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By: magma728, Jake Beardsley
Nov 13 2019 12:00pm
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Many pros and competitive Magic players came to the conclusion that your first priority in terms of building Pioneer decks should be getting cards banned, and that’s just what happened in the first couple of weeks of the format’s existence. Felidar Guardian, Leyline of Abundance, and Oath of Nissa’s quick exits from the format show that Wizards of the Coast were not messing around when they said they would be banning things early and often. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t still plenty of cards to break in Pioneer. After all, why wouldn’t you want to continue to do crazy broken things like Jeskai Ascendancy combo people or cast Emrakul, the Promised End off of your Aetherworks Marvel, and I’m no different. While my Paradoxical Outcome deck might not be quite as busted as these other examples at first glance, I can assure you that Mox Amber, much like Mox Opal in Modern, is plenty strong enough to elicit a ban at some point, even if it isn’t necessarily in the first wave. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. I’m here to play a deck that’s about as fair as any. Some of you may recall a brief period of time in Standard when Aetherworks Marvel wasn’t what people were doing with their energy. No, they were playing everyone’s favorite personal Tesla Coil, Dynavolt Tower. Zac Elsik won an RPTQ with this list in 2017:

here’s a lot to be said for this list in it’s own right, but for now let’s just examine the basic shell of UR control cards in conjunction with Dynavolt Tower and the energy package. Torrential Gearhulk is Pioneer’s premier control threat just like it was in Standard when Elsik played it, although four is a tad extreme in a format where the game is reasonably likely to be over by turn 4. Other standard control cards are present, i.e. whatever the best 1-mana red removal spell in the format is, which in this case it’s Galvanic Bombardment while in Pioneer I’ve found it to be Fiery Impulse if you aren’t trying to aggressively pressure your opponent’s life total. You have some countermagic in Disallow, which I’m still testing as to which counterspell is best; my conclusion is that it’s going to be a split of Disallow to counter the triggers from Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Emrakul, the Promised End, Counterflux to win counter wars, and Sinister Sabotage to help fuel control mage’s most powerful spell in Pioneer, Dig Through Time

The energy package, in the case of both Elsik’s list and my own, consists of Dynavolt Tower, Harnessed Lightning, and Glimmer of Genius. This gives the deck an engine in Dynavolt Tower that can both end the game and function as a repeatable source of removal. Harnessed Lightning is one of the most efficient forms of red removal in the format, and it’s also one of the few that can deal with larger creatures effectively. Finally, Glimmer of Genius is one of many Inspiration-style effects that have been printed in the last few years, but with major upside, as it lets you dig 4 cards deep, turbo charges your Dynavolt Tower, and even fixes your mana in conjunction with Aether Hub in a pinch. While that third point isn’t likely to come up very often, as you’re a two color deck with a solid manabase, it’s nice to know that it’s there. Tower is obviously what pulls you in an energy-heavy direction, but I assure you it’s well worth it. Now that we’ve addressed the benefits of playing UR Energy in general, let’s get to the specific list. Here’s the list I’ve been having some success with on MTGO:

The list is pretty similar to Elsik’s in terms of overall approach to most matchups. Buy some time with your removal, counterspells, and sweepers, build up energy and cards with Glimmer, Dig, and Tower, and once you turn the corner kill quickly with Torrential Gearhulk, Tower, or even Wandering Fumarole, which has been the unsung hero of the deck. Having a land that can function as an efficient clock, deterrent for attackers, and a chump blocker in a pinch is really helpful for a control deck where a single card can make the difference between turning the corner and death. 

In terms of specific card choices, one of the ones that immediately jumps out is Censor. It’s an extremely inefficient answer, especially when compared to all the other ones the deck plays. However, it’s a necessary evil, as the deck, as well as Pioneer as a whole, is limited in terms of the number of ways a deck can answer an Oko, Thief of Crowns or a Teferi, Time Raveler on the draw. These are two of the most powerful, most ubiquitous, and most obnoxious cards in the format, as the former can turn your Towers into lowly 3/3 Elks and the latter completely invalidates any attempt to interact with your opponent at instant speed, which is something that this as well as every other control deck ever wants to do. While Censor isn;t great, it does cycle while providing you some outs to early planeswalkers, which until something else is printed, provide UR Dynavolt with a tricky problem to address otherwise.

The sideboard is not completely tuned yet, but all of the cards address issues the deck has that are either popular in the Pioneer metagame already, or after the bans are projected to become much more prevalent, on Magic Online as well as in local and large tournaments alike. Whirler Virtuoso provides a more proactive threat that serves as a sort of juke once your opponents sideboard out the majority of their removal, and specifically their sweepers. Virtuoso’s ability to go wide in conjunction with Dynavolt Tower and your other methods of energy production gives you a great way to sidestep a lot of what your opponent brings in out of the sideboard, and allows you to juke them yet again by boarding them out in game three after they have already brought in sweepers to account for it after game two, stranding a number of dead cards in their hand. Negate, Disdainful Stroke, Aether Gust, and Mystical Dispute are all relatively self-explanatory card choices, as they just come in and replace whatever your worst answers are in a given matchup. Pithing Needle is the card I’m least sure about in the sideboard, but given the prevalence of planeswalkers as well as an expected rise in Aetherworks Marvel decks after the banning of Felidar Guardian, it seems like it has a place in the board. Anger of the Gods gives you a third sweeper as well as an extra piece of graveyard hate to go with Ashiok, Dream Render, which will be extremely important if Prized Amalgam-based graveyard decks become more popular without the faster, now-banned decks oppressing them. Finally, Keranos, God of Storms provides you with a resilient threat that can take over the game on his own, pressuring your opponent’s total and planeswalkers as well as drawing you extra cards.

Thanks for looking at UR Dynavolt with me, and I hope you’re enjoying Pioneer as much as I am. Overall I’ve been quite content with the deck, and I think that the recent bans will make the deck that much more competitive as we see a slightly fairer, and thus more exploitable, metagame develop. If there’s any deck or format you’d like me to cover, please let me know!