100%: Burnination!

fire-ball-black-hot-burningHere’s another Blast from the Past, compliments of yours truly. Although the article was originally published just before X-Mas of ’09, it still holds water with regard to circumnavigating third degree burns via little red fellas and salvos of flammable gunk. Grab a squirt gun and enjoy! – Travis R. Chance: Content Manager

What better way to kick off the Academy’s December relaunch than by addressing a question that’s kicking up dust in the mind of many a 100 Card Singleton player in the now:

How the heck do I deal with this sudden, brutal resurgence of Gobbos and Red Deck Wins?


Gobbos and RDW have long been mainstays in not only 100 Card Singleton, but pretty much anywhere the little Red so-and-sos can get a foothold in the meta. In the days of 60 Card Singleton, Gobbos, in my opinion, was the Aggro deck to beat in a field entirely dominated by Combo and Control. Recently, they’ve populated Top 8 after Top 8 with no foreseeable end in sight. At the moment there’s a lack of innovation. And when the meta gets stagnant, players will often resort to old standbys.

So what do we do? How do we prevail in a field of Turn Four-to-Five kills? Do we simply abandon all hope and fight fire with fire? Or do we hold our ground, strap on some neoprene, and tackle this dilemma head on? I say let’s do the latter!


The first and best way to combat either of these decks is to understand just how they work. Though seemingly quite similar, they take different paths to the same end goal of dealing 20 points of damage at post-haste.

1.) OD Overload: Both decks are packed with a high volume of cost-efficient early game cards. This ensures that they always have an aggressive opening draw that consistently doles out damage in what is most often the developing stage of the game for their opponent. Even the deck’s lands (Barbarian Ring, Keldon Megaliths, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, and the various man lands) function as threats.

Another advantage of their low curve is that they can go light on the land. Since these decks are only color (perhaps with some kind of marginal splash), their mana, albeit occasionally scarce, is very reliable. You can easily keep a one or two-land hand on the right draw and ride it to victory

2.) Usual Suspects: In a format full of dual and fetch lands, there are a lot of three-or-more color decks jam-packed with nonbasic land. That said, Blood Moon, Magus of the Moon, Dwarven Miner, his morphing bro Dwarven Blastminer, and Ruination can easily shut down a player’s ability to do anything.

Although some Gobbos and RDW lists forego some of these cards maindeck, they still represent a problematic threat after sideboarding. And let us not forget that Price of Progress

3.) Little Red Men: While both decks are chock full of inexpensive threats, Gobbos thrives on the synergy of its men. Think of Gobbos as an aggressive combo deck, the coup de grace of which is Goblin Recruiter setting up an unrelenting wave of stacked brutality. The typical aftermath of recruiting usually goes something like this: Goblin Ringleader, Goblin King, Goblin Chieftain, Goblin Warchief, Goblin Piledriver, and the list goes on at their filthy discretion!

4.) Suicidal Tendencies: While Gobbos thrives on creature synergy, it doesn’t necessarily need it to win. Like RDW, it demands little in the way of life expectancy from its creatures. This minimizes the general efficiency of spot removal and counter magic.

Countering or killing a Ball Lightning or Keldon Marauders can seem like a waste if you’re at a substantial enough life total. But what if their board and hand are empty and they rip one of the aforementioned cards when you’re at 8 life? Both decks capitalize heavily on putting players to difficult decisions like these.

5.) Reach: Burn works in a similar fashion as expendable men: seeming rather inconsequential on an individual basis, but incrementally capable of pushing through for those final, lethal points.

This is particularly troublesome for Control decks, as they prefer to conserve their counter magic for critical spells. Even if the Control player seems to have stopped the bleeding, Gobbos and RDW can just lob damage over a Moat and even seemingly superior creatures. Rest assured that, little by little, they will eat at away not only your life total but your ability to protect it.


I encourage you to watch the final moments of my last PE Top 8 in the video below for a nauseating example of Gobbos ability to simply win, even in the most seemingly hopeless of situations:

After marginalizing my opponent’s tempo for consecutive turns on what appeared to be a bad draw, I was certain that my 5/6 Tarmogoyf, Baneslayer Angel, Loxodon Hierarch, and the Vampire Nighthawk in my hand would be more than enough to seal the deal.

All that it took was a topdecked Goblin Ringleader into Goblin Shortcutter to circumnavigate my Baneslayer with enough mana left over to equip Sword of Fire and Ice.

To some, it may seem questionable that I attacked with Tarmogoyf at all. This is a typical ‘Risk vs. Reward’ situation. By not attacking to put my opponent on lethal the next turn I give him an additional draw step. This could easily equate to enough damage to remove Baneslayer and put me in a ground stall, which I could easily lose to drawing blanks while my opponent hit any men/burn.

Much like hitting a haster that dug out a way around my blocker, there was little I could do about the back-to-back Fireblast and Boggart Ram-Gang my opponent drew to kill my Hierarch and deal exact damage.

After the game, I asked my opponent (E. Hustle) if he thought I made the right play by attacking with the Tarmo, and he agreed that putting him on lethal was the way to go. Either way, if I said that this was the first and only time something like this has happened I’d be lying through my teeth. This is what Gobbos and RDW do: win.


