Welcome to What We’d Play! With the recent banning of Inverter of Truth; Kethis, the Hidden Hand; Walking Ballista; and Underworld Breach, 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! Be sure to vote for what deck you would play at the end!
Ryan Overturf — Boros Winota
- 4 Goblin Rabblemaster
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Selfless Spirit
- 4 Benalish Marshal
- 1 Kenrith, the Returned King
- 2 Bonecrusher Giant
- 4 Winota, Joiner of Forces
- 4 Selfless Savior
This deck isn’t always kind to me when I play it, but I’m still convinced that there’s something really powerful here. You have a powerful aggressive white deck that sometimes just hits the “I win” button with Winota, Joiner of Forces. Legion’s Landing consistently performs and I can’t bring myself to play Angrath’s Marauders ever again now that I’ve played a lot of successful matches with Benalish Marshal.
I think there’s an argument to maindecking some of the Banisher Priests, though they’re a bit flimsy and actively bad in a handful of matches. For now I’m trying just a couple of maindeck Bonecrusher Giants in the maindeck and trying to just race in most games, which this deck does pretty well. The Kenrith, the Returned King is one that I wasn’t sure on before I tried it, and it’s been generally fine to draw which is the bar I was hoping to clear. In the interest of full disclosure I’m still looking for a 5-0 with this archetype, but I have a good amount of 4-1 League finishes.
Ari Lax — Mono-Green Devotion
In Fact or Fiction last week I said I thought Mono-Green Devotion was the best deck in Pioneer. I still think that and I agree with the community consensus that the twelve-planeswalker, singleton-sideboard list is the best.
I disagree with the stock list on one aspect, but I’m agreeing with Tommy Ashton (aka Stainerson on Magic Online) so I have to assume I’m right. Llanowar Visionary seems like a way better filler three-drop than Jadelight Ranger. It’s the same level of value play, but it directly provides mana to do whatever you want. The best use case is boosting your Turn 3 Nissa rate, but immediately dropping whatever you find off Karn also matters a ton.
I believe Tommy mentioned The Great Henge and Verdurous Gearhulk being underwhelming cards to find, while Skysovereign, Consul Flagship might just deserve more copies as a real sideboard card, but it’s a double Wishboard. You have so much room to just fiddle and find what works, so just start somewhere and see what you want and what you never use.
Shaheen Soorani — Azorius Control
Oath of Nissa did exactly what control fans wished it would do — return green creature decks to viability. Any deck championing Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves is a huge underdog to Supreme Verdict, putting Azorius Control firmly in the driver’s seat of the format. That, combined with the fragility of Pioneer early-game creatures, makes the decision to play control easy.
The popularity of aggro in Pioneer makes Dimir Control appealing, since it contains the best spot removal the format has to offer. That, with serviceable sweepers, allows black-based control decks to remain competitive without assistance from white. But at this point, losing Supreme Verdict; Teferi, Time Raveler; and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is too high of a cost for the swap.
The planeswalkers in Azorius Control give it a giant edge in the battle of the best control option. When the mana gets a bit better, through reprints or new fixing, Esper Control will be back on the table. Until then, I am carrying the Azorius flag into battle with confidence.
Dom Harvey — Esper Control (Yorion)
As Temur Reclamation takes over yet another format, it’s time to look at Teferi, Time Reveler once more. The Esper Control shell with Yorion, Sky Nomad never gained much traction in Standard when Wilderness Reclamation was everywhere but it enjoys substantial upgrades in Pioneer — a much cleaner manabase; Thoughtseize and Fatal Push as cheap interaction; and Supreme Verdict as the best sweeper in the format, especially against Azorius Spirits in the face of Mausoleum Wanderer and Lofty Denial. The full pack of Thoughtseize and Thought Erasure pairs nicely with Teferi, not just clearing the way for it (or its partner in crime in Narset, Parter of Veils, another excellent card against Temur Reclamation and control) but allowing you to snipe their new card on their draw step, mitigating the biggest weakness of discard.
Discard, these powerful planeswalkers, Elspeth Conquers Death, and access to Dovin’s Veto and Mystical Dispute after sideboarding is a strong recipe against Temur Reclamation and these tools are versatile enough to cover you against any unexpected challengers (any deck will be weak to discard, Supreme Verdict, or both). This list leans less hard on Yorion, eschewing otherwise weak cards like Trial of Ambition, but still gets to use it as the best Mulldrifter or Nekrataal of all time and the perfect end-game trump with Elspeth Conquers Death.
Maybe you should just play Temur Reclamation until they don’t let you do that in this format either. If you’re looking for an alternative, this deck has the tools to compete and is very satisfying to play.
Patrick Sullivan — Boros Burn (Lurrus)
- 4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
- 4 Monastery Swiftspear
- 1 Zurgo Bellstriker
- 4 Soul-Scar Mage
- 4 Ghitu Lavarunner
- 4 Viashino Pyromancer
Cedric Phillips mentioned in the SCG Writers chat that he doesn’t mind if people repost the same list from previous weeks as long as there are some small changes. This complicates matters when the list you’ve been posting is literally perfect, like there isn’t a single card you’d even consider changing. However, out of respect for my editor and as an intellectual exercise, some swaps to consider:
- -1 Mountain, +1 Blood Crypt: Blood Crypt is a Mountain that can cast Lurrus of the Dream-Den, and double white isn’t trivial to cobble together when you only have twelve sources. That was my preferred manabase prior to the companion change, but now that it costs three to put in hand I changed it back, one, because Lurrus is a lower point of emphasis overall, and two, because Lurrus is on a longer runway (instead of casting on Turn 4, you cast much it later than Turn 4 because you don’t typically want to spend that turn picking up Lurrus) so you have more time to draw into a second white source. With that said, Lurrus still isn’t totally reliable and the Blood Crypt isn’t a huge cost in most matchups. On balance I’d keep the Mountain in, but it’s reasonable to consider, especially if you think decks like Azorius Control will be on the rise.
- -1 Zurgo Bellstriker, +1 Shock: I felt the deck was a little light on one-mana plays and Zurgo Bellstriker is the next-best after the twelve you already play, though I think Bomat Courier is worth consideration. With Oath of Nissa unbanned I’ve seen an uptick in Mono-Green Devotion and I’ve also been playing against a lot of Naya Winota lists. Boros is a little light on cheap interaction in creature matchups Game 1, and it would move the needle in the two matchups in question to have a fifth way to break serve going second. I think Zurgo is a much stronger card abstractly but now could be a good time to make a slight concession against cheap, aggressive creatures and mana acceleration.
Corey Baumeister — Jeskai Lukka (Yorion)
I went 11-3 with this list of Jeskai Lukka (Yorion) over the weekend in Pioneer Leagues and I still think it’s the best deck in the format by quite a bit. Although the dominance of Temur Reclamation over the weekend is very concerning, we still have a decent amount of tools to interact with them (though if that deck starts rising in popularity I will have to re-adjust some of the sideboard slots).
Pioneer is starting to actually get some attention again for being a very fun/interesting format and that’s leading to some nice innovation. Decks are getting better and better each week. Luckily for us, that just means we have even juicier targets to steal with Agent of Treachery!