It has been a strange year, 2020. I've heard jokes centered around telling anecdotes to someone in the past about the state of the world today and how bizarre they would find it. This applies to Magic, too—imagine what past you would think, meeting a time-traveling wizard foretelling the printing of a mechanic like companion, or a card like Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. You'd write him off as out of his mind. I'd never have believed the most absurd statement of all—"Goblins is the best combo deck in Modern."

It would've been difficult to predict the path of how we got here. But over the last year Goblins has exploded into a legitimate Modern archetype with the help of key reprints and powerful new tools, including multiple infinite combo engines. During the same period, the format's classic combo decks have fallen off. So everything has led to a state where Goblins is one of the few true combo decks left—and arguably the best.

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Goblins by A22en

'Goblins' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: A22en

Event:

Rank:

Modern

Market Price: $1232.40

Cards

Relic of Progenitus

Market Price: $2.81

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/118645_200w.jpg

{T}: Target player exiles a card from their graveyard.
{1}, Exile Relic of Progenitus: Exile all cards from all graveyards. Draw a card.

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Boil

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $3.53

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/11140_200w.jpg

Destroy all Islands.

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Sling-Gang Lieutenant

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.22

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/190995_200w.jpg

When Sling-Gang Lieutenant enters the battlefield, create two 1/1 red Goblin creature tokens.
Sacrifice a Goblin: Target player loses 1 life and you gain 1 life.

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Blood Crypt

Color Identity:B,R

Market Price: $24.56

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/182838_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {B} or {R}.)
As Blood Crypt enters the battlefield, you may pay 2 life. If you don't, it enters the battlefield tapped.

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Chalice of the Void

Market Price: $37.83

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Chalice of the Void enters the battlefield with X charge counters on it.
Whenever a player casts a spell with converted mana cost equal to the number of charge counters on Chalice of the Void, counter that spell.

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Scalding Tarn

Market Price: $71.16

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{T}, Pay 1 life, Sacrifice Scalding Tarn: Search your library for an Island or Mountain card, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library.

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Murderous Redcap

Color Identity:B,R

Market Price: $0.36

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/180906_200w.jpg

When Murderous Redcap enters the battlefield, it deals damage equal to its power to any target.
Persist (When this creature dies, if it had no -1/-1 counters on it, return it to the battlefield under its owner's control with a -1/-1 counter on it.)

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Swamp

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.69

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/235544_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {B}.)

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Blackcleave Cliffs

Color Identity:B,R

Market Price: $18.21

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Blackcleave Cliffs enters the battlefield tapped unless you control two or fewer other lands.
{T}: Add {B} or {R}.

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Tarfire

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.18

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Tarfire deals 2 damage to any target.

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Aether Vial

Market Price: $47.43

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/145333_200w.jpg

At the beginning of your upkeep, you may put a charge counter on Aether Vial.
{T}: You may put a creature card with converted mana cost equal to the number of charge counters on Aether Vial from your hand onto the battlefield.

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Stomping Ground

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $9.76

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/182841_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {R} or {G}.)
As Stomping Ground enters the battlefield, you may pay 2 life. If you don't, it enters the battlefield tapped.

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Mountain

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.69

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({T}: Add {R}.)

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Munitions Expert

Color Identity:B,R

Market Price: $0.15

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/190749_200w.jpg

Flash
When Munitions Expert enters the battlefield, you may have it deal damage to target creature or planeswalker equal to the number of Goblins you control.

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Boggart Harbinger

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $2.97

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/15428_200w.jpg

When Boggart Harbinger enters the battlefield, you may search your library for a Goblin card, reveal it, then shuffle your library and put that card on top of it.

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Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $17.62

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/145482_200w.jpg

Haste
{T}: Create a token that's a copy of target nonlegendary creature you control, except it has haste. Sacrifice it at the beginning of the next end step.

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Bloodstained Mire

Market Price: $34.53

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{T}, Pay 1 life, Sacrifice Bloodstained Mire: Search your library for a Swamp or Mountain card, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library.

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Pashalik Mons

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $1.32

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Whenever Pashalik Mons or another Goblin you control dies, Pashalik Mons deals 1 damage to any target.
{3}{R}, Sacrifice a Goblin: Create two 1/1 red Goblin creature tokens.

