T1 GOBLIN BURN Primer by Rakso July 17, 2000

Beyond Dominia: Type One Primers: T1 GOBLIN BURN Primer by Rakso

The "Goblin Burn" strategy is distinct from pure burn and Sligh. It is a deck that is easy to play yet can consistently win by Turn 4 or 5. Its aggressiveness masks a more inflexible deck type compared to Type I heavyweights such as Zoo, Necro and Keeper, but it is nonetheless fun. It is also cheap to construct and consistent for a Type I deck as it is immune to Gorilla Shaman and Dwarven Miner.

"Goblin Burn" by Rakso (Oscar Tan from Manila, Philippines)
Burn Spells (25)
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Incinerate
4 Chain Lightning
4 Fireblast
4 Goblin Grenade
4 Ball Lightning
1 Fork

Goblins (10)
2 Goblin Lackey
2 Goblin Vandal
3 Goblin Patrol
3 Mogg Fanatic

Card Drawing (5)
4 Cursed Scroll
1 Wheel of Fortune

Mana (20)
1 Strip Mine
3 Wasteland
15 Mountain
1 Mox Ruby


1) Burn

Normally, one does not play a Lightning Bolt one has just drawn on one's opponent, instead choosing to hold it in hand until a Hypnotic Specter or other threat appears. The exception to this simple rule is, of course, when that Lightning Bolt will finish off the opponent.

For this type of deck, however, one should realize that the opponent's life total will drop and that one can start bolting the opponent with seeming recklessness. If you have more than two Chain Lightnings, Ininerates or Lightning Bolts in hand, fire them off (in that order, unless you want to save Incinerate because you expect a regenerator). The objective of this deck is to deal 20 damage and with 12 bolts and the rest of the bolt-like direct damage, you will surely draw more. If you do not, you still need to empty your hand for the Cursed Scrolls and Wheel of Fortune. Of course, save all direct damage for after the opponent's end-of-turn.

The other burn spells (Fireblast and Goblin Grenade) are finishers and should be played more cautiously, especially if one expects a counter, as these require sacrifices of resources. In general, for example, one should not sacrifice his Goblin to a Grenade unless the opponent is down to five life, unless of course the opponent has lots of counters but has just tapped out with just one card in hand.

Be careful about attacking with your lone goblin when you have a Grenade in hand, however, as the opponent may remove it during the attack phase. In your main phase, your opponent cannot prevent you from casting the Goblin Grenade by removing the goblin because of the nature of the sacrifice. This means that you can cast a goblin then the Grenade without giving the opponent an opportunity to Bolt the goblin as you have priority and the goblin cannot be bolted before it enters play.

The Ball Lightnings are considered burn spells as they die after a turn and are 6 power for 3 mana. Cast them at the first opportunity, in general, as they cannot be played outside your main phase. One would hold back only if the opponent has removal or counters in hand, as this single card deals 6 of the required 20 damage points all by itself. (Note that Ball Lightning's triple red mana cost requires close attention to the land count. Decks without Ball Lightning and Cursed Scroll can afford to have a mana count as low as 18.)

The Fork, finally, doubles any of your finishers or copies a Lightning Bolt in a pinch. Note that one need not pay the cost again when Forking a Grenade or Fireblast, and tapping two Mountains before casting Fireblast and then Forking the Fireblast makes for a stylish finish. Fork can also copy the range of Type I spells from Demonic Tutor to Ancestral Recall to Disenchant, but note that under the Sixth Edition rules, it also copies counterspells.

The strategy of this deck is simple when facing a creatureless deck: blast with everything as fast as you can. However, one should also hold back from bolting every creature the opponent plays.

If one is not in danger of dying, save the direct damage for the opponent. This is especially true if the opponent plays creatures that cannot block, such as Rath cycle shadow creatures. If, however, the opponent can block, one should burn the creatures if this clears the way for one's own attack. Bolting an opposing White Knight so that one's Goblin Patrol or Ball Lightning can attack is usually worth the sacrifice of 3 potential damage. However, if the opponent has too many blockers (such as three walls), concentrate on the opponent as you only draw one card each turn and every point of damage counts.

