With the preview season for Dominaria United over, it's time for the review season here at Cards Realm, and today I'll be guiding you through my set analysis for Pioneer.
Anointed Peacekeeper is a good contender for the Elite Spellbinder slot, which trades the evasion of a 3/1 Flying for the ability to name any card to increase its cost, even spells that aren't in the opponent's hand, in addition to taxing activated abilities of permanents such as Witch's Oven or Planeswalkers, but with the consequence of this tax being eliminated if it leaves play.
I think it's a useful addition to Humans, which works a bit better against Sacrifice decks, but also has a lower effect compared to Elite Spellbinder in grindy matchups, or against Control, where permanently delaying a threat like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is more important than the flexibility provided by Anointed Peacekeeper.
Time will tell which one is the best consensus on the Maindeck of various white-based Aggro or Collected Company lists in general.
Danitha, Benalia's Hope lets you play around high equip costs like Colossus Hammer, and has a set of abilities that make it a threat on its own, even more so if equipped with the artifact. I see potential for her if we can play around her high mana cost.
Guardian of New Benalia is an interesting alternative to Seasoned Hallowblade, which sees play in some variants of the Greasefang, Okiba Boss archetypes.
This removal is incredibly powerful in Five-Color Goodstuff decks such as Niv-to-Light or Enigmatic Fires, with the latter still having the advantage of turning to Nylea's Presence to make Leyline Binding a comprehensive and unconditional removal for just one mana.
Also, alongside Enigmatic Incarnation, this removal can bring to the battlefield some of Pioneer's biggest threats and bombs as early as turn 4, such as Koma, Cosmos Serpent, Angel of Serenity, Agent of Treachery, Dragonlord Atarka, Lord Xander, the Collector, Resolute Archangel and World Breaker.
Serra Paragon is a great resource for White-Based Aggro like Angels and Humans, and perhaps has some potential to bring back somewhat forgotten archetypes like Auras, but I'm a bit skeptical of its use, since she isn't a Lurrus of the Dream-Den and eats maindeck slots to function.
That said, this new creature has enough potential, and I wouldn't be surprised if it became the best creature in Dominaria United, especially given its obvious interaction with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, which can also make it a powerful piece for some Midranges.
Urza Assembles the Titans is a compelling saga that emulates one of the most iconic artifacts in the game and which has been used in Mono Green Devotion: The Chain Veil.
Additionally, the saga offers card selection and lets you cheat on mana to put a Planeswalker into play for free, from Elspeth, Sun's Champion to Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God, and the potential to double their activated abilities for one turn is enough to win games on their own.
I'm not sure where it would fit into the format these days, but it's too powerful to ignore and will likely find a home in Pioneer at some point.
I I've made an article where I explained in detail the potential impact that I see in Temporary Lockdown for eternal formats.
My opinion of the card in Pioneer hasn't changed since then, and I believe it will be an important part of the Maindeck and Sideboard for Azorius Control and the like, but I recommend reading it.
Functioning mostly like a Curiosity, the new blue aura can serve as copies 5 to 8 of Curious Obsession, increasing the consistency of certain archetypes such as Mono Blue Spirits and Mono Blue Tempo, while helping to establish archetypes like Azorius Heroic.
While it doesn't offer a power boost, Combat Research also doesn't force you to attack every turn to maintain the card advantage engine, which is relevant in certain games for Spirits, and that's reason enough to be worth a few tests in current lists.
Many have been talking about the interaction between Founding the Third Path and See The Truth, where you can use the saga to copy it from your graveyard and thus draw three cards for two mana, while the saga on its own isn't exactly bad as all of its abilities help advance the game in many archetypes, as well as triggering Ledger Shredder and adding two instances of Prowess with a single card.
In theory, this Saga seems very useful and powerful for Pioneer, especially alongside See the Truth, but time will tell if there really is room for this interaction in the format.
Haughty Djinn is a quirky mix of Tempest Djinn with Baral, Chief of Compliance and Enigma Drake, and the mix of a fast and elusive clock with reduced cost for your spells can make him a good cornerstone for Izzet Tempo/Prowess lists if needed, or even a complementary threat on more grindy lists, like Izzet Drake.
I don't really like this card in Izzet Phoenix as it's vulnerable to the same weaknesses as the archetype — graveyard hate — which makes it less useful than Crackling Drake in that regard, but I wouldn't be surprised if players attempts the test and succeed with some copies on the maindeck.
In addition, Haughty Djinn is also a good threat to Control because it grows fast and helps protect itself by turning your Sinister Sabotage into Counterspells.
Vesuvan Duplimancy is a very unique effect and this time it's not coupled to a creature, like Orvar, the All-Form, so I'm adding it to this list because there could be very interesting interactions with this enchantment in the future.
Although Vodalian Hexcatcher is extremely useful for Merfolks in Modern, I believe its use will still be limited in Pioneer as long as the archetype base doesn't compensate on its own compared to other tribal strategies in the format like Humans, Spirits, Angels or Vampires, where every creature comes with a value attached to it and operates relatively well on its own.
The new lord collaborates by turning your Merfolks into Cursecatchers, and this will definitely win some games based on that ability, but I feel like the tribe still lags far behind compared to other tribals that exist in the format and can't take full advantage of mana cheating means like Collected Company and Pyre of Heroes.
Many jumped on the hype train when Cut Down was revealed, and most of those people misread it.
Cut Down counts the target creature's power and toughness, if less than 5, the creature is destroyed. So, it doesn't kill so many things in Pioneer that I can't imagine in what situations I would prefer it over Fatal Push or even Bloodchief's Thirst.