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Cavern of Souls

Market Price: $74.32

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As Cavern of Souls enters the battlefield, choose a creature type.
{T}: Add {C}.
{T}: Add one mana of any color. Spend this mana only to cast a creature spell of the chosen type, and that spell can't be countered.

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Goblin Matron

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.35

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When Goblin Matron enters the battlefield, you may search your library for a Goblin card, reveal that card, put it into your hand, then shuffle your library.

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Auntie's Hovel

Color Identity:B,R

Market Price: $23.38

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/15415_200w.jpg

As Auntie's Hovel enters the battlefield, you may reveal a Goblin card from your hand. If you don't, Auntie's Hovel enters the battlefield tapped.
{T}: Add {B} or {R}.

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Warren Weirding

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.13

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/68369_200w.jpg

Target player sacrifices a creature. If a Goblin is sacrificed this way, that player creates two 1/1 black Goblin Rogue creature tokens, and those tokens gain haste until end of turn.

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Conspicuous Snoop

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $1.38

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215603_200w.jpg

Play with the top card of your library revealed.
You may cast Goblin spells from the top of your library.
As long as the top card of your library is a Goblin card, Conspicuous Snoop has all activated abilities of that card.

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Grumgully, the Generous

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $0.20

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199090_200w.jpg

Each other non-Human creature you control enters the battlefield with an additional +1/+1 counter on it.

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Thoughtseize

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $16.31

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/218934_200w.jpg

Target player reveals their hand. You choose a nonland card from it. That player discards that card. You lose 2 life.

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Skirk Prospector

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.23

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/164400_200w.jpg

Sacrifice a Goblin: Add {R}.

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Goblin Ringleader

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.24

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/192546_200w.jpg

Haste (This creature can attack and {T} as soon as it comes under your control.)
When Goblin Ringleader enters the battlefield, reveal the top four cards of your library. Put all Goblin cards revealed this way into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.

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Putrid Goblin

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.06

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/191753_200w.jpg

Persist (When this creature dies, if it had no -1/-1 counters on it, return it to the battlefield under its owner's control with a -1/-1 counter on it.)

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Goblin Trashmaster

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $3.04

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/169152_200w.jpg

Other Goblins you control get +1/+1.
Sacrifice a Goblin: Destroy target artifact.

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The History of Goblin Tribal

One would only have to travel back a few years to blow someone's mind about today's Modern Goblin deck. It's a true hybrid capable of playing an aggressive game, a disruptive midrange game, or a combo game—but that only very recently became the case. "Goblins" in Modern was previously a hyper-aggro creature deck exemplified by cards like Goblin Bushwhacker and Reckless Bushwhacker, and nothing like the Aether Vial-driven decks of today.

The well-rounded approach has always been the tribe's game plan in Legacy, where one could find all the best Goblins of the past that once made them a top-tier tribe in Standard and Extended, but were out of reach for Modern. Then came the reprints, starting back in Dominaria with Goblin Warchief and Skirk Prospector. The true paradigm shift happened last year with the Goblin Matron and Goblin Ringleader reprints in Modern Horizons. These are the engines that have historically driven the deck by providing its card avantage and selection, and by unlocking the power of Aether Vial. Munitions Expert provided a fill-in for Gempalm Incinerator, and suddenly all the bones of the classic Goblin deck were in Modern.

Ever since, Goblins has existed as a second-tier Modern strategy. But at the end of 2019 and again in 2020, the deck received broken new tools that enabled infinite combos, and brought the deck to the next level.

Goblins as a Combo Deck

After Modern Horizons Goblin operated solely as a fair midrange deck, but it wasn't particularly great at it. Without Goblin Lackey, it lacks the raw explosive power it has in Legacy. Without Wasteland and Rishadan Port, Modern Goblins lacks the mana denial plan that piggybacks off Aether Vial and makes Legacy Goblins something like a Death and Taxes prison deck. A mediocre aggressive deck and a mediocre midrange deck isn't ideal, but just a few months later, Throne of Eldraine redefined Goblins by bringing Grumgully, the Generous as a new combo engine.

