Goblin Ringleader is a trap.

It pains me to say that. I remember how great it felt to refill your hand and drop Goblin Warchief-fueled hordes. But Goblin Recruiter was the crucial linchpin—and it’s not comin back. Without Goblin Recruiter to stack the deck and assuming 22 lands, on average, you’ll hit two cards. Certainly not bad, but it’s closer to a red Fact or Fiction than the powerhouse it used to be in Standard and old Extended.

And it absolutely was a powerhouse—one of the most fun decks I’ve played was Goblin Bidding, a strategy which morphed into Dirty Kitty. Dirty Kitty added Fecundity to a sacrificial Goblins deck, backed up with fast mana, and allowed you to overpower decks that outmatched you with a sheer wealth of Goblins. The closest I’ve come to Dirty Kitty since Lorwyn block is the first two Modern Horizons events I played—I went with R/B Goblins in both instances, and the nostalgia was as overwhelming as the horde of 1/1 I threw at opponents’ faces.

I made more tokens, drained more life, and blanked more removal spells than expected. After a reader reminded me of my previous deck, I knew I had to brainstorm an update. There are two ways to take this—a Dirty Kitty update, with the usual Skirk Prospector plus Fecundity model, is possible; but Goblin Bidding has always spoken more to me, so I’m starting there.

“I’m not dumb enough to try this deck in Modern.”—me, last November, being extremely wrong.

You have four serious options for mass reanimation in Modern: Immortal Servitude, Rally the Ancestors, Command the Dreadhorde, and Living End. You also have Empty the Catacombs as a potential combo engine, but that’s a hell of a corner case.

Each has their own drawbacks and benefits—Command the Dreadhorde is far too slow, Living End requires warping your deck, and Immortal Servitude is unsplashable and pokey. Rally the Ancestors is the best option, as you’re trying to create an engine, rather than swing for lethal. The Standard version of four-color Rally was a lovely little obscenity, capable of combo-style wins with Zulaport Cutthroat; we’re basically attempting a faster version of that deck, thanks to Skirk Prospector.

Rally at 3WW gives you back your Mogg War Marshals and Goblin Instigators, as well as any Prospectors that have wound up in the yard, setting you up for an Empty the Warrens win. Anything above that—and 4WW is manageable, albeit slightly unlikely—will get back most of your deck, including the engine: Sling-Gang Lieutenant (or enough Goblin Matrons to snag a Lieutenant) plus tokens.

Here’s my second draft of (three-color) Goblin Rally for Modern:

Rally the Goblins

Creatures (25)
Skirk Prospector
Mogg War Marshall
Goblin Instigator
Goblin Piledriver
Goblin Matron
Mad Auntie
Pashalik Mons
Sling-Gang Lieutenant
Krenko, Mob Boss
Siege-Gang Commander

Spells (12)
Faithless Looting
Rally the Ancestors
Boggart Shenanigans
Empty the Warrens
Lands (23)
Auntie's Hovel
Arid Mesa
Bloodstained Mire
Sacred Foundry
Blood Crypt
Cavern of Souls

The Goblin Matron toolbox is potent—find a miser’s Krenko when the opponent is low on interaction, pull up Siege-Gang Commander to jumpstart your engine, or tutor up Piledriver or Mad Auntie if you need to close out a game. The singleton Boggart Shenanigans gives needed redundancy to your Sling-Gang Lieutenant.

The sideboard has the expected roster—Leyline of the Void, Nihil Spellbomb, Wear // Tear, and so on. Unfortunately, as a graveyard deck, Goblin Rally is weak to the omnipresence of Leyline, Rest in Peace, Grafdigger’s Cage, etc.—without being able to interact with them profitably.

After the banning of Bridge from Below, I don’t expect Hogaak to remain as top dog. Thankfully Faithless Looting didn’t get the axe, though my editor disagrees. I expected Looting to get banned: it enables degeneracy in Hogaak and Hollow One decks and provides concerning consistency to Arclight Phoenix and Storm decks. But I’ll take it. Were Looting ever to be banned, Goblin Lore would be a thematically suitable replacement.

So what about Sacrificial Goblins in Standard? When last we discussed this possible archetype, we relied on Gruesome Menagerie as our top-end mass-reanimation spell. Now, with War of the Spark out, we have something even more interesting: a reanimation spell only limited by your life and your bravery. Gruesome Menagerie will only get you back three creatures, with a total savings of six mana, while Command the Dreadhorde can return as many targets as you can safely stomach.

Rakdos Commanding Goblins

Creatures (29)
Skirk Prospector
Goblin Instigator
Ember Hauler
Priest of Forgotten Gods
Legion Warboss
Midnight Reaper
Goblin Chainwhirler
Goblin Ringleader
Siege-Gang Commander
Cavalier of Flame

Spells (8)
Mask of Immolation
Goblin Barrage
Command the Dreadhorde
Liliana, Dreadhorde General
Lands (23)
Blood Crypt
Dragonskull Summit
Unclaimed Territory
11 Mountain

Losing Goblin Matron hurts, but your Goblin count is high enough and Standard slow enough to run Goblin Ringleader. Is this the deck for Rotting Regisaur? It feels right, but I need to test more fully before I can commit.

The mana is a bit rough—you want double red on turn four, but you also want double black on turn five or six, and that’s hard to manage. The Unclaimed Territory allows you to name “Knight” and cast Midnight Reaper or Cavalier of Flame. Speaking of, Cavalier of Flame has been hugely successful—on turn five or six, he allows you to discard your outclassed Goblins and dig for Command the Dreadhorde, and on turn seven-plus, he can close out the game by buffing the team.

This is an exciting deck to try out—it’s unwieldy and complex at times, harkening back to Four-Color Rally. But when you go off, the bemused look from your opponent makes it all worth it. There’s no feeling in Magic quite like building a smart deck out of stupid cards—give it a shot!

A lifelong resident of the Carolinas and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Rob has played Magic since he picked a Darkling Stalker up off the soccer field at summer camp. He works for nonprofits as an educational strategies developer and, in his off-hours, enjoys writing fiction, playing games, and exploring new beers.

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