Aggro Is Running Over Pioneer

Mason ClarkPioneer

The Brothers’ War previews have just begun, and in that time Pioneer has produced some really great innovations. However almost all come from a singular archetype: Beatdown, otherwise known as Aggro. While normally not thought of very highly by most players, the goal of Magic is to make your opponent dead, and these decks do that in spades.

Aggro has been missing from the format in a big way due to the pressure Rakdos puts on those decks, but I think this new wave of decks all have ways to get around that. Each is at least a 50/50 match up with the Midrange king of the format.

Atarka Red

Cheap, red creatures going wide and overwhelming the opponent with mana efficiency and a fast clock is something Pioneer has been missing for some time.

Goblin Bushwhacker combined with Burning-Tree Emissary lead to the most explosive starts for this deck, and it’s hard for any other list to keep up. However, that doesn’t mean Bushwhacker is an all-or-nothing card. You are able to just simply curve out and have a powerful turn four with a big swing. 

One thing Magic players underappreciate is the power of Haste. Giving a newly cast creature Haste and +1/+0 is a massive threat your opponents must respect. So even when you don’t have it, that can be an option you can threaten to keep them from racing too hard.

The other marquee card of the deck is its namesake: Atarka’s Command. This powerful burn spell often represents six to seven points of damage! That is something a deck like this needs, but it’s also a card that requires delicate timing. 

The deck doesn’t have a lot of reach when it comes to burn. This means you must know when to trade this in for something. Making the most of that damage is going to be pivotal to succeeding with this deck.

The average card quality is a little lower in a deck like this compared to its peers, but the blazing fast speed and synergy often makes up for that. And by sporting a good mono green matchup, it’s hard to ignore this deck. While against Rakdos, you can also sometimes overwhelm opponents on board as they fall behind casting their clunky removal spells.

Gruul Boat

Unlike our last deck, this one actually has a higher card quality. Your deck is full of powerful threats that can win a game backed up by the eight-elf package we have seen be a dominating force in the format. 

This allows the deck to quickly curve out and win the game without just folding to early removal. Having threats like Lovestruck Beast, which outsize almost everything in the format, means the deck can go the distance on its own.

This deck is also playing the full four Skysovereign, a card that has picked up more and more in Pioneer over the last few months. This vehicle is great vs RB and often two-for-ones the opponent while being very hard to actually kill.

It’s also a great way to kill planeswalkers against mono green, and it’s even good in matchups like mono white where Brave the Elements can’t stop the three damage from killing a valuable threat. All these factors combined with getting some evasion in the deck has lead to it becoming a staple four of in current Gruul builds.

These decks also picked up another exciting tool in The Akroan War. This card is amazing at winning board stalls. Those who played Standard in 2020-2021 are familiar with just how devastating this card is when the game starts to putter out. 

It’s particularly good vs Mono Green by allowing you to push damage early before stealing a Cavalier of Thorns when they start to stall behind it. It’s even passable in match ups like Rakdos in game one, as it will often remove all their pressure. That gives you time to rebuild and win. In creature match ups, you can force your opponent into combat when it might not be strong for them.

One thing worth pointing out when talking about this deck is lists often sideboard Embercleave, which forces Jegantha out of the deck. This is a concession to Mono Green and wanting to end the game quickly against them. It looks a little odd, but Jegantha isn’t very helpful in that matchup. Having a hammer like this allows you to push past their Old-Growth Trolls and Cavaliers.

Mono White

This is the default aggro deck from a couple of weeks ago, but it is still very much a reasonable choice. It presents a low fail rate and a nice curve. Combine that with cards like Brave the Elements and you have the recipe for a great aggro deck that punishes anyone getting too cute.

The deck does suffer in the Rakdos match up, though there have been some innovations to help fix it in the likes of Wedding Announcement. This card presents three bodies and an anthem effect in a card type that Rakdos has a generally hard time answering.

A big strength of the white deck is its powerful two drop slot. Thalia, Thalia’s Lieutenant and Luminarch Aspirant are all cards that can warp a game around them and take over. This powerful spot on the curve is what lots of other aggro decks lack, and they often lean into powerful three drops.

The Brothers’ War previews are few so far, but we already got a card there that can slot right into this deck: Recruitment Officer. Your deck has a pile of Soldiers of the Pantheon, which are basically just vanilla 2/1’s in most cases. 

The officer gives you another one of those, but in the late game when you’re flooding out, this card allows you to fix that. While you never really want to be activating this effect, you are really happy to just free roll it. Games of Magic never play out perfectly, so this card is a great get for this deck.

End step

Aggro fills a great place in Pioneer by checking Mono Green, as long as you are savvy and aware of the Rakdos menace (though all the decks today came built with it in mind). So, if you’re looking to beat down those archetypes, these are the decks for you!