Your Pet Card Sucks: A Guide to Moon Stompy Deckbuilding
📅 September 13, 2022•
⏱️21 min read
If you haven't read my first article, it outlines a lot about Moon Stompy as a deck and I recommend you start there before reading this one. https://minmaxblog.com/the-tale-of-the-bamboo-cutter/
“Play the good cards” is a phrase that gets tossed around maybe too much within the magic community. But what makes a card 'good'? For some decks, it's really easy to figure out. Delver plays a ton of good cards. You don't have to register Consider, you have Ponder and Brainstorm. You don't need Ethereal Forager because Murktide Regent is much better. But the definition of 'good' blurs a lot as you get into decks that eschew typical legacy deckbuilding ideas. Decks like Moon Stompy. Obviously, the deck is built around conventional lock pieces like Chalice of the Void and Blood Moon. These probably meet the 'good card' qualifications, by some notion. But is Goblin Rabblemaster a good legacy card? Absolutely not.
Moon Stompy deckbuilding gets to bend the rules about what cards meet the standards of playability by cheating on mana, with cards like Ancient Tomb, City of Traitors, Chrome Mox, and Simian Spirit Guide. When Rabblemaster jumps the curve from a turn 3 play to a turn 1 or 2 play, or backed by a lockpiece completely removing your opponent's ability to play the game, it looks much more reasonable. Therein lies the main problem in card analysis with regards to Moon Stompy: when is a card actually good vs when is it just the card that you happened to kill your opponent with? What makes a lock piece good? Or a threat? Or even an innocuous card from the manabase?
Have All the Fun
The easiest card choices to make in Moon Stompy are the lock pieces. The deck will primarily play a suite of Chalice of the Void, Trinisphere, Blood Moon, and Magus of the Moon, with the intent of letting your opponent play as little magic as possible. Between the glut of cantrips and greedy manabases, these cards all fit in as powerful disruptive tools to debilitate the opponent's gamepan. The odd card out is newcomer Unlicensed Hearse. I've already previously discussed this card's strength so I won't go too much into detail here, but the increased reliance on the graveyard across almost every deck in legacy has upped this card's stock to sit at the big kid's table with the rest of the lock pieces.
These pieces are extremely stock across basically all Moon Stompy lists, and are likely to go close to unchanged across them. Based on specific metas you can tweak the number of moons and spheres you're bringing on a given day, but overall it's easy to give these cards the 'good card' status.
Threats: 2R or Bust
Above all else, I've found that time and time again, the biggest upside a threat in Moon Stompy can have is a mana cost of 2R. I cannot emphasize this enough. The way the deck is currently constructed, it has an extremely consistent ability to cast cards with 2R mana costs. So many Moon Stompy play patterns lend themselves to wanting cards with exactly this point on the curve. You will operate on and win a large number of games with just a sol land, a mountain/mox, and a dream. Casting a turn 1 chalice off a City of Traitors, or a Trinisphere with a Simian Spirit Guide in the mix, means you'll have a window the following turn to play a land and cast exactly a 2R spell before having to rebuild your mana.
Turn 1 or 2 Blood Moon will often leave you with 1-2 mana leftover, meaning you can follow up fairly quickly and reliably with a 3 mana play, while a 4 mana one is another turn cycle away. Moon Stompy has been constantly refined over time to optimize this deckbuilding decision, which I think a lot of people take for granted. Gone are the days of casting Karn, the Great Creator or Chandra, Torch of Defiance or even Fireflux Squad. Operating on low mana allows the deck to play out a very consistent and powerful gameplan and really lean into its ability to play lock pieces as early as possible without getting stuck behind them. Because of this, the leap between 3 and 4 mana (or about as comparably, the leap from 2R to 1RR mana) is enormous and really requires the card in question to be exceptionally powerful to be worth it.
