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Building Around Muxus in Commander

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Summer Landscape with a Path and Lake by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1875). Goblin Chainwhirler by Svetlin Velinov.

For the past few weeks I've been wondering what I was going to do with the Muxus, Goblin Grandee that I opened up in a Jumpstart booster last month. I've built Commander decks around Goblins in the past and I just didn't see anything that exciting in this new legendary Goblin. Almost all of the Goblin decks I've built could arguably be better with Krenko, Mob Boss at the helm, with the exception of my Purphoros, God of the Forge deck, which ran Krenko in the 99 but mostly relied on instants and sorceries to make token Goblins.

I built Winota, Joiner of Forces, and got the chance to play my first draft of that deck on Tabletop Simulator recently. The deck blew up, but I wound up getting eliminated first because I looked the scariest even though my board was mostly small creatures. I had Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in hand at the time, so that probably didn't help my case, but the game reminded me of something pretty important.

I really, really enjoy playing decks that let me reveal cards off the top of my library.

I think I just like surprises - though I'm not above a little topdeck manipulation to help my cause.

Mayael the Anima
Narset, Enlightened Master
Winota, Joiner of Forces

This love affair with "reveal" decks started with Mayael the Anima. This little Elf Shaman might not be able to keep up with the speed of modern semi-competitive Commander decks, but it's always been fun to pay 6 mana, tap her and see if I get lucky and can drop some big creature onto the battlefield. I've won games off her activations more than a few times and hitting Blazing Archon has saved me from certain death more times than I can count. If you've kept up with my writings or you're in my local meta, you probably know my love of Narset, Enlightened Master. I should have Winota, Joiner of Forces put together in paper in the next few weeks and I'm very much looking forward to finally having a Boros deck I'll enjoy.

Having your success somewhat dependent upon the whims of lady luck is not for everyone. I've lost plenty of games where Narset swung, I got a "double flop" of eight cards and only hit one or two non-lands and nothing of any consequence. I've had plenty of Mayael activations that hit nothing I could cast. You have to be willing to take those hits and know that over time you'll get plenty of good games to make up for the bad ones.

Muxus is cut from the same cloth as these other "reveal" commanders.

Muxus, Goblin Grandee

He's not going to be hitting the table early, and if he gets countered or removed we'll probably have a hard time catching up with the rest of the table. Mono-red isn't exactly the easiest color to ramp in, but if he does hit the table we'll reveal the top six cards of our library and can put all Goblins with CMC five or less onto the battlefield.

While I'm a bigger fan of easily repeatable "reveal" effects, I'm starting to see how Muxus might just be the Goblin commander for me. He won't be as linear or as powerful as Krenko, Mob Boss. He won't be as explosive as my old Purphoros deck. The requirement to run a ton of Goblins to maximize my "hit rate" may throttle down the power level of the list, but he should give me those fun moments of seeing what I'll find lurking in the top few cards of my library. With a little work I might even be able to milk some extra triggers out of this deck and really go crazy!

Lazy Goblins

I've got a bunch of Goblins lying around doing nothing.

They've been gathering dust for a long time because most of my recent Goblin deck-building experiments involved instants and sorceries that create Goblin creature tokens. Muxus, Goblin Grandee doesn't want token generating spells - he wants Goblins. He specifically wants low CMC Goblins, but that describes almost all Goblins so the CMC five or less requirement is almost meaningless.

Is it fair to call a bunch of Goblins lying around doing nothing "lazy"?

Goblin Motivator

Maybe, maybe not. Maybe they just need someone to motivate them, but whatever their true nature is - I'm really looking forward to having Muxus show up and put a bunch of them to work!

I'm building this deck with cards I've got "lying around." I'm well aware that will mean that this won't start out as a well-tuned Goblins deck. I like to have a "beater deck" I can pull out if I'm at a low powered table or just won a few games and want to take my foot off the accelerator.

By "beater deck" I don't mean a deck that beats people easily or that goes to the red zone to win. Think of a "beater car." It's got rust, dents, and maybe a broken windshield. Your "beater car" isn't going to win many races, but you might love it nonetheless. That's pretty much what I'm shooting for - it will have some pretty sweet cards but it will be missing some Goblin staples. If I play and love the deck that will give me some updates to make later on.

How many Goblins is too many Goblins?

The challenge with Muxus is that I need to run enough non-token Goblins to maximize the "hits" I get when Muxus enters the battlefield, but I don't want to run so many that the deck becomes worse as a result.

