage while simultaneously forcing discards from hand. Still has that title. Instead better removal, faster game pace, more graveyard synergies, and other factors changed the landscape and changed the risk/reward analysis of running something like Hypnotic Specter. Now, "power creep" isn't really one thing. It's a mixture of myriad factors. But as a general concept, it captures most of what happens when once-strong cards seem to become weaker with time.

Sometimes, though, it's not power creep, but functional changes. The aforementioned Time Vault was, for many years, a roller-coaster of functional revisions. From 1999 to 2016, Winter Orb lost its functionality of becoming "turned off" when tapped, which killed the old Winter Orb + Icy Manipulator combo (until Eternal Masters brought it back). But most cards that got weaker due to rules changes have stayed weaker to this day. Here are some examples that are prominent in my mind...

Power Sink: With the Sixth Edition rules changes in 1999, technically all cards with "Interrupt" or "Mana Source" as a type got at least a tiny bit weaker. In some cases, the opponent being able to respond to your interrupt/instant with a regular instant could be the difference between winning and losing. Perhaps uniquely among the old interrupt spells, Power Sink really leveraged its identity as an interrupt. Opponents were stuck either paying X or not paying X, and didn't get a chance to respond with instants, nor with activated abilities that didn't specify that they were interrupt-speed or mana sources. I seem to remember that WotC published something mentioning that this was the inspiration for the "Split Second" mechanic. Against opponents running sorceries and creatures and such, Power Sink still does its job. But the card really lost its edge in 1999 and has never been quite as good since then.

Mirror Universe: Another victim of the Sixth Edition rules overhaul. In the late 90's, Mirror Universe was quietly picking up momentum in older tournament formats as a kind of combo finisher. Any spell or activated ability that could be used to pay life during one's upkeep could be used to go to 0 life, and then Mirror Universe would switch life totals. It was becoming increasingly easy to set up such a combo with a six-mana artifact, and Necropotence was already a very strong card and a life payment outlet. Eventually, power creep and other indirect developments would have checked the success of dedicated Mirror Universe decks, but I suspect that the card could have been a powerhouse well into the 00's if the rules change hadn't hobbled it. More famously, but to what I contend was a lesser degree, Infernal Contract took a hit from this same rules change, losing its potency as a main phase combo deck tool for an all-in kill.

Orcish Oriflamme: Hilariously, this card was once restricted in tournament play. It was misprinted in the Alpha version of Limited Edition, with a mana cost of 1R instead of the intended 3R. Earlier this year, Modern Horizons created a tribute to this with Goblin Oriflamme, a functional reprint of the original Alpha version. Once again, goblins prove themselves to be better than orcs. As plenty of analysts have pointed out, the 1R version is kind of a mediocre card anyway. It's not a bad card, but its use is generally relegated to casual theme decks and to Limited gameplay. There are way better things to be doing for two mana in most Constructed formats. Bumping the mana cost up by 2 pushes it from the below average part of the playability spectrum toward the utter garbage part. For part of the 90's, Oracle text wasn't really an established concept and cards were supposed to be played as read, including misprints. This meant that the Alpha version of Orcish Oriflamme really did cost 1R (and that the Alpha version of Cyclopean Tomb could not be cast at all). The adoption of standardized rules text (WotC once published something detailing when and how this important change happened but I can't find an archival copy of it at this time, although I seem to remember that it was well after the 1994 unrestriction of Orcish Oriflamme) was a major blow to Alpha copies of this card.

Power Surge: I've written about this one before. I came across a few old documents describing Candelabra of Tawnos + Power Surge as a potent combo, but I was unclear on the intended audience or usage. I built my own "Candelabrasurge" deck in the old Microprose PC game and it was a favorite of mine. I couldn't put the deck together in paper because I didn't own any copies of the Candelabra. I was never clear on how popular this combo was. My deck was entirely my own invention, but I saw the combo itself mentioned in a magazine (either Scrye or Inquest or, now that I think about it, quite possibly both). I've never seen any record of the combo making a splash on the Pro Tour or anything. Much later, some of my unrelated internet searches turned up information that Mark Justice used Power Surge in tournaments. But yeah, this card took a huge hit, as it was designed very specifically with mana burn in mind. Power Surge wasn't the only card to suffer from this change (Citadel of Pain and Eladamri's Vineyard spring to mind), but it does seem to have suffered the biggest blow.

Burning Wish: For a time, this card was restricted in Vintage. The "Wish" cycle of cards from Judgment borrowed the concept originally used on the much clunkier Ring of Ma'Ruf, grabbing cards from outside the game. Until the major rules overhaul in 2009, there was no "exile zone." Instead, cards were removed from the game. In tournament play, the ruling was that Ring of Ma'Ruf could get either a card that was in one's sideboard or a card that was in the player's maindeck and had been removed from the game. The original wording made this abundantly clear. "This can be any card you have that you're not using in your deck or that for some reason has left the game." When WotC created the exile zone, they decided that Ring of Ma'Ruf and the "Wish" cards would no longer work on cards in "exile" because it was a "game zone" even though the cards had always functioned in that way up to that point (and even though the printed text on Ring of Ma'Ruf had an extra sentence of explanation stating that this was how it was supposed to work). Burning Wish is still a pretty good card and didn't lose that much to the rules change, but it did lose something.