Making Decisions without Cantrips
Modality is something that often goes underappreciated in legacy. Raw power is very important, and backed by the consistency suite of cantrips, it's often more useful to play the more powerful card in favor of the more flexible one. Draw your maindeck Pyroblast? Just shuffle it away with a Brainstorm. Only have room for 1 card in your sideboard for 8cast? Better make sure it counts, play Meltdown over Abrade. You'll be able to dig for it anyway. Decks that don't play these cards
are probably bad place a greater emphasis on flexibility and modality.
For Moon Stompy, flexibility comes primarily in the form of cards that are both mana producers and mana sinks. Despite being a deck designed to operate off exactly 2R, like previously discussed, Moon Stompy plays a whopping 29 mana sources between lands, MDFCs, Chrome Mox, and Simian Spirit Guide. This is because of how absolutely vital it is for the deck to have the explosive 2-3 mana starts it's built for. To solve the problem of flooding out, manabase construction in Moon Stompy is flush with dual purpose cards. Den of the Bugbear is an amazing creature-land for the deck. Taps for red early, easily mitigatable downside (due to Moon Stompy's aforementioned ability to operate off 2R, the situational ETB tapped downside is often not relevant), and providing a mana sink all provide options in the short and long term of a given game. Shatterskull Smashing goes one step further, being a land early, a removal spell late, AND a pitch card to Chrome Mox for some hands. Fury, while not particularly useful as a mana source, serves as a modal cheap removal spell and a big threat with the pitch casting cost. You can pitch cast it when you're operating in low resource 2R games, and hardcast it in ones where you're flush with mana and want a 3/3 double striker that also murders a boardstate.
So What's a Good Card?
This is the list I took to a 10-1 2nd place finish in the 9/3 Modo RCQ. Take everything I just dug into and you'll likely arrive at a lot of this list as stock. The massive amount of 3s (all 2R casting cost) and full suite of Dens and Smashings are, in my opinion, massive strengths of this deck. But all of this doesn't address the question I set forth to answer at the beginning: What makes a card 'good' in this deck. We know the lockpieces and the mana are fairly locked in with a deck like this, but what about the threatbase? Sure it costs 2R, but why not other options? Laelia, the Blade Reforged? Anje's Ravager? Other really bad options that have been recently played? I tried to touch on this a bit in my previous article, but here we're going to dive deeper into the heart of the matter: Is this threat playable in Moon Stompy?
Rabblemaster fucks. No two ways about it. The 2 things I place emphasis on in threat assessment (after 2R casting cost) are closing speed and value generation. Rabblemaster closes games rapidly and generates value every combat step. It also plays nicely with the myriad of other goblins in the deck (especially flipped Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, accelerating the clock even further. It's the perfect example of what a powerful threat in Moon Stompy looks like, even with all the other variants floating around.
Verdict: Good card. Maybe even the best card (as far as threats go).
Warboss is a fairly sizable Rabblemaster variant. In exchange for the lower power output, it provides a little more in terms of value generation with the additional mentor triggers onto your 1/1 goblins, providing a touch more advantage if removed after a few turns, or in the face of 1 damage sweeper effects. Overall, the increased clock and additional goblin synergies of the real Rabbleman generally edges out his Boros aligned counterpart, but Warboss isn't a slouch.
Verdict: Good card, albeit a little worse than the Rabbleman himself.
Squee, Dubious Monarch
Squee is the most recent addition from Dominaria United, providing a 3rd rabble effect the deck can choose from. While being the slowest clock of the goblin crew, Squee has a decent chunk of powerful upsides. Haste lets Squee hit harder than any other rabble on the turn you cast it, crashing in for an additional 2 damage over the other rabbles on the first turn. It also plays nicely this way with Goblin Rabblemaster himself, as an unanswered Rabble into Squee curve can be attacking for 11. Additionally, escape 4 allows Squee to grind harder than any of the other Rabbles in the face of non-exiling removal. This also plays nicely with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, as you can sometimes discard it to just recast it later. Unfortunately, the legendary clause also makes Squee play worse with Fable, as the flip side can't copy it like it can with the other 2 parts of the Rabblesquad. Mixed with the weakness to Karakas and inherent tension of multiple copies of legendary creatures, I've found Squee to rapidly fall off in additional copies in the deck, but the first copy is quite good.
