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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Jan 02 2014 8:59am
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Welcome to another edition of Becoming A Modern Man! Today I will be looking at a very interesting Goblin Charbelcher deck in Modern.  I suppose first, for those unfamiliar with the card, it might be best to take a look at it:

Goblin Charbelcher

Goblin Charbelcher came out in Mirrodin and was instantly a card people wanted to break.  It's a card that promises great power but at the expense of running very few lands.  Better yet if you can have no lands in your deck you can guarantee you will do 1 point of damage for every card in your library, which should be enough to kill most opponents.

The card really found its niche in Legacy where the various free mana spells and rituals allow the deck to play as little as 1 land meaning Charbelcher is almost always going to be lethal.

Given that the vast majority of the cards in this deck are not legal in Modern trying to build a Charbelcher deck in Modern has not really been at the forefront of most people's minds. 

That said a player called YQM managed to take fourth place in a recent Modern event with an inspired Modern take on the Belcher deck.  Here's the list:

This deck was far too interesting not to have a further look at.  The game plan is fairly simple.  Tutor up your 7 lands and then play and activate your Belcher for a ridiculous amount of damage.  However, I found myself looking at the list and a number of concerns came to mind.  The questions that were raised in my mind were as follows:

  1. How fast is the deck?  When it comes to combo decks - speed is important.  The combo is cool but if it cannot be achieved until the late game then the deck isn't going to be very competitive.
  2. How well does the deck mulligan?  With such a low land count I was concerned that we would probably need to do quite a bit of mulliganing.  If the deck does not mulligan well then it's pretty much a non-starter.
  3. What happens if we don't draw Goblin Charbelcher?  Short of hardcasting Chancellor of the Tangle, Belcher is our only win condition.  Can we really draw it reliably enough for this deck to work consistently?
  4. How do we protect Goblin Charbelcher?  Given that Charbelcher is our main win condition we cannot afford for our opponent's to simply blow it up.  What is the best way to protect our win condition?

Having played with the deck I think I am in a better position to answer these questions.

How fast if the deck?
Having played with the deck I have found that the deck is capable of winning as early as Turn 4 but is more likely to be ready to win from Turn 5 onwards.  That's not too bad going really.  Certainly not the fastest combo deck in Modern but all being well this can is capable of being quick.

How well does the deck mulligan?
Thanks to the 12 Lay of the Land effects and the various other 1-mana mana producers you usually only need 1 land to get things going.  This means that you don't have to mulligan as often as I thought you might.  Chancellor of the Tangle also means that you don't necessarily need to have a land in your opening hand.
Lay of the LandSafewright QuestCaravan Vigil

What happens if you don't draw Goblin Charbelcher?
Panic!  No, but in all seriousness drawing Goblin Charbelcher is extremely important for the deck.  It is possible to land a Chancellor of the Tangle on Turn 4 which is an alternative win condition but most likely you will be winning by activating Belcher.  There are 4 Belchers in the deck as well as the 2 Fabricates to tutor them up.  Additionally, once you have taken all the lands out of your deck Recross the Paths allows you to set up your whole library.
FabricateRecross the Paths
The only real problem is that these take time to set up and if your opponent is putting on the pressure things are going to be tight.

How do we protect Goblin Charbelcher?
This is another major problem for the deck.  Charbelcher is vulnerable to countermagic and as an artifact various targeted destruction spells.  I think the best way to protect Charbelcher generally is to cast it once you have seven mana available and then you can activate it immediately, which hopefully should be enough for the win, this also protects you from Mana Leak etc.

The sideboard also contains a lot of ways to help protect your Belcher.  Defense Grid and Autumn's Veil help protect against counterspells while Spellskite can prevent your Belcher being destroyed.
Defense GridAutumn's VeilSpellskite

This deck was fairly cheap to put together when I built it.  It seems that the idea has caught on somewhat and the price of Charbelcher has risen as a result, which is unfortunate.  Really that's the only big expense for the deck outside of the sideboard as most of the cards in the deck are chaff commons.  The sideboard as it stands is actually significantly more expensive than the main deck so feel free to tweak it according to your budget.