Out of all of the cards that became weaker due to rules changes, the one that stands out the most in my mind, the one that perhaps fell the furthest because it had been such an unmitigated success, was Mogg Fanatic.
Although it was printed under Fifth Edition rules, it wasn't long before the Sixth Edition rules changes took over, and it was then that Mogg Fanatic really began to shine.
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The Tentacled One
For reasons I'll get into, I think it's quite possible that Mogg Fanatic gained more of a boost than any other card from the "damage on the stack" portion of the Sixth Edition rules changes and also lost more than any other card from the Magic 2010 combat rules changes. But before getting into that, I want to look at the role of Mogg Fanatic as a goblin card and the history of Goblins as one of the oldest and most prominent creature types.

In the Casual Decks forum, I've been faithfully writing reports on Tribal deckbuilding implications for every new Magic set that comes out. In my anaysis, I've got over 40 different tribes rated in the two highest tiers of competitive power. And of those (and a few of the ones in the next tier down) could be the theme of a powerful casual deck and most of them have cropped up in tournament settings where there was no particular incentive to build around a creature type. I play EDH with people who build tribal EDH decks, seriously basing their decks around a creature type in a 100-card singleton format (and some of those decks are quite strong). But it wasn't always this way.

Originally, creature types were almost entirely flavor. There were only three cards that used them mechanically in any way.

At first, there wasn't enough Tribal support to make deckbuilding based on these synergies viable. In fact, creature types were more of a liability than anything else.

Casual players tried all sorts of things with creature types, but it usually wasn't worth it. The idea of "Tribal decks" was developed, but the tools just weren't there. You'd get the occasional card like Thrull Champion or Griffin Canyon, but it wasn't enough. Not yet.

When Goblin Recruiter came out in Visions, it had the issue of being an excellent goblin-finding card in an era with almost no good goblins to stack on top of one's library. The card would eventually go on to become a tournament powerhouse (albeit one with a wrongheaded ban in Legacy that continues even now). But goblins just didn't have enough good cards in 1996.

The set containing Mogg Fanatic, Tempest, was a bit of an inflection point for Tribal interests. Mogg Fanatic by itself wasn't enough to make Goblin Tribal a strong archetype, but it helped.


The Tentacled One
When Mogg Fanatic was originally introduced in 1997, the most prominent card with a Goblin Tribal synergy was probably Goblin Grenade. And for Goblin Grenade, Mogg Fanatic's ability didn't really make sense anyway. Despite this, prospective Goblin theme deckbuilders had good reason to run Mogg Fanatic. The card was flexible on its own and there just weren't that many good one-drops anyway. It could kill an X/1, it could help finish off a damaged creature, or it could target an opponent directly, all useful for red decks, and generally more useful than other contemporary goblin options like Goblin Balloon Brigade or Keeper of Kookus. The closest competition in one-drop slot at the time would have been Raging Goblin, but it actually started out in Portal and was not a tournament-legal card until the Exodus reprinting. Other excellent choices would follow over the next several years. But the options of a goblin-based deck were miserable in the 90's.

Goblins, including Mogg Fanatic, did get some help with the release of Urza's Saga in 1998. This set brought in tournament-legal Goblin Matron (the card had also been included in Portal Second Age). It also introduced Goblin Patrol and Goblin War Buggy. But most importantly, this was the advent of Goblin Lackey...

Attentive readers might point out that this was all well before the existence of the usual Lackey synergies, such as Siege-Gang Commander. Goblin Lackey would eventually become banned in Extended for cheaply and reliably powering out a lethal goblintastic board state. But in 1998, Goblin Lackey wasn't the infamous aggro-combo powerhouse that it would later become. But it was a highly effective tempo engine in an era when most opponents were soft to fast aggro decks that could gain any sort of tempo advantage. Sometimes Goblin Lackey was only cheating a Goblin Patrol or Mogg Fanatic onto the board, but that still freed up mana to be use on other spells, which meant playing that much faster than the opponent.

Even in its early days, Goblin Lackey was a kind of must-block attacker, and it often teamed up with Mogg Fanatic, which was more of a don't-care-if-you-block attacker. Opponents could choose carefully, but Mogg Fanatic could always force one more damage through on any target, no matter what else happened in combat. Even once Goblin Tribal became a proper, viable archetype, the pair were a kind of one-two punch. Most good utility creatures at the time were 1/1, so opponents who didn't bring dedicated blockers were easily overwhelmed by these goblins. Combined with red burn spells that could also target either creatures to players, Mogg Fanatic made Goblin Lackey a reasonable tempo engine even before there were very many strong goblin cards to power out.

The most successful goblin synergy in the 90's was probably not Goblin Lackey, not Goblin King, and not Goblin Grenade, but Mogg Raider.

Even before Goblin Tribal was viable, Mogg Raider was a strong card in tournaments. It could sacrifice itself and other efficient goblins to boost unblocked attackers or to kill an important blocker in combat. In these decks, Mogg Fanatic was usually sacrificed to its own ability rather than Mogg Raider's ability, but it was nice to have both options.


The Tentacled One
I mentioned that most tournament environments in late 90's were soft to fast aggro decks that could gain tempo advantage, which was why Goblin Lackey was a reasonably successful card despite a dearth of good goblins to cheat out. But the card that really shows the contrast between then and now would have to be this little guy...

Not only was this flea-infested rascal a functional card, efficient for its mana cost at the time. It was an all-out multi-format superstar. Jackal Pup saw success every constructed tournament format and bolstered the "Sligh" archetype. Before Tempest, Sligh decks had been relying on Ironclaw Orcs, which has a mana cost of 1R. So despite how tame it might seem by the standards of today, Jackal Pup gave Sligh decks an appreciable speed boost.

