Despite the fact that Standard and Historic are in good spots, I’ve been looking for some other formats to play. I have a lot of love for Legacy historically, so I was super-excited about playing the Eternal Weekend last weekend given the format and accessibility of the tournaments. Unfortunately life got in the way, so I didn’t get the chance to play.
I’d love for this to be a mainstay going forward though, as it feels like a powerful and appropriate way, given worldly conditions, to replicate the feeling of MagicFests that’s about as frictionless as possible for consumers.
Anyway, long story short, after missing that window I decided to take some peeks at Pioneer.
I haven’t really played much Pioneer. I did some work on it internally with Wizards of the Coast, but after the grip Dimir Inverter placed on the format, I didn’t enjoy it much and stopped dabbling. Now seemed like the perfect time to jump in given its minimal development since the bans and its somewhat paradoxical state of having a relatively distinct identity that can also feel like turbo-charged Historic at times, a format I’ve very much enjoyed.
Oops All Spells is a sweet new addition to the format with Zendikar Rising, but not much my speed. Five-Color Niv-Mizzet is the kind of midrange mush that I can get behind, but playing mirrors that are all about, at least on the surface, slogging through each other’s stacks of three-for-ones didn’t sound particularly compelling to me. Nor do I have a lot of faith in its ability to compete with Lotus Field Combo on speed or meaningful interaction.
Rakdos Pyromancer shares many traits with its historic counterpart, but in the interests of change of pace, plus the feeling that it hadn’t really picked up many high-value adds relative to the increase in format power, I didn’t really want to go down that road either.
I love the look of the Mono-Black Aggro deck, but it didn’t look like it could meaningfully compete with Five-Color Niv-Mizzet or, what I ultimately ended up choosing to explore, Wilderness Reclamation.
In this mini-format review, the only real conclusion to come to is that Pioneer looks extremely healthy, at least from the perspective of MTGGoldfish’s format page.
There are viable aggressive, midrange, control, combo, and even successful blends of macro-archetypes that all seemingly have meaningful variety in matchups against one another. Rakdos Pyromancer covers disruptive aggro, Wilderness Reclamation is a glorified combo-control deck, Jeskai Lukka is in the same boat, and Naya Winota successfully blends aggression with combo elements.
Whatever you want to do, you can do it, and my experience in a handful of Leagues supports this theory: Pioneer is fun.
Why Choose Wilderness Reclamation?
Agnostic of power level, I’ve always enjoyed Wilderness Reclamation, even in Standard. I just wasn’t really into the promise of being Public Enemy No. 1, nor the need to navigate a sea of mirror matches.
The deck can switch quickly between being on the back foot or the offensive, and can play a variety of different roles depending on the matchup and game state. From a pure power level perspective, it has borderline goldfish draws that are difficult for many decks to overcome, and if all else fails, you’re still often drawing live because you get to play with Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath.
Initially, because I love starting at iterations of maximum greed, I wanted to play with Omnath, Locus of Creation. I was pleased while scrolling through to find a list from Jaberwocki. When in doubt, take your Magic Online deck list from Logan Nettles.
His list, as I would expect, is clean and shows format knowledge and discipline. Building Wilderness Reclamation has always been skirting the line of just barely playing enough interaction. You need to interact, but your core components are slot-dense and you ultimately want to support your gameplan of hitting all your land drops and ramp towards your big finish of Reclamation into Explosion.
Mystical Dispute is a high-value counterspell against Five-Color Niv-Mizzet, Lotus Field Combo, and Jeskai Lukka, while Scorching Dragonfire does a good job of covering Mono-Black Aggro, Orzhov Auras, and Spirits.
Many other lists are playing sweepers, but Logan chose Sylvan Caryatid to improve his ability to cast Omnath ahead of schedule. A league in, I wanted to cut Omnath.
Logan’s list is undoubtedly well-constructed; I just felt like it was built in a manner that projected that this deck was the power outlier of the format. What I mean by this is its purely no-nonsense approach that maximizes consistency: 29 lands, eight pieces of ramp, minimal other threats or pieces of redundancy except the tried and true.
In my experience, Omnath just isn’t that strong in the deck. Yes, you can still have extremely explosive turns, and on base rate there’s no denying that Omnath is head and shoulders above the majority of Magic’s creatures, but it also puts you into quirky spots where to maximize its mana production you need to tap out for an Explosion, or a Shark Typhoon, and oftentimes you’re just burning mana to begin with.
Wilderness Reclamation decks are built to maximize its namesake and its instant-speed mana production, and Omnath just failed to deliver something truly powerful in the same vein of Five-Color Niv-Mizzet’s Bring to Lights or even Modern’s aggressive use of planeswalkers like Wrenn and Six or Teferi, Time Raveler.
