Goblin Welder has been a staple of the Vintage Magic: The Gathering metagame in the past, used to great effect in 5C Stax, Mono-Red Shops, and Control Slaver, among others. Because of its efficiency, Welder fits into almost any archetype. Control uses Welder to build artifact prison walls through counterspells and to set up locks with Mindslaver. In aggro decks, Welder trades smaller threats for larger ones and takes the sting out of removal. And in combo, Welder not only makes great bait for Mental Misstep and Force of Will, but it can also bring a countered Time Vault or Goblin Charbelcher online.
Currently, Welder is showing up in a new breed of Control Slaver lists alongside the greatest thief in the multiverse, Dack Fayden. For example, here’s the list Rich Shay has been playing in the first weeks of the Vintage Super League:
Control Slaver – by Rich Shay
This is primarily a control deck, winning incrementally just by gaining advantage against its opponents with planeswalkers, Notion Thief, effective counterspells, and powerful plays like Tinker for Myr Battlesphere. Goblin Welder isn’t the focus of the deck, but it’s still an important part, working with Dack Fayden, Battlesphere, and Mindslaver. Even though it can’t go infinite with Mindslaver (using something like Crucible of Worlds and an artifact land), even one or two activations can be absolutely devastating to an opponent.
If you like interactive games and want to play Vintage cards, this is a fun but challenging deck to look into.
With all the challenges Goblin Welder faces in the current Vintage metagame (Mental Misstep, Phyrexian Revoker, Ancient Grudge, increased creature removal), it still sees play because it’s a low-risk, high-reward card. It can trade weak artifacts for powerful ones, and there are very powerful artifacts in this format. Welder could probably see more play than it does, but it’s a tricky card to use well. Here are some basics.
Many of Goblin Welder’s nuances can be sussed by knowing how the card works. Let’s break it down:
Tap: Choose target artifact a player controls and target artifact card in that player’s graveyard. If both targets are still legal as this ability resolves, that player simultaneously sacrifices the artifact and returns the artifact card to the battlefield.
One thing that new players overlook is that Goblin Welder can target any player’s artifacts. This makes playing Tinker into your opponent’s active Welder generally a bad idea. In fact, Welder’s ability can be surprisingly disruptive against artifact-heavy decks, like MUD or Stax, and even artifact-heavy opening hands that reply on Black Lotus or Tinker. Combining Welder with artifact removal can be even more devastating, but we’ll get to that later.
Also note that Welder targets the artifact in play and the artifact card in the graveyard and then exchanges them. That’s standard wording, but it does have the added clause that both targets have to be legal for the switch to be made. Normally, an ability like this would do as much as possible if one target or the other were removed, but Welder cancels if it can’t complete everything. Knowing how to prevent Welder tricks is an important part of playing with and against the card, but we’ll get to that later too.
Finally, the exchange works by sacrificing the artifact in play and returning the artifact card in the graveyard to the battlefield simultaneously. This first means that effects will trigger on leaving and entering the battlefield, respectively, and those effects can be stacked as you choose. It also means that neither card will see the other card. So, for example you can’t Weld a Duplicant onto the battlefield and have it remove the Sundering Titan that just left. But you can choose whether to stack the imprint trigger or Titan’s land destruction trigger first.
Going beyond its ability, Goblin Welder is a one-drop, red, goblin artificer creature. One of the reasons it dropped off the Vintage radar for a while is Mental Misstep. Even though Misstep generally gets boarded out against Mishra’s Workshop decks, you might want to play Cavern of Souls if you want Welder to resolve. “Artificer” doesn’t appear on Urza’s Legacy Welders since it was added after the Great Creature Type Update. It’s something to keep in mind even though it’s not likely going to be relevant (but you know what else is an artificer? Stoneforge Mystic).
Now that we’ve outlined the basics, let’s look at some more advanced Goblin Welder interactions.
Firing up the Oxyacetylene
As with most effects in Magic, the best time to activate Goblin Welder is as late as possible, usually at the end of your opponent’s turn. This gives you more information for any choices you’ll be making, allows you to react to your opponent’s actions, and lets you untap Welder right away on your turn to use again. Obviously if you want something like Tangle Wire to trigger on your opponent’s upkeep or you want to Mindslaver your opponent’s next turn, you’ll have to Weld those in on your turn.
You can also use Goblin Welder to counteract artifact removal or graveyard removal spells. Your opponent should see this coming since it’s an on-board trick, but an active Welder at least makes those spells unprofitable, sometimes stranding them in your opponent’s hand. Other times you may just want the removal spell to resolve so you can weld the destroyed permanent in immediately. This might be the case if your opponent is going to Lightning Bolt a Lodestone Golem on their turn and you want it around to attack next turn.
Activations also change timing when both players control a Goblin Welder; then things get really interesting. When Stax and Control Slaver were both popular Vintage decks and were both playing multiple Welders, games frequently came down to which player could better use their goblin artificers. The recommendation again was always to wait; having an active Welder when your opponent’s was tapped was a key to victory. Part of the reason is that one Welder can disrupt another by Welding either target artifact card in response, making it illegal for the second weld on the stack.
