Indomitable Creativity has lived up to its name recently. After joining the carousel of broken Historic decks by cheating out Velomachus Lorehold and getting Time Warp banned, Indomitable Creativity is cementing itself as one of the best decks in Modern. It was only a matter of time before this impressive effect set its sights on Pioneer, and we are starting to see it break through there.
The Pioneer card pool lacks the other ingredients for a successful Creative project, with fewer enablers for your Creativity and fewer game-ending creatures to cheat out. Modern Horizons 2 delivered Serra’s Emissary and the current Modern go-to in Archon of Cruelty, and there are pre-Pioneer standbys like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Primeval Titan, but none of these make the jump to Pioneer. Velomachus Lorehold is the only one that sneaks in – but what are you even meant to hit with it?
Without these creatures that take over games by themselves, you have to get more… inventive.
Sage and God
This first appearance by Creativity in Pioneer featured one of several two-card combos that effectively become one-card combos thanks to Creativity. Sage of the Falls triggers when it enters the battlefield, allowing you to loot. This triggers The Locust God, creating a token, which in turn triggers Sage again, and so on until you have cycled through your entire deck and summoned a lethal swarm of hasty Insects.
On paper, this combo has some distinct advantages over the alternatives. It trumps almost any opposing battlefield (with the new and troubling exception of Sheoldred, the Apocalypse – increasingly a staple in Rakdos Midrange) and beats any type of removal as long as you have a way to draw a card in response (such as Consider or cycling Censor) for each removal spell. In practice, it’s often difficult to resolve a Creativity for X = 2 (without walking into those same removal spells if your targets are creature tokens) with more mana up while needing these other cards.
I See Fire
This approach also highlights a fundamental contradiction at the heart of many Creativity decks – the card draw and filtering that you need to find your namesake card also increases your odds of drawing your creatures and blunting your Creativity. The Modern lists with a set of Archon of Cruelty or Primeval Titan or some other single creature don’t have to care about this in the same way; drawing a copy that you can’t cast may be frustrating, but you can still resolve a Creativity to full effect, and this will more than make up for drawing a dead card.
If you need Creativity to turn up a specific two-card combo, missing either half of that can be fatal. Sage of the Falls and The Locust God are not playable cards without each other. Lists like this rely on cards like Fire Prophecy or Valakut Awakening as a failsafe for tucking their combo pieces.
This is the last time we’ll see a Creativity list with white before we visit every other colour pair, but it’s worth noting that we now have a bounty of white cards that create several tokens while not looking out of place in a ‘normal’ deck. The Wandering Emperor is an excellent tool for any reactive strategy, but here it can also be a source of Creativity fuel as well as a test spell against interaction.
Gearhulk and Opus
At the other end of the spectrum we find the Torrential Gearhulk + Magma Opus combo that more conventional control decks from Pioneer to Historic have turned to as a big finish. These let you play the second half of combo-control, but Magma Opus doubles as another instant-speed token source (or a way to ramp into a larger Creativity if you have more sources). Dig Through Time isn’t just a phenomenal control tool; it powers up your ‘fair’ Gearhulks even further and plays the same role it did in getting Inverter of Truth banned by finding your combo pieces when that’s your priority.
Revels and Wurm
A different pair of creatures headlines most recent lists:
Worldspine Wurm has huge stats already and Xenagos, God of Revels lets it attack for 30 on the turn it enters the battlefield, backed up by trample. If this somehow isn’t lethal (Mono-Green Devotion can plausibly soak up damage with multiple copies of Cavalier of Thorns, for example), you probably ate most of their creatures in the process. If Wurm dies, you get an equally formidable army ready to finish the job next turn, and the Wurm even shuffles back in to set up another Creativity. The word ‘dies’ is crucial, because cards that bounce or exile the Wurm break up the combo and leave you with a useless Xenagos, God of Revels. The Azorius Control matchup is so difficult in part because The Wandering Emperor threatens to exile the Wurm on your combo turn.
There are some strange dynamics with this pairing. The biggest downside to all of these dual-creature setups is that finding a second target and a fifth mana for Creativity really is so much harder than resolving a Creativity for X = 1. In contrast to the Sage of the Falls + The Locust God combo where you are priced into the full Creativity every time, this list can sometimes spin the wheel and take its 50-50 chance that a small Creativity hits Worldspine Wurm. This in turn means that, while drawing your Sage or God is a nightmare, Xenagos is often your best draw in these low-resource games, as it guarantees that you can cast a four-mana Creativity and hit Wurm – and Treasure tokens (as well as any green lands you can smuggle into your manabase) mean that Xenagos is castable from your hand sometimes.
