M21 Spotlight: Conspicuous Snoop
- Marin Magda
Thanks to Modern Horizons and Core Set 2020, Vial Goblins has become an option in Modern, albeit with no major success so far. That may soon change, however, as Core Set 2021 provides us with a Goblin that was cause for much hype already and caused an older card to spike. How about a combo kill on turn three?
This is not the first time a couple of Goblins have managed to shake up the market. Here's a story that goes back about a year. After the addition of Munitions Expert, Sling-Gang Lieutenant, and Goblin Matron to the Modern card pool, the price of Auntie's Hovel was going up for quite a while. Previously, if Goblins had seen any Modern play, they did in the very aggressive and very monored 8-Whack. Because of this, most Lorwyn Goblins remained irrelevant. It took new Goblin cards to change that. Unfortunately, not every hype is justified. When Modern Vial Goblins finally came together with the reprint of Goblin Ringleader, the deck had some solid results but never a breakthrough finish. The archetype became viable — and definitely vialable — but it never reached the higher tiers of the metagame.
The duo that's making waves right now consists of Conspicuous Snoop and Boggart Harbinger. Whether or not their combination can finally make Modern Goblins competitive is a question that remains to be answered. To find out, we'll need to examine the deck's basics, the Snoop itself, the combo, and its influence on the deck.
For those unacquainted with the deck, it's a rather unusual tribal strategy that can be both aggressive and controlling, depending on the situation at hand. It usually comes down to being fast enough or using tutor cards such as Goblin Matron to find the ideal Goblin for the game state. The deck can be lots of fun and feels like solving some kind of puzzle, but that didn't stop it from being in a weird spot. Even though it has many win conditions, it's usually not the best at achieving any. Additionally, its time of inception in Modern was unfortunate, as Plague Engineer also came from Modern Horizons. The deck has received underwhelming support in the following period, save for Goblin Ringleader. Although the Ringleader isn't quick by modern standards, it is a powerhouse. It greatly helps in most matchups, for example to recover from board wipes, and allows Vial Goblins to overwhelm almost all opposition, given enough time.
Unfortunately, what ties the whole together is the deck's (partial) namesake card, Aether Vial. Without it, board development is usually too slow. The Vial helps throw down Goblins faster, which are then used to attack the opponent or sacrificed to achieve a similar effect. Pashalik Mons and Sling-Gang Lieutenant first come to mind, but Goblin Cratermaker is not to be underestimated either. Overall, Vial Goblins never used to be the best deck around, but it's an interesting one, as well as very highly customizable. Tarfire is a great main-deck support tool to be found via Matron, and Blood Moon can be too, if the meta calls for it. Other than that, thanks to the deck's color combination, it can add removal or discard spells, or other useful Goblin-type outs such as Goblin Trashmaster and more Cratermakers.
Conspicuous Snoop has to be the best Goblin released since the Modern-legal reprint of Goblin Ringleader. First, though, the casting cost of two red mana is a minor downside, as Goblin Warchief can't reduce it. Some builds used to include utility lands that only generate colorless mana, which makes casting a turn two Snoop a bit harder to do. Field of Ruin and Mutavault both saw play to an extent. One can help solve problems and the other can swing for serious amounts of damage, especially with the assistance of lords. In case you were playing some, you might want to trim here. But that's a small price to pay for what the Snoop brings to the table.
Being able to play Goblins from the top of your library is a big deal. It will give you additional gas, while you keep the cards in your hand for later. If you can't make the combo — see next section — work for whatever reason, say, if your opponent has an Ashiok, Dream Render, you can still use the Snoop's second ability to great effect. Since there are some excellent Goblins with activated abilities, the third ability is expectedly insane. Its possibly biggest use already received so much attention that, even during quarantine, it turned the market upside down.
Now the deck is about to get bonafide combo kill with Core Set 2021. What's more, it seems consistent, as it only requires you to cast a Snoop and one other creature and can, at the earliest, win on turn three. In order to do so, you will first need to play a Conspicuous Snoop and just hope it doesn't get destroyed. Most popular removal spells like Fatal Push kill it, so that's not as easy as it sounds. In case the Snoop gets to live for a turn, you can play Boggart Harbinger on turn three and search for Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. With Kiki on top of your library, the nonlegendary Snoop can make a copy of itself, which can make another copy, and so on. You end up with an arbitrary number of tapped Snoops. Provided that your Harbinger isn't killed either, you finally copy it and use its ability to put a finisher on top. Sling-Gang Lieutenant and Mogg Fanatic kill the opponent on the spot at this stage.
Naturally, if this was the only win condition of the deck, it probably wouldn't be very powerful. Since it does not need to be, I believe that this particular interaction will improve the strategy by a lot. Having various ways to victory was always in its bag of tricks anyway, and this could be the boost it needed.
So the combo isn't the sole focus, and it isn't just good on turn three either. You can easily play a regular Goblin game until you see an opening for it, or apply pressure to force an opening for it. Along the way, you might hit both combo components with Goblin Ringleader, and if you only have one half of it, you can use Goblin Matron to fetch the other. This is even better with Aether Vial on three, which might become the new favored end state for this deck. Earlier Vial Goblins preferred the artifact on four charge counters. Either way, Vial remains vital in games that don't end on turn three, and it allows a rather inconspicuous Snoop to sneak in at the end of the opponent's turn. When you have Goblin Warchief out, you can also cast Snoop and Harbinger on the same turn and go off right away, or at instant speed.
No matter how many Kikis you include, you might hit a bad streak and draw all of them before you find the two combo pieces. In hopes of preventing that, I'd start with two copies main. Without seeing all the cards, it may be too early to talk about a sideboard, but not about the starting 60. Mine would look something like this:
|Snooping Vial Goblins|
It's very important to note that the combo will take up about ten main-deck slots at the very least. Because of that, I would recommend focusing on it, but still leaving some room for other tactics. Vial Goblins aren't always that good at rushing the enemy anyway, so I'd take out each Goblin Chieftain and Pashalik Mons first. The cards may be good but probably not all that useful in this specific build.
Mogg War Marshal loses a bit of power here as well, but I'd leave in at least some copies because of the card's synergy with the deck's noncombo part. It can help both Munitions Expert and the occasional Goblin Piledriver hit for more damage. With entire playsets of Boggart Harbinger and Goblin Matron even singletons matter, so I'd definitely keep Krenko, Mob Boss. It works great with Goblin Warchief, which isn't any less important here. You'll also want to put Krenko on top of your library when you have infinite tapped Snoops on the battlefield but no Sling-Gang Lieutenant left in the deck. That way, you can create unlimited untapped 1/1s before your opponent untaps and kills your Snoop. With Warchief that'd even be a lethal attack.
As a final note, I'd like to point out that there already exists an infinite Goblin combo without M21, involving Grumgully, the Generous and either Putrid Goblin or Murderous Redcap. Don't bother with that. The new one is way better and faster, doesn't require green mana nor a sacrifice engine as a third piece in play.
I own the deck myself and am looking forward to playing Goblins again, but I do expect other people to put it together as well. The allure of the new is a great driving force in Magic, and the Snoop proves the point. I think the hype may be a bit exaggerated, although the potential is real. The former lack of sheer power was the exact reason why I stopped playing Vial Goblins rather quickly, but now I'm ready to give the deck another shot. I don't know how much better the deck will perform, but I know it's going to be fun.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.