Deck Guide: 8 Whack Goblins (Part 2)

As explained yesterday in Part 1, I believe that 8 Whack is very underrated and an ideal budget Modern deck. It is cheap, effective, and an absolute blast to play. However, it can be surprisingly difficult to play optimally. You will have to gamble, make some tough calls, and do a lot of math. Today I will cover mulligan decisions, optimal play patterns, and sideboarding with this explosive archetype.

Mulligans
If you are a Burn player, mulligans with this deck will likely feel familiar. It is a critical mass deck with significant redundancy. There is not a significant difference from non-Whacker goblin to non-Whacker goblin. However, there is a significant difference between a hand with three goblins and a hand with two goblins. The value of a Whacker is based on the number of goblins you control while Grenade and Summons are inherent card disadvantage. Card quantity is more important than card quality so use the mulligan sparingly. For example, you will commonly keep one land hands if you are on the draw.

Your curve is low enough that you will almost always have multiple one drops to put into play on Turns 1 and 2. By Turn 3 on the draw you have a 56.8% chance to topdeck a land. I would not recommend this on the play though. A keepable hand does not have a specific recipe as it would for many other decks. For 8 Whack is it about potential damage. You need to envision the first three turns and calculate the likely damage. You should be going in for at least ten total damage within those turns. You will be hard-pressed to make this happen without a Whacker and/or a Goblin Grenade but post-mulligan you can pray for a topdeck. The deck’s best possible five is not much better than the average seven so you need to be prepared to keep “loose hands”. You will not get anywhere with two lands and three 1/1s. You will probably get somewhere with one land and six spells.

Play Patterns
The first decision point of the game will be which one drop to play on Turn 1. As always in Magic you should do the math and think this through. In general, the best Turn 1 play will either be Denizen or Guide and it can be quite close. A Denizen swinging for three on Turn 2 and again on Turn 3 is six damage total. A Goblin Guide swinging for two on Turn 1, two on Turn 2, and two on Turn 3 is also six damage total. If you have a significant number of creatures to play you should go with Denizen. Arguably, you should almost always go with Denizen because you have both. If played beyond Turn 2 he often is just Grenade fodder. Let’s look at two possible sequences with the two:

Turn 1: Denizen
Turn 2: Guide, Loyalist- Swing 6
Turn 3: Firebrand- Swing 6
Total: 12

Turn 1: Guide- Swing 2
Turn 2: Denizen, Loyalist- Swing 3
Turn 3: Firebrand- Swing 6
Total: 11

If you have more than a single creature to play on Turn 3, the difference becomes even more significant. So do the math but when in doubt go with Denizen first. After that you have to decide between Loyalist and Firebrand. The two are identical apart from their second text box so it does not matter a ton. If you will be able to enable and benefit from battalion immediately, go for Loyalist. Otherwise save him for a surprise overwhelming attack.

As far as Emissary goes I try to save it unless I can make full use of the mana production. You need it for Reckless Bushwhacker unless you have a third land and a one drop. You need a third land to play it and Goblin Bushwhacker in the same turn. So try to hold onto it unless your clock will move up a turn. Knowing when to play a Whacker can be a tough decision. The longer you wait, the more creatures you will have in play, and the more damage it will represent. So try not to whack until you have dumped everything else. The exception would be against possible board wipes. If you wait too long, you will get blown out. In those cases you want to try to get in for a solid amount early, get wiped, and then finish them with a second rush. When sequencing multiple Whackers you typically want to play Reckless first as it has higher base power while not pumping itself.

Surge in Reckless Bushwhacker- Swing 2
Kick out Goblin Bushwhacker- Swing 5
Total: 7

Kick out Goblin Bushwhacker- Swing 2
Surge in Reckless Bushwhacker- Swing 4
Total: 6

Beyond that the only decision points are when to play non-creature spells. You want Bolt and Grenade to be played late to carry you over the finish line. However, it is very possible that you will use them to pop an early large blocker. For example, a Turn 2 Gurmag Angler will block and kill multiple goblins over the course of the game; preventing more than five damage. The greater challenge is effectively playing Devastating Summons. As explained in yesterday’s entry you get to three lands, float RRR, sacrifice the lands to generate two 3/3s, cast a Whacker, and then smash in for at least ten damage. After this play though, you have no lands and therefore cannot cast your next draw. For this reason you should not make this play unless it will close the game out in that turn or the next. Be willing to give up everything to it once hellbent as generating six or more power for one mana sets you up very well to win. If it is uncertain, I like to hold onto one land so that I can make use of topdecked one drops; particularly Grenades. This will come up more often in non-Whacker hands as your tokens will lack haste.