I could build this deck with 40 lands and 60 Goblins.

I'm not even kidding - I think I've got close to that many in my collection and if I'm short by a half dozen, they wouldn't be expensive to go pick up. The deck might even have some pop to it, and it would be hilarious on some level, but it would be a poorer deck if I built it this way.

If I build this deck using my usual "slots" approach and I go with eight slots of 8 cards each, I'll want at least half of my slots devoted to Goblins. I'll want as much ramp as I can get because Muxus is a six-drop and that's slow by today's standards of playability in Commander. That leaves me with roughly 16 cards to play with. Some of those have to be devoted to evasion because Muxus will be able to hit folks like a Mack truck if things go well. I'll also need protection and I'll need ways to squeeze more Muxus ETB triggers out of each game.

Goblin generators like Hordeling Outburst and Krenko's Command are nonstarters and I'm currently planning to lean away from the usual Impact Tremors / Purphoros, God of the Forge build path because I've done that. It works, and it's fun, but if I want to build that deck I'd just run Purhporos as the commander.

I think the bottom line is that if you want to go the 60 Goblin route, you'll be building a goofy casual deck with the capacity to be fun but without the extra twists and turns that make our format so much fun. I'm going to leave myself the space to add those extra wrinkles and with any luck I'll end up with a more enjoyable deck. There will be no "bad" or vanilla Goblins like Goblin Pikers in today's list, and as a result I should have a trick or two up my sleeve when I play this deck.

What exactly is a "Tribal" deck?

It's hard to argue that "Muxus 60 Goblins" wouldn't be a tribal deck, but it's worth asking what actually does qualify as a Tribal deck. I play fast and loose with some terms but I'm pretty strict with others. I care about when an interaction is infinitely repeatable or not because for me that's the difference between combo and synergy. I generally think of a deck with a heavy skew towards one specific tribe as being a "tribal" deck.

My Najeela, the Blade-Blossom deck has a lot of Goblin Warriors so I think of it as a Goblin Warrior tribal Najeela list. The deck also has other warriors in it, so it is not strictly Goblin Warriors, and Najeela isn't a Goblin, so if you're a purist there's no way it would qualify.

My Lathliss, Dragon Queen list has an awful lot of red Dragons, but I'm also running creatures like Skittering Surveyor and Pilgrim's Eye, so again, a purist would tell me it's not really Dragon Tribal. I still think of it as Red Dragon Tribal.

For today's list I'm coming about as close as I ever come to building a "true" Tribal deck than I've ever come. It's wall-to-wall Goblins and that decision is driven by Muxus' ability to put Goblins into play for free when he enters the battlefield.

My ONLY creature that isn't a Goblin is Chancellor of the Forge. I think he qualifies for this deck because he makes Goblins and is about as on-theme for a Goblin deck as you're ever going to get outside of a real, bona fide Goblin. If that big boy takes away a half point from my "tribal purity", I'd argue that Goblin Charbelcher ADDS a half point. It's not a creature, nor is it a particularly good card, but it's on theme. I even almost won a game once with it in an old Goblins deck a few years ago.

By my math, that makes this a true Tribal deck and if you've got a problem with that, you can...

Goblin Diplomats

Worth the Squeeze?

When you ask whether the juice is worth the squeeze, you're basically asking whether the value you get out of something is worth the effort you put in to get it.

In early testing Muxus has over-performed but my small sample size has been affected by my goldfish attempts leaving me staring at Krenko, Mob Boss in my hand. I played a few Goblins, played Krenko, played Muxus, tapped Krenko and was looking at a pretty serious threat to any opponent who didn't have an answer. With a goal of hitting 21 commander damage, it's not particularly hard for this deck to spit out 10 goblins and have your Muxus attacking for half of an opponent's life total.

To me, the fun is in finding ways to squeeze even more value out of a Commander. Sadly, I don't have a spare Helm of the Host lying around. My copies are in my Lathliss, Dragon Queen deck, where it won me a game just the other week, and in my Narset, Enlightened Master deck because... well... two or more Narsets on my field is just always better than one.

