Optimal Primer: Goblins

by Jason Kiesling (DromarX)

Introduction

Mono Red Goblins is a red creature deck based around rushing the opponent with early waves of Goblins and finishing them off either with large alpha strikes or direct damage spells. While the cards in this deck are not individually powerful, together they have a lot of inherent synergies that make up for this lack of power. The goal of this primer is to discuss the key cards and strategies of the Mono Red Goblins deck and to help pass on my own experiences to others interested in playing Goblins in Pauper. I will be looking at the core set of cards used in Goblins decks, other (non-core) cards used in Goblins, sideboard cards used in Goblins, as well give an analysis and sideboarding advice for some of the most common match ups in Pauper.

The Core

First and foremost I would like to list and discuss the core cards of the deck. Keep in mind that Goblins is in fact a VERY refined list with little wiggle room in the first 50 or so cards. It is also built on a lot of redundancy, effectively playing eight copies of two of the cards (if you do not know what I mean by this you will see shortly). Anyways without further ado, here is what I (and most other Goblin players) would consider the key cards that every list should be playing:

Creatures (35)
Foundry Street Denizen
Goblin Bushwhacker
Goblin Cohort
Goblin Sledder
Mogg Conscripts
Mogg Raider
Mogg War Marshal
Sparksmith Spells
Lightning Bolt

As you can see this is already over 30 cards, and adding in the 16-17 lands that are typically run you have very little room wiggle room for other spells. There are a few choices for filling out the remaining slots, but we will get to these later. First I would like to briefly discuss these core cards and the roles they play.

Goblin Cohort and Mogg Conscripts

As you can see I have grouped these cards together. Why? Well let’s refer back to what I said earlier – we are effectively playing 8 copies of two of our cards. A quick read of Goblin Cohort and Mogg Conscripts will reveal that, other than name, these are functionally the exact same card – a 2/2 Goblin for R. Now, of course there is a catch as a 2/2 for R is way above the curve. These 2/2s cannot attack unless you have cast a creature spell this turn. That sounds bad, however Goblins is a deck typically running in excess of 30 creatures (and often closer to 35 or so) so much of the time the drawback will be non-existant. These 2/2s are very important to the deck as they represent a very fast clock (especially in multiples) and generally having one of these guys to cast on turn 1 is your ideal start in Goblins.

Foundry Street Denizen

One of the newest additions to the Goblins clan, Foundry Street Denizen has really proven his worth since his arrival in Gatecrash, featuring in a number of Goblins lists since that time. The fact that this guy can swing in for as much as three damage on turn 2 (with either two more 1 drops or a Mogg War Marshal hitting play) is pretty big for this deck as outside of running out a turn 2 Bushwhacker or playing a Teetering Peaks that previously wasn’t possible. The Foundry Street Denizen’s pump ability is obviously very relevant to a deck that plays upwards of 30 creatures and the fact that he is a goblin is another boon to running him. He is weak against some of the more popular creatures in the format (Young Wolf immediately coming to mind as something the Foundry Street Denizen absolutely hates to be across from, while Frostburn Weird and Sea Gate Oracle can also be annoyances) and not as good at defending as Cohort/Conscripts but for the aggressive Goblins variants the Foundry Street Denizen is about as aggressive as it gets and certainly a worthwhile option. At this point the Foundry Street Denizen has pretty much cemented its place as a core piece of the deck.

Goblin Sledder and Mogg Raider

This is the second pair of redundant cards in the deck. While a 1/1 for 1 mana may not seem like a lot given the one mana 2/2s we just looked at, these guys have a LOT of utility and their usefulness should not be underestimated. In fact you could probably write a whole article just discussing the interactions between the two sac Goblins and not only the Goblin deck, but the format as a whole. Some of the things these guys can do are:

  • Push through extra damage in the face of blockers / removal
  • Let you “trade-up” in combat (i.e trade a 1/1 to let your 2/2 survive against another 2/2, essentially trading the 1/1 for their 2/2).
  • Protect much of your team from sweepers such as Electrickery, Shrivel, Echoing Decay, and Holy Light.
  • Let you sacrifice Goblin Arsonist to deal 1 damage in a pinch.
  • Regulate the number of Goblins you have in play for Sparksmith purposes.
  • Let you put a creature on top of a Death Spark so you can return it to your hand.
  • Prevent lifegain from a card like Tendrils of Corruption.
  • Get value out of Mogg War Marshal should you not be able to/not want to pay the Echo.

Along with their sledding brothers these guys bring a lot of utility to the Goblins deck.

Mogg War Marshal

I often refer to this guy as the red Squadron Hawk. Making three bodies out of one card he combos very well with many of the cards in the deck and does a very good job of promoting the general swarm strategy Goblins likes to take. The three bodies he generates provide a lot of fodder for your Goblin Sledders / Mogg Raiders to use to your advantage, and in conjunction with Goblin Bushwhacker you can do a ton of damage fast. As far as the echo goes, I find that generally you want to be paying it as often as possible, especially against removal-heavy opponents. However there are situations where you want to just feed the Mogg War Marshal to a Goblin Sledder because you are tight on mana and have a spell (or spells) that you know in advance you will be playing next turn. A lot of whether to pay the Echo or not will come down to experience.

Goblin Bushwhacker

This guy is insane and in my opinion really brings together what the deck is trying to accomplish. In a swarm-style strategy such as this one, the Goblin Bushwhacker will often be pushing through upwards of 4-5 extra damage the turn he hits the board. Afterwards you’re left with a 1/1 body which while not amazing or anything is still very relevant in a deck full of Goblin Sledders / Mogg Raiders and more Goblin Bushwhackers. The damage this guy does is absurd and if you can kick two of them in one turn, look out!

Get Bushwhacked, son!

Sparksmith

Sparksmith is a card that when he goes unanswered will make it extremely difficult for the other creature decks of the format to compete against you. There’s a good reason you rarely see cheap, repeatable kill effects like this printed, and that’s just because they are so oppressive. You don’t necessarily want the full 4 copies since he’s sub-optimal against control decks but generally you want 3 of them at least. Some decks like Mono-Green Stompy and Mono-Green Infect have literally no answer to this guy in game 1, meaning if you draw him and get him into play in a timely fashion you are very likely to get an easy win. He’s also very strong against Mono Blue Delver decks should he resolve. One key thing to remember about Sparksmith is that he counts every Goblin in play, not just the ones you control. This is very important in the mirror match where activating a Sparksmith will often deal you somewhere in the ballpark of 5-6 damage (not a good idea in a match up where both players are packing burn!).

Lightning Bolt

Not much to say here. R for an instant three damage to anything is the best burn spell in Magic and as a red creature deck it’s an easy choice as a four-of for your removal and/or reach suite.

Mountain

You want to cast your spells of course, so some number of these is necessary. As the deck has such a low curve it can get away with running around 17 lands on average. As you can probably guess you will be keeping 1 land hands somewhat often with this deck, which is fine since so many of the spells cost just 1 mana with none going higher than 2. Whether you run all Mountains or also include some kind of land with upside (Forgotten Cave, Teetering Peaks etc.) is up to the pilot, however it cannot be argued that the decks with all Mountains will have the most consistent starts and more keepable hands overall then those running even a single non-basic land. As you can see, these cards all serve key roles with regards to the game plan of the deck, and hence are not really interchangeable. As for the remaining slots, there are a few options that I will go over and a few different routes one can take when constructing their Goblins deck.

Filling Out the Deck

So now that we’ve established the core you’re probably wondering how we fill out the last few slots. Generally speaking, there are three directions the deck can take from here. The first is a deck with a huge emphasis on low drops and a bit of extra burn to close out games. The second is a deck that uses Goblin Matron to give itself more of a long game plan. The third is a more combo-oriented list that looks to abuse Foundry Street Denizen and Kruin Striker with the help of Skirk Prospector. Here are samples of each style of list:
Hyper Aggressive Goblins

Lands (17)
17 Mountain

Creatures (35)
Foundry Street Denizen
Goblin Arsonist
Goblin Bushwhacker
Goblin Cohort
Goblin Sledder
Mogg Conscripts
Mogg Raider
Mogg War Marshal
Sparksmith

Spells (8)
Lightning Bolt
Chain Lightning

Matron Goblins

Lands (18)
18 Mountain

Creatures (42)
Goblin Bushwhacker
Goblin Cohort
Goblin Matron
Goblin Sledder
Mogg Conscripts
Mogg Raider
Mogg War Marshal
Mudbrawler Cohort
Sparksmith Spells
Chain Lightning
Lightning Bolt
Fireblast
Wild Guess

Combo Goblins

Lands (18)
Forgotten Cave
17 Mountain

Creatures (38)
Foundry Street Denizen
Goblin Bushwhacker
Goblin Cohort
Goblin Sledder
Kruin Striker
Mogg Conscripts
Mogg Raider 4 Mogg War Marshal
Skirk Prospector Spells
Death Spark
Dragon Fodder
Fireblast
Lightning Bolt

All of these styles are defensible options and which is better will often simply be a metagame choice. In the previous meta with Temporal Fissure decks the aggressive versions were favored as it was important to win quickly since playing any sort of long game against Cloudpost decks was often a losing strategy. With Temporal Fissure and Cloudpost both removed it is possible the slower but more grindy Matron-centric versions of the deck will get their time in the sun. There are a number of other creatures and spells that can be used to fill out the deck beyond the core that was discussed previously, and these will be outlined here.

Spells:

Goblin Arsonist

Arsonist provides yet another 1 drop Goblin to the deck and while he doesn’t pack the raw power of Goblin Cohort / Mogg Conscripts or the utility of Goblin Sledder / Mogg Raider he can still be a useful addition to the clan. His death trigger has a lot of synergy with your Sledders / Raiders as they can sacrifice him for a damage in a pinch (and still even get a +1/+1 bonus to boot). This can be rather useful in taking out annoying utility creatures or helping one of your other Goblins kill something large and annoying (like a Myr Enforcer for example). His death trigger also means he can also attack into tow toughness creatures without any fear. If he gets blocked then he probably trades up or pings the opponent for one, and if not then he got a damage through which is win-win. Generally you don’t want to be playing Goblin Arsonist on turn 1 as your other cards are simply more effective, but he can fill in as your turn 1 play in a pinch. Something to keep in mind with this card is that when you have the option of playing it or a Sledder / Raider turn 1 it’s usually better to play the Sledder / Raider first. The reason being your opponent might spend their first turn casting a 1 toughness creature, in which case you can play and sacrifice the Arsonist to remove the creature and still attack for an extra damage with the Sledder / Raider pump. If you were to sequence the play the other way around (play the Arsonist first) you would only get to attack for 1 damage at best which is clearly worse. The obvious comparison with Arsonist is Mogg Fanatic, and while Fanatic does have some advantages (being able to sacrifice itself for a damage without the help of Sledder / Raider being the biggest) I find that Arsonist is generally the more useful option.

