Magic 2013 was a fairly unremarkable core set that carried two minor claims to fame. It was the first core set (and until this summer, the only one) to contain a multicolor Planeswalker—in the form of one Nicol Bolas—and it was the first core set to contain original legendary creatures. The latter captivated me, and I built decks around Talrand and Krenko almost immediately. My initial draft of Talrand did nothing but disappoint and was soon dismantled. (A sentence that’s somewhat baffling when I look back at it now, but I was still very new to commander at the time.) Krenko on the other hand was an entirely different animal.

My initial list was nowhere close to ideal, and I knew that going in. Most of the deck consisted of random commons and uncommons with a small handful of rares I’d pulled out of my binder and other failed decks. There were changes and upgrades I wanted to make to it, but I figured I’d run with the initial version for a few weeks and then put in a card order.

It was wildly overpowered.

A lot of what I’m about to say comes down to the fact that my playgroup didn’t have anyone with a dedicated control deck at the time, as well as a somewhat low overall power level. Krenko’s ability is so powerful that when surrounded by even modest support it has the potential to outrace and entire table of eight. Of course this is balanced by the inherent vulnerability of such a strategy, but with a general hatred of board wipes in the group and few spot removal spells Krenko was king.

What all of this meant is that I had no reason to make changes to the deck. I tweaked a few things from time to time—I remember swapping Hematite Talisman for Hordeling Outburst when Tarkir released—but for the most part the deck sat in my box and only came out when we all decided to play our best decks.

That was six years ago though, and my playgroup has changed substantially. Games are far more likely to be three players than seven or eigh, but more importantly everybody is playing at a relatively high power level. My friend’s Balthor deck sometimes table kills by turn four or five, and while combo finishes that fast are rare it isn’t uncommon to see players blowing up the world with Pernicious Deed on every single turn or stealing every creature in play by abusing Gilded Drake and Astral Slide. Old Krenko wasn’t cutting it anymore, and after looking at some of the new goblin cards from M19 I decided it was time to take Krenko back to the drawing board.

For reference, this is the list that I started with.

Commander: Krenko, Mob Boss

Creatures: Adaptive Automaton, Goblin Warchief, Hellrider, Mogg War Marshal, Moggcatcher, Ogre Battledriver, Preyseizer Dragon, Purphoros, God of the Forge, Reckless Bushwhacker, Siege-Gang Commander, Skirk Fire Marshal, Clickslither, Voracious Dragon

Spells: Burn at the Stake, Dragon Fodder, Goblin Rally, Goblin War Strike, Haze of Rage, Hordeling Outburst, Krenko’s Command, Massive Raid, Mob Justice, Roar of the Crowd, Trumpet Blast

Enchantments: Boggart Shenanigans, Fervor, Goblin Bombardment, Impact Tremors, In the Web of War, Kyren Negotiations, Quest for the Goblin Lord, Rage Reflection, Shared Animosity, Warstorm Surge

Artifacts: Thousand-Year Elixir, Lightning Greaves, Eldrazi Monument, Umbral Mantle, Illusionist’s Bracers, Coat of Arms, Konda’s Banner, Skullclamp, Sword of the Paruns, Magewrite’s Stone, Sol Ring, Caged Sun

Lands: Flamekin Village, Goblin Burrows, 37 Mountains, Valkut, the Molten Pinnacle

My goals with this rebuild are simple: increase the deck’s speed, power, and consistency. In short, bring him back up to the same level as the other heavyweight decks that have surpassed it in the past year or two.

My first goal in that direction is also simple: get Krenko to activate sooner. At its core the reason this deck has so much potential is that Krenko’s ability functions exponentially. While any deck rewards you for ramp and streamlined opening hands, here the reward is many times greater. If you can start tapping krenko on turn four instead of turn five, and he makes three or four tokens with the first activation instead of one or two; that tiny starting difference will multiply several times over in just a few turns. So we want Krenko out fast, and if possible we want him to activate the turn he comes into play.

To that end:



11 Mountains, Goblin Burrows, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Caged Sun


Darksteel Citadel, Great Furnace, Hanwier Battlements, Hall of the Bandit Lord, Springleaf Drum, Mana Vault, Fire Diamond, Thought Vessel, Fellwar Stone, Coldsteel Heart, Mind Stone, Ruby Medallion, Skirk Prospector, Cheering Fanatic

By far the most sweeping change I made to the deck was cutting into the land count in order to make room for a whole host of mana rocks. The ideal curve of this deck is turn two mana rock, turn three Krenko, and start pumping out tokens on turn four. So I pulled in as many cards as I could to make that happen. Obviously the most powerful of these is Mana Vault, since it can speed up Krenko’s arrival by another turn. Skirk Prospector can be used to ritual into an early Krenko, but it also has some truly insane combo potential if you draw it later. Possibly the best addition in this section is Cheering Fanatic, a card that manages to be both mana rock and a goblin to enhance Krenko’s first activation.

Of the nonmountain cuts, Valakut got the axe because entering the battlefield tapped is a serious downside for this deck, and the game will hopefully be over long before it goes online. Goblin Burrows was cut to make room for more relevant utility lands, and Caged Sun was wildly out of place in this deck, acting more as a six-mana lord than a mana doubler.

When it comes to utility lands, the additions of Hall of the Bandit Lord and Hanweir Battlements should be pretty self-explanatory. Lands that give haste are very good in this deck, even if the Battlements is only ever going to be activated when you’re recasting Krenko after a wrath or removal. Great Furnace and Darksteel Citadel are a little more out of place, but I’ll get to them later.



