Two New Combo Decks Taking Pioneer by Storm
Typically I write about Modern, however, the release of Lost Caverns of Ixalan has caused a major shake-up in Pioneer. Discover, an allegedly "fixed" version of Cascade, has spawned two separate one-card combo decks that OTK (One-Turn-Kill) your opponent. In the Pioneer Showcase Challenge on Sunday the 19th, the finals were a combo mirror between Quintorius Combo and Geoform (Geological Appraiser Combo). Additionally, in the Japanese RC after the swiss rounds, Appraiser combo was in first with a record of 10-1-1.
What does Discover do?
Discover as previously stated is a different iteration of Cascade. The main difference is that it is not a cast trigger so it can be used more flexibly in design (like putting it on a planeswalker ability or ETB trigger). It also gives the player the choice to put the card into your hand if you do not want to cast it.
How does Quintorius Combo work?
Quintorius Kand is a five-mana planeswalker that enters with 4 loyalty and has two incredibly relevant abilities. The first is a static ability that when says when you cast a spell from exile, deal two damage to your opponent and you gain two life. The second ability is -3 loyalty to Discover 4. Builds of Quintorius combo run no spells with a mana value of 4 or less other than planeswalker clones like Spark Double and Clever Impersonator. This means that when you discover you will always clone your Quintorius, casting a spell from exile which triggers your pre-existing Quintorius (or Quintorius' if you have multiple from one or more Spark Double). As long as you do not draw too many clones, this will deterministically kill your opponent. Quint Combo also runs 4 Trumpeting Carnosaur as an additional discover spell. The only spells of 5 mana value or less are Quintorius or clones, so with the Carnosaur you will either hit a Quintorius and kill them that turn or if you are “unlucky” you will merely put thirty+ power of Dinosaurs on board, and also a 5-mana planeswalker. The rest of the deck is ramp/land spells in Greater Tanuki, Beanstalk Giant, and Herd Migration, as well as removal spells in Virtue of Persistence, Leyline Binding, and Consign to Oblivion. Each of these can be cast or activated for less than their mana value, providing the deck action while still meeting the requirements to make Quintorius and Carnosaur lethal spells. To make Carnosaur even better, if there are redundant copies of it or Quintorius in hand, Carnosaur can be discarded for 3 mana to deal 3 damage to a creature or planeswalker. This makes Carnosaur both a combo piece and a removal spell, significantly augmenting the deck's ability to stay alive while it digs for Quintorius or gets to the mana to cast it.
How does Geoform/ Appraiser Combo work?
First off, the deck is called Geoform as a combination of Geological Appraiser, the key combo card, and Neoform as a nod to the inclusion of Eldritch Evolution which serves a similar purpose in the deck to Neoform in the modern deck Neoform Combo. The combo in Geoform is far more convoluted but a turn faster. In the same vein as Quint Combo the deck is built to make Geological Appraiser kill the turn it is cast. Geological Appraiser discovers 3 when it enters which will only hit either Glasspool Mimic, a clone that copies Appraiser and discovers again, or Eldritch Evolution which sacrifices the Appraiser to get Carnosaur, who then Cascades into more Appraisers, clones, or Evolutions. This process repeats amassing a large board of Appraisers and Carnosaurs, however, they all have summoning sickness and can not attack. Once the 4th evolution is cast the combo stops and instead of a Carnosaur the combo player will grab Doomskar Titan to give all creatures haste. If the Doomskar Titan has been drawn the Eldritch Evolution instead will sacrifice a Carnosaur to find Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant which in turn puts the Titan into play. The combo only fails if too many Eldritch Evolutions are drawn or hit too early in the discovery. The chance of hitting all the Evolutions before a clone is approximately 1.4% and even lower if the first card cast is a Carnosaur. Appraiser can combo as early as turn 3 when combined with one of the Strixhaven treasure makers, those being Magma Opus, Creative Outburst, and Elemental Masterpiece. Interestingly, because of the inclusion of these cards for the control matchup some lists have begun to include Torrential Gearhulk as a way to flashback Outburst and Opus.
This list had some interesting extra tech. Repudiate // Replicate is a clone for Carnosaur and can also stifle important triggered or activated abilities. Most relevant now are the triggered and activated abilities of Geological Appraiser and Quintorius. Bedeck // Bedazzle is a 2 mana kill spell and in longer games, the instant speed land disruption can hurt control opponent's ability to interact by destroying a land left up for a counterspell or removal spell. Lastly, Cavern of Souls while not protecting the combo does ensure that the Appraiser or Carnosaur hit the board. This means that even if an opponent counters the spell they discover they must still deal with the 3/2, or more importantly the 7/6 trample.
As a final extra boost because the decks are built around discover they each are able to companion Keruga, the Macrosage for free.
While these decks initially showed a lot of strength at the Japanese RC, their results were less than stellar. Geoform and Quint Combo were the two most represented decks in the room but both boasted below 50% winrates. Geoform was slightly below 50% at around 48%~ and Quint Combo performed atrociously at around a 40% winrate. At the moment it is unclear if these winrates will change as the metagame develops further but I am hesitant to expect a ban. If a ban does take place I expect it would be Trumpeting Carnosaur as a way to hit both decks.