Blade of Selves
Conjurer's Closet
Panharmonicon

Blade of Selves might actually be better than Helm of the Host in this list. When Muxus swings at an opponent and is equipped with Blade of Selves, a token copy of Muxus will enter the battlefield tapped and attacking each other opponent. Those token copies will instantly be sacrificed due to the legend rule, but I'll get a 6-card "Muxus flop" for each of those copies. At a five-player table, that would mean putting every goblin in the top 18 cards of my library onto the battlefield, as I'd be getting 3 copies of Muxus entering when I attack.

For a slower but still very effective stream of Muxus ETB triggers, Conjurer's Closet will allow me to flicker a creature on my end step. With Panharmonicon on the field, my 6-card flop would happen twice.

I could get in a decent game with Muxus even if I never get any of these onto the field, but if I'm able to get one or two of these out and keep them out for long enough to use them, I think I'll probably wind up with a nice little Goblin Army.

Ramp, Draw and Evasion

My goal with this deck is to get Muxus out as quickly as possible. I'm running Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves to hopefully be able to protect him once he's out, but at 6 mana it's not always going to be easy to cast him in the early turns.

Seething Song
Mana Geyser
Curse of Opulence

Shiny Impetus
Caged Sun
Extraplanar Lens

I'm running a few fairly powerful cards but also some one-shot mana producers that I don't normally use in Commander. I always lean away from rituals and favor repeatable mana production, but if a Seething Song can get Muxus out a turn or two earlier I think it's worth including. Also, I had a foil lying around and always wanted to run it in a deck somewhere. Mana Geyser can net a ton of mana in a multiplayer game, but is also powerful enough to sometimes get countered. I'm not running Reiterate, though I'm aware the two can combine to make infinite mana. I just don't have enough infinite mana outlets in this deck or enough tutors for that combo to make sense.

Curse of Opulence and Shiny Impetus should get us a Treasure or two, if not more, and the latter can serve us well in the late game to goad the scariest creature on the field and get it to swing at someone other than me.

Caged Sun and Extraplanar Lens are both capable of pushing up our mana production pretty nicely. I happened to have both in my rare binder and this deck seemed like a great place to put them. I'm also running Sol Ring, Mind Stone, Fire Diamond, Gilded Lotus, Nyx Lotus and even Sword of the Animist to try to make sure I'm able to keep up with all of those other decks that have access to better ramp spells and mana dorks.

Skullclamp
Wheel of Fate
Khorvath's Fury

I almost didn't throw Skullclamp into this list, as a lot of my Goblins have more than 1 toughness, but it's just too good at drawing cards to leave out. I'm also running a few wheels - Wheel of Fate and Khorvath's Fury - even though I often don't run those effects. I expect this deck will often leave me empty-handed so it seems foolish to not run any of those effects at all.

It's worth mentioning that Muxus, Goblin Grandee's ability to put creatures on the field may not be card draw, but you can look at it as fulfilling that need. This deck wants to play Goblins. Muxus does that and does it well. You might not be drawing and casting them, but his ability is basically doing just that, and for free. I do wish I had been able to dig up a Slate of Ancestry, but it wouldn't help me bounce back from a boardwipe if I'm running low on cards.

I'm expecting evasion will be a big part of any wins this deck manages to get. War Cadence is on-theme with its weird old Goblin artwork and should let me swing at someone with the whole team if we've gotten to the late game. Folks leave mana up, but rarely enough to deal with the Goblin deck throwing all of its mana into a War Cadence activation.

Magmatic Chasm and Seismic Stomp will help me swing at players without flyers. Given that Muxus will sometimes be huge or even lethal, I expect there will be games where this will unlock a kill for me. I'm also running Whispersilk Cloak, Executioner's Hood, Prowler's Helm and Trailblazer's Boots to try to give me a way to get my commander through my opponents' defenses.

All Those Goblins

I'm not going to run through all 32 Goblins in today's list. You can check them out in the decklist further down, but it's worth calling out a few of the better ones. When you cast Muxus you'll almost always have a handful of Goblins already on the field. If you got somewhat lucky and hit three more you could wind up with any of the following sets of Goblins joining the party.

Beetleback Chief
Goblin Instigator
Siege-Gang Commander

Remember that Muxus gets +1/+1 until end of turn for each Goblin we control, so the three Goblins shown above would actually give him +9/+9 when you take into account all the Goblin creature tokens you'll be getting. With a few other Goblins already out, you're easily putting someone on a 2-turn clock if you've got a way to get past blockers and have your boots or greaves handy to give him haste..

If that doesn't look like a spicy enough Muxus "flop" how about these three?

