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Modern Atarka Red

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

Goblins are an interesting creature type. People tend to underestimate the power of Goblins until they are facing down hundreds of points of damage! Every commander player knows to respect and fear the Krenko, Mob Boss player, and every standard player knows what is going on when a Dragon Fodder follows up a Zurgo Bellstriker. Every goblin player asks themselves the same question: Where is the Modern goblin deck? I’m here to show you what I have been testing and doing surprisingly well with in my local meta.

Atarka Red: A Goblin Love Story

Ever since the printing of Atarka’s Command, goblin decks have been dominating local game stores and tournaments alike. The deck capitalizes on the fact that sweepers were few and far between in standard for a while. The printing of Languish really hurt the Atarka Red deck. Goblins seem to have fallen off of the radar as new heavy hitters like Abbot of Keral Keep and Exquisite Firecraft began dominating the red deck wins archetype. Goblin players, like myself, began to ask the important questions: What do I do with my Atarka goblins shell? I did this:


Goblin Bushwhacker

This is the deck’s Atarka’s Command on a 1/1 goblin. This can come down as early as turn 3 and deal massive amounts of damage, possibly even killing our opponent. We always want to kick him. If we aren’t paying for the kicker then we might as well not even be playing him in the first place. Goblin Bushwhacker is a must have! I tried out 2 in the original list, then I went up to 3 once I saw how amazing he was. I finally put a fourth in because I fell in love with the Bushwhacker. You should play 4. Always.

Foundry Street Denizen

This is a powerhouse. A turn one Denizen into a turn two Dragon Fodder is pretty awesome, even more so if you can follow it all up with some tiny guys and a kicked Bushwhacker. Foundry Street Denizen is a must have for the deck. His ability can oftentimes make him the guy your opponent is forced to block, clearing the path for more damage. He always “trades up” in combat and just does a fantastic job of wrecking our opponents. You need to play 4.

Legion Loyalist

This guy is amazing. Giving all of our goblins trample is a wonderful thing, especially if we have a kicked Bushwhacker or an Atarka’s Command coming. The token ability is more relevant than you think, especially in a format full of lingering souls as chump blockers. Legion Loyalist is also hasty so we get to attack the turn we play him which is always best. I play 4 because there is no other way to play Legion Loyalist in this deck.

Goblin Guide

Here I am, writing about Goblin Guide again. This card is insane. There is nothing bad about a 2/2 with haste, and we really don’t care about his “drawback.” In fact, his secondary ability is awesome against any deck that runs hate. We get added information, that way we can be careful of how far we overextend. Pair this guy with Legion Loyalist and a Foundry Street Denizen on turn two and we have ourselves a powerhouse. You have to play 4.

*I know Goblin Guide is expensive. If you cannot afford Goblin Guide, play 4 Lightning Berserker instead!*

Monastery Swiftspear

This card is insane. Monastery Swiftspear isn’t a goblin, but it is a 1/2 with haste and prowess. This card is really good in this deck. The ability for us to trigger prowess during combat is insane, especially if we are casting Atarka’s Command or Lightning Bolt. Monastery Swiftspear is also constantly winning the blocking race. She trades up almost every time she blocks or gets blocked. You should play 4.

Goblin Wardriver

We need a solid “flex” spot that houses an insane creature. At first I was not impressed with Goblin Wardriver. I played cards like Mogg War Marshal, Mardu Scout, and even Signal Pest in this spot. The reason I picked Wardriver is because he attacks for a bunch. We can easily play him on turn two and gain back all the damage we missed last turn plus a bunch more during the next attack step. Once people get destroyed by Wardriver we start to see him being on the receiving end of all the Terminates and Abrupt Decays. Wardriver tends to be amazing in game one but sort of good in games two through three, so we may want to board any number of him out in order to make room for some other hate cards. I play four in my main-board. This is really the pilot’s call. You could even replace him with cards like Rabblemaster or Krenko. I like Wardriver.


Dragon Fodder

Dragon Fodder is a must have in this deck. Dragon Fodder enables us to go even wider with our attacks and can produce some decent blockers. Dragon Fodder is a must have. This card is kind of a beating with Foundry Street Denizen too. I would always play 4 in this deck.

Atarka’s Command

This is the namesake of the deck. Atarka’s Command is the way we can turn 3 kill our opponent, turn 4-5 reliably kill our opponent. The mode is always deal 3 +1/+1 my team. There is no other way we are playing this card. It is sometimes useful to prevent us from dying, but that is hardly relevant. You have to play 4. There is no exception. Atarka’s Command is the reason this deck is even competitive.

