Top 8 Post-Ban Decks in Pioneer
With Smuggler’s Copter, Once Upon a Time, and (most importantly) Field of the Dead making their exits from Pioneer, it’s time to take another serious look at a format that is shaping up to be balanced, supporting a variety of strategies.
8. Lotus Field Combo
The newest deck to emerge from the wilderness of Pioneer is this Lotus Field combo deck. Originally, two versions existed, one heavier on creatures with Once Upon a Time and the version you see here. With the banning of OUaT, this has become the default version.
In case you haven’t seen the deck in action before, the idea is to consistently find a Lotus Field with cantrips and Sylvan Scrying, and then use effects that untap lands (Vizier of Tumbling Sands, Hidden Strings, Pore Over the Pages) to generate large amounts of cards and mana. Once you’re rolling, use Fae of Wishes to fetch up whatever you need to close out the game (note the Enter the Infinite Jace, Wielder of Mysteries combo).
At this point, the deck still benefits from some players not knowing what is going on, but as players familiarize themselves with the play patterns of the strategy and play more Thoughtseizes, the deck will hopefully be kept under control. Additionally, the deck has a very real fizzle rate, where it can flood, fail to find its namesake card, or just die to an aggro deck before they can set up. The deck does shine, however, against the increasingly popular sideboard copies of Mystical Dispute, which does nothing against the massive amounts of mana it can generate.
7. Red Aggro
Red aggro is a powerful, but completely unsolved archetype in Pioneer. First, aggressive builds of almost every combination of red with other colors can be built, with White for Boros Charm (like this list from RASTAF)and Green for Atarka’s Command likely being the best if you do opt to dip into a second color. Just staying monored (like Daniel-95's list) would be my preference, but it generates a large number of options that are difficult to decide among. Is the deck heavier on creatures or burn? If creatures, what is the correct split between Ramunap Ruins and Castle Embereth? How many Wizards should be played? Is Eidolon of the Great Revel in the deck? Which of the big powerful four-drops (Torbran, Thane of Red Fell; Experimental Frenzy; Hazoret the Fervent; Chandra, Torch of Defiance) are correct to play?
There is truly a huge space here to design a powerful red deck, and only time (and lots of matches played) will determine the correct one.
6. Black Aggro
Monoblack Aggro lost Smuggler’s Copter and, by extension, probably doesn’t want to play Night Market Lookout anymore, but the shell is still a powerful one. Pressure plus disruption has always been a recipe for success in Magic, and this Monoblack deck does both exceedingly well. With Thoughtseize and Fatal Push, the deck has access to the best, cheapest interaction in the format. With Bloodsoaked Champion and Gutterbones, the deck is highly resilient and capable of playing long games. The inclusion of Pack Rat is interesting, and might be the direction to go. I’m excited to continue to test Monoblack in the post-ban world. While it might be more prone to flood with Copter gone, it still has access to strong solutions (Pack Rat, Castle Locthwain, Mutavault).
5. UWx Control
Control in Pioneer has been nigh-unplayable because of the over-the-top power of Field of the Dead. With Field out of the way, UW Control is in a similar spot to Monored; it has a huge number of options, is probably powerful, but nobody has settled on a final build yet. While UW is likely the direction to go because of the power of Supreme Verdict, it’s possible that a black or red splash could shore up some of its weaknesses.
UW has access to a huge suite of powerful planeswalkers, which is what it leans on in Pioneer. Multiple Teferi’s; Narset, Parter of Veils; Elspeth, Sun’s Champion; and Jace, Architect of Thought are all solid options. Going harder into walkers could lead to a more tap-out style of control. Another option is to lean into the spells, looking to maximize the power of Dig Through Time in conjunction with Torrential Gearhulk.
The most important thing that has changed for UW is that the format seems to be settling down. In order for a control deck to thrive, it needs to know how to tailor its answers, both in the main and sideboard. With the most obscene threat to control being banned (Field of the Dead), UW can focus on answering the more reasonable builds of decks that become popular as the format continues to develop.
4. UG Stompy
UG Stompy performed quite well during the week of Pioneer PTQ’s, a bit of a breakout star. While it lost Once Upon a Time, it is still playing a bountiful bevy of beautiful beasts. Access to between eight and twelve mana dorks accelerate out powerful threats like Oko, Questing Beast and Steel Leaf Champion. Stubborn Denial is an all-star in UG, as it is essentially always turned on.
The same can be said for Heart of Kiran, which is incredibly easy to crew between all non-dorks having sufficient power and Oko having obscene amounts of loyalty. If you want a powerful, proactive deck that goes a bit bigger than Red and Black while still packing interaction for control, UG Stompy is a winner.
3. Green Ramp
Even when Field of the Dead was in the format, Monogreen Ramp was putting up results. With a critical mass of fast, powerful ramp spells and some of the best payoffs in Magic, this deck is going to be a contender. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is the key piece here. This planeswalker completely clears the battlefield of basically all non-land permanents and then sticks around to Bolt your opponent or any remaining threats. The deck’s biggest weakness is when Ugin is countered or taken with hand disruption, as World Breaker and Oblivion Sower are significantly less impactful and Ulamog is meaningfully more expensive. It’s possible the deck may want to adopt cards like Hedron Archive to aggressively cycle through its deck, or even include additional copies of Sanctum of Ugin or a copy or two of Haven of the Spirit Dragon, as I think Ugin is truly the crux of the deck.
2. BGx Midrange
This list was taken not from the most recent deck dump, but from Logan Nettles’ (Jaberwocki) most recent stream. BGx midrange decks have grown in positioning, as Field no longer trumps them. They are now able to occupy the sweet middle spot that GB decks so often do, where they are capable of fighting any deck in the format. BGx, like Red and UW, has a lot of room for adaptability. Do you include the Delirium package? If so, do you stay GB with Flayer or splash Blue for Oko and Jace? What’s the correct split of Tireless Tracker and Courser of Kruphix?
Regardless of where these numbers fall, access to powerful disruption like Thoughtseize and Abrupt Decay alongside permanent-based card advantage is a combination that we’ve seen be powerful in Standard and older formats, and there’s no reason not to expect it to be successful in Pioneer as well.
1. Nexus of Fate
Pioneer thus far has been overshadowed by powerful archetype after powerful archetype, allowing Nexus of Fate to sneak through unscathed. This deck has lost nothing from any of the bans, and it’s still an incredibly annoying (and surprisingly resilient) archetype to play in Pioneer. No deck casts Dig Through Time as easily as Nexus does, thanks to Wilderness Reclamation and its plentiful cantrips. This ensures that the deck always has the pieces it needs to go off.
Compared to its time in Standard, it picks up better interaction, better fogs, better win conditions, and better sideboard options. The shell has essentially remained identical, except that every piece of it has been upgraded. This is a deck to watch out for, and, if I had to predict additional bannings for the format, I suspect that Nexus of Fate (and Oko, of course) are on the short list, for quality of life improvements if nothing else.
What will you be sleeving up for Pioneer this week?
Ryan Normandin (@RyanNormandin) is a grinder from Boston who has lost at the Pro Tour, in GP & SCG Top 8's, and to 7-year-olds at FNM. Despite being described as "not funny" by his best friend and "the worst Magic player ever" by Twitch chat, he cheerfully decided to blend his lack of talents together to write funny articles about Magic.
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