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Budget Magic: $99 (13 tix) Rakdos Unearth Goblins (Modern, Magic Online)


Dumêlang, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Modern Horizons is here, which means it's time to see what sweet new budget-friendly options Magic's newest set enables in Modern! This week, we're trying out a very different take on Goblins: Rakdos Unearth Goblins. While we've played 8 Whack Goblins in the past, 8 Whack is basically an all-in aggro deck looking to win on Turn 3 or 4. Today's deck is a much slower, grindier take on Goblins. Rather than winning quickly, we're looking to grind out value by tutoring up a ton of one-of Goblins, with the help of Goblin Matron, and potentially reanimating our best Goblins once they die, with the help of Unearth. Can a slower card-advantage-heavy version of Goblins compete in Modern on a budget? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Rakdos Unearth Goblins

The Deck

Rakdos Unearth Goblins is essentially a Goblin tribal deck, but rather than being an aggro deck like 8 Whack Goblins, it's more of a midrange build of Goblins. Instead of trying to kill our opponent as quickly as possible, we're looking to grind out value and card advantage with Goblin Matron to tutor up a ton of powerful one-of Goblins as well as Unearth to fight through removal and trusting that our endless stream of value will be enough to pick up the win in the late game. 

Probably the biggest challenge in writing about the deck is that we've got a million one-of tutor targets that we hope to find with Goblin Matron in situations where they would be especially powerful, so we'll start by talking about the core of the deck (our four-ofs) and then move through all of the one-of tutor targets.

The Core

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Goblin Matron is the centerpiece of Rakdos Unearth Goblins and the reason why our deck is stuffed full of one-ofs. The idea is that while Goblin Matron isn't all that powerful on the battlefield, it does add a Goblin body to the board while also tutoring up whichever of our 14 Goblins is best in a given situation. Worst case, we can always Goblin Matron for another Goblin Matron to slowly build a board and put off the decision about which of our one-ofs to find until the next turn. Think of Goblin Matron as Elvish Visionary in Elves, except that for the cost of just one more mana, you get to draw your best Goblin every turn, instead of a random card off the top of your deck!

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It just so happens that many of our best Goblins are two or three mana, which makes Unearth especially powerful in our deck. Getting back three mana's worth of creature for just a single mana is a great deal, essentially making Unearth into a weird sort of ramp spell that requires creatures in our graveyard. Thankfully, with cards like Pashalik Mons, Siege-Gang Commander, Goblin Grenade, and Skirk Prospector, we have plenty of ways to get creatures into our graveyard for value, so that in the mid-game, we usually have one or more good Unearth targets. Plus, if Unearth is bad, we can always just cycle it away to draw a new card. Along with offering good value, Unearth is also a part of a really strange Goblin ramp package that is also central to our deck...

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The other four-ofs in our deck are Skirk Prospector, Mogg War Marshal, and Goblin Instigator. Apart, these cards are all fine additions to our deck, with Skirk Prospector giving us a sacrifice outlet for Unearth and Pashalik Mons, while Mogg War Marshal and Goblin Instigator put multiple Goblin bodies onto the battlefield to support cards like Goblin Chieftain and Krenko, Mob Boss for just two mana. However, when these cards are combined together (with Unearth thrown into the mix for support), they have the potential to make a lot of mana really quickly.

With a Skirk Prospector on the battlefield, Mogg War Marshal actually generates an extra mana when we cast it by giving us three Goblins that we can sacrifice to make one mana each, while Goblin Instigator is essentially free since we get back two mana if we sacrifice both Goblins. With Unearth able to reanimate either Mogg War Marshal or Goblin Instigator, both cards turn into powerful rituals, allowing us to flood the board with Goblins to overwhelm our opponent and maybe even pull off a weird Aristocrats-style combo kill, with the help of cards like Pashalik Mons and Siege-Gang Commander

The combination of being good in the early game by adding a bunch of on-tribe bodies to the battlefield, good in the mid-game as ramp, and then good in the late game by enabling a combo finish makes Skirk Prospector, Mogg War Marshal, and Goblin Instigator some of the better cards in our deck.

