A Case for Unbanning Goblin Recruiter

This was planned to be released today, prior to the B/R update next week. We hope you still enjoy.

The upcoming B/R announcement “update” is scheduled for the 16th January 2017. I say “update” because we are as likely to get a change to the list as I am to grow an extra three inches onto my penis overnight. The Legacy banlist has at this stage become an absolute fixation of mine, and its speculation thread on The Source has become the thread that I – for better or worse – post in the most.

The night of the announcement is usually a horrible time for me: due to the time zone differences it is released at around 2-3am Tuesday morning in Melbourne, Australia. I usually cannot sleep until I know, and I usually cannot sleep after it due to either frustration, sadness or both. You may ask yourselves, why? Who cares?

I have decided that there are two kinds of people in this world – those that accept the world as it is, and those that want to see change, they want things improved upon and they want changes to make things better. I fall into the latter camp. Today we are not here to talk about what I think should be banned however, but rather to examine what I believe to be one of the last few outliers on the Banned & Restricted list: Goblin Recruiter.

In writing this piece, I hope to change some of your opinions about Goblin Recruiter, maybe even the opinions of those who can actually do something about the plight of Goblin Recruiter.

To begin with, let us look at the card itself.
Goblin Recruiter reads as follows:



Creature – Goblin

When Goblin Recruiter enters the battlefield, search your library for any number of Goblin cards and reveal those cards. Shuffle your library, then put them on top of it in any order.


Easy enough to understand.

You can either combo it with Food Chain and be a bad Elves deck or you can just jam it into existing Goblin deck lists and smooth out both the draws and mana-curve of the Goblin deck list, giving the deck a slower, albeit smoother start and a more powerful late game.

So why was it banned at the inception of Legacy? Well, Goblin Recruiter was originally banned in Extended in the December 2003 B/R announcement.

The exact reason for doing so was:

“Goblin Recruiter’s ability to stack an arbitrarily large portion of your deck allows goblin-based combo decks to kill as early as turn 2. That’s too fast for a healthy environment and the Recruiter is one of several casualties of our effort to eliminate realistic turn 2 kills from the environment.”

Honestly, I cannot complain with this logic. Uninteractive “derp” formats are about as much fun as wearing bullet-ant gloves full time. It is important to note that Force of Will rotated out some time in 2002, making the then Extended metagame a combo hell. So when was Goblin Recruiter banned in Legacy then? Well my friends, it’s time for yet another history lesson!

Legacy was not always “Legacy” – it was at one stage known as Type 1.5. It both aligned and separated itself alongside Vintage (or Type 1) by having a simple rule: if it was restricted in Vintage, it was banned in Legacy. In the early days it was a “players” format if you will, and not a recognized or sanctioned format.

Legacy officially became a format (albeit an un-named format) in the September 2004 B/R update.

Cards added onto the old Type 1.5 list were the following:

Bazaar of Baghdad
Goblin Recruiter
Hermit Druid
Illusionary Mask
Land Tax
Mana Drain
Mishra’s Workshop
Oath of Druids
Worldgorger Dragon

Of these cards, only the following remain banned.

Bazaar of Baghdad;
Goblin Recruiter;
Hermit Druid;
Mana Drain;
Mishra’s Workshop;
Oath of Druids;

Many quite rightly deserve to stay there. Oath for example? No thanks.

Goblin Recruiter however?

Let us skip forward to 2017.

At present the Legacy metagame is dominated by decks such as Show and Tell, Death & Taxes, Miracles, Delver, Shardless BUG, Eldrazi, Ad Nauseam Tendrils and Lands with innumerable other contenders sitting just below the top dogs, with decks like Elves, Painter and Burn being amongst those.

With the exception of the fair decks, all these decks are all capable of winning on the first or second turn with their nut draw, sometimes with protection too.

Even the fair decks can have an unbeatable start by turn two: Death & Taxes leading off with a turn one Aether Vial into either a turn two Rishadan Port or Thalia and then, in your opponent’s end step, Vialing in Mumma of Runes. Follow that up with a Wasteland and another Port activation, a Vial in of Stoneforge at the end of turn, and you have probably won.

Miracles have their version of this. Island into Sensei’s Divining Top, turn two Counterbalance, blind-flip counter your spell. EZ MODE B O I Z.

What about Delver? They can start off with a turn one Deathrite into a Delver and Decay with Force and Daze backup. Even Sol Land plus Simian Spirit Guide into Blood Moon can be game over, even if your opponent is still very much at twenty life. Are these not turn two wins?

Here’s the thing, Legacy is an Eternal format, and Eternal formats are supposed to be powerful! I am not against this. What I cannot agree with is the idea that the following play from the Wizards archives (which requires many, many different cards in a deck with nothing in the way of redundancy) is too busted:

Turn OneMountain, Mox Diamond, Goblin Recruiter. Set up your deck to have Goblin Ringleader on top and then three more at four card intervals, with a mix of Goblins in between.

