Budget Pioneer: Indomitable Terror

Scott Cullen Pioneer

Pioneer is currently in its renaissance period, and it’s never felt better. It has weathered the weekly bannings, survived Combo Summer, and now it’s really starting to hit its stride. No matter what kind of Magic you like to play, Pioneer is the most accommodating host in the game right now; whether you’re into “good ol’ fair Magic” or prefer something a little more broken, Pioneer doesn’t judge. 

But what if you’re like me, and you want to toe the line between curving out and degeneracy? Well, allow me to introduce you to “the line.”

Indomitable Terror

$129 – 92 Tix, MTGO

4 Terror of the Peaks
4 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
4 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
4 Wild Slash
3 Abrade
4 Fire Prophecy
4 Forbidden Friendship
4 Indomitable Creativity
4 Pirate’s Pillage
4 Dwarven Mine
21 Mountain

Sideboard

2 Rending Volley
2 Lava Coil
4 Anger of the Gods
3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2 Sarkhan the Masterless
2 Chandra, Awakened Inferno

This deck’s main aim is to manage the battlefield with removal and tokens, then win the game on the spot with Indomitable Creativity. It also has a great secondary “Big Red” game plan, where you can curve out and pressure your opponent with planeswalkers and creatures.

Here’s how the combo works: Start by casting Indomitable Creativity, and reveal cards from the top of your deck until you hit a creature or artifact. The only creatures we’re running are a playset of Terror of the Peaks, so we’ll always hit the same targets. When you put them into play, they’ll see each other as they enter the battlefield. This usually means that the game ends on the spot: two Terrors will deal a total of ten damage, three will deal thirty damage, and all four can dome your opponent for a whopping sixty damage!

Peaks Performance

Terror of the Peaks is a scary new addition to the strategy. Indomitable Creativity decks existed in Pioneer before the mythic dragon’s printing, but they had to rely on Worldspine Wurm and Xenagos, God of Revels for the combo kill. Terror of the Peaks is an enormous upgrade for two reasons: it doesn’t need to make it through combat to win the game, and if you draw it naturally, it’s a potent threat that you can cast on-curve. It’s by far the most expensive card in the deck at around $13, but the difference between Terror and any cheaper option is far too great to consider substitution.

A Token Gesture

In order to cast Indomitable Creativity, we need creatures to destroy. We’re running a playset of Forbidden Friendship to generate tokens without adding another creature card to the deck. Due to the high number of noncreature spells, Saheeli, Sublime Artificer gives us a lot of value in this deck, generating a servo for every other spell we cast.

It’s Aco-LIT

The secret all-star in the deck is Chandra, Acolyte of Flame. Not only can the fledgling pyromancer generate tokens for us every turn, but she also allows us to cast spells from the graveyard. Usually, this just gives us some much-needed value, but since Indomitable Creativity has a converted mana cost of three when it’s not on the stack, we can cast it from the graveyard if we need it!

Worth its Weight in Gold

Pirate’s Pillage may not be a Pioneer staple, but the Rivals of Ixalan draft uncommon pulls double duty for us. It lets us dig for the pieces we need while pitching dead cards, and it can ramp us to a faster combo. Even if we don’t need the treasure for the mana, we can use it with Indomitable Creativity to get even more dragons!

Red Rum

One of the best reasons to run red in Pioneer is for removal, and we’ve got some of the best in the format here. Wild Slash is the gold standard for red removal, but Abrade is one of my personal favorites; whether you need to kill a Spell Queller, Heart of Kiran, or a Bolas’s Citadel, it’s got you covered. Fire Prophecy also excels here, as red can often struggle to maintain card velocity. A removal spell with the ability to either tuck your combo targets or pseudo-rummage to help find specific pieces is invaluable in any combo deck.

The removal suite can be tailored to suit the metagame, and there are some fantastic options available. Magma Spray is better than Wild Slash when the meta is very Dredge-heavy (plus it can exile an Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath with its sacrifice trigger on the stack). If you expect to face many planeswalkers or sacrifice-based strategies, try Scorching Dragonfire over Abrade. Soul Sear is also particularly useful if you fear indestructible threats like Hazoret the Fervent or a Darksteel Citadel with Ensoul Artifact attached.

And My Axe!

Buried deep in the Mountains, you will find an old Dwarven Mine. Well, four of them actually. These are yet more ways to generate tokens, with very little opportunity cost; you can often play a tapped land in the first two turns without stymieing your own game plan, and in the later turns, they’re Mountains with upside!

