A few words on Eli Goings
(Twitter: goblinlackey1 | MTGO: Caedyrn)
Eli is a longtime magic player who moved to a dedicated Legacy Goblins player in 2016. He’s moved to making Legacy content on Twitch and Youtube consistently in the past few years, and is always tinkering with new Goblins lists to find what’s best for the tribe.
Goblins is enjoying a significant resurgence, largely thanks to the raw power granted by [[Muxus, Goblin Grandee]]. It benefits from a relatively creature-heavy metagame at the moment, and a reasonable improvement in its combo matchups thanks to our new top end (especially against [[Show and Tell]]). The matchup with The EPIC Storm is usually quite bad though. It’s not a deck I ever hope to run into. I usually sideboard extremely heavily and hope to get a little lucky. My current record vs. The EPIC Storm with Vial Goblins (tracking since November) is 10-14 (~42% percent) with nine matches on the play and 15 on the draw. The only matchups of a reasonable sample size that I have a worse time against are Turbo Depths and BR Reanimator.
I wouldn’t say the matchup has really changed with [[Muxus, Goblin Grandee]] other than Goblins having a faster average kill with a [[Goblin Lackey]] start, and it requires fewer cards in hand to pull off fast kills. This means Goblins can afford to mulligan a little bit deeper and still win on turn three. Before, the Goblins turn-three kills required a lot of moving pieces. Now, it’s just [[Goblin Lackey]] into [[Muxus, Goblin Grandee]] to hit a few goblins. The deck can now *technically* kill on turn two as well, but it’s a fraction of a percent to line up that way, so doesn’t really affect any matchup numbers. Something that Goblins players might be actually falling for is thinking that [[Muxus, Goblin Grandee]] is better than it is in the matchup. I’ve lost to The EPIC Storm because I put [[Muxus, Goblin Grandee]] into play instead of [[Sling-Gang Lieutenant]]. I lost to an [[Ad Nauseam]] that would have failed if I had five points of life-drain on the table.
Before sideboarding, the only cards that really interact with The EPIC Storm are the copies of [[Wasteland]], [[Rishadan Port]], and [[Shatter]]. [[Goblin Trashmaster]] is likely the best way to get a win off of The EPIC Storm game one in my experience. Turn one [[Goblin Lackey]] into [[Goblin Trashmaster]] plus a [[Mogg War Marshal]] for fuel lets Goblins disrupt the Moxen mid-combo, or makes double [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]] lines awkward. With the anthem, you don’t give The EPIC Storm much time to build up more fuel. Annoyingly enough, Goblins’ other [[Shatter]] effect is [[Goblin Cratermaker]], which specifically says “colorless nonland permanent”, meaning it cannot destroy [[Wishclaw Talisman]]. There’s usually a maindeck answer to [[Empty the Warrens]] in Goblins’ maindeck, so I wouldn’t advise going for [[Empty the Warrens]] lines after turn one.
If I know my opponent is on The EPIC Storm, I mulligan very aggressively to [[Goblin Lackey]] or look for multiple copies of [[Wasteland]]. I’ll go as deep as a mulligan to four to find a [[Goblin Lackey]] or otherwise exceptional hand (maybe a [[Skirk Prospector]], [[Mogg War Marshal]] into turn-three [[Muxus, Goblin Grandee]] hand is worth keeping). Since the primary engine of The EPIC Storm is [[Ad Nauseam]], I very much evaluate hands by how much life I can take off The EPIC Storm player by turn two or three.
I’m often hoping my opponent goes for [[Empty the Warrens]] lines against me. Between [[Goblin Chainwhirler]], four [[Goblin Matron]]s to find it, or setups like [[Pashalik Mons]] + [[Sling-Gang Lieutenant]], I’m usually confident that I can beat an [[Empty the Warrens]]. The only [[Empty the Warrens]] that I’m scared of is an early one that can one-shot me, which at that point, I’m not sure why I haven’t been killed by [[Tendrils of Agony]]. “Defensive” [[Empty the Warrens]]’ can sometimes be effective if my hand is hyper-reliant on [[Goblin Lackey]] connecting, but they usually take a lot of resources to pull off, giving me more time to draw my answers or just castable Goblins.
Not at all. Although it technically has text vs. [[Chalice of the Void]] on zero or [[Red Elemental Blast]], it’s something I’m fortunately able to ignore most of the time. The only other situation where it comes up is if I have exact lethal with [[Sling-Gang Lieutenant]], at which point [[Veil of Summer]] can essentially [[Stifle]] one of the triggers.
My approach to The EPIC Storm is to usually, “throw the kitchen sink at them.” The average Goblin is probably worse than a marginal sideboard card, so I’ll err on the side of “board it in because it’s better than a 2/2.” My usual sideboard has four haymaker cards vs. The EPIC Storm, two [[Mindbreak Trap]] and two [[Chalice of the Void]]. I often then have 1-2 [[Pithing Needle]], 2-3 [[Red Elemental Blast]], the [[Goblin Trashmaster]] if it’s not maindeck, and I’ll even board in one of my copies of [[Surgical Extraction]]. [[Surgical Extraction]] is quite weak vs. The EPIC Storm, but again, it’s gonna be better than a [[Goblin Ringleader]], [[Munitions Expert]], or an [[AEther Vial]]. I usually try to set up a [[Shatter]] on [[Wishclaw Talisman]] or [[Lion’s Eye Diamond]] + [[Surgical Extraction]] on it if I’m trying to make [[Surgical Extraction]] useful. With all of these cards coming in, I take out my copies of [[Goblin Ringleader]], removal spells, and all the copies of [[AEther Vial]]. [[AEther Vial]] is just too slow to matter in the matchup, and is an immediate dead draw past turn one. I usually end up bringing in 10-11 cards overall.