Goblin Ringleader
Goblin Warchief
Krenko, Mob Boss

Goblin Ringleader should pop another Goblin or two into your hand. Goblin Warchief will give your Goblins haste. You've already got a few on the field and he'll cut the casting cost of the ones you just drew. Again, it's not hard to imagine setting yourself up to be able to swing for a hefty twelve or more damage.

There are lots of other interesting Goblins in this list. I've got a handful of legendary Goblins, including Grenzo, Havoc Raiser, Squee, Goblin Nabob and Zo-Zu the Punisher. I left out Zada, Hedron Grinder because he requires a pretty specific build and I left out Squee, the Immortal because I just don't like that card's art. I know, that's a terrible reason to leave a decent card out but there are lots of other decent Goblins ready to take their spots.

Treasure Nabber
Volley Veteran
Goblin Cratermaker

I didn't have a spare Dockside Extortionist but Treasure Nabber will serve to borrow mana rocks or discourage my opponents from using those mana rocks if they don't want me to get use of them until the end of my next turn. I've got some enter-the-battlefield direct damage in the form of Volley Veteran, who will only get better as my army grows. Goblin Cratermaker isn't an enter-the-battlefield Goblin but can be sacrificed to blow up a targetable colorless nonland permanent. That could be a Sol Ring, an Ashnod's Altar, an Aetherflux Reservoir, or even a Ugin planeswalker.

Not all my Goblins are spectacular, and I do wonder if I should be running more of them, but for a first draft this list is feeling pretty good. My current thought is that I could add in Nim Deathmantle and Ashnod's Altar to set up a sweet little combo, but in Mono-Red I'm not optimistic that I'll ever see combo pieces together on the field. Multi-card combos make way more sense in decks that have tutors or enough draw that you're likely to get the cards you need. I don't think that is this deck, at least not in this form. The idea of looping Muxus with Nim Deathmantle is tempting but for now I'm probably going to save that little combo piece for a Kels, Fight Fixer build I'm thinking about working on.

The Decklist

I've noticed that my decks fall into an interesting place in between casual and competitive. This seems to be no exception - you'll find some great synergy here but if you can't afford some of the more expensive pieces you could probably drop them out, add a few more Goblins and have yourself a fine time at casual tables.

If you love Goblins, love Muxus' "reveal" mechanic and you want to push this list up in power, then there are lots of easy tune-ups you can do. Chaos Warp is an auto-include in Mono-Red and I didn't have a spare to throw in. Mana Crypt, Mana Vault and Mana Echoes will all pull their weight in a list like this and with enough low CMC mana rocks you could be looking at a turn three or turn four Muxus. This list is more likely to be seeing him hit the field on turn five, six or later if you're not drawing lands. Building infinite mana combos into the list and adding more outlets like Flamewave Invoker is another option but I'm not really sold yet on Muxus as a combo general.

Final Thoughts

This may not be a competitive outlook, but one of the things I love most about Goblins is the personality and fun that they bring to a deck. One of my favorite "bad" decks I ever built was Grenzo, Havoc Raiser. It was built around trying to goad my opponents' creatures and survive until I was one of the last two players. That's not a particularly competitive plan and I'm not sure the deck ever won a game, but it was fun to play.

Grenzo, Havoc Raiser
Squee, Goblin Nabob
Goblin Battle Jester

I suspect the top Goblin decks will probably continue to be Krenko, Mob Boss and for combo shenanigans, Zada, Hedron Grinder, but I'm really quite excited to see how well Muxus has performed so far. It's worth noting that the deck won its first game at a five-player table on the back of a Mana Geyser and Caged Sun. I had Chancellor of the Forge, Krenko, Mob Boss and Kindred Charge all play a part in the victory. With that many Goblin doublers, it'd be hard not to pull out a win.

I'm leaning heavily towards building and writing about Kels, Fight Fixer for next Monday. I've got an old Lazav, Dimir Mastermind deck that is basically a mill deck with some flexibility to kill with commander damage if I can get Lazav to turn into something interesting. It's been fun, but I haven't been excited to play it in a while and I might take the backbone of that list and see what I can do with Kels, Fight Fixer. Card draw in the command zone is, as I've said before, super powerful so I'm keen to see if I can find that sweet spot between casual and cEDH yet again. Jason Alt recently wrote about Kels, so I'll need to make sure I'm going in a different direction before I get too deep into the project.

That's all I've got for this week. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!

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