With Pioneer In Complete Disarray, Is Mono-Green Devotion The Deck To Beat?

The Pioneer metagame is wide-open now that Uro and friends are gone, so what should you play? Our experts weigh in!

Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, illustrated by Daarken

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the arrival of Kaldheim and the banning of so many cards in Pioneer on Monday, 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!

Todd Anderson — Mono-Green Devotion

The addition of Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider pushes Mono-Green Devotion in a new direction. Four copies of Castle Garenbrig help bring it out relatively early, which in turn makes all of your planeswalkers absoultey bonkers. Like a giant Hardened Scales, Vorinclex gives you a very large threat that fits into the archetype perfectly. The usual players are still in contention, but we’ve gotten rid of Karn, the Great Creator and that utility in favor of the raw power that Vorinclex provides. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is the major upgrade here, turning all your Llanowar Elves and other mana creatures into actual workhorses.

If you’re familiar with the Hardened Scales variants in the format pre-ban on Walking Ballista, you should know just how messed up Nissa, Voice of Zendikar can be. The odds of surviving a minus with a Vorinclex on the battlefield is roughly zero, but casting any planeswalker with Vorinclex on the battlefield is also lights out. It’s just an absurd card that we’re choosing to build around because it makes all of our already busted tools that much better.

Most lists are currently playing Jadelight Ranger, but I’m a big fan of Llanowar Visionary in the archetype. It plays a similar role, but sacrifices the ability to get large for allowing for more robust starts featuring Castle Garenbrig. Furthermore, Llanowar Visionary is guaranteed to replace itself, where Jadelight Ranger’s ability to miss has been frustrating on more than one occasion. Both are expendable, but Llanowar Visionary is the only one that feels like your opponent should probably interact with it. The mana advantage potential is too dangerous.

Dom Harvey — Mono-Black Vampires

Pioneer last week was an aggressive format. The seismic ban update of February 15 took out not just some of the most powerful tools for other strategies but the main thorn in aggro’s side in Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, leaving the format even more exposed to aggro. The early days of post-ban Pioneer have seen a refreshing diversity with a wide range of decks… that are all trying to get you dead as fast as possible.

With that in mind, I want a proactive strategy that can fend off the hordes while putting the opponent to the test. Mono-Black Aggro is a more structurally sound deck than Mono-Black Vampires but I’d much rather have Gifted Aetherborn than Scrapheap Scrounger in this format. Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord is a narrow but incredibly powerful deckbuilding incentive that happens to be great in aggro mirrors and gives you a nut draw with Champion of Dusk that can steal games from anyone — it’s not quite Show and Tell into Griselbrand, but it’s not that far off…

Compared to the stock lists, I want access to the full four Kalitas in my 75 as the ideal curve-topper and Sorin payoff against aggro, as well as Rankle to replace Kalitas against midrange or control decks. Otherwise, this is a proven formula that’s a great starting point for this version of Pioneer.

Michael Majors — Abzan Midrange

After a huge wave of changes, I’m just trying to kick it in Pioneer like it’s 2016 Modern.  Beatdown and presumably Lotus Field are on the rise, and I’m naturally drawn to figure out how to tune a midrange deck to rise to a known outcome.  Yes, Uro is a huge loss, but that just means the deck needs to be built differently.  Abzan wants to be pretty aggressive, Siege Rhino is good at clocking, and despite not getting press in forever, Tasigur is still a powerful one-mana spell to take explosive turns.  There’s still plenty of incentive to use your graveyard with the aforementioned, Traverse the Ulvenwald, and Cling to Dust, so I’m still happy to play Satyr Wayfinder.  Leaning harder on Nissa, Who Shakes the World also helps to close games as well as making Emrakul, the Promised End actually feasible, while powering up your Tasigur and Tireless Trackers.  

The #1 reason I wanted to move to white though is Archon of Emeria.  Seemingly innocuous, but such an incredible tool against Lotus Field that they truly struggle to beat, especially when backed by other hand disruption and a clock.  

The sideboard is a pretty normal spread of generic good stuff against a wide swath of matchups.  Damping Sphere for Lotus Field, a couple of powerful bullets, interaction for every permanent type, and a few heavy hitters for midrange and control.  

I have high hopes that Abzan can take the aggressive midrange slot and be effective now that Pioneer has fundamentally changed.

Ari Lax — Orzhov Auras (Lurrus)

Firing a bit out of left field on this one. Here’s my logic.

  • Step 1: Uro’s main thing in Pioneer was restricting aggression. I tried to play Azorius Spirits into Uro decks and got taught a valuable lesson about this. People are going to get aggro.
  • Step 2: I don’t believe any of the current control or midrange decks are actually good enough against the developed red and black aggressive options in the format.
  • Step 3: I don’t believe the Mayhem Devil decks are functional against the midrange decks people will try to play.
  • Step 4: So play an aggressive deck that’s good against other aggressive decks, like Orzhov Auras. Oh, and also Teferi, Time Raveler can’t bounce your stuff any more.

This is just a starter list I pulled from Magic Online and I think there’s a lot of room to improve. Zero Rune of Sustenance in the 75 seems wrong since you want lifelink and cantripping Auras help build velocity when you only have one card draw effect, but I don’t want a ton of that card because it costs two. Maxing out on Karametra’s Blessing over any Kaya’s Ghostform seems wrong when you have so many Orzhov dual lands. Four is a lot of Stonecoil Serpent now that Niv-Mizzet Reborn is less of a concern, though zero when Self-Inflicted Wound exists is also a bad idea and it also eliminates the need for Angelic Gift for evasion.

Four Hateful Eidolon, zero Dead Weight or Mire’s Grasp in the sideboard has to be wrong, and even if you don’t play those having zero Heliod’s Punishment as a cantrip removal spell also seems incorrect.

Shaheen Soorani — Azorius Control

Azorius Control in all formats is a beautiful thing.  In Standard, Modern, and Pioneer, Azorius Control has the tools to compete against the top decks with ease.  Even with the loss of Teferi, Time Raveler, Kaldheim has provided a pile of upgrades for white-based control decks in Pioneer.  The jury is still out if Supreme Verdict is better than Doomskar in Modern, but I am confident over the swap here.

Force of Negation is the sole reason I have been hesitant on the switch in that format.  In Pioneer, the upside of it being uncounterable is there due to the existence of blue-based aggro decks.  If those decks gain popularity, then we will have to head back to safety.  In the meantime, I have jammed a bunch of the new foretell control cards in this deck with confidence.

Pioneer is full of tough decks for us, but if Dig Through Time is legal, I’m not abandoning my control decks.  It’s too broken of a spell and the support spells before it all fuel it easily.  Azorius Charm, Censor, and Opt are all great, cheap spells in the early-game to ensure land drops arrive on time and some interaction is possible. 

In this new format, Azorius Control is my weapon of choice.

Cedric Phillips — Boros Wizards (Lurrus)

When all else fails, there’s nothing like old faithful right?

Last year, I won a Magic Online Super PTQ for the Zendikar Rising Championship on basically zero practice with this list and I think just about all of it still holds up. While everyone’s trying to figure out how to move forward without Uro, Wilderness Reclamation, Teferi, Time Raveler, and Oops All Spells (good riddance!), being proactive is the name of the game in the short term until people figure out how to combat that.

I will note that I believe Pioneer has the tools to defeat Boros Wizards in the long term, but given that the metagame is in complete disarray, I’m not interested in being the person trying to solve that puzzle. I’m here, as usual, to ask tough questions via cardboard and hope you’ve got the incorrect answers. For this weekend, I think the opposition will. 2-3 weeks from now? Not so much.

Take advantage while you can.