Verdict: Good card, 1st copy is much better than the 2nd. Likely wouldn't play more than 2.
Fable of the Mirror-Breaker
I've already praised Fable up and down the block in my previous article. If you aren't maxing out on this card, you should reevaluate your deckbuilding process massively. Fable blows all expectations out of the water. While obviously not the best at threatening to close out a game outright, it more than makes up for it with mana production, card selection, value generation, amongst the 500 other things it does. Fable can probably babysit your kids, give your car an oil change, and have a plate of freshly baked brownies awaiting you when you get home.
Verdict: Good card. Great card. Put this fucking card in your deck right now… card.
Laelia, the Blade Reforged
Spoke a bit about this in my previous article, and I remain fairly unswayed. Why are people still registering this card? I have several bones to pick here. First and foremost: value generation. Yes it “draws” cards on attack, but very commonly you won't be able to gain anything on the first attack. As previously discussed, Moon Stompy is built to function off 2R mana. Slamming lock piece into Laelia will often leave you no mana to cast whatever you find on the first attack, meaning this card doesn't start accruing value until the second combat step, putting it behind the Rabblegang already. Secondly, In terms of clock potential, it doesn't scale impressively. It's a singular threat that incrementally attacks for 1 more each turn (outside of the minor synergy with exiling your own cards with Unlicensed Hearse).
After your opponent kills it, you're left with no residual threats to try to deal the last points of damage with (unless you manage to get 2-3 attacks in to draw some backup cards, which for most of the threats in this deck will already kill your opponent if similarly unanswered). It also suffers the Squee problem of being bad in multiples due to the legendary tag. The upside I find on this card is getting it out of range of damage based removal like Pyroclasm/Kozilek's Return on the first attack, and Lightning Bolt on the 2nd, and fading the damage that a Plague Engineer can do to you if you're too all in on the Rabblecrew plan. But even then, you get brick walled by a deathtoucher and can't draw more cards.
Verdict: Bad card, not really sure why people want to play this other than the dopamine hit of drawing cards.
This card reads fairly reasonably in a deck like Moon Stompy. Between all the acceleration and card disadvantage with Chrome Mox and Fury, you'll find yourself emptyhanded sometimes, and discarding your empty hand and drawing 3 is a powerful trigger for a single attack. You can even run a real cute line of proccing the madness trigger off your Fable of the Mirror-Breaker for even more value. Digging in deeper uncovers a host of problems that I think really plague this card. First and most importantly, it's the only one of the threats thus far that does absolutely nothing the turn you play it. You need to untap and get to combat to gain any sort of value, which can often be concerning in a format as interaction heavy as legacy. Additionally, while Moon Stompy can empty its hand a decent chunk of the time, sometimes you do want to hold cards in reserve, something Ravager doesn't allow you to do.
In postboard games you may need to hold up interaction inside the combat step or 2nd main, but with Ravager forcing you to attack and dump your hand every turn, it can lead you down some problematic lines. Lastly (albeit fairly minor), between Spirit of the Labyrinth, Narset, Parter of Veils, and Hullbreacher, legacy does have a decent chunk of card draw hate, and it can sometimes play to your opponent's advantage to let you attack and mind twist you before dealing with your threat. So for all its high roll card draw potential and fun synergy, I don't think this card should be making the cut over the more consistent and less swingy options. Similarly to Laelia, there's maybe a world where you want to cut down on goblin synergies and 2 toughness creatures to fight Plague Engineer or Pyroclasm heavy metas, but we're very far from that currently.
Verdict: Pretty bad card, feels fairly greedy to realistically play over other options.
The poster threat for modality in Moon Stompy, Bonecrusher can definitely make the cut in some metas. While not an exceptional rate on either side, extra removal spells are typically welcome in the deck, and a 4/3 that can usually deal damage to your opponent on the way out the door isn't the worst mode even when you don't need the shock half. If you're trying to attack a meta with a lot of reasonable Stomp targets (Elves, D&T, Moon Stompy mirror, etc) but want to stay flexible vs decks like control and combo, Bonecrusher is a fine add.
