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Portable Hole Ruins the Theme


It's time to shift towards Pioneer.

According to this:

... I was primarily a Standard guy during NEO season, despite earning my invitation via Limited on Arena. So, you can assume I have lots of Standard cards on Arena! Oddly, I own not a single Standard deck in paper.

I am actively accumulating more and more Premodern decks, plus one trusty regular-Modern deck (you know which one, come on); but no Standard. But who needs to own Standard, am I right? I few months ago I said that I would gladly play Pioneer FNM if the nice people running the New York City-are LGSs accommodated, and hopefully I'll be taking them up on that this summer.

So, I'd best learn the format, right?

I first liked Pioneer for an elegant Red Deck, and appreciated the sheer power of an infinite combo Green Ramp one. But I was shocked to learn that the format is far more complicated and richly strategic than a couple of mono-colored creature decks. Following are five new-ish builds, some cool, some re-imaginings of Standard lists past, each and every one Pioneer-ing in its way!

First up, a mono-colored creature deck.

I had never played Kumano Faces Kakkazan // Etching of Kumano in Limited at the point that I first played it in Pioneer. I would not shut up about what it was doing for me in Pioneer, what it provided... And even what it asked of me. Leading with Soul-Scar Mage into Kumano Faces Kakkazan was rewarding in a different way than leading Kumano Faces Kakkazan into Soul-Scar Mage was. It wasn't clear, in the dark, which sequence would be better, which was in fact a lot of the fun.

The deck STAPLES87 used for crush last week's League is a radical departure from Chandra, Dressed to Kill and precision attention to the opponent's breakpoints. Rather, this is almost a StOmPy deck (except that it's Red instead of Green). Given only two copies of Play with Fire (and the sometimes-Adventures of Bonecrusher Giant), STAPLES87's is one of the worst Monastery Swiftspear decks I've ever seen. There just aren't very many reliable ways to trigger Prowess in the main. But I guess the threat of Prowess, combined with a little first-turn haste, earns Taylor Swiftspear her place here, despite a heck of an upgrade at the one.

This is a deck that is very much built in the Standard 2020 mold, with a small but delicious upgrade in Kumano Faces Kakkazan (this is one of the best Kumano Faces Kakkazan decks I've ever seen, with an absolute ton of cheap trigger candidates). I mean there is absolutely no nuance, and relatively little play out of the sideboard... But landing Torbran on turn four probably means you won't need much.

What this deck is absurd at is putting a lot of Red pips onto the battlefield. Burning-Tree Emissary is a fine lead-in for Kari Zev, Skyship Raider... And when it's time for Torbran and Embercleave, the opponent had best hope their mana isn't tapped.

Oh look, another Kumano Faces Kakkazan deck!

Oh, does MichaelJ just love Ob Nixilis decks? He keeps saying Ob Anvil is the best deck in Standard even though it didn't make Top 8 of the Set Championship.

What's that? Rotting Regisaur? I mean is that even good?

Oh my.

If you didn't catch it immediately, Rotting Regisaur has 7 power naturally. Which is cool! It was cool at the three back when the big Dinosaur was legal in Standard; and it's been cool in the past doing things like carrying a Shadowspear. And despite the overall lack of enhancement opportunities and no clear route to Trample, here Rotting Regisaur is probably just fine next to all these nice attackers and cheap removal spells.


Rotting Regisaur starts with 7 power. That means that if you sacrifice one to Casualty when playing a copy of Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, you can go straight to the Ultimate. If the opponent is already at seven or less (or maybe nine or less depending on cards in hand), that turns Rotting Regisaur + Ob Nixilis, the Adversary into a two-card kill combination.

You don't have to kill the opponent, of course. You can tick up and Ultimate later, still saving your Planeswalker. In some games, it might be right to cost yourself seven life! The point is, the presence of a 7-power creature gives one of the best Planeswalkers in years a dramatically elevated tool set. How exactly you want to wield that tool is going to vary game to game; but it'll be amazing just to have access to.

Oh my gosh the Angels in this deck. Oh my gawd the synergies!

First of all, note that every single creature in this build costs three or fewer mana. They're all of them viable Collected Company hits.

That part is kind of obvious but what is a little more nuanced is how intense the deck is at 2 mana. If you've played any Standard recently, you are probably more than aware of how powerful Giada, Font of Hope is to start. She's a source of mana and a source of buffing all in one. The fact that she can attack and still tap for mana almost feels like a misprint.

Cool. Pioneer Angels got Giada.

Pioneer Angels already had Bishop of Wings.

Bishop of Wings isn't as good as Giada insofar that 1) it isn't an Angel, 2) it doesn't attack while generating mana (and additional power and toughness) or 3) it is a bit harder to cast if your second land is a Mutavault or the one Forest, but... Wow does this card have a high impact in a deck of almost all Angels.

While not a mortal lock with Resplendent Angel, the duo gets you 80% of the way there; and a Lunarch Veteran can pick up the last point. Of course, there is plenty of lifelink (on the Resplendent Angel itself, off of Elspeth, etc.) that can keep Bishop's triggers coming.

Not for nothing, even if Bishop of Wings isn't an Angel, it is a Cleric, setting up a workable combo with Righteous Valkyrie.

All these cards are of course fantastic with Collected Company, and not only because they're cheap enough to be picked.

So, Raffine, Scheming Seer is not a Human.

... But everybody else is!

ODDLYUNEVEN's deck is absolutely drowning in synergy. Thirty-five out of thirty-eight non-land cards in this deck are creatures, meaning the downside risk on your own Thalia, Guardian of Thraben are minimal.

The only non-creature spells - three copies of Dire Tactics - are awesome here. Like, when are you not going to have a Human? Even if your only creature is Raffine, Scheming Seer, that Sphinx Demon is nothing if not great at digging for a card type that is more than 50% of your deck's composition.

And finally, my favorite deck of the week:

Sadly, Portable Hole ruins the theme.

Do you see it?

While you don't technically have to play The Wandering Emperor or Shark Typhoon during the opponent's attack step... You sure can.

There are thirty-six cards in this deck that are either instants (or act like instants due to cycling), or have Flash. You never really have to tap mana on your own turn unless you want to; or, I suppose, you're playing one of the dumb Portable Holes.

In fact, some cards double down on the theme! For example, you can Rewind a spell, untap your mana, and then splatter the opponent's entire battlefield with Settle the Wreckage.

I'm incredibly positively inclined toward Growth Spiral / Nightpack Ambusher decks from way back in 2019. I mean, how insane is it that they let you play Growth Spiral?

Of course Growth Spiral is a perfect lead-in for either Nightpack Ambusher or The Wandering Emperor on turn three; or Rewind + one of your permanent threats on the same turn.

The one Hullbreaker Horror in the sideboard is a nice additional tool. It's the complete lockdown for any mid-range matchup, and unlike Dream Trawler (which, to be fair, is a hell of a card) does NOT ruin the deck's theme.

Given the presence of Ledger Shredder decks, I speculate it will also not ruin Pioneer... But I have a hard time imagining a more fun way to hash out three rounds on a Friday night.



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