Some of the biggest early successes for Mogg Fanatic were decks in which it was practically a support card for Jackal Pup. Long before Goblin Tribal decks were competitive, Mogg Fanatic was attacking alongside Jackal Pup. This was similar to the role I described when Mogg Fanatic was paired with Goblin Lackey. Both one-drop creatures would attack early on while opponents were trying to build a board state. Opponents were incentivized to block Jackal Pup (because at 2 power, it would dangerously lower the defending player's life total if allowed to swing unblocked too many times). If the opponent had a 1/1 utility creature to threaten a block, Mogg Fanatic could be sacrificed to get rid of it and let Jackal Pup through. As the game progressed, more blockers would emerge, but Mogg Fanatic would always either get through unblocked or get sacrificed, doing damage anyway. Opponents were left with no good options to keep their life totals high, and Sligh decks could finish them off with Fireblast, Fireball, Cursed Scroll, etc.

Playing Sligh is all about being faster and more efficient than your opponent. Cards in these decks tend to be efficient attackers, reusable damage-dealers, sources of targeted direct damage, or cards to put opponents at a tempo disadvantage. Mogg Fanatic is a cheap creature that doubles as a cheap burn spell. So it became one of the most popular creatures to use in this kind of red aggro deck. It would serve in that role for many years, but was pretty strong right away. Mogg Fanatic was a Sligh staple in Type 1, Type 1.5, Type 2, and Type 1.X (Extended). It also seemed, from what I saw, to make it into most casual red-based decks at the time. After all, it was a common (so it was available even to us scrubs) and its ability made it just about the most efficient one-drop available to most players.


The Tentacled One
Decks roughly classed as "Sligh" were the primary tournament niche for Mogg Fanatic. And after all, that's a pretty broad category. Any deck that was "red aggressive creatures with burn spells for support and a low mana curve" fell into that category. Not all of them in the late 1990's used Mogg Fanatic, but it was popular in most formats and my superficial research on the subject seems to indicate that the card generally gained traction in the early years following its initial 1997 release.

Aside from Sligh and primitive early versions of Goblin-themed decks, Mogg Fanatic also fit nicely into a third red archetype: Burn. I had my first casual Burn deck running sometime in 1998, I think. And I can't quite remember if Mogg Fanatic was in there from the beginning. It probably was, but it also wouldn't have mattered much anyway, as my card pool and knowledge were both deficient, so I was relying on crap like Meteor Shower because it was what I had to work with at the time. Anyway, Mogg Fanatic was a Burn staple for me, and stuck around in my Burn deck for over a decade.

On a whim, I just dug up a waybackmachine archive of my first CPA front page article, which was about Burn decks. The article was bad. All of my early articles for this site were bad, although I maintain that they did eventually get better (and I'm actually still kind of proud of the Rabid Wombat article as well as some of the ones that followed). Sure enough, I mentioned Mogg Fanatic in that article. I had this to say...

One of the few creatures that fits well in burn decks, and most of the others are goblins as well. This one is the best though. It gets a creature on the board to attack, which can be useful in drawn-out games against creatureless decks or block which can save some you some damage. In the end, it’s at least one instant-speed damage also, thanks to its ability.
I mean, the article was definitely rather bad, but that description isn't too far off the mark. Mogg Fanatic was the only card in my Burn deck for a while, and for the simple reason that it was such a reliable source of player damage. Against other aggressive decks, it won me some games by chump-blocking and then shooting the opponent for 1. That 1 damage was sufficient, alongside my other spells, to get an opponent into lethal Fireblast range. Against slower, more controlling decks, Mogg Fanatic often managed to land combat damage a few times and then get another point of damage in with its ability.

The distinction between Burn and Sligh, which I alluded to in the article without properly explaining, was that Sligh tended to try to get most of its damage in with creature attacks by deploying efficient attackers and clearing early blockers from the board with burn spells, often dealing the final damage with a burn spell or two once the opponent's life total was precariously low. In contrast, Burn decks pointed those spells directly at the opponent from early on in the game, attempting to do most damage with spells and abilities, rather than combat damage. There was some overlap and in different formats a particular archetype might lean more toward combat or away from it. This was further complicated by other tools these efficient red decks would use in certain formats, such as an emphasis on land destruction and Ankh of Mishra to cosntrain the opponent's options. Or the use of Cursed Scroll as an attrition-based finisher. Or a Grim Lavamancer package to add additional pressure once blockers have walled off attacks. But generally, Mogg Fanatic was a pretty good choice for most of these approaches.

I don't think that my first CPA article is really worth a read, but it does have some amusing blast-from-the-past moments. I noted my perception of the possible unavailability of a playset of Ball Lightning, a favorite of mine back then, because the card was a rare and hadn't been printed in very many sets. But then I glossed over Wheel of Fortune because one would probably only need one or two of them anyway. Seems silly now, but in 2004 it was probably not that far off the mark for most casual players. For fun, since I've opened the archive anyway, let's go through my overall feelings for cards in casual Burn decks from February of 2004. Yea or nay?