Turn TwoMountain, Food Chain. Remove Recruiter from the game for three red mana. Cast any goblin from your opening hand. Remove that goblin from the game. You now have four mana in your pool, so cast Goblin Ringleader and collect four new goblins. Remove the Ringleader for five mana. You can now go in any number of directions, but almost all of them lead to you having a Goblin Warchief and some number of Piledrivers, as well as whatever other suite of Goblins you desire.”



Even with this Peter North-esque nut of nuts, this start is still easily beatable, and is comparable to a good Elves start – except the Elves deck is far more redundant and is able to make all of their Elves massive Piledrivers with trample!

Other arguments against a Recruiter unbanning is that it allows you to play a very normal Goblins deck, with the added bonus of the “derp I win” factor thrown on top. You can even protect all your Goblins from countermagic with Cavern of Souls and Aether Vial!

So…what? Again I look to Elves. In my two weeks of playing the deck, I have killed more people with idiot brigade beatdowns fuelled by Wirewood Symbiote and Elvish Visionary than I have with Natural Order or crazy Glimpse of Nature and Heritage Druid turns. At it’s core, the Goblin deck is still playing very fair. It isn’t turn oneing you with an Emrakul nor is it turn threeing a Progenitus into play. It’s just playing 1/1s and 2/2s that aim to draw into other 1/1s and 2/2s. One day Goblins may very well get their own Craterhoof Behemoth but today is not that day. This is not a valid reason to have the card banned, I am sorry.

Further in opposition of the “normal deck” argument, the Goblin deck is very clunky. When it doesn’t have a busted Goblin Lackey fuelled start (which it never does anymore, thanks Deathrite!) the deck is about as quick to the board as a Draft deck. The creatures are inefficient, over-costed, weak and slow. What this means is that the deck is strangely perceptible to mana denial, despite playing the same four Port and four Wasteland that Death & Taxes do. It is also a critical mass deck that requires you to cast everything the fair way or to Vial it in. Have you seen what Death & Taxes gets to Vial in compared to what Goblins gets to Vial in? Chalk and cheese, mate.

Another claim against Goblin Recruiter is that it would create time issues. If it does, call a Judge. No card can be banned for time reasons (Shahrazad aside) because there are slow play rules. Take responsibility for yourselves, and hurry up with your Ponder while you’re at it. Honestly, verbose claims that Recruiter will result in players sitting there stacking their deck for ten minutes are overstated and if we are being honest, is something we usually see from our cantripping/Topping/combo-playing frenemies, as they agonise over the stacking of their top three cards of their library even though half the time it doesn’t even matter because they’ve won anyway.

Goblin Recruiter doesn’t really require that much skill to use because it’s usually pretty obvious what you want. If you still don’t get it, dig this:

  • If you are building your board, you’re fetching Mogg War Marshals, Lackeys and Tarfire/Gempalm.
  • If you are killing your opponent, you’re getting Warchiefs and Piledrivers.
  • If you are using Goblin Recruiter as a Vampiric Tutor, it is just a slow Goblin Matron.
  • If you are drawing cards, it’s Goblin Ringleader on top, with four Goblins after that. In the early game you’re in the “build your board” phase as shown above. If you are in the late game and the board is stalled so four Piledrivers aren’t going to get through, you’re getting Skirk Prospector, Siege-Gang Commander, Goblin Sharpshooter and Mogg War Marshall, with a Krenko for the turn after.

If you really think that’s going to take half an hour to set up, you’re just being an obtuse moron because seriously, what more are you going to do with the deck? Also I don’t see Doomsday being banned, and Doomsday players play at the speed of a thawing glacier.

So Goblin Recruiter is not busted, and the deck really needs help if it wants to be seen being played by someone other than me or Jim Davis anytime soon. But does that mean it should be unbanned?

There are two categories that in my opinion must be met for a card to be worthy of being unbanned.

  1. It must not be more broken than anything already is (Show and Tell, I am looking square at you, you miserable fucking shit stain on this beautiful format).
  2. It must actually contribute to the meta in a positive way and contribute more interaction to a format that is already full of “derp I win” decks (still looking at you Show and Tell).

The real reason to unban Goblin Recruiter is because it’s unbanning would re-create another tier two deck that would:

  1. Be a cheap entry to the format and;
  2. Shake the metagame up from its current state.

Sure, the people who are so skilled at magic that they put an Griselbrand into play on turn one or two, or cast nine Dark Rituals and then Tendrils of Agony are not likely to worry about you, but the same is true of Elves, and they seem to do okay and it is in this space that I think Goblins can exist.

The difference between Elves and Goblins is that Goblins smashes the absolute piss out of Miracles, and I would like to think that adding Recruiter to the mix would increase Goblins’ game against the Death & Taxes and Shardless BUGs and Delvers of the world – matchups which are presently medium-to-bad for the old Gobbos. Shaking up the metagame and creating something new out of something old is a beautiful idea, don’t you think?