Goblin Fireslinger

This guy will always be able to hit your opponent for at least 1 damage per turn which is pretty reasonable. Against decks with little-to-no lifegain he can represent a reasonably good clock if the board stalls. That being said, he doesn’t offer a ton of other utility other than being a 1/1 “unblockable” and often misses the cut based on that. This is a card that’s much more suited to a burn-style of strategy than a swarm one, though it’s possible there is some iteration of Goblins that wants this.

Goblin Matron

Goblin Matron has a few good functions. First of all it can act as yet another pseudo-Squadron Hawk, fetching a Matron which fetches another Matron and so on. At the same time, it can also find you silver-bullet cards (i.e 1-of Goblins) or a specific card you might want like a Goblin Bushwhacker or a Mogg War Marshal. The fact that Matron itself is a 1/1 body is very relevant to a deck that aims to win by swarming and being an effective 2 cards in one can let you grind out other creature-based decks that don’t have a form of card advantage while also giving yourself resiliency against the control decks of the format.

For those seeking a grindier Goblins deck.

Jackal Familiar

Yet another 2/2 for a mere R mana but once again there is a catch! (there’s always gotta be a catch). The drawback this time is actually quite a bit more significant than with Goblin Cohort and Mogg Conscripts. In this case, the Jackal Familiar cannot attack or block on his own. He operates under the buddy system and refuses to do anything alone. This means he is a very poor turn 1 play as outside of casting a kicked Goblin Bushwhacker (which is rarely ever going to be the correct play on turn 2) he will not be attacking next turn. In addition to this, if you are on the defensive he will flat-out abandon you in the moments you need him the most as your sole creature! At least Cohort and Conscripts are kind enough to still protect you if you don’t have any creatures to cast and let them loose. Not only that, but he doesn’t even have the decency to be a Goblin! Our Goblin Sledders can’t ride Hounds down hills but Jackal Familiar just does not respect that fact. Now by the way I’m talking about it you might think I hate this card but it does have some reasonable upsides. First of all, you can sequence your plays such that it’s very likely he will get to attack when you do have him in play. Often times what you will want to do is play a Conscripts / Cohort turn 1 and then on turn 2 you can play both the Jackal and another 1 drop assuming you’ve hit your 2nd land drop. With 3 creatures in play your opponent will now need two removal spells if he wants to blank your Jackal for a turn. Running 4 of these guys gives you twelve 2 power 1 drops which leads to some VERY explosive nut draws. The triple 2 power 1 drop draw is a pretty great place to be for an aggro deck and it can certainly make Jackal Familiar an appealing option. Jackal Familiar has more or less fallen out of favor since Foundry Street Denizen was printed but it is still an option worth considering.

Kruin Striker

This card is only really used in the “combo” versions of Goblins that look to use Skirk Prospector to abuse its trigger. As can be seen it’s essentially a two mana version of Foundry Street Denizen with the upside an extra power and trample but the downside of costing an additional mana and not being a Goblin. It’s probably not something more traditional Goblins decks want to be using, however if for whatever reason you’d like additional Denizens it’s an option. It’s obviously at its best though in a deck using Skirk Prospector and token generators like Krenko’s Command to pump as many Goblins into play per turn as possible.

Mogg Fanatic

This guy was pretty good in the days of old when damage used the stack (effectively allowing you to trade him with any x/2 creature in combat) but nowadays he’s mostly just a weaker option than Goblin Arsonist. If for whatever reason you want Arsonists 5-6 in your list then Fanatic could sort of fill that void but for the most part the Fanatic’s best days are long behind him.

Mogg Flunkies

Mogg Flunkies is basically the two mana version of Jackal Familiar that comes with an increased body size (you can tell from the art that these guys lift!) while also having the decency to be a relevant creature type for your deck. Similarly to how the Jackal Familiar is not really an ideal turn 1 play, Flunkies will not usually be an ideal turn 2 play because you are opening yourself up to losing both tempo and damage to removal spells on your one-drop that the Flunkies is relying on. That’s okay though as a 3/3 is still often going to very strong well beyond turn 2 in this format and you will often have many other creatures you can cast anyways. You run only three copies mostly because drawing a bunch of them in your opening hand kind of sucks but it’s still a card you’re happy to see at least once per game as he can do a lot of damage fast and battle through most blockers.

Mudbrawler Cohort

This guy should be a 2/2 haste for 1R in this deck a majority of the time which is certainly very reasonable. As far as deckslots he’s likely competing with Flunkies. Many like the raw size of Mogg Flunkies over the speed of this guy, but depending on the expected metagame I could see either being a good choice.

Skirk Prospector

Outside of the previously discussed “combo” Goblins list, the Skirk Prospector doesn’t have any apparent use to Goblins. Still though for those lists it provides the useful function of being able to quickly dump an entire hand of Goblins into play and make some huge swings with Foundry Street Denizen.

Spells:

While Goblins is primarily a creature-based deck there are a few additional spells that can be used beyond Lightning Bolt to round out the deck.

Chain Lightning

One of the closest comparable cards to the venerable Lightning Bolt in terms of mana-to-damage output. However this card has some very real drawbacks in comparison to Bolt. The first one is being a sorcery. While this doesn’t always matter (such as against decks like mono-green Stompy where you want to mainphase your removal anyways) it can be relevant against something like Spellstutter Sprite out of Delver decks. The other drawback is obviously the “chain” part of the card. Against many opponents this drawback is irrelevant as they don’t have red mana, however against the mirror match, Mono Red Burn, Affinity (occasionally), and Fiend / Cyclops decks it can come up, so it’s something to keep in mind. Still though this is still a solid option and many decks run at least two copies of it.

There’s a lot of room between being worse than Bolt and being unplayable.

Death Spark

If you know me then you know I really appreciate a card that lets you get as much incremental value as Death Spark can. Goblins are dying all the time in this deck and it’s very realistic to buy back and cast Death Spark three or more times in a drawn out game. Against the other creature decks this can be a very effective way to get ahead. A lot of playing with Death Spark is about using it at the right times. While it seems very simple to just cast it when something of yours is about to hit the bin it can still be difficult to do so every single time. Even someone who plays the deck regularly will still probably miss Death Spark triggers from time-to-time. This is a card that rewards tight play and I very much like that. Generally you will only want to run one to two copies since you can’t easily get multiples of them back into your hand, and the one damage effect is a lot more narrow than something like Lightning Bolt. However in the right hands Death Spark can be used to generate considerable advantages making it a worthwhile option to consider.

Dragon Fodder / Krenko’s Command

These two cards give you two goblins out of just one card which is certainly a nice effect for a deck filled with Mogg Raiders / Goblin Sledders looking for fuel and Bushwhackers that love bringing more friends to the party. However the biggest reason these cards don’t see a lot of play is due to their anti-synergy with Goblin Cohort and Mogg Conscripts. What I mean by this is that despite these making creatures they do not enable your Cohort / Conscripts to attack because those cards only care about what type of card is cast. Since these are sorceries they cannot allow Cohort / Conscripts to attack for the turn which is a pretty big blow against it. These cards are options, but not really that good outside of combo-oriented lists.

Fireblast

In terms of straight-up damage, this is the best form of reach we have access to. Four damage, essentially for free is a huge chunk of the opponent’s life and if the game is over then it’s not really a big deal that you’re down two Mountains.

Reckless Abandon

Four damage for one mana is quite strong, and the cost of a Goblin is usually something you can afford to pay (especially with a Mogg War Marshal). The sorcery speed hurts, but as an answer to 4 toughness creatures and also a way to take out a large chunk of life from your opponent it could be worth a few slots. Remember that the creature is sacrificed as part of the cost, so if the spell is countered you are still down a creature.

Wild Guess

For the Goblin decks running additional lands, sometimes you will want a way to mitigate flooding and Wild Guess is one possible way to do that. You probably won’t want a ton of them since you’d prefer to be spending your early turns casting creatures rather than sculpting your hand but a couple copies can go a long way if you get into the lategame. Another option is Faithless Looting which will put you down a card but can be used twice over a long game. Both are worth considering if you’re looking to play more lands and work towards a longer game.

Lands:

Disclaimer – I do not recommend running non-Mountain lands if you are running 17 or fewer lands in your list. If you do however want to run “utility” lands (hopefully in a list with 18 or more lands) there are a few options worth discussing.

Forgotten Cave

While many decks will lean towards Teetering Peaks, another viable option is Forgotten Cave. The two damage from Peaks is obviously appealing to an aggro deck, however it’s not a guaranteed thing since it can still be stopped with removal or even just blockers. Some may prefer a land that can trade itself off for a random card over the temporary pump of Teetering Peaks making Cave a viable option.

Teetering Peaks

Some lists run a singleton copy of this card to essentially give them an extra “spell” of sorts in the games where they flood out. The problem with this though, is that much of the time you are keeping 1 land hands with this deck, so if that 1 lander happens to be the Peaks that enters play tapped then that hand will suddenly go from fine to something you very likely will have to mulligan. Whether the times it screws you over are made up for by the times you can play it as a pump spell and get extra damage in is something you’ll have to determine through playtesting, but from my own experience I find that I’d rather not run it and just have more consistent opening hands. If however you run 18 lands then it starts to become a much more realistic option.

Sideboard Cards

Despite the fact that Goblins is a Mono Red strategy there is still a decent amount of diversity available in your sideboarding options. A lot of the options are additional (and usually more situational) burn spells, but there are also cards that go beyond that as well. I will discuss some of the more common sideboard cards seen from Goblins and where they will be most useful.

Electrickery

A fairly new addition from Return to Ravnica, Electrickery easily replaces Seismic Shudder as the red sweeper of choice in Pauper. It is especially useful to Goblins as unlike Shudder it is not killing your own guys. This card is of course most useful against other aggro decks that are running a lot of X/1 bodies such as Mono-Green Stompy (more list-dependent), Mono-Green Infect, White Weenie, and situationally in the Goblins mirror. It also provides a way for us to answer the various X/1s of the Green White Hexproof deck if cast quickly enough though that might not be the most reliable of plans. The other main use of the card was to beat Empty the Warrens out of Storm decks, but with the bannings of Empty and Grapeshot this is no longer necessary. Should Empty ever come off the banlist however it is worth noting. Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s a card often used against us too. The effectiveness of it against us is often exaggerated however as a single Goblin Sledder / Mogg Raider can prevent much of the damage it would cause to our board.

Electrostatic Bolt

This provides a cheap and efficient way to take out large artifact threats such asMyr Enforcer, Spire Golem, and Razor Golem. Other than being an instant though it’s often outclassed Flame Slash which can do the same amount of damage to any target, while Electrostatic Bolt will just be a Shock against a lot of creatures.

