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Is Mono-Green Devotion The Deck To Beat In Pioneer?

What’s the deck to play in Pioneer? Seven SCG creators weigh in, advocating decks from Mono-Green Devotion to Boros Burn (Lurrus) and beyond.

Oath of Nissa, illustrated by Wesley Burt

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the recent banning of Inverter of TruthKethis, the Hidden HandWalking 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!

Ross Merriam — Mono-Green Devotion


Simply put, Mono-Green Devotion is the best deck in Pioneer right now. No other deck has its combination of power, consistency, and versatility. It has enough explosive draws that you have to respect its early-game, but the planeswalkers ensure that Mono-Green can play well into the late-game. And now with Oath of Nissa, you have far fewer draws where you flood and more draws where you run away with Nykthos mana.

There isn’t much innovation to be doing with the list, so don’t feel like you need to get overly cute. I like the stock maindeck because Voracious Hydra scales well into the late-game and Elder Gargaroth too often trades one-for-one on cards and down mana. I’ve also seen Llanowar Visionary in the Jadelight Ranger slot but the latter provides important aggression against decks like Temur Reclamation and Lotus Field Combo.

In the sideboard you have a lot of room for customization, but I implore you to play a Meteor Golem. Green decks are notoriously bad at removing permanents from the battlefield, and spending one slot to be able to answer anything is so valuable. I’m also looking for a way to get Tormod’s Crypt out of the deck. It’s there for now because Rakdos Pyromancer performed well last week, but if that doesn’t continue, Crypt just doesn’t pull its weight.

Grafdigger’s Cage is necessary to stop the Bolas’s Citadel decks and offers enough hate barring a resurgence of graveyard decks. That spot could easily be a lifegain effect like Setessan Petitioner to help against aggro or something more tailored to your expected metagame.

Emma Handy — Temur Reclamation


Temur Reclamation really is just that good everywhere.

It was good enough to get Wilderness Reclamation axed in Standard and Historic, with Historic being arguably more powerful than Pioneer.  It’s also making waves in Modern.

Having a core strategy be so ubiquitously powerful throughout Magic is a sign that it’s doing something right, and I’m interested in mastering an archetype that’s looking like it’ll be a major player until Wizards of the Coast puts it in time out.

The sideboard could use a little bit of work, with me still finding my feet in other reactive matchups, but with people leaning into smaller creatures to try and fight, it’s fairly intuitive to play the small-ball removal and go from there.

Overall, even without a perfect 75, having a 70-72 you’re comfortable with is a great place to be when you’re fundamentally ahead of the curve in terms of core strategy and refinement.  That doesn’t even get into the fact that having a deck that will reliably be able to hang in the coming months has a ton of value in eternal formats, where mastery and adaptation pays huge dividends.

Shaheen Soorani — Esper Control (Yorion)


I have been an avid Azorius Control fan in Pioneer (and everywhere else); however, there’s one archetype that can always steal my allegiance.  Esper Control has all the tools necessary to defeat aggro, midrange, and combo with ease in Pioneer.  The issue has been the mana, which does not improve when you add more cards to the maindeck to accommodate Yorion, Sky Nomad.

The saving grace for Esper Control’s mana is the early-game library manipulation, forcing your deck to cooperate when searching for vital sources of each color.  This version of Esper Control has those pieces, with Omen of the Sea and Thought Erasure there to help.  Even with the early-game assistance in digging for the necessary lands, playing a deck like this is still a gamble.  The payoff for hitting the correct lands in this Esper Control build is monumentally high.

Yorion punishes opponents in Pioneer, with access to Teferi, Time Raveler and Trial of Ambition.  These two options do not exist in Standard or Historic after the recent bannings.  Add those to the strength of Oath of Kaya, Omen of the Sea, and a few other planeswalkers, and Yorion can knock out an aggro deck with ease.  The effect is already strong against slower decks, where blinking permanents for additional value is vital. 

Ultimately, I’m excited to try this deck out and hope that the internal mana battle is winnable.

