Goblin Assassin – An Archetype In-Depth
You are looking to build a competitive deck in The Elder Scrolls Legends, and you are on a budget or new to the game? The Goblin Assassin archetype might do the trick for you and help you with advancing the ranked ladder relatively quickly. This month you can earn a number of legendary cards – depending on your rank. In other months you can win up to three copies of a Monthly Reward Card that you would have to craft with Soul Gems, otherwise. Goblin Assassin is an aggro deck that combines the blue Intelligence attribute with the green Agility attribute. It uses the so-called “Goblin-package” (from the green Agility attribute) which provides great synergy, combined with some of the best budget blue (Intelligence) cards.
Murkwater Skirmisher is key!
The key card to Goblin decks is the Murkwater Skirmisher, an epic card from the Core Set. The skirmisher provides a great summon effect: when he enters play, all other friendly Goblins on the board get +2/+2 to their power/ health stats. This turns all fierce little Goblins on the board into pretty serious threats and is intended to start a snowballing effect to beat down your opponent. The keyword in these last two sentences is “all”. That means, for four magicka, the skirmisher provides a 4/4 creature, plus an additional +2/+2 for every other goblin on the board. If you have three out, this means you will get a 10/10 power onto the board for just four magicka, and you will most likely just have won the game.
So… you really want at least one other Goblin already out there, but what do we need to consider when we build a theme deck around the Murkwater Skirmisher?
Ideally, we want to include:
- lots of more low-cost Goblins to have them control the board early on,
- good card draw effects to ensure we get a Skirmisher more consistently and we also get more of those low-cost goblins to hand as fast and early as possible,
- other cards that help us to improve the power stats of our Goblin armada
Skirmisher Synergy #1: The Goblin-Armada
In the most ideal scenario, we would have the ring and draw the Skirmisher by turn three. This means we could have Goblins for a magicka of a maximum of 10 (2+3+4) magicka on the board. Without the ring, we could have played Goblins for a maximum of 6 (1+2+3) magicka ready to be boosted. The Agility attribute gives us the following great options for our Goblin armada:
- 0-cost: Murkwater Goblin – 2 damage is the best you can get from a zero-cost card. However, Murkwater Goblin can be killed by opponents without damaging their own creatures, or can be easily removed by mass-removal cards, as it has only 1 health. You can find this common card in the Core Set.
- 2-cost: Goblin Skulk – One of the best cards for an aggro deck as it not only deals 2 damage but also can pull out one zero cost card (yes, exactly – a Murkwater Goblin). It is also a goblin in itself and would benefit from the Skirmisher. However, your opponent will most likely immediately want to use a hard-removal card on their next turn. The skulk is a rare card in the Core Set.
- 2-cost: Murkwater Witch – A 1/1 goblin with guard that gives another (enemy) creature -1/-1. If you get her to the opening hand, she can oftentimes be used for a two-for-one trade in the field lane: use the summon-effect to remove a 1-health creature and ideally get your opponent to run another 1-health creature into the guard. If they don’t you will have a 3/3 guard after Skirmisher comes to play. The witch can be found as a rare card in the Core Set.
- 2-cost Reflective Automation – A 2/3 Factotum that has all creature types and counts as a goblin as well. It comes at a low cost and also gets the Skirmisher boost, so it’s a sometimes overlooked option in Goblin decks.
- 3-cost: Murkwater Butcher – This common goblin from the Core Set is a 3/2 creature for the cost of three magicka is not bad at all. However, if you can get the butcher to your hand during the first turn you can play it for only one magicka, which is just amazing value.
