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Budget Gems from Early Pioneer Sets


Welcome back everyone, today we are going to go back and look at some older sets in Pioneer format that have some intrigue. Some have potential to rise in value while others are just good for those of us looking for solid cards at a fair price. I hope you enjoy the read and consider trading/buying into some or all of these gems!

Grind // Dust
First up is a card I feel doesn't get enough attention for what it can do in the mid to late-game. Grind // Dust is a fantastic piece of removal coming in at $0.49 for non-foils, $0.79 for foils, and $1.99 for prerelease foils on coolstuffinc.com! At first glance, it seems bulky paying a total of six mana to cast both sides, but hear me out! We can use that first side at any point of the game to remove or debuff creature threats. In the early game, we can remove either multiple 1-toughness creatures or remove one 2-toughness creature. Going into the mid or later parts of our game we can put a counter on multiple big threats, and rid of them with the Dust side of the card. What's great about cards like this is that they lay dormant in the graveyard just waiting for us to use them at our convenience. Of course, there will always be naysayers as to how this is no good. However, considering Pioneer's meta is currently 71% aggro (mtgtop8.com) it is hard to argue that Grind // Dust couldn't make waves in the format. At the very least I would consider acquiring these to put in your sideboards!

Keeping up on the subject of removal, To the Slaughter is another one I suggest acquiring on the low. It is currently priced, on coolstuffinc.com, at $0.49 for non-foils, $0.99 for foils, and $2.99 for prerelease foils. I feel this one is a budget-friendly option for those of us looking to get around hexproof and/or planeswalker threats. The cost of three total mana is quite off-putting for the payoff, but we definitely won't be putting a playset in our deck. This would complement our removal strategy in the event we need either instant removal or something to potentially hit a bigger threat. Late game we can potentially get rid of two threats for three mana, and that makes the payoff much more enticing. Decks that utilize Nicol Bolas creatures and planeswalkers come to mind in particular. Putting two in our main board or sideboard would not make or break us. This is one more geared toward our budget-minded players versus competitive meta players, but do not count it out just yet!

Deepfathom Skulker
Deepfathom Skulker has intrigue in both Pioneer and Commander. Its current price on coolstuffinc.com is $0.49 for nonfoils. They are currently sold out of the foils and prerelease foils, but they look to be about $0.70 and $0.99 respectively. In Commander, this can do more for us by just being out on the board than as an attacker. With its mana cost being six, it gives us time to build up before casting it, since we need creatures to utilize the draw ability. In Pioneer, it can play a similar role in Blue decks. It has a good amount of toughness at 4, but it will still be a target for removal once it's out. Be sure to have something in hand to protect it before making the decision to play it.

I like the idea of flickering it with Ilharg, the Raze Boar. This way we can potentially get an etb (enter the battlefield) effect, attack with Deepfathom Skulker, activate the draw ability, and then put it back in our hand at our end step. There are other ways to cheat it out, and one is a pet card I have brought up before: Champion of Rhonas. Using Champion of Rhonas' ability to free play it and use the draw ability on the same turn is something to consider as well in ug decks for more card advantage. Overall, this is a more budget friendly card outside of meta, but it does not hurt to acquire some in the meantime.

Angelic Skirmisher is a card I have targeted for at least a few years now for Commander, but can be utilized in Pioneer as well. The foils have been quietly going up in price, and you should consider trading into a playset if you have things to rid of. The current price on coolstuffinc.com is $1.49 for non-foils, sold out on foils but looks to be $2.23, and $1.75 for promo foils. This card is one that I would use for a late game drop in weenies. However, with angel decks now having Giada, Font of Hope for a little bit of ramp, we can play Angelic Skirmisher a turn earlier. It is not a groundbreaking card, but one I like as a late game play to finish our opponent(s) off if the opportunity presents itself. In Commander, it is a fantastic complimentary piece to any creature heavy deck. This one still has room to grow on the foil front, and is a good buy for the non-foils as well!

Captain's Claws is an equipment card that has potential in any aggro deck. The current price on coolstuffinc.com is $0.49 for non-foils. They are currently sold out of the foils and promos, but they look to be selling for $0.79 for foils, and $1.47 for prerelease foils. I felt like this would synergize well with another token making card: Skyknight Vanguard. If we equip it turn three and attack, we will get two tokens instead of one each time it attacks! Any deck with creaturefall effects would benefit from adding a couple of these to their deck. This could benefit a budget brew in Commander looking for extra creature ramp. Overall, it is a great budget card, and could be beneficial to your trade binder.

Ordeal of Thassa
Ordeal of Nylea
Ordeal of Heliod

The last cards for today are going to be three of the "Ordeal" cards from Theros: Ordeal of Thassa, Ordeal of Nylea, and Ordeal of Heliod. These three I have always felt are so powerful if utilized in the proper deck. All of the foils on these are under $1.00, so you can acquire a playset of these on the cheap. Regarding Ordeal of Thassa, I felt it could find a home in aggro decks focused on counters, buffs, and/or need card advantage. In Izzet, Runaway Steam-Kin could utilize the draw ability almost immediately. If we wait until it has three counters, attack with it and let it gain another counter from Ordeal of Thassa, we would get two cards prior to blockers being declared. Of course, we could utilize this in ug stompy and wu weenies as well for more card advantage.

Regarding Ordeal of Nylea, I feel it's self-explanatory, but it has reach in the mid game. Being able to reach out for two additional basic lands is nothing to scoff at, not to mention you are buffing your creature. Imagine turn four having what was a weenie 1/1 turn one, now be a 4/4 creature, and we get to potentially have four lands on the board prior to the trigger resolving giving us a total of six lands! That is going to be huge going into turn five! Granted, naysayers will use the overly-used phrase "it can die to removal" before it triggers. Chances are your opponent is going to hold on to removal spells for something they deem more of a threat than some weenie you are trying to buff.

Last, Ordeal of Heliod has great reach giving us ten extra life upon triggering. However, where my mind goes with this is a potential mid to late game win. If we get our opponent to even fifteen by turn four, we have an opportunity to put them on their heels if we were able to put this on a weenie turn two. Then, if we have a card like Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose on the board, we will hit for ten once the trigger from Ordeal of Heliod resolves. It is a very niche scenario, but it is one that is used often. It would not hurt to just use it straight up for life game to keep us alive a bit longer to grind our opponents out.

That is all we have for today folks, I hope you enjoyed the read, and I hope you come back for the next one!

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