Ben Friedman — Jeskai Lukka (Yorion)


Jeskai Lukka (Yorion) was absolutely busted in Standard and got itself nerfed by multiple bans almost immediately. Control-combo is my favorite archetype in the game, where you can easily shift between a normal value-oriented gameplan and a powerful synergistic game-winner. How is an opponent supposed to prepare for that?

This deck gets to start with a virtual eight cards in its opening hand, which we were all gushing over prior to the nerf to the companion mechanic. How have we forgotten how important an extra card can be? The presence of Yorion alongside multiple planeswalkers and Omens basically means we can’t be out-valued. We’re blessed with such a surplus of powerful spells and reasonable consistency-boosting cogs that we can still play an extra twenty cards without putting a huge dent in our win percentage.

This deck is structurally strong against most of the other archetypes in Pioneer, and can always be tuned to be even better against one or more based on the metagame. Don’t sleep on Jeskai Lukka (Yorion), as it’s likely to see one or more of its key cards banned in the not-too-distant future. And we always want to play the bannable cards as early and often as possible.

Patrick Sullivan — Boros Burn (Lurrus)


One of my favorite features of this deck, and a place in which it deviates from most aggressive red strategies, is that it gets better after sideboard. What follows is a crude guide:

VS Decks with Tiny Creatures

Out:

In:

Most of these games are about position on the battlefield rather than running them down and burning them out, so Boros Charm is inappropriate and Eidolon of the Great Revel doesn’t line up well when you’re positioned as the control deck. I used to keep Eidolon in on the play against decks like Mono-Green Devotion but I’m off that now; just lean on your curve and removal and Lurrus if the game happens to drag.

VS Creatureless Control

Out (on the play):

Out (on the draw):

In (on the play and draw):

You can kind of cut whatever here. I like the slight play/draw swap because I’ve found a greater need to be mana-efficient going second, and higher-impact going first. I don’t mind cutting a copy or two of Light Up the Stage for Chained to the Rocks if you suspect something like Baneslayer Angel or Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.

VS Creatures (weirdly hostile to one toughness like Bolas’s Citadel as streamed by Luis Scott-Vargas)

Out:

In:

These decks are typically not aggressive enough to leverage your Eidolon against you very well, and are soft enough to your traditional plan that Boros Charm plays well. Losing Wizard’s Lightning is painful against decks that are long on three toughness but you have a lot of replacements for that sort of thing and the card just isn’t efficient enough once you’re down a third of your Wizards.

Corey Baumeister — Jeskai Lukka (Yorion)


What a shock! I’m playing Jeskai Lukka (Yorion) again! This time around I made some nice changes to the list. First, I added Teferi, Master of Time to help out in troublesome moments when I can not interact during my opponent’s turn (this comes in handy against decks like Winota or the mirror match). Another cool interaction is being able to blink out Teferi, Master of Time with Yorion since you get to still activate Teferi during your own end step!

One more shift I made to the deck is adding the fourth copy of Chained to the Rocks. That card has been overperforming for me in basically every single matchup since I added my first copy to the deck. Games against aggro decks where I have the powerful removal spell early tend to look very different from games where I don’t draw one.

Jeskai Lukka (Yorion) is still the best deck in Pioneer and I am continuing to put up solid results with this powerful strategy. Be a part of history and play this deck before it gets banned.

Ryan Overturf — Mono-Green Devotion


Last week I decided to take a break from trying to make the things that I like work and decided to give Mono-Green Devotion a chance. Ari Lax believes this to be the best deck in the format, which I found agreeable at first and even more so after trying the deck. 

I went 7-3 when I streamed my first two Leagues with the deck despite the horrible level of play that comes from streaming. The build that I started on featured Jadelight Ranger in the Llanowar Visionary slot and I just can’t imagine Visionary being worse than Ranger. Some number of the games go long, and when you actually need a value card off the top, the guaranteed cantrip is worth a lot more than exploring. 

I find the fact that this deck doesn’t ever sideboard very charming, and given the spread of creatures and planeswalkers it doesn’t really feel all that exploitable either. The matchups that are outright races can be a bit stressful to play given that you don’t have many interactive elements, but the Wish targets for Karn, the Great Creator and the fighting removal spells offer enough disruption to give you a shot against anything.