Pioneer is officially a popular, well-defined format with plenty of high-quality tournament results to draw conclusions from. Yet, for all that play, the one area it lacks is a comprehensive guide to help players make sense of the metagame and how it works…
TEAM RIW HOBBIES has you covered!
We’ll be ranking and breaking down the best decks, how they work, and explaining the format in terms of a tiered metagame that makes sense of the relationships and match ups between decks.
Also, not to toot our own horn, but…. Toot toot toot. Never have four large scale paper tournament trophy winners collaborated to rank and write up a format metagame before.
We’ll be using a basic Tier System to discuss relationships between decks and it looks like this:
Any Top 15 deck is capable of winning a tournament regardless of ranking or tier if it receives favorable pairings and runs well. Tiers tend to inform not only how powerful a deck is but also, and importantly, its performance weighted against other most popular metagame strategies.
Rogue decks get a bad wrap because they round out the bottom of the Tier list. They tend to be decks that do powerful things, but have strategically problematic matchups against popular (Tier 1 & 1.5) decks in a metagame.
Izzet Prowess uses cheap threats that reward casting noncreature spells. It utilizes a “tempo” style game plan often associated with Delver of Secrets decks in Legacy.
Izzet Prowess comes out of the gate fast with eight 1-cost creatures with the namesake mechanic. These creatures pack a heavy punch once you start chaining spells and are great targets for Reckless Rage as the Prowess trigger will always keep their toughness above 2.
Young Pyromancer and Ledger Shredder round out the creature suite. Both creatures incentivize casting spells often and can take over a game if left unchecked. Pyromancer generates additional threats while Ledger Shredder churns through your deck to make sure you have what you’re looking for.
One mana damage spells like Play With Fire and Reckless Rage will keep your opponent’s board clear long enough for the creatures to seal the deal.
The greatest draw to playing this deck is having one of the most powerful Magic cards ever printed at your disposal, Treasure Cruise. The high velocity achieved by playing eight 1 mana cantrips alongside Ledger Shredder means Treasure Cruise will be quickly castable for a single U. Anyone who knows Magic’s history will tell you a 1 mana draw 3 has quite the pedigree (Editor’s Note: Can confirm).
Of One Mind is a recent development and fills a similar role to Treasure Cruise. Often a 1 mana draw 2 that can be enabled by having just a Young Pyromancer and an elemental token.
If you like playing decks with cheap threats that draw many cards, Izzet Prowess is a great choice.
#14. 5-COLOR NIV-TO-LIGHT
Some like to stick to 1 color and find the best cards available, some like to build decks with 2-3 colors so we get more of the best each color can offer.
And some of us, (Cue Queen music), WANT IT ALL!
Niv to Light is a 5-color deck built around casting Niv-Mizzet Reborn.
While casting this legendary dragon is no easy feat, the payoff means having a CMC=5, 6/6 flier that draws spells upon entry! By playing Bring To Light, you get to functionally increase the number of Niv-Mizzet Reborns in your library without the downside of playing redundant legendaries.
Bring to Light allows us to play many silver bullets. Valki God of Lies and Selfless Glyphweaver let us cheat the system by Bringing To Light for a spell costing 7 or 8.
The rest of the deck is designed to maximize the number of cards Niv Mizzet’s E.T.B. draws. This means the best 2-color spells in Pioneer’s 10-year history.
The deck’s mana base works by using Triomes and the “check lands.”
While it may not be the flashiest card in the deck, sylvan caryatid is the glue that sticks the manabase together and leads to your nut draw of turn 4, Niv Mizzet Reborn.
The mana base may not be for the faint of heart, but the diversity of spells is sure to make each game unique and fun. If you like getting all of the toppings on your ice cream sundae, this deck is for you!
We’re officially out of Rogue Deck territory now and into the Tier 2.5 decks. Some people tend to think of these decks as “metagame decks” or “linear decks.” Some have good matchups against the top tier but struggle against the decks in the middle. The key element these decks tend to share, which informs their Tier 2.5 status, is they have bad matchups sprinkled in throughout the meta.
While Pioneer’s go-to control deck has been UW, UBx Control has loomed in Pioneer’s background in many forms…
The incentive for choosing this archetype is control decks need good interaction and black gives you the best removal spells, specifically:
UB comes with the cleanest manabase and allows you to play powerful colorless producing lands like Field of Ruin.
UB plays draw-go with an array of counterspells and targeted removal. UB fills its own graveyard better than the other control decks of the format, so it utilizes Dig Through Time.
The best control Planeswalkers are white, it uses Shark Typhoon and Torrential Gearhulk to close out games. Re-casting a Dig Through Time with a Torrential Gearhulk is a great way to bury an opponent.
Esper attempts to capture the best of both worlds by marrying Planewalkers Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and The Wandering Emperor with the best removal spell, Fatal Push. This brings along utility removal all-stars Vanishing Verse and Void Rend.
The trade off is consistency in the mana base and the damage taken from shocklands. Check out Raja Sulaiman’s Esper primer: https://riwhobbies.com/esper/
Lotus Field is the premier non-creature based combo deck of Pioneer and is based upon repeated untapping and reusing of the powerful land, Lotus Field, to create a boundless abundance of mana.
It tends to be able to race at parity against most of the aggressive decks in the format, but is vulnerable to disruption. It does fare quite well against slow, removal heavy, controlling decks since it does not rely on creatures to execute the combo.
It is worth noting that sideboard hate cards, such as Damping Sphere, can shut the deck down cold after sideboarding which makes interaction a must. Most competitive players respect the combo enough to have some dedicated hate to bring in, which can swing even favorable matchups.
“There are few certainties in MtG, but one is Red Deck Wins.”
This version of red aggro is focused on keeping the board clear and getting in with prowess creatures. It’s flexible in that it can take on a more controlling role against creature decks and still be the aggro deck against control and combo.
Flexibility is nice for an open metagame event such an RCQ, but can be a downside in a more defined metagame if the power level isn’t high enough. The meta has become defined enough that an open meta deck such as Mono Red has lost some percentage points as opponents are prepared to face it.
Mono-red aggro isn’t playing the most powerful spells in Pioneer, but it’s not to be underestimated. It has a simple, consistent, and focused plan that will always keep the other decks in check.
Red aggro in Pioneer got a big boost from the semi-recent printing of Kumano Faces Kakkazan. It’s good on curve as a 1 drop, it pumps your two-drop, and it’s a prowess trigger later in the game. Red aggro is always starved for high impact 1 drop creatures, so having an additional one is a boon.
There are a few ways to win with red, one is a creature heavy deck built around Embercleave.
This version is all about curving out to play an early Embercleave, hopefully on a large Anax, Hardened in the Forge. It excels vs. non-interactive decks like Mono-green ramp, but can run into some trouble vs. removal heavy decks where Embercleave can get stuck in hand.
Check back on Wednesday as we complete the Tier 2.5 and Tier 2 of the Pioneer metagame here at RIWHobbies.com!