4 x Goblin Charbelcher= 16.96
1 x Breeding Pool= 4.53
4 x Chancellor of the Tangle= 1.76
4 x Utopia Sprawl= 1.44
4 x Wall of Roots= 0.76
3 x Birds of Paradise= 0.66
4 x Sakura-Tribe Elder= 0.60
6 x Snow-Covered Forest= 0.54
3 x Simian Spirit Guide= 0.45
1 x Pithing Needle= 0.36
2 x Fabricate= 0.22
4 x Recross the Paths= 0.12
3 x Arbor Elf= 0.09
4 x Rampant Growth= 0.08
4 x Safewright Quest= 0.08
4 x Lay of the Land= 0.08
4 x Caravan Vigil= 0.08
1 x Into the North= 0.02
Total: 28.83 tix

2 x Spellskite= 24.60
3 x Torpor Orb= 10.95
3 x Defense Grid= 8.43
3 x Nature's Claim= 0.32
3 x Fog= 0.06
1 x Autumn's Veil= 0.03
Total: 44.39 tix
Grand Total: 73.22 tix

Now let's take the deck for a spin:

Our first matchup is against Living End.  This matchup is tough as not only is their combo potentially faster but they can also disrupt you by destroying your lands or Goblin Charbelcher with cards like Beast Within

Our second matchup is against a Four-Colour Control deck.  In the first game we make use of an untimely tapout by my opponent to stick Goblin Charbelcher which wins the game on the following turn.  The second game is a bit more difficult, particularly as our opponent knows what is going on.  Our opponent is able to use a combination of discard and counterspells to keep away our combo and finish us off.  In the third game things don't really go our opponent's way as they don't draw enough lands and end up incapable of stopping our Charbelcher.

Our third matchup is against RDW.  In the first game we end up mulliganing to an impossible situation and are pretty much forced to concede, though there was a keepable hand there so that was a mistake on my part.  In Game 2 our hand shapes up nicely and we are able to set up our deck to draw Goblin Charbelcher with a Recross the Paths.  This sets up the win just in time.  In Game 3 we have a good hand but our opponent has a fast clock on us.  A top decked Charbelcher arrives just in time and fortunately one activation is all that was needed despite having one land left in the deck.  I feel like I got lucky in a lot of ways which led to the win but I think that's just how it goes with this deck.  With luck on your side you can win often but if it's against you then you can lose games you probably should have won.  Definitely high variance.

Our final matchup is against Merfolk.  This match was a little frustrating as we actually had good hands in both games but were just that turn or two short of getting there.  Sadly this was a case where we drew well but our opponent drew better.  I mean we even drew blockers but unfortunately multiple lords giving all their guys Islandwalk left us high and dry.

I found this deck to be a lot of fun and running a rather obscure combo card to win games is always interesting.  In terms of how competitive the deck is I am afraid that the deck is just a bit too inconsistent to really be a major player.  I cannot help but feel like the Scapeshift decks are doing something very similar but more consistently.  Also it's much more difficult to disrupt the Valakut win condition, due to it being a land, than it is to disrupt Goblin Charbelcher which is a rather vulnerable artifact (which costs 4 mana and can be countered).  Scapeshifts plan B is also superior with Primeval Titan being a much more powerful threat than Chancellor of the Tangle.   I still think the deck is very interesting and it is certainly a deck that can be tweaked and improved upon.  Perhaps if some new cards come out this deck could be a real player but right now I don't think it's quite there.

That's all for this article.  My production of articles has certainly slowed since starting to work full-time but I hope people are still enjoying my occasional articles.  This one was certainly a lot of fun.  Also, I imagine this article will be published around New Year so Happy New Year to everyone and hope you all have a great 2014!

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)


I like it! by kriskurse at Fri, 01/03/2014 - 11:49
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I definitely like this deck. I tried doing stuff with Charbelcher in modern but I guess the way I was doing it isn't the way to go.

Hey, glad you like the by olaw at Fri, 01/03/2014 - 16:51
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Hey, glad you like the deck.

Charbelcher is a very interesting card and I imagine there are a lot of things you could do with it. This deck works pretty well though, if not particularly consistently but that tends to be the way with Belcher decks.

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