M15 has been out for a while now, and Goblin Rabblemaster continues to impress. I like it in Rabble Red, I like it in the RB deck I wrote about last week, and I like it in the RUG Chord of Calling deck that Sam Pardee recorded a video with. I like it in other formats too, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
And it’s not like Bitterblossom and Rat don’t have their weaknesses. Bitterblossom drains the life total. While the tokens have evasion, they also lack haste and don’t grow, giving the opponent time to attack.
Of the three, Rabblemaster is the least resilient, but it also requires the least investment and is more of a freeroll than the other two. Bitterblossom needs to go well into the midgame in order to convert the value into a win. Pack Rat needs Mutavault, restricting the mana base.
Because of Rabblemaster’s lack of restrictions, it should fit into more decks than the other two. Here are a few possible fits:
- Decks with discard and removal to protect it and force it through.
- Decks with other priority early drops to bait removal.
- Decks with acceleration to start spitting out 1/1s faster.
- Decks that can use the tokens in some sort of engine.
- Sideboards of control decks to win control mirrors (similar to Brimaz).
Rabblemaster works well with planeswalkers, too, since if the opponent is going to attack the planeswalker then they aren’t leaving back blockers for Rabble. Because of this, I expect to see Rabblemaster fighting alongside Xenagos, the Reveler and Chandra Pyromaster.
Sometimes, a particular quality of a card—like its place on a curve—gives it consideration over other options. In Stompy shells, that gives preference to cards like Sea Drake and Serendib Efreet because the 2U casting cost takes advantage of the Sol land + Chrome Mox mana base.
Similarly, Goblin Rabblemaster’s 2R makes it a fit for red Stompy.
Goblin Stompy, by Optimis344
I’ve seen Goblin Stompy show up inMTGO results before, but always with a 3-1 result, and this one 4-0’d. While any deck can win the pairings lottery or run hot, a 4-0 with this deck makes me take notice because the shell has been historically inconsistent.
Rabblemaster fits this deck. Aside from the Goblin synergy, it takes advantage of acceleration and ends the game quickly after an early Chalice or Blood Moon. Meanwhile, if Chalice and Blood Moon don’t lock up the game completely, they have a good chance to protect Rabblemaster from removal.
Messing around with this deck got me thinking about a more dedicated Goblins shell, one that can make better use of the random tokens. Off the top of my head, Goblin Piledriver, Gempalm Incinerator, Siege-Gang Commander, Skirk Prospector, and Krenko, Mob Boss can all take advantage of a pile of 1/1 Goblins.
Rabblemaster has a few perks in the typical Goblin shell. Lackey is an easy way to cheat it in. While not as much of a blowout as Siege-Gang Commander, getting Rabblemaster into play earlier means more tokens.
Aether Vial is another way to cheat the Rabblemaster into play. While slower than casting it normally, Vial makes the mana cost a lot more trivial.
Now, running this many token producers is rare, and it’s likely that a version with 2 Mogg War Marshal 2 Goblin Rabblemaster is correct. For now, I wanted to test out the Goblin Bombardments with Rabblemaster so I’m starting here. Not only does Bombardment let you turn blocked tokens into value, it also gives a way to sacrifice Rabblemaster pre-combat to avoid a suicidal attack. Skirk Prospector is another possible outlet and also works well with tokens, though the deck’s curve is relatively tight and extra mana is less useful than normal. However, if the Goblin Bombardments end up overperforming I’ll try a miser’s Prospector and Sharpshooter in the main.
Since the deck is focused around a token strategy, Goblin Chieftain makes more sense than Goblin Warchief. Piledriver gets worse without Warchief, but still has some use as a lightning rod, drawing heat from Rabblemaster, and as another way to turn tokens into damage.
Pendelhaven is old tech, dating back to 2007 Russian Legacy champs, but it’s been seeing a minor resurgence in play as a way to break through Deathrite Shaman. It’s especially good here with all the 1/1 tokens.
The Legacy lists got me thinking about Rabblemaster’s viability in other formats. Modern doesn’t have Goblin Bombardment or Sol lands to feed Chalice of the Void, but it does have Greater Gargadon.
Longtime readers and devout Modern fans will recognize the mono-red Blood Moon shell. In the past, I’ve played it alongside Boros Reckoner as a new fangled way of Skred’ing people out. This rarely happened, though the synergy between Reckoner and Pyroclasm came up on occasion. Most of the time, my opponents just lost to a random Blood Moon and it didn’t really matter what the finisher was.
