Pioneer Deck Tech: Mono-Green Nykthos
Pioneer as a non-rotating format has access to some historical pieces of power- Treasure Cruise and Siege Rhino come to mind. But, the one that captivates me most is the iconic land from Theros: Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. This card has always been a favorite to those who got to sling it in Theros block constructed, and it's a stellar pick in the slower Commander format. However, with the surge of green haymakers over the last two years, we're seeing a new niche for the land: Mono-Green Stompy.
Or Mono-Green Nykthos.
…or Mono-Green Ramp.
The name appears to be as in flux as the card list, since the game plan for the deck is pretty simple: cast small mana dorks that fuel devotion, and drop a turn two / turn three knockout for the win. You're always going to be running four copies of both Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves. These are classic, efficient, powerful turn one plays that also fuel our devotion. For those who skipped the Theros sets, devotion is simply the number of colored mana pips on permanents you control. Llanowar Elves will contribute one green devotion, Topiary Stomper contributes two. Devotion is used to get more mana out of Nykthos, which generates mana relative to the devotion you have to a chosen color. This mana is used to drop big threats: your Karn, the Great Creator or your Cavalier of Thorns or your Storm the Festival. The choice is really yours, as long as you're rocking the full ramp package. This ramp is supplemented with Oath of Nissa, which fetches one of your threats from the deck, and also fixes your mana for planeswalkers. Also aiding your mana is Old-Growth Troll, who, on death, enchants lands to give you additional green mana to activate a Nykthos or get a threat out of your hand. The Troll also helps to serve as a stopgap against more aggressive strategies hoping to bully out a slower start.
Most threats fall into one of two categories: Stompy Green Creatures or High-impact Planeswalkers. We'll cover the creatures first as there's been a lot of love to the genre of ‘massive green statstick'. Cavalier of Thorns is the biggest constant as its effect lets you maintain consistency with lands, and it can return key pieces needed to close out games. Lovestruck Beast was a Standard all-star that offers excellent value and flexibility in Pioneer. Topiary Stomper brings back days of Wayward Swordtooth, but with a slightly more restrictive attacking requirement. All of these threats are played as sets of 3 or 4, and can be fetched by Oath of Nissa.
The other effect of Oath is enabling perfect fixing for playing your planeswalker package. Karn, the Great Creator is an amazing toolbox to enable options against any of your matchups. The sideboard is a collection of powerful and niche artifacts to disrupt your enemies. Just be careful not to turn off your Nykthos with Damping Sphere unless you're sure you can win without it. In addition, Karn can create a loop with Pestilent Cauldron // Restorative Burst. Since Restorative Burst exiles, and Cauldron is an artifact, you can recur the card after using it. This means with additional Kiora, Behemoth Beckoners and Karns, you can gain infinite life for you and the opponent. Finally, replaying the Cauldron side, you can mill your opponent for the amount of life gained by you this turn. This is the crux of the combo strategy for Mono-Green Nykthos, but is far from your only way to close out games. Other notable planeswalkers include Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God to mimic all your ‘walker's powers, and Vraska, Golgari Queen. Both are simple value machines, but offer other routes to winning that may give you the edge in mirror matches or a more solved meta-game.
Pioneer is a burgeoning format, and with the recent dip in popularity for Standard, many of the players are moving their attention to it. Hopefully, with adequate prize support and the surge of player interest, this deck and its many, many versions will be seeing high level play at tournaments and on streams. Nykthos has high competitive potential, but more importantly, it has a great showing as a tournament deck. Pioneer is full of brews like this, making it the hub of competitive, head-to-head Magic.