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A look at the goblin Food Chain

Chaining Goblins

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It wasn't that long ago when Mons Johnson, a well-known goblin aficionado, first showcased the power of using Goblin Recruiter along with Goblin Ringleader to create a nearly limitless stream of goblins coming off the top of one's deck. A lack of a good finish at Grand Prix Las Vegas meant that the deck stayed under the radar, but he went on to put up some impressive finishes during that qualifying season.

Then along came Onslaught, the tribal block, and all of a sudden the little goblins had a bunch of new friends, the most important of which was Goblin Warchief. The Japanese were the first to come to the now obvious conclusion that throwing mana efficiency and haste into the mix along with Goblin Recruiters, Goblin Matrons, and Goblin Lackeys made the deck a nearly unstoppable force. The deck was starting to take on a combo feel, where the goal wasn't to slowly overwhelm the opponent with threats, but instead to simply do it all in one turn. With Skirk Prospector and the Warchief, it wasn't hard for the deck to cast three or four Goblin Piledrivers and immediately attack for more than twenty.

When the DCI decided changes to the format were necessary, Goblin Lackey was one of the cards to go. It was a great honor for such a humble little creature, but also a possibly crippling blow to Gobvantage, as the deck was called at the time. Sure the combo still existed, but the lack of the Lackey meant that the deck was increasingly reliant on pulling it off to win, and there was no fast way to do it.

As players started to explore the new format, changed both by bannings and by the debut of Mirrodin, Goblin Charbelcher started to receive some attention as a way to immediately deal massive amounts of damage to someone's head. It simply required setting up one's deck so that there were either no lands in it at all, or just none in the top twenty cards. The most obvious way to do this is with Mana Severance, but some astute players realized that the same thing happened as a side effect of using Goblin Recruiter. Casting a Recruiter with a number of goblins in your deck that's equal to or greater than your opponent's life total and then activating a Charbelcher was an instant win.

With this knowledge, a fair amount of attention was again put towards the deck, but it still didn't seem to have that broken quality that all great decks have, especially when stacked up against contenders like the new Mirrodin-bolstered Tinker and a retooled version of Angry Hermit.

Then a little rumor started that the Your Move Games team had found a new card to add to the deck. Specifically, a little Green enchantment from the days of Mercadian Masques, called Food Chain. With Food Chain in play, the deck can easily "go off" starting from any number of positions. Consider this (fairly optimal) draw:

Turn One - Mountain, 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 Two - Mountain, 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.

An elegant turn two kill. The deck can't always kill this quickly, but any time a Food Chain hits the table, the opponent's life expectancy goes down dramatically.

So how do you stop this deck? Ideas have ranged from simply getting rid of the Food Chain as soon as it hits the table to crazier cards like Grindstone. Activating a Grindstone on an unsuspecting player who has just used his Recruiter means that you likely mill all of his win conditions away. Other ideas include Propaganda, which makes it difficult for the Gobvantage player to attack with multiple creatures (especially since Food Chain mana only allows then to pay for creature spells) and Leonin Bladetrap, which can massacre large numbers of goblins when they do decide to enter the red zone.

Is Food Chain the next big thing? Copies of the card were selling this morning for $10 apiece, so it seems like a significant number of pros agree that it is. Only time (and sixteen rounds of professional Magic) will tell.

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