Flame Jab

This card is very narrow as far as removal/burn spells go but as an aggro-hate card it can be quite effective. This is especially true in the Goblins mirror match where the player that draws more lands will often be disadvantaged. If you can turn each land drop past say your third or fourth into a one damage removal spell for R then that’s a great way to gain an edge. Having played this card in a lot of Goblins mirrors I feel pretty strongly that this is the single most powerful card you can side in to gain an edge in the mirror.

Flame Slash

This is a very efficient red answer to large threats. The fact that it doesn’t go to the face and also that it is a sorcery are limitations that prevent it from seeing a lot of maindeck play outside of control strategies, however there are many key creatures in the format that this can clear out of the way. Some of the relevant 4 toughness cards this kills include: Spire Golem, Frostburn Weird, Myr Enforcer, Carapace Forger, and Razor Golem. If you expect to see a lot of these then having access to one or two copies of Flame Slash could prove to be quite useful.

Flaring Pain

This card is pretty narrow, but it has its uses. One of the primary ways you can use it is similar to how the Grapeshot Storm decks used to in order to counter Prismatic Strands out of the White Weenie decks. Additionally it can also counter Moment’s Peace or Fog out of green decks and can give you a way to kill pro-red creatures such as Weatherseed Faeries and Crimson Acolyte should your opponent attempt to block with them.

Frostburn Weird

Another fairly new addition to Pauper, Frostburn Weird is a card that we don’t really like to see on our opponent’s board. However the fact that he can be cast for RR makes him something we’re potentially interested in ourselves. Against other creature decks like Stompy and the Goblins mirror he could prove to be an effective blocker that can also go on the offensive in a pinch. It’s possible that we just don’t run enough mana / card draw to get as much usage out of him as Mono Blue Delver decks do but as a defensive sideboard option he’s something to consider.

Gorilla Shaman

Affectionately known as Mox Monkey for his tendency to smash the power 9 Moxen to bits in Vintage play, this guy is a very useful card against one of Goblins’ most difficult match ups in Affinity. Why is he useful? Well, Affinity’s manabase is composed often entirely of artifact lands, so at the cost of a single mana each Mox Monkey can smash these lands to bits. Since he can only destroy non-creature artifacts he’s actually not a solution to Frogmite or Myr Enforcer, however there are other ways to deal with these creatures. Simply shattering your Affinity opponent’s lands with Mox Monkey will threaten to lock them out of the game completely if they do not find an answer, and even if they do it might set them back enough to give you the advantage you need anyways. This makes the Mox Monkey something you should strongly consider for Affinity match ups.

Mox Monkey wake up get coffee, Mox Monkey go to job.

Goblin Tinkerer

Another artifact hate option, this guy has a few advantages compared with Mox Monkey. First of all he’s a Goblin so he synergizes with your Goblin Sledders / Mogg Raiders. Secondly, he can take out creature artifacts like Myr Enforcer that the Monkey cannot. The disadvantages of course are that you have to wait a full turn to get a use out of him, and that he cannot destroy multiple artifact lands in a turn like Mox Monkey can when you have the mana.

Magma Spray / Pillar of Flame

These cards play largely the same role so I am lumping them together. Basically these provide you with a low mana answer to some of the more resilient creatures in the format. Some of the creatures these cards are good against include Loyal Cathar, Safehold Elite, Doomed Traveler, Young Wolf, Stinkweed Imp. They also can be useful against decks that play cards like Unearth, Tortured Existence, or Unearth creatures. The only difference between the two spells is that one is an instant while the other can go to the face. Personally I like it more when my burn spells can also be used as direct damage since it gives me more options, but which one is better will mostly come down to preference.

Martyr of Ashes

Another sweeper option, the Martyr can take out even very large bodies provided you have enough cards in hand. This could be a useful option in creature match ups where you want a bit more than Electrickery. It will however kill your own creatures as well so you have to be very careful when running it.

Pyrite Spellbomb

While this card is not exactly efficient as far as burn spell go, it has one important quality – the fact that it’s colorless. While against much of the format our normal burn spells will work, there are some specific hate cards such as Crimson Acolyte and Weatherseed Faeriesthat we cannot kill with our Bolts, Chain Lightnings, and other regular burn. Pyrite Spellbomb provides an answer to those cards if you are in the market for that sort of thing. Additionally, if they don’t draw the hate card you brought the spellbomb in for you can still always just throw it at their face or cycle it to draw a card.

Pyroblast

Wait, a RED counterspell!? Well you see, long ago when Magic was a very new game Red actually did get counterspells from time to time, meant specifically to hose one of their most hated enemies in the color pie (Blue). Pyroblast goes beyond just being a counter though, also functioning as a Vindicate type effect for any blue permanents as well. At 1 mana this is an incredibly powerful and undercosted effect and I could even see arguments for maindecking a copy or two in the right metagame. With so many of the format’s top decks being blue you will find many situations where you will want to bring Pyroblasts in, and it is almost always worthwhile to do so.

The best sideboard card in Pauper? I think so.

Raze

Historically, this has been used to set back decks like Storm, and Cloudpost enough that you can win before they can combo-off or gain enough mana to stabilize. With Storm and now Cloudpost leaving the format it’s less likely to be required but it could still serve some use if Urza Tron becomes a viable strategy or lots of decks start playing the Ravnica bouncelands.

Smash to Smithereens

This compliments Mox Monkey as the go-to artifact hate cards for Goblins. Being able to not only remove a troublesome artifact but also deal a good chunk of damage to your opponent’s dome in the process is clearly something Goblins is quite interested in. This is primarily used against Affinity but can also be brought in to deal with other cards like Spire Golem or Serrated Arrows that will cause you problems.

Sylvok Lifestaff

This is used primarily against other creature decks (most often the mirror but also against Stompy decks) in order to allow you to win a race. The real synergy is that you can trigger the staff at will with your Goblin Sledders and Mogg Raiders to gain three life in a pinch. It can also be brought in against more rogue decks like Mono Red Burn and Blue Red Kiln Fiend/Nivix Cyclops combo which attempt to burn you out very quickly. Additionally, I have seen it used against Grapeshot Storm when the deck was still around as forcing them to storm for three more cards can sometimes make all the difference.

Match Ups Overview and Analysis

Now while knowing your own cards is important, of just as much importance is knowing your enemies. In this section I will go over some of the most common Pauper archetypes you will encounter en route to becoming a Goblin King and highlight some general strategies as well as sideboarding strategies and things to be aware of.

Affinity

Public Enemy #1

Overall Match Up Analysis: Unfavorable (40-45%)

Affinity is an artifact aggro/combo deck that aims to play a critical mass of cheap artifacts and swarm the board with cards that take advantage of the Affinity mechanic such as Frogmite and Myr Enforcer. The combo-aspect of the deck comes from the fact that it can use Atog in conjunction with Fling and it’s numerous artifacts or in conjunction with Disciple of the Vault and outright kill you from what would normally be a comfortable life total. Affinity is traditionally one of the worst match ups for Goblins. While it is certainly possible to win, they have access to a number of cards that just straight-up trump everything we’re trying to accomplish meaning if the Affinity player knows what they’re doing it will often be an uphill battle.

Cards to bring in: Gorilla Shaman, Smash to Smithereens, Flame Slash, Electrostatic Bolt, Immolation, Pyroblast*

This match up is the very reason Goblins decks often have Mox Monkey in their board. Blowing up artifact lands for 1 mana is a way to lock Affinity opponents out of the game and in the process turn a difficult match up into a laughably easy one should they not find an answer to the Shaman. Against a deck like Affinity, Smash to Smithereens is at its best killing a large percentage of their cards and even being able to act as a Stone Rain and wreck their four color manabase. The fact that it will often do 3 damage (though not if they have Atog in play) is just gravy. Flame Slash is very effective at taking out their 4/4s and allowing you to punch through with your Goblins. If they are only leaving one 4/4 back then this can provide a pretty big swing. Electrostatic Bolt can play a similar role, but it doesn’t actually kill Carapace Forger which often makes it less optimal. It can also occasionally let you take out Atog (or at least get a 2-for-1 out of it if they opt to save the Atog). Electrostatic Bolt is an option, though not nearly as good as Flame Slash since it lacks the ability to kill a Carapace Forger. Immolation is pretty darn narrow, however if you’re playing the card it’s for pretty much just one reason – Atog. This is (as far as I know) the one way a Mono Red deck can guaranteed kill Atog dead in Pauper (or at least the most efficient way it can do so). So if you have the sideboard space to dedicate to something this narrow this is the time for it to shine. * Pyroblast is something that I find you don’t want to board in against them very often if ever. Often their only blue card is Thoughtcast and while hitting that is pretty sweet, if they don’t draw it you will have a dead card in your hand in a match up where you really do need every card to do something if you’re to stand a chance. If my opponent shows me Somber Hoverguard and Hydroblast in sideboarded games only then will I consider bringing in Pyroblast.

Cards to take out: Death Spark, Chain Lightning, Sparksmith, Foundry Street Denizen

Death Spark doesn’t do a whole lot against them. Even if they’re on the Disciple plan I still do not find that it’s worth it to keep it around as Disciple isn’t usually going to be the way they’re killing you anyways (Atog and or just overwhelming you on the board is). Chain Lightning mostly only comes out if you have some Flame Slashes to bring in. The reach Chain Lightning gives can still be useful but as a removal spell I wouldn’t expect a lot from it in the match up. Some number of Sparksmiths usually come out as you often cannot afford the life loss against Affinity. While they’re a slower deck than you they also possess a LOT more reach in the form of Galvanic Blast and the Atog-Fling interaction. I also sometimes like to board down on Foundry Street Denizens on the draw as their effectiveness is lowered when Affinity gets to be on the board first, though you don’t necessarily have to take this approach.

