Pioneer: Modern cards that could fit in the format

Magic: the Gathering

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Pioneer: Modern cards that could fit in the format

08/03/22 Comment regular icon0 comments

There's been a significant power level boost in Magic in recent years, and many Pioneer staples make it to Modern as well - but which Modern cards would be on the same level as Pioneer these days?

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By Romeu

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translated by Romeu

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revised by Eduardo Silveira

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Today, I decided to bring content closer to the casual and speculative spectrum: just over a week ago, I saw a post on a social network regarding which Modern cards players would like to play on Pioneer, and which of the staples that became "obsolete" in Modern could be useful if inserted into its younger sibling. Furthermore, the power level of Magic as a whole has increased significantly in recent years, and many Pioneer staples have also become Modern centerpieces - it would therefore be possible for some current or former important pieces of the older eternal format to be on par with the Pioneer when it comes to individual impact and quality or interaction with some of the main archetypes?

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So let's do a little thinking exercise here - The year is 202X, Wizards just announced that they will be releasing their first Pioneer-driven draft product, the

Pioneer Masters

. But... There's an extra: in addition to the obvious Pioneer reprints, some Modern-legal cards will be added to the product and automatically entered into the format legality. Let's be honest, that possibility exists, especially now that every Booster product comes with several variants and everything needs to always be

new and exciting

so that the consumer is interested in purchasing the cards and opening packs - and the company's handling of formats can always undergo severe changes, as exemplified by Modern Horizons or the legality of some Unfinity cards in eternal formats. So, in this hypothetical situation, which cards would you like to come from Modern to Pioneer? In this article, I separated twelve cards and two cycles that, I believe, would be interesting or beneficial to appear in the format - whether in a Standard set, or through a premium product - and considered how impactful and/or encouraging they would be on establishing new archetypes or would help fringe strategies to arise in the Metagame.

White

Esper Sentinel

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Probably one of the two most powerful cards in my selection, Esper Sentinel is a staple of various Modern and Legacy lists for offering one of the best white one-drops ever - but it's a card that's on my radar for a long time because its presence would be punishing for many popular archetypes these days. Its taxing effect is an interesting way to motivate more creature-based strategies in the format while punishing decks with plenty of spells, such as Izzet Phoenix, Lotus Combo or Boros Prowess, as well as being relatively useful against Rakdos Midrange, among other archetypes that run steeper noncreature spells, such as Fable of the Mirror-Breaker Also, being both an Artifact and a Human, Esper Sentinel would fit incredibly well into two well-known strategies: Humans, which has been growing in the Metagame recently, and Azorius Ensoul, which has disappeared from the format since Lurrus of the Dream-Den was banned. But it would also be present in the most varied lists with white creatures and would become an instant staple.

Kor Spiritdancer

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Since the banning of Lurrus of the Dream-Den, Auras has simply disappeared from the format. And honestly, I don't see any other way to benefit from this strategy without breaking the format in half other than increasing the number of Payoffs in the deck - and in that sense, Kor Spiritdancer is the best option. Having even more payoffs that allow the player to maintain their card parity while investing Auras into their creatures, and still coupled with a significant power boost, I imagine that Kor Spiritdancer would be an extremely beneficial addition to this archetype and, alongside Sram, Senior Edificer and Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice, would give enough consistency to make Auras viable again - as we see in Historic.

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Blue

Remand

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Some Pioneer lists today, such as Mono-Green Devotion, Rakdos Midrange, and even Azorius Control seek to pay high mana values ​​to cast their spells - making them an easy target for Remand. Now, Remand isn't exactly a Counterspell, it's a Tempo play - you trade two mana for returning the opponent's spell to their hand and drawing a card - in some stages it will be a pseudo-Time Walk and in others it will just be a two mana cantrip, depending on the board state and/or which deck your opponent is playing. Another option in this slot would be Mana Leak as an efficient answer against any archetype other than Big Mana, but we already have a variety of options similar to it: Quench, Make Disappear, Censor and Jwari Disruption, while Remand adds something relatively new to the format, whose only cards with similar effects are Unsubstantiate and Aether Gust.

