Pioneer has changed drastically since the companion rules change earlier this month. Dimir Inverter is still one of the top dogs, but Lotus Breach, Mono-Red, Mono-White, and Mono-Black are all going strong. In fact, the format looks more or less the way it did before Ikoria was released — and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
But now that Core Set 2021 is right around the corner, Pioneer is in for more shake-ups. While none of the new cards seem completely busted at first glance, M21 definitely has some solid role-players that should fill holes in a wide spread of decks. Here are the Top 5 cards from M21 that I expect to see the most play in Pioneer.
Basri Ket is the new Planeswalker in town. It’s very easy to compare many mono-white Planeswalkers to Ajani, but Ajani this is not. Basri is an efficient threat in Mono-White Devotion, providing two mana symbols, a way to pump Walking Ballista, and, most importantly, inevitability. The three-drop spot is already moderately contested by Gideon of the Trials (and sometimes Lurrus of the Dream-Den), but if Yorion is your companion, it’s much easier to fit this in.
I cannot believe this card is legal in so many formats in 2020, but here we are. In Pioneer specifically, Grim Tutor will only make Dimir Inverter even harder to beat. Having access to a few of these gives Inverter decks more flexibility in their card choices, allowing you to add more silver bullets for problematic threats or situations without diluting the core of the deck. A turn-three tutor is also an important resource for Inverter decks, as it can search up a Jace, Wielder of Mysteries or Inverter of Truth that you can play on turn four.
Besides Inverter, I can see decks like Sultai Delirium playing Grim Tutor. Having another toolbox enabler doesn’t hurt, especially now that Yorion is trending down in these decks. It will likely still be worse than Traverse the Ulvenwald, but being able to get Planeswalkers is a big deal, especially when you need to slam the door with a threat like Nissa, Who Shakes the World, or stabilize with Liliana, the Last Hope.
Blue decks are always happy to have more situational counterspells in their sideboards, and Miscast is poised to play an important role in Pioneer. Mystical Dispute is arguably the best sideboard card in the format, and Miscast hits plenty of spells that Dispute misses. Being able to tag burn spells and ramp spells is a big deal, and I would definitely consider this over something like Negate if I need to keep my curve low or react quickly. Drawing this late in the game will hurt sometimes, but not enough to hurt its playability.
Ramp and land-based decks get yet another super powerful tool, but Azusa is interesting for different reasons. The impact of this card won’t be seen immediately; it will certainly be much more of a slow burn as the format develops. The more lands that will inevitably enter the format, the more powerful she becomes — especially if those lands have powerful ETB effects. Azusa can only get better in Pioneer as time goes on, and while an Amulet of Vigor effect doesn’t exist (yet), she just needs the right payoff card to become a certified format all-star.
This card is my pick for the best new card for Pioneer.
Spirits has a bit of a hard time playing from behind. Nebelgast Herald was one of the few ways the deck could hold down the fort on the board, and it did a pretty solid job. Now, you have options 5-7, that synergize incredibly well with Herald. The small caveat of needing another spirit is important, but generally, if you’re behind on board with only a single spirit, not much would save you, anyway. One cool interaction is punishing a spell-before-attack sequence by flashing in a Spell Queller, eating a spell, then tapping down a creature. Rattlechains also does this job very well. Finding room for this card may be tough, but I firmly believe that you can shave a lord or two for this.
These are just a few cards I’m excited for in M21. There could very well be more cards that will make a huge impact, but as always, time will tell. Which cards are you excited about? Am I totally off by not mentioning Eliminate? Did you forget that Scavenging Ooze was already in Pioneer like I did? The format has been moving so incredibly fast, keeping up is tough, but M21 will certainly be exciting for Pioneer deck-builders and players!
Anthony Lowry is a high level competitor in several games, and Magic is no exception. His newfound passion for deckbuilding has reignited his drive to compete and test his skill against the best.