Is Goblin Chainwhirler Dead?

A guest article by Sito Vatthauer

It’s September, the new set is spoiled, it’s brewer’s paradise. With the big rotation on the horizon, all cards from Kaladesh and Amonkhet block are leaving the format in a few days. And I think this is great news. Let’s hope we are leaving the era of recent Standard bans and problems that sets like Kaladesh brought to the format for such a long time. For the next few months, Standard will contain only cards from Ixalan block, Dominaria, M19 and Guilds of Ravnica. In this article I will try to paint a picture of what Standard might look like in the first weeks, scratching on the surface only of course. I will provide 3 aggressive decklists for week one and talk you through the card choices and, just as important as that, talk about the cards that haven’t made my lists.

Bomat Courier
Soul-Scar Mage
Earthshaker Khenra
Scrapheap Scrounger
Ahn-Crop Crasher
Hazoret the Fervent
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Glorybringer

Because cards like Bomat CourierBomat Courier, Soul-Scar MageSoul-Scar Mage, Earthshaker KhenraEarthshaker Khenra, Scrapheap ScroungerScrapheap Scrounger, Ahn-Crop CrasherAhn-Crop Crasher, Hazoret the FerventHazoret the Fervent, Chandra, Torch of DefianceChandra, Torch of Defiance and GlorybringerGlorybringer are rotating out, a lot of people have claimed that the new Standard format will be much slower than before.

As a result, I can see people trying out Golgari decks with a heavy graveyard theme, playing cards like Glowspore ShamanGlowspore Shaman, Charnell TrollCharnell Troll and Underrealm LeachUnderrealm Leach. This deck could use Stitchers SupplierStitchers Supplier as a main engine to get cards in their graveyard, slowing down the tempo and going a midrange route. Decks that could survive rotation are Steel Leaf Stompy (Nullhide FeroxNullhide Ferox is a pretty interesting card!), Turbo Fog (although Pause for ReflectionPause for Reflection, the new fog effect in Guilds of Ravnica costs 3 mana) and some kind of Esper Control featuring Teferi, Hero of DominariaTeferi, Hero of Dominaria.

Maybe we will see a new rise of a Mono Black deck, bringing Dred ShadeDred Shade and Cabal StrongholdCabal Stronghold to a place of glory in Standard. It was quite popular when Dominaria was released, but quickly fell out of favor. By now it seems that Mono Red Aggro and Rakdos Aggro will be no longer part of the format, or in the case of Mono Red only with inferior creatures. If this assumption is correct, the oppressive Goblin ChainwhirlerGoblin Chainwhirler would be left without a proper shell. This would not only open the format for Token strategies and x/1’s in general but also relate to a format more dominated by powerful midrange and control decks. I am pretty sure people will try out Selesnya Token decks built around History of BenaliaHistory of Benalia from Dominaria and Legion’s LandingLegion’s Landing.

The convoke mechanic, reintroduced with Guilds of Ravnica, is made for a token shell and the new set offers powerful cards for every mage willing to make a pact with the forces of the Selesnya Guild; Emmara, Soul of AccordsEmmara, Soul of Accords, Trostani DiscordantTrostani Discordant, March of the MultitudesMarch of the Multitudes and Knight of AutumnKnight of Autumn will be part of the first scratchbuilds of these decks. But the mana will also support 3-color decks, as long as you are splashing for a third color only: Esper, Naya, Jeskai, Sultai, Grixis and Abzan decks might see play, giving the players a lot of cards to toy around with. Teferi, Hero of DominariaTeferi, Hero of Dominaria the most powerful card in Standard right now will be left on his plane without a mana base to support a pure Azorius control deck. But a card as oppressive as the newest incarnation of the Disruptive StudentDisruptive Student he was back in the days of Urza’s Saga, will find a home in Standard. It will likely be some kind of Esper deck, splashing for Teferi with eight checklands from Dominaria.

