Pioneer, who dis? Yes, Wizards of the Coast really surprised us and introduces a new format to our world, which is called Pioneer. It starts with Return to Ravnica and goes all the way up until now with Throne of Eldraine, while excluding special sets like Modern Masters and Modern Horizons. Besides that, it also has a much shorter list of banned cards than Modern: 《Windswept Heath》, 《Polluted Delta》, 《Wooded Foothills》, 《Flooded Strand》, 《Bloodstained Mire》, 《Felidar Guardian》, 《Oath of Nissa》, 《Veil of Summer》 and 《Leyline of Abundance》.
As we are looking at a brand new format and there were not too many tuned lists floating around, brewers could start doing what they are best at: brewing! I also really like coming up with new decks and tried my hand at building some new decks for Pioneer. My approach for this format though might be not the nicest one, as my initial approach was to start building decks with cards that got banned at some point in some other formats.
I could show you a lot of brews, but I rather go fast forward and show you an actual tuned deck, which I believe to be the best deck in the format currently. I have not played very much, but in my 30 matches so far I went 27-3, losing twice the mirror and once to a misclick, while beating every sort of deck.
The Deck and Card Choices
2 《Breeding Pool》
1 《Hallowed Fountain》
1 《Temple Garden》
1 《Irrigated Farmland》
1 《Scattered Groves》
2 《Fabled Passage》
1 《Temple of Enlightenment》
1 《Temple of Mystery》
1 《Temple of Plenty》
1 《Blossoming Sands》
1 《Thornwood Falls》
1 《Tranquil Cove》
1 《Glacial Fortress》
1 《Hinterland Harbor》
1 《Sunpetal Grove》
1 《Botanical Sanctum》
1 《Lumbering Falls》
1 《Castle Vantress》
4 《Field of the Dead》
1 《Radiant Fountain》
-Land (30)- 2 《Arboreal Grazer》
2 《Hydroid Krasis》
4 《Elvish Rejuvenator》
2 《Azorius Charm》
1 《Dovin’s Veto》
2 《Sphinx’s Revelation》
4 《Supreme Verdict》
4 《Hour of Promise》
4 《Teferi, Time Raveler》
1 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》
I stuck to my approach with banned cards and build a deck with 《Field of the Dead》, which is currently banned in Standard. If you look at the list, except for the manabase most cards are actually Standard legal. The big differences, compared to Standard, are 《Hour of Promise》, 《Supreme Verdict》 and a slightly better manabase.
《Supreme Verdict》 is a very important card in my opinion, as most decks in Pioneer try to win by attacking with multiple creatures, but they are currently not fast enough to kill you before 《Supreme Verdict》 swipes their board away. If it would cost 5 mana instead, it probably would have been too slow. “It can’t be countered” clause is also more important than one might think, as decks like Mono Blue Devotion and Mono Green splash blue exist and try to win while countering one important spell.
《Hour of Promise》 is probably the best win condition in Pioneer. Usually you are able to cast it on turn 4, which should be enough to stabilize the game and take over from there. If you manage to cast and resolve it, you usually get at least one 《Field of the Dead》, and depending on the match up, the second land will be either 《Field of the Dead》, 《Castle Vantress》, 《Fabled Passage》, 《Radiant Fountain》 or 《Lumbering Falls》.
If you remembered to have 7 different lands, you got yourself two 2/2 Zombie tokens most likely and a way to continue the game. Those few tokens do not sound like the best you can do in a format as powerful as Pioneer, but with time and for basically no investment, you will get more and more of these tokens and there is not much your opponent can do to stop you, as they would need to either destroy 《Field of the Dead》 or pressure you in a way that makes those tokens not matter. Besides generating tokens with every land drop you make, you still have spells you can cast.
Who does not love to draw cards? With all the mana available to you it just makes sense to play some high impact and high casting cost spells. As you can see, I choose 2 《Sphinx’s Revelation》, 2 《Hydroid Krasis》 and 1 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》 as my spells to go.
《Sphinx’s Revelation》 is the better card, if compared to 《Hydroid Krasis》, as this deck does not need a big beefy creature to win and would rather just draw more cards, but I think that 《Hydroid Krasis》 is needed in some numbers, because its trigger is on cast, which means your opponent needs a spell that specifically counters that ability, and having a giant blocker/attacker might be useful from time to time. All this card draw and life gain helps you to survive and find more 《Field of the Dead》 or other spells that are able to turn the game into your favor.
Speaking of spells that turn the game into your favor, have you met my buddy 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》? This big dragon comes into play, wipes the board and sticks around to do some more.
Ramp Spells and Utilities
The ramp suit I choose to run, after some testing is 2 《Arboreal Grazer》, 4 《Growth Spiral》, 4 《Elvish Rejuvenator》 and 4 《Hour of Promise》. The reason I choose to not run the full 4 《Arboreal Grazer》 is that it is the worst draw in the late game and you usually would like to play it before turn 3. Obviously you would love to play 《Arboreal Grazer》 on turn 1, but that is sadly not very likely because we only have 6 untapped green lands on turn 1.
One could change the mana to make that work way more often, but that would make 《Field of the Dead》 worse in my opinion and also you would probably need to run 《Once Upon a Time》. The reason I choose not to play 《Once Upon a Time》 is because I believe it does not add to the consistency of the list I am currently on. What are you going to find? My list has a total of 8 creatures main board and already 30 lands, so hoping to find a creature is not what you should be trying here.
Instead I choose to play some spells that help me reach my late game, like 《Azorius Charm》. In 30 matches, I have used every single mode of this card multiple times.
I also choose to run 4 《Teferi, Time Raveler》. Me being in love with this card is probably not going to satisfy you, but casting 《Hour of Promise》 at the end of your opponent’s turn, while your opponent cannot interact at all, might be just enough to do the trick.
At this point I have talked about almost all cards in the main board, which means I should tell you something about my sideboard, right? Truth be told, it is still under construction, but some things I can tell you: 《Tireless Tracker》 is a machine at grinding in post board games, I have never boarded in 《Rest in Peace》 yet and 《Knight of Autumn》 might be one of the best sideboard cards in this format. I am so high on 《Knight of Autumn》, because it kills vehicles like 《Smuggler’s Copter》 or enchantments like 《Virulent Plague》, it gains life while blocking against aggressive decks and if needed it can also try to apply pressure.
Tips and Tricks
Sadly, I am unable to provide you a sideboard guide currently, but to make up for it I will give you some tips on how to play this deck:
Pioneer is still fresh and tournaments are happening everywhere, so if you love to brew and/or to play Pioneer, this is exactly the time for you to build a deck and join a tournament near you! I Hope I was able to help you out a bit with this article and hope to see many of you at one of the Players Tours, enjoying Pioneer!