Verdict, Pretty good card, meta dependent but flexible.
A card that completely slipped my radar to discuss in the previous article, Hex wasn't available on Modo until earlier this past week. Striking fear in the hearts of many blue players, plenty of folks were excited to try this card in Moon Stompy. I was definitely in for giving this card a fair shake, even as far as the maindeck, but ultimately I found it not good enough vs a broad chunk of the meta. While hammering control and combo hard, it really felt like it was missing in the Delver matchup. Delver game 1s are often dictated by lock piece deployment speed vs Murktide Regent deployment speed. In this regard, Hex was neither fast to cast at 1RR, nor did it necessarily inhibit the delver player from getting to Murktide unless you also had a fast clock in play. Ultimately, I think this card is relegated to the sideboard if anywhere, as a potent anti control/combo tool and not a lot more.
Verdict: Bad maindeck card, decent targeted sideboard card.
I haven't seen this card seeing a ton of play lately, especially with the printing of Fable, but some players were looking for additional copies of Fable after playing with the power of the 2nd chapter. I'm very disinterested in this card after messing with it for a bit, and its mostly easily outlined by '1RR'. Moon Stompy is optimized for game 1 speed, making grindy 1RR cards kind of a hassle to maindeck. And as a grindy sideboard tool there are likely just going to be much better options across the board, between a suite of 4 mana cards that are approximately as easy to cast as Spyro is.
Verdict: Pretty bad maindeck card, outdone by most sideboard options.
Gut, True Soul Zealot
Pour one out for the homies. Snubbed on the latest Modo update, despite adding plenty of the “Choose a Background” cards, I still can't play Gut online. I think there's a decent chance it's a playable 1 of in a similar vein to Squee, but I guess I'll have to wait longer to get a good feel for it.
Dead // Gone (yes I know it's not a threat)
The last card before we get into the > 3 mana options, I mostly wanted to touch on this card because I maindecked 2 copies during the RCQ. After I just finished browbeating all the readers about the strength of modality, some might wonder why I played this card over Bonecrusher Giant. The answer is quite simply: Dead//Gone is good vs almost the entire meta right now. The shock effect is cheaper than Bonecrushers, answering early Elvish Reclaimer, Mother of Runes, Stoneforge Mystic and similarly scary creatures, and the bounce is extremely relevant at giving you maindeck outs vs Murktides and Marit Lages and other giants. The only big misses the card has right now are vs combo and control. Combo matchups are largely great for Moon Stompy, and bonecrusher wasn't doing a lot there anyways.
Both cards are likely just ending up discarded to a Fable or pitched to a Chrome Mox before being boarded out. And I was confident enough in my control plan that I was happy maindecking a few more dead cards (pun intended) to improve my game vs most of the rest of the field. This won't always be the case, I don't think this card will always show up in maindecks, but it's very good at what it does, and I highly recommend 4 copies across most 75s.
Verdict: Variable maindeck card, good enough right now to maindeck in my opinion, very good sideboard card regardless.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
“But xJ,” I hear you saying, “I love (insert card that costs more than 3 mana), and with 29 mana sources you should easily be able to play a few right?” Well, you would be wrong. If I didn't emphasize it enough up top: this deck is constructed to maximize the 2R manacost. A card has to do something exceptionally unique and powerful to be worth considering over 3 mana options in my eyes. Chandra isn't exactly getting the job done here. A medium card advantage card/clock/medium minus removal spell, plenty of cards can likely do what Chandra is doing for you. The 4 mana permanent slot was powerful for a bit for the ability to dodge Prismatic Ending, but given the current return to 4c Control for [Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes] bringing a 4th color for Pending, and the subsequent sideboard shift of blue decks overall to more copies of Hydroblast, Chandra really just doesn't cut it anymore.
