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By: magma728, Jake Beardsley
Apr 02 2020 11:00am

Throughout the history of the format, Modern has been known for being extremely linear and proactive. Fair midrange and control decks have long struggled to effectively carve out a place in Magic’s Wild West, where proactive combo decks like Storm and Infect threaten to end the game as early as turn 2 or 3. The format’s diversity has been argued as a downside, as there are said to be too many decks to effectively sideboard against all of them, leaving the wealth of different options to play as the root of the problem. While this is a reasonable response, this has not stopped many slower and less aggressive decks from succeeding, as we’ve seen decks like Jund and Jeskai Control win many tournaments over the years. The deck we’ll be looking at today will look more like these, but with a fun, chaotic twist. We’re going to be diving headfirst into the warrens, and breaking down Modern Vial Goblins. 

The story of Goblins in Modern starts with the hyper-aggressive 8-Whack, which tried to end the game as quickly as possible with cards like Foundry Street Denizen, Reckless Bushwhacker, and Goblin Bushwhacker. This deck played right into Modern’s reputation as a drag race, but it differs heavily from what we’re working with today. This build of Goblins is both red and black, and functions much more like a midrange/toolbox deck thanks to the recent reprintings of Goblin Matron in Modern Horizons and Goblin Ringleader in M20. These allow the deck to play a number of silver bullets to serve a variety of purposes, as Matron let’s you grab the right knucklehead at the right time. Let’s get right into the decklist:

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, this deck is chock full of one-of’s that you won’t see anywhere else. Goblin Trashmaster? Sling-Gang Lieutenant? Earwig Squad??? Yes, these are all cards that 5-0’d a Modern league, and after playing the deck through 4 leagues, are all fantastic at the right time. Goblin Matron affords you the option to play all of the expensive and frequently clunky cards when you need them while minimizing the likelihood that they’ll be drawn when you don’t. The next logical question, then, is how can a deck afford to play a 3 mana 1/1 that doesn’t meaningfully affect the board in a format where Neobrand can kill you on the first turn of the game. The answer is don’t play against Neobrand. And more seriously, the answer is Aether Vial

Vial has long been regarded as one of Wizards if the Coast’s bigger mistakes from Mirrodin block, but at this point it’s the one of the good guys. By giving you a massive mana boost while also ensuring that your little green friends won’t get hit by a stray counterspell, Aether Vial can make up for the higher mana cost on some of your Goblins. If you play Vial on turn 1, you’ll effectively have 3 mana on turn 2 (2 lands and Vial with 1 counter) and 5 mana on turn 3, and so on and so forth. This helps your “clunky” midrange deck keep up with the sleek machines that typically make up Modern.  

The most important reason to play Goblins is, in my opinion, it’s flexibility. Let’s go over some of the more popular decks in the format right now and show all the different ways you can make their lives miserable: 

Stoneblade: Goblin Trashmaster ensures their equipment do next to nothing other than explode, leaving them scrambling for ways to kill you through your massive army of idiots.  

Jund: Goblin Ringleaders find Goblin Matrons which find Goblin Ringleaders until Modern’s king of attrition has lost the war to a base red creature deck.  

Amulet Titan: An early Earwig Squad can leave them with but a single Primeval Titan, which isn’t too hard to clean up with a bunch of tokens and a Munitions Expert, the other hot new printing Goblins got in Modern Horizons.  

These are just some of the ways you can tear through Modern with a pile of red creatures, but there are also some obviously bad matchups. The aforementioned Neobrand is one of them, but once again Earwig Squad comes in handy, being able to exile key combo pieces and win conditions. In my relatively few games with the deck, this is the play pattern that comes up the most, so the Squad is a must have in your maindeck.  

The other plan that I’ve found to be effective in a variety of matchups is Modern’s old standby: get em dead. Goblin Piledriver and Goblin Chieftain can turn an army of 1/1’s and tokens into a lethal force real quick, especially in conjunction with Matron to tutor them up and Vial to cheat them out against unsuspecting opponents. There are lots of matchups like Eldrazi Tron, where you can’t really grind them out because they have a powerful endgame and your disruptive plan doesn’t really stop their game plan very well. This leaves you with no choice but to beat down, and I will say I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well this has worked considering the mana curve isn’t exactly designed to be an aggro deck first.  

Another important piece of the puzzle that is being aggressive with your grindy attrition deck is Warren Instigator. Many of the decks you need to be aggressive against don’t play to the board in lots of games, like Amulet Titan. This is where the Instigator really shines, as getting to cheat not just one but two goblins into play separately goes a long way to being able to kill opponents out of nowhere. Matron also helps with this, as a cool trick you can pull after you connect with an Instigator is cheat in a Matron with the first trigger, then cheat in whichever creature you went and got with the second. I’ve won a lot of games against combo players by putting Matron in and then finding and cheating out whichever haymaker will make comboing a nightmare, and then finishing them off with my suddenly massive pile of idiots.  

The sideboard is relatively straightforward, as most matches you’ll trim the silver bullets that don’t make much of a difference and bring in the ones that do. I do want to hilight what to bring in when you need to be aggressive, as that comes up a lot. Legion Warboss and Legion Loyalist are your big ones, but Goblin Chainwhirler is a good one as well, as being able to clean up random mana creatures that could potentially block a Piledriver is surprisingly effective.  

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the Modern deck I’ve been thoroughly enjoying as of late, and please don’t hesitate to let me know what sort of content you’d all like to see going forward.