Three Flavours of Standard Goblins

With the arrival of Magic’s latest set, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, Standard once again sees the return of one of the games oldest and best tribes ever created. That’s right my friends, Goblins are back on the menu, and they might just be the future of Mono Red in Standard.


Standard has seen its fair share of good Goblins from the last couple of sets, with cards like Conspicuous Snoop and Fireblade Charger seeing play in more than a few decks. However, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms has kicked this up a gear with the addition of a lord, a whacker, and some dual-purpose pump and token generation. These additions have, in my humble opinion, pushed the Goblin architype up so much that it is now almost at the level of the more established Red Deck Wins, as I have discovered in the last few weeks of testing.

The architype has a lot of things going for it compared to its more well known Torbarn Red cousin. Firstly, it can be a lot quicker off the mark, easily dealing upwards of 10 damage as early as turn 3. This can be a real issue for Sultai control decks, that usually spend the first few turns ramping and not really affecting the board state. Secondly, the deck has access to a lot of creature lands that can continue to pile on pressure after your opponent has tapped out to sweep the board clear of threats. Lastly, the deck is pretty cheap to put together, and has a lot of potential in a post rotation world.

Now as I said above, I’ve been testing this deck out quite a bit on Magic Arena these last few weeks, testing multiple different builds to see what is the optimal brew for Standard. This is the build I settled on, and it has been doing quite well for itself as I’ve been claiming back up the ladder.

Standard Goblins

Creatures (26)
Fireblade Charger
Goblin Arsonist
Goblin Javelineer
Battle Cry Goblin
Hobgoblin Captain
Conspicuous Snoop
Hobgoblin Bandit Lord

Instants (8)
Frost Bite
You See a Pair of Goblins

Artifacts (2)
Embercleave
Lands (24)
Den of the Bugbear
19 Snow-Covered Mountain
Faceless Haven

Sideboard (15)
Cleansing Wildfire
Roiling Vortex
Thundering Rebuke
You Find Some Prisoners
Magic Missile
Weathered Runestone

As you can see, we start off with a playset of Fireblade Charger and a pair of Goblin Arsonist. These two creatures have much the same function in the deck, acting as one drop creatures that can deal some damage to our opponent even in death. The Charger is particularly good at this, as its damage potential can increase quite a bit with all the buffs the deck can dish out. This can make attacks and blocks tricky for our opponent, and this can often lead them to making mistakes that can cost them dearly in the long run.

Also in the one drop slot we have our first new card with Goblin Javelineer, a hasty threat that punches well above it weight. No longer will you have to fear those toughness 2 one drops that threaten to stifle your fun. Now you can push through damage more often as player will be less likely to throw a Jaspera Sentinel or Frost Augur in the way for an easy block.

As we move into the two drops we get the above mentioned Conspicuous Snoop, which is a really useful form of card advantage as it opens up the top of our deck and can lead to some explosive turns. It can also gives us some interesting interaction as it gains the ability of the goblin on top of our deck, but this is very random and is a secondary benefit of the Snoop.

We then get the next two new additions to the deck with our new ‘whacker’ in the form of Battle Cry Goblin, and a pretty heavy hitter with Hobgoblin Captain. Battle Cry Goblin is possible the best Red ‘bear’ printed in the last few years, been a great mana sink that can grow your teams power up to quite insane levels of damage. This also powers out its Pack tactics ability, giving you an addition attacking 1/1 goblin token if you attack with 6 or more total power. Time this right and you can also pump up this new goblin alongside its brothers in arms to maximise your damage output.

One way to get that 6 power on the attack is to swing in with Hobgoblin Captain. A 3/1 for two mana, the Captain can quickly eat away at your opponents life total. Teamed up with its own Pack tactics to give it first strike, your opponents will need a lot of chump blockers to prevent a quick defeat.

The finally new goblin to add to our deck is the one that really has pushed this tribe up the power scale. Hobgoblin Bandit Lord is our new anthem granting lord and is perfectly costed at three mana. Not only does it fit great at the top of our curve, but also has the nifty ability to deal direct damage to any target based on the number of goblins that enter our board in a turn. This can allow us to sneak in the last few pinches of damage should the board get to gummed up with blockers.

