Going Grindy With Legacy Goblins – Deck Guide

Legacy Goblins is a deck almost as old as the format itself. While this deck was once a true force to be reckoned with, it has fallen out of favor in recent years. This is largely due to the lack of newer printings, thus leaving the overall power of the deck somewhat stunted for quite some time. However, over the past two years, this deck has seen a fair amount of new, powerful cards that have reinvigorated the archetype. 

This past weekend, Legacy Goblins expert Eli Goings (Caedyrn on Magic Online) came in second In the Legacy Showcase Challenge, which is an impressive result for the Goblin tribe. This seemed like as good of a time as any to talk about this deck, which I’m personally excited about since this is the first deck I played when I started playing Legacy almost a decade ago. While the deck has undergone a lot of cosmetic changes over the years, the core functionality of the deck has remained the same. Without further ado, let’s jump right into the deck list.



Legacy Goblins by Eli Goings



Header - The Game Plan

While Goblins might look like an aggro deck since it is almost entirely focused on playing creatures to the board, this deck is actually a grindy midrange-oriented deck. Using cards like Goblin Ringleader, Goblin Matron and the Jumpstart menace Muxus, Goblin Grandee, this deck has the tools to generate an absurd amount of card advantage and overwhelm any deck trying to interact. It fully takes advantage of these relatively slow engines by using Aether Vial and Goblin Lackey to generate a massive mana advantage, which opens up the door to simultaneously play a mana denial strategy. Combining all of this with a fair amount of creature removal and a relatively diverse toolbox, Goblins can make opponents’ lives quite difficult.

This deck has a ton of different cards that serve different roles (or in some cases, the same role with a different flair), so let’s take a look at how each of these cards fits into the deck’s strategy.


Header - Card Choices

Aether VialGoblin Lackey

In eternal formats, Aether Vial is essentially the glue that holds these creature decks together. Every element of this deck is substantially better with a Vial in play: putting expensive creatures in play, using your lands to deny your opponents mana while you develop and representing the ability to surprise opponents with a variety of tricky creatures. It really does it all for Goblins and is absolutely one of the most important cards to have early.

Unlike other Vial decks, one of the big advantages of playing Goblins is that you essentially get access to eight copies of Vial with Goblin Lackey in the mix. Lackey is certainly more fragile, seeing as it can be answered by just about any removal spell or blocker, but the ceiling on this card is far higher than Vial if you can connect. Putting Muxus or Goblin Ringleader into play will generate a massive advantage that most players will struggle to come back from. This especially helps against combo decks, which is generally the place this deck struggles the most. While it’s cold to removal spells, the one area it’s more resilient in than Vial is against counter magic, since Cavern of Souls can make it uncounterable. 


Goblin Matron

Once you step outside of the mana engines of this deck, I think you can point towards Goblin Matron as the glue that ties the deck together. Not only does it provide a clean two-for-one straight up, which helps this deck pull ahead on resources, but having access to any card in the deck opens up the door for Matron to solve most issues that arise. The most common target is Ringleader, since that level of card advantage is difficult to keep up with. The fact that Matron can win the game on the spot with Sling-Gang Lieutenant, generate tons of mana with Skirk Prospector or remove most creatures or artifacts through a variety of options makes Matron a core component of this deck.


Goblin Ringleader

Goblin Ringleader used to be the best card advantage engine this deck could play. These days, with Muxus in the mix, Ringleader isn’t the only Goblin in town when it comes to that effect. That being said, Ringleader is still a major reason this deck can keep up with the blue decks of the format. Even drawing one or two cards can be enough to start burying opponents, since now they need to keep up with your cards in hand and your board presence which can be tough to do. Again, Muxus does eat into the space a bit, so it can be difficult to fit in four copies, especially in a metagame as fast as the present one. 


Muxus, Goblin Grandee

This card is absurdly powerful and has the ability to win any game in which it resolves. It’s expensive, as even in a deck with this many ways to cheat on mana, getting to six is a lot. However, the payoff is absolutely worth it, as any board where you hit two or three Goblins off of Muxus will become nigh-unassailable for opponents. 


Munitions ExpertGempalm IncineratorGoblin CratermakerGoblin Sharpshooter

Despite being a deck entirely consisting of creatures, Goblins has access to some extremely effective removal effects. This helps solidify this deck’s role as a midrange deck that can out-grind most opponents. Gempalm Incinerator used to be the de facto choice (read: only), which was alright since being uncounterable and drawing a card is effective. However, Munitions Expert does quite a bit more work for the deck, since a 1/1 is certainly worth a card in this deck, cheating it in with Vial is a big deal and importantly it contributes to the final damage, unlike Incinerator.

