The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is almost here, and today we are going to dive into how some of the more interesting cards to come out of preview season so far will play in the Pioneer format.
Cavern of Souls
One of the earliest previewed cards from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, this reprint made players of blue/white control around the world see flashbacks to formats like Modern where this card was the bane of their existence. However, here in Pioneer, the counterspells really don’t do as much heavy lifting as players might expect.
In fact, I actually think that Cavern of Souls is probably a good thing for control, since one of the biggest benefits to those decks was cards like Supreme Verdict. So, moving more in that direction compared to heavily leaning on Absorb is probably a net good.
What I am most excited for in regards to Cavern is we now have three different rainbow lands for typal decks.
Now, if you’re playing a traditional two color deck, this won’t really matter. Often those decks still had normal non-creature spells to round out the deck. However, now we might be able to stretch to four or five color decks, resulting in more powerful synergies across colors.
Humans is the first type that jumps to mind, as they are a creature that every color gets access to — and they have a history of being a good five color deck in Modern.
That said, without the one drops like Champion of the Parish, Noble Hierarch and Aether Vial, I am not expecting humans to be the new tier zero deck. But it might be a real player, and as time goes on and the curve fills out, players will be able to recreate these decks of old.
I think this card is a clear upgrade for all white decks over Fateful Absence. You’d see that instant in small numbers, but giving a clue was a big downside for control decks — plus it did more of the same in terms of removal. Players really just wanted it for the ability to hit planeswalkers.
But Get Lost doing the same thing and also hitting enchantments is a big increase in main deck ability. And while at first glance two maps might seem stronger than a clue, and in some cases it will be, I think it’s worth much less than a card on average.
Don’t think this card is only for control, though. Aggressive decks will want it as well! The ability to clear up creatures is an obvious benefit for an aggressive deck, but as cards like Leyline Binding tick up in popularity, having the ability to answer them is crucial.
Glimpse the Core
If you haven’t played magic for longer than five years, this card might not look super exciting. In fact the last time we had the closest analog to this card was Rampant Growth proper, back in M13, just under a decade ago.
So how much can adding one land to the battlefield really matter? The answer is it puts you a turn ahead, and gaining a whole turn is a huge advantage. That’s why we typically don’t see these cards without a drawback since the effect is incredibly potent in Standard formats.
Standard impact aside, in Pioneer I expect this card to be strong and spark a whole new deck. While “big mana” green decks have been a staple of Pioneer, they aren’t Ramp decks in the traditional sense.
This kind of deck will be about getting a lot of lands on the battlefield and then casting high impact spells to stabilize. The best deck I can think of right now is a Green/White Ramp deck that leans on the early ramp to get mana for cards like Sunfall and Ugin to stabilize while winning with Approach of the Second Sun. Expect this in article form next week.
Meanwhile, some have asked about this card in Mono Green Devotion since that deck wants mana, and this is the new best ramp effect in Pioneer. That may be, but I think mono green much prefers bodies over actual ramp, as they fit the Nykthos angle better.
Cards like Sylvan Caryatid were once in the deck, and fine inclusions, but ultimately got cut. I believe that card to be better in Devotion than Glimpse the Core.
This card is just strictly better than Dreadbore — no if, ands or buts. It’s just pure power creep. However, power creep on unplayed cards is fine.
Dreadbore was sometimes a “one of” in Rakdos Midrange decks. This card is just at worst the same card, and sometimes it’s better when you get both modes.
You also gain a somewhat random I win button against decks like Sacrifice, where your removal spell now hits the oven. While I don’t expect to see four of these in main decks, two and sometimes even three seems totally within bounds.
Warden of the Inner Sky
Boros Convoke has been tearing the format up lately with solid finishes at the first few Regional Championships this season and in the Magic Online challenges.
This card slots into the one drop spot very well, as it gives you a great on-curve creature that works well with your other cards. Your turn one Thraben Inspector into Warden now lets you spend the turn growing the latter when you’d normally just chip in for one damage.
And if you also have Gleeful Demolition on the same turn? I don’t even want to think about how sweet that would be.
This card just adds some nice smoothing to your deck that you will really appreciate in the mid game if things stall out. Players really undervalue your draw coming together, and this card enables that while being otherwise on plan.
I don’t think we will see four of this card in the deck, but maybe there is a world where, without Bushwhacker in the deck, you don’t need Ornithopter. Instead you can play more of this card and have a creature that plays into your turn three convoke game very well without needing a ton of help to be strong.
The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is a really exciting set for Pioneer, and the set is sure to bring something interesting to the format! We live in a world where sets are designed with Pioneer in mind, and it shows.
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.