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Goblin Tribal Is Back! (Exclusive Core Set 2019 Preview)

Dominaria was an amazing and classic Magic set, overflowing with nostalgia and somehow also feeling new. However, since there were so many cool things stuffed into one set, some of the themes were a bit underdeveloped. Take, for example, the Goblins. Skirk Prospector, Goblin Warchief, and Siege-Gang Commander gave the tribe some really powerful reprints, and Goblin Chainwhirler might be the best card in the entire set, but even with these additions, there simply weren't enough Goblins in Standard to build a true tribal deck. Instead, we saw Goblins showing up in other decks (like Goblin Chainwhirler and Siege-Gang Commander in various red aggro decks) or in semi-tribial decks like Goblin Gift, but building actual Goblin tribal simply wasn't possible because there are only 13 Goblins in Standard, and most are unplayable draft fodder. Perhaps the biggest missing piece for Goblin Tribal in Standard was a Goblin lord. Well, if you're a fan of Goblins, I've got some good news for you in the form of a super-sweet Core 2019 spoiler Wizards was awesome enough to gift to us (thanks, Wizards!): take a gander at Goblin Trashmaster.

That's right. Starting with Magic 2019, we'll have a true Goblin lord in Standard, which very likely means that Goblin Tribal will be a thing! So, let's talk a bit about Goblin Trashmaster. First off, it's four mana, which is a bit expensive for a lord. We haven't seen a ton of four-mana lords break out in Standard in the past, but there's a pretty good chance that Goblin Trashmaster will be different because the go-wide token-producing nature of the Goblin tribe makes Goblin lords much more powerful than other lords. Second, it gives all of our Goblins +1/+1, which is a pretty amazing ability in general but especially powerful with cards like Siege-Gang Commander and Goblin Instigator that put multiple Goblin bodies onto the battlefield. Third, it has some sneaky upside by allowing us to sacrifice a Goblin to destroy an artifact.

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While the ability to sac a Goblin to destroy an artifact might seem like a weird, random, and not-that-powerful ability, it's actually pretty insane in our current Standard for a couple of reasons. Most obviously, there are a ton of powerful artifacts near the top of the Standard format. Bomat Courier, Walking Ballista, Karn, Scion of Urza, Heart of Kiran, and Scrapheap Scrounger all come in among the 20 most played cards in Standard, so Goblin Trashmaster letting us sac a random Goblin token to blow them up is a huge deal. Secondly, the ability gives us a second Goblin-themed sacrifice outlet (alongside Skirk Prospector), which is especially important for a deck like Goblin Gift that really wants to kill its own creatures for value to get them back with God-Pharaoh's Gift.

The combination of a meaningful upside, the generally high power level of lords in Goblin decks, and the fact that we already have several very strong Goblins in the Standard format (with more likely to come in Core 2019) more than makes up for the fact that Goblin Trashmaster is four mana. Oh yeah, and unlike some recent lords we've seen, Goblin Trashmaster isn't legendary, which makes it easy for a deck to play it as a four-of without a major downside. As such, there's a pretty reasonable chance that Goblin Trashmaster will beat the four-mana lord odds and end up a very good card in Standard. Take, for example, this rough draft of Goblin Tribal (which is likely to get better as Core 2019 spoilers continue to roll out):

Even with only a few Core 2019 cards previewed, the Goblin curve looks surprisingly good. Skirk Prospector, Rigging Runner, and Fanatical Firebrand have already proven themselves as Standard-playable one-drops, Goblin Instigator is basically a slightly better Dragon Fodder, and Dragon Fodder has long been the glue that holds Goblin Tribal decks together. Plus, at the top end of the curve, we get Goblin Chainwhirler—probably better known as the best creature in Standard—along with Siege-Gang Commander, which is absurd with Goblin Trashmaster, offering a massive nine power and toughness across four bodies for just five mana if we have our lord on the battlefield. Speaking of our lord, Goblin Trashmaster fits perfectly in our curve by filling out the four-drop slot, which is one of the weakest slots in the deck. Even better, the combination of Siege-Gang Commander, Goblin Barrage, and Lightning Strike means we have a ton of direct damage to finish off the game if our opponent manages to stabilize with blockers or by sweeping away our board. 