Anger, Fervor


Hammer of Purphoros, Goblin Motivator, Mass Hysteria, Ashling’s Prerogative

The other way to get Krenko activating early, haste is the most powerful ability creatures can have in this deck. Anger is getting the axe because by the time I can get it in the graveyard Krenko has probably been in play for several turns. Fervor is getting swapped for Hammer of Purphoros to up the artifact count. Unfortunately both cards are in a bit of an awkward place since we want to be playing Krenko on turn three (hence why I’m not running both) but you won’t have a rock every game.

The same can be said for Ashling’s Prerogative, but the added benefit of disrupting half the creatures our opponents play should make up for that downside. Just remember to always name even.

Fortunately the other additions are much friendlier with the deck’s curve, as Mass Hysteria and Goblin Motivator come down on turn one and can combine with a mana rock to get Krenko activating on turn three. Each has their downsides of course. Goblin Motivator is extremely fragile and Mass Hysteria gives haste to the entire table, but the potential both cards have is well worth the respective risks.



Clickslither, Furystoke Giant, Haze of Rage, Preyseizer Dragon, Rage Reflection, Skirk Fire Marshal, Roar of the Crowd, Voracious Dragon, Trumpet Blast

There are a lot of cuts in this section for two reasons. First, with the deck speeding up and much smaller game sizes on average I don’t need to lean as heavily on burn to close out games. I should be able to overwhelm the battlefield before defenses are truly set up. Second, a big part of making the deck faster is lowering the mana curve, and a lot of my finishing spells cost far more than I want to pay for them and/or had cumbersome hoops to jump through such as Preyseizer and Voracious Dragon.


Throne of the God-Pharaoh, Goblin Soothsayer

Throne of the God-Pharaoh has numerous advantages over the cards I just cut. It’s repeatable, hits each opponent instead of being limited to each player, and it only costs two mana. The downside is that you have to be able to get your tokens to survive a round of combat to use it properly. Well, unless you happen to also find Kyren Negotiations.

Goblin Soothsayer might seem like a ridiculous inclusion given the fact that I’m cutting cards like Trumpet Blast, but it’s also a Goblin, and that changes the barrier for entrance a lot. Besides that, it’s a one-drop that comes down before the mana rocks and will often be forgotten until it kills people.



Chancellor of the Forge, Goblin Marshal, Goblin Matron, Goblin Piledriver, Moggcatcher

When it comes to the actual goblin cards and token makers, Chancellor of the Forge and Goblin Marshal are far too expensive for where I want the deck to be. The same can be said for Moggcatcher, since you have to spend seven mana before you get any benefit out of it.

While Goblin Matron is slightly more efficient, the goblins I’m running simply don’t have enough of a toolbox element to them to justify running a tutor, especially coupled with the fact that many of my best “creature” cards are sorceries that make multiple tokens. Goblin Piledriver is one of the most aggressively-costed Goblins of all time, but it doesn’t scale well to commander unless you’re consistently facing down against mono Blue. With only one of those decks in my metagame there isn’t a reason to include it.


Goblin Instigator, Kuldotha Rebirth, Mogg Alarm, Goblin Sledder, Mogg Raider, Dark-Dweller Oracle, Metallic Mimic, Goblin Trashmaster, Legion Loyalist

There are three main catagoreis of additions here. Goblin Instigator, Mogg Alarm, and Kuldotha Rebirth are here to ensure a healthy base of goblins in play by the time I start activating Krenko. Speaking of which, Kuldotha Rebirth is the reason I’ve been including artifact lands and why I changed Fervor to Hammer of Purphoros.

Goblin Sledder, Mogg Raider, and Dark-Dweller Oracle are all sacrifice outlets of varying strength. The first two act as ways to punch through the final points of damage against opponents with a lot of blockers, while Dark-Dweller Oracle gives the deck some much-needed ability to draw cards. All of them can also serve to enable various death-based combos, such as triggering Boggart Shenanigans or endlessly untapping Goblin Sharpshooter.

Finally we have the trio of lords. Metalic Mimic has some bonuses over traditional lords because the counters stick around after it gets removed, but it’s also a fairly bad topdeck if you’ve already flooded the board. Goblin Trashmaster is a far more traditional Lord, and gives us the additional utility of blowing up artifacts whenever I need to. Given some of the decks in my playgroup, that’s a huge benefit. Legion Loyalist doesn’t give a traditional power boost, but giving first strike, and trample more than make up for it, even before you factor in the fact that it keeps token armies from ever mounting a defense against you.

Combo Pieces


Konda’s BannerSword of the Paruns

Konda’s Banner is a fine combat boost, but four mana for +2/+2 to the team is way below rate for this deck even given the ability to spread that payment across multiple turns. Sword of the Paruns is just way overcosted, to the point where you need to sink at least ten mana into it before it nets a single untap for you.


Thornbite StaffParadox Engine, Rings of Brighthearth

And here we have the final additions to the deck. Thornbite Staff is an odd card, but once it’s on Krenko you have an easy infinite combo with any sacrifice outlet, pumping out creatures and other resources eternally. I’m usually not a fan of infinite combos, but this is my spikiest deck. And with no tutors in mono-red I’m okay with having a card that can single-handedly end games.

Paradox Engine and Rings of Brighthearth are both getting added as ways to get more out of Krenko’s ability, either by doubling all activations or by turning every spell you cast into a free activation. Both are fairly obvious powerhouses for the deck, so I don’t think I need to spend too long explaining how they fit into the deck. (Athough Paradox Engine seems spicy when combined with Kyren Negotiations.)

Levi Byrne has been with the game since Worldwake and has a rabid love for fantasy writing that goes back decades. Despite some forays into Legacy he plays Commander almost exclusively, and has a love for the crazy plays and huge games that make Magic what it is. He was the go-to advisor of his playgroup on deck construction for more than five years before joining Dear Azami.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.