FNM Hero: Little Red Men

Written by Jonathan Medina on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

FNM Hero: Little Red Men

Jonathan Medina

Jonathan has written for gatheringmagic.com and starcitygames.com (as a premium columnist). He captivated the Magic community as he chronicled his journey to trade a single pack up to a piece of power nine. Now you can find him here every week as he tells his FNM Hero adventure.

While I was getting Skinrendered over and over again at my last FNM, I took a moment to look at the match across the table. One person was playing Naya Pod and the other was playing Goblins. The Naya player had a Restoration Angel and a Thragtusk on the board and the Goblins player had a Goblin Wardriver, a couple of Tokens, and a Goblin Chieftain. I remember thinking, “that Goblin player is so dead.” I shifted my attention back to my game in time for my opponent to kill me.

When I looked back at the board across the table, the Naya player was scooping his cards up. What? How did the Goblin guy win? I looked at his side of the board to see a Krenko, Mob Boss and an army of Goblins. After the tournament, I found out that the guy didn’t lose a game for the entire tournament!

“Do you mind showing me your decklist?” I asked.

“Sure, it’s like Gavin Verhey’s list from the mothership.”

I quickly jotted the deck list in my notebook.

“How important were the Cavern of Souls?” I asked. I was hoping that he’d report how terrible they were and tell me that he was going to cut them, but I knew that wouldn’t happen.

“They were really important against Delver. I want to add one more.”

This was bad news for the FNM Hero since I really can’t afford Cavern of Souls at the moment. The good news is that the deck will function without Caverns and it was really cheap aside from those. Since I had a bunch of the cards from Mono-Red, I decided to build the deck and give it a spin for FNM.  I wanted to spend the least amount of cash possible so I did what I do best. I hit the trade tables.

After a couple of weeks of trading, I decided to buy the rest of what I needed.

4 Spikeshot Elder
3 Goblin Grenade
4 Goblin Wardriver

Total $4.48

FNM Roulette

I really wanted to battle with Goblins, but something unexpected happened. Taylor Gunn and Adam Prosak came up with an insane idea. It’s called FNM Roulette. Each player brings a non-tier-one deck and we roll for which one we’ll play. There were six players who participated. We all brought some crazy deck to put on the table. Here were the six decks:

Taylor gathered us together and said, “Alright Medina, roll first!”

I tossed the dice on the table: five.

I knew the deck box. It was the deck that Brandon Young Wolf built with my cards. I was playing UW Shape Anew! I’m not going to lie, the Polymorph lover in me was pumped to be summoning huge robots. However, the competitive player in me was not looking forward to playing against Vapor Snag.

The other guys rolled for their fate and we were off on our adventure.

Round 1 – WBR Trading Post

I was playing aginst one of the bad-ass Comminos brothers, Billy. He usually plays Birthing Pod which seems like a good matchup for me.

“Still rocking Pod?” I asked.

“No, I’m not playing a real deck tonight.”

“Me neither!”

He played a Swamp and I was suspicious about his claims of “not playing a real deck.” I played an Island and Pondered.

“Delver! I’m not playing a real deck!” he said, mocking me.

“It’s not Delver, bro!”

I smirked as if I was being ironic. I didn’t mind him thinking that I was on Delver since I wanted to hit him with an unexpected Shape Anew.

I played a Blade Splicer which prompted more mockery from Billy.

On turn four, the jig was up. I played Shape Anew into his open mana. I didn’t care if I got blown out. I was so excited to Shape Anew that I even forgot to attack with the Golem before killing it. Billy didn’t have any responses. I made a Blightsteel Colossus and he laughed, saying that he didn’t have anything to deal with one. On the following turn, I killed him with the Blightsteel and an Inkmoth Nexus.

This moment made my night. I played the rest of the tournament with mixed results and ended the night with a 2-3 record. I had nothing to show for the evening except for a lame promo (door prize) and some great stories about killing people with “one-shot robot.”

Checking in with the Guys

In between rounds, I checked with Adam Prosak to see how he was doing with the little red men (Goblins). He was 0-2 and not happy.

“Is the deck that bad?” I asked. I was a bit worried. After all, if Adam Prosak can’t win with this deck then no one can.

“The deck’s fine unless you have to play past turn four.”

I laughed and he passed the deck box to me.

My Friend J-Cal was 2-1-1 with the “Empires” deck before he dropped. Here’s a picture of him dominating his opponent with jank rares.

None of us did particularly well that night but we all had a great time and some good stories to tell.

Little Red Men at Illuminaudi

On the following Friday I didn’t want to play Delver so I started looking into building an Esper tokens deck. As I added up the cards it was too much of an investment. Instead of spending the money, I audibled to Goblins. I didn’t expect great results since Adam didn’t do well with it but I still wanted to play it. It would be a shame to let all the money and trades that I put into it go down the drain. I paid my entry fee and got ready for round one.