Cards to be aware of: Hydroblast, Electrickery, Krark-Clan Shaman, Echoing Decay

Hydroblast is not something every Affinity player runs in their board, but if they have it they will most certainly be bringing it in against your Mono Red deck. Outside of siding in Pyroblasts there’s not too much you can do to stop it, so instead just try not to get blown out by it if you can avoid doing so. As I’ve said before, Electrickery is simply ok against us, and not amazing as many would have you think. If we have a Sledder or Raider in play it can often be turned into a mere 1-for-1 trade or a 2-for-1 at worst. It is becoming fairly popular among Affinity players though, so just be aware of it and don’t play too much into it if you don’t draw a Goblin Sledder / Mogg Raider. Krark-Clan Shaman on the other hand is very good against us and will do a much more effective job of wiping our board than Electrickery will. All you can really do to stop this guy is just not overextend when you can help it. Sledder / Raider can somewhat mitigate him but they can always just sac more artifacts once you use Sledder / Raider so it’s unlikely to matter too much. For what it’s worth, the Krark-Clan Shaman / Goblin Sledder / Mogg Raider sub-game is an interesting one and something very easy to screw up (for both sides) so I recommend thinking through your sacrifices very carefully when the scenario comes up. A good strategy is to take count of their artifacts to see just how deep they can go with Shaman activations. You also need to determine which of your goblins is most valuable. Another thing to keep in mind is that they can play the Shaman off in different ways. In some cases they might use the Shaman several times in a row (holding priority after each activation) and you will have the information upfront, while in others they might activate it once, wait for you to use your Sledders / Raiders and then activate it again in response. Once you’ve pumped as many goblins as you can “out-of-range” it’s often best to just pass priority back and see if they make any more sacrifices rather than sacrificing additional creatures you don’t yet need to. As I said before these situations can be very tricky to pilot optimally through, so do not despair if you mess up the first couple of times the situation arises. Echoing Decay isn’t something I see out of them too often but it’s at least something to be aware of. Sledder/Raider can again stop it from being a blowout, and of course it is possible to play around by not playing more than 1 of the same guy if they do show you it. Generally I won’t play around it too much against an Affinity opponent unless they’ve previously shown it to me. Doom Blade is usually a much more common removal spell for them to board in than Echoing Decay. Really though, as a four to five color deck Affinity has access to a TON of sideboard options so this is just skimming the surface. The best thing to do is expect the unexpected against their sideboard plan since some Affinity players have some really crazy cards they bring in.

General Discussion and Strategies:

So this match up is bad. Really bad in fact. But don’t get too down on yourself if you get paired against Affinity as with the right strategy and the right sideboard cards it is possible to come out with the victory.

  • The most important thing I want to stress is that they generally have no way to gain life. This means that each and every point of damage you do to them is important and squeezing out as much from each individual Goblin you can is often the key to victory.
  • The biggest problem cards for us in the match up are Myr Enforcer, Carapace Forger, and Atog. The 4/4s are both cards that are difficult for us to kill 1-for-1 (and often impossible in the first game). Not only do they play defence well, but they take huge chunks out of our lifetotal on offence and Affinity is capable of powering them out very quickly given the right draws. Killing them with Sparksmith is sometimes possible but dealing huge chunks of damage to yourself is often a liability unless you are already way ahead on life/on board. Atog is a problem for us because in a deck relying on damage-based removal he’s pretty much impossible to kill. Also, when they have enough artifacts on the board he will literally become the Abyss on offence, forcing you to chump him every turn to stop them from just eating every artifact in play and killing you. There’s not a whole lot you can do about Atog other than being aware of when you’re in lethal range of him so your best bet is often hoping they don’t draw it (or don’t draw it too early).
  • They are slow out of the gate, often spending their first turn to play a Chromatic Star or Springleaf Drum to fix their manabase so it’s important to keep a fast, aggressive hand and take advantage of this. If you can get them down to 10 or so life before they start flooding the board with 4/4s I find you often have a reasonable chance to win. Do not be afraid to throw away a Goblin or two on an attack if your unblocked Goblins would put your opponent within burn range. Goblin Sledder / Mogg Raider also contribute to this idea as even your blocked Goblins can still get through a single point of damage via these guys.
  • Another possible line you can take is to try and swarm the board with Goblins and kill them with a Bushwhacker plus alpha strike. While this can be successful sometimes you have to be wary as once they hit a critical mass of resources they can often times go off and chain a bunch of Thoughtcasts into a lot of free Myr Enforcers and Frogmites as blockers seemingly out of nowhere. In addition they may have Krark-Clan Shaman in the sideboard games which makes swarming a lot more risky.
  • Try to keep your life total high when you can since they do have a lot of reach via Galvanic Blastband Fling. Also make sure to keep track of their artifact count when Atog is in play so you know if you need to chump him.
  • Sometimes they can just straight-up kill you with Atog / Fling and there’s not really anything you can do about it but that’s just the way it is (things will never be the saaaame).
  • Do not be afraid to Smash to Smithereens one of their lands if you are ahead on the board. This disruption can not only color screw them (hitting their only red source for instance) but it also takes away one of the artifacts they might need to cast their Affinity cards at a discount.
  • One final point to touch on is how to play your Gorilla Shamans. Generally speaking you won’t want to play it until you have at least 2 lands so you can get some guaranteed value off of it when it hits play. As far as which of their lands to go after, in order of importance I find it goes Great Furnace > Seat of the Synod = Tree of Tales > Ancient Den = Vault of Whispers > Darksteel Citadel. A lot of their colored mana requirements are red (Atog, Fling, Galvanic Blast with Electrickery and Krark-Clan Shaman as possibilities post-board). Taking out a Seat or Tree will depend on which card you judge to be worse for you at the time (Carapace Forger or Thoughtcast) while I tend not to care about their black or white lands since they mostly only cast Disciple of the Vault off of those or the odd Auriok Sunchaser. If they have multiple red sources in play and only one green or one blue it is also likely you want to attack the one-of source rather than the red one in those situations.
  • In addition to the above keep in mind that Affinity’s biggest weakness (other than being incredibly vulnerable to artifact hate) is its own inconsistencies. What I mean by this is Affinity will often draw the wrong parts of its deck, or fail to draw the mana-fixing it so desperately needs. There are many games where Affinity decks die with four cards in hand because they didn’t draw a Great Furnace or whatever color of land they needed. Goblins is a much more consistent deck than Affinity is and this will lead to an amount of wins that is not insignificant.

With fast combo decks and Post control decks leaving the format it’s likely a more midrange strategy like Affinity will pick-up in popularity. If so, it’s important to come prepared with the necessary hate and to be ready for some hard-fought battles. Every edge you can get against Affinity is important to Goblins since the match up is pretty poor.

Cyclops

So cute and cuddly he’ll kill you on turn 3 if you let him.

Overall Match Up Analysis: Favorable (55-60%)

Cyclops is an aggro / combo deck based around the namesakes of the deck Kiln Fiend and Nivix Cyclops. Previous iterations of the deck used Wee Dragonauts, however it wasn’t until the release of Nivix Cyclops with Dragon’s Maze that the deck was really vaulted into competitive status. The deck aims to abuse a high-spell count as well as evasion-granting spells such as Artful Dodge to pump a Kiln Fiend/Cyclops and swing for huge chunks of life at a time, often dealing lethal to the opponent in a single attack thanks to Assault Strobe. Since the deck is so reliant on winning with a single creature, a deck with access to cheap removal such as Goblins can really give them trouble.

Cards to bring in: Pyroblast, Flame Slash, additional removal

Pyroblast is a very effective card against them simply because it can take out 8 of the creatures they run (Nivix Cyclops and Delver). Board in all the copies you can as even if you never see one of those creatures it will still at the very least be able to stop them from casting Preordain and Ponder which can be just enough disruption to get the win. Flame Slash is very strong here as well since it can take out every creature in their deck.

Cards to take out: Death Spark, Sparksmith / Mogg War Marshal

Death Spark only kills Delver of Secrets, and only before it flips so it’s not very useful here. After Death Spark your next weakest cards are usually Sparksmith and War Marshal. Sparksmith is weak because they’re often boarding in a bunch of spot removal and possibly Electrickery post-board so it’s rare that it will survive. It might work out okay game 1 when they often only have a playset of Lightning Bolts as removal, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it will be good after sideboarding. Mogg War Marshal is still okay but can be a bit slow at times and you don’t really want a slow hand with a bunch of them in this match up so boarding out a few copies is reasonable.

Cards to be aware of: Hydroblast, Electrickery, additional removal

Hydroblast is something they can both use to destroy your goblins and also (more importantly) to protect their key creatures from your removal. Electrickery is often one of their go-to aggro hate cards, so keep that in mind. As usual just be sure to keep a Mogg Raider / Goblin Sledder on the board as much as possible and don’t play into it when you can help it.

General Discussion and Strategies:

  • It should go without saying that you want to kill their Kiln Fiend or Nivix Cyclops or on-sight. Allowing them to untap with either of these is a recipe for disaster and it’s quite likely you’ll be dead before their turn ends if you do.
  • Delver of Secrets on the other hand you can most likely ignore. It seems weird saying that, but Delver on its own is very raceable for Goblins in this match up since Blue Red Fiend lacks the disruption that Mono Blue Delver decks have to support Delver with. You’re really better off saving your removal for their creatures that actually matter, namely Kiln Fiend and Nivix Cyclops. Those are what usually win them the game, not Delver.
  • Game 1 the most likely way for them to beat you is with Nivix Cyclops since most Goblins lists don’t have any ways to kill it 1-for-1 before sideboarding. Your best hope is obviously that they don’t draw it, but failing that you can still kill it by combining burn spells. Obviously that’s not ideal, but if it keeps you from dying then it doesn’t really matter that you had to 2-for-1 yourself.
  • Depending on your sideboard you can bring in a ton of removal to bolster your starting arsenal. If you’re bringing in 4 Pyroblasts and 2 Flame Slashes to compliment 4 Lightning Bolts and 2 Chain Lightnings (for example) that gives you eight direct answers for Kiln Fiend and 6 direct answers for Nivix Cyclops which is pretty reasonable.
  • Keep in mind that they play a lot of spells that let them protect their key creatures from removal – Apostle’s Blessing, Dispel, Hydroblast being some of the cards you might see. In the case of Apostle’s Blessing it’s important to use a sorcery-speed answer first, so if they cast Blessing in response you can cast your instant-speed spell in response to that.
  • Leaving back blockers is often an effort in futility since they usually have 6-8 ways to give their Fiend / Cyclops evasion anyways via Artful Dodge and Apostle’s Blessing. It will also slow your own clock down, so generally you’re better off just attacking with everything that reasonably can attack.
  • This is more of a “veteran” move, but you can often bluff your opponent into not blocking your 1/1s that are attacking into their 1/2 or 1/4 creatures. The reason being that these creatures living are of utmost importance to their chances of winning, so it’s unlikely they’ll risk blocking and give you the chance to finish off their creature with a burn spell unless they would die otherwise.

This is a pretty favorable match up overall I find. Game 1 they might get you with a Nivix Cyclops that you can’t deal with, but post-board you get access to a lot more hate including some answers to the Cyclops. Just make sure to keep hands that let you interact with them as much as possible and you should have a reasonably good shot.

Mono Blue Delver / Faeries

The bane of our existence

Overall Match Up Analysis: Slightly Favorable (50-55%)

Mono Blue Delver is considered by many to be one of the most consistent strategies in Pauper. The deck plays an aggro-control game aiming to stick a cheap evasive threat early and both protect it and disrupt the opponent with countermagic on the way to victory. Much of the deck’s popularity is due to the fact that it has reasonable match ups pretty much across the board with any individual opponent being beatable. It can be a very intimidating deck to play against as it often feels like they “have it all” and sequencing your plays/playing around their countermagic is of utmost importance. There are two different directions the deck goes. One is the Faeries version that runs Cloud of Faeries and Spellstutter Sprite along with a more creature-heavy list that’s more tempo oriented while the other is a more permission-heavy version (often referred to as Mono Blue Control) that plays mostly just Delver of Secrets, Spire Golem, and sometimes Sea Gate Oracle or Frostburn Weird as its only creatures. Matches against Delver decks are always very close with a ton of decision-trees and play to them, however the aggressive nature of our deck usually gives us a slight advantage overall.

