R Koster's picture
By: R Koster, Rob Koster
Jan 10 2020 1:00pm

Oh, man, I have to admit that I am surprised. I full-on assumed something was getting banned in Pioneer today. Whether it would be Thoughtseize, Dig Through Time, Lotus Field, or Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic. I don't know. But I just fully assumed they would do it today, with Pioneer being done with the rapid-fire bannings this week. Anyway, now we know that the coast is clear; it's time to get to the deck choosing.

So, in my list of 20 things for 2020 from last week. I talked about wanting to pick a main deck for Pioneer. Seeing as now the rapid-fire bans are done, and the format has been taken out of open Beta, it should steer into some more calming waters. So it's time for me to consider what I think are the best decks and pick one to start venturing into Pioneer.

I have a few contenders that I would consider in the current tier 1.

Just a heads up before I get to the decks themselves, I'm going to take a look at the things I think are the most powerful things you can be doing.

Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic

I think these two cards are the most potent opening in the format, and I don't think it's particularly close either. Just jumping from 1 to 3 is so insanely powerful.


This card is just really, really good. It's everything you ever want to do for a black mana. It can trade with everything and anything.
Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise: Yeah, Delve spells are busted, we all know this. We all love them anyway.

Be proactive:

Just like in Modern, you should be proactive. Pioneer isn't as aggressive as Modern is, but when I had someone casting a Sphinx's Tutelage against me, I just smiled and took my win. You can't play three mana do nothing in this format without dying a very high amount of the times. The format is slower than Modern, but it's not a no-rush thing by any means.

So most decks I'll even consider will be doing one of these things.

UR Phoenix
This deck has consistently been doing well in the PTQ's on MTGO. I fully expect it to keep going, even after it dies, I just see it coming back again, and again, and again. But yeah, Thing in the Ice is a giant beating for Aggro decks if it sticks, and recurring flyers has just always been a recipe for success. When Thing in the Ice isn't great, you can just 1 to 1 swap it with Young Pyromancer and go wide yourself, which also seems great.

Lotus Field Storm
I fully expected this to get banned. I have seen it do nothing but insane things and plays and take a tedious amount of time to get to them. But from what I've heard, the aggro matchups are rough, and Aggro is a big part of this format. So it might be just that. I will be running through a few leagues with this myself to check it out soon, though.

Big Red
I've played this through a League before. Even while I was actively fumbling and buffooning, I pretty quickly got a 3-2. Usually, it's a good sign if even though you know you are playing like a turd, the deck just pulls you through a bunch of times. So this is high on my interest list to git gud with.

BG Midrange / BG Traverse
I've been impressed every time I see the deck being played. Just playing a typical game and then just slamming the door with an Emrakul, the Promised End is excellent. You get Thoughtseize and Fatal Push and a very reasonable tutor in Traverse the Ulvenwald to find things for every situation you can be in. I don't expect a lot of midrange decks to be good in the format. And the ones I do expect to be good are all based on Thoughtseize, but this is the frontrunner on the Midrange front for me.

Mono-Green Aggro
I haven't played this deck yet for myself. But every single time I've seen it, it's just clocking people in the face like a jackhammer. This deck hits so ridiculously hard. The combo of Turn 1 Elf into five power guy is just so absurd. The only problem I have with this deck is that it's very scripted and linear. Once you have your opening hand, you just jam the most power onto the board most of the time. But seeing as I'm going for wins and not for fun, this might just be the deck to play.

Green/Blue Aggro
Another one I have played through a league a few before. To be honest, though, while I could tell the power level was there, the deck just didn't feel right to me. Don't get me wrong; it's a good deck. But I just don't think it's for me. I kept almost getting there and then dying. Which is probably saying something about my ability to play aggro decks.

Mono-Black Aggro
This deck ate a ban in Smuggler's Copter which I get. But still, the card is sweet, so it's a shame. Anyway, even without the Copter, this deck has been putting up the results, and I fully expect it to keep doing that. Thoughtseize and Recurring threats is just that good.

Mono-Green Ramp
Another Green deck on the list. This is just the Pioneer version of Tron. It has Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Castle Garenbrig with a bunch of Elves to ramp into Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger as fast as possible. Does that sound familiar to anyone? Because it sure does for me. But it's good in Modern, and I feel like the deck's also very good in Pioneer.

I know, I know. Affinity isn't performing very well. But after over a decade of playing Magic, I have just learned one thing. Never count out Affinity. There will be something that gets this back straight back into tier 1. Whether it be them reprinting Mox Opal in a Standard set or them printing something that combo's with Walking Ballista and Hardened Scales. Oh, wait. They already did that. G/W Affinity with a combo finish sounds nice, and the deck already wanted to run 4 Walking Ballista, so that's a natural fit.

Flyers have been exceptionally good for me. I don't know if I want to play Bant or UW, but both seem fine and an excellent pick to start with. UW has consistency, but Collected Company is one hell of a card. Look at 6, put six on the bottom of your deck is just that good. But all kidding aside, Collected Company is fantastic. The deck might even want the Tamiyo, Field Researcher, tapping stuff, and drawing cards seems good.

FACE IS THE PLACE. I don't know if the burn deck is good enough in this format, but Boros Charm and Eidolon of the Great Revel are legal. So there is probably something there. Perhaps with a Wizards theme. I'd start by looking at the Modern mono-red prowess deck to start this off with. But Burn will just always be a thing.

So if you haven't noticed yet, there isn't a single control deck between all of them, even though my favorite archetype to play is control by a mile. I just don't think the answers are on the same power level as the threats in the format, and I don't think I could advise anyone to play control with a straight face. I know that UW control has been doing okay, but I just haven't been impressed when I saw others play it. I'll probably take it for a spin at some point, but it's very low on the list. Magic has just trended towards a place where if killing is your business, business is good. And as per my list from last week, I'll just be diving into an aggro deck.

Have you decided on a deck yet? Starting next week, I'll start detailing my findings through the format.