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Modern Budget Goblins by Nate Slover

My name is Nate Slover, you may recognize me  from my work as the designer of most of the Roguedeckbuilder Playmats. I’m very excited to start writing for Rogue Deckbuilder. I’ve been playing Magic on and off since I was in middle school. My brother got his hands on a box of old Magic cards from a friend. The box was full of bad commons and uncommons from Fourth Edition and Ice Age. We didn’t totally understand the rules, built terrible decks and played a version of Magic with these classic cards. That was my first experience with the game and it was awesome. I remember playing with several friends each day at recess in our middle school courtyard with our cards scraping directly on the cement. This was well before anyone would use card sleeves or playmats. This was well before the Internet was a resource to find Magic articles or deck lists. It was before podcasting and YouTube. We just played with the junk we had in random boxes. We couldn’t understand how Necropotence was good. We just jammed giant monsters like Shivan Dragon and Craw Giant. It was a simpler time.

My group of friends played a little bit through High School but when I went to college, I was able to play for the first time at a local game store with several new friends. I began playing Standard and drafting with new sets. It’s an awesome experience to go to a pre-release event for the first time with over fifty players crammed into the game store. Everyone was super excited to talk about the new cards and mechanics. I really enjoy that through Magic, I have an easy opportunity to meet new people.

My favorite constructed formant is Modern (aside from the abomination called Lantern Control). It’s a very healthy and diverse metagame. Without Brainstorm, Force of Will and Wasteland dictating most of the format, Modern is wide open. The top eight of many tournaments will often include at least five different decks. Rogue brews will frequently make strong finishes as long as they don’t just die to a turn four Splinter Twin. More decks are being added to the format all the time. Aggro, control and combo decks are all well represented and the format allows players to play what they enjoy.

One downside to an otherwise awesome format is that Modern is getting more expensive. This is a chart that was taken from a great article called Legacy and Modern Deck Price Comparison by Sheridan Lardner. Sheridan is a writer that focuses on Modern and posts for This financial data was posted July 27, 2015 so now it may be slightly off but is still a good ballpark figure for pricing out a tier one Modern list.

Modern Tier One Deck Prices: Baseline

Deck Overall Price Average Card Price
Jund $1,922.47 $18.75
Affinity $759.41 $9.68
Burn  $594.24  $7.13
Grixis Control $1,188.10 $13.48
Grixis Twin $1,229.10 $13.94
UR Twin $1,311.72 $15.72
RG Tron $800.51 $11.99
Abzan $1,918.67 $19.05

The takeaways from this chart:
1. Average Modern deck price: $1,215.53
2. Average Modern card price: $13.72

$1,215 is a big investment to start in any format. I think that having budget alternatives for players that want to get started in Modern is important to help the format grow and stay healthy. The average Legacy deck price is $2,729.36, which is still much higher than the most expensive Modern lists.

If you’re looking to play Modern for under $150, it’s certainly possible. There are even some lists that I see that are under $50. These range from very goofy, glass cannon combo decks to hyper aggressive creatures decks. Don’t expect to win any major Modern events but you could do well or even win at smaller Friday Night Magic events at your local game store. Many of these budget decks are playing cards that established lists aren’t necessarily prepared to answer.

Generally, what makes Modern expensive revolves around the price of fetch lands and shock lands. With some very clear exceptions, most all decks play only a few basic lands. Three color decks like Jund or Abzan play as many fetch lands and shock lands as they can. This means that your deck’s mana base makes up the majority of your expense. An easy way to work around this is to limit yourself to a single color. There are established mono color decks that are within tier two and have a shot at winning major events.

My favorite budget deck for Modern is mono red Goblins. No need for spendy fetch lands or a fancy mana base. My current list cost about $200, which is $1,000 less than the average tier one Modern list. This is certainly not tier one but a great way to start playing the format and crush players that aren’t prepared for hyper aggressive decks. Here’s the list.


Goblins is a hyper aggressive creature deck that consistently kills your opponent on turn four if they are not able to answer your steady stream of threats. It can also sometimes deal twenty damage by turn three. Goblins certainly won’t push out Affinity or Burn as Modern’s top aggro decks but it can still be very competitive.

Modern Goblins plays much differently than Legacy Goblins. Even though Goblin Piledriver was recently added to the format, the Legacy Goblins list can’t simply port over to Modern. There are too many pieces that are not Modern legal. Most notably are Goblin Lackey, Goblin Matron, Goblin Ringleader, Wasteland and Rishadan Port. In Legacy, the Goblin deck plays the control role. The Goblin player stalls the opponent’s mana with Wasteland and Rishadan Port and is able to deal with their threats while massing a large board presence that eventually overwhelms them. In Modern, it’s all about Goblin Guide leading the charge. The deck isn’t trying to be cute but it does more synergy than many aggressive decks.