Goblin Cratermaker is clunkier, for sure, but it applies some pressure on board and being in play threatens to kill future small creatures (and Emrakul/artifacts). Finally, Goblin Sharpshooter really fell out of favor as of late, seeing as it’s very slow and clunky. However, if you need to kill X/1s (say, against Elves or Death and Taxes), it doesn’t get much better than Sharpshooter.


Skirk Prospector

Considering that this card is a mana engine, I could have grouped Skirk Prospector together with Vial and Lackey. However, this doesn’t have the same impact early that those cards do so that didn’t seem correct. However, what Skirk Prospector loses in terms of early impact, it gains in the late-game. This card greatly helps cast Muxus and gives this deck something to do with a bunch of 1/1s in a stalled board.


Goblin Warchief

Goblin Warchief has been the lord of choice for a long time, which is a direct result of the impact that mana reduction has in this deck (have you noticed a theme yet?). As I mentioned earlier, this deck isn’t really an aggro deck, so leaning into lords that pump your team isn’t a priority here. Cards like Goblin Chieftain are powerful and there certainly are spots you would want that effect (if you are playing against a lot of Plague Engineers, for instance). Warchief, along with Skirk Prospector, gives this deck a sort of combo feel, where you can chain into multiple spells in a single turn. Even considering that this deck isn’t prioritizing aggression, giving your creatures haste still allows you to have potent aggressive turns, especially with Goblin Piledriver in the mix.


Goblin Piledriver

This card doesn’t always see play, seeing as it is just an aggressively-slanted, cheap creature. However, having this type of pressure in your deck can allow you to race combo decks really effectively. In addition, there are a fair amount of blue creatures that can be tough to punch through, such as Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath or Ice-Fang Coatl, so having access to a way of dealing a ton of damage through those creatures is important right now.


Mogg War Marshal

This card is the workhorse of the deck. It doesn’t do anything flashy, but it serves a lot of different roles, chump blocking creatures, adding enough creatures for Munitions Expert to become a more potent removal spell or generating mana off of Skirk Prospector. Mogg War Marshal is one of the more important cards in the deck and important to have access to.


Masked Vandal

This might seem like an odd inclusion, since it is off-color and doesn’t remove that many more targets than Cratermaker. However, having an answer to Kaldra Compleat (as well as any random enchantments that might try to lock you out) is very important in this Death and Taxes-heavy metagame and the cost of splashing it is relatively low.


Sling-Gang LieutenantPashalik Mons

These cards give Goblins a ton of reach and board stability and have the ability to kind of win games out of nowhere. Sling-Gang let’s you assume a combo role in a lot of situations, while also making your opponent’s ability to race you extremely challenging. Pashalik Mons doesn’t quite do that by himself, but he does allow you to make your opponent’s blocks quite poor and pairs extremely well with any sacrifice outlet. 


Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker (Timeshifted)

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is not a common choice in this deck, but he shows up every now and then. This deck has a ton of enter-the-battlefield effects and rebuying those even once can be game changing. That is ignoring the fact that occasionally Kiki-Jiki will stick around for multiple turns, which will allow you to generate an insurmountable advantage on most board states.


Cavern of Souls

One of the most important printings for tribal decks in eternal formats, Cavern of Souls is a huge reason a deck like this can survive in the Force of Will format. One of the best ways to use this is to save it until you have a key card to resolve which protects it from Wasteland and lets you surprise your opponent.


WastelandRishadan Port

Aether Vial and mana denial is a tale as old as Darksteel. This combination of cards is another key reason that a deck built on 30+ creatures can survive in Legacy. In some cases, you can stop opponents from playing the game entirely. Even if that’s not the case, slowing them down can provide you the time you need to develop safely. In addition, this deck plays a lot of expensive spells, so just playing more lands is generally something this deck wants to do.


Bloodstained MireWooded FoothillsArid MesaMountain (#276)BadlandsTaiga

A fetch/dual mana base is crucial to casting three colors worth of spells. This deck is actually somewhat more exposed to cards like Wasteland than one might think, seeing as there are only three basics in the deck. There are a ton of ways to generate mana advantages though, so it’s not too difficult to mitigate the impact of that.


Header - The Sideboard

Masked Vandal

At the point that you’re splashing for this in the main deck, it does become one of the better sideboard answers for different artifacts and enchantments that might show up.


Goblin Trashmaster

This card serves two roles. The first is by dominating artifact-heavy decks, which is very clearly it’s primary function. In addition, it’s a lord, so bringing it in against decks with Plague Engineer can help keep your board stable.



Having Karakas really helps against decks like Show and Tell and Dark Depths. Additionally, it does protect some of your threats, so bringing it in against interactive decks can be potent (plus, those decks all play legends like Uro and Ragavan these days anyway).


Magus of the Moon

While there aren’t any ways to tutor this, Moon effects are very powerful in Legacy. Having Magus of the Moon over Blood Moon makes sense here, seeing as it’s somewhat likely to be put into play in an uncounterable (and with Vial, perhaps an unexpected) manner.


