Pioneer has changed forever. Both Winota, Joiner of Forces and Expressive Iteration were banned this week. Over the last year, the format has completely and totally warped around these two cards. Winota has been the default uninteractive deck that also had an amazing back up plan. Blue-red piles have been the ultimate forms of value with out having to go to deep into other colors. Now that these staples have vanished, the format has room to wiggle a bit and explore some other decks that were outclasssed or simply couldn’t compete with the rest of the format.
Mono Red is a tried and true staple of most formats. In Pioneer, it survived the bannings and has lost one of its bigger competitors—Izzet Prowess—which was able to play similar games but could pivot harder into other plans. This is my pick for the safest choice going into the NRG series weekend. Your a proactive deck thats match ups can only be so bad
The red deck of Pioneer is both fast and has some real staying power. The eight prowess creatures and Eidolon of the Great Revel allow you to get under most opponents while having the burn and staying power that Chandra Dress to Kill and Bonecrusher Giant provide. This means if your opponent has answers for your early threats, you are not completely stopped like mono red decks of old. This deck will continuously put the pressure on the opponent and won’t let up
The sideboard of these red decks are actually really interesting. Red over the last decade has gotten a lot of unique and powerful tools. Figuring out exactly what cards you want for the weekend will be a big part of your success. You’ll need to choose between cards like Roiling Vortex versus the once-Standard-banned Rampaging Ferocidon as your life gain hate, or between End the Festivities versus Goblin Chainwhirler to answer go-wide decks like Mono Green and Spirits. All these choices give your red deck flexibility in play style and in the answers your opponent needs when sideboarding.
Mono Red red deck is both proactive and resilient to hate. If your looking for quick and easy wins, this is the deck to beat. And it will probably be a solid choice for the foreseeable future if your looking to get a deck for RCQ season.
Mono Green Devotion
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Since Pioneer’s inception, the Mono Green deck has been a player in multiple forms—from the early builds that kept getting waves and waves of bans to the more recent builds which are much heavier on bigger spells like Karn, the Great Creator and Storm the Festival.
The format might be trying to move to a more fair-focused form—and decks like Mono Red are popping up to take advantage—and this puts Green Devotion in a great place. You’re able to quickly get out ahead of the red players, while out-valuing the grindy decks. You get fast starts thanks to the eight elves in this deck, which also make even your worse match ups winnable. So between being able to out-value and out-speed most decks, your gameplan is never really dead.
However, there is one downside to this deck—though for some people its a bit of an upside. You don’t really have sideboard space; you can’t bring much in to fix a matchup once you go to sideboard. As such your really reliant on Karn to grab the key piece you need in a lot of games. I have used our extra space to play two extra Damping Spheres so we can sideboard two and still have one to grab with Karn. The logic here is that during Week One, a lot of people will scramble and Lotus Field seems like a “safe” choice that was untouched by the bans. Having extra cards for it is appealing. And I also think the Lotus Field deck is one of your worse match ups, so it’s a nice overlap.
Sidebar: If your here looking for decks for events this weekend, I would suggest NOT playing Lotus field if you have the option. I am very low on that deck and the bannings did nothing to fix that. I expect a lot of players to throw an extra hate card in their sideboards for this deck since it’s a known quantity. Lotus field is at its best when no one gives the deck its respect. But due to the bannings, a lot of eyes are on it.
This is my wild card pick: this is an explosive deck that I was excited about a few weeks ago and went over in some detail in this article. For better or worse, it was a slightly more inconsistent Winota deck that ran into a lot of the same hate. The rise of the Prowess deck pushed this deck down just like Winota.
Now that those decks are dead and gone, Fang is looking to be the new broken turn-three deck. While it’s often still a turn-four deck, you can pressure your opponent with the threat of the combo as soon as turn three. We have seen how backbreaking that can be in the past with decks like Splinter Twin. While you are not ending games as early as that Parhelion, you are definitely in a similar space. Cards like Ledger Shredder set up the combo so that you by turn five, you can dig find the Parhelion and play Grease Fang to bring it back. This is a more drawn out line, but one that is incredibly common with this deck.
The combo is obviously strong, but the thing that has me the most interested in this deck is the ability to play four of each of these cards: Fatal Push, Thoughtseize, and Spell Pierce. This gives us a nice tempo element to our deck so that we are live against every other type of deck in the format. A pile of cheap interaction goes a long way in most formats and that stands true for Pioneer.
I can’t promise this is the best deck for this weekend but I think this shell is critically underexplored and is prime to be a huge player in the format.
That’s all for Pioneer right now. We will have to come back and see how these bans shake up the format but Pioneer continues to be one of the more exciting formats and I am excited to see how this set of bans continues to evolve it.
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.