Certain cards were more heavily played just to win the Welder war: Triskelion and Duplicant were critical for Workshop decks, and Darkblast and Lava Dart saw play in Slaver. Robert Vroman even played Granite Shard in some of his Mono-Red Shops lists. We could see these cards come back if Welder use continues to rise, though Mental Misstep is a convenient answer as well. Having more, better Welder uses than your opponent is just that important.
A corollary to this section comes along with using Goblin Welder along with Mindslaver. In a match where both players have Welders, it is entirely possible to lock your opponent out with their own Welders while they’re under Mindslaver control. Just have them weld one of your artifacts for the Mindslaver in your graveyard.
Mox Monkey, That Funky Monkey
As I mentioned, using Goblin Welder with artifact removal is very strong, especially against Workshop decks. Since you can manipulate their artifacts, you can essentially play their deck for them—badly. Bring back cards that are less effectual and get rid of any attacking Lodestone Golems or other big threats. If you’re lucky, you can also lock them under their own Tangle Wires, using Welder to ensure your turns are mostly undisrupted.
However, if you pair Goblin Welder with Gorilla Shaman, a.k.a “Mox Monkey,” you can Weld in a Mox for lock pieces and pay one mana to eat the Mox with Shaman, sending both artifacts to the graveyard. You can repeat this for each Welder activation and quickly clear the board. Gorilla Shaman is a good card on its own, serving as a repeatable mana-denial effect against decks laden with Moxes, and it’s not hard to feed it a Time Vault as the game goes longer. Mox Monkey and similar effects, like Viashino Heretic, are good considerations in Welder decks.
Putting it All Together
Obviously I’ve mentioned several cards that combo especially well with Goblin Welder: Tangle Wire, Mindslaver, Gorilla Shaman, and so on. There are tons of ways to exploit Welder if you’re building a deck. You want to look for artifacts that have triggers on entering or leaving the battlefield, artifacts you want in play on your opponent’s turn and not on yours or vice versa, artifacts that get sacrificed, and artifacts with counters to reset.
Solemn Simulacrum is a great example of the first criterion. Welding the sad robot into and out of play was a Mishra’s Workshop deck’s version of Ancestral Recall. Drawing a card and getting a basic Mountain in play is not only card advantage but also facilitates mana development under Sphere effects and the use of cards like Magus of the Moon. Sundering Titan and Myr Battlesphere have huge effects, but they’re expensive so you might not want to play too many of them.
For cards you want in play on alternating turns, Uba Mask is an interesting option that saw a surprising amount of play for a while. Uba Mask, Bazaar of Baghdad, and Welder combine to make a draw engine; you draw two extra cards with Bazaar and keep them under the Mask for the turn, discarding artifact cards to weld in until you have no hand. On your opponent’s turn, if they draw a sorcery-speed card into the Mask, you can weld out the Mask to exile the card forever. With two Welders or two Masks, you can lock your opponent out completely.
Mindslaver is the classic example of an artifact that gets sacrificed, but Black Lotus and Jester’s Cap are also notable. Black Lotus was actually considered a liability in Welder-heavy metagames, to the point where Workshop players excluded it from their lists for this and other reasons. (Chris Pikula’s Vintage Super League deck eschews Lotus as well.) Jester’s Cap was a game-winning play when Gifts decks played one Darksteel Colossus and one Tendrils of Agony and Oath decks played only two creatures. It lost its appeal when blue decks added more win conditions, namely Dark Confidant, Snapcaster Mage, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
Finally, for counters to reset, Smokestack and Tangle Wire are important elements of the Workshop prison strategy. You can Weld Stack for Stack on your opponent’s end step and perpetually keep one soot counter for your opponent and none for yourself; similarly you can keep Tangle Wire at four counters, just for your opponent. Triskelion is another synergistic card that needs counters to attack for four and to shoot down opposing creatures and players. Welding it out and in resets those counters. As a tip, it’s often faster and more efficient to shoot twice with Trike and then have it shoot itself with the last counter, killing itself. Then you can weld it in without having to weld out first.
Don’t Forget to Swing
Last but not least, always remember that Goblin Welder is a creature. It will get into the redzone for damage and can tangle with small creatures like Dark Confidant. Welder beats is a legitimate strategy in control decks like 5C Stax and Control Slaver where games can go long. The strategy was enhanced by Mono-Red Workshop Aggro decks, which included three or four Sword of Fire and Ice to make any of their creatures, even a 1/1 goblin artificer, into a card-drawing, damage-dealing hellbringer.
There’s more to learn about using Goblin Welder, but as with most cards, that comes with experience and testing. If you decide to sleeve up Welders for your next event or testing session, just keep an open mind whenever there are artifacts available to weld on either side of the board. You’ll find many creative opportunities to turn metal guys into ashtrays.
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