Gobbopacalypse Now

“I love the smell of Goblin Grenades in the morning. It smells like, victory”

Lt. Colonel Killmore, Goblin Infantry

You need to be a certain type of crazy to play with Goblins, and you’d have to be even crazier to play it in Pioneer. But personally, that’s just my type of crazy. I have been biding my time online, waiting for the spark that would ignite the fire not only in me but in the Pioneer format as a whole, and I think that time is near.

Lady’s and gentlemen, I apologize for the absence on my blog, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me and yourself for not being in the mood for competitive Magic the Gathering much over the past year or so. I just want to have fun, and there haven’t been many formats, let alone decks that have screamed as loudly as Pioneer Goblins that they are a blast to play. Today’s deck is not only fun, but also incredibly budget minded, rewarding to play, and exciting. If you’re looking for a deck to try out when paper Pioneer starts in your area in the future, consider building “Gobbopacalypse Now”!

Click here for a more detailed description of each card: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/4166736#paper

Small Beginnings

Magic players have gotten a lot of great cards to brew with in the last few standard sets but sadly Pioneer hasn’t had near the number of eyes needed to find all the hidden gems in the format. In other eternal formats maybe less than a handful of cards from a new standard set will find their way in, but in Pioneer there are so many more that have a home, and I’ve said as much on The First Pioneer’s podcast which I co-host. Some of these cards I’m going to talk about today saw some play in Pioneer towards the start of the format in decks like Chonky Red (Goblin Chainwhirler) and some still see limited play in decks like Winota (Rabblemaster) but by and far most of these cards are seeing the light of day for the first time in this format.

Now I’m not going to lie. I got this idea from the Arena version of the deck at first but wanted to adapt it to Pioneer. While the arena looks to combo out with cards like Muxus and goblin lords as fast as possible, this deck looks to win in a variety of ways. Pioneer goblins can now be a go wide strategy, an aggro strategy, or a combo strategy depending on what the situation requires. This is thanks in no small part to this new card: Hobgoblin Bandit Lord.

It’s hard to believe, but Pioneer does NOT have a goblin lord yet. Sure we have goblin matters cards, but nothing to help buff our brawly little red friends. Hobgoblin might not be as good as Goblin Chieftain from M12 and earlier, but I’ll take whatever I can get. Aside from the buff, the other ability is also incredibly relevant when deciding which goblin cards to play in this deck. You tap him and a red mana and you can deal damage to ANY target equal to the number of goblins that came into play this turn. I checked multiple sources and this also includes any goblins that might have died prior to you playing the Bandit Lord this turn. That means that the Gobbo Combo from Arena still works: Skirk Prospector and Conspicuous Snoop.

One way this deck will win is by playing Prospector into Snoop and just doing your best imitation of Goblin storm until you have put enough into play to deal however much damage you need to do to your opponent with Hobgoblin Bandit Lord. Also, keep in mind that if you have a Snoop in play you need not play the Hobgoblin and can just activate the ability with Snoop instead if you have lethal.

But what if your opponent is onto your scheme and tries to derail this strategy by killing your Snoop or Hobgoblin? Well in that case you can go the go wide strategy. Simple goblin cards like Goblin Instigator, Battle Cry Goblin, and Reckless Bushwhacker are great ways to pump up your team even if you don’t have a Lord in play, and if you have a Goblin Warchief in play you can even play them all on the same turn!

What I really like about this strategy is the new 2 mana goblin they printed in Adventures in Forgotten Realms. The first ability is what sold me on Battle Cry Goblin. You can pay two mana to create a reoccurring Bushwhacker effect that pumps your team and gives them haste. Having 8 Bushwhacker effects is pretty darn good if you ask me, but when you tack on the Pack Tactics ability, you can continuously replenish your battlefield presence with limited worry about over reaching and getting your board wiped. Think of it as a Bushwhacker meets Rabblemaster. Speaking of Rabblemaster, you’re probably wondering why I decided not to play it in the mainboard. While I might be wrong on this later, hear me out as I explain why I like Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin in this deck.