Lightning Bolt

The best burn spell in Magic: The Gathering’s history. You have to play 4. There are no alternatives to this.

Goblin Grenade

This card is excessively unique and can oftentimes steal us a win. The deck tends to reach a stall if our opponent can stop the onslaught. If we can manage to keep a goblin around, we can Goblin Grenade them out of the game, especially if our opponent has less than 5 life left. You have to play 4. This card is insane.

Become Immense

This is a sleeper card. Become Immense is the perfect way to sneak past damage and just win out of nowhere. If your opponent stalls and leaves themselves wide open, a hasty guy + Become Immense is just a game over scenario. I only play one, and I will always only play one. We definitely don’t want to see Become Immense in our opening hand, and we absolutely don’t want to see more than one in our next few draws.


We are playing fetch lands in order to thin out our deck and to grab our green sources for Atarka’s Command. We also play a one of Sacred Foundry so that we can board into Boros Charm after game one.

Mana Confluence or City of Brass is a must have for this deck, since we are running some different colors. I am playing Mana Confluence simply because I have them. If you don’t have them, I would buy City of Brass. We need this land in order to always make sure we hit lands that can tap for any color we need.

The fetch lands are absolutely crucial to our strategy. It might be better to buy Khans of Tarkir fetches like Wooded Foothills and Bloodstained Mire if you cannot afford the Arid Mesas.


Destructive Revelry

This card is insane against Affinity and Bogles, or any deck that runs enchantments. I have two in my sideboard in order to combat these strategies. This deck needs to have all of its spells dealing damage, which makes Destructive Revelry better than Ancient Grudge in this list.

Dragon’s Claw

The Mirror match is a slugfest. We have to have a way to weaken our opponent’s spells. Dragon’s claw does exactly that. We want to have anywhere from 2 to 3 in our sideboard at all times. Gaining life is not what the red deck wants to have to play against.

Goblin Rabblemaster

The midrange god of Goblins joins the party! Goblin Rabblemaster is very good in the midrange matchups. We want him against a lot of the meta, especially since he is a powerhouse by himself. He also gets so much bigger with our other goblins and can have trample with Legion Loyalist! I play two in my sideboard because he costs 3 mana and we are only playing 19 lands.

Torpor Orb

We just lose to Splinter Twin. We need a way to fix that. I play 2 in order to try to hedge our bets against the Twin deck. Honestly, they should be dead before they combo anyways. We just need to be able to hold our own against Twin if they shut our goblins down.

Boros Charm

We board into Boros Charm in order to blow out cards like Anger of the Gods, Volcanic Fallout, Supreme Verdict, and Damnation. We just lose to those cards on 3 and 4. I have 3 in my sideboard. You have to board into this in order to make sure that we can maintain a board presence in the face of control decks.

Krenko, Mob Boss

In the midrange matchup, we really want to bring in Krenko as well. Krenko can help us rebuild after a board wipe and can also help us close out a game when there are tons of blockers to deal with. I only have one in my 75 because there are very few matches where we need him.

Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh

Chandra is excessively good in the midrange matches. Chandra can help us follow up some serious beats with a massive threat and she can flip the turn after we play her. She is fantastic in this deck’s sideboard, not in the main. I play 2 in the sideboard and only really board her in during the matches where my opponents are looking to one-for-one trade with my creatures.


The deck has very good matches against any real aggressive deck or midrange deck. Jund and Abzan tend to just crumble to this deck, especially Abzan with Lingering Souls. Any token list just straight loses to our goblin horde. Affinity is a slugfest because Arcbound Ravager is an excellent blocker that can put counters on Inkmoth Nexus and one-shot us. We need to be vigilant in those games and carefully watch how we play instead of running out every goblin all the time.

Blue decks are a different story. We tend to crush Delver builds and do an amazing job at beating any deck running Thought Scour. Snapcaster Mage can be an absolute pain. He can trade with our guys and even flashback Supreme Verdict or Damnation. We have to be careful when we play against those decks.

Tron can be a horrible matchup. The main board Pyroclasm makes it really hard for us to extend. If there isn’t a Pyroclasm, we can expect to win. Other than these decks, we tend to have good matchups.

I hope that this article has been of some help to you and has inspired you to try out Atarka Goblins. If you like hyper aggro builds then you will love this deck. As always, try to pick up the pieces for the deck from your local game store. You can’t crush people’s blue decks at Walmart and Target!


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