Pithing Needle

Every time Pithing Needle comes up, it’s hard to say anything unique. It answers a lot of different things in Legacy, and if you’re ever in the market for a card that fills the gap in approximately 10 matchups, Needle is the card to turn towards.


PyroblastRed Elemental Blast

Pyroblast is always a key sideboard card in Legacy and its impact has only increased as extremely powerful blue creatures have been printed recently (namely Murktide Regent).



The red “Force of Will”, Pyrokinesis is an extremely effective card against creature decks. It’s particularly impactful in Goblins since there’s a lot of ways for this deck to generate excess cards in hand, thus mitigating the downside of pitching a card. Fury is another solid option, seeing as it’s the same effect on a creature, but being played as an instant is a huge advantage to Pyrokinesis.


Surgical ExtractionRelic of Progenitus

Graveyard decks are historically really challenging for this deck to deal with, especially Reanimator. Having free ways to interact with them is crucially important. There are a lot of different options that have different impacts based on what you expect, but Surgical Extraction provides the most disruption against random combo decks, which this deck can use the help against.


Mindbreak Trap

This card is essential against fast combo decks. However, Mindbreak Trap doesn’t always affect those decks equally, especially if they’re aware of it, so overcommitting to this effect can be costly.


Header - Tips and Tricks

  • Goblin Sharpshooter triggers on all creatures dying, not just by its ability, so if a bunch of creatures die in combat, there will be a lot of untap triggers to pay attention to that.
  • This is not true 100 percent of the time, but if your hand doesn’t have a Vial or Lackey, you should strongly consider mulliganing, depending on the matchup.
  • Skirk Prospector is a great way to play around soft permission, so make sure that you’re aware of that when cards like Daze are on the stack. 
  • Prospector and Sling-Gang work extremely well with Goblin Sharpshooter, so make sure you keep that in mind when you combine these cards.


Header - Sideboard Guide


Izzet Delver

Izzet Delver

Out: 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, 1 Masked Vandal, 1 Muxus, Goblin Grandee, 1 Goblin Sharpshooter, 2 Goblin Piledriver

In: 2 Pyroblast, 2 Red Elemental Blast, 2 Pyrokinesis


In essence, you’re going to cut some more clunky cards for some cheaper, more interactive spells. While Muxus is a potent card in the deck, it can be extremely difficult to get into play, so I like trimming down to a single copy in order to find with Matron when it’s good. Piledriver doesn’t really play on the axis that matters in this matchup, as it doesn’t generate an advantage and requires other Goblins to have an impact.



Bant Control

Bant Control

Out: 2 Goblin Cratermaker, 1 Gempalm Incinerator, 1 Goblin Sharpshooter, 1 Wasteland

In: 2 Red Elemental Blast, 2 Pyroblast, 1 Karakas


Historically, Goblins has been quite advantaged against these control decks. They do have a lot of tools to manage the board, but Cavern of Souls fueling Goblin Ringleader can bury them in cards pretty easily. Uro can be a concern, but every card you’re bringing in interacts with it. Play mindfully around cards like Terminus (which isn’t even that bad, since Matron can tutor them back up) and you should be able to make their life pretty awkward.



Death and Taxes

Death and Taxes

Out: 2 Goblin Piledriver, 1 Muxus, Goblin Grandee, 2 Goblin Lackey, 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

In: 1 Masked Vandal, 1 Goblin Trashmaster, 1 Pithing Needle, 1 Karakas, 2 Pyrokinesis


Goblins has a lot of removal, which can keep them off-balance rather effectively. Stoneforge Mystic is certainly the most problematic card, but you’re bringing in a fair amount of answers for Kaldra Compleat and Umezawa’s Jitte. I know bringing out Lackey might be heresy, but after turn one, it will be really difficult to connect with. Even on turn one, they have a fair amount of spot removal and blockers that can get in the way, and I don’t think it’s the kind of card you should rely on. Again, I like boarding out Muxus. I could see that being incorrect, but D&T is so effective at denying your mana that relying on it can be difficult. 





Out: 1 Masked Vandal, 2 Goblin Cratermaker, 1 Goblin Sharpshooter, 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, 2 Munitions Expert

In: 1 Mindbreak Trap, 2 Surgical Extraction, 2 Pyroblast, 2 Red Elemental Blast


Like I always say with non-blue decks (or maybe just every deck), Doomsday can be extremely tough. They always have the ability to kill you out of nowhere, dodge your disruption and disrupt your plan along the way. A fast Lackey start is the best way to take the game, and getting a Sling-Gang into play as fast as possible can make it more difficult for them to actually resolve a Doomsday. Surgical Extraction doesn’t do much, but it might disrupt them just enough to let you close the door since there are a fair amount of haste creatures in Goblins.

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