Should that happen however, we can always make use of Embercleave to force through the damage and finish up the game. I debated putting in the full playset into the deck, but during testing it was only needed occasionally, so I feel a pair is more than enough. Removal on the other hand is always a good thing to have on tap. To achieve this we run a playset of Frost Bite (with our Mountains been Snow-Covered) as it deals with most threat we are worried about. By the time we start to see larger creature and planeswalkers on the board we should already close to winning the game, so there is not really a need for more destructive removal.

The final non-land card in the deck is one of my favourites from the new set, and a great example of versatility. You See a Pair of Goblins offers us two great options for the deck, either giving us more bodies on the board at instant speed, or granting us a Trumpet Blast . In the early game we are more likely to grow our board state, adding a pair of goblins to the board more often than not. But once we have the numbers it can quickly turn the game on its head and help us dish out a metric ton of damage in a single attack step. Add in a Hobgoblin Bandit Lord or pump from a Battle Cry Goblin and it is game over for our opponent.

For lands we have 19 copies of Snow-Covered Mountain, as well as 3 Faceless Havens to give us some damage potential should our opponent sweep the board clean. Haven also benefits from all our goblin synergies, and as a result can often be bigger and stronger than our opponents’ versions should they run them. And as if that wasn’t enough, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms give us another great creature land in the form of Den of the Bugbear. It might be slightly more expensive to activate than Haven, but Den makes up for that with the fact it brings a goblin friend to the party each time it attacks. Between these two, our opponents will find it hard to get a moments peace from combat damage.

For the Sideboard we run Cleansing Wildfire as a counter to any problematic lands (you know the one we are talking about). Roiling Vortex helps keep pressure on decks that want to play the long game, and also make people think twice about getting something for free, while Weathered Runestone gives us some graveyard recursion protection. You Find Some Prisoners helps deal with artifacts, and also gives us some potential card advantage if we have no shinies to destroy. And finally, Thundering Rebuke and Magic Missile gives us that little bit more removal should we find ourselves against another creature heavy deck.

And that is Goblin Tribal for Standard. It’s a super fun deck to play and has a decent win percentage (at least in my testing). But what was that I said earlier about the deck having a lot of potential in a post rotation world? Well, you might have noticed that most of the decks cards are all from the last four Magic sets, with only Goblin Arsonist, Conspicuous Snoop and Embercleave rotating out of Standard in a few months. This means that with a few adjustments, Goblin Tribal can easily slide right into the new meta and keep most of its power intact.

Rotation Proof Goblins

Creatures (26)
Fireblade Charger
Sneaking Guide
Goblin Javelineer
Battle Cry Goblin
Hobgoblin Captain
Fissure Wizard
Hobgoblin Bandit Lord

Instants (8)
Frost Bite
You See a Pair of Goblins

Artifacts (2)
Goblin Morningstar
Lands (24)
Den of the Bugbear
19 Snow-Covered Mountain
Faceless Haven

Sideboard (15)
Cleansing Wildfire
Roiling Vortex
Thundering Rebuke
You Find Some Prisoners
Magic Missile
Weathered Runestone

As you can see, replacing Goblin Arsonist with Sneaking Guide gives us the same number of early game drops, meaning we can stay on track for some explosive turns later once we establish our board. Fissure Wizard might not be as good as Conspicuous Snoop, but it can help filter our deck should we be in a situation where we have a dead card or far too many lands in hand. And finally, Goblin Morningstar gives us a way to get through damage when blockers become a problem. It also brings along another goblin token, which means we can still grow our board while playing it.

However, if you are more in the mood for some best of one action, you actually have access to more than a few better cards thanks to the Arena exclusives. Instead of the list of replacement cards above, simply add in a playset of Raging Goblin, and four copies of Goblin Trashmaster to add another set of lords to your arsenal.

Rotation Proof Bo1

Creatures (28)
Fireblade Charger
Raging Goblin
Goblin Javelineer
Battle Cry Goblin
Hobgoblin Captain
Hobgoblin Bandit Lord
Goblin Trashmaster

Instants (8)
Frost Bite
You See a Pair of Goblins
Lands (24)
Den of the Bugbear
19 Snow-Covered Mountain
Faceless Haven

And there you have it, there different ways to enjoy playing goblin in both current and new Standard. I expect this will become the go to red deck of the new Standard meta, or at least some form of it. So even if you hate playing red decks it is worth taking notes as you will likely be seeing this while playing on Arena in the near future. I know I’m not done playing it at least. But what do you think? Will Goblin Tribal become the new Red Deck Wins of the format, or do you have another mono red/aggro brew you think could be the new bogyman? Let us know in the comments below.


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