Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Pioneer Review

Magic: the Gathering

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Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Pioneer Review

In today's article, I analyze Adventures in the Forgotten Realms for Pioneer.

By Romeu, 07/11/21, translated by Romeu, with help from our readers

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As of this writing, Pioneer's Metagame looks like a diverse format: if we look at the format's most played decks over the past three months, we can see that no deck has reached more than 10% Metagame share, with Niv-to-Light being the most present deck with 9.3% of the Metagame, followed by Izzet Phoenix with 8.5%, and Bant Spirits with 8.2%. Since the banning of pretty much every combo deck of the format, Pioneer has proven to be a healthy format without an exact best deck. On the contrary, if you reduce the range of this search to 30 days, you see an increase in the number of Bant Spirits and Izzet Phoenix in the last few weeks, with 10% each, and, with 14 days, the Izzet Phoenix reaches exactly 12%.

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But this is a natural number for any format, and it is normal for the โ€œbest deckโ€ to rotate according to how the Metagame adapts to different strategies. Today, Pioneer presents every category of archetype: from Aggro to Control, from Combo to Tempo, passing through Ramp and Midrange. However, the format currently suffers from a problem of popularity and self-identity, as I mentioned recently in this article, where I point out what is happening to the format and what can be done to give the format more space and increase its popularity. However, today the subject is Adventures in the Forgotten Realms and its impact for the format and, without further ado, let's get straight to the point:

White

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This card has an interesting interaction with cards like Faceless Haven and Mutavault, where you can turn them into creatures and activate The Book of Exalted Deeds' ability to add an enlightenment counter on those creatures as they are Angels besides all other creature types, and then never activate them again to never lose the game. Today, there isn't necessarily a white deck that uses these manlands, but it wouldn't surprise me to see this combination being used in decks like Mono-White Humans or even this card become a great reason to try to migrate the GWx Angels lists from Historic to Pioneer.
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A spirit that offers protection not only against Supreme Verdict, but also against exile sweepers such as Shadows' Verdict and Extinction Event has its uses in the Sideboard of Bant Spirits and/or creature decks that use white. The card, unfortunately, has no evasion, and therefore I can't imagine it being used as a maindeck card, but it's another great means of protection for creature decks and will definitely have its place in the format.
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I don't think Dungeons are going to be relevant, but having a creature that offers you Hexproof has some advantages against Mono-Red or Boros Burn, as essentially this card functions as a Standard Bearer. On the other hand, Leyline of Sanctity exists in the format and sees little or no play in the current Metagame. So, I don't think Keen-Eared Sentry has enough to make any impact on Pioneer today.
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Having a card that punishes Instant-Speed interactions for one mana is a great hate against Spirits and Dimir Control, and has some minimally relevant utilities against Burn. The fact that this card can be used later to become a Glorious Anthem is also not a bad option. It might see some play on some sideboards, especially from creature decks.
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A white Fatal Push that exiles other permanents may have some use in Pioneer, but the current Metagame isn't necessarily dictated by threats with mana cost 1 or 2 and the fact that this card doesn't deal with Arclight Phoenix and/or the most relevant creatures of Spirits, Mono-Black or Niv-to-Light, seems to greatly limit its use in the format today. Still, it's an efficient answer if, at some point, the format's curve goes down again.
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There are some Yorion, Sky Nomad decks that occasionally show up trying to abuse ETB effects with creatures, and while I don't know if this card really has a home in these decks, it's a nice addition that can even be used in Enigmatic Fires as it can be sacrificed with Enigmatic Incantation to fetch some relevant creatures.