Card quantity is mostly irrelevant vs. The EPIC Storm, so I mulligan rather freely towards hate. [[Chalice of the Void]] on zero plus [[Goblin Lackey]] is the ideal start in the matchup. It makes a fast [[Ad Nauseam]] or [[Echo of Eons]] difficult, and the [[Goblin Lackey]] means that [[Ad Nauseam]]’s efficacy will be dropping off very quickly. On the play, the permanent disruption is generally what I’m looking for, whereas on the draw I *really* want [[Mindbreak Trap]]. The dynamic I’m always trying to create is winning game two with permanents plus a fast clock, and then winning game three with [[Mindbreak Trap]] as my opponent feels pressured to go off as fast as possible to get under [[Chalice of the Void]] or before I can cast [[Red Elemental Blast]]/[[Pithing Needle]]. The only exception is if I’ve mulliganed somewhat deep and not found anything I’m looking for. I’ll keep a hand just off of a [[Red Elemental Blast]] and hope my opponent [[Echo of Eons]] on turn one.
As I mentioned, both [[Chalice of the Void]] and [[Mindbreak Trap]] are staples of my builds that I highly prioritize. Discard spells usually show up in the form of [[Cabal Therapy]] because of the synergy with all the enter the battlefield creatures Goblins plays, especially [[Mogg War Marshal]]. I don’t often play [[Cabal Therapy]] these days (discard just isn’t amazing right now), but I’m always thankful to have it when I run into The EPIC Storm. The more interaction I can present on turn one, the better. The biggest traps vs. The EPIC Storm are two converted mana costed hate permanents like [[Thorn of Amethyst]]/[[Thalia, Guardian of Thraben]]/[[Damping Sphere]]. Although potent, these cards just cost too much. I expect my The EPIC Storm opponents to try to kill me before I get two mana if I don’t disrupt them in some way. The two-mana cards get there a reasonable amount of time when on the play, but almost never game three on the draw.
I’ve come to really dislike [[Leyline of the Void]] vs. The EPIC Storm. [[Leyline of the Void]] is extremely marginal interaction that also cuts off one of my secret win conditions: [[Red Elemental Blast]] connecting with [[Echo of Eons]]. I find lots of The EPIC Storm players jam [[Echo of Eons]] very aggressively, and I’ve stolen a lot of games because of [[Red Elemental Blast]]. [[Leyline of the Void]] very clearly says “you will not use [[Echo of Eons]] this game”, making my copies of [[Red Elemental Blast]] significantly worse, only tagging cantrips or perhaps a bounce spell. [[Pithing Needle]] on [[Wishclaw Talisman]] is usually fairly strong. I don’t expect it to buy me more than 1-2 turns.
The most common mistake I see The EPIC Storm players make against me is just walking into [[Red Elemental Blast]] very hard. I feel like I get to win games I had no chance in because my opponent went for an [[Echo of Eons]] line. As far as Goblins players, I think people don’t mulligan aggressively enough. These games are incredibly short most of the time. I’ve also seen a lot of post-board copies of [[AEther Vial]] that make my eye twitch. With boarding in so many cards, the [[AEther Vial]] curve gets collapsed anyway. A card that does nothing for a few turns, and on top of reducing threat density, is just not good. Look for [[Goblin Lackey]] into [[Sling-Gang Lieutenant]]/[[Goblin Trashmaster]]/[[Muxus, Goblin Grandee]] and then ideally 1-2 pieces of disruption. You don’t need much more than that because the game will end very very soon.
I consider The EPIC Storm the scariest of the [[Dark Ritual]] decks outside of Reanimator. This is simply because it’s so fast and graveyard hate is very weak. ANT and [[Doomsday]] I can race, especially when on the play, and against ANT I get to board in almost my entire sideboard. With The EPIC Storm, you essentially need your sideboard cards to show up to win and you have fewer genuinely good ones. My mileage vs. The EPIC Storm drastically varies by how many copies of [[Mindbreak Trap]] I play, more than any other factor. If I only have one, I feel doomed. If I have more than two, I feel favored in the post-board games.
There are small optimizations Goblins players can make to increase their chances in this matchup. Keeping up [[Goblin Cratermaker]] activations can keep The EPIC Storm off of [[Mox Opal]] Metalcraft, which has definitely saved me before. There are also the MTGO-specific bluffs, such as ‘F6’ing with [[Mindbreak Trap]] in hand. Just leave your mouse over “turn off all auto-yields” and click it when they approaching the end of their chain (a tell would be two cards left in hand). As for The EPIC Storm, I think pilots should consider using [[Abrupt Decay]] on [[Goblin Lackey]] more than they might want to. There’s a chance the Goblins player hand looks like two lands, [[Goblin Lackey]], a spell-based interaction card ([[Mindbreak Trap]]/[[Red Elemental Blast]]), and then a bunch of 3-plus converted mana cost Goblins. If you kill [[Goblin Lackey]], the pressure might completely subside. There are punishes for this play (most obviously [[Chalice of the Void]], but also a second [[Goblin Lackey]], or simply or a more balanced hand), but it will usually be a solid play that buys you a few turns to build up more resources.
I’m always happy to shout-out the Goblins community at large. Really a great group of people, all willing to help each other out generously. Other than that, I have a Twitch channel where I’m streaming 2-3 times a week, usually a Legacy league or two. You can find all my previous videos on my Youtube channel of the same name. I also have a Patreon where I post exclusive content, such as sideboard guides, a monthly article series with different topics, and some extra videos. Thanks so much for having me as a guest writer!
Huge thank you to Eli Goings for joining Through the Looking Glass and providing some outstanding insights on Goblins and its matchup with The EPIC Storm.