Oko, Thief of Crowns has made another stop on his "Ban Me 2019" tour and has been removed from the Pioneer format. Now gone from both Standard and Pioneer (but only suspended in Historic for some reason), the tour looks to come to a Modern format near you... and maybe even beyond!
Join me in saying "good riddance!"
It's funny because Oko, Thief of Crowns isn't a badly designed card. Its goals of being a good food enabler while allowing Simic to deal with creatures in a unique way is actually pretty cool. The problem is that Oko is well designed, but horribly developed. "Design" is what the card actually is; how the abilities work, what mechanics are present, etc. "Development" is where they make the card function in the real world; putting the right numbers on it, making it play well with the format, etc. The ideas are good, but the numbers are way off.
But enough about Oko...
They banned Nexus of Fate too! This one was a little surprising, as Dig Through Time was a key component of Nexus of Fate decks that is also exceedingly good in other combo decks as well as control decks and is banned in every format it is legal in, except for Pioneer of course. Dig Through Time is too powerful to not be eventually banned, which makes it surprising that they just haven't pulled the trigger on it.
But with two of the most obnoxious cards in the format now gone, it's time for us to reevaluate things! With Oko gone, we can actually start playing interesting creatures and artifacts again! And with Nexus of Fate gone, midrange and control decks without a fast win condition no longer have to worry about being comboed out in the midgame!
With these new format rules in mind, let's look at some brews I've been working on as we reevaluate everything we know about Pioneer.
Grixis Dragons | Pioneer | Jim Davis
- Artifacts (2)
- 2 Dragon's Hoard
- Lands (25)
- 1 Mountain
- 1 Swamp
- 1 Fetid Pools
- 1 Steam Vents
- 2 Canyon Slough
- 3 Drowned Catacomb
- 4 Blood Crypt
- 4 Dragonskull Summit
- 4 Sulfur Falls
- 4 Watery Grave
Glorybringer is one of the best cards in Pioneer.
Pioneer is a very tempo-based, "on the battlefield" format, and Glorybringer is not only one of the best tempo threats you can play that simultaneously improves your board while wrecking theirs, it is also immune to many of the format's common removal spells. Wild Slash, Fatal Push, Lightning Strike, Teferi, Time Raveler... you need to move up into the higher mana costs with cards like Murderous Rider to deal with Glorybringer, or cards that allow it to get its all important first hit in like Supreme Verdict, Dreadbore, Mizzium Mortars, and so on. Glorybringer kills quickly, pressures planeswalkers, kills creatures... it really does it all.
There isn't a ton of tribal synergy to go around with dragons, other than the fact that they're just beefy, hard to kill threats that block fine and turn the corner to end the game very quickly. These are mostly cards we'd just want to play in our midrange deck anyway, and the synergies we get are just a bonus. Thunderbreak Regent provides a good amount of incidental damage, while Sarkhan the Masterless slots over from Standard to diversify the board a bit and make actual use of his passive ability. The real prize however is Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, a well above rate monster that is almost always a two for one and provides an extremely threatening mana sink in the late game.
As far as payoffs go for actually putting dragons in your deck, the most interesting is actually just a fish lady. Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner does a number of things in the deck, providing extra mana with her untap ability as well as a hard to kill card draw engine that lets you pull ahead in grindfests. However, the coolest thing she does is untap Glorybringer for an exert every single turn, which is very powerful. Draconic Roar compares very favorably to Searing Blaze and stacks up damage with your Thunderbreak Regent triggers, while Crux of Fate is simply a one-sided Wrath of God.
Otherwise we're basically just a Rakdos Midrange deck playing much of the best interaction in the format. The duo of Thoughtseize and Fatal Push has Black as one of the best colors in the format, while Dreadbore is one of the best removal spells available that is almost never dead against anybody. Wild Slash joins the one-mana spells because of how well one-mana spells play with Kiora and Dragon's Hoard. If you get to play your accelerator on turn three and interact with your opponent all in one turn, that's a great tempo play.
The sideboard offers up a number of good options across all matchups, with more discard and planeswalkers for control decks as well as more removal when you need to be the control deck. This is one I'm pretty excited about and I will be playing in my video article this coming Monday right here on CoolStuffInc.com!
Reggie Spaghetti | Pioneer | Jim Davis
- Creatures (31)
- 3 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Rotting Regisaur
- 4 Steel Leaf Champion
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- Planeswalkers (2)
- 2 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner
- Lands (22)
- 2 Forest
- 4 Blooming Marsh
- 4 Hashep Oasis
- 4 Llanowar Wastes
- 4 Overgrown Tomb
- 4 Unclaimed Territory
What can I say... Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner I just can't quit you.
Reggie Spaghetti is a deck I've been tinkering with on and off since Pioneer was announced, playing it in a few Magic Online PTQs as well as numerous times on my stream. However, the deck struggled against Smuggler's Copter and was extremely soft to Oko, Thief of Crowns so I put it down. Reggie was very happy to see Monday's ban announcement!