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Blue

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Ensoul decks are always there on the margin between Tier 1.5 and Tier 2 of Pioneer, and I think any support for the archetype is very welcome. The Blackstaff of Waterdeep is essentially a slightly weaker and slower Ensoul Artifact, but recurrent, which is important to not create the famous 2-for-1 effects that end up being a problem for Ensoul decks, as their creatures are naturally weak. There was a care from Wizards to make sure the artifact cannot be activated at any time, so it cannot be used as a form of combat trick, which would make it infinitely better than it is. It's a nice addition, but it still doesn't seem like enough to make Ensoul decks more competitive today.
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There is a lot of talk about the possibility of using this card in Izzet Phoenix, and I particularly believe that at least in Pioneer's Phoenix, this card is not worth it. The main reason is that Pioneer has Treasure Cruise, which already makes good use of its graveyard, so it doesn't seem to offer space for Demilich to be used to its full potential, as you will always prefer to exile spells to draw more cards than to play a 4/3 that doesn't have evasion and that needs to untap before it starts accumulating value. The second reason is that, particularly, I believe that Izzet Phoenix would do better using Stormwing Entity before using Demilich and currently the archetype doesn't even think about using the M21 Elemental, opting for cards like Crackling Drake, Brazen Borrower or Thing in the Ice. That said, I could see Demilich having some space in Control decks that can take advantage of its cost reduction and can protect it to generate value in the next turn, as well as turn it into a recurring threat. After all, this card somewhat reminds me of Snapcaster Mage as a means to reutilize your spells, while reminding me of Dreadhorde Arcanist as a threat that generates value every turn you untap with it. Time will tell if I'm right or wrong about the skeleton, this card has a lot of potential in a variety of formats and I wouldn't be surprised to be wrong, but today this card isn't an obvious inclusion in decks like Izzet Phoenix.
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This card is a hard to deal with threat on blue and offers plenty of card advantage. Dragonlord Ojutai doesn't see play in Pioneer, so I'm skeptical of Iymrith's space within the format, but I could see some players choosing to use this card on the sideboard as a difficult threat to interact with.

Black

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This card has a 2-card combo with Omnsicience where you can endlessly venture into the The Lost Mine of Phandelver dungeon and use the Dark Pool room for infinite damage. As both cards are essentially useless on their own and Omniscience costs too much mana, I don't believe this combination has a home in Pioneer or even in a Combo-Control shell, as it's too slow.
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A 5/2 threat with Flash that which can be cast from the Graveyard when a creature dies can have a home in Sacrifice decks or Mono-Black Aggro as a good threat against Control or Midrange decks that don't have as many threats with flying. This card could also has some potential in Rakdos Pyromancer decks, but I don't think the archetype wants to stop using Lurrus of the Dream-Den to use the dragon.
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A 5/3 for 2 mana can have a home, as long as you can consistently sacrifice creatures. However, it's competing with much more powerful cards or effects like Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger or much more synergistic cards for the Sacrifice strategies like Zulaport Cutthroat.

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An efficient removal against X/1 creatures that also serves to kill virtually all creatures that Spirits has is an interesting addition to the sideboard of the black decks. It remains to be seen whether it is more efficient than the answers already available in the format against this archetype.

Red

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This card is only a year and a half late from being the perfect answer against Oko, Thief of Crowns and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, but it still has some uses in the format as an answer against Niv-Mizzet Reborn, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Omnath, Locus of Creation, among other powerful green permanents.
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I don't think this card is competitive enough for the format, but it does have a combo with Combat Celebrant for infinite combat that involves attacking with both creatures, exert Combat Celebrant to gain an additional combat phase and create a token with Dina that is a copy of Combat Celebrant and repeat the process for infinite combat, and players can find a way to abuse that interaction on Pioneer.
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Flameskull is a recurring threat that can be used in Mono-Red against Control decks, as it doesn't rely on Lurrus of the Dream-Den and other cards. A 3/1 threat with evasion is something to be respected, and being reusable from the graveyard every turn means always creating a threat that the opponent may need to answer if they don't exile it.
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Minion of the Mighty has a combo-kill involving pump spells and Terror of Mount Velus, where you make the Kobold have 6 power and play the dragon with its ability, giving Double Strike for both the creatures and dealing a total of 22 damage still on turn 2. In Pioneer, you have access to some cards that can help speed up this process and still create an effective game plan with Ghor-Clan Rampager, Blossoming Defense or Become Immense, and count with low-cost creatures like Monastery Swiftspear and Soul-Scar Mage to make this power count skyrocket in a few turns. I believe the big question is whether it's really worth spending 8 slots on less than useful cards just to create a combo-kill in a deck whose set of cards aims to be aggressive, quick and not give the opponent room to protect themselves well during the game.
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Lotus Combo uses Fae of Wishes to fetch cards from the Sideboard since its inception, and Wish strikes me as an immediate inclusion in the archetype, perhaps even replacing the faerie, though this makes the mana costs a bit more difficult, and Fae of Wishes serves as a great Early Game blocker against aggressive decks. This card also seems to open up possibilities for other interactions and other categories of combos using the Sideboard and/or Lotus Field. So, it wouldn't surprise me to see new Lotus Combo variants coming out in the coming months.

Green

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Long Rest is an interesting recursion element for decks that manage to have some abundance of mana like Lotus Combo and Mono-Green Walkers. In Mono-Green Walkers, you'll hardly hit the threshold of eight cards returned this way, but you'll manage to get enough cards to go back to a nearly lost game or generate a lot of value on subsequent turns. In Lotus Combo, where you're less unlikely to have eight cards with different mana cost to come back with this spell, you can essentially โ€œresetโ€ the clock on the aggressive decks and accrue an absurd number of value even if you've lost the combo to discards and counters against Control, essentially giving you several extra turns against Aggro and an absurd amount of Card Advantage against Control.

