The year was 2015 and Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir launched in Brussels. The meta was plagued with G/R Dragons and the U/B Control decks that were hunting them.
Thunderbreak Regents against
Polukranos, World Eaters vs
Dragonlord Atarkas. The landscape was a glut of “go tall” strategies.
Through all the chaos an unassuming aggro deck slid under them all to take the top place. The Danish Magic veteran Martin Dang, coming off his Grand Prix Liverpool win, was able to weather the flurry of answers played by 2006 Pro Tour Player of the Year, Shouta Yasooka - no small task indeed.
Dang thumped Yasooka with a barrage of Dash cards and
Monastery Swiftspears, but it wasn’t until game 3 that Dang slammed his copy of
Goblin Rabblemaster and turned the corner. This goblin-producing machine put the pressure on his opponent despite the fact that it was tapped down indefinitely to an
Icefall Regent. Dang’s clock prevailed and he went on receive the $40,000 check and the coveted Pro Tour trophy.
While not its most flashiest appearance - in its prime the card took down Grand Prixs and Worlds 2014 - this close to rotating out,
Goblin Rabblemaster was making a dramatic exit.
After rotation, as most standard cards go, we expected it to see the inside of dusty boxes and the occasional EDH table. And for the latter part of 2015 and into 2016, this was the case. The card, once peaking at $20.00 has maintained a meager $2.90 price tag for most of its post-rotation life. All's quiet and we assume this is the end of
Fast forward to the present.
Jund, a once powerhouse, has taken a back seat to a changed meta. The decline of its favorable matchup - Infect - and the shift from
Lightning Bolts all played a factor.
But if Magic has anything to teach us, it’s that card assessment is transformative and a lot can be said about
Goblin Rabblemaster. Its ability to go wide, present a relative clock and give
Fatal Push another hoop to jump through make this card worth a second look. In fact, the card's already started making its appearance in Jund decks over the past few months.
2 Abrupt Decay
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
3 Bloodstained Mire
1 Blooming Marsh
4 Dark Confidant
3 Fatal Push
3 Goblin Rabblemaster
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Kolaghan's Command
2 Lightning Bolt
4 Liliana of the Veil
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Raging Ravine
2 Scavenging Ooze
1 Stomping Ground
1 Treetop Village
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Wooded Foothills
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Collective Brutality
1 Engineered Explosives
3 Fulminator Mage
1 Golgari Charm
1 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Grim Lavamancer
1 Huntmaster of the Fells
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
Being included in the main 60 of an attrition-based deck feels right. For Jund, being a play style that looks to strip the opponent of resources and swing in with a clean board, leaning on a dependable clock to finish out the game is crucial.
Goblin Rabblemaster left unanswered wins games on its own. For each combat phase the creature lives, it creates a kind of pseudo-card advantage by spitting out gobbos. It’s everything a Jund player wants in a finisher.
That’s not to say this creature's necessarily going to become a mainstay of Jund. Like many cards that get their feet wet in Modern, it has its origins in fringe decks that make an honest attempt at giving the card a home. In the past, decks such as
Pack Rats and Mardu Midrange have each run varying amounts of the card. Furthermore, the Goblin has found its way as a “four of” in certain Dragon Stompy legacy builds - that should amount to something.
However, making the cut as a modern staple is no easy feat. It’s a road that requires experience in the trenches. Only time and player innovation will change this.