- 3-cost: Murkwater Guide – This common goblin from the Clockwork City expansion is a 4/2 treasure hunter: if you draw a zero-cost card (i.e. Murkwater Goblin), you get to put a copy of that card into your hand. Wooohooow! Here is a card draw effect, when you happen to draw the Murkwater Goblin after the Murkwater Guide is on the board. If you happen to have the Skirmisher in hand, your opponent is in real deep trouble now…
- 3-cost: Murkwater Savage – A 2/2 rare goblin from the Core Set that has a great effect: it gains +1/+1 whenever you play another green Agility creature. This means it gets +3/+3 if that card happens to be a Skirmisher. Also note: to have maximum consistency with this effect, we want as many green Agility cards in our Goblin Assassin deck.
- 4-cost: Murkwater Shaman – A 3/3 epic goblin from the Core Set that has a powerful effect of putting a Curse into your hand at the start of your turn. Pretty powerful, if combined with removal cards like Leaflurker or Finish Off. Can be ideal to remove strong guard creatures like Hive Defender, Khuul Lawkeeper or Portcullis, that might want to stop your Goblin Armada.
Let’s call this set of cards the “Goblin Armada” (or the Goblin Package): three copies of 7 additional Goblins, plus 3 Reflective Automata – that makes up for 24 synergy cards and gives us a very consistent chance to draw (and play) as many goblins as early as possible.
The Goblin deserving an honorable mention is Tazkad – The Packmaster. With a cost of 9 magicka, it is not very likely that it would get played often as the idea of the Goblin Assassin deck is to be long-finished before you reach turn 8 or 9 in the game. Of course, the card has great reach, but three rare 5 magicka Cliff Racers would be a much cheaper alternative to add reach to Goblin Assassin.
Some good news for new starters to the game: the Goblin package is not too costly to acquire:
- Murkwater Skirmishers, Murkwater Shamans: These epics can be acquired in soul summon for a cost of 400 shards each (2400 shards for all 6). Note, if you want to accelerate this and spend a little money, you can find one Murkwater Shaman in the Telvanni Ambition theme deck. If you don’t have the Murkwater Shaman in your collection, you may want to add other guard removal cards to the deck to protect our Goblin Armada. The shaman is not a must-have element of the goblin pack.
- Reflective Automaton: You get 3 copies as part of the Return to Clockwork City story expansion.
- Goblin Skulk: 3 copies are included with the theme deck: Brynjolf’s Heist.
- Murkwater Witch: 2 copies are included with the Parthunax’s Roar theme deck.
- Leaflurker (for synergy with Murkwater Shamans): 3 copies are included in the New Life Festival Pack. One copy each is part of the Black Marsh Smuggler and the Dunmer Avenger set.
Skirmisher Synergy #2: Good Card Draw
In addition to an armada of goblins, we need abilities to draw them quickly and consistently. The goblin package already provides the Goblin Skulk as well as the Murkwater Guide / Murkwater Goblin synergy to draw more Murkwater Goblins. But the Assassin class offers additional card draw tools – keep in mind we are looking for cheap draw tools that work with 1-3 magicka:
Green Card Draw Options in the Agility Attribute
Note: All Card draw options in the green Agility attribute are explained in detail here in this article: Card Draw #6: Card Draw Options in the Agility Attribute. A few selected options are covered below within the context of Goblin Assassin:
- 1-cost: Shadow Shift – An action that protects a creature by moving it to the other lane (e.g. moving a creature after causing face-damage from the field lane to the shadow lane, where it gains cover) and draws a card. Pretty cool, when played on a turn 1 Murkwater Butcher or to protect a Goblin Skulk from being removed by an opposing creature. A pretty good choice…
- 2-cost: Sly Marshblade – a rare 3/2 Dark Elf from the Forgotten Hero Collection. It’s card draw effect is more difficult to activate in Goblin Assassin as it’s a last gasp ability to draw a card (only) if you have 7 or more max magicka. Therefore, it’s better to stay away from this option in Goblin Assassin!