Verdict: Not a very good card anymore, pretty old news. Seen much better days.
Karn, the Great Creator
If Chandra is old news, Karn is dead in a ditch somewhere. While exceptionally individually powerful in a vacuum, Karn is also wildly mana hungry. In a format with Delver at the helm, resolving your 4 mana spell that has no immediate impact and requires you to resolve future expensive spells like Ensnaring Bridge to stay alive is not where we want to be. While Karn wails on combo and can be powerful in low pressure matchups like control, Moon Stompy is usually fine with these matchups already, and you're likely served teching elsewhere.
It also does not synergize well with the current builds of Moon Stompy and their aggressive slants, and is better served in Stompy strategies that are more focused on defense, combo, or mana generation. Finally, a real cost to this card is the sideboard tax. Moon Stompy has a lot of cards that end up dead in game 1, and has a lot of swapping to do in postboard games. With Karn in the mix, your sideboard room is often taxes by anywhere from 5-7 cards, really cutting into what you can eliminate in terms of dead maindeck pieces.
Verdict: Bad card in Moon Stompy, powerful card elsewhere.
Squad was a sick innovation from the Moon Stompy era that just started to move away from the prison tools like Ensnaring Bridge and planeswalkers and more towards the ability to get the opponent dead as fast as possible. 4 mana 4/3 haste and the ability to Polymorph your goblin tokens from the Rabblecohort could generate a lot of aggression and card advantage. The main problem is that Moon Stompy has gained enough playable cards that Squad doesn't really make the cut anymore. It's trivial for the deck to condense the entire threatbase to the 2R slot, so an aggressive option at 3R that doesn't really add any new angles of attack is likely to be worse than a similar card at 2R. (Specifically I think this card is a fair bit worse than Gut, True Soul Zealot but I won't get to figure that out anytime soon).
Verdict: Bad and very replaceable card.
Caves of Chaos Adventurer
The fun new cool card that just got added to Modo along with a needlessly confusing version of monarch, Adventurer has been getting some hype recently. I gave this card a fair shake and I think people are suffering from New Card Syndrome. I will readily admit, this card is really sweet and fun to cast. It has a lot of upsides and does interesting things that no other previous options could do. It's one of the best value generators, both if removed or unchecked. It manages to be a very threatening clock if your Initiative is unthreatened, as it can pump to a 7/5 trample after untapping, and doming your opponent for an extra 5 damage after that.
I think ultimately, the problem with this card is how bad it is vs Delver. The matchup will often be an exchange of blows, and it's next to impossible to protect your Initiative from their fliers. In addition, the 5/3 body does not line up great vs their removal. All of this ignoring the thesis of this article: “It doesn't cost 2R.” It's always going to be a little slower and harder to resolve, especially vs the Wasteland + Daze deck. Overall I found Adventurer to be a very powerful card, probably the most playable of Moon Stompy's 4 mana options. In worlds where you want to go a little slower and want some powerful value generation tools, I could see this card being played somewhat. Maybe as a decent sideboard cards if nothing else. But realistically, we live in a world ruled by Delver, and as such should make many deckbuilding decisions accordingly.
Verdict: Good card, especially for a 4 mana one, but not something I'd recommend a lot right now.
Hazoret the Fervent
We can't keep doing this, folks. This card just isn't good. I do not know why people keep putting it in the deck. I'm begging you to just play good cards instead. This card misses basically all the marks for a good card. It costs 4 mana, is weak to the plethora of exile removal in legacy, in addition to Karakas, does nothing reasonable vs Delver, and gets chump blocked to hell while generating zero card advantage vs all the creature decks. Play 17 copies of Caves of Chaos Adventurer before this. The only upside on Hazoret is that it has an illegible invocation promo that also looks like it says “Hazoret the Pervert” and that's amusing for some people.
Verdict: Truly awful card, please stop putting it in your deck. Really. Play almost anything else. An extra mountain would probably be better.
The Elder Dragon War
Another new DMU option, this card gives some vague Fable of the Mirror-Breaker vibes. Sometimes relevant sweeper effect that you can skip if you're ahead on board, ability to loot your hand way when it's dead cards, and a 4/4 flyer at the tail end (or sometimes only end if that's the object you really need at the time). While I don't think this quite fits in as a maindeck option, I think there are worlds where this card is playable as an alternate option to Fiery Confluence. Similar sweeper effect, and the loot + threat can sometimes play a more effective role than shatters and lava spikes. Right now, I find Confluence to be more effective but it's definitely a card I wouldn't be shocked to see in sideboards on occasion.
Verdict: Decent new sideboard option sometimes.
Chandra, Awakened Inferno
Big Chandra kind of runs counter to almost everything I've talked about in this article. 6 mana is sometimes completely insurmountable. Originally, Chandra was mostly a tech card for control matchups, as the combination of uncounterability and inevitability made the card almost unbeatable if you can cast it (which vs control, you often had the time to do). Additionally, a big sweeper that also provided a terrifying threat was a pretty reasonable option vs a variety of creature decks like Elves and DnT, even if it wasn't always the easiest to cast. I think the card that really did Chandra in now is Hydroblast. As discussed with Chandra, Torch of Defiance, the rise of blue blasts has really done a number on the playability of Awakened Inferno. While still uncounterable, it's much easier for control decks to stomach a single emblem and just blast it away for 1 mana, making your enormous mana investment worth a lot less. I think cards like Maddening Hex or Caves of Chaos Adventurer are now likely better if you want to try to tech for control matchups, although you do lose some equity not having as many card vs creature strategies.
Verdict: Previously powerful anti control sideboard card, much weaker in the current Hydroblast meta.
Your Pet Card
If you're thinking about a card I didn't list here, odds are it probably sucks. Cut it and play a good one. Or don't. I'm not your dad.
Verdict: Use your best judgment.
I hope no one takes this article personally. My goal, as always, is to try to explain the deck design process and try to make it as powerful and fine tuned as possible so people can win more games. Not everyone shares that goal. If you want to play fun cards, I absolutely will not stop you. Especially in a deck like Moon Stompy, you can often win games with a ham sandwich after locking your opponent out. If you want to play fun meme cards, go for it! I'm just trying to outline why the deck is built the way it is and what cards you should consider to maximize the deck's playability. Also, oftentimes people are taking these decks to their 15 person LGSs, not grinding away on Modo or large paper events. In those cases, the metas can be quite different and you will want to play different cards. That's perfectly fine. Hopefully this article paints a good enough picture of the deckbuilding fundamentals, as well as card quality considerations, that you can innovate and iterate on decklists with the concepts I've provided and your own knowledge. That's ultimately the best service I can provide. If you take away anything from this article, try to remember the golden mana cost (2R), and to assess cards as they function by themselves, not just how badly they're bodying your opponent behind a Blood Moon or Trinisphere.
Finally, shoutouts to the wonderful folks Min and Max at minmaxblog.com for always providing a place to post my articles. You guys rule. Additional shoutouts to Sahar Mirhadi (@saharmirhadi on Twitter) and Andrea Mengucci (@mengu09) for talking plenty of shop about Moon Stompy with me over the past few weeks. I will never pass up an opportunity to talk about decks I'm loving playing at the moment. In that vein, future shoutouts to Jarvis Yu (@jkyu06) for having me on his stream to go over my RCQ 2nd place finish (tentatively this coming Thursday 9/8), and to The Dark Depths Podcast (@depths_podcast) and Everyday Eternal Podcast (@EternalMTG) for reaching out to have me on a future episode to talk more about the deck (dates TBD). Finally, shoutouts to The Owl House, because that show still rules. If you read my previous article and didn't watch it, you should watch it after reading this one. Consider it payment for this second piece of Moon Stompy content. Rumor has it that season 3 is coming soon, so get on that shit.
Thanks everyone for reading. I hope you enjoyed this article, and I'll see you all next time I get possessed by the spirit of article writing and crank out 5k words over the course of a day.