Unique Pioneer Decks and Tech from Players Tours Brussels and Nagoya
The first ever Players Tours are in the books. This past weekend we saw the new Pioneer format on the big stage in Nagoya and Brussels, with Kenta Harane and Joel Larsson taking home trophies. It’s no secret that the Inverter of Truth/Thassa's Oracle combo was the breakout story leading into, and coming out of the two tournaments. Kannister posted a full decklist and sideboard guide prior to the tournament, and went on to place second in Brussels. The deck was also piloted by 5 out of the top 8 players in Nagoya!
With all this success, some of the more niche tuning and decklists at the tournaments might get overshadowed. So let’s take a look.
DISCLAIMER: Some of the decklists in this article have incomplete sideboards. This is because, although decklists are public, the numbers of each card in a sideboard were not, only the names. In the case of a top 8 finish however, this is not true.
A big standout deck in my opinion was the Sram Auras deck of Ken Yukuhiro. Ken is a very well known brewer. He recently brought Knights to the forefront of standard at Mythic Championship V, and now Orzhov is his weapon of choice for Pioneer.
I don’t think anyone saw this one coming, but Ken was able to make it all the way to the finals with this homebrew. If you look at the list, it’s clear that the release of Theros Beyond Death might be the sole reason this deck is viable. The list contains 4 copies of: Alseid of Life's Bounty, Hateful Eidolon, Sentinel's Eyes , and Karametra's Blessing, as well as 3 Aphemia, the Cacophony. That means nearly one-third of the main deck is solely THB cards! This deck is VERY aggressive and 20 lands might be the fewest amount I’ve seen in a pioneer deck to date. This deck piles Auras onto a creature, disrupts, protects, and absolutely runs over opponents.
Although the Inverter of Truth combo deck was the talk of the town leading into this weekend, we saw a fairly stock amalgamation of around 100 cards that led people to their 75s, but Shintaro Ishimaru went with a slightly different take. 4 Leyline of Anticipation! That’s some tech straight out of my casual miracles-in-Modern dreams. Don’t let this sometimes-clunky enchantment fool you though; it allows you to play on a totally different axis and led to a top 8 finish. Shintaro came packing 4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx , which may seem a little questionable, until we look at the deck’s creature package. Check it out, EVERY single non-Inverter creature in this list has at least 2 blue pips: Gadwick, the Wizened, Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft, Thassa's Oracle, Merfolk Trickster, Harbinger of the Tides. The mix of these creatures allowed Ishimaru to see immense amounts of cards via Thassa's Oracle, generate tremendous amounts of mana alongside Nykthos to pump into Gadwick, or plow through opposing Mystical Disputes . I wonder if this deck could even utilize Master of Waves moving forward?
Christian Calcano, who finished in top 16, and Alexander Hayne came prepared to play lots of Inverter of Truth mirrors. Treasure Map in their sideboards is a cute way to manipulate your draws in an early game stare off, and it gets even better when you exile all but a few cards of your library. But the tech that I’m really intrigued by is the inclusion of an Ipnu Rivulet to their main deck land suite. This Desert can mess up your opponents combo turn by milling them out before a draw spell or their draw step (as long as they don’t have Jace, Wielder of Mysteries on board) and can’t be Thoughtseized or Thought Erasured. I’ve even milled myself to an empty library in a tough situation, allowing me to win with Jace.
Jhengyu Jhang would say otherwise. Jhang brought this incredibly intricate Rally the Ancestors build to Nagoya. I can’t help thinking the mana base in pioneer might find the spread out color requirements of this deck to be a little tough, but I guess Mana Confluence, Deathrite Shaman (sometimes), and Collected Company can help you get around that! Your machine gun pieces in Zulaport Cutthroat and Cruel Celebrant can even help you gain back any loss of life from your mana. Oh, and in case you decide you need more combo in your life, Jhang was also packing the Heliod, Sun-Crowned plus Walking Ballista combo in their sideboard!
If the Obsession and its newer look-a-like in Staggering Insight aren’t reminders enough of the glory days of Mono Blue in Dominaria Standard, check out the fact that this list includes 2 copies of Siren Stormtamer and 3 of Dive Down! Fujita piloted this list to 21+ points throughout the constructed portion of the Players Tour in Nagoya. I can’t wait to give this one a shot.
Niv to Light is another deck that has become quite popular in the current pioneer metagame. If you scroll through all the lists you find after “ctrl-f searching,” “Niv-Mizzet Reborn,” you might find it a bit difficult to discern anything specific from the wash of multi-colored cards you are presented with. I feel confident in telling you the majority of these lists were fairly “stock,” (or as stock as any Niv to Light list can be). That is, with one, very impressive exception.
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa put up an impressive top 8 finish with this Niv list. For Players Tour Brussels, Paulo worked with members of the Czech magic house, which is made up of Ivan Floch, Stanislav Cifka, and Ondřej Stráský to name a few, in order to fine tune a plethora of Niv ideas into a honed machine. You can find a masterfully prepared complete guide to the deck on the Czech Magic House website here, and I highly recommend reading it if you have any interest in insight from a top level player concerning their list.
With all that said, I just wanted to point out a few key changes they made to reach this decklist. Instead of a typical split of Paradise Druid and Sylvan Caryatid, as nearly all Niv decks have, this team paired Caryatid with Gilded Goose, cutting the Paradise Druids completely. Ok, so what? Choosing specifically these two mana dorks allowed the Czechs’ and their Brazilian cohort to take advantage of a main deck Solar Blaze as their go to sweeper instead of the more traditional Deafening Clarion. Blaze is fantastic because it doesn’t kill your mana creatures! It makes all the difference to untap with 1 to 2 more mana the turn following a sweeper, especially if said sweeper was accelerated by mana dorks. While on the topic of Sweepers, the group also decided that Hour of Devastation was more-aligned with the meta than Supreme Verdict. Not only can Hour of Devastation not be Spell Quellered from one of the few aggro decks that can actually counter a board wipe, the loses-indestructible clause allows you to destroy Hazoret the Fervent, an Ensoul Artifacted Darksteel Citadel, and a scary, hexproof Soulflayer that has exiled, or is alongside its comrades Rhonas the Indomitable and Zetalpa, Primal Dawn. That’s a lot of tech to come out of switching to different sweepers and a different mana-creature suite am I right?
Notable mentions: Slaughter Games in the maindeck as a tutorable Bring to Light target was a fantastic choice for this Players Tour weekend, especially considering the sudden rise of Inverter of Truth combo as the go-to best deck. Enter the God-Eternals was also an impressive upgrade against aggro, most likely pushing out Blood Baron of Vizkopa.
Possibly the crown-jewel of the weekend for all the midrange lovers out there was Joel Larsson’s “Swedish Sultai” decklist, which he used to bring home the trophy in Brussels.
A slightly different take on the GB Delirium archetype we’ve seen from time to time in pioneer, Swedish Sultai leverages a couple powerful Blue cards, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath to generate a massive amount of card advantage. Card draw was the only thing traditional Golgari had a difficult time with outside of Tireless Tracker, and an abundance of resources allowed the deck to completely take over the game. The individual card power in this deck is through the roof, and it’s no wonder it was able to Take Down the tournament in the hands of a master like Larsson.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my dive into the tech and sweet decks from Players Tours Nagoya and Brussels. If you saw some interesting card choices, or a decklist I may have missed, feel free to let me know in the comments below, or reach out to me on twitter @jeremy_langevin!
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