Cards to bring in: Pyroblast, Flame Slash, Smash to Smithereens, Pyrite Spellbomb

Pyroblast is obviously very good against their Mono Blue deck and gives you an inexpensive way to interact with every card in their deck outside of Spire Golem. Flame Slash is mostly useful for taking out their pesky four toughness creatures like Spire Golem and Frostburn Weird that make it very difficult for you to attack profitably. Smash to Smithereens probably isn’t something you want in high quantities as it often will only hit Spire Golem but they do often have Serrated Arrows against you after board as well (especially if they’re the Mono Blue Control version). Pyrite Spellbomb is an answer to Weatherseed Faeries should you deem such a thing necessary. They don’t always play it and you can win through it even if they do, but Pyrite Spellbomb can certainly make things easier.

Cards to take out: Chain Lightning, Jackal Familiar, Sparksmith

Chain Lightning is mostly inferior to Flame Slash here other than being able to burn them out. Killing their 4 toughness blockers is something that you’ll more likely need to do though, which Chain Lightning cannot do on its own. Familiar can be a bit awkward if they use their tempo spells such as Snap or counterspells on your other creatures. Flunkies has the same problem, though the fact that he can take down a Spire Golem or Frostburn Weird with a Goblin Sledder / Mogg Raider‘s help is still useful. I still like a couple Sparksmiths after board but since they get to bring in Hydroblasts and often Serrated Arrows it’s not nearly as good to stick one as it often is in Game 1 situations.

Cards to be aware of: Hydroblast, Frostburn Weird, Piracy Charm, Weatherseed Faeries

Hydroblast gives them access to a catch-all removal against us in sideboarded games. This certainly does change things quite a bit, though having Pyroblasts of our own to counter back mitigates this to some extent. They’ll likely be bringing in additional Weirds against us. Pyroblast and Flame Slash give us a reasonable number of answers and you can also kill him with a timely Bolt should they try to pump his power. Otherwise treat him like most annoying blockers and swarm around him when it’s reasonable to do so. Piracy Charm is their other removal spell against us and something they also play maindeck at times. They’ll mostly want to be using it on Sparksmith which gives them a very difficult time once active. Goblin Sledder and Mogg Raider as usual can do a very good job of countering this card and if you have a Mogg War Marshal in play alongside them it can look downright silly. Weatherseed Faeries is obviously a very formidable blocker against us thanks to its pro-red. As I said before if you really want an answer then Pyrite Spellbomb is the best option available, however it is possible to just swarm around the Faeries if you’ve gotten them low enough.

General Discussion and Strategies:

  • They can very well be the aggressor in this match up, especially when they are on the play. Often it’s good to err on the side of caution and kill their turn 1 Delver on sight when you are on the draw, as should it flip you may never get that opportunity again.
  • If they play Phantasmal Bear in their list remember that Goblin Sledder/Mogg Raider can target any creature with their activated ability (even your opponent’s). This means you can trade any one of your own Goblins off for the Bear at any point in time should you have a Sledder or Raider in play. If you have a Mogg War Marshal in play this gives you a great deal of value. Sparksmith can also kill the bear without causing you any damage in the process due to the ability being countered by the bear sacrificing itself.
  • Sequencing your plays is very important against this opponent as they are very permission-heavy. Do your best to ensure that your most useful creatures will resolve either by baiting them with another creature or waiting until they tap low to cast them.
  • Sparksmith is a very effective card against them in game 1 where they likely only have bounce spells such as Snap to stop him. If you can sneak him under their countermagic it will create a must-answer threat for them. He loses some value post-board but he still has his uses.
  • Their two most annoying counterspells for us are probably Daze and Spellstutter Sprite. Daze because they can use it even while tapped out (and we are typically tight on mana) and Spellstutter because it’s a walking (or technically flying I guess) 2-for-1 that even alone can hit most of the spells in our deck.
  • It’s often not worthwhile to play around Daze in the early game as you lose a lot of tempo by doing so. Especially if you are on the draw it’s likely they’re going to get a chance to use it against you at some point so you’re better off just hoping they don’t have it rather than delaying your spells by a turn so you have extra mana. Them returning a land can often be a very real setback as well so it’s not all bad if they Daze you. Especially if you are on the play since this means at least one more turn before they’ll be able to drop a Spire Golem.
  • Spellstutter Sprite is something that you should actively try to play around when possible. Remember that its ability checks the number of Faeries they control upon resolution, so if the Spellstutter is their only Faerie and you kill it in response to its ability then your 1 drop will now be able to resolve. If you don’t have an instant speed removal spell then playing a two drop is also a fine way to play around a Sprite should they have no other Faeries in play. If they play Cloud of Faeries and pass with Spellstutter mana open when you’re on the draw then they will probably get a card out of you no matter what (outside of you having Pyroblast). If you have no way to stop them you probably just want to lead with your least valuable 1 drop and then play your better 1 drop after they Stutter the first one.
  • If you have the option to kill either Spellstutter Sprite or Cloud of Faeries, always kill the Sprite so they cannot return it to their hand with Ninja of the Deep Hours
  • If you play Death Spark there are plenty of opportunites to get value out of it when they go for a counter or Spellstutter on your creature.
  • Remember that Goblin Cohort and Mogg Conscripts only require that you cast a creature spell to attack. They don’t say anything about the creature actually resolving, so if your turn 2 play gets hit by a counter you can still feel free to swing away.
  • Like Affinity, they often run no lifegain, so the more damage you can do before they try to stabilize behind Spire Golems and Frostburn Weirds, the better your chances of just swarming them out.

Overall this is a very close match up with a lot of play to it. The die-roll really does matter a lot here too as Cloud of Faeries into Spellstutter is significantly easier to overcome when we are on the play than when we are on the draw. If you can get an early edge make sure to press your advantage. Play around their countermagic when you can afford to do so, but also recognize when you just have to go for it and hope for the best. I find that Goblins is pretty favored to win game 1 and then the sideboarded games are very close (with Delver perhaps being a slight-favorite depending on their sideboard strategy)

White Weenie

This guy may not look like much, but he, along with many other cards used by White Weenie can cause us a lot of grief.

Overall Match Up Analysis: Unfavorable (40-45%)

White Weenie is a more midranged-aggro deck that focuses on playing resilient threats and fliers that can effectively carry Bonesplitter. Many of the cards normally run by White Weenie naturally match up well to the cards run by Goblins which can make the match up difficult at times. Additionally they also have access to many annoying sideboard cards against us. The match up can be tough as White Weenie has many ways to outclass us on the ground and win a long game, but if we can be aggressive enough then their higher creature quality hopefully won’t matter.

Cards to bring in: Electrickery, Smash to Smithereens, Flame Slash, Pilar of Flames, Magma Spray, additional Sparksmiths, Pyrite Spellbomb, Flaring Pain

Electrickery’s usefulness here will depend on the exact composition of their list. Some White Weenie builds are very vulnerable to it, running cards like War Falcon, Icatian Javelineers, Suture Priest, Gideon’s Lawkeeper, and Squadron Hawk while others are more focused on the top-end with larger threats like Razor Golem and Guardian of the Guildpact that largely or entirely ignore the card. Judge whether to bring it in or not based on what you see in game 1. Also be aware that they likely know you are bringing it in and may board out 1 toughness creatures accordingly, lowering its effectiveness. If they only show you Bonesplitter then you probably don’t need to bring in Smash to Smithereens (since them trying to race is exactly what we want anyways in most cases). If however they run Razor Golem then you should probably strongly consider bringing in some Smashes as he can be quite the problematic card for us. Flame Slash is similarly useful for killing Razor Golem while also hitting most of their other creatures too. If you do happen to run Magma Spray or Pillar of Flame in your sideboard then you can do worse than bring them in to take out Loyal Cathar, Safehold Elite, or Doomed Traveler without them getting anything out of it. In such a creature-oriented match up Sparksmith shines so if you have any in the board be sure to bring them in. Pyrite Spellbomb is an answer to any pro-red cards they might run such as Crimson Acolyte but is still fairly effective against most of their other creatures as well. Flaring Pain can let you take out pro-red creatures should they attempt to block your Goblins but more importantly it acts as a counter to Prismatic Strands.

Cards to take out: Chain Lightning, Mogg War Marshal, Goblin Sledder/Mogg Raider

Chain Lightning can come out mostly because we just have better options. Mogg War Marshal is fine but a bit too slow for my liking and they have a lot of creatures that can block him and the Goblins effectively. A couple copies are still fine to set up for a Bushwhacker swarm but drawing a ton of them can really bog down your starts here so you’ll probably only want 1 or 2. Mogg Raider and Goblin Sledder are also fine but similarly to the War Marshal are easily dwarfed in combat. You still want some number of these guys as having one around is important for pushing damage through or trading up against a 2/3 or 3/4 blocker. In multiples they’re fairly bad though as they can’t attack into White Weenie’s blockers very well so at least a few copies can come out.

Cards to be aware of: Prismatic Strands, Crimson Acolyte, Holy Light, Sunlance

Prismatic Strands is a very effective card against us that can lead to some huge blowouts for the unprepared. Flaring Pain is the only way for us to really counter it, other than that we just have to play around it as much as possible. Some WW lists even run it maindeck so you should be aware of it even before sideboarded games. Crimson Acolyte can be an incredibly obnoxious card for us to play against. If you have Pyrite Spellbombs it’s recommended you board them in for this reason as if they have enough of a board position they can just sit back and protect their blockers with the Acolyte, making profitable attacks near impossible. Like the other 1 toughness sweepers you can play around Holy Light just by having a Goblin Sledder or Mogg Raider in play. However even with a Sledder or Raider your creatures are still losing 1 power for the turn so be careful if you decide to enter combat. Sunlance is cheap damage-based removal that they might bring in against us. Sledder and Raider can possibly be used to counter it though that will usually require two Goblins which probably won’t be worthwhile. Mostly you’ll just have to let it happen and move on from there.

