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By: magma728, Jake Beardsley
Nov 04 2019 11:00am
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A new format always brings new and unique challenges as a deck builder and as a player, especially one with as few restrictions on it as Pioneer does. For those of you who haven’t heard, Pioneer is a new non-rotating format with legal sets extending back to Return to Ravnica, and the only banned cards the format is beginning with are the fetchlands from Khans of Tarkir: Flooded Strand and the like. This decision by Wizards of the Coast is one many players, including myself, are excited about, as it means that manabases no longer build themselves for the most part, as they long have in other non-rotating formats like Modern and Legacy, which in turn provides a fun new challenge for players looking to either tweak existing decks or build entirely new ones. This is the first benefit of many I see being gleaned from the new format, but let’s jump right into where I’ve decided to start in the format: Mono Blue Outcome.

With new formats, and especially ones with a small banlist like Pioneer’s, the best approach in the early weeks, at least for those who are trying to win, is to figure out what the most broken cards and combos are in the format, and out of those, which ones are the consistent, powerful, and resilient to hate. After a little bit of searching, the cards that jumped out at me the most were the Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian combo, Emrakul, the Promised End and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger (especially in conjunction with Aetherworks Marvel), Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, and Mox Amber. I decided to start with a deck that played multiple copies of these, and I used Modern’s Emry, Lurker of the Loch/Jeskai Ascendancy shell as a starting point, which could utilize the brutally efficient draw power of Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise with the acceleration of Mox Amber. However, the three color manabase provided some consistency issues, as did the necessity of playing some less than powerful cards like Crashing Drawbridge to bring the combo together. So the next step was to see what about the deck did work, and go from there. The most powerful card I found in my initial testing of the deck was Paradoxical Outcome, another card that recently broke out as a Modern powerhouse. I decided that mono blue was probably the correct approach, as mana issues were a frequent problem for the Ascendancy build and that’s the direction that the old Outcome decks from Standard took, so I at least had a starting point. The Standard builds also utilized a card which has not seen the ubiquity that its power level suggests it would: Inspiring Statuary. The powerful Aether Revolt artifact does a solid impression of Urza, Lord High Artificer, turning the cheap artifacts the deck plays into reusable mana sources. So, without further ado, here’s my latest iteration of Pioneer Mono Blue Outcome:

 


The first thing you’ll notice about the deck is how many bad cards it plays. I won’t even try to tell you cards Prophetic Prism or Ornithopter are high power, but they provide the fuel for the deck’s engine.  They also provide small advantages, whether it’s scrying with Witching Well or insulating yourself against graveyard decks with 3 maindeck Tormod's Crypt, which means while their primary focus is to trigger Sai or Saheeli, or fuel the Statuary, you will at least get a little value when they play them. While many players are opposed to playing these “bad” cards in their deck, we’ve seen time and time again that engines like Sai and Statuary are very very worth it.

One major advantage of this Outcome deck in contrast with other combo decks, like Jeskai Ascendancy and Sylvan Awakening or Aetherworks Marvel decks, is that it never really needs to combo to win the game. While the deck does win a solid percentage of games by casting Aetherflux Reservoir followed by a bunch of spells to finish off your opponent, it doesn’t ever do so in a way that really feels like it’s comboing. Instead, it just uses Paradoxical Outcome to get way ahead on cards, to the point where the lack of individual power that each card has no longer really matters because there are simply too many of them. This is especially true when engines like Sai, Master Thopterist or Saheeli, Sublime Artificer are active, as not only does each little artifact provide a small boost in its own right, it also provides a token. These tokens provide a win condition all on their own, as well as providing blockers to buy time if you are behind on board. This is why I would say that Saheeli and Sai are the most important parts of the deck; they function as win conditions, provide blockers when needed, and function as fuel for Statuary by doubling the number of artifacts you have at any given moment.

The deck also has an underrated advantage going for it in that it isn't being heavily played nor is it broken, at first glance. Don’t assume, however, that that means that this deck isn’t extremely powerful. It just isn’t as flashy as some of the more overt combo decks like Marvel or Ascendancy. It operates in a very similar space to the Urza decks in Modern; it’s consistent, powerful, and resilient, but not immediately obvious as a busted deck. It also, thanks to Statuary, gets to play lots of very powerful interactive spells that normally a 19 land deck couldn’t play very well, like Cyclonic Rift or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon in the sideboard. These interactive spells make it even easier to get away from cards like Emry, Lurker of the Lock or your cheap artifacts that are not quite as good unless you’re comboing, further improving a deck that is already good in the face of hate. This is especially relevant as many players will board in a way to make them better against your Reservoir-fueled kills, which leaves them open to better standalone threats like Ugin or mass removal like Rift. Ugin and Rift are particularly good in matchups like Green Devotion, where your opponent plays entirely to the board. A single wipe like Ugin or Rift can end the game immediately, or at the very least should buy you enough time to get way ahead of your unsuspecting opponent.

There are lots of other slots to try in terms of alternate win conditions, and each brings something different to the table depending on how you want to configure the deck. Mystic Forge provides yet another card advantage engine that efficiently fuels your Reservoir kills, but it also can’t be cast off of your Statuaries and it’s also vulnerable to artifact hate like much of the rest of the deck, so I’m keeping it on the back burner for now. Karn, the Great Creator and Karn, Scion of Urza both provide unique angles for the deck to attack on. Great Creator gives you more pseudo-copies of Inspiring Statuary as well as lets you play Reservoir, which would otherwise be clunky on occasion if drawn at an inopportune time. Having something like Mycosynth Lattice to turn Karn into an additional win condition would be nice, but Pioneers can’t be choosers. The Scion, however, is even more appealing to me, as it provides more of what the deck wants: card advantage and a way to close the game packed into one card. Karn’s plus allows us to dig to our power plays while also gaining small advantages along the way by virtue of our artifacts’ built-in utility, while his -2 will frequently give us a creature that is bigger than anything else in play. Doing this two turns in a row can end the game in short order. The best part is, Statuary can fuel Karn to boot! He’s definitely at the top of my list of cards to test, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take 1-2 slots in the main deck if he proves to be as useful as I anticipate him to be.

Thanks for taking a look at Mono Blue Outcome’s place in Magic’s brand new format, and let me know if you’re interested in more Pioneer content going forward! 

Jake