I ran the same decklist that I showed above, minus the Cavern of Souls.

Round 1 – WB Trading Post

I was paired against my buddy Nick Lutes. He’s been playing Goblins for a couple of weeks.

“Oh no, the mirror match!” I said, trying to fish for information.

He laughed but didn’t confirm or deny a mirror match.

Game 1

I kept a hand with two Arc Trail. If it was the mirror match then I was going to destroy him. He opened with a Swamp.

“Not the mirror match. What a blow out!” I said.

Despite having two Arc Trail, I still had some gas. My first three turns were lackluster at best. Turn one and two were one drops and turn three was Goblin Chieftain. I thought this wouldn’t be enough to close the game but Chieftain is very powerful. I swung with 6 power on turn three and then for another 6 on turn four while shooting him for two damage with my Spikeshot Elder. I was now threatening lethal on turn five. He played a Solemn Simulacrum to slow the bleeding but I shot it with a Pillar of Flame and killed him.

Game 2

My curve was much better this game: Goblin Arsonist, Goblin Wardriver and turn three, a second Wardriver to his Mycosynth Wellspring. On turn four he played a Trading Post. I smashed with two Wardrivers and an Arsonist for 10. Then I played Goblin Grenade, sacrificing the Arsonist for six damage. Sixteen damage in one turn?! I was falling in love with this deck.

1-0

What did I learn?

I didn’t realize how powerfull the Goblin synergy is. What seem to be unimpressive little creatures become a blunt and unforgiving sledgehammer of damage when combined with a Wardriver or Chieftain.

Round 2 – RB Zombies

I was worried about this match up because the Zombie deck has a lot of removal. It turned out that it wasn’t the removal that I needed to fear.

Game 1

Going into turn three, I’d played two Krenko’s Command. We’d been trading blows. He tapped out to play a Geralf’s Messenger to put me down to 12. I played a Goblin Chieftain and hit him for 10. Then I cast Goblin Grenade for the last 5 points of damage. He stared at the board in shock. One minute you’re playing a Geralf’s Messenger and feeling good about life and the next minute you’re getting fifteened in the face.

Game 2

In this game, the little red men came to fight! Unfortunately, he played two Blood Artist. I killed them both with my Spikeshot Elder but it didn’t feel good. Spending six mana over two turns to give my opponent a Lightning Helix is not my idea of a good trade. He ended the game at three life with a Messenger that served as a really expensive Shock.

Game 3

This was one of those lame-duck battles. He got mana flooded and I kept a lets-be-ballsy one-lander and got mana screwed (or Mana Deprived if you will). I’m typically a mulligan addict, but this hand was unbeatable if I drew a land so I decided to run it. It was a race to see who drew what they needed. He drew lands when I had to start discarding. I pitched a Krenko and passed the turn. He played a land and passed. I drew a Mountain.

It’s on like Donkey Kong. I played a Krenko’s Command and passed the turn. He started to draw action, but my two Arc Trail cleared the way for my Goblins. I was slow-rolling a Pillar of Flame. I didn’t want to use it on a non-Geralf’s Messenger. I must have hit a land pocket because the mana was flowing and I ended the game with a second Krenko’s Command and a Goblin Chieftain.

2-0

What did I learn?

Blood Artist is really a problem for this deck because it comes down early enough to keep your opponent out of reach. It might be worth it to use a Pillar of Flame on the Blood Artist, especially if there are multiples.

Round 3 – UG Delver

I was playing against my buddy Kenny. He’s always playing some kind of Delver deck with a twist. Today was no different.

Game 1

He started with the dreaded turn one Delver of Secrets. I played a Spikeshot Elder and passed the turn. He looked at the top card of his library, hoping to flip his Delver. But it wasn’t meant to be. He hit me for one and played a second Delver of Secrets. I did a fist pump in my head and blew him out with an Arc Trail. My Spikeshot got in for one damage and I passed it back. As the game went on, I played more one-drops while he Pondered for action. He Mana Leaked my Goblin Chieftain and my Krenko’s Command a couple of turns later with Snapcaster Mage to flash back Mana Leak. I took the opportunity to drop a Goblin Wardriver while he was tapped out. On his turn, he played Phantasmal Image to copy Snapcaster Mage and Ponder again. My Arc Trail cleared his board and I cracked in for lethal with my Wardriver.

Game 2

This game really showed me how resilient this deck can be:

3-0

What did I learn?

It seems that I didn’t need Cavern of Souls if I had early pressure because this forces the Delver player to play reactively and give me more openings to resolve spells.

Round 4 – Solar Flare

I was paired against one of the better players in the room, Mike Belfatto. I asked my buddy Brandon what Belfy was playing.

“He’s playing what he always plays. Solar Flare.”

