Has Strixhaven Made Boros Wizards (Lurrus) The Deck To Beat In Pioneer?

Is Pioneer with Strixhaven a place to explore… or to crush the explorers with a proven deck? Five SCG creators say what they’d play.

Monastery Swiftspear, illustrated by Steve Argyle

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the arrival of Strixhaven, 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!

Ross Merriam — Boros Wizards (Lurrus)

Pioneer has been neglected recently, as Historic has taken center stage as the competitive format that sits between Standard and Modern. And oftentimes, when a format is neglected, the metagame stagnates to a degree and players get adventurous. In stagnant formats you can often get away with playing suboptimal decks because there isn’t as much pressure on optimizing every little decision.

But for those of us who are looking to optimize everything, such metagames are opportunities. They are opportunities to bring proven, aggressive decklists and play the fun police. Boros Wizards (Lurrus) is the fun police of Pioneer and the time is ripe to remind people why. It’s fast, it’s consistent, and with Lurrus available every game, it’s surprisingly resilient.

There isn’t anything surprising about the list itself, and that’s because I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here. Just play the proven cards and play them well. I know most players opt for a Zurgo Bellstriker as the last one-drop but I’m siding with the Burn Master himself, Patrick Sullivan, in playing a Wayward Guide-Beast. I think the times it costs one instead of two will be more relevant than the potential downside of the triggered ability. Plus, after that match in Los Angeles, I think I’m legally obligated to carbon copy every red deck from Patrick. It may not be the most exciting choice, but you don’t get points for being exciting. You get points for winning. And this red deck certainly wins.

Shaheen Soorani — Dimir Control

Torrential Gearhulk is still the best powerhouse control can utilize in both Historic and Pioneer.  This Dimir Control deck from a recent Magic Online Challenge is no stranger to the winner’s circle, proving that reactive control has a place amongst the elite of Pioneer. Strixhaven has not had a significant effect on this archetype, except for the inclusion of Baleful Mastery.

Baleful Mastery is an out to most problematic permanents for two mana in a pinch.  Even though the opponent draws a card, it exiles at instant speed and opens the window for a two-spell turn.  It replaces the mediocre Hero’s Downfall in that slot and covers the bases that Fatal Push cannot.  The rest of this Dimir Control deck is close to stock from its successful predecessors, using Dig Through Time and Torrential Gearhulk to bury the weaker strategies of most opponents.  The counterspells in Pioneer still leave me in a saddened state, but the removal, card draw, and win conditions provide me the necessary pick-me-up to sleeve Dimir Control for competitive play.

Ari Lax — Lotus Field Combo

Across all 64 decks posted from the Top 32 of the Saturday and Sunday Pioneer Challenges last weekend, there were four copies of Damping Sphere. Not four decks with the card. Four total copies.

People just aren’t showing up with the right interaction to really shut down Lotus Field Combo. The deck certainly isn’t as powerful as it was at its Underworld Breach peak, but it isn’t that far off. The core mana engine still makes it easy to cast whatever would win a given game, and your combo engine is a hexproof land.

Todd Anderson — Temur Control

Can you tell I’ve been missing Wilderness Reclamation a bit? Temur Good Stuff™ is still on the menu thanks to the printing of Magma Opus, a new ramp tool that gives Torrential Gearhulk combo potential. By itself, Magma Opus is clunky, expensive, and downright uncastable most of the time. But the discard effect to create a Treasure allows for some explosive starts that can definitely surprise your opponent.

The big draw for playing this deck is Anger of the Gods. There are so many creature-based decks in Pioneer that a cheap sweeper is definitely warranted, but especially so when it exiles everything so Lurrus of the Dream-Den can’t get stuff back. There are also some graveyard strats that get dunked on by Anger as well, so there’s a lot to love. Mono-Black Aggro and Izzet Phoenix have been doing well lately, so Anger of the Gods is a nice catch-all.

Prismari Command also feels perfect for this shell. All modes are excellent and it handles so many little problems that Temur decks might’ve had before. The looting effect is particularly nice thanks to the Torrential Gearhulk and Magma Opus interactions, but just having a way to turn dead removal into actual cards is pretty sick.

I love me a Growth Spiral deck, and this sweet Temur Control build allows me to do some of the coolest things a Temur deck can do: kill stuff and draw cards!

Dom Harvey — Dimir Control (Lutri)

I may have a problem.

My recommendation for this week’s Historic What We’d Play was an entirely singleton deck because it had to be – Tainted Pact offers an incredible upside at a very steep cost. My list here would overflow a decklist sheet because it can — the allure of Lutri, the Spellchaser as a companion is enough to derail a perfectly good and proven archetype in Dimir Control. This is the kind of deck that I wrote about when exploring Lutri during its preview season but which never put up any real results. Unsurprisingly, playing as many copies of your good cards as you’re allowed to tends to be a better approach than chasing the dream with a second-tier companion.

That said, seeing Hall of Fame member Paul Rietzl (littledarwin) — normally found attacking with small creatures or getting every ounce of value from a midrange deck — put up a strong finish with this list was enough to hook me in. Lutri’s requirement is easier to meet and justify with this deck in Pioneer than anywhere else; the card pool is deep enough that there are lots of mostly interchangeable interactive spells, but the power level is flat enough that you aren’t punished too badly for being capped at one copy of a card. In return, your control deck gets to start with an extra card and actually becomes much harder to play against, as the subtle differences between your removal spells or counterspells matter and open mana represents a wider range of possible effects.

Stock Dimir Control is a safe choice and one I’ll probably make in a future What We’d Play column; Dimir Control (Lutri) is an exciting choice that uses the incentive of a companion to explore deckbuilding space that has been sadly neglected in recent Magic discourse.