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When it comes to closing out the game, Goblin Chieftain is our primary plan. The three-drop not only gives all of our other Goblins +1/+1 but also haste, which is especially helpful with some of our one-ofs (like Krenko, Mob Boss, which can often steal games if it can come down and tap immediately to make a bunch of Goblins). Thanks to Goblin Matron, it's sort of like we have eight Goblin Chieftains in our deck since we can tutor them up at will, and Unearth helps to keep the powerful lord on the battlefield through our opponent's removal.

The One-Ofs

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Starting our parade of one-of Goblins are a bunch of removal Goblins. Mogg Fanatic gives us an additional one-drop that can take down various Infect creatures, many of the most playable Humans, and mana dorks like Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch. Munitions Expert is usually a Hero's Downfall in the mid-game, when we have enough Goblins on the battlefield that it can take down almost any creature or planeswalker for just two mana at instant speed. Meanwhile, Goblin Chainwhirler is great against cards like Lingering Souls or Young Pyromancer that would otherwise be really annoying for our deck to beat since they add so many bodies to the battlefield for a low cost. 

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Legion Loyalist offers another way to get through cards like Lingering Souls and Young Pyromancer by making it so our opponent can't chump block our Goblins with their tokens. It also generally makes combat difficult on our opponent. Trample makes it impossible for our opponent to chump block with small creatures, and first strike can force our opponent into making some painful trades in combat.

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Goblin Bushwhacker and Goblin Trashmaster give us some backup lords. While we are very much not 8 Whack (more like One Whack), there are times when we happen to draw a bunch of Mogg War Marshals and Goblin Instigators, flood the board with 1/1 Goblins, and then tutor up Goblin Bushwhacker to force a ton of damage through out of nowhere. Meanwhile, Goblin Trashmaster gives us an expensive lord with the upside of being devastating against decks like Affinity, Whir Prison, Hardened Scales, and the new Urza, Lord High Artificer decks running around. Having just a single Mogg War Marshal with a Goblin Trashmaster on the battlefield allows us to blow up three artifacts, which is often enough to beat an artifact-centric deck all by itself. 

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Krenko, Mob Boss is the perfect finisher in Rakdos Unearth Goblins. The downside of Krenko, Mob Boss is that it costs four mana and doesn't do anything right away, which means it often just dies to removal before doing anything. However, thanks to Goblin Chieftain, Krenko, Mob Boss is an absurdly powerful tutor target in our deck. If we have a Goblin Chieftain on the battlefield, we can tutor it up with Goblin Matron, make a ton of Goblin tokens immediately, and likely win the game (since all the tokens are 2/2s with haste thanks to Goblin Chieftain). If we don't have a Goblin Chieftain, we can tutor for something more immediately impactful.

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Our other plan for winning the game is an Aristocrats-esque combo kill featuring Pashalik Mons and possibly Siege-Gang Commander as well. Pashalik Mons is basically a Judith, the Scourge Diva for Goblins, dealing damage as our Goblins die. This gives us some amount of protection from wraths and targeted removal, and in conjunction with a bunch of Goblins and a sacrifice outlet, it can often drain our opponent out of the game without any combat damage required. Speaking of sac outlets, while Skirk Prospector is the most efficient, Siege-Gang Commander is the most powerful. With a Pashalik Mons on the battlefield, each Goblin we sacrifice to Siege-Gang Commander ends up being a Lightning Strike, and it usually doesn't take many Lightning Strikes at our opponent's face to close out the game.

Spells

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Rounding out the deck are a couple of burn spells. Lightning Bolt gives us an efficient way to deal with creatures in the early game that can go to our opponent's face in the late game if we are a few points of damage away from lethal, while Goblin Grenade is simply too powerful to pass up in a deck full of Goblins. Apart from offering a massive five damage for just a single mana, thanks to Unearth, Pashalik Mons, and expendable Goblins like Mogg War Marshal, sacrificing a creature usually isn't much of a downside and, in some cases, is actually a benefit of Goblin Grenade (for example, we can cast Goblin Matron, tutor up a Goblin, sac Goblin Matron to Goblin Grenade to deal five damage, and then Unearth Goblin Matron to tutor up another Goblin, which ends up being five damage, two tutors, and a 1/1 Goblin body left on the battlefield for just five mana!).