No, I honestly wasn’t trying to emulate the Arena deck card for card, but when I tried out Rabblemaster main it just seemed too slow. This deck wants an explosion of goblins all at once in order to take full advantage of Hobgoblin Bandit Lord. I’ve already shown you how we can pump up our goblins multiple ways in my go wide strategy, so you can believe me when I say attacking with even a 3/4 hasty Krenko is pretty darn good. With one Bushwhacker or Battle Cry, you get a total of 3 goblins from a Krenko attack which in turn you can use to snipe something with a Bandit Lord if you want. He might not scale up as quickly power wise as a Rabblemaster does, but I do think Krenko has potential.

While we’re on the topic of scaling up quickly, Goblin Piledriver can get out of hand incredibly quick, especially if you have multiple buffs from Bushwhacker or Battle Cry Goblin. While susceptible to early removal like Fatal Push, the protection from blue is not entirely irrelevant. Once on the ground it can’t be removed by a Teferi or any blue bounce spell, and can attack into cards like Niv Mizzet Reborn with no problems. However the biggest problem that both Piledriver and Krenko are going to run into is the fact that they can be blocked all day by a lowly 1/1 creature.

Legion Loyalist

To get around this I added in Legion Loyalist and Embercleave. I wasn’t using Embercleave at first but after having my big goblins get blanked again and again in testing I figured it was necessary for this type of strategy. It becomes incredibly easy to activate if you’re going wide, and also makes your big threats game ending attacks if not dealt with. Legion Loyalist is rather pricy but if you want a way to make blocking incredibly difficult for your opponent you’ll need this little Boros bugger. The first strike is relevant when you’re attacking with 3 power creatures most of the time, but the trample is incredibly useful for cards like Goblin Rabblemaster, Krenko, and Goblin Piledriver. Relying on Embercleave could be dangerous, but depending on which cards you already own I could see making an audible for Cleave instead.

The only other thing I’d like to briefly touch on is the mana base. At only 20 lands you’ll probably have to mulligan aggressively to get the hands you want with a Prospector to ramp you up quickly or enough creatures to go wide with, but you don’t too many lands slowing down a Snoop storm. I have Castle Embereth in here as a supplementary power buff, and Mutavault in here as well to add to the goblin numbers as well as give you some reach against more controlling decks. Seeing as we’re only playing 20 lands and probably only going to have 2-3 lands in play at a time, it seemed like a great place to try out the new AFR land, Den of the Bug Bear.

Perfect card for Goblins. A mana sink if you flood out somehow, a big beater if you need to hit a little harder, and also a man land and token maker all in one. If you told me we would get a pseudo Rabblemaster on a land a few years ago I would have told you to shut up and that you’re crazy. But now I Squee-ing like a Goblin Nabob at how good this card is.

The Sideboard

Pioneer is an ever changing and ever evolving format and I can’t say this is the defacto best set up for the metagame, but I think it’s a good start. Some of it came from the Arena deck, and other parts from my testing.

  • Redcap Melee = quick, efficient removal to get rid of big stupid creatures like the type that mono green stompy has. Maybe I should try the new 2 mana one from AFR tho?
  • Goblin Cratermaker = extra removal if you need it for creatures or a way to take out artifacts.
  • Roiling Vortex = Gotta stop those GW angel decks or other life gaining cards. This is a game of numbers!
  • Goblin Chainwhirler = I HATE 1/1s gumming up the ground, don’t you? Especially mana dorks.
  • Goblin Rabblemaster = destroying control decks since M15.
  • Goblin Trashmaster = Whether you need more power or just want to destroy more artifacts, he’ll take out the garbage.

Well that’s all I have to say about the deck today. If you have the time I suggest sleeving it up and checking it out at your local game shop if you’re vaccinated, and if you have any tips or suggestions of your own I’d like to hear them! I know goblins has had some other earlier versions in Pioneer so I’d love to know what worked and what didn’t with them! If you want to talk more Pioneer, be sure to check out my weekly podcast! You can listen to it in the link I posted above or join or Discord or Twitter to talk more about it!

The First Pioneers Discord: https://discord.gg/SBRF8DH

The First Pioneers Twitter: https://twitter.com/MtgPioneer