Once you reach that conclusion, why not trade in the Xenagos combo upside for a firm guarantee? With two Worldspine Wurms a Creativity for one always hits something great. Two Wurms are often meaningfully worse than Xenagos + Wurm (Mono-Green Devotion can combo off and ignore them, and Izzet Phoenix can take all the turns with Temporal Trespass while flying over them or transform Thing in the Ice) but will still win most games.
You can also lean harder on the controlling part of your deck to handle these scenarios when your requirements for a ‘successful’ Creativity are looser. Wurm is easily the best single payoff against Rakdos Midrange, shrugging off Liliana of the Veil’s -2 ability as well as regular removal (though Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet allows removal to take down Wurm and Extinction Event is a problem in post-sideboard games).
Worldspine Wurm’s reshuffle clause, intended to stop it being reanimated in larger formats, makes it easier to cheat out in this context. Your discard outlets like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Prismari Command now put the Wurm back where you need it. You don’t even need Fire Prophecy and friends.
The Transmogrify Option
If Indomitable Creativity with a single target is on the table, Transmogrify now becomes an option to add some redundancy to that crucial effect and ensure that something terrifying is likely to come down on Turn 4. For me this is the biggest draw to the double Wurm approach, more so than any of the merits of the creatures themselves.
The Creativity plan is highly unreliable against Azorius Control. Dovin’s Veto deals with Creativity through any amount of protection, while The Wandering Emperor and other cards stop the Wurm plan. You can’t afford to move away from Creativity altogether, as between the Creativity package and the red removal that is at its worst in these matchups, you would have too many dead cards to cut. The only option is to upgrade your Creativity hits while adding some backup plan to the deck.
These uncounterable game-changers do just that. These games go long enough that hard-casting Niv-Mizzet Parun or Hullbreaker Horror is an inevitable threat, and your Big Scores are now more relevant, as they give you fodder for Creativity or the mana to fight over it while also ramping you directly into these new finishers. With this new plan, you can put up a good fight post-sideboard, but Game 1 is so tough that your odds aren’t great regardless, and the matchup isn’t so common that you have to embrace this plan. You might be better off ignoring it entirely and using these slots on something else.
Izzet is the default colour combination for Creativity, but the blue cards aren’t irreplaceable.
Some of the black cards require no explanation – of course Thoughtseize is a strong tool in a combo deck that only cares about certain cards and is trying to sculpt a big turn – but the more obscure ones catch the eye. Rotten Reunion meets the basic requirement of making two tokens, but it’s also surprisingly effective as maindeck interaction in a format full of Greasefang, Okiba Boss and Arclight Phoenix, as well as teaming up with removal to answer Old-Growth Troll or Cavalier of Thorns. If making those tokens is all you care about, Vampire’s Kiss is the most efficient way to do that across any colour combination.
I’m not going to sing the praises of Hunt the Specimens or Umbral Juke, but sometimes you have one job to do…
It’s been fun watching Ob Nixilis, the Adversary go from the second coming of Oko, Thief of Crowns to unplayable to a happy medium as a niche role-player. Rakdos Midrange prefers all of its other three-drops instead, but Rakdos Sacrifice and now Rakdos Creativity both make good use of this oddly inscrutable planeswalker.
Green offers little in the way of interaction or card filtering, yet enables the fastest Creativity or Transmogrify on Turn 3 via Careful Cultivation. Courier’s Briefcase joined it in this role in the older Gruul Transmogrify (Kaheera) lists, but is off-limits here as Creativity also hits artifacts.
A fully mono-red approach is also possible. It’s a sign of how many good, on-theme lands there are in just red alone that Dwarven Mine is actually somewhat awkward here. The Creativity shell makes better use of the modal DFCs and utility lands than most of its competition, and we’ve seen over the past few years that this is a strong selling point.
Indomitable Creativity offers raw power, contextual strength against linear decks like Mono-Green Devotion, and impressive flexibility in deckbuilding and sideboarding despite the constraints imposed by Creativity. I expect it’s here to stay in Pioneer – why not buy in early?