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Modern Budget Goblins Part 2, by Nate Slover

This is my current budget mono red Goblins list for modern.

I introduced the list in my previous article. If you haven’t read that article, it is a good starting point to understand the cards that made it into the deck. I also briefly discussed the average cost to buy into a tier one Modern deck. Established Modern decks generally cost about $1,215. This Goblin deck is about $200 not including any sideboard cards. I believe Modern is an awesome wide-open format that is perfect for affordable rogue brews to compete. (If you’re interested, that article can be found here:

I’ll start with a list of cards that may have been considered but did not make the final cut. It doesn’t mean that these cards are unplayable in Modern. I really like most of the cards on this list but space is tight when the goal is to create a highly consistent aggressive deck. Against combo decks, this deck generally is just trying to win the race. That means there is no room for cute combos or clunky one-ofs.

I think the only card that skirts the line is the singleton Krenko, Mob Boss. You truly live the dream if you curve out with a Goblin Chieftain on turn three followed by Krenko, Mob Boss on four. Giving Krenko, Mob Boss haste allows him to activate immediately which will create a mini army of 2/2 goblins that also have haste and get to swing in with whatever other creatures you have in play. This will most likely end the game very quickly. Without haste, Krenko, Mob Boss can be slow and is susceptible to Lightning Bolt and most other cheap forms of removal in the format.

Krenko, Mob Boss does have the power to bring you back into grindy games that should be unwinnable for super aggressive decks. If your opponent does not draw into removal and leaves Krenko, Mob Boss unchecked, they will be overrun by goblins within a couple turns. My list does run eight token producing effects, which makes Krenko, Mob Boss an attractive top end for the curve. I wouldn’t recommend playing more than one copy unless you’re trying to create a midrange deck that plays the control role similar to the Legacy version of Goblins.


In this aggressive version of Goblins, there are a couple other four drop creatures that I’ve considered to replace Krenko, Mob Boss. The most tempting is Hellrider. Like Krenko, Mob Boss, Hellrider gets hit by all the same efficient removal but the upside to Hellrider is that it comes with haste built-in. Krenko, Mob Boss must rely on Goblin Chieftain for speed. Whenever Hellrider or another creature simply attacks, they are each guaranteed to get through a point of damage. This can end a game before blockers are even declared. Hellrider is weak on its own but gets real scary when there is even a decent board presence. Down the line, this single four drop slot will be tested more. I’d love to test Hellrider, Hero of Oxid Ridge and Purphoros, God of the Forge. I think they are all viable options to be the stand alone four drop. I’d love to give these lackluster Standard cards a shot to shine in Modern.

Goblin Rabblemaster is a very strong creature. It’s another card that could possibly take the spot of Krenko, Mob Boss. I think it’s certainly powerful enough to see play in Modern. Going into combat on the turn after you cast Goblin Rabblemaster, it will have made two goblin tokens and be attacking in with at least four power. Goblin Rabblemaster is a very powerful three drop but also very risky. Forcing all your other goblins to attack in each turn can lead to tough board states that benefit your opponent. In many games the drawback won’t hurt. Most of the time, this deck wants to end the game very quickly by attacking aggressively every turn but being blown out by the text on your own card feels so bad. I’ve seen other lists online that use both Simian Spirit Guide and Desperate Ritual to ramp into powerful three drops like Goblin Rabblemaster.

Goblin Rabblemaster
Landing Goblin Rabblemaster on turn two is certainly a tempting plan. I’m unsure if using ritual effects to get a turn ahead would be consistent enough to face established Modern archetypes. It also leaves you down on cards when you spend cards in hand to ramp and have your Goblin Rabblemaster immediately removed by single mana removal like Lightning Bolt. Overall, Goblin Rabblemaster is a high risk card but can reward players that are willing to go all in on it.

Mogg Fanatic was first printed in 1997. It helped rock the 1998 World Championship tournament tables alongside Jackal Pup, Ball Lightning and Fireblast. It’s impressive that this humble one drop would even be considered for current aggressive decks. Modern has many popular and powerful X/1 creatures. Mogg Fanatic matches up favorably against Delver of Secrets, Snapcaster Mage, Vendilion Clique, Grim Lavamancer, Dark Confidant, Noble Hierarch, Birds of Paradise, Young Pyromancer, Pestermite, Glistener Elf, Blighted Agent, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Abbot of Keral Keep, and Signal Pest.
Mogg Fanatic

This is certainly not a complete list. There are easily another fifteen creatures that could be listed from both upper tier and fringe decks. It is also important to know that between Lightning Bolt and activating Mogg Fanatic, you can take care of a Deceiver Exarch while Splinter Twin is on the stack. If my list shifted to be slightly slower or more controlling, I would consider playing a non-zero number of Mogg Fanatic. Initially I tested him but I want my one drops to hit harder. Both Goblin Guide and Foundry Street Denizen can each deal up to six damage when they are played on turn one. Even though sometimes Legion Loyalist is just a fancy Raging Goblin, it has the potential to make every other creature on my board much more deadly. For now, Mogg Fanatic will be on the sidelines.