The Sideboard

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Our sideboard is mostly more Goblins. Goblin Chainwhirler comes in against token decks and other go-wide small-creature strategies. Munitions Expert is for bigger creatures and planeswalkers. As for Goblin Cratermaker, it's a great answer to artifacts and small creatures while also taking down Karn, the Great Creator, which is quite important in our current Modern format.

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Akki Blizzard-Herder probably looks strange in our sideboard, but it's our janky, Goblin-y, budget-friendly way of dealing with Tron. Thanks to Skirk Prospector, we can (hopefully) cast Akki Blizzard-Herder on Turn 2, sacrifice it to Skirk Prospector, and make both players sacrifice a land. Thanks to all of our cheap Goblins and weird sources of mana like Skirk Prospector, going down a land doesn't usually hurt us too much, while killing a Tron land can be huge, often slowing down the opponent by a turn or two.

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Tormod's Crypt comes in to fight the new Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis deck, Dredge, and basically any other degenerate graveyard strategy (although you probably shouldn't bring it in against Snapcaster Mage decks or other fair-ish decks that have some graveyard synergies), while Duress is great against both combo and control, giving us a way to pick answers or combo pieces from our opponent's hand for just a single mana.

Wrap-Up

Rakdos Unearth Goblins was great. Not only did we go 5-0 in our matches, but apart from a spicy Slivers build, we played a lot of tier decks, including two UW Control decks, Esper Death's Shadow, and a Goryo's Vengeance / Through the Breach deck, giving us a good cross-section of the format, with aggro, control, and combo. Goblin Matron is a huge deal for the tribe in Modern. The ability to tutor up a bunch of silver-bullet Goblins when they are good opens up all kinds of possibilities. We won some games with our one-of Goblin Bushwhacker, some with Pashalik Mons, and some with Krenko, Mob Boss. Being able to find them in situations when they are good without playing a bunch of copies and ending up with them cluttering up our hand when they are bad was key to the deck's success.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, it's clearly good enough as-is, although there are a couple of interesting tutor targets that could be worth adding to the deck. Tarfire gives us a Shock that we can snag with Goblin Matron, while Warren Weirding offers a clean answer to bigger creatures. Whether or not these tribal spells are better than the options we already have access to (like Munitions Expert) is up for debate, but both spells are fairly efficient and offer types of removal that our deck is currently lacking. There are also a ton of other powerful Goblins, ranging from Goblin King as a backup lord to Goblin Rabblemaster and Legion Warboss. If you have a pet Goblin that you really want to play with, Goblin Matron makes it possible to slot a copy into the deck and find it as needed.

All in all, Rakdos Unearth Goblins felt like a surprisingly solid budget option for the Modern format. While it is a Goblins deck, it plays a lot differently than 8 Whack, so if you're tired of the all-in aggro assault, Rakdos Unearth Goblins offers a grindier, more long-game approach to the tribe. Even better, outside of the mana base, the deck is ultra-cheap and also offers a solid upgrade path toward an even more optimal Goblin tribal build with Aether Vial. If you like tribal decks but get bored with just turning creatures sideways and hoping for the best, Rakdos Unearth Goblins might be the perfect budget Modern deck for you!

Getting Rakdos Unearth Goblins down near $50 is easy: we just trim back on the lands, with Blood Crypt and Dragonskull Summit turning into Evolving Wilds and more basic lands. While adding a tapped land is annoying, it's not the end of the world. And since the Goblins themselves are so cheap, there isn't really another way to get the deck down in the ultra-budget price range. That said, you might already have Blood Crypt and Dragonskull Summit from your Standard collection, so the build of the deck we played in the videos might actually be cheaper for you to put together than the price tag suggests.

It seems like we aren't the only one working on Goblins with Modern Horizons cards. Bobthebuiler24's build is based on the same theory as our budget build—using the Goblin tutor to play a ton of powerful one-ofs—but takes things to the next level with a much more expensive mana base, including Cavern of Souls and Aether Vial to cheat Goblins into play even faster. If you're looking to upgrade the budget build, this seems like a good starting point. If you have to choose just a single upgrade, start with Aether Vial. It's one of the core pieces of Legacy Goblins and extremely powerful in the deck.

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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