It is also a deck that can be played with little reliance on dual lands. I don’t think that being mono-colored is the most optimal way to play the deck (especially when Wizards won’t print us a decent Shatter dude in mono-red or Eidolon of the Goblin Revel) but it can be done and this is attractive to new and old players alike. Most old hand Legacy players have a Taiga or Plateau sitting around unused, and new players can pick one of either up for around $100 each. What a deal!

Legacy is called Legucci for a reason. It is a very hard format to get into because the price of duals and other cards is honestly a bit fucked. Last week I bought an Underground Sea from Games Lab… It cost nearly $500. $500 is a reasonable price for a store to charge for that card in January of 2017. For a new player, that is just impossible to fathom. I know that the Steven of 2004 would have thrown up at the suggestion of 2017 him spending $500 on a piece of cardboard.

If Goblins was a contender – a tier 1.5 or 2 deck – you would be offering a cheaper deck to the masses, something that is playable, interesting and different to all the eight million DnT clones that have jumped on the deck over the past two weeks.

For old players, Goblins presents them with another deck they can pick up for next to nothing that doesn’t dip too much into their existing card pool. We want Legacy to grow as much as it can, and having a different deck would appeal to a great number of players looking to dip their toes into the format and who have reservations about playing the same deck as everyone else, playing blue or pretending to play Solitaire.

It also just does not play like other decks. It feels like you’re playing super-magic sometimes, because you are playing such bad cards… But when they all come together, it is just a magical feeling. There is no other deck that can Gempalm Incinerator a Gurmag Angler, draw into a Goblin Ringleader off the cycle, then Ringlead into four cards that take over the game. I just cannot express how much I love the deck for when it does that, because it feels so fantastic to play. Making this big puzzle of red idiots come together to do truly powerful things feels fucking fantastic. Drawing fourteen off Griselbrand requires the same skill of a thirteen year old getting an erection. Sculpting a game plan so that you can use those four cards off Goblin Ringleader to take over the game is real skill. Like talking to a girl, but way cooler.


Every time I lose to Miracles with Delver I think fondly of all those times I smashed them in the pisshole with the endless tutoring, card advantage, mana denial and fun of the greatest deck that was ever played in this format we call Legacy, and shaking Miracles right down would be a great thing for this format. It is a bit omnipresent at the moment, and it can definitely suck the fun out of all those trying to play fair. Goblins being widely played would definitely be bad news for Miracles, and that is good news for Legacy.

I am convinced that the Goblin shell with Goblin Recruiter added to it can make Goblins great again. I am not sure if the number of Recruiters to play is four, three or two. Conventional wisdom would suggest that you want it as a four of so it would probably be where I would start (were it to be unbanned) but I could see that number dropping to maybe two or three.

The list that I would start with would look something like this:

Creatures: (31)
2 Gempalm Incinerator
4 Goblin Lackey
4 Goblin Matron
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Recruiter
2 Goblin Ringleader
1 Goblin Sharpshooter
4 Goblin Warchief
2 Mogg War Marshal
1 Siege-Gang Commander
1 Skirk Prospector
1 Stingscourger
1 Tin Street Hooligan

Non-Creature Spells: (6)
4 Æther Vial
2 Tarfire

Lands: (23)
3 Bloodstained Mire
4 Cavern of Souls
2 Plateau
2 Rishadan Port
4 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Taiga
4 Wasteland
3 Wooded Foothills

Sideboard: (15)
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Goblin Chieftain
1 Goblin Tinkerer
1 Krenko, Mob Boss
4 Pyrokinesis
1 Rest in Peace
2 Surgical Extraction
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

This is a much leaner Goblins list than we are used to, with less reliance on four and five casting cost creatures. Legacy is a blisteringly fast format, and we really cannot afford to be starting our game on turn three and four like we have been for the past ten years. It was fine when your Lackey was connecting, but things are a bit difficult on that front.

As above, only playing two Ringleaders gives you the upside of not flooding on those, and having four Recruiters and four Matrons will let you pluck one out when you need it. Thanks to the Recruiter, you will always be drawing four Goblins, and they will be the Goblins that you need. In doing so, the mana curve of the deck looks much more similar to that of Death & Taxes, which means that the deck will have more action in the early turns, but you will still maintain that glorious end game.

Unfortunately, without Recruiter or even a fixed version (*hint* *hint* Wizards, print the same card but only let it stack five Goblins if you won’t unban old mate), the deck cannot evolve because your Matrons will always be overtaxed finding Stingscourger or Tarfire or Tin Street Hooligan and you can’t afford to not play four Goblin Ringleaders.

The sideboard could easily splash black, and in a perfect world, a.k.a. a world where Wizards print a two mana Shatter Goblin in mono-red and unban Recruiter, we could probably splash black and white – black for Cabal Therapy and white for Thalia or other hatebears.


Of course, there is a reason that I am playing BURG Delver now, but I would snap back to Goblins immediately if we could get some help.  Make no mistake, Goblins as we know it will never be Tier 1 again, but that’s fine.

We just need a little help from our friends.

by Steven Stamopoulos

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