Right as I was starting to write this article I got a text:
“THEY REALLY DID IT”
“THEY BANNED LURRUS”
I was startled. While I always knew Lurrus would get banned one day, I didn’t expect it to happen like this. We are now in a Post-Lurrus world. So when starting to look for Pioneer decks for the biggest upcoming Pioneer paper tournament in the last three years taking place next weekend, the rush to solve the new format began.
Today we are going to look at five decks that are the frontrunners for that top spot the week before the tournament.
The first and most obvious place to look was the deck that was crushing things just a few weeks ago.
Jund is a deck that has been at the front of the metagame at various points in the format. Now with the addition of Kamigawa and cards like Anvil, the deck has sprung back. You’re really good at controlling the board and playing a very good and grindy long game. You have inevitability that can only be outdone by the go-over-the-top decks of the format.
I’m going to be candid. A lot of my peers are skeptical of this deck. There is real fear that the biggest strength this deck had was that it was a Karn deck that had Mayhem Devil to beat out the Red-Black Anvil deck that was crushing Pioneer. That deck was leaning on Lurrus fairly heavily. I think it’s possible Red-Black comes back with a focus on Walkers, but only time will tell. So going into the next couple of weeks in Pioneer keep an eye on if the Karn package is what you want, versus having something like a Korvold or a single Bolas’s Citadel.
This is one of the most popular decks in Modern’s history. The most recent set release powered up so many other decks while not giving much to this deck. So it kind of just disappeared for a bit, despite not getting all that worse.
Now that Lurrus is gone, we can drink that sweet 4-mana-value Kool-Aid again.
Arclight continues to present great interaction with a fast clock versus most decks in the meta. You’re actually able to handle a decent amount of board pressure, and then post-board you have access to a good swath of permission. This is the deck to play if you like fair, grindy decks that can play versus anyone.
There has been one big innovation in Phoenix over the last few months that has been a big boost to this deck’s power. If you have been tuned out of Pioneer, you might have missed it: adding Temporal Trespass to the deck as a two-two split with Treasure Cruise. Cruise is an incredibly powerful card, but it can clog your hand. You can’t play that many in a format like Pioneer which, without fetch lands, has a harder time chaining Cruises into Cruises. Having Trespass lets you steal some wins by cutting your opponent’s clock by a turn, but also combos incredibly nicely with Galvanic Iteration. We saw this happen in Standard, but when done for five mana combined with a clear board from a Thing in the Ice or a sky full of birds, means your opponents are going to have a terrible time keeping up with the pressure.
Historically, I am very low on this deck in just about every format. I can’t deny its power in Pioneer. The deck has consistently shown up and it got a huge upgrade in March of Otherworldly Light. Having a catchall-removal card prevents you from getting punked out by sideboard pivots or more fringe decks in game one. Combine that with Farewell and now we have ourselves a control deck that really can lock out most types of decks.
To win the game, you actually have a new tool that doubles as an answer spell. The Wandering Emperor is back and she is ready to punish anyone trying to walk the line too closely against Settle the Wreckage. Her role of being a way to hold up mana for things like Memory Deluge and Settle, and punish players is pivotal to squeezing out players; especially some that are new or have a trouble walking that line. She also does one more pivotal thing: provide a way to start pressuring opposing walkers in control mirrors, and the opponent’s life total once you have the battlefield covered. A 2/2 might not seem like much but in matchups where you have the game totally under control, slowly chipping in with a 2/2 that you’re putting a counter on every turn will add up quickly. While also getting in the way of other creatures while your Teferi 5 ticks up towards its game-ending ultimate.
You still have the classic problems that control has. But your deck has enough ways to not die, and the format lacking a good amount of decks that can circumvent your removal puts you in a fine spot playing this deck. It’s not my personal first choice for a deck to register, but it’s hardly the worst thing you can be doing in the format.
Speaking of decks that can avoid everything Blue-White Control is doing: Lotus Field has been a player in the format since its inception. Your goal is to assemble a Lotus Field and ideally a Thespian’s Stage and copy the Lotus Field. Then you untap the Lotus Fields a bunch in a single turn giving you a HUGE mana boost. From there you assemble some combo kill. There are actually a surprising number; one of the most common is casting Approach of the Second Sun twice in one turn.
Your deck plays the role of Tron much more than Storm in this format, to use Modern as an analogy. Your goal is to punish the fair midrange decks and interact on an axis those decks simply can’t disrupt. I actually think that while this deck is always good to have in your back pocket, it might have actually gotten worse thanks to Lurrus getting banned. Lurrus promoting fair game plans actually made this deck stronger since fair decks are your easiest prey.
Ultimately Lotus Field is a meta-call deck, but I think as people move towards exploring things you might have a window where people lean fair and don’t bring the appropriate hate for this deck. If everyone does end up talking about this deck for the event, I have to suggest avoiding it. Large amounts of Damping Sphere and fast clocks are typically too much for this deck to ever overcome.
The last deck today is the last deck to win a challenge in Pioneer. Five-Color Humans was a staple of Modern before the Modern Horizons era. The tribe is the deepest in all of Magic and that stays true for Pioneer. Thanks to the inclusion of Secluded Courtyard in Kamigawa we now are able to more easily cast all the Humans Pioneer has to offer.
Which, you might be surprised to learn, actually has some of the best cards from the Modern version. Reflector Mage, Mantis Rider, Thalia, and Thalia’s Lieutenant are all here to help form the shell of this deck. When you combine it with the nature of Pioneer and the mana, you also get to play Collected Company. A card that’s slightly too slow for Modern, but is just the power boost this deck is looking to exploit.
This is one of the best and most consistent aggro decks in Pioneer. Winota and Red-White Prowess both burst onto the board more explosively, but they also have a bit of inconsistency that has me staying away from them and going with the consistently impressive Humans.
Pioneer is incredibly deep and the banning of Lurrus has only opened more doors in the format! What are you thinking of playing in Pioneer? Tweet @masoneclark and let me know!
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.