Shock: ?
Lightning Bolt: ✓
Incinerate: ✓
Chain Lightning: ✓
Seal of Fire: ✓
Fireblast: ✓
Kaervek's Torch: X
Pyrokinesis: X
Scent of Cinder: ✓
Sonic Burst: ✓
Volcanic Hammer: X
Flare: X
Flame Jet: X
Flame Rift: ✓
Mogg Fanatic: ✓
Keldon Champion: X
Ball Lightning: ?
Fork: ✓
Wheel of Fortune: ✓
Cursed Scroll: ✓
Hammer of Bogardan: X
Final Fortune: ✓
Black Vise: X
Thunderbolt: X
Sandstone Needle: ✓
Mox Ruby: ✓

Fifteen years later, what do I think? Well, I don't think that I was too egregiously wrong. In context, I titled the article "Build a Better Burn Deck" and the idea was to show that there were a lot of options for a Burn deck, but that it was better to kill faster. Most of these were cards I'd run myself for some time, but I'd been trying to move away from slower stuff like Keldon Champion and to maximize the fourth-turn kills with more Chain Lightning and such. I guess the target audience was someone who was in the same position I'd been in myself a few years before I wrote the article. I had notes along the lines that Thunderbolt wasn't necessarily bad, but if you were already running it alongside Incinerate, it would be better to minimize the number of 2-mana-for-3-damage spells and dip more into stuff like Sonic Burst or Flame Rift.

Mogg Fanatic would eventually become obsolete in Burn decks, but I do suspect that it was kind of the best creature for the archetype at one point.


The Tentacled One
Under Fifth Edition rules, Mogg Fanatic was already one of the best red one-drop creatures. Shouldn't be too surprising since the competition was mostly just stuff like Kird Ape, Jackal Pup, Goblin Cadets, and Goblin Welder. And then the Sixth Edition rules changes introduced the stack and the infamous "combat damage on the stack." These rules changes made a lot of cards better or worse than they'd previously been, but perhaps the biggest boost was to Mogg Fanatic, already one of the better creatures anyway. Under the new rules, Mogg Fanatic could...

-Attack into an X/2 blocker and kill it if blocked.
-Block an X/2 attacker and kill it.
-Attack into two X/1 blockers and threaten to kill both if blocked.
-Block an X/1 attacker, kill it, then also kill another X/1.
-Group-block to help get lethal damage on a large creature, then ping the opponent for 1 after combat damage went on the stack.
-Attack into an X/1 and kill it in combat, still pinging the opponent for 1 after combat damage went on the stack.
-Kill a creature in combat that would otherwise regenerate by letting combat damage go on the stack and then pinging the creature to blank the regeneration shield.
-Force and opponent with only an X/1 utility creature to take 1 damage and lose the creature, regardless of whether the creature blocked or not.

...and more, all while still doing everything it had already been doing. It's tough to properly emphasize just how strong of a card Mogg Fanatic became with these changes.

The most obvious superstar to gain a boost from combat damage on the stack was probably Morphling, a creature that had only existed for about six months before the rules changed. I used Morphling a lot myself and will almost certainly start a Memories thread for the card at some point. Sixth Edition catapulted Morphling to success. It became known as the best card in a set full of excellent cards. It was nicknamed "Superman." The tactic of pumping Morphling up to be a 5/1, letting combat damage go on the stack, and then dumping mana towards shifting it into a 0/X (where X was the number sufficient to survive the damage of whatever it was fighting) was perhaps the most defining play of tournament Magic in the early 00's. But I can't really say that Morphling was the biggest loser of the Magic 2010 rules changes.

By the mid-00's, Morphling had already lost a lot of traction. The thing about "Superman" was that the card was flexible enough to be the best option to reign on the battlefield in an otherwise creature-light (or creature-free) control deck. Morphling dethroned Serra Angel as the favored threat in popular hard control strategies. For pretty much the entirety of the 90's, truly massive creatures came with untenable drawbacks, such that Morphling was a popular payload for Oath of Druids. That kind of dearth of high-end payloads for combat is long-gone. It would be unthinkable now to anyone who doesn't either remember early 00's Magic well or happen to relive it in some kind of Old School format. This being the CPA, most who read this will fall into the former category anyway. But do note that the vast majority of current Magic players do not.

Like Morphling, the other beefy creatures that were strong in the early 00's generally fell to power creep. It's not that none of them were ever good anymore, but they were increasingly relegated to niche roles if not supplanted entirely by new stuff. In contrast, while that was going on, Mogg Fanatic actually became even stronger!


The Tentacled One
With the arrival of Onslaught Block in 2002, decks based around creature types (not yet popularly known as "tribes") got substantial boosts. Mogg Fanatic seems to have been a consistent and immediate 4-of for most goblin-based decks. Although mostly employed for its overall value as a one-drop that happened to fit into the tribe, there were some notable synergies...
  • Some of these decks used Goblin Pyromancer for attempted finishing blows, boosting a team of goblins and hoping that after combat, the opponent would be in range of lethal damage from spells and abilities. Mogg Fanatic could help make sure Goblin Pyromancer got there.
  • Goblin Sharpshooter was an excellent damage-dealing utility creature and Mogg Fanatic could team up with it to get extra damage in on either a creature or a player.
  • Sparksmith, Gempalm Incinerator, and Goblin Piledriver count the number of goblins you have on the battlefield before doing damage. Mogg Fanatic could contribute to the effects of those cards, then be activated to throw another damage onto the creature or player being hit.
  • As mentioned earlier, Mogg Fanatic could be sacrificed to kill an X/1 blocker in order to clear the way for Goblin Lackey to hit the opponent. By 2003, this was much more potent than it had been in 1998. Siege-Gange Commander was the preferred payload for Mogg Fanatic.
  • With Patriarch's Bidding on the stack, Mogg Fanatic could be sacrificed to ping the opponent for 1 and then come back anyway once the spell resolved.
Mogg Fanatic also received the incidental benefits of other goblin-based cards like Goblin Warchief, Goblin Ringleader, and Goblin King. In some ways, as far as the goblin-fueled mechanics of these decks were concerned, Mogg Fanatic was the least relevant goblin they were using. But its on-demand damage, available on such a cheap creature that was, after all, a goblin made Mogg Fanatic so useful that it was a core aspect of Goblin Tribal decks.