The deck is essentially based off of the old Mono-Green Stompy decks that existed in Standard for a while, looking to play Steel Leaf Champion on turn two and translate that in to a fast Ghalta, Primal Hunger for an even faster win. If you thought Glorybringer was hard to kill, let me tell you about the 13/13 legendary monster that dodges any damage or toughness based removal as well as Cast Down and Fatal Push. Rotting Regisaur slots right in as another huge early beater, dwarfing even Steel Leaf Champion on turn two and making playing Ghalta and The Great Henge a cinch.
Speaking of The Great Henge, it comes together with Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner to give the deck a very powerful midgame card draw engine that is cheap and efficient. Any amount of time with The Great Henge in play is a good time, while Kiora pulls double duty making all your huge creatures cantrips as well as expertly crewing Heart of Kiran. Heart of Kiran and Scrapheap Scrounger help to put very large amount of power in play very quickly, but also help out against removal heavy decks and Supreme Verdict.
And of course, we come to the Spaghetti. Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher really need no introduction at this point, and while we don't have Eldrazi Temple or anything to power them out realistically they are already great beaters. Thought-Knot Seer gives us a level of interaction not normally found in Stompy decks, while Reality Smasher punishes planeswalkers as well as most removal spells.
With a sideboard full of some of the best cards in the format and answers to almost everything, Reggie Spaghetti is a great deck that hits hard with resilience.
New Perspectives Combo
New Perspectives Combo | Pioneer | Jim Davis
- Instants (16)
- 2 Dig Through Time
- 2 Hieroglyphic Illumination
- 4 Censor
- 4 Renewed Faith
- 4 Shadow of the Grave
- Lands (24)
- 1 Forest
- 1 Plains
- 1 Swamp
- 2 Island
- 1 Breeding Pool
- 1 Drowned Catacomb
- 1 Glacial Fortress
- 1 Hallowed Fountain
- 1 Hinterland Harbor
- 2 Lotus Field
- 4 Fetid Pools
- 4 Irrigated Farmland
- 4 Scattered Groves
Our last deck of the day actually started as a viewer submitted deck for "Your Deck... LIVE!", the show I do on my stream where I play viewer's decks. User Endgame1331 submitted an interesting Four-Color New Perspectives/Fires of Invention combo deck that was packed with good ideas but needed some refining, but ultimately served to remind me that New Perspectives was actually a fairly reasonable combo deck when it was in Standard. This led me to this list.
For those unfamiliar with the combo, New Perspectives is a six mana enchantment that draws three cards, but more importantly reduces the cycling cost of all of your cards to zero (as long as you have a full hand). This allows you to burn through every single cycling card you draw for free, and because the deck is well over half cycling cards this puts you on a course to draw a very large amount of cards. Once you've finally run out of cycling cards, you cast Shadow of the Grave to pull them all back from your graveyard, which leads you to cycle them all again to draw the same amount of cards until you find another Shadow of the Grave. Eventually you draw your whole deck, play Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, and win the game that way.
Of course the limiting factor is mana, which is where the clever part of the deck comes in.
Vizier of Tumbling Sands allows you to generate mana for free as you are going through your New Perspectives + Shadow of the Grave iterations, and as you begin to stack them up and bring back multiples you can use the extra mana to cast the things you need to do. Shefet Monitor has a similar effect, allow you to pull out untapped basic lands from your deck to use so they also generate a mana. However all of these cards were legal in Standard, but the deck was always fine but never great. Pioneer gives us a great new addition:
Considering we already want to play Vizier of Tumbling Sands anyway, we borrow a page from the Twiddle Field decks by playing Lotus Field to turbo charge our Vizier of Tumbling Sands. Now we start generating much bigger amounts of mana, allowing us to go off a turn or two sooner than expected. It is important to recognize how Lotus Field effects the turn you go off, as you never want to play a land if you don't have to so you can draw yourself into a Lotus Field and play it mid combo.
Most of the deck is comprised of cycling cards you can but don't really want to cast, with a few non-cycling outliers included because they are too good to ignore. Teferi, Time Raveler continues to be an amazing tool for combo decks, buying time as a super Repulse while shutting down counterspells and interaction and being an easy way to remove any sort of sideboard hate permanent. It's also pretty hard to play a combo deck without playing Dig Through Time, as there are few cards in Magic better at putting together game winning combos.
The sideboard provides us with Supreme Verdict against the creature decks, as well as additional tools against various other threats. The most impressive card however is Drake Haven, which allows us to juke beyond needing to combo to win. Drake Haven is a very powerful but slow win condition that provides you with a never ending stream of cantripping 2/2 flying drakes, allow you to resolve a threat early against control and midrange decks and ride it to victory while they stare at their worthless hate cards.
This is the deck I am least confident about of the three, but any combo deck that is able to win on turn five or six while still playing interactive elements is worth a serious look. The deck also is not reliant on Dig Through Time, so if it does eventually get banned it's not a death knell for the deck. If you love wacky combo decks, this one is definitely worth a spin.
So Much More To Do
Pioneer has been the best thing to happen to Magic in a long time. While the constantly changing nature of the format due to bans definitely plays into it, I can never seem to actually try all the things I want to try in Pioneer. Now that Oko, Thief of Crowns is gone, is a burn deck possible? What other aggressive decks can we try? Are Collected Company or Rally the Ancestors ready to take center stage after dominating their respective Standard formats?
There are so many questions to answer; all we can do is keep brewing!