But does all this mean that aggro is dead? Certainly not. Especially in the first few weeks of a new format, I prefer playing aggressive strategies. It is just much easier to play out a straightforward game plan, casting threat into threat instead of trying to answer what your opponent is doing at a time where it is unclear what the best threats in Standard will look like. Will Cast DownCast Down be a good removal spell? Do I need to kill x/2’s or x/3’s as a control mage? Let’s try to give some answers from the other side of the table! So, if tomorrow would be a Standard tournament of the new Guilds of Ravnica format, I could see me playing a deck like this:

Boros Aggro

Creatures (23)
Goblin BanneretGoblin Banneret
Swiftblade VindicatorSwiftblade Vindicator
Adanto VanguardAdanto Vanguard
Tajic, Legion’s EdgeTajic, Legion’s Edge
Legion WarbossLegion Warboss
Ajani, Adversary of TyrantsAjani, Adversary of Tyrants
Aurelia, Exemplar of JusticeAurelia, Exemplar of Justice

Spells (15)
Legion’s LandingLegion’s Landing
Lightning StrikeLightning Strike
ShockShock
Pride of ConquerersPride of Conquerers
Lava CoilLava Coil
Lands (22)
Clifftop RetreatClifftop Retreat
Sacred FoundrySacred Foundry
PlainsPlains
MountainMountain

Sideboard (15)
Rekindling PhoenixRekindling Phoenix
Lava CoilLava Coil
Conclave RitualConclave Ritual
Citywide BustCitywide Bust
Deafening ClarionDeafening Clarion
Experimental FrenzyExperimental Frenzy
MountainMountain
Lyra DawnbringerLyra Dawnbringer

This deck tries to put a quick clock on your opponent while exploiting the new Boros mechanic “Mentor”. With Chainwhirler hopefully not a big part of the early weeks of Standard (we will get back to this topic later), it might be the time for Legion’s LandingLegion’s Landing and Adanto VanguardAdanto Vanguard to shine again.

In fact, they are not a ton of good red one-drops left in the format, so if you want to be aggressive, you either have to play mediocre cards like Rigging RunnerRigging Runner or Fanatical FirebrandFanatical Firebrand, or just go for the more powerful cards that white is offering. This should be true for a card like Adanto VanguardAdanto Vanguard, which was considered as a primary aggressive creature in Standard and, while having a little bit of success, was eventually held down by Goblin ChainwhirlerGoblin Chainwhirler and the sheer number of red burn spells and exile removal, making it tough or impossible to spend 4 life to keep it around.

I am not sure if the Vampire Soldier will shine in a Mentor deck, but I am confident enough to try it. You should nonetheless be aware that the +2/+0 when attacking is not a triggered effect and the Vanguard will only benefit from the new Mentor mechanic if the Mentor has power 4 or greater. With the new three-drops, Legion WarbossLegion Warboss and Tajic, Legion’s EdgeTajic, Legion’s Edge, we are finally entering Guilds of Ravnica territory. I am very excited about the Legion WarbossLegion Warboss and I think the card will be a big part of Standard for the next years. A 3-mana card with the potential to get out of hand quickly is not only a card you like to play in your aggressive deck, but also Grixis or Izzet midrange strategies will have to consider it as a primary threat to play. I am not sure if it will be the new Goblin RabblemasterGoblin Rabblemaster, but it certainly looks promising.

Tajic, Legion’s EdgeTajic, Legion’s Edge might look cute on first glance, but I think it might play very well with Swiftblade VindicatorSwiftblade Vindicator, pushing through a lot of damage in the early turns and protecting your creatures from damage based spells. Let me talk a second about Swiftblade VindicatorSwiftblade Vindicator; this card looks busted to me. It is the sole reason why we are playing Goblin BanneretGoblin Banneret over a card like Skymarcher AspirantSkymarcher Aspirant. A 1/1 vigilance, trample, double strike might look odd, but you just have to add one +1/+1 counter to create a real threat. So curving Banneret into Swiftblade  into pumping the Banneret and thus mentoring the Swiftblade with a +1/+1 counter might be a line you should get used to. The four-drop slot no longer contains Hazoret, the FerventHazoret, the Fervent and Chandra, Torch of DefiantChandra, Torch of Defiant but Rekindling PhoenixRekindling Phoenix is still around. On the other hand, Aurelia, Exemplar of JusticeAurelia, Exemplar of Justice and Truefire CaptainTruefire Captain, aka the new Boros ReckonerBoros Reckoner, might fit better in a deck containing Legion’s LandingLegion’s Landing, Swiftblade VindicatorSwiftblade Vindicator and Legion WarbossLegion Warboss. The possibility to attack with Aurelia as a 4/5 vigilance and pumping your Swiftblade VindicatorSwiftblade Vindicator seems to be very powerful and I am exciting to see how it plays out on the battlefield. Ajani, Adversary of TyrantsAjani, Adversary of Tyrants also fits perfectly in a deck that plays powerful two-drops and should make a lot of work out of the +1/+1 counters Ajani can bring to the party. So, as hard as it might sound, for now I prefer to put the Phoenixes in my Sideboard only, but that might very well change. The removal suite is rounding out the deck.

