Commander Spotlight: Goblin Grenadiers

Whether your first forays into Magic were ten years ago or ten days ago, almost every player goes through a series of progressive steps towards bettering themselves. At first, everyone is so focused and concerned on grasping the fundamentals of the game. Knowing the phases and how each card type differs from one another is paramount to understanding everything else. The longer most people get from their first Magic experiences, the easier it is to forget that not everyone immediately grasps how a Sorcery is different than an Instant or that there are two Main phases.

Really, I know people who have been playing for years who still forget Upkeep comes before Draw.

Understanding how the game works is the first major Magic hurdle to overcome. Think of it this way: the Comprehensive Rules to Magic are as intimidating to the average player the basic rules are to a new player.

Once the game is understood enough to play regularly without a crib sheet, players move into Phase Two of learning the game. This focuses on all sorts of areas of understanding about Magic, and learning them is akin to choosing high school electives. That is, not everyone is going to follow to the same paths of supplemental understanding in the same way. Instead, it’s driven on an individual level by interest and generalized skill sets.

One person will first move into Comprehensive Game Synergy, developing a knack for seeing and inventing card combos and unique interactions. Another player will head for Advanced Rules I, further exploring the nuances of the functions of the game’s vast rules substructure. Many others jump right into Tips and Tricks, learning a plethora of small but useful tidbits about the game, such as taking advantage of doing things at the end of someone else’s turn, or learning how to plan beyond your current turn.

However, by far the most common avenue most players opt to focus on is Deck Construction 101.

It’s no surprise. A huge part of Magic’s allure is creating a personalized deck, functioning according to the player’s individual tastes. Decks are influenced by all sorts of things, whether it’s the cards a player has access to, the colors they prefer, the tempo they prefer, and the format(s) they’ll be using it in. It’s the art class of Magic: the Gathering.

In the most general of ways, Decks are created from two methodologies. One has the deck’s identity congeal around the synergy of the themes and / or mechanics being employed, and the other is the personal style of the person creating it injecting their influence upon them. In time, both methods happen concurrently, but for a newer player, one is usually more dominant than the other.

During my early years, my decks leaned heavily on the latter condition, and I often ran into issues of deck construction. My first couple decks were very “me”, but they suffered because I’d be trying to do too many things at once, muddling up what the deck ultimately desired to do.

The most memorable of these involved my first (and only) attempt at a Goblin tribal deck. It was originally made during the pre-Onslaught tribal block, centered around things like Goblin Grenade and Goblin King for doing damage, and using Goblin Wizard to put more creatures out. I focused heavily on the mountainwalk feature…which was why it was a Red / Blue deck and also included cards like Phantasmal Terrain and Mind Bend.

It also had my one copy of Maze of Ith. I figured that since goblins weren’t really good at defense that it would be a good deterrent to a counterattack.

It had its short time in the sun, but it was quickly shelved in favor of other deck ideas. I pulled it out again around Onslaught and, having gained a lot of experience since its creation, altered it into a mono Red deck.

Yet I left in the Maze of Ith.

In a Goblin deck.


That revised iteration was also short-lived and was then dismantled for good. I conceded that I had trouble playing the aggressive style that most Goblin decks demand, partly because it wasn’t the way I enjoyed the game, and partly because it didn’t make a very good multiplayer deck. The inclusion of the Maze illustrated that my own stylistic preferences were overriding what the deck at heart wanted to do, which was attack with wild abandon. Since I had no real attachment to the deck any more, it was cleared away for other things.

I can still appreciate what Goblins offer though, and while many are very parasitic – only really usable in aggressive and tribal decks – others still have more widespread application. A few are even so viable that they can be useful in Commander!

And that’s exactly what we’re going to look at.

Today we have: Goblin Grenadiers

Goblin Grenadiers

Name: Goblin Grenadiers

Edition: Weatherlight

Rarity: Uncommon

Focus: Creature Destruction / Land Destruction

Highlights: Goblin Grenadiers was part of a larger trend of creatures of that time period who only did something if they were unblocked. Most of them were small, and the majority of them weren’t worth the effort to use. However, a few, like the Grenadiers, were the exception.

In fact, it’s possible these goblins are more useful nowadays in larger group settings like Commander, as you can attack one player without any blockers (or one who feels its advantageous to not block) in order to remove a particularly problematic creature. Goblin Grenadiers is one of those rare Red cards that can destroy a creature without using damage, and that alone makes it worth consideration. Especially in a mono Red EDH deck.

In that same vein, Goblin Grenadiers also destroys land, making it a two-for-one Fissure. Luckily, Commander games are often chock full of viable targets for land removal. (Or perhaps it’s the land you wish to remove and the creature is incidental. Either way works.) It may only be a one-shot creature effect, but that you can destroy both a creature and land for a mere four mana is nothing to scoff at.

Its one caveat has less to do with triggering its effect and more about its lack of surprise. Goblin Grenadiers must attack to unleash its explosive potential, and unless they gain haste in some fashion, they will have to survive an entire round as a 2/2 to be put to use. Therefore, be aware that the lead player, or those with something important to lose, may not freely give it that opportunity.

Still, given the packed potential they offer, it’s certainly worth the risky venture. The flavor on the card depicts these goblins are the epitome of stupidity, but the addition of them in the right Commander deck is far from a dumb idea.

Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.

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