The Grumgully, the Generous Combo

Grumgully, the Generous fills in as a Metallic Mimic-style lord for creatures that come into play afterwards. But it's the +1/+1 counters and their ability to create an infinite engine with persist creatures, like an alternative Vizier of Remedies, that gave Goblins its first infinite combo. Putrid Goblin from Modern Horizons had just conveniently added a persist creature to join Murderous Redcap, which requires only Skirk Prospector to kill the opponent. To kill, Putrid Goblin requires help from the other huge pickup Goblins got from the set, Sling-Gang Lieutenant.

Filling in the role of Siege-Gang Commander, Sling-Gang Lieutenant does a similar job against the opponent, but for no mana. Not only is it a great finisher for aggressive games and part of the infinite combo with Grumgully, the Generous, but it also ties in as the eventual win condition in the deck's second combo with Conspicuous Snoop in Core Set 2021.

The Conspicuous Snoop Combo

The broken power of Conspicuous Snoop is unlocked by Boggart Harbinger, setting up the top of the deck with any Goblin. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker offers a broken ability to use, copying Conspicuous Snoop repeatedly to make infinite (tapped) copies. The final copy then targets Boggart Harbinger to find Sling-Gang Lieutenant, and sends all those tapped Goblins to the opponent's head and wins the game.

The combo is not only powerful, it's fast, happening as early as turn three and racing just about any deck in Modern. Speed is great, but Conspicuous Snoop also enables a more tortoise-like strategy with its potential card advantage. Acting like a Future Sight, it provides extra cards, and gives the deck a ton of extra grinding power against removal spells. Between this, Goblin Matron and Goblin Ringleader, it's really hard to run the deck out of action. When some of these Goblins offer disruption, like Munitions Expert and Pashalik Mons, it's easy to see how the deck can enact a midrange plan and just run the opponent out of cards.

By embracing both combos, the deck puts a ton of pressure on the opponent, who must respect the potential for the combo even when it's not coming. This misdirection makes these hybrid combo decks like Splinter Twin and Dimir Inverter so deadly, and helps Goblins win fair games with its modest set of tools.

The Thoughtseize Factor

Rounding out the deck is Thoughtseize, which supports the midrange plan in a Jund-like style, and  protects the combo. Its function in Goblins is like Thoughtseize in Pioneer Dimir Inverter, which is as much a control deck as it is combo. In both decks it crafts a path forward for the game by providing information about what the opponent has while attacking its weakest point. With the ability to cleanly set up a combo when the coast is clear, or disrupt the opponent to help win a more fair game, it's at its best in decks like these.

Playing a noncreature spell in a tribal deck is theoretically a bad idea, because it takes away from the synergies making these decks worth playing in the first place. But Thoughtseize is in a class of its own in terms of its irreplaceable impact on games. It's comparable to Force of Will in Legacy Merfolk, which is currently used to support that tribe's own recent transition to a combo deck playing Thassa's Oracle and Paradigm Shift.

Sideboarding with Goblins

The sideboard takes the midrange plan to the extreme, using a set of Chalice of the Void to disrupt the opponent's plan while also serving to protect the combo. One of the most feared and oppressive cards in the game across all formats, Chalice of the Void single handedly steals games from opponents, and catches many completely unprepared to deal with it.

Relic of Progenitus adds another hoser to support the midrange plan, and it's oppressive in its own way against graveyard decks. Because it draws a card to replace itself, it can also be used aggressively against any sort of graveyard shenanigans, like Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, that would otherwise be hard to deal with—especially in cases where you can't invest in a whole card like Leyline of the Void.

Boil is absolutely crushing against the blue decks that are the most popular in the format... It's also a deadly hoser against any Amulet Titan and Scapeshift decks using Dryad of the Ilysian Grove.

The sideboard is rounded out by a toolbox of one-ofs to increase the utility of Goblin Matron,including Tarfire and Warren Weirding as removal, and Goblin Trashmaster as a great artifact hoser. Extra copies of Munitions Expert and Goblin Ringleader help tune the deck in the matchups they're best against.

Vs. Bant / Azorius Control

+4 Relic of Progenitus
+2 Boil
+1 Goblin Ringleader

-3 Munitions Expert
-1 Skirk Prospector
-1 Boggart Harbinger
-1 Sling-Gang Lieutenant
-1 Grumgully, the Generous

Against decks with lots of creature removal, like Bant, the combos are less reliable, sotaking a more grindy, midrange approach is better. Trim down on combo elements in favor of card advantage. Relic of Progenitus makes the midrange plan possible by containing Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, which is otherwise a big issue over a long game.

