Happy New Year everyone! I hope the holiday treated you well and you're all ready for 2014! I know I am. I recently opened up submissions for Common Design on my Facebook page (please feel free to make future suggestions there or in the comments) and decided to take on the challenge set by long time fan Maurillo and examine Goblin Bushwhacker. Just as a refresher here are the criteria I look at to see if a card succeeds as a common:
- Support casual play
- Support limited play
- Serve as an entry point into Magic
- Viable for high level constructed
- Adheres to New World Order
- Color Identity
Blazing the trail we have Casual Play. Goblin Bushwhacker has a huge advantage in this realm in that it is a Goblin. This creature type is supported in just about every Core Set and every other block. Goblins are an incredibly popular tribe and this is an easy addition to any Goblin deck. More than that it serves as a cheap one shot lord style creature. While cards like Goblin King and Goblin Chieftain don't really break the bank the Bushwhacker can provide a similar effect at a fraction of the monetary cost.
The road forks here and we get to another bonus from Bushwhacker - it doesn't just affect goblins. This means that our tribal pilot from the first paragraph can get extra utility from this card in any deck running Mountains. This card is a solid investment for multiple decks and someone who isn't a heavily invested player can get a lot of mileage out of this little guy. It pushes towards a specific deck design which can also help a player proceed from a base level of understanding to more advanced (or as invested players will understand it, rudimentary) deck building.
I remember Zendikar limited fondly. I had just returned to playing paper Magic and was doing quite well (opening a Volcanic Island at the prerelease helped). For those that were not around, Zendikar was an incredibly fast limited format. Attacking was paramount and blocking was nearly nonexistent. Most matches were races (very often decided by Vampire Nighthawk. Goblin Bushwhacker did work in this format because it could provide a win from nowhere victory. In other formats this would not be a great thing but in the hyper-aggro world of triple Zendikar Goblin Bushwhacker helped to give decks a chance of peeling a win from the top very early in the game. Goblin Bushwhacker was also instructional - it (along with cards like Goblin Shortcutter) provided a map for the red mage: attack early and often.
Goblin Bushwhacker does a fine job of being the start of someone's Magical journey. It relies on a well worn fantasy species while also giving insight into one of the core philosophies of red. It also taps into the trope of the Goblin horde, a Tolkien inspired attribute, that can be understood easily by anyone with basic fantasy knowledge. While doing this it also provides insight into the world of Zendikar - in what sort of world do you need a guide and someone to help you through the backwoods trails...and in what world would you trust a goblin to do this?
Oh, and let's not forget this card's tournament pedigree. Andrea Giarola used Goblin Bushwhacker to propel himself to a top 8 berth at Pro Tour San Juan (and 3rd place finish) in 2010 with a 7-1-2 constructed record. At Pro Tour San Diego 2010, potential Hall of Famer Paul Rietzl played a Goblin Bushwhacker deck to 23rd place. Goblin Bushwhacker is a tournament caliber card.
New World Order is all about board complexity and Goblin Bushwhacker shines here. It has an impact on the turn it is played but then it reverts to Mons's Goblin Raiders. This is an excellent level of complexity - it does something then goes to be a perfectly normal creature. Goblin Bushwhacker scores high marks here because it is quite the simple card (in execution) with a huge level of potential play packed in the elegance.
As a halcyon of red, well, Bushwhacker excels once again. It has the small red creature type in goblin. It plays into reds love of all out aggression and the emphasis the color plays on attacking - the act now think later motif. Goblin Bushwhacker also is a nod to red's ability to stoke emotions- I'm angry, you should be too!
Let's face it. Goblin Bushwhacker is a powerful card that did unfair things in Pauper Storm Combo decks. But the fact remains it is an excellent implementation of a common. If it came from a set where attacking was not the way of the day I could see it being an uncommon but as is Goblin Bushwhacker lives up to its black expansion symbol.