When one is in danger of dying soon and does not have enough damage in hand, calculated risks must be taken. Suppose one has a Mogg Fanatic on the board, only a Goblin Grenade in hand and 10 life, and the opponent is at 8 life and plays a Juzam Djinn. Using the Grenade on the Djinn is the safe option, but the opponent may recover at any time. However, in the two turns one has left, one may draw any of the many direct damage spells to deal the last 3 damage, so one may be better off waiting. In making these calculations, one should consider the opponent's direct damage, whether other bolts, Psionic Blast, Drain Life or even Berserk and Army of Allah.

In any case, one should remove creatures at the last possible moment when using instants, during the attack phase or after the opponent's end of turn. Use Chain Lightning first as they are the most inflexible spells. When one is about to lose, however, one has no choice even if one has to Fireblast elves.

Finally, when an opponent is playing with counters, the game turns into a bluffing match. The cheap instant bolts become crucial as an opponent is watching for the 4 to 6 damage cards. In general, bolt the opponent after the end of his turn. If he counters (or taps mana to cast something on his turn), this reduces the chance of his countering the Fireblast, Grenade or Ball Lightning on your turn. If he does not counter, you have dealt 3 damage and repeat your patient assaults next turn. Note that it is more expensive for him to counter than it is for you to cast damage spells, so you can easily execute this patient bluff strategy and hold back a few turns to increase your hand size so that you can cast three to five spells in one turn, overwhelming the opponent.

Note that one should not fear the matchup against a pure counterspell deck. In the pre-Urza's Saga Type II, the mono blue deck had inherent weaknesses against the aggressive mono red. It had more land than the latter, making for weaker draws, and it had to compensate by tapping out to draw with Whispers of the Muse, leaving an opening for instant direct damage. Furthermore, it had difficulty with first-turn creatures (especially Jackal Pup). Finally, if a Cursed Scroll slipped through, it could counter every spell but still lose when the red player emptied his hand.

Despite the large pool of burn spells available in Type I, there really are no other choices for the 20 burn spells listed. Cheap spells such as Kindle and Parch are too inefficient while more expensive spells are unplayable. The only viable alternative is Shock, but it deals only 2 damage despite its one-mana cost. Certain burn spells become viable depending on the environment, such as Guerilla Tactics against Necro's discard and Thunderbolt against large flyers (Sengir Vampire and Serra Angel have lost popularity, but Serendib Efreet has not).

The choice of Fireblast and Ball Lightning is dependent on one's land mix. Goblin Grenade is dependent on one's creature mix. One can substitute the weaker Reckless Abandon, but every point of damage counts. Most efficient red one- and two-mana creatures are goblins or have ready substitutes (ex. Goblin Patrol for Jackal Pup, Goblin Raider for Ironclaw Orcs). More control-oriented creatures such as Orcish Artillery and Fireslinger are not needed due to the sheer amount of burn already in the deck. One, though, does not want too many goblin grenades in one's hand, and four Grenades with ten goblins or three Grenades with eight goblins is a good benchmark.

On a personal note, the three pieces of Goblin Grenade art are enjoyed by collectors, but some players advocate playing with copies with the same art to keep the opponent guessing as to how many Grenades there are (they remember more easily when seeing two or three different artworks).

2) Creatures

The creatures need not be goblins, but Goblin Grenade exists.

The first note is that one should refrain from taking the Goblin theme too seriously. The deck has 8 to 10 Goblins which are there solely because of Goblin Grenade, so 4 Goblin Kings and 4 Goblin Shrines only slow the deck down. The exception comes with decks based around Goblin Lackey, which can efficiently use Goblin Matrons, Mutants and Marshals as long as the Lackey is drawn. For example:

"Mutant Red" by Tim Palmer, PTQ-NY Syracuse (Extended)

Goblins (16)
4 Goblin Lackey
4 Goblin Mutant
4 Goblin Patrol
4 Mogg Fanatic

Direct damage (24)
4 Cursed Scroll
4 Fireblast
4 Fork
4 Goblin Grenade
4 Incinerate
4 Lightning Bolt

Land (20)
16 Mountain
4 Wasteland

In this "Goblin Burn" deck, however, the Goblin Lackeys are there to speed play (three Goblins by turn two is a big difference over two Goblins) and to bluff (opponents fear the nonexistent Mutant). The Lackeys are expendable, as are all the creatures. They are there only to provide permanent, consistent damage sources, something that slips past the counterspell wall to soften up the opponent for the Grenade-Fireblast-Fork finish. Because of this, as a general rule, play the creatures first and the burn after they are all down (burn spells do not have summoning sickness).

