Five Budget Monocolored Pioneer Decklists

Magic: the Gathering

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Five Budget Monocolored Pioneer Decklists

In today's article, I present five functional, mono-colored Pioneer budget decklists for you to use in your local tournaments or to introduce your friends to the format!

By Humberto, 10/25/21, translated by Humberto, with help from our readers

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In my article series dedicated to Pioneer over the past two weeks, I evaluated the quality and the potential of each of the Pioneer Challenger Decks and how to gradually improve them to their most competitive version, and also I presented the most played decks of the format today, explaining their key cards and how each of them operates throughout the game.

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With this, I believe I have built a base for any player who is currently wanting to know the format or has become interested in it due to the launch of Challenger Decks, but there is a sensitive topic that has also blocked players from being able to access the format whenever they want; the entry price even for a product like Challenger Decks, which are being sold for around $40 and $50. It is not up to me to make a value judgment as to the price of a product (although I see no sense in its cost price being higher than a Standard Challenger Deck, as it is literally used the same material, in the same quantity, to produce them). But I can't, however, ignore that their value can be a significant entry barrier for some players who are interested in the format but don't feel able to play it because of the price tag. So, I've decided to dedicate this article entirely to demonstrating budget yet fun and functional lists that you can put together to play at your local store, or to lend to friends and give them the opportunity to get to know how fun and interesting Pioneer can be.

My Budget Deckbuilding Rules

We will never reach a consensus on what a budget deck is because it depends on each player's individual interpretation, and we will never be able to mutually agree on what value is acceptable for a “budget list”. Therefore, my conception for the elaboration of the decks built for this article is that their price should be less than the average price of a Challenger Deck currently (around $40) but that neither can have a value very close to that, as the decks built in the box are very well-made and based on competitive Pioneer archetypes, so I'll try to avoid getting too close do $40. However, one thing I need to explain to my non-Brazilian readers is that the lists were built based on the Brazilian price tags, which means some cards might differ a bit from other countries or regions throughout the world, depending on which marketplace you use to build these decks. Another proposal that I will be applying in my article is to

not publish any list that is mechanically equal to a Challenger Deck

, as I would only be building a list possibly worse than the one established by the product, which essentially undermines the purpose of this article to present interesting alternatives you can play or assemble to introduce Pioneer to your friends and lend them to them for fun. So, I won't be mentioning some cheap and functional lists known to the public, such as

Mono White Auras

or

Mono-Red Prowess

, as they work similarly or equal to Orzhov Auras and Mono-Red Burn from the Challenger Decks. That said, I present you five Pioneer Budget lists that can be used at local events or to play with your friends!

Mono White Humans

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Starting with the monocolored decks,

Mono-White Humans

is an aggressive creature-based archetype that bets on the synergy of its cards to populate the board with synergistic creatures and win the game. The list is created in the mold of the classic White Weenie and betting on the benefits of tribal synergies, it has a growing aggressive curve, using creatures that have some added value when they come into play or remain on the board.
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As one-drops, we have Mardu Woe-Reaper to deal with the famous graveyard decks, Thraben Inspector to draw cards, and Dautless Bodyguard to protect a more important creature. These creatures will usually be your starting plays, offering the first points of damage in a game, and none of them necessarily turn out too bad in Late-Game, as they serve other purposes besides “just” attacking.

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As two-drops, we have Luminarch Aspirant, which increases a creature's power every turn, Knight of the White Orchid which helps not to miss a land drop while having a revelant body to its mana cost, and Thalia's Lieutenant and Rally the Ranks as cards that power up your creatures, commonly putting pressure on the opponent with a sufficiently populated board. Normally, your best turn 2 play is Luminarch Aspirant, especially if you have an aggressive 1 drop in play and if your opponent's board is empty, Knight of the White Orchid is better for moments where you need a land drop, and Thalia's Lieutenant is better with more creatures in play.
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On three drops, we have Benalish Marshal as another creature that increases the power of other creatures, and Gavony Dawnguard to filter the top of the deck for more creatures, and can be used on a recurring basis if you can manipulate the Day and Night cycle by knowing when to cast your spells, and when not to, which is very recurrent on occasions where you have emptied your hand and, on the next turn, it becomes more interesting not to play spells to obtain more card advantage. I particularly like Benalish Marshal on turn 3, and Gavony Dawnguard tends to be better after you empty or are close to emptying your hand, as you'll get a better sense of what you need, and it'll be easier abusing the Day and Night mechanics.
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The list also features Brave the Elements as a card that serves both to protect your creatures from removals and damage, and to deal with opponent's blockers against other decks that have many monocolored creatures, so it is a card the opponent needs to respect. Brave The Elements is an essential resource, and as there are no efficient ways to tutor it, it should be used conscientiously, as it can save you from certain sweepers or even be the card that wins the game for you.
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On the Sideboard, we have good board interactions with Declaration in Stone and Conclave Tribunal, graveyard interaction with Remorseful Cleric, ways to protect your creatures from sweepers with Selfless Glyphweaver, which replaces Selfless Spirit in this list and also has ways of dealing with unwanted artifacts or enchantments with Cathar Commando. As for the upgrades that can be done on this list, there are many paths that can be followed: like adding black to the deck for greater interaction and access to cards like Dire Tactics and General Kudro of Drannith, or add green to Collected Company and Sigarda, Champion of Light, or keep the Mono-White base with snow lands and Faceless Haven, plus inclusion of staples like Elite Spellbinder and Selfless Spirit, or even Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, cards that were once a crucial Standard staple.