There are a few cards that encourage a player to go all in on Goblins. Goblin Grenade is the biggest one. Five damage for a single red mana is very strong and very scary. Even when your opponent thinks they are safe at ten life, it can be game over as long as there are a couple goblins left on the board. Goblin Grenade is the largest factor in pulling off turn three wins. Your opponent is forced to respect it. Five damage gives you a lot of reach at the end of the game. I would not recommend running any less than four copies. Initially, I tested three but it’s the card you want to see to easily finish out a game. Very rarely is it correct to point your Goblin Grenade at a creature. It’s possible that if you’re staring down a giant lifelinking monster like a Baneslayer Angel or Wurmcoil Engine, you’ll need to spend your Goblin Grenade to stay in the game. Hopefully you’ll be able to win the game before those large threats can make it into play.

Goblin Chieftain is the best and only real lord available in Modern. Goblin King is reasonable but much slower. I wouldn’t recommend running any copies of Goblin King. Mountainwalk could end up being very powerful in some matches but generally giving your whole team haste is exactly what this deck is looking for.

Both Goblin Bushwhacker and Shared Animosity fill a similar role. Each of these lords help pump your 1/1 goblin tokens into real threats. They each do their job slightly differently but each is very effective in creating highly swingy turns. Many times on turn three you’ll be able to attack for at least ten damage. This is primarily thanks to the power level of your lords.

I choose to play eight token creating effects, which is more than most other lists that I’ve seen online. With Goblin Chieftain in play, each Dragon Fodder now makes four power for two mana instead of just two power. Additionally having more token makers help to turn Foundry Street Denizen and Goblin Piledriver into constant large threats. Foundry Street Denizen is very similar to Wild Nacatl. It almost always has at least three power. Some turns more. Extra tokens turn on battalion for Legion Loyalist. They are perfect fodder for Goblin Grenade. They make Shared Animosity into a terrifying top deck. If the game runs long, the extra tokens also give the singleton Krenko, Mob Boss some extra juice to finish out the game. I choose to play a full playset of both Dragon Fodder and Krenko’s Command over Mogg War Marshall. I briefly play tested with Mogg War Marshall and never paid the echo cost once. It’s just slower than the other token producers. Mogg War Marshall is outstanding in Legacy Goblins because the way it interacts with both Aether Vial and Goblin Warchief. For now, I don’t recommend Mogg War Marshall in Modern over Dragon Fodder and Krenko’s Command.

Legion Loyalist is secretly one of the most powerful creatures in the deck. It looks so innocuous but it is the greatest Raging Goblin ever. Battalion is so easy to trigger. The first time you get to attack in and give your whole team first strike and trample, I’m positive that you will become a believer. Foundry Street Denizen, Goblin Piledriver and Shared Animosity all love this little guy. Legion Loyalist also laughs in the face of Lingering Souls. Very efficient token producers like Lingering Souls usually are a huge roadblock for creature decks like this. But Legion Loyalist simply allows you to swing right past them.

Goblin Piledriver was recently added to the format with the release of Magic Origins, which was very exciting for the Goblin deck. This card is a serious lightning rod for removal simply because if your opponent is not able to remove your Goblin Piledriver, it gets out of hand very quickly. A lot of the time it will be attacking with at least two friends and at least five power. This card is the real deal but I don’t think on its own it has the power to push Goblins into tier one. It certainly hasn’t yet. The removal in Modern is just too strong and nearly every deck will have some kind of answer.

Even the mono blue Merfolk decks commonly play Dismember in the mainboard. Protection from blue is usually most relevant to swing past any merfolk, Delver of Secrets, Snapcaster Mage, Deceiver Exarch and Vendilion Clique plus some fringe, archetype-specific cards like Slippery Bogle, Master of Etherium and Mistbind Clique. It also dodges Vapor Snag and Electrolyze. Not a very exciting or long list but it has potential to be significant in some match ups. Currently I’m playing three and am very happy with that number. I could see any list running between two and four copies.

Unlike in Burn, Lightning Bolt is typically used to remove creatures so your goblins are able to get through for damage. Since the beginning of Modern, Lightning Bolt has been the gold standard for all removal. Don’t play less than four copies.

Most likely you’ve noticed that Cavern of Souls is missing. Currently Cavern of Souls is about $40. I wouldn’t run more than two in this list since it can’t cast Lightning Bolt or Goblin Grenade. If you have a bigger budget or want to improve the list in the future, I’d recommend adding a fourth Goblin Guide and up to two copies of Cavern of Souls.

Currently I’m running nineteen lands, which with testing seems like the right number. I have a single Teetering Peaks, which is a card that I’ve always been a fan of. I wouldn’t run another land that enters the battlefield tapped to avoid awkward hands but Teetering Peaks effect is strong enough to warrant it as a one of in my list. It’s another card that synergizes nicely with Legion Loyalist. I’ve even considered cutting a Mountain for another one drop. Cutting a land is risky since this deck wants to hit land drops on turns one through three to maximize the number of possible plays each turn.

I hope this has been a good introduction to my budget version of mono red Goblins for Modern. I’m certainly not the only one trying to make Goblins a viable deck for Modern. There is a group on MTG Salvation that is constantly testing multiple versions of the deck and discussing results from small and large events. That’s a great resource if you want to see what others have already tried and are currently trying.

Modern is a great format and there are many budget brews that are even more affordable than most Standard decks and competitive enough for any local Friday Night Magic scene. I’ll be back to discuss more specific metagame strategy, sideboard options and cards that were considered but didn’t make the cut. Thanks for reading. Happy brewing!

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