I won't attempt to quantify how strong Goblins decks were in tournament formats. I was focused on casual play at the time and goblins were everywhere anyway, especially once Siege-Gang Commander came out. Goblin Piledriver was perhaps one of the most feared cards of the early/mid 00's, ending games at my LGS and in my high school decisively and dramatically. I do remember that Goblins decks made appearances in Type 1 and Type 1.5 tournaments. In Extended Goblins were enough of a menace that WotC decided to take action: Goblin Lackey was banned in September of 2003:

Extended Goblins deck brewers quickly found a way to compensate for the loss of Goblin Lackey, creating a new archetype based around Goblin Recruiter, Goblin Ringleader, and Food Chain. The "Food Chain Goblins" deck was fascinating and short-lived. It could operate as an aggro deck, attacking the opponent with goblins. But if it could get both Food Chain and Goblin Recruiter, the player could combo off, stacking the top of the library so that each Goblin Ringleader would grab the next Goblin Ringleader and three other goblins. Mogg Fanatic had no particular role in the combo, but was a cheap, efficient goblin to help out, and saw play in this deck as well. In December of 2003, WotC banned Goblin Recruiter in Extended. Food Chain Goblins continued to exist as a fringe Type 1 deck.

A few months later, Aether Vial came out in Darksteel. While not exclusive to Goblins decks, the card was another excellent way for goblins to get an overwhelming early tempo advantage. With Mogg Fanatic as a continuing staple, the archetype remained in Extended as a force to be reckoned with. In September of 2005, Aether Vial was banned in Extended. I'm not sure of Mogg Fanatic would have continued to serve a valuable role in Extended Goblins decks after that point, but Tempest rotated out of Extended the next month. And so ended the story of Mogg Fanatic in Extended. Of course, by that point, the Legacy format had been established, and Mogg Fanatic had found multiple niches in its new home.


The Tentacled One
For the latter half of the 00's, Mogg Fanatic would probably be associated in the minds of most players with the Legacy Goblins archetype. And the Goblins deck was, in its heyday, the top deck in the format. Mogg Fanatic was a staple for the deck at that time. And this history alone would make for an interesting story, more of one than most cards ever get. But it's not the whole picture. Both in Legacy tournament play and in other places, I'd describe Mogg Fanatic as fitting into four primary niches in the 00's.

While almost all other staple creatures in Goblins decks had some sort of tribal some kind of tribal synergy, Mogg Fanatic was almost universal and generally used in full playsets, for all of the reasons I've already gone over.

Personally, I started to see less and less of the traditional "Sligh" red aggro as time went on, but Mogg Fanatic remained a staple in the archetype for longer than any other creature.

New printings in the 00's enabled Burn decks to drop almost all creatures, but I still found it necessary to run a few. Mogg Fanatic had been something of a staple for its guaranteed single point of damage and its potential to offer more. It continued in this role for most of the decade. For a while, the creatures in my own Burn deck were down to just Mogg Fanatic and Keldon Marauders.

I already mentioned the somewhat clunky-looking classic of Aluren + Enduring Renewal + Mogg Fanatic. But Mogg Fanatic popped up in other combos to create infinite damage loops. I won't try to list every possibility. Some of these were one-off Legacy tournament successes, experimental Legacy decks, or strictly casual decks. They're also pretty similar to each other in the end. The most prominent example I can think of is the short-lived Flash Hulk deck in Legacy, using Flash to deploy (and kill) Protean Hulk, which would then find Carrion Feeder and Body Double (copying Protean Hulk). Sacrifice the Double to the Feeder, then use Hulk's ability to find Reveillark and Mogg Fanatic. Sac the Reveillark to the Feeder and the Fanatic both to itself, then use Reveillark's ability to bring back both Body Double (copying Reveillark) and Mogg Fanatic. Mogg Fanatic wasn't the only possible kill condition for such a deck, but it tended to be the one with the best utility outside of the combo setup.

That's four pretty distinct applications. In none of these decks was Mogg Fanatic a centerpiece. But it was useful enough to keep running anyway.


The Tentacled One
Mogg Fanatic had its departures from competitive formats due to set rotations. Some of the archetypes that hosted it were diminished with time. But overall, it performed well for itself and was among the most prolific of one-drop creatures in Magic for over a decade. At any point in the 00's, I'd have cited it as the most important one-drop red creature in history. Other creatures were more prominent as heavy-hitters, but they came and went. Mogg Fanatic was practical, and in its practicality it outlived other famous creatures like Morphling, Masticore, Psychatog, Anurid Brushhopper, Spiritmonger, Goblin Welder, Carnophage, Phyrexian Negator, Deranged Hermit, Exalted Angel, Voidmage Prodigy, Flametongue Kavu, Arc Slogger, Nantuko Shade, and Phyrexian Scuta.

Almost a decade after its first appearance in Tempest, Mogg Fanatic returned to Standard with the release of Tenth Edition. I was essentially ignoring Standard at the time and could tell you little from my own recollection, but my retrospective inquiries have led me to believe that red was generally underwhelming back in 2007. I could tell you that it was great in Legacy, but for Standard, I've got to depend on other people's memories. However, Mogg Fanatic was an instant staple in any red-heavy deck in the environment. Ravnica Block was still in Standard, so this mostly meant "Rakdos" and "Gruul" beatdown decks, although other archetypes showed up as well (Mogg Fanatic was fine in a Boros Weenie deck). Later, other archetypes took over, but wherever red was prominent, Mogg Fanatic was likely to make appearances.