The creatures make the deck more consistent than those with nothing but burn spells and more of a threat against counter decks. Every point of damage counts, and the small amount of damage from the 1/1 and especially 2/1 goblins is integral to the deck. The creatures, again, however, are there only to soften up the opponent and not finish him unlike Type II Sligh decks, where the burn is saved to clear the way for the creatures. This is due to the availability of Goblin Grenade, Ball Lightning and Fireblast in Type I, which allows you to go up to 24 damage spells. Knowing the difference of this type of burn deck from pure burn and Sligh is very important. Finally, when faced with larger attacking creatures, your weenies can block and buy time to draw or cast burn, after having dealt their two to three points of damage anyway.

Type I has a large pool of goblins, but, in general, those listed are the best options. Aside from Goblin Lackey (which can be done without if one does not like its flavor), Mogg Fanatic and Goblin Patrol are clearly the best choices, the former for its flexibility and extra "ping" and the latter for its 2-power (and 1-mana cost compared to Goblin Raider). Goblin Vandal, however, is critical against the burn deck's two greatest enemies: Zuran Orb and Ivory Tower. The number of Vandals depends on how many people consider Zuran Orb a staple in all their decks, though it single-handedly disrupts all artifact-dependent decks (watch a first-turn Goblin Vandal played against an Ensnaring Bridge-based player).

Other choices are edged out by the fact that only 8 to 10 slots are available: Goblin Digging Team when walls are expected (walls are strong against Sligh, but in this deck, Ball Lightning tramples and creature damage is only a small part of the equation), Goblin Balloon Brigade for evasion, Mogg Flunkies and Conscripts for added hitting power (the creature count is too low) and Goblin Raider. Mogg Maniac attracts beginners, but it is really too reactive to be useful. Goblin Cadets is possible when many creatureless or creature-light decks are the norm.

One note, however: Do not use Raging Goblin. It is only useful when drawn early, and even then, provides only one extra point of damage (both Mogg Fanatic and Goblin Patrol provide extra damage). After its first turn on the board, it is as useful as a Mons Goblin Raiders.

Should one wish to add larger creatures (though the deck's creature component runs on one-mana creatures), one can drop the Goblin Grenades for any of the four-mana plays from Rathi Dragon, Balduvian Horde and Lightning Dragon or even Juggernaut or Masticore (in a weenie-heavy environment). My personal choice, however, would be Lava Hounds due to the haste ability. One can ignore the damage (you should be dealing more!) and besides, the most common removal spell is Swords to Plowshares. This is, however, unadvisable as it slows the deck down. Again, the burn is the finisher.

As a note, some decks have less burn and more creatures (but this subtle change involves a more different strategy already). The most famous Goblin player in the world is, of course, David Price:

David Price, Price of Progress, 19 August 1999
World Championships Day 3 - Extended
4 Jackal Pup
4 Goblin Cadets
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Goblin Vandals
4 Goblin Lackey
4 Mogg Flunkie
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Shock
4 Goblin Grenade
3 Reckless Abandon
3 Fireblast
4 Wasteland
14 Mountain

The sideboard:
4 Pyroblast
4 Cursed Scroll
2 Mountain
3 Price of Progress
2 Goblin King

The extra creatures were accommodated by the lower land count. The Cadets were put in and the Cursed Scrolls left in the sideboard due to the combo decks in the competition. Finally, the Goblin King was placed to supplement the 16 goblins against Engineered Plague, though the mountainwalk was helpful against defensive decks with red dual lands such as Recurring Nightmare.