Vs. Izzet Prowess/Rakdos Prowess

-4 Thoughtseize
-1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
-1 Boggart Harbinger
-1 Skirk Prospector

+4 Chalice of the Void
+1 Goblin Ringleader
+1 Munitions Expert
+1 Warren Weirding

Prowess is one of the toughest matchups for Goblins, with their removal breaking up synergies and their own creatures applying massive pressure and outgrowing Goblin blockers. Chalice of the Void goes a long way toward hosing them, while additional removal helps beat their creatures. Goblins is really the control deck here, and wins by overwhelming them with card advantage.

Vs. Gruul Midrange

+1 Tarfire
+1 Munitions Expert
+1 Goblin Trashmaster
+1 Goblin Ringleader

-4 Thoughtseize

Gruul has some solid disruption with Lightning Bolt, Bonecrusher Giant and Wrenn and Six, and some nasty creatures like Scavenging Ooze and the recent addition of Elder Gargaroth. On the other hand they aren't particularly fast or aggressive, so you have a good chance of out-grinding them, or just putting the combo together. Beware of sideboard Anger of the Gods!

Vs. Eldrazi Tron

+1 Warren Weirding
+1 Munitions Expert
+1 Goblin Trashmaster
+1 Goblin Ringleader

-4 Thoughtseize

Eldrazi Tron isn't well suited for fighting Goblins, with poor Chalice of the Void targets, little removal, and weak prospects to race, so it's one of the better matchups.

Vs. Jund

+4 Relic of Progenitus
+1 Goblin Trashmaster
+1 Goblin Ringleader
+1 Munitions Expert

-4 Thoughtseize
-1 Skirk Prospector
-1 Boggart Harbinger
-1 Aether Vial

Jund, with Goblin's eternal bane—Tarmogoyf, which actually helped lead to the downfall of Goblins as a top-tier Legacy deck when printed—and lots of removal including the possible sideboarded Plague Engineer, isn't an ideal matchup. The card advantage in Goblins goes a long way toward beating removal, and Relic of Progenitus contains Tarmogoyf. Goblin Trashmaster is a nice option for beating Wrenn and Six and Plague Engineer.

The Goblins of Tomorrow, Today

In the old days, back to the first event of Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011, Modern was the combo format. That event was won by Splinter Twin combo over a Top 8 including combo decks like Storm, Through the Breach/Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and Blazing Shoal Infect. Ban after ban knocked them down, and more recent bans like Faithless Looting have helped keep them in check whenever they do take over. It's led to a metagame where the most popular combo deck is now the Vizier of Remedies/Devoted Druid Counter combo with around 3% of the field. Amulet Titan holds just 2%, but with the ban of Summer Bloom and now the move away from Azusa, Lost but Seeking to the less explosive Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, it's hardly a true combo deck at this point. Goblins is just barely behind, with almost 2% of the field, ahead of Storm and Ad Nauseam.

Goblins got off to a hot start after Core Set 2020 when it was receiving a lot of hype, but the Arcum's Astrolabe ban came immediately afterward and stole all the attention. Goblins has cooled down into just another deck in the pack, but with the metagame settling after the ban, and further tuning of the Goblin deck, it has been back on the rise.

This particular build is by Zack "A22en" Allen, someone who's control decks I've looked to in the past. The fact he's playing Goblins—not the white-blue control decks that are probably the best in the format—doesn't necessarily mean he thinks it's better, but is a sign more players should be paying attention to the tribe. His list includes some innovations seen across the typical builds lately, like trimming back Boggart Harbinger. On its own, it's not a good card on rate, and with the combo only part of the focus of the deck, it makes sense to cut them back to fit more for the well-rounded approach.

The list gets extreme with the addition of Grumgully, the Generous for the secondary combo, which the tribe is moving away from after Conspicuous Snoop. The third color is a relatively minor concern with Aether Vial and Cavern of Souls already supporting it, and just requires a Stomping Ground to join the fetch lands. As far as the space, compared to other lists, Grumgully, the Generous takes the spot of Goblin Chieftain, filling a similar role in a diminished way, but with the huge upside of adding a secondary combo. Putrid Goblin takes more space, but it replaces Mogg War Marshal—a card with a similar role of value with sacrifice engines and resistance to removal—again with much more upside.