Snapcaster Mage

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It is likely that Snapcaster Mage is too strong for Pioneer, but it is getting more and more outdated in Modern and no longer reaches an acceptable power level for Legacy - and it would be very interesting to have a home for it in Pioneer before the mage becomes totally obsolete in the formats where it is legal. However, its inclusion would add nothing to less popular strategies in the format. In fact, it would only collaborate even more to improve some of the decks that are currently on the rise, like Izzet Phoenix (where it interacts absurdly well with Ledger Shredder), Azorius Control and its variants - adding little or absolutely nothing in regard to increasing the Metagame diversity.

Black

Bloodghast

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In Pioneer, there is an archetype that made occasional results in the first few months of the format and disappeared as the Metagame was formed and leaving little room for it. Despite useful recent additions like Otherworldly Gaze, the Dredgeless Dredge still lacks good payoffs coming from the graveyard to trigger Prized Amalgam more often - and that brings us to Bloodghast or Gravecrawler. Among them, I'd prefer Bloodghast as it's a relatively harder card to break in unexpected ways, as it can only return to the battlefield via Landfall - as well as collaborating with two strategies that I particularly hold dear: Vampires and Mono-Black Aggro.

Death's Shadow

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Death's Shadow is my favorite creature in Magic: The Gathering and that would be reason enough to include it in the list, but let's evaluate the card based on the competitive landscape: how powerful would it really be without Fetch Lands and Street Wraith? If we look at the closest example - Historic - Death's Shadow is not even among the format's main competitors and is often just a high-risk card with little reward in a format where mana efficiency is much lower than it used to be in Modern, and the absence of many proactive means of losing life to gain some advantage would lead us to play with sub-optimized options like Shatterskull Smashing, Adanto Vanguard or Sign in Blood.

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That said, its presence on Pioneer would definitely encourage players to come up with the most varied lists to take advantage of one of the most famous one-drops in the game, and it would be very interesting to see a Rakdos list with it alongside Monastery Swiftspear and Scourge of the Skyclaves.

Red

Galvanic Blast

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Outside artifact-centric strategies, how powerful would a Shock with steroids be on Pioneer? Galvanic Blast would be one of Pioneer's most polarizing cards: or it would be outstanding and become a staple even for Burn, which would change its structure in favor of those 4 extra damage including Voldaren Epicure and maybe even Experimental Synthesizer, or it would see play in very specific strategies geared towards artifacts, like Izzet Ensoul and the recent Metalwork Colossus archetypes. However, my biggest concern about Galvanic Blast wouldn't exactly be its impact on Burn or Ensoul, but on Sacrifice decks that would have a clock boost with absurd ease of access thanks to interactions between Witch's Oven, Deadly Dispute and Experimental Synthesizer - not to mention the Blood tokens created by Bloodtithe Harvester and Voldaren Epicure.

Goblin Chieftain

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Goblins have many elements of what it needs to be viable in Pioneer: Legion Loyalist, Goblin Piledriver, Goblin Warchief, Skirk Prospector and even Collected Company if you want - but it doesn't have enough lords to justify trying to create a successful tribal archetype. Goblin Chieftain would be part of the push needed to bring a new tribal deck to Pioneer's competitors - and an option I even consider possible to occur in

Dominaria United

.

