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By: jcf, Jose Freitas
Dec 31 2019 1:00pm
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I love Pauper's Red Deck Wins.

In case you don't know, it is a deck full of small red creatures and some burn spells trying to close the game as quick as possible.

Here is a classic example.

I honestly believe I was among the first to try it out on MTGO. Long before we had Burning-Tree Emissary or Goblin Grenade, the triple 2/2 for just one mana were there: Jackal Familiar, Goblin Cohort and Mogg Conscripts. They are one of the main incentives to try this deck at first.

I remember looking at cards like Heartlash Cinder and thinking: wow, this is Pauper's Ball Lightning, or even experimenting with Reckless Charge: you can actually cast a Goblin Cohort, Reckless Charge it and attack by turn two, Cohort counts as a creature spell for itself.

Well that is history. A lot has changed since my first clunky attempt to build that deck. Red Deck Wins is an established deck nowadays.

The deck got shiny new toys in Burning-Tree Emissary, Goblin Grenade and Goblin Heelcutter just to mention a few. While I wouldn't call R.D.W. a dominant force in the metagame, it certainly has its share of appearances at the top of Pauper Leagues and Challenges. It is not a deck to be underestimated for sure.

On the other hand, today's metagame is quite fast. Expect opponents to have a plan against our swarm. Riding this deck may look simple at first, but it is not such an easy task actually.
 
But, why am I writing this article? What is new about this deck?
 
Well, what is sort of new is the London Mulligan rule.
 
Since that new mulligan rule, I couldn't help asking myself the following question: how low can we go on lands on a R.D.W. build?
 
The worst thing that can happen to R.D.W. is flooding. Pulling two or three unwanted lands from the top often feels like an auto-lose. It can be quite frustrating.
 
With a lower land count, while we do have to mulligan more due to no land starting hands, we also have less mulligans due to excessive land. Also, after we do keep our hand, it is much better to draw spells than lands most of the time. 
 
And if you do mulligan, it is way more forgiving under the London Mulligan rules. This incentivizes me to take more risks, cutting some lands.
 
So, how low can we go ?
 
Well, I been playtesting this a lot, I feel the ideal number of mountains for this strategy is fifteen. I did try thirteen and fourteen and that felt clunky.
 
Ideally we want two lands in our starting hand. Keeping a one lander is not impossible for this deck but can be terrible if we are trying to race another fast deck. Fifteen lands will give us two land starting hands reasonably enough, while allowing the deck to rarely flood.
 

The Deck:

 
 
 
Since we are reducing lands, I am also trying to keep the average mana cost as low as possible. We have the majority of spells - a total of 28 cards - costing one red mana. Only 17 spells except this rule:
 
Fireblast: We have just one copy of that card as a finisher. I don't think a fifteen mana base can afford more. Virtually it will often cost zero mana, since we are using it to finish the game in most cases. If that is the case, the two Mountains we lose won't matter.
 
Mogg War Marshal: This one is costly, two full mana and an echo cost that we may or may not pay depending on the game state. But I think this guy is way to important for this deck to not be there. It fuels both Goblin Sledder and our four copies of Goblin Grenade, while giving us at least some amount of protection against removal.
 
Burning-Tree Emissary: While costing two mana, this Gruul Shaman will give two mana back if it resolves, meaning it can also often virtually cost zero mana as long as we can use that mana in the same turn.
 
Mudbrawler Cohort: Haste gives us a good synergy with Jackal Familiar and an extra goblin is always welcome when we are playing four copies of Goblin Grenade.
 
Goblin Bushwhacker: This can be cast for one mana and it should happen once in a while, but most times we want the kicker, so I count this as a two mana spell for our purposes.
 
So, as you can see, the deck is really optimized to be low costed. In my testing I also tried Mutagenic Growth but I didn't feel it fits the deck so well, we really want to max out on creatures to fuel: Cohorts, Conscripts and Grenades.
 