As far as sideboarding goes, it is hard to predict what cards you want to have access to after game 1. I expect Deafening ClarionDeafening Clarion and Citywide BustCitywide Bust to play an important role though.  The Bust will help to fight green creature based midrange strategies, while Deafening ClarionDeafening Clarion will come in handy against other aggressive strategies. It is a very flexible card with two powerful effects that can help you win the race or punishing your opponent for going too wide. The most interesting card, however, has to be Experimental FrenzyExperimental Frenzy. I think the card has great potential and I will bring it again against any kind of midrange or control strategy. In theory it can net you multiple cards per turn, as u are not only allowed to play the spell on top of your library on and on and on, but it also lets you play lands which is really important. Just make sure to play it as your last card and you should be rewarded with some crazy card advantage for an aggressive Boros deck.

This leaves us with a pretty aggressive 75 for now. But there are a lot of other cards in Guilds of Ravnica worth at least a consideration. So let’s turn again to some cards I choose not to play in week one; Justice StrikeJustice Strike is a removal spell, that’s asks you to target creatures with more power than toughness. To be better thanShockShock, Lava CoilLava Coil and Lightning StrikeLightning Strike these creatures need to have at least a toughness of 5. Lyra DawnbringerLyra Dawnbringer comes into mind, and if she will see a lot of play Justice StrikeJustice Strike should be considered as a pretty clean answer for her. A card that was very close to making the deck was Boros ChallengerBoros Challenger. It should be a great Mentor for Swiftblade VindicatorSwiftblade Vindicator but seems to be weaker than Adanto VanguardAdanto Vanguard on paper. Maybe I am wrong on this one, but the Vanguard has my trust for now.

Integrity // InterventionIntegrity // Intervention is also a card worth noting. A one mana pump effect turns every combat to a nightmare for your opponent. Especially because u can use it on a creature with Mentor to put a counter on a creature you otherwise couldn’t and mess up combat math pretty nicely. Intervention is an over costed Lightning HelixLightning Helix for sure, but if u have the mana to spare the card is at least not dead when u have no creature in play, a risk u should always keep in mind when playing combat tricks in your deck. This is the reason I would run it over, let’s say Take HeartTake Heart, but ultimately choose that the “pump all” effect that Pride of the Conqueror’sPride of the Conqueror’s has to offer, is worth the risk. You have to be a little bit greedy to be a true Boros Mage I guess. A card that makes me regret my statement immediately is Chance for GloryChance for Glory. Do I love this card? Hell, yes. Do I think it is good? No, absolutely not. The risk here is just too high, even for my hot-blooded Boros heart. Imagine Settle the WreckageSettle the Wreckage after this one. Or Vraskas ContemptVraskas Contempt. Or a fog effect. Not worth the risk in my opinion. But prove me wrong! I would certainly like it. Heroic ReinforcementsHeroic Reinforcements is another interesting card, this time from M19. The Reinforcements would add more speed to the Deck, whereas Ajani, Adversary of TyrantsAjani, Adversary of Tyrants is more of a value card. I think it is up to you to decide at this point if you want to be even more aggressive than my proposed deck list. If your answer is yes, putting Ajani on the sideline and bringing in Heroic ReinforcementsHeroic Reinforcements is certainly not a bad plan at all.