I was also flooding out a ton. Again, if you aren’t clearly doing the strongest thing, it’s a real cost to put these powerful but mana-sensitive cards in your deck. The cost of playing Sylvan Caryatid is compounded by the need for a manabase that has a high density of taplands.
Am I claiming Omnath is weak in Wildness Reclamation strategies? No, I just think it requires a reimagining of the archetype if you’re to make it work here in Pioneer. To me, that pushes you down a direction that is diminishing the natural strengths of the archetype, and once we’re there I’d rather be playing something like Lotus Field Combo or Five-Color Niv-Mizzet.
Back to the drawing board a bit.
ZYURYO’s take on Temur Reclamation was my secondary starting point. In all honesty, I like almost every single one of their touches except for one glaring aspect — Frantic Inventory. I just don’t really get it.
Although Temur is capable of grinding, it’s not something you actively want to do — and if you are, then your mana being invested into Uro or Castle Vantress is more likely to be productive. You’re actively looking to exile cards in your graveyard, and even if you do end up drawing multiples, is it going to end up making as much of an impact in a blue mirror as a card like Chemister’s Insight on average?
Maybe I’m missing something.
Censor feels perfect. You actively want more answers to Teferi, Time Raveler early in the game and it strongly supports your gameplan of “interact a little bit but not for too long” while cycling at low cost to fuel Uro.
I don’t feel like getting too nitty-gritty with the process stuff from this point is that productive, so I’m just going to present my final list with some additional commentary:
Again, I think ZYURYO’s build and the prevailing logic of how to build Temur Reclamation are all sound, but I do stand by my minor adjustments.
What About Dig Through Time?
As I have alluded to at several points throughout this article already, Temur Reclamation is at its heart an A + B combo deck, and there’s almost nothing as strong historically at finding two cards as Dig Through Time.
Dig Through Time also modifies the value on the cards you choose to put in your deck. The singleton Negate in this deck can be found a lot more easily to generate a checkmark with the presence of Dig Through Time. Cyclonic Rift is one of my favorite pickups from Jaberwocki’s original list. A pseudo-interactive spell that critically can target Teferi, Time Raveler? Check. Low-opportunity-cost breaker that some decks can’t come back from? Check. It’s also just naturally strong with Wilderness Reclamation!
Dig is, as well. Similarly to how Fact or Fiction has functioned in Modern Reclamation decks, Dig is your high-powered draw spell that you can often immediately play after casting a Wilderness Reclamation. It’s strong when you’re doing your thing or playing deep interactive Magic. Expansion // Explosion is typically not the strongest at base rate in the latter, and it’s often difficult to convert it effectively the turn you cast Wilderness Reclamation unless you’re already in a deep contest.
Any bullets that you might adjust to include in your deck or any of your high-impact sideboard cards, like Damping Sphere, all get orders of magnitude stronger due to your ability to find them reliably with Dig Through Time.
You might ask, isn’t Uro already enough pressure on your graveyard?
The simple answer is no. Bear with me in being a little overly obvious for a moment, but you can’t escape Uro unless you have exactly five or more other cards in your graveyard.
Dig Through Time is a far more granular effect that is adaptive to many more game states. Often you can cast Dig Through Time with fewer cards in the graveyard, particularly in scenarios with Wilderness Reclamation. It also just generates so much high-impact card flow that it should either refuel the Uro easily or be blowing your game state past Uro being important to win in the short term.
In some ways I’m kind of weirdly harping on a card that has ban-worthy precedent, but I really do want to reiterate how strong this card has felt in the archetype, and no one seems to be playing it!
My other real finishing touch to the maindeck is adding another land.
Blast Zone has historically been one of the cards that I have felt is underappreciated for its strength in Temur Reclamation. Effectively free-rolling answers to Teferi, Time Raveler is extremely important to the archetype, and having more low-opportunity-cost sweepers in this deck is a huge nod over Four-Color Reclamation’s Triome-packed manabase that has less opportunity to build in value.
I could certainly be off by a few cards, especially as the metagame adapts. ZYURYO’s third Anger of the Gods is certainly attractive if Mono-Black Aggro remains the most-played strategy in the format. Perhaps your numbers of Mystical Disputes can wane or you don’t need a copy of Negate, but any singleton or redundant interactive spells improve in impact with Dig Through Time, so play with it!
I haven’t played a ton of Pioneer yet, but I’ve been having fun with it. I’m sure to continue picking up new decks over the weeks, but Wilderness Reclamation has been enjoyable as a component of the format (and not the format’s outlier).
Whatever you’re looking to play, there’s something to do. If you were hesitant before the bans, now is the perfect time to jump in.