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Marching Toward Pioneer


Let's call it 10:55am.

It was probably a little later, but admitting that would mean that I was already actually late as the story begins. Which is not actually terminal (because everyone else was even later) but still doesn't reflect nicely on Our Hero.

So anyway, I'm rolling up DeKalb to the Brooklyn satellite of Katz's. For those of you who don't know, Katz's is widely considered the best deli on the planet. The late Anthony Bourdain said it was not only "the best, but everyone agrees" is the best; but even non-foodie newbs probably recognize Katz's from that famous scene from When Harry Met Sally.

"I'll have what she's having."

So anyway, Our Hero is crossing into a pre-play-test pastrami session when the phone starts to ring. It's Roman.

Roman had called late the previous night but we didn't pick up. We pick up now.

"Who has two thumbs and just won another RCQ? This girl."

I'm already late to meet Hot Dog State University for our planned Premodern pre-game, so field the phone call.

"Look kid," I eventually conclude. "If you want me to join you at DreamHack you're going to have to send me the schedule again... Like you did last time." If you don't recall, here's "the last time" Roman sent me the local RCQ schedule so I could join him in San Diego.

It turns out that this season is Pioneer!

... On the other hand, thankfully, everyone has to learn at least a little Pioneer if they want to compete. Even established decks are playing some of the new cards from March of the Machine and March of the Machine: The Aftermath.

Marching Towards Pioneer

Let's start with one of the less complicated Pioneer decks for the format-uninitiated (e.g. Yours Truly).

Simple deck, right? No need to explain the complicated mana base or how Omnath, Locus of Creation works, right? Wasn't that banned? In Standard!

Pioneer Omnath isn't as focused on repeatedly hitting the landfall trigger set as it was in the now-forgotten Standard build. Gaining 4 life (or maybe more, depending if you have Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines in play already) is quite powerful. Though you do have cards like Escape to the Wilds that allow you to play additional lands with Omnath already down.

As this is a Bring to Light deck, it is easier to find Omnath than in some other decks; and as this deck can produce all five colors of mana, finding some of SINISSTAR619's gaudy singletons is easier than praying for a 3%-er on every topdeck.

But what is of particular interest from an Aftermath standpoint is this new addition:

Nissa, Resurgent Animist

The only Elf in SINISSTAR619's list is Nissa herself. Any guess on who the only Elemental you can get might be? Omnath itself, of course!

Adding a mana is nice. You can jump to five from turn three with a regular land drop; which is advantageous given the many powerful five-mana spells in this deck. But the ability to search for Omnath on turn four with your 3-drop gives the deck just a little more consistency.

But how do you trigger Nissa's secondary landfall ability? How about this?

Fabled Passage

Maybe not "every" part of the buffalo... But lots of parts.

Polukranos Reborn // Polukranos, Engine of Ruin

Polukranos Reborn slots nicely into the existing Mono-Green Devotion shell. Mono-Green doesn't care how many pips are printed top-right... In fact, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx can exploit the Legendary Hydra's seemingly prohibitive cost once it's already down.

This card offers redundancy over Old-Growth Troll at the three. It's a little worse in one sense (no built-in card advantage) but in a few others, better. The fifth toughness makes Polukranos Reborn a good blocker of opposing Old-Growth Trolls... And the ability to flip into a 6/6 lifelink creature gives Mono-Green a tool against one of its more challenging opponents.

Coppercoat Vanguard

... Any guesses on how many of the other thirty-two creatures in this White Weenie deck are Humans of some sort?

I'll give you a hint: It's thirty-two.

I'm actually surprised Coppercoat Vanguard is only a two-of at present. It seems like both a "Crusade"-like effect and defense against removal are things a go-wide creature deck would want.

Would Invasion of Alara // Awaken the Maelstrom have made the cut in a 60-card deck?

Well, 60 or 80, Invasion of Tolvada // The Broken Sky does two things here:

  1. It reanimates Atraxa, Grand Unifier for five mana. Think "The Cruelty of Gix" except this card potentially into a Powerful PermanentTM flips if you attack it, rather than having the slow play options of Chapters 1-2.
  2. As a Battle, it offers a potentially larger hand when you start revealing cards with ye olde Grand Unifier, as Battle is an incremental card type.

