Archetune-Up - Korvold, King of the Gobbos
(Dragon Appeasement | Art by Paul Bonner)
What is a Goblin to a King?
Hello, and welcome back to Archetune-Up, a weekly article series devoted to tweaking a deck with the help of the EDHREC Theme pages!
By this point, everyone has aired their grievances with the face commanders of the Throne of Eldraine Brawl Decks. Some of them, like Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, and Chulane, Teller of Tales, were pushed a bit too much, while Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale missed the mark and under-performed, while Alela, Artful Provocateur seems to have hit that Commander sweet spot just right. But for as much flack as Korvold and Chulane get for being "too easy" or being the poster children for recent recent power, they still have the potential for interesting decks thanks to that power. It's a bit paradoxical.
As such, we come to today's deck, one that I think is both interesting and fun; Korvold Goblins!
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While Korvold might be seen as the most absurd Jund commander of all time, I find that there is always a tried and true way to reign in a commander's power level: make a tribal deck with them!
While normal Korvold decks can spiral out of control with things like Pitiless Plunderer, Mayhem Devil, or Poison-Tip Archer, we don't have that luxury. By going down a tribal route, the deck ends up utilizing the best cards for that specific tribe as opposed to just the best cards for that color combination.
Instead of Blood Artist, we get Boggart Shenanigans. Instead of Demonic Tutor, we can run Goblin Matron. These minor changes still work well with Korvold, but also tempers our power a bit. We are able to have consistency, but now we're building around a theme instead, and that often makes a huge difference at a table.
What is a King to a God?
The best place to look for interesting pieces for a Korvold Goblin deck is unsurprisingly the Jund Goblin Theme. Dragons and Goblins have been inextricably linked since the time of Shards of Alara on Jund and even on the plane of Tarkir. Cards like Dragon Appeasement, Dragon Fodder, Voracious Dragon, and Dragonlord's Servant express Goblin's subservience to their powerful overlords. This is why it isn't surprising to me that out of the three commanders listed on this theme, two of them are Dragons, one of them being Korvold!
Out of the ten cards added from the Jung Goblin Theme, half of them are Goblins, and of those five, three of them are the most Goblin-y of all Goblins: Legendary Goblins!
Shattergang Brothers are a perfect fit for our deck. While we may not have a whole bunch of artifacts or enchantments that we want to sacrifice to them, we do have plenty of creatures. Their main function in our deck is to be a sacrifice outlet to utilize with Korvold. Each time we throw a creature to The Brothers, we will net a card and thin the herd of creatures opposing us. Dictate of Erebos and Grave Pact are also ways to get this kind of effect, but choosing Shattergang Brothers over either of these hearkens back to the power level vs. theme discussion. I valued sticking to our theme over either enchantment's oppressive power, which is why The Brothers ended up in the list.
One of the most interesting mono-red commanders, Grenzo, Havoc Raiser also found a spot in our deck. This iteration of Grenzo is a versatile creature that either facilitates infighting at the table thanks to Goad, or provides card advantage after stealing our opponents' cards from the top of their decks. Due to this, Grenzo functions on a slightly separate axis than the majority of the deck. He plays into our swarm potential, should our Korvold value plan not pan out. We can go quite wide in this deck, and being able to pivot from focusing on Korvold to using our strength in numbers is an asset that the original deck lacked, and Grenzo can assist in the pivoting.
Following Grenzo's lead, Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician helps us with our go-wide potential, while also providing synergy with Korvold. Ib makes it so that any creature that blocks any of your Goblins has to have at least five toughness, otherwise the Goblin is sacrificed, and the blocking creature is dealt four damage. While losing some Goblins may seem like a downside, remember, Ib is forcing us to sacrifice them. If our opponents choose to block, not only will they lose creatures, but we'll draw cards and pump Korvold's power, too! Ib marries the sacrifice and swarm strategy together in a really tight package, and this is my favorite card in the deck because of it.
There are already a whopping 33 Goblins in the deck, so why not add two more for good measure?
Skirk Fire Marshal is a powerful, repeatable way to wipe the board and take huge chunks out of players' life totals. Normally, wiping the board in a go-wide deck is a detriment, but in this deck, things are a little different. Thanks to our sacrifice strategy and Korvold, our board dying is often a good thing! We can sacrifice the Goblins in response to the trigger, draw our cards, and pump up Korvold, all while the Fire Marshal sticks around, too! The best part is that if Korvold is an 11/11 or bigger, we don't need to worry about blowing him away! This gives him free reign to terrorize our opponents from the skies unopposed!
