Welcome everyone to my Deck Spotlight series, where we are going to explore top-tier, meta defining decks or give some left field brews a deserved glance. Today we’re gonna be looking at Goblin Tribal, a sort of underground aggressive Agility deck with a lot of potential. This deck, in theory, is very simple. Play Goblins, attack the opponent, play more goblins, but in reality this deck actually boasts a surprising amount of subtlety with many creative flourishes you can make to the list.
In this article’s “What Magic: The Gathering deck is this like?”, its not actually Goblins, its Affinity. Fast starts to break down the door in Signal Pest and Memnite, large creatures for a cheap cost like Master of Etherium or Arcbound Ravager and ways to buff your team like Steel Overseer. While no mana-accelerant cards like Mox Opal exist in ES:L (Thankfully), and this deck usually doesn’t play any burn, it functions very similarly to Affinity. Only instead of playing little robots you get to play little green-folk. And while Goblin Tribal isn’t exactly top-tier, its an absolute blast to play, so lets get into it.
As there are only 7 actual non-legendary Goblin cards in the game that total to 21 cards, plus Tazkad to make 22 cards, with must-includes like the Mournhold Traitors and Gloomlurkers as honorary Goblins, the list ends up filling up quick just under 40 cards. The other 10 or so cards, however, are very interchangable. With the addition of Sightless Skulk in Heroes of Skyrim, it gave this deck another big addition as another large Agility creature, and it even cantrips! Plus Falmer are kinda goblin-y, right? The only issue is, adding another four drop to your aggro deck that already has six must-have fours can be risky, so these could be replaced with another small creature or something more impactful like a Leaflurker. I’m running Eldergleam Matrons, which give you a ton of play against the midrange/control decks as a big body plus an additional card. While the card can sometimes come up short as a Enraged Mudcrab, which isn’t even that bad in this deck, it can also come up huge as a Pit Lion.
Right now the big question in ES:L is, “How’s your Ramp Scout matchup”? Well, the deck does surprisingly well against Scout because you can bob and weave with your big creatures and small creatures, draw some cards and duck around their guards. Elderleam Matron helps a bunch here, its magicka cost is cheap, it gives you either something small to barf out or something big to hang onto, and the 4/2 body isn’t amazing vs Scout, but if backed up it can be effective. I also deploy a small Move package, with the three Shadow Shifts and one Dune Smuggler. The Dune Smuggler gets to play sort of like a Shield Breaker, small stat bonus that gets around a guard, and the Shadow Shifts are cheap and cantrip so drawing them when they’re not spectacular isn’t that much of an issue. In total, these additions give this deck a ton of ways to draw cards that compliment this deck’s natural ability to get card advantage in Goblin Skulk and Murkwater Shaman. These could be replaced with a Lethal/Ping package, in the form of Astrid, Fighters Guild Recruit, Archer’s Gambit and Quicksilver Crossbow. While I’m not a fan of it, the Lethal/Ping stuff does add a “gotcha” factor to the deck and completely lock out other aggro/creature heavy decks. While this deck thrives in the aggro mirrors that aren’t Prophecy Battlemage, because your creatures are the same magicka cost and either bigger or draw cards, adding the Lethal/Ping package can slant the aggro matchups heavily in your favor.
One of the coolest things about the Goblins deck is that the second Attribute isn’t actually set in stone. Goblin Tribal must have the 40 Agility cards, and if you want your Nimble Allys to hit and Murkwater Savages to grow, its always best to play the most Agility cards possible. The most popular and historic secondary Attribute is Strength, which compliments this deck aggressive nature the most. You used to run Triumphant Jarls, but Sightless Skulk took its role as a four power creature that draws cards. I run Circle Initiate now, as this deck is a little prophecy light and having another little aggressive creature is a bonus. And with potential turn one plays such as Murkwater Butcher plus Murkwater Goblin, or Ring into Mournhold Traitor into Murkwater Goblin, breaking the first rune on the first attack step makes the Circle Initiate really easy to transform and can give you the potential for supercharged openings.
The other considered Attribute is Intelligence, for stuff like Brutal Ashlander and Lightning Bolt can give this deck a very different feel. Camlorn Hero also fits right into this deck, but you already play a lot of three magicka creatures. I’ve done some testing with Intelligence, and when you draw your Intelligence cards it changes your decision making in the short term, like what creatures can I afford to trade because I have burn, or how much can I ignore their stuff if Ashlander manages to hit one of their creatures. If you’re a fan of more choices than “what creature do I play in what lane” or “how do I play my hand out in the right order”, the Intelligence list is far more appealing.
Willpower is another angle you could take, with cards like Eastmarch Crusader, Morthal Executioner, Fifth Legion Trainer, Pit Lion or maybe even Grisly Gourmet. The main issue I have with Willpower, is that a lot of these cards are very tempting and can delude your gameplan too much. These cards should probably just stay in their Willpower Weenies decks, as Spellsword Weenies takes advantage of them more than you do. The final Attribute is Endurance, and there aren’t many great aggro cards that synergize with Goblins so I wouldn’t really bother. Dragon Cult Ghost seems not horrible, because Goblins really cares about curving or playing a bunch of creatures no matter how small, but I’d almost always rather see a Wind Keep Spellsword in its place if we’re picking from Endurance creatures. The last option is to grab Neutral cards like Crushing Blow or Shadowmere, or play some Mudcrab Anklesnappers for some laughs, which all seem good to great in this deck. For simplicity, and because its what I’m most familiar with, I’ll be running Archer in the games. Speaking of the games, lets do it to it.
4-1! And we punted our loss really badly. Great showing for this deck overall, and managed to overcome the double Battlemage. As training for this deck, I jammed Rumble Gauntlet matches a bunch, to alright success. I ended the Rumble runs with 6-3, 5-3 and 4-3, which are all only OK finishes but still gives way to the argument that this deck is a real threat. Overall that totals to 19 – 10, or a 65.5% win rate, over the course of two sittings. Now while I have had better “streaks”, even with this deck, anything above 50% is good in my books. In the video, we faded this decks worst matchups in Sorcerer, Assassin and Mage, and we dodged the looming specter of Ramp Scout, but I’m still happy with this deck’s showing. We didn’t draw our one Dune Smuggler, we only played one Eldergleam Matron, but the new additions of Sightless Skulk, Circle Initiate and Gloomlurker came in huge. I’m sure this deck can still be edited and tinkered with, but I’m sticking with this list for the foreseeable future. Once again, if you have any ideas for the Goblins list, or have a deck you would like to see me play, shoot me a tweet or leave a comment. Thank you all for reading!