In terms of new decks on the block, this is probably the most important one for Pioneer.

It features a pair of 5-drops that rarely get cast for 5 mana:

Venerated Loxodon
Knight-Errant of Eos

... That's because the deck is chock full of so many super cheap creatures. The objective is to quickly drop 0-1 mana creatures and then use them to Convoke out the 5-drops to advantage. Sometimes.

This is also an exceptionally fast go-wide deck. Gleeful Demolition is this weird Dark Ritual that can also attack in Boros Convoke. Combined with a 0-casting cost artifact like Ornithopter; an Inspector Clue; or the Blood token from Voldaren Epicure; Gleeful Demolition can generate three bodies with very little cost. They can either attack for three (or more, given potential buffs) or help speed out an Elephant or Human Knight. In certain weird universes, you can also use Gleeful Demolition to destroy an opposing artifact. While that's far less sexy than its three-for-one mode, the fact that it costs only r can be quite attractive.

The two-mana spells in this deck are generally pretty similar to one another, insofar that they offer future mana discounts and generally provide 1 power and 1 toughness per mana. You have Burning-Tree Emissary, which is present only because it's "free" to play (you pay 2 mana into it, but the Emissary pays you back 2 mana immediately). That said, in this deck it's generally better to have two 1/1 bodies for 2 mana than a single 2/2 body. There are two reasons for this.

First, two bodies, in addition to being naturally card advantageous, simply offer two bodies to Convoke with. So, if you pay two into a Forbidden Friendship or Resolute Reinforcements, for purposes of casting a Knight-Errant of Eos, you get two "mana" straight back as a result of being able to tap the creatures. Beyond the Convoke-ramping straight up, additional bodies also mean more +1/+1 counters or empowered digging. Imagine you want to actually take a Venerated Loxodon with a Knight-Errant of Eos... You don't want to be paying actual mana for your Human Knight.

The other reason is that Plan B for this deck is to go wide with Reckless Bushwhacker. When each attacker gets an individual bonus... You just want more attackers.

The final kind of cool addition to this deck is Giant Killer. It's a 1/1 creature for one mana. If you didn't know what it was for, you might just scratch your head and wonder if the Pioneer format didn't provide some other options. Giant Killer's Adventure is what's of interest.

Chop Down can chop any Sheoldred down any time! There are lots of creatures that can fall to its Adventurous ax, but Sheoldred is currently the big bad Queen of Pioneer.

Kind of breaking my own rules with this one, but I thought I'd finish on a really cool deck, even if it didn't hinge on new cards from March of the Machine and March of the Machine: The Aftermath.

This is a Waste Not discard deck!

Many discard-heavy decks can prove effective in metagames where opponents are playing either combo or synergy decks... But one of the risk factors with playing a lot of discard - especially one-for-one discard - is that you end up empty-handed at the same time. Waste Not pays you for forcing the opponent to discard.

The discard DNA runs deeply in this deck. It is not only about Thoughtseize and Liliana of the Veil, even its lands can build on the deck's synergies (or trigger Waste Not). Geier Reach Sanitarium is a good example of a card that can generate discard triggers even when the opponent is already empty handed. It can also help build advantages from UEGJO's side at the same time. For instance, Cling to Dust is a card that works just fine from the graveyard!

For instance, Cling to Dust works fine from the graveyard.

The coolest main deck two-of has to be Go Blank. Should the opponent have some specialized recovery... Anything from a Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger to an Atraxa waiting for its reanimation spell, Go Blank can keep the opponents from profiting from their discard piles

People talk a lot about rb in Pioneer. Certainly, there were archetype copycats across the event coverage! But it's nice to see how many different decks, including those incorporating or even based on new cards, performing.


My friend Lanny Huang is constantly saying nice things about me; to me, and on podcasts and stuff.

I got a real kick out of this Tweet from the weekend, though. Half because his idea to swap sandwich halves (he got pastrami with mustard, I got fatty brisket) was inspired! But mostly because it created a massive amount of FOMO in the universes of people who either a) want to test Premodern and / or b) want to have delicious deli sandwiches. Which is a large percentage of my personal Magic-Twitter universe.

We split the Parfait-Landstill match 1-1 pre-sidedboards.



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