Despite all the tumultuous periods in Pioneer’s lifetime, the format has more or less settled. There are still top dogs in the format, with Dimir Inverter, Lotus Breach, and Mono White Devotion reigning supreme. The tier below that looks incredibly diverse, and is the fuel that keeps Pioneer chugging along.
The format has slowed down a bit — both in terms of deck speed and event frequency. This allows for a possible new deck to take the format by surprise.
by Anthony Lowry
This deck resembles many U/W control decks we’ve seen in Pioneer, but the goal is different. Instead of playing a heavy attrition game, you want to gain residual effects from cycling as much as possible and eventually land a haymaker or a synergistic threat.
If we’re talking haymakers, Zenith Flare and Shark Typhoon need no introduction. They have clearly proven their worth in their respective Standard metagames, and have more than enough room to shine in Pioneer as well. While Zenith Flare takes a little bit more work to pull off — even in a deck dedicated to making it powerful — Shark Typhoon will almost always be absurdly strong, and is the real glue that holds this deck together.
The supporting cast helps out this deck in the mid-game as well, with Nimble Obstructionist serving as a silver bullet to Dimir Inverter and Mono-White Devotion strategies. You’re also going to need a way to pinch your opponent, so having Spell Queller alongside Teferi, Time Raveler makes for a super synergistic one-two punch. Queller and Teferi can completely dismantle your opponent’s mid-game, while also swinging the tempo advantage back in your favor.
With the combination of these two flyers, Flourishing Fox makes for a decent way to fill in the gaps, as well as provide a “Protect the Queen” angle in your early game. This is quite frankly your weakest threat, as you don’t have that many ways to protect it. With Fatal Push and Eliminate running rampant, it may be worth holding it for the late game, or even cycling it away in hopes of finding a better threat. This is the one question mark I have with this deck, and it may be better to have a stronger tempo or control game plan, leaning more heavily on Planeswalkers or Zenith Flare.
Go Bigger with Planeswalkers
Another idea was to be a bit more Planeswalker-heavy, utilizing Teferi, Master of Time to further push the tempo game, at the cost of sometimes taking a turn off to develop your board. It’s a fine trade to make, especially with a card as powerful as (either) Teferi.
Jeskai Cycling (version 2) by Anthony Lowry
Here, the plan is similar, but now you have a more consistent way to bury your opponent in card advantage, while also protecting yourself. This deck can have major issues with any deck trying to run you over, so you’re going to need all the help you can get early on. Plan A involves successfully Censoring a spell, using Teferi, Time Raveler to push back, and landing Teferi, Master of Time to set up the revolving door of cards. Plan B is to make a million sharks (or one giant shark) and go to town.
Again, the synergy of Spell Queller and Teferi, Time Raveler is ever-present, but this time, you can protect the two cards with Teferi, Master of Time’s -3 ability. Another thing to note is that phasing permanents out does not affect counters, so your Flourishing Foxes will be just fine coming back in!
There are so many ways to build this deck, but these two lists should offer some good ideas on where to go. Avacyn, Angel of Hope is a powerful top-end tool that could end up in the main deck if you’re looking to go a bit heavier on the haymakers. Brazen Borrower could also be a contender, as it helps keep early threats at bay while providing a pretty decent clock.
While I don’t expect the incoming Banned and Restricted announcement to change much about this deck, I would keep an eye on how this could fit into the new Pioneer metagame. If things begin to slow down even more, then I can see this deck becoming even more powerful and robust, especially if anything from Lotus Breach gets the axe. If things speed up, you may need to adjust both how the deck is built and how it’s played — more turn one Flourishing Foxes on blocking duty, and possibly fewer Censors.
I’m excited to see how this deck can develop, and will definitely give it a shot online!