Mono Blue Tempo

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Mono Blue Tempo is a list based almost entirely on the popular deck Autumn Burchett used to win the first Mythic Championship, and runs a very similar creature shell as used by the player's iconic list, such as Pteramander, Spectral Sailor and Tempest Djinn.
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The purpose of this list is to play an evasive creature. In this case, we focus on flying creatures, and enchant them with Curious Obsession or Sea-Dasher Octopus, then attack the opponent repeatedly to draw more cards and accumulate more resources while protecting your threats with Spell Pierce and Miscast or delay opponent's plays with Lofty Denial.
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Maybe eight copies of recurring draw is a little too much for the deck, and although I really like the consistency Sea-Dasher Octopus gives to your main early game plan, extra copies of disruption can also be considered. Speaking of disruption, the list also has some level of board interaction, with Merfolk Trickster delaying the opponent's combat, while Fading Hope returns a creature to its owner's hand, serving double as a way to delay the opponent's gameplan and as another way to protect an important creature.
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I emphasize the importance of using your resources carefully and knowing the right timing of your disruptions, since all your counterspells can lose effectiveness in Late-Game, your deck needs to have some speed and proactivity, otherwise, you will have an inevitable late-game defeat. However, the main card that helps your Late-Game not be so bad, and a threat that

must

be protected at all costs because it can win the game in a few turns is Tempest Djinn, especially against archetypes that do not have flying threats.
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On the Sideboard, we have some generic answers for various situations, like Grafdigger's Cage for dealing with Graveyard or Collected Company decks, while Reality Shift offers a way to deal with problematic creatures. Entrancing Melody is very useful in taking control of certain powerful creatures, such as Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger or a transformed Thing in the Ice. Dispel is an efficient way to have other means of protecting your threats, especially against counterspells, and Negate works for this same purpose, but more comprehensively. Aether Gust is a great way to delay the Metagame's red and Gruul aggressive decks, while Singing Bell Strike can lock a creature on the board long enough for you to turn the game into your favor.
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As for improvements, the best route I think this archetype can go is a transition to

Mono-Blue Spirits

, a tribal deck that does occasional results in Challenges, and trades its individual card interactions for greater tribal synergy, with cards like Rattlechains and Supreme Phantom supporting Ascendant Spirit and Spectral Adversary

Mono Black Devotion

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If you play Pauper, you probably know Gray Merchant of Asphodel. And if you know and like to play Gray Merchant of Asphodel,