The sideboard shows a lot of love for blue, as red should. While I do think I am possibly changing this in the future, eight functional copies of Pyroblast does feel great when facing those annoying faeries.
 
In a fifteen land deck, Blazing Volley looks better than Electrickery, it is there mainly to try to deal with Bogles, I am not sure it should be there also. Affinity is more popular than Bogles right now and we could use a couple Flame Slash in the sideboard.
 

The League:

 

Match 1: London Goblins against Azorius Urza Tron.

 
Game 1: Opponent starts with Tranquil Cove and we keep a nice hand with five creatures and two lands. They buy some time with Lone Missionary and two Urza's Tower by turn three. They try to Ephemerate Missionary but we are lucky enough to have a Lightning Bolt to answer. They struggle to find tron pieces while we quickly develop the board. By turn five they tap out to cast Mnemonic Wall and we attack with five dorks and finish them with Fireblast.
 
 
Our first hand, could it be more perfect
?
 
Game 2: We keep another nice hand full of creatures and one Goblin Grenade. They start with Tranquil Cove again. We open with Mogg Conscripts but they untap and kill it with Blue Elemental Blast while dropping a second Tranquil Cove. We keep developing the board with Foundry Street Denizen and Goblin Cohort. Turn three we manage to deal 11 damage with Goblin Bushwhacker's assistance. Opponent has a nice turn four, casting Sea Gate Oracle and another Blue Elemental Blast, but that is not enough. By turn five we manage to finish them with three attacking little goblins plus Lightning Bolt while they tapped out to find tron pieces and cast Prophetic Prism.
 
 
Don't we love when they tap out
?

 
 

Match 2: London Goblins against Monowhite Bouncy Value.

 
Game 1: We keep a risky hand with just one land and start with Mogg Conscripts. Opponent starts with plain and casts Deftblade Elite. Second turn I decide to cast no spell, holding Lightning Bolt for a possible enchantment on Deftblade. It pays off: opponent tries to cast Cartouche of Solidarity and we Bolt in response killing Deftblade. Opponent plays a second plain and cast Icatian Javelineers. Third turn we draw our second land, cast Mudbrawler Cohort and attack. Opponent cleverly blocks Mogg Conscripts and casts Mutagenic Growth making Javelineers a 3/3, killing Mogg on combat. That leaves us with a 1/1 Mudbrawler that will die next turn with Javelineers ping.
 
After that we never recoup. I draw my third Goblin Grenade but never get three goblins to be able to cast them. Fireblast doesn't help much either since opponent is at 16 life. They develop their board with Kor Skyfisher, Whitemane Lion and even Kor Sanctifiers and end up killing us with combat damage by turn ten with good old combat damage.
 
 
Three Grenades in hand, but sadly we never got three goblins to sacrifice
.
 
Game 2: We have a solid starting hand with three Mountains and four creatures. I start with Goblin Cohort followed by Mudbrawler Cohort. Opponent casts Lone Missionary and choose not to block. By turn 3 we have a very developed board with Mogg War Marshal and Jackal Familiar joining in. But that isn't enough. Opponent starts to recouping position with Mutagenic Growth, followed by Prismatic Strands, a second Lone Missionary and two Loyal Cathar backed up by Ephemerate. We draw two Goblin Bushwhacker but they don't have so much impact on this game because opponent has Strands in graveyard and hard to deal with blockers. By turn nine I also had drawn seven lands, flooding doesn't happen very often with this deck but it can happen. I end up scooping feeling there was no chance to win.

 

Match 3: London Goblins against Affinity. 

Game 1: I keep a solid hand with three creatures and one Goblin Grenade, opponent mulligans to six. We start with Mogg Conscripts but they follow with Great Furnace and Galvanic Blast slowing us down. We draw our fourth mountain and trade a dork for Frogmite. With two Goblin Grenades in hand but low on creatures, opponent topdecks two Myr Enforcer, Gearseeker Serpent and Atog. Our lonely Foundry Street Denizen try to scares them off by bravely staring at their eyes but it doesn't work and I get stomped.
 
