Pioneer - Naya Death & Taxes
As I write this article, day two of Players Tour Brussels has just concluded. This means we’ve gained some crucial pioneer metagame information. Data such as day 2 conversion rates and overall win percentages are now available to the world, and as such, it becomes far easier to tell what the best decks in the format truly are. With this in mind, we can look to build decks anticipating what will happen in the coming metagame.
A white-based taxes deck is one idea I think certainly benefits from knowing what it is up against. It really benefits from tailoring the creature package to fit the expected matchups, and thus you will see your win percentage skyrocket when this information is available. Therefore I wanted to discuss the potential for a Pioneer Taxes deck, and what it might look like.
I started by first having a glance at what “hatebears” we have access to. In particular, the Pioneer card-pool has an abundance of effects that look to prevent enter the battlefield triggers, or “etbs.” Hushwing Gryff, Hushbringer and Tocatli Honor Guard all fulfil this role. Hushwing Gryff can be great, but in the current metagame I think costing 3 is a little too much for this effect. Hushbringer on the other hand, has the additional upside of having lifelink. This can help us a little against the aggro decks that I expect to come forward in the near future. Thanks to this, I believe at least 2 copies of Hushbringer are a must. The question is then “how many additional copies of this effect should we play?” In the past four has felt like the correct number to me, and I’ll be looking to utilize a split between Tocatli Honor Guard and Hushbringer since the Honor Guard is particularly good into Mono-Black Aggro, considering most of their threats have 2 power. It should also be noted that the option of playing this effect at either 2 or 3 converted mana cost gives us a greater ability to make adjustments to the deck from week to week. We can maintain the curve without having to lose out on any copies of this tax. As such, I would not be afraid to trim the two drops in order to include Hushwing Griffs should I wish to add more, different, two drops.
The other Taxing effect we have abundant access to is the ability to make our opponents creatures enter the battlefield tapped. This ability should prove to be a nuisance for not only the aggro lists, but also White Devotion and Niv to Light, both of which saw significant play this past weekend. If we pair this effect with an aggressive slant to our deck, we can sometimes hit our opponents for an unimpeded, sometimes additional, combat step. Thalia, Heretic Cathar is the obvious include in this slot. Making your opponents lands enter the battlefield tapped can be a huge upside against the 3+ color midrange decks of the format, whilst a three power first-striker can be brutal for aggro to fight through. Unfortunately she is legendary, and for this reason I would not recommend playing more than three copies of her. Any additional copies of this effect should be split amongst Kinjalli's Sunwing and Imposing Sovereign. Unfortunately, neither of these cards is anywhere near as good, although Sunwing is certainly better than its two mana counterpart.
Finally, we can make it very difficult for our opponent to play on our turn since we have access to both Tithe Taker and Voice of Resurgence. While neither of these cards are individually powerful, they will be simply another annoyance for our opponent, giving us an upper-hand. It is worth remembering however, that neither of the death triggers will occur with a Hushbringer on board. This is another reason to make a split amongst the anti-etb creatures, although quite what that split is, is very much open for debate.
The next dilemma we encounter is the top of the curve. Ideally we don’t want to push the curve too high, and yet somehow we still need to overpower our opponents. This leads me to think we have two routes: Collected Company vs. four drops. Both have their inherent upsides; CoCo is better against control since it overloads the board at instant speed, whilst the four drop creatures can give aggro decks a real headache. It’s the current prominence of aggro that has made me tend toward the four drops for now, but should the meta shift, Collected Company could definitely be the way to go.
With this decided, we now have to choose which four drops are the best, and we have a plethora of choices: Hazoret the Fervent, Arasta of the Endless Web, Archangel of Tithes, Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Questing Beast, Ripjaw Raptor, Shalai, Voice of Plenty, and Thought-Knot Seer are ALL good in their own right! Annoyingly, each of them have a match-up where they will be the better option and also a match-up where they will be the worst. I have chosen to go for the full four copies of Questing Beast since time and time again it proves itself it be good at just about everything. It not only puts the opponent on a clock, but can block at the same time. This flexibility allows us to swing a race in our favor. Whilst the play-set may seem to contradict my earlier statement regarding Thalia and her Legendary status, Questing Beast is good enough to merit the risk of having a second uncastable copy in your hand. The rest of the slots are extremely flexible depending on what metagame you are anticipating. There’s a four drop for everything, and you should look to optimize your choice each week to suit each slight change in the metagame.
This leaves us looking for just a few remaining pieces; choosing these becomes much easier given the detailed metagame data from this weekend. The one drop spot has always been a tricky one to navigate, again due to the wealth of options. Traditionally in aggressive decks I have been a big advocate of Bomat Courier, but with Soul-Scar Mage and Monastery Swiftspear seeing increasingly high amounts of play a 1/1 attacker looks an awful lot worse. Due to this, I have chosen to play some mana-elves in this spot. They should allow us to reach our crucial four drops that little bit quicker, and a turn two Thalia can make all the difference. The final few cards are where I like to play a three drop that is individually powerful. In similarly aggressive decks I’ve been a huge fan of Goblin Rabblemaster in this slot. But while he is still very good, the prominence of the Lotus Field and Inverter of Truth combo decks has made me more interested in Gideon of the Trials. It’s really hard for any combo deck to beat him since the emblem literally stops them from winning the game! Outside of this application, he can lock down a big threat, or get the beatdowns going as a 4/4, making him a great include for a variety of different situations.
Taking all of this into account, I will be working with the following list going forward:
As far as the sideboard is concerned, I am mainly looking to sure up the control match-up. It’s pretty hard for us to hate a control deck out in game one while maintaining a solid decklist against the rest of the field. Against control we look to lower our curve a little, and maximize our board impact in the first two turns, where they struggle to interact with us. A fast start combined with Selfless Spirit hindering sweepers should put any control opponent in an awkward spot. The rest of the sideboard is devoted to improving various matchups just a little more, allowing us to tune our tax pieces for any given opponent.
Thank you for checking out my current take on Naya Taxes in Pioneer. The deck is drastically different to its Modern and Legacy counterparts, playing in an almost Zoo-like style. I appreciate you for reading and I hope you found this article useful and entertaining. You can ask me any questions you have below in the comments section or over on my twitter @MtgDavis.
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