Welcome to What We’d Play! With the recent introduction of Zendikar Rising, many are unsure what they’d play in Pioneer. That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this advice aids in your decision making for your next Pioneer event!
Ben Friedman — Lotus Field Combo
Pioneer just isn’t the same without Inverter of Truth, sadly. Ever since the format was first introduced, the goal has been clear: play the best, most broken cards you can. For a good half of the year, that meant Dimir Inverter, but ever since it was banned, there’s been less of a reason for me to get excited about Pioneer.
However, the desire to play with something busted has started creeping back as of late. It’s time to look at Pioneer with an eye towards a “best deck.” What does that mean? When I look at Pioneer decklists, I want the one that most resembles something that I would have been able to play back before the bannings. I want to find the deck that breaks the most rules and run with it. That means I want to play with ban-worthy cards.
Lotus Field Combo is still ban-worthy, and it’s not too hard to see why. With an easy Turn 4 goldfish kill alongside incredible resilience to common disruption and a tremendously fun sideboard tutor package, there’s a lot to like about it. While other people are porting old banned Standard decks into Pioneer and trying to make them work, we’re porting old banned Pioneer decks back into Pioneer and winning easily.
You don’t need the easy win with Tome Scour and Hidden Strings anymore. You can simply churn through your deck with Pore Over the Pages and Bala Ged Recovery loops, use Dig Through Time to immediately find the Hidden Strings that you need to boost your mana to towering proportions, and more. You eventually win at your leisure with Omniscience and Approach of the Second Sun, but you can also get busy with Shifting Ceratops and Niv-Mizzet, Parun if you want. What could be more epic than that? This is the true spiritual successor to the old Legacy Solidarity deck of over a decade ago. I’m thrilled that it’s back in the ring here in Pioneer.
Patrick Chapin — Four-Color Ramp (Jegantha)
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath is still legal, so I’m gonna play it (since I don’t want to play Oops All Spells in Pioneer, but definitely wouldn’t fault anyone who did). And while Uro may be able to be used successfully in more different decks, I’m an even bigger fan of Omnath, Locus of Creation.
Besides, Teferi, Time Raveler being legal makes a really compelling case for white, anyway. Those three are unreal basically always, but the card that’s really caught my eye for this week specifically is Fae of Wishes. For now, I’m most interested in experimenting with the new Fae of Wishes / Omnath decks that have been gaining steam online.
While nobody is holding a candle to Omnath decks’ raw power, they’re often filled with so much mana and card draw, they aren’t always the best at solving specific problems (relying on “overpowering” many problems, instead of actually engaging with them). This is where Fae of Wishes comes in. Similar to how Karn, the Great Creator gives mono-green and artifact decks access to a much wider swath of interaction than they’d normally be able to use; this list gets a ton of flexibility from Fae of Wishes (while still getting additionally card advantage on a good-rate creature).
Chained to the Rocks and Supreme Verdict greatly add to our ability to reliably interact with creatures, without the risk of drawing so many dead cards in the wrong matchups. We also gain a diverse mix of very effective, but very narrow hate cards, as well as a diverse mix of potentially game-winning victory conditions or sources of major advantage.
Also, maybe it’s obvious, but relying on Mazemind Tome and Fae of Wishes for card advantage instead of Genesis Ultimatum opens up Jegantha, the Wellspring, and this is actually an extremely good Jegantha deck, both in getting it out effectively and then making incredible use of Jegantha’s tap ability.
If you’re looking for a versatile and customizable deck that’s high on raw power and a lot of fun, I definitely recommend this Fae of Wishes / Omnath list!
Shaheen Soorani — Four-Color Ramp
- 4 Lotus Cobra
- 3 Sylvan Caryatid
- 1 Dragonlord Dromoka
- 1 Kenrith, the Returned King
- 4 Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
- 4 Omnath, Locus of Creation
In every competitive format that Omnath, Locus of Creation is legal in, deciding what deck to play is easy! This list, adding the power of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Lotus Cobra, provides a pile of mana resources to drop bombs in the mid- and late-game. This looks almost identical to my Commander deck, using Felidar Retreat, Genesis Ultimatum, Escape to the Wilds, and some big-payoff win conditions to make any deck trying to defeat you on the battlefield quickly yield.
This Four-Color Ramp deck has a weakness to Oops All Spells by its very nature, but the sideboard can help with that. I’m going to test it as is currently; however, additional hate pieces to disrupt the graveyard and spells on the stack can be added to increase the win percentage. As far as the other matchups go, Four-Color Ramp embarrasses midrange and aggro decks most of the time with its lifegain, giant haymakers, and burst of permanents that hit the battlefield early in the game. I will be playing this list with confidence, only editing the sideboard a bit more to handle combo if it feels insufficient as is.
Cedric Phillips — Oops All Spells
- 2 Duress
- 4 Thoughtseize
- 4 Eldritch Evolution
- 1 Driven
- 4 Creeping Chill
- 4 Neoform
- 4 Pelakka Predation
- 4 Bala Ged Recovery
- 4 Sea Gate Restoration
- 4 Hagra Mauling
- 4 Turntimber Symbiosis
- 4 Agadeem's Awakening
- 1 Vastwood Fortification
I think it’s safe to say that Oops All Spells is the most powerful deck in Pioneer but the proper way to build it is still very much up for grabs. No one has illustrated this point better than Ari Lax did a few weeks ago:
Of the three “choices,” my lean is towards 79 for the time being because you get access to everything:
- The Narcomoeba to ensure you go off completely
- The Driven // Despair to ensure you win the turn after you go off through creatures
- Maindeck discard in Duress and Thoughtseize for a bit of interaction
- Redundant ways to go off on Turn 3 in Eldritch Evolution and Neoform
79 cards looks weird. I get that. But this number isn’t accidental and the deck continues to put up fantastic results. And as good as Boros Wizards and Mono-Green Devotion are, neither is as broken as Oops All Spells is.
My advice? Be on the right side of history until the powers that be at Wizards of the Coast (WotC) don’t allow you to be anymore. Balustrade Spy is going to be banned sooner rather than later. Don’t miss your chance at doing this to people while you still can.