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While the deck looks pretty solid right now, it will likely be even better in the future. Not only will we likely get a couple more good Goblins in Core 2019 to replace weaker cards like Wily Goblin and Goblin Warchief, but it's also important to remember that Standard is rotating in a few months, and nearly all of the best red cards will leave the format. While Goblin Tribal might not be as good as Mono-Red or Red / Black Aggro right now, once Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Bomat Courier, Earthshaker Khenra, and friends leave the format, it's very possible that Goblins will be the best Goblin Chainwhirler deck in Standard, and being the best Goblin Chainwhirler deck is a pretty good place to be.

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Of course, there's some chance that Goblin Chainwhirler gets banned, but as strange as it sounds, that might not be the worst thing for the deck. While Goblin Tribal would love to play Goblin Chainwhirler, it also really doesn't want to play against Goblin Chainwhirler, which kills almost half of our creatures for free. While Goblin Trashmaster does provide some protection by making all of our 1/1s into 2/2s, Goblin Chainwhirler still has the potential to absolutely devastate Goblin Tribal. All this is to say, if Goblin Chainwhirler does end up getting banned, Goblin Tribal would be just fine—and arguably even better!

While more of a short-term plan thanks to rotation, Goblin Trashmaster is amazing in Goblin Gift as well. The idea here is pretty simple: we play a ton of Goblins, sacrifice them to loot through our deck (and fill our graveyard) with Gate to the Afterlife, and then tutor up our God-Pharaoh's Gift to reanimate our Goblins and win the game. At first glance, Goblin Trashmaster might look weird as a sacrifice outlet because we need an artifact to target to be able to sacrifice anything, but the deck solves this problem naturally with Gate to the Afterlife. After we get down Goblin Trashmaster with a bunch of Goblins, we can simply target our own Gate to the Afterlife with Goblin Trashmaster's ability. If we maintain priority, we can do this a whole bunch of times, sacrifice our board, loot to stock our graveyard, and then sacrifice Gate to the Afterlife to find God-Pharaoh's Gift before any of the Goblin Trashmaster triggers actually resolve!

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More importantly, Goblin Trashmaster gives us a really solid backup plan: if we can't win with Gate to the Afterlife and God-Pharaoh's Gift, we can just play a bunch of Goblins, pump them with Goblin Trashmaster, and beat our opponent down like a strange version of Goblin tribal. 


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Since I know this will come up, let's take a quick minute to talk about Goblin Trashmaster in Modern: it's not likely to work. In Modern, the Goblin tribe has multiple three-mana lords like Goblin Chieftain and Goblin King, and even these lords don't show up in Goblin decks all that often, which makes it somewhat unlikely that Goblin Trashmaster will make the cut, at least as far as main decks are concerned. However, there is a chance that Goblin Trashmaster shows up in sideboards. We've seen Tuktuk Scrapper show up in sideboards in the past as a way to deal with artifacts, and Goblin Trashmaster could serve a similar role in Modern Goblins, coming in against decks like Affinity and Lantern Control to steal games. Otherwise, if you're playing a deck like 8 Whack or even an Aether Vial build of Goblins, it's probably better to leave Goblin Trashmaster in the sideboard. 


All in all, Goblin Trashmaster has potential to be very good in Standard. While four mana is a lot, if there's any tribe that can support a four-mana lord, it's Goblins, thanks to their unique ability to go wide. Plus, blowing up artifacts is very relevant in our current Standard format thanks to all of the overpowered Kaladesh-block cards that will still be in the format for the next few months. If you're a fan of Goblins and tribal decks, this is the Core Set 2019 you've been waiting for!

Anyway, that's all for today. Big thanks to Wizards for hooking us up with a super-sweet preview card! So, what do you think of Goblin Trashmaster? How good will Goblin tribal be in Standard? Does it have any hidden potential that I'm missing? What Goblins should we be looking for throughout the rest of Core Set 2019 spoiler season to power up the deck? Let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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