Mogg Fanatic did damage. That was its thing. And red specializes in damage. Other creatures could deal more damage, but Mogg Fanatic could deal damage early and reliably. It was efficient and efficiency won out over other factors. It had been one of the most prolific red cards across multiple formats. It had been reprinted in a core set and had carved out niches for itself yet again. In 2008 and early 2009, I'd probably have placed the card in contention even against older staple creatures like Birds of Paradise. Mogg Fanatic kept going and it seemed that it would never stop.

Of course, in 2009, it hit a brick wall.


The Tentacled One
July 2009
The inaptly named "Magic 2010 Rules Changes" go into effect. Combat damage assignment is completely reworked. Most importantly, combat damage no longer uses the stack. This is a huge blow to a lot of creatures, but Mogg Fanatic is perhaps the most prominent among them. Its potential to deal 2 damage to creatures in the same combat phase, 1 while attacking or blocking and another 1 from its ability, is revoked. In tournament play, the effect appears to have been immediate and profound. Not only does the new core set replace the old one, rotating Mogg Fanatic out of Standard, but the Legacy decks using Mogg Fanatic seem to diminish in response to this change (although other factors were also at work). This single development was bound to lower the overall stock of Mogg Fanatic among Magic players in general. A brick wall for the trajectory of one of the greatest stars. But there'd be more...

October 2009
The new large expansion set, Zendikar, hits the shelves. This is a power-packed set. In particular, it seems to be a kind of inflection point for the power creep of creatures. Players get more bang for their buck when summoning, a deliberate design decision by WotC to even playing field of creatures relative to non-creature spells. This new set comes with a new red one-drop for aggressive decks that outclasses the old choices: Goblin Guide. The weakened Mogg Fanatic pales in comparison to this new card. Mogg Fanatic had flexibility, but Goblin Guide is sheer speed, ostensibly balanced by a cost that red aggro decks would demonstrably ignore. Despite a successful core set reprint in Tenth Edition cementing Mogg Fanatic as a red staple, the advent of Zendikar signals to everyone that Mogg Fanatic is old and stale, while Goblin Guide is the new hotness.

April 2010
The third set in Zendikar Block, Rise of the Eldrazi, comes with another new one-drop, Goblin Arsonist. A year before, Goblin Arsonist would have been laughed off as a generally worse knockoff of Mogg Fanatic, but the Magic 2010 Rules Changes are in effect and the tables are turned on the classic. Goblin Arsonist gets a clumsier version of Mogg Fanatic's "do 2 damage in the same turn" trick, which Mogg Fanatic no longer has access to. And to make the comparison even more severe, dedicated Goblin-based decks that sacrifice their own goblins to activated abilities can sac Goblin Arsonist and still gets its trigger, something that never worked well with Mogg Fanatic even when the card was at its best. So in 2010, Goblin Arsonist essentially constitutes an upgrade to the crestfallen former staple.

September 2011
Mogg Fanatic is already at least mostly dead and buried. Tribal Goblins have better options, Sligh decks have evolved to the point where all of their old creatures are obsolete, Burn decks have found better options, and the combo decks that use Mogg Fanatic in loops are no longer prevalent. Innistrad impacts tournament Magic quickly and decisively, with several game-changing cards. Foremost among them is Delver of Secrets, a blue 1/1 that regularly turns into a 3/2 with Flying after sitting on the board for a turn. While Mogg Fanatic could be used to kill a Delver of Secrets, it's a bad card for the job because of the opportunity cost. Best-case scenario is that the opponent passes the turn with Delver on the board, Mogg Fanatic comes down the next turn without being countered, and then Mogg Fanatic kills Delver before it can transform into Insectile Aberration. In that case, you just did a one-for-one trade with your opponent. In any other case, Mogg Fanatic is bad and cannot even chump-block Insectile Aberration.

May 2012
With the release of Avacyn Restored comes Blood Artist, a card that generally replaces Mogg Fanatic in recursive combo loops, despite costing 1B. Even in loops where Blood Artist isn't ideal, other black creatures like Maggot Carrier seem to see more play than Mogg Fanatic. And Avacyn Restored also comes with Vexing Devil, another red one-drop that generally outcompetes Mogg Fanatic for slots in Burn decks. By now, if Mogg Fanatic hasn't already lost its various niches in decks, it's pretty close.

October 2012
One of the big advantages for Mogg Fanatic in its heyday was picking off utility creatures because they were usually 1/1. That was bolstered by combat damage using the stack at the time, so Mogg Fanatic could attack into utility creatures with impunity and kill them even if they didn't block (or it could threaten to kill one in combat then another with its ability). After losing that edge, to add insult to injury, Return to Ravnica introduces the ultimate utility creature: Deathrite Shaman. And it's a 1/2. Not only does this trounce Mogg Fanatic, but it hobbles Goblin Lackey, adversely affecting goblin decks in general. Goblin Arsonist would be better against Deathrite Shaman than Mogg Fanatic, but even the replacement no longer makes the cut.

With other new printings, circumstances would continue to change, but generally Mogg Fanatic has been relegated to obsolescence ever since. The card had a good run, but its glory days are way behind us.


