The majority of the nonland cards on Pioneer’s Banned List are green. Today, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) took a step toward evening that out by unbanning Oath of Nissa.
Oath of Nissa was originally banned to weaken Mono-Green Devotion and Kethis Combo, although at the time, Copy Cat was also dominating Pioneer with Oath of Nissa alongside Saheeli Rai; Teferi, Time Raveler; and Oko, Thief of Crowns. Since Felidar Guardian and Oko are banned, it’s less likely that decks like those will be doing much of anything.
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 3 Walking Ballista
- 3 Voracious Hydra
Oath of Nissa is a cheap permanent that fuels devotion; solidifies your mana curve; and finds key cards like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Mono-Green Devotion isn’t completely busted but it does get an extra boost in consistency, which should help. It still lacks the burst of mana from Leyline of Abundance, but Oath should make your early copies of Nykthos stronger, which could help you snowball.
Another reason why Oath of Nissa might be a safe unban, even if it pushes Mono-Green Devotion back into Tier 1, is because decks like these will probably struggle with Dimir Inverter and Lotus Breach. It’s possible that this sort of deck won’t be viable while those decks still exist.
- 4 Hope of Ghirapur
- 4 Diligent Excavator
- 3 Lazav, the Multifarious
- 4 Kethis, the Hidden Hand
- 4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
- 2 Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Similarly to how it helps Mono-Green Devotion, Oath of Nissa adds consistency to Kethis Combo. It allows you to find your combo pieces, slightly fixes your mana, and gives you a higher density of legendary permanents.
Together with Lurrus of the Dream-Den, Oath of Nissa provides an engine that will help grind through Thoughtseizes and spot removal. Kethis often had issues with running out of gas and Lurrus goes a long way toward helping that problem. Kethis could easily be one of the stronger decks in Pioneer thanks to Oath of Nissa (and Lurrus).
Those are the obvious homes, but the fun doesn’t end there.
You could try a value-based deck, similar to the Copy Cat shells, albeit this time without the combo and without Oko, Thief of Crowns. It could also fuel a more planeswalker-heavy Niv-Mizzet Reborn deck.
Oath of Nissa could also help fuel delirium, if that’s something you’re into. It’s also a cheap enchantment that replaces itself for decks with Eidolon of Blossoms. You can also blink it with Yorion, Sky Nomad, which sounds nice.
There’s some anti-synergy here. Oath of Nissa revealing a Nightpack Ambusher probably isn’t ideal. Neither is having a sorcery-speed search spell alongside Nightpack Ambusher, but there are already plenty of sorcery-speed cards with the planeswalkers. Given how strong Nightpack Ambusher is with Sublime Epiphany, I think it’s worth a small amount of awkwardness.
Oath of Nissa powers up Yorion, which it needed in Pioneer following the companion nerf. Yorion decks tend to resemble the above decklist but maybe Oath of Nissa is supposed to push us in a more creature-heavy direction. Planeswalkers work just fine, so the above direction seems correct, especially since Pioneer’s card pool isn’t as deep as something like Modern’s. At first glance, we’d struggle to find enough value creatures to make that direction worthwhile.
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 2 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
- 2 Murderous Rider
- 4 Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
My Sultai Midrange decks ditched Traverse the Ulvenwald a while ago. Unless you specifically need Emrakul, the Promised End to win a specific matchup, Traverse is unnecessary. Your deck becomes diluted with narrow tutor targets and becomes overly reliant on the graveyard. In the early-game, Oath of Nissa is much stronger. In the mid-game, Oath of Nissa isn’t much worse but is never going to rely on your graveyard.
There’s something very sweet about using Oath of Nissa to find a removal spell in Murderous Rider. Breaking the narrow usage, especially on cheap cards, is exactly how you gain an edge against everyone else. Both Uro and Tireless Tracker also help in that regard because you can use Oath of Nissa as a way to find more card advantage. That card drawing could in turn find you a Thoughtseize or sideboard card.
This deck is heavily influenced by Felix Sloo’s first take on Jund Midrange after the printing of Lurrus of the Dream-Den. He used Unbridled Growth as his Lurrus engine, which conveniently fixed his mana for Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger. Soul-Guide Lantern rounded out the potential card advantage engine with Lurrus, which happens to be effective disruption against a sizable portion of Pioneer’s best decks.
Although this is a direct port of Felix’s deck, there are more options. Rather than shaving Unbridled Growth, we could max both Oath and Growth and go from there. Basic Forest isn’t great with Kroxa, but Unbridled Growth and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth could help. Unleashing Kroxa on Turn 5 is fairly common too. Regardless, Oath of Nissa forms an engine with Lurrus and it doesn’t end with these two archetypes.
It’s also worth noting that Oath of Nissa can find Inverter of Truth; Thassa’s Oracle; and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. It can also fix your mana by finding a key multicolor land or by making Jace easier to cast. There’s probably a deck in there somewhere.
Lotus Breach could potentially be a home for Oath of Nissa too. That deck has a few creatures and is desperately searching for a specific land, although I’d be worried about missing too often with the current versions. If they find a way to include more creatures, it could be a solid pickup.
When Oath of Nissa was banned, there were very few decks using it, but things have changed since then. The interaction with two of the strongest companions is a game-changer, so you can expect to see more Oath of Nissas in Pioneer than you ever did before.