Game 2: We have a nice starting hand with only two mountains, one Lightning Bolt and four creatures. Opponent has a bit of a slow start, with a Frogmite that meets our Bolt and Prophetic Prism on their third turn. Turn four we manage to deal ten damage with assistance from our beloved Goblin Bushwhacker leaving them at three life. They cast Carapace Forger but at this point we have five creatures attacking and they get goblinized.
 
Game 3: Opponent starts very well with Darksteel Citadel plus Flayer Husk. I follow with Mountain plus Goblin Cohort. They cast Prism and we manage to deal four damage with Mudbrawler Cohort. Then they cast Carapace Forger and I keep developing the board hoping to eventually deal a big chunk of damage with Goblin Bushwhacker. They cast a second Carapace Forger and I draw another Goblin Bushwhacker. They cast Atog and I draw one of the best cards I could in this spot: Mogg War Marshal. At this point they have three creatures in play, I have five and two Bushwhackers in hand. Because our deck runs so few lands, there is a good chance we draw more creatures and end up killing them at once. But unfortunately for our little goblins, by turn six opponent casts Krark-Clan Shaman - a goblin, yes - but clearly a traitor of the cause, massacring his own tribe and crushing our  board presence along with our dreams.
 
An epic loss but it was an exciting game, we were close to victory just before opponent turned things around. A classic "wide" vs "tall" match.
 
Krark-Clan Shaman, ruining our dreams of a surprise attack.
 

Match 4: London Goblins against Monoblue Delver-Faeries.

Game 1: I keep a risky hand with one land and tons of creatures, opening with Foundry Street Denizen. Opponent starts with Delver of Secrets and opt to not block while we cast our second Denizen. They cast Faerie Seer and Ponder, setting to flip Delver next turn. We get no second land as they tempo us with a 4/4 Delver equipped with Mantle of Tides while countering our spells with Spellstutter Sprite and Deprive.
 
Game 2: We have a very fast starting hand, with three mountains and four creatures. I open with Mogg Conscripts followed by double Burning-Tree Emissary and Mogg War Marshal while opponent starts with Faerie Seer. Turn three I pay Mogg's echo cost and cast Lightning Bolt on their recently played Delver of Secrets. I attack with all but Mogg Conscripts since I didn't cast a creature spell. They block one goblin token with the Faerie, taking five damage. Turn four the combination of Goblin Bushwhacker and Pyroblast seals the deal.
 
Game 3: We mulligan to six, keeping two Mountains, Red Elemental Blast, Lightning Bolt and two creatures. Opponent mulligans as well and starts with Faerie Seer. I decide to save my Bolt to something bigger and let it live. Sadly we have no turn one play so I just hold Bolt as they attack. They follow with a Delver that gets bolted at end of turn. My turn I cast Mudbrawler Cohort but it gets Hydroblasted. Turn five they drop Ninja of the Deep Hours but we manage to kill it with double Red Elemental Blast against their second Hydroblast. Our first turn we manage to cast Burning-Tree Emissary into Mudbrawler Cohort dealing our first two damage while we are already at sixteen life. Opponent follows with Faerie Seer while leaving two mana up. Turn six we cast Mogg War Marshal, they try to Spellstutter Sprite it but we have Pyroblast. Next turn they manage to hit us with a second Ninja of the Deep Hours, tapping out to re-cast Faerie Seer. We untap, pay Mogg War Marshal's echo cost and use our second Lightning Bolt to kill the ninja.
 
Game goes on for a while, they flood the table with Faeries and one Spire Golem, I flood my side with Goblins. Turn nine I decide to attack with all, we manage to deal five damage taking them down to four life while losing two red bears. They lose two faeries. By turn thirteen they have three blockers and I topdeck Goblin Bushwhacker,we have three bears and one Mogg War Marshal in play, so if they have nothing we deal exactly four damage and win on the spot. They have one card in hand but I decide to take the risk and it pays off, we started the race from behind but achieved a very tight win.
 