In his match against Rafael Levy, he said: "In the second game, I went Jackal Pup, Shock an Elf and cast a Mogg Fanatic, Mogg Flunky, Mogg Flunky... Goblin King, Goblin King. His Walls were too small."

Other Goblin decks have even more goblins and are already red weenie decks rather than Sligh or burn. These already include Goblin Lackeys, Goblin Kings and even Coat of Arms. As a final note, the most fun are goblin decks with nothing but small goblins and only 8 non-goblin spells: 4 Lightning Bolts or Incinerates and 4 Songs of Blood fueled by Goblin Recruiters.

3) Card Drawing

Wheel of Fortune single-handedly wins games and needs little further discussion. Cast Wheel at the earliest opportunity to get the most advantage, unless the cards in your hand can all be cast with the available mana (especially Ball Lightnings), though you should note that you will draw more Mountains from the Wheel. One note, however: When you have three lands in play and a Wheel and Fireblast in hand, Fireblast in response to the Wheel as you will surely draw at least one more land.

One might question why Cursed Scroll is categorized as card drawing, but that is what it is, essentially a reusable Shock. The conventional sources of card advantage for this deck (all the Tomes, Elkin Bottle, Nevinyrral's Deck) are too slow while a first-turn Cursed Scroll can be slipped past a countermagic deck. Except in that situation, play creatures, then burn, then the Cursed Scroll, and start Scrolling as soon as the deck starts stalling. Ideally, one should Scroll when one has only one card in hand (when you have an empty hand, Scroll before playing the card; when you have one card in hand, Scroll before you draw), but one should Scroll whenever excess mana is available. The opponent will start seeing what cards are in your hand, but they will soon be cast, anyway. When desperate, one can Scroll when there are many cards in hand and name cards that are not in the deck, to mislead the opponent, even if for the second and third match (example: Goblin Mutant or Impending Disaster).

In environments with slow decks, Cursed Scroll is golden as it is reusable direct damage. Against faster decks, however, it is too slow as it requires an empty hand to function (see Price's deck). Decks that use the Scrolls, however, must reliably reach five to six mana by the mid-game because one needs 3 mana to use the scroll and 2 mana to cast the card drawn. As a final note, one should generally play all lands drawn and cast Goblin Grenades when a Scroll is in play. Fireblast is the hardest spell to cast and it should be the spell that is held back and named for the Scroll.
One bonus of the Scroll is its colorless damage, which is key against Soltari Priest. By itself this is not a threat when one is ahead, but the accompanying Empyreal Armor is.
Other slots in the deck can be devoted to other utility spells that can be experimented with, usually in place of two Goblins. Some of these include:
Impending Disaster - Especially against multicolor, mana-intensive decks such as Recurring Nightmare (Doesn't work with Scrolls, though).
Seismic Assault - Cursed Scroll is better, though, even if this is free. This deck will rarely have a lot of excess land in hand, anyway.
Ghitu War Cry - Creature light, and excess mana is used by Cursed Scroll.
Spellshock - Probably unnecessary, but produces a similar effect with Ankh of Mishra.
Black Vise - Against Necro and Keeper.
Scalding Tongs - Supplements Cursed Scroll, but is slower.
Giant Strength - Goblin Grenade is already there.
Earthquake - More efficient than Pyrokinesis for weenie control as Pyrokinesis actually uses up two cards and cannot be used against players.

4) Land

The land in this deck is quite simple with 16 mountains (or 15 and a Mox). The Wastelands and Strip Mine are there for disruption, but should not be used without good reason as your deck is generally faster and you should not slow yourself down (of course, if you see a Thawing Glaciers or Maze of Ith or only one land in play, hit it as the delay in your development will be worth it).

Burn decks before Tempest included Mishra's Factory as additional damage for the mid-game. If one uses these, however, one should not go below 16 red mana sources (replacing Wasteland is possible).

Few other lands are usable in Goblin burn, and one should not play any land that comes into play tapped (Dwarven Ruins, Ghitu Encampment, Blasted Landscape, or any of the new Masques lands). One will use all of one's mana in most turns, and the delay, particularly in the first turn, is not worth it. Dwarven Ruins was used in some Type II decks before Tempest only because Conversion was then a common sideboard option.