- 2-cost: Suran Pawnbroker – a rare 2/3 Dark Elf from Houses of Morrowind with a plot ability, to draw a zero cost card. Has synergy with the treasure hunt ability of the Murkwater Guide goblin, and can also pull out a Murkwater Goblin, a North Firebrand for a 1/1 charge effect, as well as other “cheap” zero-cost cards that can help with removal or winning tempo. I think, this is a pretty good choice.
- 2-cost: Thieves Guild Recruit – a common Argonian from the Core Set that draws a card. However, it’s second effect (reducing a card that costs 7 or more by one) is not useful in Goblin Assassin. Probably stay away from the Thieves Guild Recruit in Goblin Assassin…
- 3-cost: Cornerclub Gambler is an epic Houses of Morrowind 4/3 card with the following summon effect: “Summon: You must discard a card. At the start of your turn, draw two cards and Cornerclub Gambler loses this ability.” This is somewhat super-awesome, as it let’s you draw two cards, however it has to survive until the start of your next turn. So it’s a bit of a gamble, but if you win, it’s awesome. Definitely a good option for a Goblin Assassin deck.
- 3-cost: Daring Heist is a rare Return to Clockwork City action that immediately draws you two cards, however, you can play Daring Heist only, unless a creature in each lane has damaged your opponent during the same turn before. Hence, the Heist is usually not very consistent, but if you have enough Goblins spread out already, it might work. If your collection contains the Cornerclub Gamblers, I would strongly recommend to go for her, as she is another 4/3-body that can fight and her 2-card draw-effect is a bit easier to be pulled off, by simply playing her to the shadow lane.
- 3-cost: Varanis Courier is a 1/3 common Dark Elf guard from the Core Set. His last gasp ability lets you draw a card. It can be used to provide a little bit of protection for your goblin armada but a 1/3 guard is probably not good enough to cause enough damage for a full trade. It might just help you to buy that additional turn. Hence, it’s a potential option for Goblin Assassin, although there are probably better Guards and better card drawing cards.
- 6-cost: Sails-Through-Storms is a 5/5 body with a powerful Pilfer effect. When the Argonian pilfers, he summons the top creature from your deck. An easy way to get more goblins onto the board. However, the 6-cost might already be a little bit too high. Still a good option to try!
Blue Card Draw Options in the Intelligence Attribute
The full number of card draw options in the blue Intelligence attribute are described in this article: Card Draw #4: Card Draw Options in the Intelligence Attribute. I am included the most viable ones for use in the Goblin Assassin archetype. As your Goblin Armada likely takes up almost 50% of your deck, it is safe to assume to have a rather small amount of action cards. Thus, the more action-related card drawing options in the blue Intelligence attribute are not necessarily a great option in Goblin Assassin. I will also exclude any card draw options that cost 7 or more magicka, as those are usually too expensive for aggro Goblin Assassin anyway.
- 2-cost: The rare High Rock Summoner is a 1/1 Breton from the Core Set who puts a random Atronach (i.e. an additional card) into your hand, when being summoned. This is a huge advantage, as Atronach’s are really powerful creatures (5/3 stats and better). As the High Rock Summoner can help you get a powerful creature for relatively low cost, you should definitely experiment with him.
- 2-cost: Palace Conspirator is a 2/2 Dark Elf who draws draws you a card, when summoned, and then makes you discard a card (the same or a different card). This can be pretty good if you need certain cards in your discard pile, but is not necessarily suitable for Goblin decks. Better stay away from this option.
- 3-cost: Brilliant Experiment is an action that puts a copy of a friendly creature that you have on board, into your hand. This can be used to get a copy of a Cliff Racer for more reach or a copy of Murkwater Skirmisher, so it can be a good option to consider in Goblin Assassin.
- 3-cost: When summoned, the Dark Elf Cunning Ally puts a Firebolt into your hand, if the top card of your deck is a blue (Intelligence) card. Not a good choice for Goblin Assassin where at least almost 50% of your cards are green.