I wasn’t excited to hear this. If I remember correctly he runs at least six board wipe cards.

Game 1

I mulliganed for a more aggressive hand. I wanted to come out of the gate fast enough to burn him out after turn four. My six card hand was okay, but I would need some help from the top deck to get there. I played a Goblin Fireslinger to his tapped land. It looked like he was having mana problems because he played a Ghost Quarter. He followed that up with a Ratchet Bomb. I pinged him before my deck gave me the Goblin Chieftain that I was dreaming of. I didn’t want to play a Krenko’s Command into his Ratchet Bomb so I decided to pass the turn. He added a counter to Ratchet Bomb.

I dropped my Chieftain and bashed him for four. He played Oblivion Ring on my Chieftain and left his Ratchet Bomb at one. I played my Krenko’s Command and kept the pressure on. He cast Day of Judgment and passed the turn. I played another Goblin Chieftain and hit him for two. He took some hits while he dug for answers. After killing some Lingering Souls tokens with Pillar of Flame and Arc Trail, he started to add more counters to the Ratchet Bomb. He finally blew up the Bomb at three to kill the Chieftain. This also killed his Oblivion Ring and freed my other Chieftain. I finished him off by dropping a Goblin Wardriver and a Goblin Arsonist.

Game 2

I figured that game two would be much easier because after sideboard I get to play with Shrine of Burning Rage. My hand was land-heavy with only three spells. I had a one-drop, a Shrine and a Krenko. I figured that the turn-two Shrine would get there so I kept my hand. Things went according to plan the first two turns, but I kept drawing lands after that. To make matters worse, he played a turn three Liliana of the Veil.

This is an interesting situation because the Liliana can chew my hand up and keep the pressure off the board. He made me sacrifice a creature and then started using the discard ability. I still had a Krenko, but I didn’t want to play it into the Liliana. I continued to draw lands while he grinded me. I finally had to activate the Shrine and kill the Liliana. I played a Krenko and he killed it. Then he played a Lingering Souls and flashed it back. He did this again and killed me with Spirit tokens a few turns later.

Game 3

My hand was great. I had the one-drop into Shrine of Burning Rage but I also had an aggressive beatdown hand to back it up. The game ended on turn five with Belfy casting Ponder three times to try to find something to win. He didn’t know it but no matter what he found, the Goblin Grenade in my hand would ensure that he died next turn.  He came up empty and scooped up his cards.

4-0

What did I learn?

I boarded in Torpor Orb against him, but after talking to him and some other people after the match I think it was a bad idea. I should have just brought the Shrines and Traitorous Bloods.

Round 5 – Mono Green Infect

I was paired against the only other 4-0 person in the room. It was a new player named Jesse. I sat down across from him and asked if he wanted to split.

“Do you want to split?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we take first and second place by drawing. Then we can split the prizes down the middle,” I explained.

“So I would get prizes?” he asked.

“Yeah, we both would get equal prizes. People at the top do it all the time.”

“Okay,” he agreed.

We asked Jamie what the split was. He told us it was $50 each. I looked at Jesse and shook his hand

“Congrats bro!” I said.

“I’ve never won anything!” he replied ecstatically.

This reminded me of the first time that FNM Hero prized. Jesse smiled as he scanned the cases for cards that he wanted. I told Jamie to bank my winnings.

Current Status

This new influx will help me get ready for my new Return to Ravnica deck. I may start trading my rotating Delver cards and just rock Goblins until rotation. Here’s where I stand money wise:

-$4.48 from Cash for Goblins.
-$10 from Cash for FNM Roulette and another FNM I did at Epic Loot.
-$5 from Illuminaudi Credit for FNM with Goblins.
+$50 to Illuminaudi Credit for winning with Goblins.

Illuminaudi Credit =$55
Epic Loot Credit =$0
Cash =$14.34

Return to Ravnica

I really like this Goblin deck but I don’t think it will survive the rotation.  The deck loses key cards like Goblin Wardriver and Goblin Chieftain and I don’t see any suitable replacements for these yet. I think I need to start preparing for a different deck. The clear winner for an affordable post-rotation deck is one that many of you have been suggesting in the comments, Zombies. I think a GB build will be the most aggressive with the new Troll, Slitherhead and Abrupt Decay but the red splash also deserves a look. Pillar of Flame is going to be huge if (when) Zombies is a thing after rotation and Falkenrath Aristocrat might be the new Huntmaster of the Fells. My plan is to secure a set of Geralf’s Messenger and Gravecrawler as soon as possible. I’ll be looking to pick up Slitherhead and the common Gate lands at the pre-release.

What do you think? Where should I be investing my limited resources? Sound off in the comments. As always. Thanks for reading.

Jonathan Medina
@mtgmedina on Twitter

Art by: Polish Tamales

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