 
Sometimes we just have to take the risk.
 
 

Match 5: London Goblins against Burn.

Game 1: We keep a solid hand with two mountains, two Goblin Grenade and three creatures. We start with Foundry Street Denizen while opponent starts with a turn two Thermo-Alchemist. On my turn three my choices are: I can use Goblin Grenade to kill Alchemist slowing down the pace and losing one goblin or I can try to race straight up, casting Burning-Tree Shaman into Mogg War Marshal and keep both Goblin Grenade to deal ten damage directly to them. I calculate we are probably winning that race and decide to simply ignore Thermo-Alchemist and try to kill them as fast as possible. They untap, suspend Rift Bolt, Needle Drop our head and kill Foundry Street Denizen. Turn four we attack with all and finish the game with those Goblin Grenades.

 
They cast Thermo but I decide not to kill it. Race is on!

Not many decks can straight up win a race against Burn, usually you need to gain life and/or interact with their creatures or spells to even have a chance. Usually Burn will kill you by turn four. Turn three kills are possible but extremely rare. That is about the same clock Red Deck Wins has, as long as you have a good starting hand. So RDW can race burn, specially on the play. Quite a feeling I have to say.

Game 2: Opponent starts with Martyr of Ashes. I have Bolt but I decide to save it for Alchemist, so I start with Goblin Sledder. They cast Alchemist and we kill it while casting Jackal Familiar. Turn three they suspend Rift Bolt and keep mana open for Martyr. After Mogg hits play, they blow Martyr for two, we manage to save Goblin Sledder and Jackal Familiar by sacrificing three goblins and we attack for six damage. On their turn four, Rift Bolt resolves hitting me and they deal a total of eight damage with two Needle Drops and Skewer the Critics. On their fifth turn they cast their second Martyr of Ashes and blow it dealing three damage to our team.
 
At this point I have five creatures in play but all I can save is one Burning-Tree Emissary. Next turn we draw a timely Mogg War Marshal while holding Goblin Bushwhacker in hand. Opponent burns our head taking us down to six life but we survive to see another turn. Turn six I cast Goblin Bushwhacker, they Fireblast our Burning-Tree Shaman but that is not enough and victory is obtained with exactly six damage. Wild race.
 
 

League Final Result: 3-2.  

London Goblins vs Azorius Urza: 2-0.
 
London Goblins vs Monowhite Bouncy: 0-2.
 
London Goblins vs Affinity: 1-2.
 
London Goblins vs Monoblue Faeries: 2-1.
 
London Goblins vs Burn: 2-0.
 
I am happy with this result. The game against monowhite was frustrating, but every deck has its boogeyman. In Pauper, I believe it is really hard to build a monored deck that has a good matchup against monowhite, they have all the tools to counter what we are trying to do. On the other hand, we did beat Azorius Urza Tron - one of the scariest decks in the format - relatively fast and easy. They did struggle a bit to build their mana base, but that is exactly what RDW is trying to do: finish the game before opponent starts to do their thing. That can be very effective against decks that need some time to set up.
 
One thing I end up wondering is if the sideboard can be improved. This Topgrinder's list, that won a Pauper Challenge, has four Flame Slash and four Sparksmith there. That might improve the match against Affinity or other decks with hard to deal with blockers. It is an interesting approach that deserves some testing.
 
Also, I wonder if the deck should simply go a 100% goblins. Here is an interesting list aiming to abuse Goblin Grenade plus Goblin War Strike. We can easily adapt our deck to go into that direction, there are only eight non-goblin creatures there right now.
 
Overall I think trying to go lower on lands is a good thing for this deck. There were a few games we lost because of mana screw, but there were many games we had perfect starting hands and got blessed with spell after spell. In the second game against Burn, we got board wiped twice and still managed to have some board presence. That is something to consider.
 
If you like to watch a swarm of rioting goblins crashing everything they meet, try this deck! You will have a good time!
 
See you next article!