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Oath of the Gatewatch Preview: Goblin Dark-Dwellers


Oath of the Gatewatch is already an exciting set, and I'm excited to see an interesting red card when I buy a box of the set: Goblin Dark-Dwellers.

When I first look at this card, I'm reminded of a few cards that have unique effects. Snapcaster Mage, Shriekmaw, and Mulldrifter all come to mind as defining creatures that saw a fair amount of play due to inherent value they generate. As the Buy-a-Box promo for Oath of the Gatewatch, it's a card that R&D wants players to see and thinks they'll use in decks. Some, like Goblin Rabblemaster and Sylvan Caryatid, shaped the Standard they came into.

But most of all it reminds me of Snapcaster Mage. Snapcaster Mage defined a lot of Standard when it was played in W/U Delver as well as Esper Control decks. A lot of that was due to Snapcaster Mage only costing 2 mana, but in comparison here, you're paying all 5 mana upfront as opposed to splitting the cost (2 for the Snapcaster Mage plus the mana cost of the instant or sorcery). However, the actual creature is much bigger and has pseudo-evasion by comparison.

It plays very well with 3-mana removal and/or burn spells (such as Crackling Doom and Jeskai Charm), so that's the most obvious direction to go with it. In addition, it has great synergy with Kolaghan's Command, allowing you to grind your opponent down to virtually nothing by returning a different copy of the Goblin Dark-Dwellers.

Here's a potential updated list for Mardu Blue (or Jeskai Black, albeit there's no Mantis Rider anymore . . . ).

The older lists played Painful Truths, but that doesn't work very well with Goblin Dark-Dwellers; therefore, the switch to Read the Bones works well. Playing the full four doesn't work because it's still a 5-mana spell that is somewhat awkward in multiples, but once you start chaining them, grinding them out should be relatively easy with your (almost) never-ending supply of Shriekmaws and Mulldrifters.

I could also see the Goblin Dark-Dwellers being a reasonably good top-end card in a red beatdown or R/G Landfall deck. The pseudo-evasion is more valuable there, and it synergizes well with Temur Battle Rage since it's already a 4/4.

It might actually be a lot better as a sideboard card here—post-sideboard games in a lot of matchups typically go a lot longer, especially when your opponent is attempting to kill all of your creatures. There're also fewer targets here than in an Atarka Red deck . . . which leads me to trying to build a bigger Atarka Red deck.

In updating this deck, it's interesting to note how good Goblin Dark-Dwellers is at providing two triggers for your Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh. On turn six, alongside any 1-mana spell, Dark-Dwellers is likely to transform your Chandra without Chandra having to enter combat.

Also, this list is much better at grinding out people who are attempting to kill all of your creatures with Radiant Flames or Rising Miasma. In general, my philosophy for building beatdown decks is to try to go bigger in post-sideboard games to avoid a lot of the commonly played cards (such as Radiant Flames and Rising Miasma). Goblin Dark-Dwellers fits relatively well into that plan and is just excellent as a two-for-one in general.

However, I wouldn't be surprised to see it pop up in other midrange decks (especially four- and five-colored variants that play Bring to Light), especially if some more situationally good instants or sorceries with converted mana cost 3 or less are printed.

Outside Standard, I don't hold out too much hope for this card. Paying 5 mana is a lot for a two-for-one creature in Eternal formats, especially when you compare it to Eternal Witness and Snapcaster Mage.

Thanks for reading, and I appreciate any comments here or on Twitter.


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