Mono-Black Devotion

is the deck for you. The archetype functions as a Midrange that seeks to sequence its plays with efficient creatures while increasing devotion to cast Gray Merchant of Asphodel with an explosive trigger that will commonly turn the tables in your favor or cause the last points of necessary damage to the opponent. And for that, we have an efficient creatures package.
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Gifted Aetherborn offers two points of devotion while trading very well in combat against aggressive creatures and bigger threats from Midrange decks, while Kitesail Freebooter may not add much to devotion, but it allows you to take out an important piece or one of your opponent's removals, which is very relevant since this list doesn't have Thoughtseize, and Dusk Legion Zealot substitutes in your hand while offering a blocker and one more devotion point at the board. There's not much misunderstanding about what your turn 2 play should be, and either of them tends to be very useful early-game in essentially every matcup.
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On turn 3, we have Murderous Rider as a card that works as an efficient removal, while offering a 2/3 Lifelink body that adds two points to your devotion. Nighthawk Scavenger is a great creature that can grow absurdly over the course of a game, often being a clock on its own.
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Finally, with most of these cards having a cost of two black mana, sequential plays involving Gray Merchant of Asphodel will commonly result in 6 to 8 damage against the opponent when it comes into play, potentially ending the game. In the interaction part, we don't have access to Thoughtseize for financial reasons, but that doesn't mean that we don't have good ways to interact with the opponent.
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Fatal Push is a well-known format staple, which can destroy any creature in Early-Game for just one mana, while Grasp of Darkness handles most creatures that see play in the format today, and the rare exceptions can be resolved by Murderous Rider The last interaction piece is Doomfall, which can deal with creatures that have some protection, or can also serve as an overpriced discard effect, but which ends making up for the versatility in this slot, which in a more optimized list, would belong to Thoughtseize.
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On the lands, we have our main Card Advantage engine: Castle Locthwain which, with a total of 24 lands, won't be too difficult to activate when needed to increase the number of cards in your hand, while Witch's Cottage can return a relevant creature from your graveyard to the top of your library, such as Nighthawk Scavenger or Gray Merchant of Asphodel, while also being a useful land drop. There are times when you may end up having some delays due to lands entering the battlefield tapped, but as this deck is not very explosive and has good ways to hold the game, the rare occasions when this happens are usually not a big problem.
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On the sideboard, there is a heavy investment in discard effects as we have virtually no efficient cards in the maindeck: Duress and Agonizing Remorse allow you to remove important cards from your opponent's hand, while Go Blank works great well against graveyard decks, even though it's counterintuitive to one of our top threats, Nighthawk Scavenger.
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We also have Feed the Swarm to deal with possible problematic enchantments, Cry of the Carnarium to remove the opponent's recurring creatures such as Scrapheap Scrounger or Arclight Phoenix and Thought Distortion for matchups against Control decks, with only one copy for being a bad card to having multiple copies on hand, plus our lower cost discard package can make it a redundant option and a bad topdeck.

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As for upgrades, this list

really

could take advantage of the inclusion of Thoughtseize as an unconditional discard on Maindeck that would open up many plays and make you better prepared against non-aggressive decks. Also, cards like Rankle, Master of Pranks could have some space in this list as an immediate impact threat that offers disruption, card advantage, and symmetric removal in a single card.

Mono Red Devotion

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There are several Mono Red versions on Pioneer, with the most famous being Mono Red Aggro, and Burn decks, but one of the versions that is relatively underused in the format are the more aggressive Mono Red Devotion variants, taking advantage of the addition of cards like Anax, Hardened in the Forge.
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This is an Aggro deck, with all the elements already known from Mono-Red versions, such as Monastery Swiftspear, Bonecrusher Giant and Goblin Chainwhirler, but instead of going for Burn, this list bets on increasing the power on the board to take advantage of Embercleave which, if equipped on any high-power creature on this list, can deal a significant amount of damage or even win the game on its own.
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For that, the main objective is to equip the artifact on Anax, Hardened in the Forge, a card that grows exponentially according to how your board also grows, something that we try to leverage with the inclusion of Burning-Tree Emissary, Runaway Steam-Kin, and Goblin Chainwhirler to increase devotion.
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There will be some rare moments where Burning-Tree Emissary will be your turn 3 draw, and you will have to choose between casting her or Goblin Chainwhirler. Normally, unless I have a Runaway Steam-Kin in play, and you can sequence two more spells to then add three red mana, or really need to attack aggressively with it, I opt for Goblin Chainwhirler. Also, if your turn 3 play isn't a Goblin Chainwhirler and you have Burning-Tree Emissary and Runaway Steam-Kin in your hand on turn 2, I usually prefer to cast Steam-Kin, and leave to make a more explosive play on the next turn to increase the elemental's power. And since we're resorting to the Devotion package, including a few copies of Fanatic of Mogis to get an explosive reach on a full board is also a viable option, but as the card is a four-drop it becomes a bad topdeck when you're not ahead, I don't think it's a good idea to run four copies.
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Last but not least, we have a copy of Kazuul's Fury, merely because Anax, Hardened in the Forge is almost an Atog to this list, and having the occasional opportunity to sacrificing it with a “Fling” opens up the opportunity to immediately win the game, and the card also deals some nice damage when sacrificing Bonecrusher Giant or Fanatic of Mogis.
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On the Sideboard, we use some generic cards from red decks, such as Abrade to deal with artifacts, Lava Coil to deal with recurrent creatures, Fry to deal with Planeswalkers, Aethersphere Harvester for matchups against other aggressive decks and Roiling Vortex to add some reach while preventing the opponent from gaining life, and finally Kari Zev's Expertise for occasions where the opponent has only one large creature as a blocker.