General Discussion and Strategies:

  • Icatian Javelineers will usually pick up a free card against you if left alone so try to remove him before playing your 1 toughness guys when possible.
  • If they go for a Journey to Nowhere on one of your Goblins generally you do not want to sacrifice that Goblin to a Sledder/Raider. The reason being that they usually have Kor Skyfisher in their deck which can return the Journey to their hand to play again. If you sacrifice the goblin you are effectively giving them a free removal spell should they draw a Skyfisher. The one possible exception is if you have a Death Spark at the top of your graveyard that you can reuse but even then it may not be worthwhile.
  • If they ever suspiciously pass with 3 mana open you should always expect Prismatic Strands. Play around this card as much as you can as getting blown out by it is a very easy way for you to lose.
  • Conversely 3 mana could also represent Holy Light which also has the potential for blowing you out. Even if you have a Raider or Sledder to save most of your guys if you’ve attacked your 2/2s into their 2/2s things could still go poorly for you.
  • Try to hold off on playing Sparksmith until you feel like they’ve exhausted their removal spells. White Weenie has a very difficult time beating a Sparksmith if they don’t have any removal left over.
  • Once they start dropping Guardian of the Guildpacts you’re often best served to just flood the board with Goblins and wait for an opportunity to create a good Goblin Bushwhacker turn.
  • Similar to the Affinity match up you want to get them on the backfoot as fast possible as they have a much better end game than you. Unlike the Affinity match up however it is possible that they run lifegain with Suture Priest, Seraph of Dawn and Lone Missionary being the most popular lifegain options out of them.

Overall this can be a tough match up due to their higher creature quality and numerous sideboard options. A fast aggressive start is very important here as once they start throwing down Razor Golems and Guardian of the Guildpacts things will go south quickly.

Mono-Green Stompy

Existing solely to make your life miserable.

Overall Match Up Analysis: Even (50%)

Mono-Green Stompy is an aggro deck that relies on cheap green threats as well as an arsenal of efficient pump spells to support those threats. With a curve that’s often even lower than Goblins’ Stompy can have some very aggressive starts. The match up is rather draw-dependent with both decks being able to take the role of the aggressor depending on how things go. The die-roll can also play a part in determining what role each deck will be forced to take.

Cards to bring in: Electrickery, Sylvok Lifestaff, Magma Spray / Pillar of Flame

Electrickery’s usefulness will depend on their configuration but at the very least is should hit Quirion Ranger and the pesky Silhana Ledgewalker which makes it fairly safe to sideboard in. Lifestaff is more hit-or-miss but it can help you win a race or help you survive on the defensive. It’s not something you have to sideboard in but it’s worth considering. Magma Spray and Pillar of Flame are the best ways for you to deal with Young Wolf and Safehold Elite 1-for-1. These are both typically problematic creatures for you to play against so these spells can help a lot in that regard.

Cards to take out: Death Spark, Jackal Familiar/Mogg Flunkies, Foundry Street Denizen, Sparksmith

Electrickery does basically the same job as Death Spark while also being able to hit Silhana Ledgewalker here so that’s a fairly easy swap if you play the Spark. Familiar / Flunkies are awkward blockers here as they can lead you into being blown out by a pump spell. They’re fine on offence though so you don’t need to take all of them out. Against a deck with Young Wolf, Foundry Street Denizen is pretty poor so you often want to board down on them as well. While I’d never advise boarding out Sparksmith completely in this match up boarding out one or two is reasonable on the draw as it’s a card with diminishing returns in multiples and as a 2 mana 1/1 drawing a bunch of them isn’t great if you’re already on the backfoot.

Cards to be aware of: Hornet Sting, Fog/Moment’s Peace, Sandstorm

Hornet Sting is their sideboard removal spell against us. Fortunately we have as many as 8 counters between our Sledders and Raiders so protecting an X/1 isn’t too difficult if we so choose. In fact it’s probably not even correct for them to bring it in, however many players still do. Fog is something they like to board in to race us. There’s not really anything you can do about outside of bringing in Flaring Pain so just play around it as much as you can. If you can afford to leave back blockers to avoid getting blown-out by a Fog and backswing then do so. Sandstorm is their one damage sweeper. Again, Sledder / Raider can mitigate it, and simply not attacking with all of your 1 toughness creatures is another way around it. It’s also not an incredibly common sideboard card since Empty the Warrens was banned, however it’s something to at least keep in the back of your mind.

General Discussion and Strategies:

  • Be aware of Gather Courage as even when they have no mana it’s still possible for them to pay for it via convoke.
  • Watch your life total. While they don’t really have burn spells per se they run 8 pump spells that act as “Fireblasts” between Groundswell and Vines of Vastwood. If you’re not careful these pumps can kill you out of nowhere.
  • Due to their high volume of pump spells you’ll often want to mainphase your removal. If you use your removal during their combat step they can just use a pump and hit you for even more damage.
  • Killing their Quirion Ranger is often a good idea as it will restrict their ability to play multiple creatures in the early turns and may even mana screw them.
  • Often you will want to block and trade as they have a Bloodthirst creature in the form of Skarrgan Pit-Skulk. However they also run Hunger of the Howlpack which is pretty tough for us to deal with so you will also have to take whether you can deal with a Howlpacked creature into consideration too..
  • If they are being suspiciously aggressive it likely means they have Fog in hand and are planning to race you. If you suspect they might have Fog be aggressive enough to make sure they use it but also leave some blockers back so as not to get completely destroyed on the backswing.
  • Protecting Sparksmith from Hornet Sting is generally a good idea, however if you are already on the backfoot it may be better to just let him die as it’s possible you won’t have the life to activate him anyways (and as a two mana 1/1 he’s a very poor blocker).
  • Speaking of Sparksmith, one of the great things about boarding in Sylvok Lifestaff is that you can leverage the lifegain from it into extra Sparksmith activations.
  • Shinen of Life’s Roar can be a pretty big problem when combined with a pump spell as he’ll often wipe out most of our board. If they drop a Shinen you’re going to have to either kill it, or get ready to race.

This match up can go either way and will be draw-dependent much of the time. Just play around their pump spells as well as you can know whether you’re the beatdown or the control.

Mono-Green Infect

Endangered Species Sighting.

Overall Match Up Analysis: Favorable (55-60%) Mono-Green Infect is a strategy similar to Mono-Green Stompy, however it uses Infect creatures in order to only need to deal 10 damage to win. While this makes the deck capable of much quicker wins than Stompy, it comes at the cost of a much lower overall creature quality. To put it bluntly, many of Infect’s creatures are awful but the fact that they can kill you so fast combined with pump spells is what makes the deck viable. With Invigorate no longer legal a lot of their explosiveness has been lost so the match up which was at least reasonable before has now become pretty good for Goblins. Cards to bring in: Electrickery, Flame Jab, additional Sparksmiths As Infect plays mostly 1 toughness creatures Elecktrickery and Flame Jab do a ton of work in this match up. Additionally, Sparksmith is very good here as not only are they relatively threat light, but they are also not attacking your life total so you are free to use Sparksmith as liberally as you want.

Cards to take out: Mogg Flunkies/Jackal Familiar

You want to be blocking Infect as much as possible and these guys are pretty unreliable blockers and can also lead you into a blowout on a double block.

Cards to be aware of: Hornet Sting, Fog, Sandstorm

As a fellow mono-green deck, Infect uses much of the same sideboard cards as Mono-Green Stompy, so refer to that section for discussions of these cards.

General Discussion and Strategies:

  • You pretty much always want to be blocking them as they can kill you seemingly out of nowhere if you do not. In addition to this, blocking will force them to spend their pump spells to keep their creatures alive which in turn means they’re less likely to have enough pumps to kill you later.
  • Always play your removal spells on your own turn (preferably in your second main phase if you want to attack). While it may be tempting to try and wait for them to go for a pump spell or Rancor on their turn and get a 2-for-1 often they’ll have a second pump and they’ll just kill you because you got too greedy. Whiddling down their pump spells by forcing them to trade for removal on your turn is an effective way to stop them from killing you.
  • Always make sure to have a Sledder / Raider in play before dropping Sparksmith when possible. Sparksmith is very difficult for them to beat and since they aren’t attacking our life we can activate it about as much as we want.
  • Make sure not to get blown out by a Fog. Alpha striking when they have an Infect guy on board and cards in hand is usually a risky idea because of Fog.

You can easily win a war of attrition against an Infect deck and cards like Electrickery and Sparksmith give you some great ways to pull ahead. Just play smart, leave enough blockers back so you’re safe from a combination of pump spells, and you should have a good shot in this match up.

Mono Black Control

Those may or may not be Goblin bones.

Overall Match Up Analysis: Even (50%)

Mono Black control was at one point the premier control deck of Pauper but was overtaken by U/R Cloudpost in terms of viability. With Post and Fissure decks removed from the format it is possible that MBC will once again claim the spot as the top control strategy in the format. The deck works by playing numerous spot removal and edict effects as well as hand discard and value creatures like Chittering Rats and Liliana’s Specter that aim to 2-for-1 the opponent. The match up is usually a close one however they do have ways to pull ahead depending on their list configuration.

Cards to bring in: Flame Jab, Sylvok Lifestaff

I don’t make too many changes here but bringing in Flame Jab can be an effective way to combat their discard. If they run a lot of 1 toughness creatures then even better. Death Spark similarly has value against their discard too. Lifestaff can also give you value off of their removal while also letting your 1 power Goblins trade with their various 2/2s.

Cards to take out: Sparksmith, Jackal Familiar / Mogg Flunkies

Sparksmith is fine since they do run value creatures as blockers but you probably won’t need the full set here. Flunkies and Familiar can be awkward since they pack a ton of removal and can often kill the creatures around them to neutralize them. Still though you probably want to keep most of them just so you don’t become too threat-lite.

Cards to be aware of: Crypt Rats, Evincar’s Justice, Shrivel, Echoing Decay, Tendrils of Corruption

Crypt Rats is often their sweeper of choice so try to avoid getting overextending and getting blown out by one of them. Some lists play Evincar’s Justice instead which is pretty good against us too. The good thing about both of these cards (for us) is that they deal players damage too so if we get them low enough on life it’s possible they can’t use them at all. Shrivel is their 1 toughness sweeper and as usual Sledder / Raider does a good job of combating it. Echoing Decay can lead to blowouts for the unprepared. Tendrils provides a lot of lifegain which can make it difficult for you to finish them off. Sledder or Raider can stop the lifegain by sacrificing the target though so keep that in mind.

General Discussion and Strategies:

  • While holding onto your last land to bluff may be fine in general, against a deck that runs Chittering Rats it is not. If you’re in topdeck mode you’d much rather be empty-handed against a deck with Chittering Rats than holding a land you’d have to redraw.
  • Try not to play out too many multiples if you can help it as Echoing Decay is something they often run. If you have a Sledder or Raider to protect yourself from this you might be okay but they can still kill the Sledder/Raider first and Decay later.
  • Mogg War Marshal is obviously one of your best cards against them. Pay the echo as often as possible.
  • If they cast an edict when you have War Marshal in play you should be suspicious of a sweeper. Often just sacking a Goblin token will be the better play than sacking the War Marshal.
  • They have access to some decent lifegain effects between Tendrils, Corrupt, and Spinning Darkness. Sledder and Raider can counter these lifegain effects (other than if Corrupt is targeted at you).
  • Play around sweepers when you can, however if they are attacking your hand then often just playing everything out will be better. Being in topdeck mode isn’t ideal but if you can get them down low enough then sometimes all you need is a burn or a couple of Goblins off the top to finish things off.

