Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Pioneer was Magic’s hottest new format. But when organized play went on hiatus and a wave of bans hit the format, many players quickly forgot about Pioneer. Now, as large events are becoming more of a reality, players are giving Pioneer another look – especially given the impact that Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is having on the format.
Kamigawa has added a ton of cards to Pioneer, which have helped spawn new archetypes and revitalize old ones. Today, we’re going to go over a few of the newest Pioneer decks that have broken onto the scene since the set’s release.
Oni-Cult Anvil is a card I’ve enjoyed playing in Standard, and it’s starting to make its way into Pioneer, too. It’s become a key ingredient in Jund Sacrifice – a deck that has been around for some time, though it struggled with metagame predators like Phoenix and Ascendency decks. Now, with this new configuration, Jund is capable of faster kills, and it’s benefitted from some recent shifts in the metagame. Anvil also plays well with Karn, the Great Creator, which plays a big role in the deck by tutoring up key cards and shutting off opposing strategies.
This Jund shell may also look familiar to anyone who has played Sacrifice decks in Standard or Historic in recent years. Gilded Goose and Trail of Crumbs are all-stars in the deck, allowing you to go long and assemble your permanent-based synergies. The Cat–Oven combo is a great way to stabilize against more aggressive decks, especially when combined with Mayhem Devil and The Meathook Massacre. This deck is capable of early wins, but it can also win drawn-out games by putting opponents in the abyss.
With a plethora of card advantage, Jund Sacrifice is quickly becoming a premier deck in Pioneer. Any deck trying to trade resources is going to have a terrible time against this one.
Black-White Auras has had a couple huge wins recently. First, a bug with Kaya’s Ghostform was fixed on Magic Online, giving the deck access to one of its best cards. But more importantly, Kamigawa gave us Light-Paws – one of the most powerful cards we’ve ever seen in Pioneer.
If you’ve played Aura-based decks in the past, you know how much of a balancing act they can be to play. You want some amount of creatures that you can suit up, but you also want to have a critical mass of enchantments. Cards like Kor Spiritdancer and Sram, Senior Edificer see lots of play in these strategies because they can turn all your enchantments into new cards, allowing you to move through your deck quickly and keep the pressure going.
Light-Paws serves a similar function, with an important twist. Instead of drawing a random card, you get to tutor for an Aura and attach it to Light-Paws for free. Light-Paws can grow out of control very quickly, even compared to a card like Kor Spiritdancer, and when you have access to a card like Kaya’s Ghostform, it’s easy to protect your engine.
These changes have given the deck a real surge in power, and it’s been shooting it up the metagame hierarchy. And keep in mind, Light-Paws has only just joined the format and there’s plenty of room for more innovation. Light-Paws opens up the ability to have off-color enchantments in your deck as one-of’s that you can tutor for. Messenger’s Speed is one of the stronger targets, as it allows you to break through a wall of chump blockers or mount a surprise attack. If you aren’t ready for this kind of pressure, you’re in real trouble.
Pioneer has had a long history of supporting combo decks, from Inverter to Lotus Field. This new deck centered around Greasefang, Okiba Boss is looking to join those ranks.
This is a Reanimator deck, but instead of bringing creatures back from the graveyard, we’re targeting Vehicles, specifically Parhelion II. Getting an early attack in with Parhelion is often lights out against most decks, and any additional pressure beyond that can be back breaking.
The deck uses some of Abzan’s best graveyard-filling cards to quickly find key cards and enable synergies. It can’t play a fair game quite as often as other combo decks like Inverter, but it does have a fine backup plan thanks to Esika’s Chariot. Chariot’s Standard performance should give you a sense of how much pressure it can put on opponents. Throw in some great hits like Gurmag Angler and Deathrite Shaman, and the deck has a surprising amount of reach.
The Greasefang archetype is still very new, and there are lots of different ways to take this exciting card. So if you’re a combo brewer, you may have found a new toy.
Pioneer is the last bastion of many powerful cards from Magic’s recent past. It’s a brewer’s paradise that rewards good gameplay and good planning. If you like the sound of that, you should be checking out the Pioneer format. Make sure to follow me on Twitter at @masoneclark to stay up-to-date on the latest in competitive Magic!
Mason Clark is a grinder in every corner of the game who has played at the pro level and on the SCG Tour with Team Nova. Whether he’s competing in Standard, Historic or Modern, Mason plays with one goal in mind: to be a better player than he was the day before. Check out his podcast, Constructed Criticism, and catch his streams on Twitch.