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As for upgrades to this list, Chandra, Torch of Defiance could definitely replace Fanatic of Mogis, plus Den of the Bugbear and maybe a fourth copy of Embercleave, and perhaps we could try one or two copies of Hazoret the Fervent. I don't particularly like the idea of including Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, unless we choose to use more ways to abuse its ability, such as including Fanatic Firebrand and/or Scorch Spitter and Ember Hauler, but then we'll be talking about a list with another proposal.

Mono Green Stompy

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Mono-Green Aggro is a well-known deck in Standard and has done some results in Pioneer, and here, despite some tweaking, we managed to keep some essence of what makes the deck work by speeding up big creatures with Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves, enabling to cast Old-Growth Troll, Steel Leaf Champion, or Garruk's Harbinger on turn 2.
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When playing any of these creatures, the opponent needs to respond to them, usually with removals as few early game creatures can trade favorably with 4/4 or 5/4 bodies, and it is from this point on that cards like Snakeskin Veil help not only grow your creature, but also protect it. I don't believe in a consensus on which is the best creature, as it all depends on the occasion and which deck you're up against, but Steel Leaf Champion tends to set the best clock and avoid blockers on Early-Game.
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Primal Might is both used to remove an unwanted blocker or a problematic creature, and also to increase the clock on an empty board. By the way, the reason I choose Snakeskin Veil over Blossoming Defense in this deck is that Snakeskin Veil's pump is permanent, and this can make a significant difference in a deck where all 3 mana plays are impactful, and where the probability of you using a protection spell reactively is much higher. In short, I think this list seems to capitalize better around Snakeskin Veil than around Blossoming Defense.
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We also have some means to give evasion to our creatures. You can crew Heart of Kiran with virtually any creature on the list, and it offers a 4/4 clock with Flying, which can bypass a board with unfavorable trades, and can also be activated by Vivien, Arkbow Ranger The green Planeswalker used in this list may come at a relatively high price tag, but it offers everything the deck needs: ways to give Trample to your big threats, removal, and the occasional way to get access to useful Sideboard creatures.
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Originally, this list featured Werewolf Pack Leader, but as the card had a price increase last week, it was replaced by Avatar of the Resolute, which interacts well with Snakeskin Veil, Vivien, Arkbow Ranger, Scavenging Ooze and Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig. Scavenging Ooze is on the list for being very effective against graveyard decks, while also making a good late-game manasink on such a creature-oriented list.
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On the Sideboard, we have creatures for specific situations: Kraul Harpooner handles flying creatures well while offering a good body to build pressure against non-interactive decks. Mistcutter Hydra is a good card against decks with counterspells, as long as you don't forget to have ways to protect it, while Destiny Spinner can serve to protect your creatures from counterspells on early- game Reclamation Sage is your default answer to artifacts and/or enchantments, and possibly Outland Liberator might be a more interesting choice Setessan Petitioner can gain a significant amount of life alongside other creatures in play. As for spells, we have Inscription of Abundance as a modal card that can be used as extra removal, pump or a means to gain life against Burn. And for the upgrades that could be added, Werewolf Pack Leader and Collected Company would make this list much better, as Lair of the Hydra could be another interesting option, besides possibly some copies of Heroic Intervention on the Sideboard.

Conclusion

These were five Pioneer budgets decks that you can build to experience the format or have fun at your local store/event, or with your friends. Each of these lists was put together with an eye toward creating efficient decks that can entertain players and win games, but budget limitations mean they're not necessarily 100% ready to handle the format's Tier 1, but they're sure can get some good result in small events and I wouldn't be surprised if some of them could actually catch players off-guard. Some lists were based on decks produced by the content creator

Saffron Olive

, from MTGGoldfish, and my work essentially was adapting them to my taste and updating them with cards that came out in the latest sets. Other lists have been based on familiar archetypes from the community, or on iconic Standard lists from past seasons, updated with the vast card pool that only an eternal format can offer. Whichever list has caught your attention the most, I hope it will help you to know a little more about this format, and become interested in joining your local community. In the next article, I'll be bringing

multicolored

budget deck options! Thanks for reading!
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Humberto

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

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