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Werewolf Pack Leader is a good addition to both Mono-Green or Simic Stompy decks and to the various Gruul Aggro variants as a creature with a strong body that offers card advantage easily in decks that use creatures like Steel-Leaf Champion, Bonecrusher Giant, and Gruul Spellbreaker. Gruul Aggro already uses Gallia of the Endless Dance to gain some in-game value, and although its cost is more restrictive when cast with a Burning-Tree Emissary, Werewolf Pack Leader seems to be a more efficient option for this kind of effect on aggressive decks, especially considering its ability to boost its power.

Multicolor

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I recently found out that Colossus Hammer is valid on Pioneer. And since Colossus Hammer is valid, would it be possible to have with Bruenor Battlehammer our version of Puresteel Paladin? Of course Bruenor costs more, and we don't have access to cards like Steelshaper's Gift or Stoneforge Mystic, but Pioneer is a slower format than Modern and cards like Open the Armory and the newly released Fighter Class exist in the format while Sigarda's Aid is already valid in Pioneer as well, in addition to Ornithopter. I don't think these cards are enough to make the archetype a competitive option for Pioneer, but it's another step in the right direction to give Colossus Hammer a home in the Metagame.
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I like Drizzt as an aggressive creature that offers two good bodies on the board and a total of 10 power on a single card, which can be drawn with Niv-Mizzet, Parun or tutored with Bring to Light. Today, the Selesnya card to use with Niv-Mizzet is Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves, which allows the deck to put 6 power and stabilize the game against aggressive decks. But if the Metagame turns around in such a way that it is necessary to put more pressure on the opponent without putting aside the 2-for-1 effects, I can imagine that Drizzt could win some spot at the 75 of Niv-to-Light.
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This card will essentially only be used for its first ability should decks with Colossus Hammer get an opportunity on Pioneer in the coming months. Unfortunately, its Level 2 and Level 3 abilities are of little relevance to this type of archetype and will hardly make any difference as the game progress.
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Orcus, Prince of Undeath has the potential to clear the opponent's board or turn the game in your favor with a single card if the game stretches far enough. I believe Niv-to-Light has better options for both occasions, especially considering how much X you would have to pay with a single card, but I'm mentioning it because it's a card that might surprise players at some point.
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As a low-cost enchantment, Monk Class offers some relevant effects for Tempo decks looking to use more than one spell per turn, as it levels up for a low mana investment, interacts with the opponent's board, offers Card Advantage and reduces the cost of your spells. It doesn't seem like there's a home for this card today in Pioneer, but it's an interesting addition to the format.
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With Orzhov Humans occasionally appearing in Challenges, Triumphant Adventurer might be a viable option for the archetype as it offers a mix of great blocker and Card Advantage engine in a single card.

Lands

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The manlands will likely see play in some decks as needed by the archetypes, but they compete for space with Faceless haven and Mutavault. I can imagine Den of the Bugbear seeing play in the red decks, as it offers two bodies and four power with an activation, essentially being a humbler version of Goblin Rabblemaster in a land. Cave of the Frost Dragon is a good imitation of Celestial Collonade for UWx Control decks, but it demands 1 more mana for a creature with 1 less power, and doesn't work as a color fixing like the manland of Modern. Lair of the Hydra is an interesting mana-sink for Mono-Green decks using Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, being a respectable threat to the opponent even when they cast a sweeper to destroy your other creatures.
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Treasure Vault is yet another addition to Ensoul, serving as another land that can be enchanted with Ensoul Artifact or The Blackstaff of Waterdeep and offering a great mana-sink for Late- game to create multiple artifacts that can be turned into creatures later.

Conclusion

Fortunately for the format, as it is currently in a healthy state, the new set, despite bringing some interesting cards, doesn't seem to bring anything that will actually break the Metagame, which is excellent since messing too much with the format's structure now could be harmful. On the other hand, I continue to argue that Pioneer needs interesting and unique novelties and archetypes to captivate players, as well as greater support from Wizards for the format to reinvigorate it and, with the gradual return of in-person events, make the format present in the daily life of stores and captivate players' interest in participating in Pioneer tournaments, setting up their card pools and playing with the most diverse decks that the format has to offer. Thanks for reading.
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Romeu

Writer and translator for Cards Realm. Plays virtually Magic: The Gathering competitive formats. Pauper Masters' Organizer.

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