Is Boros Wizards Now The Deck To Beat In Pioneer?

Cedric Phillips qualified for the Zendikar Rising Championship with Boros Wizards. Do others agree with his Pioneer deck of choice?

Viashino Pyromancer, illustrated by Jesper Ejsing

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!

Patrick Sullivan — Boros Wizards (Lurrus)

Our own Cedric Phillips secured an invite to some nebulous future professional event with Boros Wizards last weekend. I’ve been advocating this deck for the majority of 2020 (almost went with “better part” over “majority” until I read it back to myself), while Cedric picked it up for the first time to play one MTGO League before the event. He cruised to an easy qualification, periodically texting me to talk about how awful everyone’s deck was (he’s right). He played multiple mirrors deep into the undefeated bracket of the tournament.

There are some newer additions here in Wayward Guide-Beast, Needleverge Pathway, and Roiling Vortex. The Beast used to be a Zurgo Bellstriker; it could conceivably be something like Bomat Courier or even Shock. I think if you drew the Beast over a random sampling of 100 games and did the same with Zurgo you would be happier to draw Zurgo more often, but Wayward Guide-Beast has the most upside, especially with your land-light hands. In short, even if Zurgo is better more often, I think you gain more equity with the Beast.

Needleverge Pathway would be an easy 4x were it not for Chained to the Rocks; instead there’s only one copy. I’ve been happy with it; I think it is more likely I’d play zero than two, however. Keep an eye on this if Chained to the Rocks ever gets cut, however.

I’ve been happy with Roiling Vortex, though I’m not sure if I’m happy with the fourth copy. It could easily be another Soul-Guide Lantern if the metagame moves in that direction. There’s also a case for one copy of Skullcrack; the second Roiling Vortex is typically a lot worse than a Skullcrack, and between Vortex and Lantern coming in against control in exchange for spells, Ghitu Lavarunner has become noticeably weaker post-sideboard. This is stuff on the margins, but when the skeleton of the deck is so good that’s the only stuff left to consider.

Dom Harvey — Oops All Spells

The Undercity Informer + Balustrade Spy family of combo decks is always one of the weirdest things going on in any format they appear in. Pioneer is no exception — this version runs more than 60 cards and uses Neoform and Eldritch Evolution to become more consistent than its normal-sized counterparts.

A list with a full 80 cards took down a Split Championship Qualifier on Magic Online not long ago; normally that would usher in a wave of graveyard hate that would make every sideboard game an uphill struggle, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. As new menaces like Boros Wizards demand respect, it’s tough to justify narrow hate that only hits this deck — and it’s easy to shrug off most conventional forms of interaction.

As more results trickle in, the full impact of Zendikar Rising on Pioneer is becoming clear. Omnath, Locus of Creation made a loud entrance into the format but barely has been seen in recent results. The title of most important card in the set may be a 36-way tie for first — with everything else on the outside looking in.  

Shaheen Soorani — Esper Control (Yorion)

Although I’m open to new strategies these days, I’m only human.  When an Esper Control strategy makes a splash in any format, I drop the projects I’m working on and sleeve it up immediately.  Something about the color combination brings me joy, along with the perfect synergy between the planeswalkers, removal, card advantage, and win conditions that come with it.  This Esper Control deck in Pioneer does not shy away from the winning formula and I am very excited to get some reps with it this week.

There is little room for debate with the planeswalker package listed.  Teferi, Time Raveler; Teferi, Hero of Dominaria; and Narset, Parter of Veils are the best planeswalkers that control has access to in the format.  I like the one copy of Ashiok, Nightmare Muse, as it is heavily underplayed in both Standard and Pioneer for the effect it brings. 

Oath of Kaya is another banger in the format, especially with Yorion, Sky Nomad, bringing aggressive decks to their heels.  I’ve dabbled with a Trial of Ambition / Oath of Kaya control deck in the past, but this list has a bit more potential with the current metagame.  There’s so much red-based aggro running around, anything with the lifegain attached to removal will have an edge.  I look forward to seeing what this deck can do in a format plagued by powerful aggro.

Gerry Thompson — Sultai Reclamation

I’m going to keep recommending people play the broken things from Standard in older formats. Pioneer is especially vulnerable to this because the decks are weaker, so they rely on specific answers. You should be the one operating on raw power. 

Most of the versions of this deck are more controlling and less focused on ramping into Wilderness Reclamation. Not only do I disagree with that approach on a fundamental level but I also think it’s a weaker approach for the format in general. I don’t want to play long games. 

Wilderness Reclamation has even more support in Pioneer. As a whole, the mana curve is significantly lower, which means you’re less likely to get run over and your Chemister’s Insights are stronger. There’s no other deck I’d rather be playing right now. 

Cedric Phillips — Boros Wizards (Lurrus)

I mean, obv…

(Just go read what Patrick said.)