Green

Birds of Paradise

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Birds of Paradise is one of the most iconic cards in Magic history, and also one of the best mana dorks in the game - but one that has become obsolete on a variety of lists due to the low need for a one-drop to speed up mana, or the creation of more functional options like Noble Hierarch and its cousin Ignoble Hierarch. On Pioneer, in addition to the likely inclusion to Niv-to-Light - despite being a worse blocker than Sylvan Caryatid - and the notorious push it would give Four-Color Ascendancy, Birds of Paradise would bring some possibilities for ramp archetypes with two or more colors and speed up the heavier plays of green Midranges, as well as improve the viability of options like Abzan or Jund and, who knows, even give a home to one of the most nostalgic creatures that doesn't have a home yet, Siege Rhino. The concern, however, is how much improving Niv-to-Light's mana and giving Mono-Green Devotion the option to have up to twelve mana dorks would really be problematic in the medium to long term.

Rancor

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Rancor, as harmless as it sounds, could give a massive boost to a variety of strategies. This enchantment alone could significantly improve Gruul Aggro's performance, make Gruul Prowess viable as a competitive option in Pioneer, make Mono Green Stompy more consistent, and add an all-important payoff to Selesnya Auras, not to mention the possibility of giving a good evasion for other creature archetypes like Humans.

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Artifacts

Spellskite

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I'm always more interested in having more answers than threats in a format, since that allows better threats and more thoughtful strategies to be built without becoming problematic or broken - and we still need to consider In that sense, if I had to choose between generic artifacts that work as good engines or threats (like Batterskull or Cranial Plating), and given that most decent answers in the form of artifacts that don't become lock pieces (like Ensnaring Bridge) are already available in Pioneer, my pick would be Spellskite, as a decent blocker that punishes spells from archetypes like Burn, Boros Heroic or Auras. However, it is possible that he would make it too unfeasible for Aggro lists who try to play under - Spellskite is a 0/4 creature, so it blocks Monastery Swiftspear and the like very well, and the ability to use Phyrexian mana to redirect important spell targets would mean having to rework these strategies to deal with a creature that fits on virtually any deck.

Engineered Explosives

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One need I feel in Pioneer - especially given the amount of archetypes that have a low curve - is the need to efficiently respond to diverse threats with just one card and with as much flexibility as possible. In that sense, I really like Engineered Explosives as a versatile weapon against a variety of low-cost permanents: from early-drops in Burn to Witch's Oven in Rakdos Sacrifice, not to mention the ability to deal with the more menacing curve of Go Wide archetypes like Spirits and Humans in one available for basically any multi-colored list artifact.

Lands

Allied Fast Lands

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Fast Lands are part of one of the most important land cycles in Magic: The Gathering and all enemy color variants see a lot of play in Pioneer, and it has always felt extremely unfair that allied colors have a harder time putting their pieces together and playing with good early-game timing, although this issue has been mitigated with Pathways. So, obviously, it would be nice if, at some point, Wizards would complete the missing land cycles for Pioneer. In the case of Fast Lands, a perfect opportunity for this may come when we return to

New Phyrexia

, which used to be Mirrodin and, probably, the locations referred to in the lands must still exist - albeit in an entirely different landscape than we knew.

Allied Pain Lands

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Following the same logic, the absence of Painlands also worsens the diversity of land available in allied colors in the format, despite the enemy color cycle being rarely used in many lists. The current return to Dominaria and the future release of The Brothers' War brings an incredible window of opportunity to finally insert these cards into Pioneer, since some of them directly refer to the locations of this plane.

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Conclusion

At the end of this article, I emphasize that this text is intended as a mere exercise in speculative thinking and should not be treated as a wish list - except for Death's Shadow. However, one very interesting fact that I realized in writing this article is that many of the great Maindeck and Sideboard cards in Modern these days that are not parts of the Horizons sets are also present in Pioneer. This demonstrates how notorious the power level increase in recent years has become, and that we don't necessarily need to demonize or consider irrational the idea that older cards might one day also have their place in the format and still be on par with the rest of the Metagame without specifically breaking Pioneer. And which cards and old staples of Modern do you think are on par with Pioneer's Power Level today? What options would you add to the format if you could? Thanks for reading!
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Romeu

Writer and translator for Cards Realm and journalism student. Plays virtually every Magic: The Gathering competitive format.

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