The Tentacled One
If the previous posts here seem overly somber, it's best to keep in mind that the evolution of the game had little to do with Mogg Fanatic specifically. All changes come with casualties. The fall of Mogg Fanatic was probably inevitable. And like I said, the card had a good run. Plenty of other cards that were good in 1997 didn't get to remain relevant for nearly as long.

And like other great cards, Mogg Fanatic hasn't gone away entirely. Even as recently as this year, it's been showing up in some Legacy results on MTGO. Thanks to the Tenth Edition reprint, it shows up in some Modern Goblins decks as well. No longer an automatic 4x staple, it's now more of a niche metagame choice, but it is still good at what it does (essentially guaranteed damage on a one-drop goblin). Also, 100-card singleton decks are a much more important part of Magic than they were when Mogg Fanatic took its first big hit. In Commander and various competitive Highlander variants, Mogg Fanatic is a strong choice for Goblins decks. Now that Commander is definitively the most popular way to play Magic, that's really saying something. I've also found it to be nice for my Canadian Highlander Goblins decks.

So in some ways, despite its tremendous downfall, the card is still pretty good.


Isengar Tussle
I must say that I was a fan of Mogg Fanatic, it went into almost every red deck I made. Even some multi-color decks had it in there for fast removal of annoying utility creatures.
I never did understand why the combat damage was changed to not use the stack, it was hard to understand at first and was problematic for a lot of mechanics (Double blocking). The stack is the mechanic that runs the entire game, even when players don't realize it the stack is being used, but now there is no stack during combat damage.

BTW - nice explanation of the history of Mogg Fanatic


The Tentacled One
BTW - nice explanation of the history of Mogg Fanatic

I think I generally agree with you on the stack, except I think that, at least partially, I understand why they did what they did, even if I didn't like it. Mark Rosewater and Aaron Forsythe both elaborated on how the Magic 2010 Rules Changes were an attempt to make the game more accessible and fun for new players. They didn't just target things that were hard to learn or confusing, but paid particular attention to things that were discouraging. If new players struggled with certain game mechanics, that was to be expected. Supposedly, the problem with combat damage on the stack was that new players found it so flabbergasting that they'd just give up. A kind of scenario like...

"I attack you with my Mogg Fanatic."
"Oh. It's just a 1/1, though. I'll block it with my Grizzly Bears. It's a 2/2, so it'll kill your Mogg Fanatic and survive."
"After combat damage goes on the stack, I'll sacrifice Mogg Fanatic to ping your Grizzly Bears for 1. So your creature dies too."
"What? That doesn't make any sense! How can your goblin kill my Grizzly Bears after it's already dead? This game is too hard. I quit."

I mean, I made that up just now. I forget what examples they used. But that was the general idea. They thought they'd seen evidence that combat damage on the stack was too big of a hurdle for new players. It defied their expectations in an egregious way and they sometimes gave up on learning the game as a result. Now, I didn't agree with them on this, but they did make it sound like they'd given the issue a lot of attention. And they certainly had better resources to explore the problem than I did. So maybe they were right? I don't know. I still don't like it.

In my view, the Magic 2010 Rules Changes were a mixed bag. Some good ideas for improving terminology and flow, but there were also needlessly invasive changes breaking things that had been functioning nicely for many years. At the time of announcement, I was aghast, although I knew even then that I'd get used to it. A decade later, in hindsight? Well, just for fun, let's see...


The Tentacled One
Simultaneous Mulligan
I almost forgot about this one, but I do remember the difference. It mostly affects tournament players and isn't as important in casual games, so I tend not to think about it as much. I'm on-board with this change. It was an improvement. Good call.

I was apprehensive at the time, but I think this was fine. Calling abilities "EtB" instead of "CiP" took some getting used to, etc. It's not especially important, but it does slightly clean up the terminology not to have the double usage of "play" as both a verb and a noun for two different things. You know? I play a card. What zone is it in? Play. Two different things. Now they have different names. Also, Rokapoke pointed out how silly it sounded at the time for lands to "enter the battlefield." It's surreal because over the course of the past decade I've grown used to it. But out of context, sounds pretty ridiculous.

Cast, Play, and Activate

I forget if I had any input on this change at the time. Don't think I did. Seems like it was generally an improvement.


I was fine with the name change but frustrated with the mechanical change. I've never gotten over this one and maybe I never will. In most cases, Wizards of the Coast tries to get cards to function as they were originally intended, although sometimes the rules have changed in a way that this doesn't quite work (e.g. Reconaissance). But the original text on Ring of Ma'Ruf explicitly describes what would later be known as "Exile." The card says it can get such cards. It's what it was used for. If they just fixed Ring and the old Wish spells to be able to retrieve cards from the Exile zone, I'd be happy with it. And the technical boost to the flexibility of these cards for tournament play would be negligible. Burning Wish and Cunning Wish were the only ones that were really popular in tournament decks and they were almost always used to grab sideboard cards, not exiled cards. Also they both peaked in tournament prevalence way before 2009. It's downright petty to nerf these cards for the sake of changing a single term in the rules.

Beginning of the End Step

I was happy about this then and my opinion hasn't changed. This was an improvement on a flawed system. Also, this enabled Waylay to go back to having its right and proper function as "White Lightning." So yeah, thumbs up for this one.

Mana Pools

I forgot about this! Before the changes, mana floated between steps and mana pools didn't empty until the ends of phases. I was fine with this at the time. I find it tricky to evaluate, but it does seem that it is a simplification, which is a positive aspect.