B/u Trinket Control

He may not be annoying on his own, but his trinkets will cause you some grief.

Overall Match Up Analysis: Slightly Favorable (50-55%)

Trinket Control is more-or-less a MBC deck that splashes blue for Trinket Mage, Mulldrifter, and perhaps a few permission spells (although there are some lists that are closer to a straight B/U deck). It possesses a stronger endgame than MBC decks typically do, however this comes at the cost of a less consistent deck due to the constraints of running two colors in this format.

Cards to bring in: Smash to Smithereens/Gorilla Shaman, Pyroblast

You’re usually going to want some form of artifact hate here to deal with their Trinket Mage package. The most annoying card in particular is Sylvok Lifestaff while the other targets they may have are [/c]Executioner’s Capsule[/c] and on-color artifact lands (Seat of the Synod or Vault of Whispers). I tend to lean towards Smash to Smithereens here for the 3 damage and because Gorilla Shaman costs 4 mana to destroy Lifestaff which is the most annoying of the cards you’re boarding in hate for anyways. Shaman can be fine too depending on how many artifact lands they run but if you get stuck on two or three lands you’d much rather have Smash to Smithereens. Whether you want Pyroblast or not (and how many) will depend on what they show you. If they’re only running Mulldrifters and Trinket Mages you probably don’t want more than 1 or 2 copies. If they show you other cards like counterspells, other blue draw spells, and Agony Warp then you might want even more copies.

Cards to take out: Death Spark, Sparksmith

Death Spark is pretty poor here – most of their creatures are 2 toughness other than Fume Spitter and Crypt Rats which they can usually use in response anyways. You might be able to grind out some extra damage with it but that’s probably not the game you want to be playing against them. You also probably won’t need the full set of Sparksmiths here, though a couple can still be okay if they get off to a slow start.

Cards to be aware of: Crypt Rats, Evincar’s Justice, Shrivel, Echoing Decay, Agony Warp

A lot of the cards they can board in will be the same as the MBC match up so refer there for the advice. Additionally, Agony Warp is a pretty strong card against us, so try to be aware of it when you are entering combat. Not all lists play it, but it can lead to pretty big blowouts if they do.

General Discussion and Strategies:

  • A lot of the same advice that applies to the MBC match up also applies here, especially things like how to play around Chittering Rats, and Mogg War Marshal being key to out-attrition their removal.
  • A few cards that you may see out of them that aren’t too popular in MBC are Grim Harvest and Undying Evil
  • Grim Harvest gives them a lot of inevitability and in combination with Fume Spitter (and Lifestaff) it can be a pretty huge headache. If you get the opportunity to trigger the Recover when they’re tapped down then it’s usually worthwhile to take it.
  • Undying Evil is something to be aware of when using spot removal on their creatures. Not every list plays it, however if they use it on something like Mulldrifter or Chittering Rats it can lead to pretty huge blowouts in their favor.

I generally find this match up is better for us than straight-up MBC is because they have less lifegain and are a less consistent deck overall. While they still have their fair share of annoying cards like Lifestaff and Crypt Rats if I had to choose between playing Goblins against MBC or Trinket control I’d choose Trinket control every time.

Green White Hexproof

Probably the card you will most often concede on sight to.

Overall Match Up Analysis: Very Unfavorable (40%)

G/W Hexproof is a deck that aims to abuse the Hexproof mechanic by way of playing Hexproof creatures like Slippery Boggle, Gladecover Scout, and Silhana Ledgewalker and arming them with efficient/powerful creature auras such as Ethereal Armor, Armadillo Cloak, and Rancor to create an unstoppable monster. This match up will generally come down to a race and either hoping the Hexproof player doesn’t draw Armadillo Cloak, or draws the wrong halves of its deck (all auras or all creatures). Armadillo Cloak will usually be a card you scoop to on sight but even just a big guy with Ethereal Armor + Rancor can be enough for them to race you without the Cloak.

Cards to bring in: Electrickery, Martyr of Ashes, Raze, Flaring Pain, Gorilla Shaman

Electrickery is only situationally good here, but considering that a lot of your other removal like Death Spark will do nothing other than go to the face it’s not the worst idea to bring them in and hope it works out. It tends to be a lot more effective on the play than on the draw, since on the draw they can put an Ethereal Armor on one of their guys before you ever get two mana to overload it. Martyr of Ashes is your best way to deal with a large hexproof guy with Armadillo Cloak should things go poorly, however it will also decimate your own board in the process so it might not always work out. Raze (and possibly other land destruction) is mostly useful in that it can color screw them. Most lists rely on land auras such as Abundant Growth and Utopia Sprawl to provide their white mana (with just 4 Selesnya Guildgates as their other sources) so blowing up a land with one of these auras might be enough to keep them off of Armadillo Cloak and/or Ethereal Armor and give you a fighting chance. Flaring Pain can be used to stop them from trying to Fog / Moment’s Peace in a racing situation. Gorilla Shaman is something I bring in pretty much as a near strictly better version of Sparksmith (1 mana 1/1 as opposed to a 2 mana 1/1). There are some corner cases where it not being a Goblin can bite you (for instance they can block it with a lifelink creature and you can’t sac it and prevent the lifegain) but since you’re mostly racing it tends to be better to just have a cheaper creature. As you can see, our options are fairly limited in this match up and not even guaranteed to work.

Cards to take out: Death Spark, Sparksmith, other spot removal

Since most of their creatures are hexproof (other than Aura Gnarlid) spot removal like Death Spark won’t do much, and Sparksmith will be mostly a 2 mana 1/1. Keeping in some Bolts to throw at their face is fine but for the most part these will be your weakest cards in the match up.

Cards to be aware of: Moment’s Peace/Fog, Standard Bearer

Moment’s Peace/Fog can let them race you. The only real counter to this is Flaring Pain which may just be too situational to warrant sideboard slots, but if you do play them then go ahead and bring them in. Standard Bearer isn’t something I’d expect them to bring in against us, but if they do it does turn off our Sledders/Raiders so that’s at least something to be aware of if they do bring them in. Most Hexproof players probably won’t though.

General Discussion and Strategies:

  • This match up will pretty much always devolve into a race since we just have so few ways to interact with their strategy.
  • By this token, the best thing you can do is just try to maximize your damage output each turn as much as possible.
  • Remember that you can sacrifice a goblin to a Sledder/Raider to prevent lifegain if they are trying to block with a Cloaked creature. This does not however work if they are attacking thanks to trample.

Elves

Kill this on sight.

Overall Match Up Analysis: Even (50%)

Elves is a tribal aggro/combo deck that looks to capitalize on a critical mass of mana creatures to quickly fill the board and cast Distant Melody to find even more elves. While Goblins possesses a lot of pinpoint removal and Sparksmith which are all very effective against Elves, they still possess a number of annoying cards for Goblins and in any sort of drawn-out game they are likely favored.

Cards to bring in: Electrickery, Flame Jab

Electrickery is obviously very strong against a deck filled with x/1 creatures such as Elves. The one downside is that it gets completely shut off if they play a Spidersilk Armor but the upside of killing 2+ Elves is strong enough that the downside of it being turned off is worthwhile I find. Even just killing the first two Elves they play with it can be a pretty big setback for them. Flame Jab is likewise quite strong at picking off their manadorks and other numerous x/1 creatures and can even go to the face or kill a larger Elf if necessary.

Cards to take out: Death Spark

I usually swap Death Spark for Electrickery straight-up. Both get negated by Spidersilk Armor, but Electrickery can straight-up blow them out while Death Spark is better when you’re trying to be the grindy deck (which you shouldn’t be here) For additional space, some number of Mogg War Marshals, Denizens, or Sledders/Raiders can also go. I find you generally want to stay aggressive in this match up though so you should only be boarding out a few creatures at most.

Cards to be aware of: Moment’s Peace, Spidersilk Armor, Viridian Longbow

Moment’s Peace is probably the biggest one here. Do your best to avoid playing a Bushwhacker into it, other than that there’s not a lot you can do. Not all Elves decks even play it (or play it in high quantities), but if it becomes popular then Flaring Pain becomes a sideboard option. Spidersilk Armor is often maindeck anyways, but if they don’t have it maindeck they’re almost certainly boarding it in against a deck with access to Electrickery. Not a lot you can do about it, just try to get them low before it becomes an issue. The extra toughness is a real pain in the neck for Goblins to deal with. Longbow is another card that gives them inevitability. You can potentially sideboard artifact hate for it, but it’s usually the only artifact they have (and only 1 or 2 copies) so that’s probably not a strategy you want to take. Just realize you’re the aggro deck and do your best to win before Longbow ever becomes relevant.

General Discussion and Strategies:

  • Elves can have a LOT of creatures that you need to deal with as soon as possible depending on their build. To name a few – Timberwatch Elf, Wellwisher, Priest of Titania, Lys Alana Huntmaster, Essence Warden. Because of this it’s important to ration your removal and use it correctly. While “bolting the bird” (killing their mana dork) might be the correct strategy against some decks, I usually find it’s not here because their deck is filled with 1 mana 1/1s that tap for mana. If you spend your only bolt on Llanowar Elves you will feel pretty silly when your opponent plays a Timberwatch Elf later that you can never kill.
  • Of these “must-kill” creatures, Timberwatch Elf is probably the highest on the kill list. The reason being, if they get to untap with it you’ll pretty much never get to kill it (especially if a Quirion Ranger is in play to untap it) since all of your removal is damage-based, and it being around will make combat a HUGE headache for you.
  • Priest of Titania is more something you need to kill early. If they play it as their last card in hand it’s probably not a big deal to let it stick around. If they get it early it can let them chain out Llanowar Sentinels which match up very well against your creatures. Even if it just lets them play out a few more mana dorks and Nettle Sentinels it’s still pretty annoying to see turn 2-3 so it’s usually worth killing it.
  • Similarly, try to save your Sparksmith activations (life) for the creatures that matter. You should get to activate Sparksmith quite a few times against them before you get too low on life but that’s still no reason to spew off activations on cards that don’t matter much to you.
  • Try not to get too greedy with Electrickery. If they have 2 guys in play it will kill that’s often fine enough – who knows, if you let them untap they might just cast Spidersilk Armor and then Electrickery will lose most of its usefulness.
  • As mentioned above, Moment’s Peace is something they might board in so try to time your Bushwhackers correctly.