On a side note it should also be mentioned, that Path of MettlePath of Mettle and Relentless RaptorRelentless Raptor are still in the format. If you like to put these into your deck, you are more or less forced to go for Rigging RunnerRigging Runner and Fanatical FirebrandFanatical Firebrand as your one-drops, cutting Legion’s LandingLegion’s Landing and Adanto VanguardAdanto Vanguard. But on the one hand Path of MettlePath of Mettle plays not well with Legion WarbossLegion Warboss and on the other hand the red one-drops seem to be much weaker than what white has to offer. Nonetheless I think it is a path that should be on your radar. If I had to build it from scratch, it would certainly look a lot like this:

Boros Path of Mettle

Creatures: (24)
Rigging RunnerRigging Runner
Fanatical FirebrandFanatical Firebrand
Swiftblade VindicatorSwiftblade Vindicator
Relentless RaptorRelentless Raptor
Sunhome StalwartSunhome Stalwart
Tajic, Legion’s EdgeTajic, Legion’s Edge
Aurelia, Exemplar of JusticeAurelia, Exemplar of Justice

Spells: (13)
Heroic ReinforcementsHeroic Reinforcements
Lightning StrikeLightning Strike
ShockShock
Lava CoilLava Coil
Lands: (23)
Clifftop RetreatClifftop Retreat
Sacred FoundrySacred Foundry
PlainsPlains
MountainsMountains

You have to cut Legion WarbossLegion Warboss because of how poor the Tokens are with a flipping Path of Mettle, and that will make your curve look a little but awkward. Maybe it is still ok to run 2-3 copies or the mana base must go heavier on red with 24 Lands to support Goblin ChainwhirlerGoblin Chainwhirler. Speaking of the card, let’s take a moment to get a closer look at it; hands down, the card is a nightmare for this deck. Not only does it kill all your one and two-drops, it also blocks pretty damn good against most of your team. So let’s think again about the assumption of a lot of players that Goblin ChainwhirlerGoblin Chainwhirler will not see much play going forward. Because, one thing is for sure: The more people think it will not be played as much as before, the better it gets. The wild Goblin Lady was a powerhouse in Standard when everyone avoided carefully to play x/1’s, so now imagine what will happen when people will start playing tons of x/1’s like they will in Selesnya or, yes, Boros. One way to play Goblin ChainwhirlerGoblin Chainwhirler is by playing a bunch of mediocre cards just to have a mono red agro deck.

Mono Red Flame Keld

Creatures: (28)
Goblin BanneretGoblin Banneret
Fanatical FirebrandFanatical Firebrand
Ghitu LavarunnerGhitu Lavarunner
Dismissive PyromancerDismissive Pyromancer
Lightning MareLightning Mare
Viashino PyromancerViashino Pyromancer
Goblin ChainwhirlerGoblin Chainwhirler

Spells: (15)
Flame of KeldFlame of Keld
Lightning StrikeLightning Strike
ShockShock
Wizard’s LightningWizard’s Lightning
Lands: (8)
MountainsMountains

This is a lot of aggression, a lot of Burn, a lot of Mountains, and a Goblin ChainwhirlerGoblin Chainwhirler as a 4-off. And to be honest, I like it. Yes, it is a bunch of mediocre creatures, but none of them is inherently bad because they have one common goal: To kill your opponent as fast as possible and to punish him hard for playing x/1’s.

The other way is to play a Boros deck only splashing the most powerful white cards (probably Swiftblade VindicatorSwiftblade Vindicator, Tajic, Legion’s EdgeTajic, Legion’s Edge and Aurelia, Exemplar of JusticeAurelia, Exemplar of Justice) with 12-14 sources and playing 18 red sources to play Chainwhirler main deck. The risk will be that you cannot always cast it on curve, and sometimes you will fail completely to do so. This risk might be a calculated one, if the format develops as heavily infested with x/1’s. Last but not least, I can imagine a deck composed around Sarkhan, FirebloodSarkhan, Fireblood, Demanding DragonDemanding Dragon, Verix BladewingVerix Bladewing and … Goblin ChainwhirlerGoblin Chainwhirler. If you see all these possibilities I displayed here, I think we can agree that Standard is at a point where it will be fresh and new and constantly evolving in the next weeks. Not only did Guilds of Ravnica give a ton of great and interesting cards to the players, but rotation freed us of the Kaladesh and Amonkhet madness to make the format great again. To compete on a high level, make sure to not sleep on the early developments of the format.

Sito Vatthauer

Author Sito Vatthauer

As a two time Warhammer Fantasy Battle World Champion with Team Germany, Sito Vatthauer seeks for new challenges in the world of competitive strategic games. In late 2016 he discovered competitive magic and hasn’t looked back since then. The skilled journalist has recently qualified for his 3rd rptq in 15 month and is mostly interested in Limited, Standard and Legacy.

More posts by Sito Vatthauer