Mana Burn

I was dead-set against this one and still view it as a massive blunder. Every time I Mana Drain a ten-drop spell and then can't use the mana I feel guilty. There were arguments on both sides and I won't try to beat a dead horse with this one, but I will say this one thing, now that we have a decade of hindsight. Wizards of the Coast does their in-house testing with new and current cards. They've said so on many occasions. Their protocols have changed and now we have stuff like "Play Design" that didn't exist back then, but the use of new and current cards in their tests has been a constant. And we know, because they told us, that they evaluated mana burn through checking the frequency of the rule mattering in their in-house tests. But the cards most affected by mana burn were old cards like Mishra's Workshop, Power Surge, and Songs of the Damned. There were also some relatively newer examples like Gaea's Cradle, Blinkboth Urn, and Braid of Fire, but those weren't in Standard either. Such cards weren't the primary theme in any one set and weren't prolific in set design or anything. They were scattered. But mana burn was critical with those cards. They were obviously, demonstrably designed with mana burn in mind. Wizards of the Coast found with their in-house tests that mana burn was generally unimportant because their sample of cards they tested with didn't include the cards for which mana burn was important. They messed up. And they did so in a conspicuous and foolish manner. At this point, if they owned up to it, I could at least respect that. If they said that their decision weighed mana burn wasn't worth keeping in the game because they were moving away from designing cards that could or would care about it, and it was just too much baggage or whatever, I'd disagree, but at least it would be a simple philosophical difference of opinion. To tell players who knew better that they totally tested this stuff and that mana burn just never happened anyway was insulting. /rant

Token Ownership

I didn't like this at the time. I'm actually more against this one now and firmly contend that this is a change that should be reverted. I've noticed that inexperienced and casual players tend to assume that token ownership works the way it used to, and not because they remember old rules, but because it's their intuition. The old way was more intuitive and I don't think any advantage of the newer rule on this outweigh that.

Combat Damage No Longer Uses the Stack

I was opposed to this one at the time. It's probably the hardest change to evaluate comprehensively. It was probably the most impactful of the changes. Ultimately, I think that combat damage using the stack kept combat consistent with the way that the rest of the game worked (using the stack). And even though there was a learning curve to it, this also helped new players learn about the stack faster, which was something they'd need to learn anyway. Once that initial learning curve was taken care of, having combat damage use the stack increased overall strategic depth, which I contend is healthy for the game.

Multiple blockers are assigned damage in succession

I've got to open any statements I make on this one with a note that while I personally preferred combat damage on the stack (for reasons noted above), I could see that there were points in favor of doing away with it. Taking combat damage off the stack made it function more the way Richard Garfield had originally intended, and more the way it had worked prior to Sixth Edition. It also eliminated that pesky learning barrier WotC were so concerned was driving off new players (whether or not it actually was doing that). But if the end-goal was simplification and easing the game's learning curve, this change easily counteracted any good done by taking combat damage off the stack. The old damage assignment rules were elegant and pretty consistent with the both the way it had worked prior to Sixth Edition and with how new players would intuitively expect it to work. Changing combat damage assignment caused confusion, increased complexity, and didn't seem to offer any strategic advantages that I could discern. So this was the change that I never understood.


My reaction a the time was "Meh." This wasn't a big deal compared to the other stuff. What was hilarious was that a lot of this was basically, "Deathtouch works the way the old combat damage assignment rules worked." Because WotC couldn't get Deathtouch to function under their new combat damage assignment rules. Seems to me that this should have been a clue that the new rules were a problem.


Didn't care about this at the time. I guess it was an improvement. My one minor gripe is that since Lifelink isn't such a strong mechanic anyway, multiple instances of it should be allowed to stack (this change got rid of that, although more as a side effect than out of any deliberate forethought). It'd make Lifelink a bit more worthwhile.

Bands with Others

Net impact was negligible. Bands with Others got slightly stronger, but not strong enough make any of the old cards that used the mechanic viable in competition. Almost all casual players I know would be unable to tell you how this mechanic functions without looking it up in the Comprehensive Rules. Actually, I'm pretty sure most judges couldn't tell you how this mechanic functions without looking it up. I think I built a deck that used the mechanic and actually had it matter in all of a single game in the early 00's and haven't touched it since. So yeah, pretty much a cosmetic change.


Isengar Tussle
so now we have

"I attack you with my Goblin Arsonist."
"Oh. It's just a 1/1, though. I'll block it with my Grizzly Bears. It's a 2/2, so it'll kill your Goblin Arsonist and survive."
"After combat damage is dealt, Goblin Arsonist dies and I ping your Grizzly Bears for 1. So your creature dies too."
"What? That doesn't make any sense! How can your goblin kill my Grizzly Bears after it's already dead? This game is too hard. I quit."

It's odd that those kind of arguments came out at the time to explain the change, but then deathtouch/lifelink needed to be explained/changed to fit the new combat damage mechanics. Sort of a cluster.

Exile: Ring of Ma'Ruf and the wishes were poorly worded for tournament use or even kitchen table use without restrictions, since then home field advantage would rule. We always had house rules for these cards and it's mostly just sideboard, but I do remember using removed from game cards too.


The Tentacled One
Exile: Ring of Ma'Ruf and the wishes were poorly worded for tournament use or even kitchen table use without restrictions, since then home field advantage would rule. We always had house rules for these cards and it's mostly just sideboard, but I do remember using removed from game cards too.
Yeah, it's a bit of a mess. There's now a rule in Commander making it so that effects grabbing cards from outside of the game just do nothing in the format. :confused: