• stancifka

Our top5 brews for Pioneer PT

Hey guys, your favorite writing duo of Stan and Ondrej here. We’ve just gotten back from the first PT in Brussels and decided to share our experience with the Pioneer format. Even though our focus has been on Standard lately with Worlds coming soon, we played a ton of Pioneer before Theros came out. Obviously with Thassa’s Oracle being printed, the format has changed a bit with the innovative Inverter of Truth deck, but the top decks mostly stayed the same. Today, we’re going to go over our favorite decks we’ve tried. Some of these are more promising than others, but if you’re a fan of Pioneer (like we are) you’ll surely find something you like. First off, the deck we actually ended up playing - 5c Niv Mizzet. Even though the deck did poorly at large, our group (PV, Stan, Ondrej, Ivan) did quite well. Our overall win rate vs 63%, which is reasonable at the PT level. We believe this was mostly due to our tuned list, and possibly because of our magical playskill. Ivan is going to write more in-depth about the deck tomorrow, but the list we played at the PT is a good starting point.

3 Breeding Pool

1 Woodland Cemetery

2 Overgrown Tomb

2 Temple Garden

4 Bring to Light

3 Gilded Goose

1 Swamp

1 Temple of Silence

4 Fabled Passage

1 Stomping Ground

1 Dreadbore

1 Temple of Epiphany

1 Plains

4 Niv-Mizzet Reborn

2 Nahiri, the Harbinger

1 Mountain

1 Island

1 Godless Shrine

1 Forest

1 Hour of Devastation

1 Sunpetal Grove

4 Sylvan Caryatid

4 Teferi, Time Raveler

2 Mana Confluence

1 Temple of Deceit

1 Solar Blaze

2 Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

2 Temple of Enlightenment

1 Temple of Abandon

1 Thoughtseize

1 Slaughter Games

1 Anguished Unmaking

1 Infernal Reckoning

1 Enter the God-Eternals

1 Questing Beast

1 Selesnya Charm

1 Knight of Autumn

3 Thoughtseize

1 Deafening Clarion

1 The Scarab God

2 Voice of Resurgence

1 Rakdos's Return

1 Rest in Peace

1 Thought Erasure

Another deck we strongly considered playing were UW Spirits. Ondrej has had a lot of success with Spirits in the past, so he was excited about the possibility of playing the deck. We played a bunch with the stock version of the deck, and made some changes to it. Here’s our final product.

4 Hallowed Fountain

7 Island

2 Plains

3 Mutavault

2 Port Town

1 Mana Confluence

4 Curious Obsession

4 Mausoleum Wanderer

4 Spectral Sailor

4 Supreme Phantom

3 Rattlechains

3 Selfless Spirit

3 Nebelgast Herald

2 Topplegeist

4 Empyrean Eagle

4 Spell Queller

2 Brazen Borrower

3 Rest in Peace

4 Sky Tether

4 Mystical Dispute

2 Disdainful Stroke

2 Settle the Wreckage

With this list we’re trying to maximize Curious Obsession. We’re trying to achieve this by lowering the curve. Topplegeist might not be the best card ever, but curving out is very important with this deck. When you go Supreme Phantom into Empyrean Eagle it’s kinda obvious that you really want to cast creature on turn 1. It sucks that Topplegeist costs white, we’d much prefer playing a blue one drop, but there is no other Spirit with flying that costs a blue mana. The previous version also played a ton of three drops, which made your draws quite awkward. The three drops are usually powerful, but this goes to show that sometimes curve is more important than power, and this is certainly the case. In the end, we were a bit afraid of facing the aggro decks, but if you’re in a metagame full of slower decks, we’d fully recommend this deck. Control decks are naturally a good matchup, combo is a race in game one, but postboard you have much more disruption, and you usually win easily. At the PT we expected to face a lot of monocolored aggro decks and even though Sky Tether helps a bit, it’s still not enough to beat those decks consistently. Moving forward Spirits might be one of the best decks if Inverter manages to push out aggro out of the format. Don’t sleep on this deck.

One of the decks we tried after Theros came out was UG Ramp. We initially tried Uro in Niv Mizzet and were pretty pleased with the results, so Stan tried to build a deck around it.

1 World Breaker

1 Scavenging Ooze

4 Breeding Pool

4 Grapple with the Past

4 Yavimaya Coast

4 Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

2 Elvish Rejuvenator

4 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

4 Cavalier of Thorns

4 Nissa's Pilgrimage

4 Llanowar Elves

2 Sanctum of Ugin

1 Hinterland Harbor

2 Castle Garenbrig

4 Botanical Sanctum

2 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods

4 Elvish Mystic

7 Forest

1 Walking Ballista

2 Grafdigger's Cage

1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

3 Damping Sphere

2 Aether Gust

1 World Breaker

1 Scavenging Ooze

1 Emrakul, the Promised End

4 Lovestruck Beast

This deck is the king of the grind, but you also have some fast starts with Cavalier on turn three followed up by Uro on four. These games happen, but you’d still prefer facing UW, Niv Mizzet or some other grindy midrange decks, because the longer the game goes the more favoured you are. Just be careful not to deck yourself. Unfortunately this deck struggles against aggro and combo. You could fix the combo issue with your sideboard, but aggressive strategies proved to be really hard to beat. We tried to tune our sideboard as much as possible against aggro, but still didn’t feel comfortable facing it. With our main deck, we felt like the best win condition was Ugin in combination with Ulamog. The combo of Cavalier + Uro has proven to be successful in Standard. It’s nothing to scoff at in Pioneer either. One of the more unique cards we have in this list is Grapple the Past, which can turn into an Ulamog in the late game, while providing fodder for Uro or a land drop if you need it early on. One big problem with this deck is its matchup with Inverter. It’s possible Inverter is met with the banhammer, and if that happens it might be time to shine for this deck.

Another thing we had to try was the Kethis combo. Our household had a lot of success with this deck in the past, and combo decks like this are Stan’s favourite. Here’s the latest decklist.

4 Botanical Sanctum

4 Diligent Excavator

4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch

2 Teferi, Time Raveler

4 Watery Grave

4 Hallowed Fountain

4 Hope of Ghirapur

4 Kethis, the Hidden Hand

4 Blooming Marsh

4 Mana Confluence

4 Mox Amber

2 Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

4 Fblthp, the Lost

1 Jace, Wielder of Mysteries

4 Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle

1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

3 Temple Garden

3 Springleaf Drum

3 Thoughtseize

2 Urza's Ruinous Blast

1 Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves

2 Tormod's Crypt

1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

1 Kunoros, Hound of Athreos

2 Teferi, Time Raveler

1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

1 Karn, Scion of Urza

1 Vivien Reid

Compared to our version from Standard we have couple important additions. Hope of Ghirapur is one of them. It’s a cheap legend, that also disrupts your opponent. If you have Kethis, Excavator and two Hopes, you can cast them for free and mill your whole deck - provided you have enough legends to activate your Kethis. Eventually you can find some Moxen and win with Jace. The second new card is Emry, Lurker of the Loch. This card does a lot of things - it mills you, helps you recur Mox Amber and Hope of Ghirapur, while being a legend. Emry also makes Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle much stronger. We didn’t play any maindeck copies of Teshar in Standard, but here we have four of them. The reason for this is it’s good interaction with Emry. Once you resurrect Emry with Teshar’s ability it helps you fill your graveyard to find more things to bring back, most importantly Kethis. Springleaf Drums plays a lot of roles in this deck. It’s an early play, which this deck lacks. It’s a historic spell for Excavator, artifact for Emry, and it also fixes your mana base. Extra copies are redundant so we have only three, but it’s a solid card. Uro also fits this deck well, legend that does stuff once it gets milled, what’s not to like. One cool interaction is with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth + Kethis, which gives you an extra land drop if you need it.

This deck gets hated out a lot in the postboard games, which is the main reason we didn’t submit it. Our attempt to fix this problem was adding a lot of powerful planeswalkers like Karn, VIvien and big Teferi. They help to keep your legend count high, while providing a strong and unique effect. We played with this deck before the rise of Inverter decks, but if you want to improve that matchup we suggest adding some Gideon the Trials into your sideboard or even possibly main deck. Gideon ultimate stops the Oracle or Jace kill, while neutralizing Inverter with his +1 ability. There was a minor conflict in our household because of the next deck. We really like this pile, that embodies little kid Magic, but Ivan stomped his feet and told us we can’t play it. Yes, we’re talking about Boggles.

4 All That Glitters

2 Aqueous Form

4 Bassara Tower Archer

4 Botanical Sanctum

4 Breeding Pool

4 Curious Obsession

4 Ethereal Armor

4 Fortified Village

4 Gladecover Scout

1 Gryff's Boon

4 Mana Confluence

4 Oppressive Rays

4 Staggering Insight

2 Stubborn Denial

4 Temple Garden

2 Unflinching Courage

1 Arcane Flight

1 Hallowed Fountain

1 Hinterland Harbor

2 Battle Mastery

4 Sram, Senior Edificer

2 Disdainful Stroke

3 Sheltering Light

2 Mystical Dispute

4 Rest in Peace

Boggles has been a mainstay in Modern for its whole existence, but it’s yet to prove itself in Pioneer. We discovered this deck after Stan faced it in a Magic Online league, and then we tuned our own version of the deck. It’s unfortunate that there’s only a single one mana Boggle legal in the format, but on the other hand, we've just had a very powerful aura printed in Theros - Staggering Insight. It’s basically the poor man’s Daybreak Coronet, lifelink is a powerful ability once you combine it with a strong hexproof body. The muscle in this deck is provided by Ethereal Armor and All that Glitters, which can make your creatures enormous quickly. One cool addition to this deck is Oppressive Rays, which is a removal that stays in the game and buffs up your enchantment count. Battle Mastery might not be the best card ever, but slamming with a HUGE creature twice is admittedly pretty cool.

Postboard you have access to Sram, that is your secret weapon once your opponent boards out all their removal. Counterspells are against combo and control, Sheltering Light against Wraths and Rest in Peace against graveyard. All pretty self explanatory. Ultimately we felt like this deck doesn’t suit our strengths as pro players. You don’t have many tough choices, sometimes you mulligan to oblivion and you can lose to turn 1 Thoughtseize for example. On the other hand, some games you just roll over your opponent, and the deck is pretty fun. Ken Yukuhiro finished in top 8 of the Nagoya PT with very innovative BW Auras deck, so this strategy might have some legs after all.

There’s still a lot of room to innovate in Pioneer as can be seen in the Nagoya top 8. Shintaro Ishimura had a cool inverter deck and Ken’s BW deck was awesome. Personally we really enjoyed diving into Pioneer. It’s still fresh, lots of fun and we’re looking forward to more PTs in this format.

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