- 3-cost: Daggerfall Mage comes as a 2/2 onto the board, yet it is (one of) the best legendary cards in the Intelligence attribute. Reason: The creature has Ward; and if the Ward is broken, you can put an item called “Tome of Alteration” into your hand. When played, this item will draw you a card. Therefore, Daggerfall Mage has a somewhat indirect draw effect, but gives you a lot of tempo and board control in the early game, particularly, when you use a Wardcrafter to renew his Ward…
- 4-cost: The Dark Elf Elusive Schemer has relatively poor stats (3/1) for 4 magicka, however, he draws a card when being summoned and trades in pretty favorably to other creatues. The real twist comes with his Last Gasp ability, which shuffles a 0-cost copy of the Elusive Schemer back into your deck. A very powerful card, that sees play consistently, and definitely something to consider in Goblin Assassin if you are running Murkwater Guide and Goblin Skulk as well.
- 4-cost: The Ice Wraith is an epic 2/2 Wraith creature, that draws you an Ice Spike (see a little bit above) at the start of the turn. Thus, it needs to survive one turn (e.g. in the Shadow Lane) and will then get you an Ice Spike action that draws a card. Sweet, as the additional reach of one or two Ice Wraith turns, might just be the little bit you needed to win the game.
- 4-cost: When summoned, the unique legendary J’Zargo (with stats of 3/4) puts an Experimental Scroll into your hand. An Experimental Scroll is either Enlightenment, Flame Blast, or Flame Cloak. Don’t worry which one it is. Just give it a try. Enlightenment gives each friendly creature two random Keywords. Flame Blast deals 2 damage to each enemy creature. Flame Cloak deals 5 damage to each player. Each effect can have it’s good uses and synergy with Goblin Assassin, like lane removal on your opponent’s creatures only, or the 5 damage for additional reach (in a match where your opponent is not playing aggro as well). Give it a try, it could be fun!
- 6-cost: The legendary Breton Genius Pathmage from the HoM expansion draws a random creature from your deck with cost equal to your current magicka. As Goblin Assassin tries to be finished by that time, he might not be the greatest choice for this archetype.
As several Agility cards (most notably the goblin Murkwater Savage, but also Nimble Ally) get boosted when the top card of your deck is another green Agility card, I suggest to only very carefully include blue card draw options into a Goblin Assassin deck, in order to not reduce the consistency of these boosts. They will usually be desperately needed to win the game before turn 5 or 6.
Skirmisher Synergy #3: Powering up Goblins even further
As the Skirmisher has a one-time-only summon effect, and since you can only include three skirmishers in your deck, the snowball effect is not really something you can consistently rely on during every game. We can mitigate this by adding some additional tools to our deck that would improve the stats of all our creatures on the board. Two good examples:
- Walking the Hidden Trail
The support card Hidden Trail does exactly that – it provides a +1 power enhancement to your creatures as a permanent effect and it also allows to protect the Goblins for one turn after they are played in the shadows, so other creatures cannot immediately attack them. Needless to say – Murkwater Skirmisher and Hidden Trail in themselves have a huge synergy when you are trying to beat down your opponent.
2. Entering the Thieves’ Den
A similar effect can be achieved with the Thieves’ Den support card – it provides a Pilfer “+1/+1” effect to creatures, which can help a lot with our snowballing strategy. However, Goblins can usually be removed relatively easily, so each Goblin in itself will not get too many Pilfer effects through – maybe 1 or 2. Still a decent option to consider.
3. Dune Smuggler, Dune Stalker, Shadow Shift
Since you might be running Shadow Shift, you might equally want to include the Dune Smuggler & Dune Stalker package. This allows your “key” goblin to change lane and get some additional boost from lane shifts. Might also give some additional cover if you let him attack first and then move him into the Shadow Lane.
As a recommendation, you should consider to include a few “Armada Boosters” that mitigate the risk of not drawing Murkwater Skirmisher consistently. Sometimes two or three such cards can be enough.