To shirk off the humiliation of the above video, I’m going to sojourn forward about ways to beat these decks.

1.) Hosers: The easiest and most obvious way to manhandle the decks in question is through strategy-specific hate.

An early Chill or Warmth (especially on the play) can severely impede what would normally be your swift demise.

Burrenton Forge-Tender is a one-mana trump to any Red threat, as well as a foil to critical burn. Auriok Champion, Paladin en-Vec, Sword of Fire and Ice, and (my personal favorite) Tivadar of Thorn all fall easily into the anti-Red sideboard contingency.

Engineered Plague cripples Gobbos (and the oft-played Elves), as does Fiery Justice and Pyrokinesis.

Sphere of Law and Circle of Protection: Red is easily the most brutal Red hoser out there, forcing your opponent to overextend to push through even a marginal amount of damage.

While I completely endorse one-for-ones like Flash Flood and Hydroblast, I am unimpressed with Celestial Purge as an answer out of the side. It seems entirely underpowered in contrast to the list of hate mentioned above. Exiling seems pretty irrelevant to a deck that treats all of its cards like burning toilet paper.

2.) Be The Aggressor: Gobbos and RDW typically forego power for speed. This means that defending isn’t really part of their repertoire. So sometimes the best way to survive is by killing them first.

Despite the elephant-toasting debacle shown above, a four-toughness-or-more creature typically requires a two-for-one for most Red mages. Creature-based decks that are comparatively ‘slower’ should generally have more formidable and versatile threats. Big, cost efficient creatures that offset life loss are beyond problematic for Red decks: Baneslayer Angel, Brion Stoutarm, Exalted Angel, Kitchen Finks, Loxodon Hierarch, Ravenous Baloth, Rhox War Monk, etc. Even smaller creatures that die to a single burn spell become a speed bump simply by absorbing damage that could be otherwise hitting you in the face.

Likewise, cost-efficient removal, especially burn like Lightning Helix, is helpful for putting Red Decks on the back foot. This is particularly pivotal in the Gobbos match, as sniping the right goblin can severely disrupt their overall synergy.

3.) Brains Over Burn: If there’s a single question players have asked me most regarding building a deck or playing a deck with which I have done well it’s this: how do you beat Red decks? My answer is always the same: be the better player. (My following piece of advice being: kill them before they kill you!)

Some people play Gobbos and RDW simply because they’re cheap competitive decks to cobble together that seem relatively ‘easy’ to play. These are absolutely the wrong reasons to play any deck. But a good Red player (like E. Hustle) is easy to spot. Knowing how and when to preserve your life total is instrumental in winning this match. Example: trading your Turn One elf for their Turn One 2/1 is the right play if you have two land and a two and three drop in your hand.

Pace them, as tempo is an asset they exploit to the fullest. Know what to kill and when to kill it. Maximize card advantage whenever possible. Remember, these decks capitalize on mistakes. Often a stumble or moment of apprehension can cost you a game more easily than jumping headlong into the fray.

4.) No Mountains For You, Sir: Despite having said this time and time again, it’s something that just doesn’t resonate with most people: Armageddon and Ravages of War are by far the most powerful cards in this format. They’re good in every match. In fact, they’re even better against decks like these than Control decks (that typically run artifact mana). Why? Because they play very little land and run them out aggressively (along with every other card in their hand). Beyond that they have no way to stop you short of drawing into the right mix of mana and spells.

I have blown out Gobbos an obscene amount of times by merely waiting for them to drop Goblin Recruiter, stack their deck, and follow up on my turn by nuking every land in play. Sometimes even a Wasteland is enough (with a Ringleader almost always the top card in said stack) to knock the wheels off their tempo.


I hope this article proves useful for you in all your future bouts against Gobbos, RDW, and decks of their wretched ilk. My last bit of advice would be: always assume your opponent has Fireblastbecause they probably do.

For more insight into how Red decks dominate in other formats, check out our Feature article by recent first-time Pro Tour participant James Mink this Friday. And if you’re a frequent participant to the Weekend Challenges, keep an eye for the new event schedule that includes Fridays!

The Academy hopes you enjoy the new content schedule and features starting up as of this month! Stay tuned for more updates, new features, and the grand opening of our online store. If you haven’t registered yet now is the time to do so. We will be offering incentives in the New Year for members that register before January 1st! And as always, I encourage you to comment in the area directly below.

See you guys in two weeks, where I will discuss what I consider to be one of my best decks yet!

Until then,

Travis R. Chance (so many trolls)

  1. I think I have lost about 4 games (and the matches with them) to Fireblast when I was at four life. A few times I even had a lifelink attacker ready to secure me some breathing room!

  2. Not only do they always have the fireblast but if they need fireblast plus lightning bolt they probably have that too.

  3. Can we please get the video back? :)
    I was at the German nationals and missed it when it got online :P

  4. Can someone please write an article on how to play Armageddon and Ravages of War? I’ve wanted to play singleton on MODO for a long time, so I bought the 100 Elves deck that Mr. Kool wrote about. I never know what to do with the LD so I usually board it out XD