This match up is usually a close one I find. Elves has a lot of annoying creatures for Goblins to play against, but at the same time they’re prone to starts that don’t accomplish much against our deck and they can also be picked apart by spot removal and/or Sparksmith at times to. To hammer the point home one final time, they have the inevitability here so you want to keep aggressive draws as much as possible. An ideal hand is probably something with a few 2/2s, a removal spell, a Sparksmith, another 1 drop and a couple of lands.

Burn

The nuts and bolts card of the burn strategy.

Overall Match Up Analysis: Even (50%)

Much like its Legacy and Modern counterparts, Pauper Burn is more or less a combo-deck trying to throw as many 3-4 damage burn spells at the opponent’s face as quickly as possible. Because of the fast clock Burn presents, this match up will often come down to racing situations and winning the die-roll can be a pretty big advantage for either side.

Cards to bring in: Sylvok Lifestaff, Flame Jab

Sylvok Lifestaff is an obvious card to bring in as it really trivializes their strategy of trying to chuck 3 damage burn spells at your face when you have Lifestaff in play with a sac Goblin that can trigger it freely. It’s possible that they bring in Smash to Smithereens to blow it up, but at most you’ll have 1 or 2 Lifestaffs so if they want to do that it’s not the end of the world. Flame Jab is mostly just to give you something to do with excess lands, it’s not necessary in this match up by any means though.

Cards to take out: Sparksmith, Chain Lightning

Against a deck that’s trying to burn you out using Sparksmith is a bit of a foolhardy plan. In addition to that, they don’t usually run any more than 12 creatures (4 of which are Keldon Marauders) so it has a minimal effect at best. Chain Lightning can be a liability at times since they can Chain it back at you (giving them a free burn spell isn’t really ideal).

Cards to be aware of: Martyr of Ashes, Electrickery, Staggershock

Martyr of Ashes is their best way to blow you out after sideboarding, so be sure to play around it as much as you reasonably can. If they’re suspiciously doing nothing on their first few turns then that could well mean they’re saving spells to reveal with a turn 3 Martyr. Electrickery is not nearly as effective as Martyr against us but it’s still something to be aware of. Try to keep a Sledder/Raider around before you commit too many 1 toughness guys to the board. Staggershock is another spell that can net them a 2-for-1, while also being able to just go to the face for 4 damage. Something to keep in mind if they try to target one of your creatures is that if the spell doesn’t resolve it won’t get to rebound. Meaning that if they target one of your goblins then you need only sacrifice it to a Sledder/Raider to stop it from coming back a second time.

General Discussion and Strategies:

  • Searing Blaze is probably their single most annoying burn spell to play against since it not only slows us down but also furthers their plan of burning us out at the same time. Unfortunately there’s not really anyway to stop it as even sacrificing the goblin in response doesn’t stop it from dealing you 3 damage. You mostly just have to hope they don’t draw too many of them (or if they do that they can’t landfall too many of them).
  • Unlike the Kiln Fiend/Nivix Cyclops deck it actually is realistic (and often correct) to leave back blockers for Kiln Fiend, since if you don’t they can essentially turn their random Bolts into 6 damage. Something else to consider is how many blockers you want to leave back. Leaving back only 1 will let them turn a Bolt into a Searing Blaze essentially so that’s not really any good either. Sometimes you will want to leave back 3+ Goblins depending on the board state and life totals.
  • It’s often worthwhile to chump block an attacking Keldon Marauders to “gain” 3 life. It’s obviously annoying to have to do so but the 3 life really is relevant (it’s the difference between them having to draw another Bolt or not). Depending on who is ahead it’s possible they can’t afford to swing with Marauders in some games anyways.
  • Ideally you want to play and equip Lifestaff when they are tapped out so they can’t counter the equip with an instant speed burn spell on the target.
  • As mentioned above, Martyr of Ashes is a very real concern post-sideboard so do not play into it when you can help it. If they’re not chucking burn at you the first few turns then it’s possible they’re holding back for a Martyr activation.
  • It’s always a good idea to compare your life total to the number of cards in their hand so you know how likely it is that you might just get burned out on their turn. 11 for instance is usually a safe life total when they have only 3 cards (although a hand of double Fireblast and a three damage spell could still get the job done).

This match up can be pretty die-roll dependent. Both decks are very capable of fast starts, though Burn will more-so assume the control role after sideboarding. The most important thing is knowing when to be aggressive and when to be wary of your life total when playing this match up.

The Mirror

You look strangely familiar.

Overall Match Up Analysis: 50% (Even) So what happens when we’re forced to fight amongst ourselves? Usually the case is that the Goblins mirror match is straight-up war of attrition with Goblins dying left and right and games often dragging on long.

Cards to bring in:Flame Jab, Sylvok Lifestaff, Death Spark, Electrickery, Martyr of Ashes

Flame Jab is one of the best ways to get ahead in the Goblins mirror. Whoever draws more lands will usually be at a disadvantage, however the fact that Flame Jab ensures that every land you draw is at worst a 1 damage spell will put you considerably ahead. Lifestaff is important here to ensure you won’t get burned out in a war of attrition. Lifestaffing up your Goblins will make it incredibly difficult for your opponent to race you and also leads to some pretty ridiculous life totals if both sides have one. Death Spark while probably not quite as good as Flame Jab still has a lot of value here, letting you pick off their Sledders and Raiders. Electrickery is fine but you shouldn’t expect it to be more than a 1-for-1 trade most of the time. Martyr of Ashes can lead to pretty big blowouts against the unprepared.

Cards to take out: Sparksmith, Chain Lightning

Sparksmith is pretty much at his worst here as he counts all Goblins, not just your own. This means that every activation is going to take huge chunks out of your life total and unless you’re already way ahead you usually can’t afford this in the mirror. In addition he’s a 2 mana 1/1 which is a terrible rate if you’re on the defensive and not great on offence either. Chain Lightning is only good early in the mirror as late game they will very likely have extra mana to Chain it back at you.

Cards to be aware of: See “cards to bring in”

General Discussion and Strategies

  • It’s possible that you want to choose to be on the draw in the mirror just because it’s so attrition-based. The one wrinkle in this plan is if the opponent has a 2/2-heavy hand it can give you a lot of trouble, but it still may be worth the tempo loss to start a card up.
  • There is some argument to be on the draw in the mirror since it’s so based on attrition, however I often trend towards being on the play as a start of multiple 2/2s can be very difficult to beat on the draw, especially if you don’t draw your own 2/2s.
  • Flame Jab is by far the best trump for the mirror. If you really want to have an edge in the mirror then bringing in some number of these will give you just that. The easiest way to lose the mirror is by flooding/running out of spells, and drawing Flame Jab ensures that will never happen to you. If you board in Flame Jab it’s usually correct not to play out anymore than 3 or 4 land and hold the rest in hand in anticipation of drawing Flame Jab. We don’t have any expensive spells so the extra lands aren’t doing anything for us in play anyways.
  • If your opponent is playing the early turns suspiciously (i.e not playing guys out) then they could very well be running Martyr of Ashes in their list and trying to bait you into over-extending.
  • Mogg War Marshal is among the best cards you can draw in the mirror. As I said the mirror is largely about attrition and what better than a card that can act as a 3-for-1?
  • By this token it’s possible the lists running Goblin Matron can get an edge in the mirror by way of having tutor effects for War Marshal. The Matron is however a 3 mana 1/1 and spending your turn to cast one could be risky if you are already behind on board and require more than just a 1/1.
  • Be careful if you start trying to race as a Goblin Bushwhacker can quickly swing the race out of your favor.
  • If you’re on the defensive you generally want to be trading whenever possible so as to limit the number of Goblins they have in play to Bushwhack you with.
  • While siding in artifact hate for opposing Sylvok Lifestaves might seem like a good idea you probably shouldn’t bother. Sylvok Lifestaff will be your only target so if they don’t draw it you’ll end up with a dead card boarding in Smash to Smithereens or a sub-optimal creature boarding in Gorilla Shaman / Goblin Tinkerer.

Overall the mirror leads to some very grindy, attrition-based games. Flame Jab is the best way to gain an edge and Lifestaff can help you survive when you’re on the backfoot, however as with most mirrors it will be fairly draw-dependent and sometimes they will draw 3 Mogg War Marshals over the course of a game while you see none. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.

Sample Decklists

Goblins:
by Chris Davis

Lands (17)
16 Mountain
Teetering Peak

Creatures (35)
Goblin Arsonist
Goblin Bushwhacker
Goblin Cohort
Goblin Sledder
Jackal Familiar
Mogg Conscripts
Mogg Fanatic
Mogg Raider
Mogg War Marshal
Sparksmith

Spells (8)
Chain Lightning
Death Spark
Lightning Bolt
Sideboard (15)
Goblin Tinker
Ingot Chewer
Pyroblast
Raze
Sparksmith
Sylvok Lifestaff

Matron Goblins:
by Signal

Lands (18)
18 Mountain

Creatures (42)
Goblin Arsonist
Goblin Bushwhacker
Goblin Cohort
Goblin Sledder
Goblin Matron
Mogg Conscripts
Mogg Raider
Mogg War Marshal
Sparksmith Spells
Death Spark
Flame Slash
Lightning Bolt
Sylvok Lifestaff
Sideboard (15)
Electrickery
Flame Slash
Flaring Pain
Gorilla Shaman
Pyroblast
Smash to Smithereens
Sylvok Lifestaff

Goblins
by DromarX

Lands 17 (0)

Mountain (1)
Teetering Peaks

Creatures (57)
Foundry Street Denizen
Goblin Arsonist
Goblin Bushwhacker
Goblin Cohort
Goblin Sledder
Mogg Conscripts
Mogg Raider
Mogg War Marshal
Sparksmith Spells
Death Spark
Flame Slash
Lightning Bolt Sideboard
Electrickery
Flame Jab
Flaring Pain
Gorilla Shaman
Pyroblast
Sylvok Lifestaff
Smash to Smithereens

Resources

Watch Channel Fireball’s own Pauper connoisseur Chris Davis run a (somewhat unconventional) Goblins list through a Daily Event: http://www.channelfireball.com/articles/channel-cdavis-pauper-daily-event-24/

Compiled data from Pauper Daily Events and the cards played by the most popular archetypes: http://www.mtgo-stats.com/stats/Pauper

The Goblins Page on MTGO Stats. Check here for decklists and to see what the most popular cards for the archetype are: http://www.mtgo-stats.com/archetypes/Pauper/R

Pauper’s Cage Podcast. Specifically check out Pauper’s Cage #2 which discusses Goblins. The information is somewhat dated but still useful: http://www.mtgcast.com/topics/mtgcast-podcast-shows/active-podcast-shows/pauper-cage-podcast

Alex Ullman (StarCityGames’ Pauper Writer) on Goblins: http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/misc/24834-Goblins-In-Pauper.html

Written by
Jason Kiesling (DromarX)
Dromar the Banisher
The Official Dragon of Casting Commons