I am of the opinion that 8 Whack Goblins is the most underrated deck in the Modern format. It is fast enough to race combo, explosive enough to beat aggro, and goes wide enough to take on control. Of course it has bad matchups; that is a pitfall of the archetype trichotomy. However, it is one of those decks that can generate near-unbeatable hands which sets a floor on their losing matchup percentages. Today I will go over how to build your own 8 Whack and at under $200 USD it is very viable relative to the price point. By cutting Goblin Guide you can get it under $100 but I do not recommend this long term.
As a mono-red deck, 8 Whack’s manabase is extremely simple. Some players will opt for just eighteen lands due to the low curve but I recommend against this. Unless you have three lands or Burning-Tree Emissary, it is impossible to surge out a Reckless Bushwhacker. Furthermore, you need three lands to run out Devastating Summons with a Bushwahcker; a key play to the deck’s success. Devastating Summons and Ramunap Ruins act as flood insurance as well, which brings me to my next point. You absolutely should be running Ramunap Ruins; probably the full set. Being able to cash in your fifth land for an uncounterable Shock is a premium play in any grindy matchup. You only want to run three if your expected metagame is exceptionally fast.
The creature base for 8 Whack is pretty set in stone apart from the flex slot options. Foundry Street Denizen will regularly be swinging for three or more and should nearly always be played on Turn 1 when possible. When you get hellbent later on, it is ideal Goblin Grenade fodder. Goblin Guide is the best standalone threat in the deck, the best goblin in Modern, and the most expensive card in the deck by far. Legion Loyalist is much better than he appears at first glance as the battalion is easy to activate and makes blocking extremely difficult for the opponent. First strike is very relevant for Denizen and whacked up Goblins who have boosted power. Trample is of course useful as well and troublesome tokens will not stand a chance; quite the Raging Goblin.
Burning-Tree Emissary is great as an honorary goblin as she often represents a free 2/2. It can be difficult to find a purpose for the green mana she produces but she is invaluable. Without her, the Turn 3 wins would be far less likely and Reckless Bushwhacker would always require three mana to get into play. Which brings us to the Bushwhackers. Goblin Bushwhacker is typically the better of the two as it does not require surge to whack things up. However, the RR cost makes it less effective with the GR producing Emissary and it is only a 1/1 post whack. As explained previously, Reckless Bushwhacker is more demanding but it will often perform the same function. The only real decision point is Firebrand versus Fanatic. Firebrand has haste built in so it is a better attacker but must tap in order to ping. The benefit of Fanatic is that you can swing in and then sacrifice it for an additional damage. I personally prefer Firebrand but some opt for Fanatic as whacking gives it haste anyways; though that does not help on Turn 1. The choice is your own.
Play four Lightning Bolt. It has been the most played spell in the format every year since inception. The card is broken. No further questions. The number of Goblin Grenades is probably the most difficult decision when building the deck. I personally use three as it can be frustrating to draw too many with no goblins to toss. However, the card is an amazing finisher and the primary reason to play goblins so I could not fault you for running a full set. The final spell is Devastating Summons and you should not see this as a flex slot. For those that are unaware, it is there to be abused with Whackers. You get to three lands, float RRR, sacrifice the lands to generate two 3/3s, cast a Whacker, and then smash in for ten damage. Every land or creature beyond those three will represent two more damage so it is especially punishing for Path and Trophy players. Also keep in mind that the tokens are red so it is multiple Denizen triggers. It is a very powerful effect but you only want to cast it when flooding or ending the game within two turns and any additional copies are dead so I do not recommend a third copy.
There are many of them and none are clearly superior so I will list all that I have tested:
Light Up the Stage
Mogg War Marshal
The Flame of Keld
Courier is quite solid as a Raging Goblin that can be cast with Emissary though it does not trigger Denizen. If you run it, run the full set as it gets better in multiples; you can cash one in, hold priority, and cash in the other in response. The net result is that you discard your hand, discard an empty hand, and then pick up the exiled cards from each of them. I strongly recommend against Goblin Chieftan as it just is not conducive to the function of the deck; we are not actually goblin tribal. Three mana can be daunting, we are actively sacrificing our creatures, and the game ends so quickly that the function is very similar to an expensive Whack. Piledriver is a fine option as it works quite well with Loyalist and can attack for a ton; pro blue is very real as well. He depends heavily on a healthy board though and again we are not true goblin tribal. It can be tough to slip him in before a whack but Emissary can help if you do not need it to pay for the Whacker.
I am very conflicted on Light Up the Stage. One mana Divination can be quite effective and our low curve allows us to play the “drawn” cards within the two turns. However, we are not particularly good at pre-combat spectacle and our haste creatures lose much of their effectiveness if played post-combat; though they can be played a turn later as consolation. Smuggler’s Copter is a very underrated option for this deck as it gives the non-haste creatures something to do while providing flying and card advantage to a deck that lacks it. You can cast a Goblin, tap it to crew Copter, and then Grenade it at the opponents face; using every part of the buffalo. You can also run out a Whacker, hold priority on the ETB ability, and then use it to crew the Copter so that you get a 4/3 haste flyer. However, it is not particularly aggressive and looting is useless if you are hellbent.
Mogg War Marshal is another one that I would recommend against. It is cute that it can be a Grenade without taking a loss but it is awfully slow and low value on the damage side. The final option is The Flame of Keld and I am conflicted on this one as well. Two mana to not impact the field or opponent is less than ideal and it can be awkward to get into play. You will not cast it on Turn 2 as that would toss out your hand so you will not see the third chapter until Turn 5 at the earliest. You also do not want to cast it with spells in hand so you often need either three lands or an Emissary to get it into play. So why play it? Chapters two and three are extremely powerful. The turn after you play it you will have three cards at your disposal at the first main phase. Then chapter three basically gives all of your creatures +2/+0, turns Firebrand/Fanatic into Bolt, turns Bolt into Lava Axe, and turns Grenade into a Fireball for seven. It also helps you to recover from low mulligans but this will be less necessary if the London mulligan comes to pass.
Putting it All Together
4 Ramunap Ruins
4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Goblin Guide
4 Legion Loyalist
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Goblin Bushwhacker
4 Reckless Bushwhacker
4 Fanatical Firebrand
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Goblin Grenade
2 Devastating Summons
2 Smuggler’s Copter
2 Light Up the Stage
60 Cards Total
With everything put together, this is my current maindeck. For a time I was running two Mogg Fanatic to help enable Light Up the Stage, enabling pre-combat spectacle and keeping the curve low for the impulsive draw, but I am not sure that route is worthwhile. At that point the only uses for Emissary’s green mana would be an additional Emissary or a Reckless Bushwhacker. So now I am testing out Copter again and letting Light Up play out as is. In time I will give the full set of Couriers another run; neither of the current flex slots trigger Denizen either anyways. If you refuse to pick up Goblin Guides I recommend replacing them with Fanatics and using three Light Up the Stage with a fourth Goblin Grenade; otherwise your damage potential is weakened.
I am not sure how just the maindeck came out to 1,500 words but that is what happens when you are passionate about whacking I suppose. I do believe that this deck has the potential to perform at the highest level and only fails to do so because of its reputation as “just a budget deck”. It actually has a Grand Prix Top 16 performance under its belt. Do you believe it has the potential to Top 8 in the right hands? What do you think are the optimal flex slots right now? We would love to talk it over in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back tomorrow with Part 2 to cover the sideboard, mulligans, and play patterns to follow. Until then my friends.