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Put Up Your Mardukes

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As we start to see more cards from Khans of Tarkir, different patterns and synergies in the set begin to reveal themselves. One interaction that caught my eye comes from the Mardu clan.

Mardu Ascendancy is a pretty great card on its own. Making a free attacking Goblin token whenever a nontoken creature attacks can quickly turn just two or three creatures into a huge army. The fact that it can be sacrificed to save your team from Anger of the Gods is just gravy.

Ankle Shanker is the perfect card to combine with the enchantment. It has haste, so you’ll make a free token right away, and the Shanker will give that token first strike and deathtouch. Suddenly, blocking is a losing proposition no matter how large your opponent’s creatures are.

Not only do the two cards work rather well together, they share the Goblin creature type as well. With a decent number of Goblins already available, I decided to try putting together a Goblin tribal deck for the new Standard format that could be built on a relatively tight budget.

The Goblins

Legion Loyalist may be rotating out, but there are still some good 1-mana Goblins available. Foundry Street Denizen in particular seems awesome here, with Mardu Ascendancy potentially giving it some massive power pumps. Frenzied Goblin is just a 1/1, but its ability can be incredibly valuable when facing down a larger creature.

At 2 mana is where the Goblins are unusually sparse at the moment, but Jeering Instigator isn’t the worst thing ever. Although it’s just a 2/1 with no abilities when cast on turn two, it does have added utility later in the game thanks to a sweet morph trigger. Act of Treason is already a card that often makes its way into the sideboards of aggressive decks, and the morph cost here is no more expensive.

At 3 mana, things become a bit more interesting. Goblin Rabblemaster has quickly proven its worth in the format, and with extra tokens from Mardu Ascendancy, it can grow larger than ever before. On the somewhat less exciting side is Krenko's Enforcer. Although a 3-mana 2/2 is rarely going to be spectacular in an aggressive deck, intimidate means you can almost always punch through some damage even if your opponent has some giant blockers in the way. It’s a solid card for closing out games after your opponent tries to stabilize.

The Support

Obelisk of Urd
Obelisk of Urd is one of my favorite underplayed Standard cards right now. Giving your creatures +2/+2 is always going to make a huge difference, but with the extra Goblin tokens from Mardu Ascendancy, it can make your army of tiny creatures incredibly lethal. Convoke means you don’t actually have to have 6 mana to cast it, which could be a problem for a deck like this. You can use it to prevent Goblins from being forced to attack by Rabblemaster.

Dynacharge is half the price of Obelisk of Urd for a one-time power bonus. That may not seem like a great deal, but tripling the power of your tokens for just one turn will often be enough to end the game. It’s also an instant, so you can catch your opponent unawares after blockers have been declared.

Stoke the Flames is another convoke card that can take advantage of all the tokens this deck can make. Rather than pump your own creatures, this one kills your opponent’s. Being able to take down creatures such as Courser of Kruphix can be crucial to winning some games, and the ability to hit your opponent in the face for 4 damage ain’t bad either.

Since the deck is already splashing white for the two Mardu cards, adding in Banishing Light doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Unlike the red removal, it can deal with any creature regardless of size. It can even take out opposing Planeswalkers. It’s a nice catch-all for any problem attacking won’t solve.

Playtesting

With the upcoming rotation due to completely change the landscape of Standard, I decided to test against an updated, post-rotation version of my Death Star deck, a constellation-based graveyard deck I wrote about back in May.

Game 1

My opponent won the roll and took a mulligan, starting off with a land. I played a land and cast Foundry Street Denizen before passing the turn.

My opponent played a land and passed once again. I cast a second Denizen, attacked for 2 with the first, and ended my turn.

My opponent cast Kruphix's Insight and passed. I cast Goblin Rabblemaster, making a token at the beginning of combat. I attacked for 7 and ended my turn.

My opponent cast Nyx Weaver and passed the turn. I killed the Weaver with Stoke the Flames and attacked for lethal.

Goblin Rabblemaster
Stoke the Flames

Game 2

My opponent led with an Elvish Mystic. I played a land and ended my turn.

He cast Nyx Weaver before passing, and I cast Foundry Street Denizen and passed back.

Pharika, God of Affliction
My opponent cast Nylea's Disciple, gaining 4 life, and he ended his turn. I cast Goblin Rabblemaster, made a token, and attacked with it along with the Denizen. My opponent traded Nylea's Disciple for the Denizen and killed the token with Nyx Weaver. I passed the turn.

My opponent cast two copies of Brain Maggot, taking a damage from Llanowar Wastes. He stole two copies of Ankle Shanker from my hand. He ended his turn. I cast Frenzied Goblin and a face-down Jeering Instigator. I sent a Goblin token on a suicide mission and passed the turn.

My opponent cast Pharika, God of Affliction. With just enough devotion to make her a creature, he ended his turn. I cast Mardu Ascendancy, made a Goblin token, and tapped all my Goblins before declaring attackers to cast Stoke the Flames on a Brain Maggot, returning my Ankle Shanker.

My opponent cast Whip of Erebos and passed the turn. I cast Ankle Shanker and attacked with everything, putting four more Goblins in tapped and attacking. Pharika blocked Ankle Shanker, gaining 5 from lifelink, and the other creatures hit for a total of 15 damage, dropping my opponent to 13.

My opponent took another damage from his land to activate Whip of Erebos, bringing back Doomwake Giant. I sacrificed Mardu Ascendancy in response to the trigger, giving my creatures +0/+3 and keeping them alive. The Giant attacked for 4 with lifelink, and my opponent passed the turn. I made a token and turned Jeering Instigator face up, stealing Nyx Weaver. I attacked with everything, using the Frenzied Goblin trigger to make Brain Maggot unable to block. My theft of Nyx Weaver also took Pharika’s devotion count down to six. With no blockers left, my opponent took the full 23 damage.

Wrap-Up

In short, Mardu Ascendancy is pretty darn awesome. Not only did it effectively make four hasty Goblins for 3 mana, it saved my entire army from a Doomwake Giant afterward. This card is extremely powerful in the right deck, and fact that it is pre-selling on CoolStuffInc for under $2 right now seems absurd. If you have a thing for Goblins, or if you just want a new twist on the classic mono-red deck, give this a try once Khans of Tarkir is released on September 26.


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