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Budget Magic: 12 Whack Goblins | $77 | Modern


Cześć, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! When people ask me what Modern budget deck is most competitive, I usually point them to one of two decks: budget Burn or 8 Whack Goblins. A lot has changed in Modern over the past few years and months, so today, we're going to see if 8 Whack still has the power to compete in Modern thanks to the addition of a new "whack" in Battle Cry Goblin! When Battle Cry Goblin was spoiled, I didn't pay much attention to it. It looked like a fine Standard card if there were enough Goblins to support it. But after dying to it repeatedly in Standard 2022, I decided it was worth investigating more. If you squint a little, Battle Cry Goblin's activated ability is basically the same as Goblin Bushwhacker's or Reckless Bushwhacker's enters-the-battlefield ability, giving our team haste and +1/+0 (assuming all of our creatures are Goblins, which they are). This basically makes it another "whack," with the downside that it costs four mana to do it all in one turn but the upsides that it makes a Goblin token as we attack and that if we have enough mana, we can activate it multiple times in a turn! Can 8 Whack..er...12 Whack compete in 2021 Modern? How good is Battle Cry Goblin? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: 12-Whack Goblins

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The Deck

12 Whack is a tribal aggro deck. The goal is to flood the board with cheap Goblins; use our "whacks" (Goblin Bushwhacker, Reckless Bushwhacker, and now Battle Cry Goblin) to pump them and get in as much fast damage as possible; and then finish the game with burn, like Goblin Grenade and Lightning Bolt!

The Whacks

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Goblin Bushwhacker and Reckless Bushwhacker are the eight traditional "whacks" in our deck. While they are both worded slightly differently, with one having kicker and the other surge, they play the same: when we surge / kick them, they give our team haste and +1/+0 with their enters-the-battlefield ability, which allows us to hit our opponent for a lot of damage on Turn 2 or 3, assuming we can build a board beforehand. Goblin Bushwhacker is the better of the two since we can always just kick it for two mana. Reckless Bushwhacker requires us to cast another spell in the same turn to surge it, which usually isn't a problem since we have a ton of one-mana cards in our deck, but this does mean the earliest we can get its "whack" effect is on Turn 3.

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Battle Cry Goblin is the new addition to our "whack" package, with its activated ability being eerily similar to the enters-the-battlefield ability of our "whacks." Sure, it only impacts Goblins, but that's fine since all of our creatures are Goblins anyway. The biggest downside of Battle Cry Goblin is that it's slower than our other "whacks." Playing and activating it all in one turn requires four mana (although we can run it out for two mana and activate it the following turn). But it has some huge upsides as well since it can create a Goblin token when it attacks, thanks to pack tactics, and once it is on the battlefield, we potentially can activate it multiple times in the same turn for a double whack. Unchecked, it has the ability to build a board all by itself with its token-making ability, giving us a way to rebuild our board after a sweeper when a game goes long. Heading into our matches, I mostly wanted to try our Battle Cry Goblin to see if it might be good enough in the deck. After playing the deck, I'm convinced it's not only good enough but actually one of the more powerful cards in our deck!

One-Drops

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For our "whack" plan to be effective, we need as many creatures on the battlefield as possible. The more creatures we have, the more powerful Reckless Bushwhacker, Goblin Bushwhacker, and Battle Cry Goblin become—which means we're playing a ton of one-drops. Ideally, we'll start with a one-drop on Turn 1, play two more on Turn 2, and then follow up on Turn 3 with another one-drop and play a "whack" to push through a ton of damage. On one hand, this means all of our one-drops are fairly interchangeable—we need a bunch of them, and we don't especially care what they are. On the other hand, each of our one-drops has a different upside.

Last time we played 8 Whack, Goblin Guide was way too expensive to play in the deck, but it's been reprinted enough times now that we can run it and still have our total deck price come in at under $80. It offers the most immediate value on Turn 1. Legion Loyalist helps us fight through token blockers, and the combination of giving trample and haste to our team when we attack with a big board makes blocking difficult for the opponent. Foundry Street Denizen is usually attacking for two or three on Turn 2 thanks to our ability to flood the board with cheap red creatures. Mogg Fanatic gives us a bit of extra reach and is great for sniping things like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Dragon's Rage Channeler, and mana dorks on Turn 1.

Two-Drops

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Thanks to the addition of Battle Cry Goblin, we don't have as much room for two-drops as we did in the past. We still have Mogg War Marshal because adding two bodies to the battlefield with one card is extremely powerful with the "whack" plan, but we now only have a single copy of Goblin Piledriver. Protection from blue isn't especially important at the moment (most of the good blue creatures in the format fly anyway, so Goblin Piledriver can't block them), although on the right board, Goblin Piledriver can deal a ton of damage thanks to its ability to pump itself based on the number of attacking Goblins we have. There are times when we play a Goblin Piledriver into a "whack" with a Legion Loyalist on the board for trample and basically just one-shot our opponent with a massive attack.

