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By: Javasci, Robert Johnson
Jun 05 2008 1:30pm
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Goblins: The tribe of red (and now black, but none of the black ones are any good in this deck) critters that simply swarm and smash face, and that for a long time I thought were completely useless.  Lately, however, I have found that goblins can be not quite useless, and anything but simple.

Win Conditions

The first step toward understanding this deck is figuring out how you're trying to win.  There are two ways; you can attack with goblins (especially Goblin Piledriver), or you can go off with the combo of Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Skirk Prospector, and Lightning Crafter.

Now that you know that, you may wonder: why do I play only one each of Kiki and crafter, and two Piledrivers?  First, I play two Piledrivers because I can't afford any and can only borrow two.  Kiki and crafter are one-ofs because I have no intention of hardcasting them.  The combo is always gotten via Goblin Recruiter into Skirk Drill Sergeant into Kiki and crafter with the help of Skirk Prospector and maybe some Mogg War Marshals.

Insanely Powerful Cards

Goblin Recruiter
This brings us to the next point: Goblin Recruiter.  Recruiter is insane.  You play one card for two mana and your draws for the rest of the game are whatever you want.  I say "the rest of the game" because you should win with the draws you set up.  Its problem is that you only draw one of the goblins per turn, unless you have something like Goblin Ringleader or Skullclamp.

Naturally the first two cards I list as "insanely powerful" are banned in Legacy.

Nobody questions the power of skullclamp, but it is truly insane when you set up a stack of 1/1s on top of your library.  It's even more powerful with...


Cards That Make The Insanely Powerful Cards Even Better

Mogg War Marshal

If Goblin Recruiter and Skullclamp are the big-name stars, then Mogg War Marshal and Skirk Prospector are the solid players who keep the team balanced.  War Marshal is two 1/1s for two mana with a third coming when one of them dies, which with clamp is five mana for six cards, and with Prospector is +1 mana.  With both, it's one mana for two cards.

By now, I've alluded a few times to the real way this deck wins: by setting up a Goblin Recruiter stack and getting the goblins quickly.  As an example of this deck's intricate victories, take the following situation:

Skirk Prospector

Game I played just today

Start: My main phase postcombat, with a tapped warchief, tapped piledriver, 4 untapped mountains and an untapped barbarian ring, and a skullclamp.  (I also had a Simian Spirit Guide in hand, though I could've won without it.)

Play Goblin Recruiter, stack from top to bottom: Prospector, War Marshal x2, Drill Sergeant, Kiki, Crafter.

Equip Skullclamp to recruiter, draw prospector and war marshal, 3 lands untapped.

Play prospector.  Play war marshal.  1 land left untapped.

Now, one of the plays you need to know with this deck: Sacrifice war marshal to prospector, using the mana to equip clamp to the new goblin.  Draw war marshal #2, drill sergeant.  Still one land left untapped.

This deck has many complicated victories, but most of the plays in a given game are "building blocks" tricks, like the above.

Sacrifice the last goblin to play war marshal, then sacrifice the marshal to play drill sergeant.  You now have: 2x Goblin Token, one land untapped, drill sergeant, piledriver (tapped), warchief (tapped), and prospector, with a Simian Spirit Guide in hand.

Another building block: If you can get a combination of 6 untapped lands(/spirit guides) and expendable goblins, with a drill sergeant and a prospector in play, and kiki and crafter on top of your library, you win.  This may sound hard, but it's not; if you have drill sergeant, you've probably recently played recruiter.  (Note that drill sergeant is expendable, but prospector is not.)

In this case, you have: 2 pure mana (ring and spirit guide) and 5 expendable goblins (2 tokens, warchief, piledriver, and drill sergeant).  You can save one; I chose to save the warchief, but this also means I could have won without the spirit guide.

Sacrifice a goblin to the prospector.  Drill sergeant triggers.  When the trigger resolves, sac 2 more goblins (or 1 goblin and one mana from another source); Kiki-Jiki comes into play and drill sergeant triggers again.  When that trigger resolves, generate 3 more mana
to put Lightning Crafter into play.

Now, with the champion trigger still on the stack, have kiki-jiki copy lightning crafter.  The copy's champion triggers; have the copy champion Kiki, ping your opponent with the (hasted) copy, and then sacrifice the copy to prospector.  Kiki-jiki is returned to play untapped, and you are back where you started +1 red mana and -3 opponent's life.  Repeat until your opponent has lost.

Aggro Plays Like Combo

I have so far barely mentioned the other half of this deck - the aggro half.  When I first made this deck, I thought the aggro half would be like earlier goblin decks - simply smashing face.

However, that turned out false.  Although you can win with Warchief, Piledriver, War Marshal, et. al. without convoluted shenanigans (like those described above), you can win much faster with convoluted shenanigans than without.  If you have recruiter and clamp, use them - they're banned in Legacy for a reason.  When you draw those two cards, there's almost always a way to fit the pieces together just right, whether you want infinite damage or just two giant hasty piledrivers.  It feels a lot like a giant Jigsaw Puzzle, and putting the pieces together is more fun than any other deck I've played.

With this deck, puzzling out the convoluted path to victory is half the battle and all of the fun.

The rest of the deck

Early in this article I said that before playing this deck, I had considered goblins useless.  With combos not winning until turn 5, they certainly seem useless in a format where Flash is winning turn 3.

With a god draw, I can combo out turn 3.  With a decent draw, I can convolutedly win turn 4, maybe turn 3.  How do I stop FlashPyroblast is maindeck because I know that without it, I'd roll over to FlashLeyline of the Void is even better from the sideboard.  (Pyroblast is also good against blue-based control.)

Lightning Bolt is there for two purposes: creature removal, in case I need it which I sometimes do, and reach, i. e. killing opponents that have stabilized at low life.  Barbarian Rings are there for the same reason.

Street Wraith is there because when I ran more lands I would always be flooded, and when I ran fewer lands and no wraiths I would always be shorted on lands.

The Greatness of Jigsaw Puzzles

The reason I love this deck is because it is a lot like a Jigsaw puzzle in two ways.  For one, you can put many pieces together to get an unimaginably strong whole.  The second is that trying to put those pieces together is very fun.  Jigsaw decks are, I think, very good decks because their strength comes from the skill of their wielder: players with more room for thought can win in more situations, as opposed to most decks, which win in some situations and not others, and are practically on auto-pilot after a certain (usually not very high) level of skill.  I love to play Jigsaw decks because they provide the greatest reward (in victories) for solving puzzles and the most challenging puzzles to solve.


-Javasci (on MTGO and magiceternal)
-Ambitious (on forums.gleemax and classicquarter)
Clan Magic Eternal
Competitive Classic Player since Eternal Struggle 1.4 (new numbering, 1.3 by the old numbering)


Good Read by walkerdog at Sun, 06/08/2008 - 01:40
walkerdog's picture

Good article.  I enjoyed this different build of gobbos.