Sideboard
Even a mono-colored deck such as 8 Whack has a myriad of sideboard options in the Modern format. I obviously cannot list every red and colorless option but I will list every option that I have tested:

Abrade
Aethersphere Harvester
Alpine Moon
Blood Moon
Damping Sphere
Dragon’s Claw
Dismember
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Goblin Chainwhirler
Grafdigger’s Cage
Risk Factor
Searing Blood
Smash to Smithereens
Shattering Spree
Tormod’s Crypt

For the sake of brevity I will not go over them one-by-one but I will say that you should be running at least two copies of Dismember and Tormod’s Crypt. Dismember is miles better than something like Roast to deal with large blockers. Crypt is better than Surgical Extraction or Ravenous Trap in this deck because you want to be able to cast it during your turn for surge and then activate it later. I also believe that Sphere or Alpine Moon is a must as you must interact with the ramp decks somehow. Sphere can have significant recoil but helps out against a wider variety of decks. I am not much of a fan of Blood Moon in this deck as we cannot accelerate it out or disrupt the opponent up until it lands. I strongly recommend Aethersphere Harvester over something like Dragon’s Claw. You would be amazed how much work a 3/5 lifelink flyer puts in against Burn, Humans, and Spirits. Lastly, as all decks in Modern do, 8 Whack needs some number of artifact hate cards.

As far as actually putting the sideboard together I recommend the more narrow options for this deck. When you only have red and colorless cards to choose from, there is not much competition for slots. Furthermore, this deck functions much like a combo deck in that you can only board out specific things without disrupting your own strategy. Therefore you will only be bringing in a few cards for each matchup and you need to make them count. Otherwise, you might as well be leaving your sixty alone and whacking them out. For example, I recommend Searing Bloods and Smash to Smithereens over Abrades. I also use Alpine Moons and Eidolons over Damping Spheres. With that in mind this is my current 75:

Lands (19)
15 Mountain
Ramunap Ruins
Creatures (28)
Foundry Street Denizen
Goblin Guide
Legion Loyalist
Burning-Tree Emissary
Goblin Bushwhacker
Reckless Bushwhacker
Fanatical Firebrand
Spells (13)
Lightning Bolt
Goblin Grenade
Devastating Summons
Smuggler’s Copter
Light Up the Stage
Sideboard (15)
2x Aethersphere Harvester
2x Alpine Moon
2x Dismember
2x Eidolon of the Great Revel
2x Searing Blood
2x Smash to Smithereens
1x Shattering Spree
2x Tormod’s Crypt
75 Cards Total

Boarding cards out will often be the difficult part as you have to take care not to overboard or go too low on any effect. Plans do not vary wildly between matchups though so a full sideboard guide is not necessary. You usually just want to trim a few things and the first candidates to look at are the flex slots. If you expect the game to go long it can be correct to board out some Denizens as they are the worst possible topdeck. If the opponent runs few or no creatures you likely do not want Loyalist as he is just a Raging Goblin. Grenade and Summons are a liability against counterspells so they can be trimmed when necessary. If you are in a racing matchup, typically combo decks, the card advantage flex spots are often unnecessary. I never board out any Guides, Emissaries, or Whackers.

Just keep in mind that you need a certain number of goblins for Grenade to be consistent and a low enough curve to maintain the value of your whacks. A pertinent example would be the Humans matchup. You want Harvester to keep up with their flyers and to race. You also want Searing Blood to swing the race and stay ahead on board. You can safely swap out the card advantage focused flex slots as longer games favor Humans either way. You may be thinking, “what about Dismember?”. Well it is true that Dismember can be effective in the matchup despite the life payment. However, it just is not as good as the other cards coming in or anything that could come out. This is why I favor narrower but more effective sideboard options for this deck but the choice is your own.

Wrap-Up
With over 3,000 words in the books I do believe that I have covered everything that you will need to play 8 Whack in Modern. If you have not, make sure to take a look at Part 1. I highly recommend building this deck as it is extremely competitive at under $200 USD for the full 75. It is the perfect deck to always keep in your bag for a friend to borrow. Has this convinced you to give it a whack? Do you feel that I have overlooked anything? Please let me know 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 the community wish list for Modern Horizons. Cast your vote in the discussion group before it is too late. Until then my friends.

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