The Reach

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Last but not least, we have our burn spells: Lightning Bolt and Goblin Grenade. While both can remove blockers if necessary, the true power of our reach package is that it allows us to get our opponent down to eight or 10 life with our creatures and then finish off the game with direct damage, if our opponent manages to play enough removal or blockers to stop our creature-beatdown plan. Goblin Grenade specifically is an absurd card, offering five damage for a single mana and sacrificing a Goblin (which is rarely an issue in our deck), which is super far above the curve. For an example of its power, check out the match we played against Jund Death's Shadow. 

The Mana

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In the past, one of the easiest ways to lose with 8 Whack was to draw too many lands. But thanks to Battle Cry Goblin and Castle Embereth, drawing a fourth or fifth land is no longer a death sentence for 12 Whack. If we don't have anything better to do, we can spend our mana pumping our team, which isn't super exciting but is much better than nothing. We're playing a full playset of Castle Embereth as flood protection, although every once in a while, we get punished by drawing an opening hand with multiple Castles and no Mountains. Still, their power makes it worth the slight risk.

Playing the Deck

In general, the goal of 12 Whack is to get the opponent's life total low enough that we can kill our opponent with Goblin Grenade and Lightning Bolt as quickly as possible. While there are certainly games where we deal all 20 damage with our creatures, it's more common that we deal somewhere between 10 or 15 damage with our creatures and then finish the game with burn. As such, in general, you want to prioritize whatever play offers the most damage over the first three-ish turns of the game. 

Speaking of Burn, we really want to be throwing it at our opponent's face if possible, although there are times when we need to spend Lightning Bolt or even Goblin Grenade to kill a blocker so we can keep attacking. Most of the time, I try to hold onto the burn for as long a possible and then use it once our opponent's life total is low enough that we can burn them out all in one turn.

Remember that Reckless Bushwhacker needs us to cast another spell in the same turn to be surged for the "whack" effect. Because of this, if we have a Reckless Bushwhacker in hand, it's often a good idea to try to hold onto a one-drop for Turn 3 so that we can play it into a surged Reckless Bushwhacker

Battle Cry Goblin is an interesting card to try to manage. If we have a land-heavy hand, it can be worth holding it until we get to four mana so we can play it and immediately activate it, although if we're light on lands (which is pretty common since we only have 19), it's fine to run it out on Turn 2 to set up for a whacking the next turn.

Wrap-Up

All in all, we went 4-1 with the deck, only losing to Grief Blade in a super-close match where our opponent twice managed to stabilize the board with things like Serra's Emissary and Solitude the turn before dying. Otherwise, we managed to smash Jund Death's Shadow, run over Mill, take down The Rock, and even fight through Burn, which can be a tricky matchup since endless Lightning Bolts have the potential to keep our battlefield clear of creatures.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck now that we've played some games, I don't think there are any. The deck felt great! If I were going to record matches with it now, I'd play exactly the same list, minus maybe a small sideboard change or two.

As for Battle Cry Goblin, I wasn't sure how good it would be in the deck, but now I'm fully convinced that it's great. There were a couple of times where it felt slow, but there were also times where it was the best card in our deck, and its ability to generate repeatable value won us games that we otherwise would have lost. I think it's more than deserving of the title "whack" and of a spot in the deck.

So, should you play 12-Whack Goblins in Modern? I think the answer is still yes. Even in 2021 Modern Horizons 2–fueled Modern, the deck feels like one of the most competitive budget options in the format. If you're looking for a budget deck that has the potential to 5-0 a league or win and FNM, 12 Whack Goblins is a top-tier option. 

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Getting 12 Whack down to $50 is easy, although we have to cut Goblin Guide, which is cheap enough for a $100 budget deck but not a $50 ultra-budget list. For replacements, we go with a 2/2 split of Frenzied Goblin as a way to get past blockers and Goblin Instigator as another way to flood the board with creatures. While Goblin Guide is great in the deck, it's not essential. The ultra-budget build should still be pretty competitive.

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Finally, for our non-budget build, the non-land cards in the main deck stay the same, although we do get a meaningful upgrade to the mana base where Sunbaked Canyon and Fiery Islet offer additional protection for flooding out. We can also play Arid Mesa and Sacred Foundry, which allow us to play Path to Exile in the sideboard as a hard removal spell for big creatures like Death's Shadow and Murktide Regent.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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