Straight Outta the Hovel: Red-Black Goblins in Modern

Parker Ackerman
August 19, 2019

Many legacy decks have never really been able to cut it in modern. Even the decks that are more fun than good usually end up missing some key piece that makes them worth playing. For goblins, no more. Thanks to Modern Horizons, M20 and MTGO user umeboshijiisan, we finally have a Goblins deck that really looks worth playing. Let’s take a look.



The deck does a lot of things, and all of it in true Goblin fashion. Two of the biggest additions have been the reprinting of the iconic Goblin core from legacy, Goblin Matron and Goblin RingleaderGoblin Matron gets us exactly what we need for the situation and gives you access to a large toolbox. Ringleader lets you reload your hand and has been known as the Red Fact or Fiction


Goblin Chieftain powers up all our little creatures, but more importantly, it gives them all haste, letting us make better use of our resources and sneak damage through our opponent’s defenses while they’re tapped out. Warchief gets us some more haste and a nice little cost reduction, and Legion Warboss gets us extra tokens that essentially start out as 2/2s if we want them to. Warren Instigator lets us easily drop a bunch of goblins straight onto the battlefield from our hand and is the best start for the deck beyond Aether Vial.


Cratermaker blows himself up, taking a Karn, artifact, or small creature with him. Piledriver flies in through blue’s defenses, buffing himself up and becoming a huge problem for any opponent. Munitions Expert can come in at a moment’s notice, taking out just about any pesky creature or planeswalker our opponent might have. Stingscourger is the bluest card in this deck by a long shot, providing a tutorable Man O' War. Goblin Trashmaster gives us some in-tribe artifact hate, and Krenko can lead to quick wins by creating a ton of tokens for us. Our final creature is Sling-Gang Lieutenant, who happens to be very good at making use of all those tokens and closing the game. 


We’re a pretty spell-light deck, using a measly 4 Lightning Bolts to act as a combination of removal and extra reach, as well as 4 Aether Vials to help us cheat on mana a bit and get our goblins out at instant-speed. Vial is the best card in the deck, so keeping a hand without Aether Vial really takes some convincing.


For lands, we have almost exactly what you’d expect from a two-color tribal deck. Fetches, shocks, a couple basics, and Cavern of Souls take care of most of our fixing, with a little bit of extra help from Auntie’s Hovel and Sunbaked Canyon, which turns on our sideboard Rest in Peace. We also have Mutavault, which benefits from all of our goblin-specific effects, meaning it can count towards Krenko’s ability, or even be sacrificed to the Lieutenant after it’s been activated.


In the sideboard we have the full four Chalice of the Void, some Damping Spheres to help with Phoenix and Tron, and an extra Cratermaker for artifacts, Karns, and small bodies. Mogg War Marshal effectively makes 3 bodies for Lieutenant and Trashmaster fodder, Rest in Peace is useful against a variety of decks (Hogaak, anyone?), Ensnaring Bridge holds decks with large creatures at bay, and Goblin Chainwhirler is incredibly useful against decks with small creatures or x/3’s that the first strike can help with.


  • Chainwhirler can be brought in at instant-speed with Vial, ambushing anything with 4 or less toughness without recourse.
  • If you play Instigator turn two, you can play a Chieftain or Warchief for haste, then attack with Instigator. With the first trigger, you can drop Krenko, then drop Munitions Expert with the second. At the moment, you’ll have 4 goblins. With Expert’s trigger on the stack, you can tap Krenko to make 4 more goblins, dealing a total of 8 damage to your chosen target with Expert’s trigger. This is absolutely a “magical Christmas land” scenario, but it sure does sound like fun.
  • A bit easier to do is to drop Matron with Instigator’s first trigger, find the Goblin you need, then use Instigator’s second trigger to get that Goblin for free.
  • You have a lot of sacrifice outlets here, so use them! Your opponent tries to Bolt your Piledriver? Drain them for 1 with Lieutenant. Path your Chieftain? Blow up an artifact with Trashmaster.

Extra Spice:

  • If you want to lean more heavily into the sacrifice theme, Skirk Prospector is a lot of fun, letting your dig into your goblins for some extra mana. Knucklebone Witch can grow like a pseudo Champion of the Parish and is another angle for the deck. 
  • Pashalik Mons is a very powerful card in grindy creature mirrors like against Humans or Elves. If your metagame features a lot of these decks, Pashalik may be your boy. 
  • Legion Loyalist is a bit of a pet card, but considering how easy Battalion is to trigger in this deck, it almost seems worth it. It gives all your creature first strike and trample, and it’s not like the deck’s 1-drop slot is bursting at the seams to begin with.
  • If you want to lean more towards the “swing in with a bunch of little tokens in one turn” strategy, Goblin Bushwhacker and Reckless Bushwhacker have a reputation for ending games quickly.

Goblins are always fun, and if you just want to run in recklessly and blow stuff up (just like our green friends themselves), this is the perfect deck. It swarms, it sacrifices, and it takes the opponent down along with it. The deck is a lot of fun, and for anyone who like aggro or tribal decks, this is something I’d definitely recommend you check out.