Sideboarding

The sideboard has a few additional pieces of removal. Rending Volley is effective against Spirits and Winota, Joiner of Forces, and Lava Coil can permanently remove problematic creatures like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Woe Strider. Anger of the Gods is our panic button, which helps us avoid getting overwhelmed by resilient creature strategies like Dredge or Mono-Black Aggro.

The remaining seven sideboard slots are dedicated to a neat transformational plan. This deck has some difficulty against counterspells, as the only spell opponents really need to stop is Indomitable Creativity itself. The best way to get around this is to board out some of the combo and replace it with more must-answer threats. Chandra, Torch of Defiance can come down early and provide value while forcing an answer, and Sarkhan the Masterless can arrive a turn later and guarantee dragons, no matter what. Chandra, Awakened Inferno will ignore all counters, and can force inevitability through her repeated emblems.

Alternate Builds

I personally recommend this Mono-Red version, though there is an Izzet version available, too, if that floats your boat.

Izzet Indomitable Terror

($210 – 102 Tix, MTGO)

4 Terror of the Peaks
1 Angrath’s Marauders
4 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
4 Opt
3 Fire Prophecy
4 Forbidden Friendship
3 See the Truth
3 Anger of the Gods
4 Indomitable Creativity
1 Irencrag Feat
4 Pirate’s Pillage
3 Island
4 Mountain
4 Shivan Reef
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls

Sideboard

2 Abrade
2 Fry
1 Scorching Dragonfire
1 Anger of the Gods
4 Mystical Dispute
2 Neutralize
2 Chandra, Heart of Fire
1 Sarkhan the Masterless

This version of the deck uses Opt and See the Truth to dig harder for specific cards, and can gain much more value from Chandra, Acolyte of Flame. It’s also more resilient to counterspells post-board, thanks to Mystical Dispute. But these upgrades aren’t without cost: this build is much more susceptible to opposing Mystical Disputes, and it’s a little weaker to aggressive decks thanks to the mana base (not to mention no Dwarven Mine). The extra $80 in the price tag doesn’t feel worth it, though I wouldn’t be surprised if further innovations push the deck into adopting blue eventually.

Tips & Tricks

It can be daunting to pick up a brand new deck and dive straight into some games, especially if there’s any form of combo element. So I’ve put together a few interactions, considerations, and tips to help you pilot it right out of the deck box!

If you’re struggling to keep enough tokens alive to cast Indomitable Creativity for three or more, don’t hesitate to just cast it when you can get some value from it. Spending four mana and a token to tutor for just the one Terror of the Peaks is still a reasonable play in grindy match-ups.

Not only is the combo very clean, but it’s extremely hard to hate on. Most people seem to think Grafdigger’s Cage stops the combo, but thanks to the wording on Indomitable Creativity, the creatures don’t enter the battlefield from your library. However, beware Aether Gust! While it’s not a hard counter per se, it does hit every nonland card in the seventy-five, and two-mana Time Walk effects can be brutal.

Don’t forget that Saheeli, Sublime Artificer has the ability to copy creatures. She can turn a servo or a treasure token into a copy of Terror of the Peaks to help you punch through more damage.

Feel free to cast Terror of the Peaks from your hand if it’ll help you. The beauty of the combo is that you can still curve out and play fairly with your payoffs; just keep in mind that every token that enters the battlefield while you have a Terror of the Peaks will trigger the dragon’s ability. You can snipe low-loyalty planeswalkers without even attacking, clear away blockers, or just shoot your opponent directly for extra reach.

Chandra, Acolyte of Flame can really boost your planeswalkers’ loyalty if you opt for the transformational sideboard plan. If you play it correctly, you can get an emblem from Chandra, Torch of Defiance the turn after you play her this way.

Finally, Indomitable Creativity has a hidden mode: it can be used to destroy opposing creatures you might struggle with otherwise. This doesn’t come up often, but there is a chance you can swap an Emrakul, the Promised End for a Satyr Wayfinder. It’s a risky maneuver, but it’s an option that could turn around an otherwise hopeless position.

Pioneer has more brews than even the most pretentious barista, and they’re all super sweet (you can even get a Grande deck if Yorion, Sky Nomad is more to your taste). There’s never been a better time to sample the format. As someone who prefers the term “coffee enthusiast” to “caffeine addict,” I can say with certainty that Indomitable Terror is the deck that made me into a real Pioneer enthusiast.