Spikeshot Elder is another one drop worth considering. His ability plays similarly to Mogg Fanatic. The major advantage for Mogg Fanatic is that his ability activates for free at instant speed. The ability on Spikeshot Elder is very strong in general but incredibly slow and mana intensive for a fast format like Modern. Through the course of the game, this list will max out on three or four mana sources in play. It would rarely be right to spend three mana to ping a single creature for one damage over deploying a worthwhile threat from hand. Lord effects like Goblin Chieftain and Goblin King make this card stronger but don’t push it over the edge of playability. I like this card for Cube but it doesn’t make the cut here.

Spikeshot elder

Warren Instigator is Modern’s version of Goblin Lackey. In my previous article I briefly explained how Goblins is usually played in Legacy. The Legacy deck has existed since the release of Onslaught block. It came to life with the printing of Goblin Piledriver, Goblin Warchief, Gempalm Incinerator, Goblin Sharpshooter and Siege-Gang Commander all entering the Legacy format. Mirrodin added Aether Vial to the mix and Goblins quickly became the dominant strategy in Legacy. The Goblin deck is aggressive but also plays the control role by stalling the opponent’s mana with Wasteland and Rishadan Port. The Goblin player is also able to deal with the opponent’s threats while massing a large board presence that eventually overwhelms them. With the printing of cards like Deathrite Shaman and Stoneforge Mystic, Goblins has a hard time competing in the current Legacy Metagame. These cards shut down the power level of a turn one Goblin Lackey. Both Deathrite Shaman and Stoneforge Mystic are both rightfully banned in Modern but even with Goblin Piledriver being added to the format, the Legacy Goblins list can’t simply port over to Modern. There are too many pieces that have not been reprinted in Modern legal sets.

Like many powerful cards, both Goblin Lackey and Warren Instigator let you cheat on mana. Both of these goblins incentivize a higher curve with creatures like Goblin Matron and Siege-Gang Commander which both have very strong enters the battlefield effects. At two mana, Warren Instigator is unfortunately too slow and fragile for an all in aggressive strategy. Most of the time if Warren Instigator connects with an opponent, you’ll only be cheating one drops into play. That does not excite me. The current two drops in the list that Warren Instigator is competing with include Goblin Bushwhacker and Goblin Piledriver along with a full play set both of Dragon Fodder and Krenko’s Command. Both Goblin Bushwhacker and Goblin Piledriver are very aggressive threats that swing on turn three for incredible amounts of damage. Consider this normal sequence of plays.



On turn three attack with four creatures for eighteen damage. It’s very likely that your opponent will have had at least some kind of interaction with your creatures but simply being able to attack for eighteen damage on turn three is absurd. The closest comparison in my mind for Modern is attacking with a lethal infect creature by turn three.

Even if Goblin Lackey was legal in Modern, I would not include it in this kind of deck. I’d have to skew my mana curve pretty dramatically to support adding Warren Instigator. Without it in play, I’d end up staring at a few lands in play and hand of clunky four and five drop value creatures. Siege Gang Commander is legal in Modern but the other goblins that are worth cheating into play off Warren Instigator aren’t. Through a strong series of reprints on the level of Goblin Piledriver, Warren Instigator might have a shot in Modern but not now.

Goblin Wardriver is another two drop that might be considered but has a hard time competing with the power level of both Goblin Piledriver and Goblin Bushwhacker. Goblin Wardriver suffers from being a slow two drop like Goblin Piledriver. The upside of Goblin Wardriver is not high enough to overcome the downside of a Runeclaw Bear sitting alone on the board with no army to pump. It’s true that alone Gobline Piledriver is only a Squire but the upside on it is high enough to force the opponent to respect its power level. Goblin Bushwhacker also fills the same roll as Goblin Wardriver but is much faster and aggressive.

Hordeling Outburst is another card that could slot in for Krenko, Mob Boss since it fulfills a similar function. I’m hesitant to include Hordeling Outburst since the other three drops in the list pack a serious punch. Compared to Goblin Chieftain and Shared Animosity, Hordeling Outburst is just three dudes seriously. Taking turn three to cast Hordeling Outburst makes that turn much less impact than it needs to be in an aggressive list like this one. Many times turn three is when you’re looking to get in for a huge amount of damage so the game can be closed out on turn four with either a Lightning Bolt or Goblin Grenade.


Goblin Heelcutter is another reasonable aggressive three drop with a useful ability to consider. Being able to swing your team past a monster like Baneslayer Angel or Wurmcoil Engine could easily be the difference between winning and losing. Dash is an added bonus as it synergizes with Foundry Street Denizen plus the number one goal each turn is to attack with as many goblins as are in play. Haste is still one of the most powerful evergreen abilities.

Frenzied Goblin is another creature that functions similarly to Goblin Heelcutter. Both are going to be relatively mana-intensive throughout the course of a game. If this is an effect that you want in your list, include creatures with the effect built-in instead of packing instants or sorceries. This deck wants creatures in play. Cards without power and toughness don’t play well with Goblin Bushwhacker, Shared Animosity, Goblin Piledriver or Krenko, Mob Boss.

There are certainly many other cards that I considered when building this budget list but I think these that I covered will give you a good picture of the kinds of cards that shine in any Modern Goblins deck. I’ll be back in a few weeks to discuss further testing, metagame strategy and sideboard options. Thanks for reading. Happy brewing!

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