As the Hidden Trail is an epic card, it may be a bit easier to acquire than the legendary Thieves’ Den. Please note, a Thieves’ Den can be earned, if your hero Khajit hero reaches levels 24 or 32.
The Goblin Assassin Core Package
To summarize, we end up with about 28 – 39 cards in our Goblin Assassin core package:
- 18-21 Goblin cards to form your Armada – up to 27 as a maximum
- 3 Murkwater Skirmishers to boost your Goblin Armada
- 3 – 6 additional (Agility) cards to consistently keep drawing more Goblins
- 1 – 3 additional armada boosters for more consistency
- 3 – 6 Guard removal cards
This leaves between 11 and 22 cards to include into our 50-card deck. What else to include?
Extensions to the Goblin Assassin Core Package
A little more Reach can never hurt in an aggro deck. With “Reach” we can immediately push additional damage. For example, we can include 6-9 cards for reach.
- 1-cost: Shadowmere – A 1/1 charge creature for the cost of 1 magicka that will be shuffled into your deck when it dies as a 4/4 for 4 magicka.
- 3-cost: House Kinsman – An epic 3/2 dark elf from the Core Set. His Last Gasp ability not only deals 3 damage to your opponent, but helps you to regain some health. This might be good when racing against a battlemage aggro deck
- 3-cost: Camlorn Hero – A 4/2 body that also deals 2 damage.
- 3-cost: Crushing Blow – 3 damage – plain and simple.
- 4-cost: Lightning Bolt – 4 damage to the opponent and a Prophecy card. Always worth considering for inclusion in any deck that runs blue cards.
- 5-cost: Cliff Racer – Push 4 damage with this rare charge creature from the Core Set.
- 8-cost: The 5/5 Ancano is one of the greatest finishers in the game, as it deals 5 damage to a creature or directly to the opponent.
A few additional ideas that you might want to test:
- 2-cost: A Night to Remember – Play it on Murkwater Skirmisher to double his effect :). Perhaps this will not be consistent enough, although it has some additional synergy with other summon effects, e.g. another +1/+1 for Nimble Ally, or Murkwater Savage, or on Thieves Guild Recruit for an additional card draw.
- 3-cost: Silent Pilgrim – to draw a multi-color card like Assassin’s Ritual (action that gives a creature Lethal and Ward to remove a Guard – did you say put it on Daggerfall Mage?!) or Black Hand Messenger (for damaging a creature, some drain and some reach), or Sadras Agent, who provides a Guard with decent offensive stats and summons another guard when killed.
A few sample deck lists for Goblin Assassin decks can be found on legends-decks.com:
- pdmd’s Goblin Asassin by pdmd28 from Team Rankstar: With a crafting cost of 13900 soul gems, the deck does include a few legendaries. Most notably 2 copies of Morag Tong Aspirant who is such a great value card in the opening phase of the game. Gloomlurker can provide cover for a turn to the Aspirant or other goblins; a similar effect can be achieved with Shadowmaster who covers a creature until that creature attacks. The deck runs Suran Pawnbroker and Cornerclub Gambler for card draw, as wells as Lightning Bolts, Cliff Racers, Ancano, Tazkad the Packmaster and Heirloom Greatsword for reach. Definitely a viable aggro deck today, probably even in legend rank.
- Superseeg’s Goblin Assassin – helped him to reach legend in August 2018 with a lot of similarities to pdmd’s build.
- Sarathas’ Goblin Assassin is (one of) the earliest Goblin Assassin deck available on legends-decks.com. Compared to the more recent versions, this deck contains much fewer card draw options and will have trouble against today’s beatdown aggro mirror match-ups. The core cards, however, are very similar to those of pdmd28 or Superseeg.
Some videos from CVH from late 2017 can also give you an impression about the archtype. These days, the deck does not see a lot of play on the ladder, at least not in the ranks of 5 and better, but it is still a very viable option on the lower ranks.