The last gobbo on our list is Weirding Shaman. This strange little fella acts in a manner similar to Goblin Warrens. With the Shaman, we can sac a Goblin to make two, which triggers a lot of our cards: Korvold, Pashalik Mons, Moldervine Reclamation, Impact Tremors, Boggart Shenanigans, there are a huge number of cards in our deck that love either half of this ability. Along with being a great mana sink, they are also a cheap two-mana creature, meaning that they can be deployed at any point in the game. They'll never be stuck in hand, and can always just be sacrificed to other effects in our deck if we don't want to use their ability, making them well worth the slot.
What is a God to a Dragon?
There are five other cards from the Jund Goblin Theme that I added to the list as well. These are all non-Goblin cards that work really well for the list either through synergy or just because they are solid cards in their own right.
Shared Animosity is a great help to our swarm strategy because of the huge boost in power it gives our Goblin ranks. Considering the number of tokens we can produce or just the sheer number of Goblin cards in the deck, our creatures will routinely get an additional seven or eight power when we swing in, which is something no other anthem can compete with. Quest for the Goblin Lord is another option for this slot since it pumps our board and is also on theme, but Animosity edged it out thanks to its immediate impact and incredibly high ceiling. This is another spot where power vs. theme comes into play, though this time, I do think the power is worth it.
I know earlier that I said that it's okay when our board is killed, since it is our core strategy to kill off our own creatures, but we want to make sure that this happens on our terms and not on anyone else's. Heroic Intervention makes sure that this is possible. Whether it is a Supreme Verdict, Casualties of War, or any other kind of removal, Intervention stops it in its tracks. Giving our permanents both indestructible and hexproof is a fantastic combination that protects us from nearly everything sans Cyclonic Rift and Vona's Hunger-like cards. Often it will be used as a two-mana way to save Korvold, but being able to protect our board if we're pursuing our swarm strategy as well is invaluable.
Just because we're sacrificing our Goblins doesn't mean that they have to stay dead! Phyrexian Reclamation was added to help supplement Wort, Boggart Auntie in reaching into the yard to recur our gobbos. Due to Wort's ability triggering on our upkeep, we won't always see it resolve, since there is a very good chance that she can be killed before it comes back to our turn. Reclamation gives us redundancy, letting us grab Wort or any other Goblin in our yard, letting us cast and sac them again to get the value rolling again!
The last two cards from this theme are both board wipes. Yes, we want to have a strong board presence, but there is always a chance we can be overrun by larger, strong decks, too.
Blasphemous Act and Crux of Fate are integral for situations like this. The best part about the two of these cards is that we always have the ability to spare Korvold from the destruction of the board. Should Korvold be a 14/14 or bigger (which isn't out of the realm of possibility), then he won't get blown away by Blasphemous Act! Similarly, if we choose to destroy all non-Dragon creatures, Korvold won't be effected either, giving them the leeway to start beating up on our opponents.
As integral as our Goblins are, we cannot forget that they exist to further push our Korvold gameplan. They exist to serve our whims, and they can be disposed of in a moment's notice if it serves our whims. Swarming is our secondary strategy. Korvold remains our first and number one priority.
What is a Dragon to Us?
One of my favorite Jund-colored cards is Dragon Appeasement, which is the only card I personally added into the list. It's on-theme, and it's exactly how I envision how Jund as a color combination works. Yes, it is more expensive than Korvold or even Moldervine Reclamation mana-wise, and yes, Fecundity would have been more powerful even if our opponents can benefit off of it, but it is the perfect example of the things you can change to make your deck more interesting, or bring its power in to where you need it. It isn't the most efficient, but it doesn't have to be.
Decks are only ever as powerful as we make them. Do I think Korvold and Chulane were design mistakes? Sure. Does that mean I need to play them like a mistake? Definitely not. Whether it is sticking to a theme, or using slightly less-optimal cards, there are always ways to tweak the knobs for your deck's power level.
When talking about power creep, there are two parties involved: WotC who design the cards, and us who design the decks. Some cards, like Narset, Enlightened Master, are inherently more powerful than a card like Chevill, Bane of Monsters. But, not every Narset deck has to be extra turns or extra combat steps. Not every Chulane deck has to be a pile of value that doesn't do anything all game until it wins. Building on a theme helps give them an identity and be more than just an amalgam of strong cards.
Some commanders will always come with a stigma, but we have the power to fight against these preconceived notions. Creativity and interesting restrictions are beneficial in this endeavor. Whether it is with something like Breya Thopters, Atraxa Lifelinkers, or even Korvold Goblins, it's worth it to try and make sure you express yourself when deckbuilding while also taking your playgroup's needs into consideration.
If you’d like to reach me I’m active on Twitter (@thejesguy), where you can always hit me up for Magic- or Jeskai-related shenanigans 24/7. Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns? Please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch! Stay safe, and keep fighting the good fight. I support you. No justice, no peace.
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