This version attempts to have a more proactive game plan while maintaining a steady dose of haterade. It omits sweepers in favor of more bodies, but I don’t think it’s much of a loss. When you have a high enough quantity of spot removal, the sweepers end up feeling like glorified removal spells because the opponent’s board is so clear.
It seems like a shame to have all those Goblins with no tribal synergy, and I don’t count flinging Goblin tokens with Siege-Gang Commander (which is still pretty sweet with Rabble). The creatures aren’t here because they’re Goblins, they’re here because they’re good at producing tokens that work well with Greater Gargadon.
In Modern, I’ve worked on more aggressive Goblin shells before, filled with one-drops to create fast kills with Shared Animosity, but it turned out to be weaker than other aggro options. That’s why I’m convinced aggro control is a more viable home for Rabblemaster. Still, Rabblemaster and Shared Animosity would be sweet, wouldn’t it?
I like the maindeck Spellskites because they make the Rabblemaster and Gargadon plans much more realistic in a field of Lightning Bolts and Path to Exiles, similar to the Chalice of the Void protection in Legacy. I also like how Sword of Fire and Ice is a good card at the moment, and it can fill its usual role of turning random garbage into real threats.
Another thing I like about this shell is that the metagame is better for it. The biggest threats to mono red Blood Moon was always Tron due to its Oblivion Stones and Wurmcoil Engines, and having that one unwinnable matchup brought down the deck’s percentages considerably. Since Tron is on the downswing, mono red Blood Moon becomes much more viable.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Rabblemaster saw some Vintage play for a few reasons. For starters, he provides fodder for Clamp starting the turn you play him. He also plays well with Time Walk. Can you imagine Rabblemaster, Time Walk, and a Piledriver? I’m no mathematician, but that’s approximately a boatload of damage.
Vintage is a safe haven for fragile value creatures. While there are a few Lightning Bolts around, cards like Young Pyromancer and Dark Confidant are more likely to take over a game than die to a removal spell. Because the creatures are so few and tiny, Rabblemaster has more room to do his thing.
Here’s my first stab at a Vintage list. Be warned, the numbers are a little rough:
This deck needs some tuning, but I like the idea of it. Tons of random Goblins to pump Piledrivers or feed the Clamp, a good bit of free/cheap disruption to draw into with Clamp, and a variety of bullets for Recruiter to tutor up.
One thing I like about this deck is that Clamp lets you dig into a Recruiter stack immediately, which was previously only possible if you already had a Gempalm Incinerator or Goblin Ringleader in hand. A single mana for Clamp is much more reasonable.
In Vintage, the average game plan shifts away from Goblin Recruiter because there are so very few decks that are trying to grind you out. The decks that have removal aren’t trying to kill every threat you play, just buy enough time to stick Time Vault + Voltaic Key, and Recruiter is more of a safety net than part of the Plan A.
Wrapping Up the Modern Season
I played my last Modern PTQ of the season on Saturday. I ran UR Delver again, only this time the Blood Moons and Batterskulls had lost their surprise factor. Most of my opponents had read my article or watched me stream the deck, and a few had even considered playing it.
That hardly mattered, and I 6-1’d into Top 8 going 1-1 vs. Living End (a rough matchup, but Batterskull is good if you can stick it), 2-0 vs. Infect (Blood Moon vs Inkmoth Nexus), 1-0 vs. GBx, 1-0 vs. Affinity (Forked Bolt vs. Vault Skirge), and 1-0 vs. some other deck (my apologies to that opponent).
I died to Burn in the Top 8. I dropped game one, as is common, before mulling to six for game two. I kept a one-lander with Gitaxian Probe and Dragon’s Claw, but died before seeing my second land. So it goes.
If I could replay the tournament, the sheer amount of Living End and Burn in the Top 8 would’ve convinced me to play three Spell Pierce in the main deck over the Pillars and one of the Remands. I always felt like I had slightly too much burn, as the deck isn’t really an aggro deck and doesn’t use it effectively except as removal.
I’m confident that, had I been playing this list all season, I’d have earned an invite twice over. The main thing that held me back was taking a few events to realize that Pillar of Flame isn’t necessary. Don’t get me wrong, Pillar is great vs. Pod, but the matchup is good enough without it between the fast Delver draw and the kill everything draw. I’m sure Pod has a draw I’m supposed to lose to, but I haven’t found it yet.
Oh, I should share the secret to the matchup that dates back to Standard: always kill the turn-one mana dork. It’s more important than casting Delver, and it’s far more important than cantripping. I don’t care if you have to burn Dismember. Kill it.