It has some relevant valid targets, like Monastery Swiftspear on early-game or Dreadhorde Arcanist, but the amount of things it doesn't kill is much higher, so I don't think this spell deserves the slots on the maindeck or sideboard of most lists.
I like how Evolved Sleeper grows over the course of the game, as you can use its last ability multiple times, but it requires a very high investment while having little immediate impact.
I think this creature would be infinitely better in a world with Lurrus of the Dream-Den, but with the Companion banned, it's just an interesting option as a one-of in some specific strategies that can accommodate spending your turns paying mana to activate it without worrying so much about taking a removal in response.
I think this is a very important creature for Explorer, especially in Best of One matches, where one of the most popular strategies is Lifegain decks, and Knight of Dusk's Shadow is an answer that still has utility on the Maindeck as a 2/2 with a manasink effect.
Also, this knight is the first "can't gain life" effect on black since Erebos, God of the Dead.
I made a full article about the possible impact of Liliana of the Veil on Standard and Pioneer, and I recommend that you read it as I explain in more detail how this Planeswalker works and what builds are needed for it to succeed.
That said, my opinion of Liliana since this article has changed a bit when it comes to Rakdos Midrange: I believe she is definitely worth the Maindeck slot in this archetype for her potential in Mirror Match and her notorious interaction with Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger .
Defiler of Instinct gives Grinning Ignus a mix of enabler and wincondition on a single card if you have more life than your opponent, or two copies of Prosperous Innkeeper in play.
Since you can pay 2 life to reduce a red mana cost of a red permanent spell, you can cast Grinning Ignus for just , pay a red mana to return it to your hand, and add and repeat the process paying life, dealing 1 damage each time Grinning Ignus comes into play.
With a Prosperous Innkeeper in play, you can repeat the loop for lethal damage if you have more life than your opponent, or for infinite damage with two copies of creatures that give you 1 life each time a creature comes into play.
I believe that, as a threat in its own right, this Phyrexian Kavu works better than Birgi, God of Storytelling by offering infinite damage rather than just infinite life, but at the cost of bypassing the restrictions of the main card advantage engine of the archetype today: Collected Company.
Jaya, Fiery Negotiator has an extremely decent combination of abilities and even manages to compete on par with Chandra, Torch of Defiance in Pioneer: her first ability creates tokens with Prowess, and as we already know through Monastery Mentor, tokens with this ability for a decent cost manage to get out of control quickly. Additionally, Jaya also offers, although as a -1, a more selective card advantage than Chandra.
On the other hand, Chandra, Torch of Defiance is superior in terms of interacting with the opponent (4 damage is better than X being conditioned to the number of attacking creatures), in addition to becoming a much more consistent finisher than her mentor.
So, I think Chandra is more efficient for Midranges like Rakdos because it works better on the archetype's proposal, but Jaya, Fiery Negotiator offers some extra breath for proactive archetypes who want more creatures in play every turn, or who care in building up pressure while stringing efficient spells like most Izzet archetypes, or even some Burn variant (where I can only imagine it on the Sideboard, as Chandra, Dressed to Kill is infinitely better on the maindeck for that strategy).
Phoenix Chick is a flying one-drop, with immediate impact and the ability to return to the battlefield if you extend your board while pressuring your opponent.
While not as useful in Burn, it does seem like a great addition to Mono Red Aggro which resorts to Anax, Hardened in the Forge and Embercleave as winconditions, as this list tends to have three or more creatures in play without difficulties, specially with Kari Zev, Skyship Raider as a support.
Goblins occasionally appear in Pioneer Leagues, and even manage to achieve some good results, but lack enough support to become impactful enough in the Metagame due to the absence of decent lords. For example, the Pioneer version doesn't have Goblin Chieftain.
Unlike Merfolks, who tend to play for Tempo and this is a category where Spirits operate best, Goblins tend to play for the Race, avoiding giving the opponent enough time to catch their breath through their tribal synergies that make all your creatures a must-answer threat
Therefore, Rundvelt Hordemaster is a great improvement for this tribe, since not only it offers a Lord for two mana, but also makes each creature of yours that dies with a removal or during combat a new card for you to cast on your next turn, and interacts wonderfully with Skirk Prospector and the like that turn every creature you own into a new spell from the top of the deck.
It is this support category that all tribes in Pioneer need, Rundvelt Hordemaster significantly increases the quality of your creatures and punishes the opponent for interacting with them, combining the quality factor with the quantity of creatures that this archetype easily manages to put on board.
Speaking of Goblins, I really like the new Squee's ability combination. He is superior to a Legion Warboss and works as a recurring threat in any archetype where he is needed.
While I consider him a likely Standard staple, in Pioneer his potential is relatively mitigated, and I'm not sure which archetype would really like him — even in Goblins, Squee is directly competing with Goblin Rabblemaster.
As long as we don't have Elvish Archdruid or any creature similar to Priest of Titania, I don't believe Elves is a viable competitive option in Pioneer with the inclusion of Leaf-Crowned Visionary, even with the new lord having almost the same qualities as Rundvelt Hordemaster.
Llanowar Loamspeaker has a lot of potential in Jeskai Ascendancy where, on its own, it helps to accumulate extra mana, and it can transform your lands into creatures to combo and win the game during the combat phase, complementing the function of Sylvan Awakening and Sylvan Caryatid with a single slot.
Silverback Elder looks worse than Cavalier of Thorns or Elder Gargaroth in every instance I can think of for Pioneer.
Tear Asunder is a maindeckable answer to a variety of problematic threats such as Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Parhelion II while also being part of a Binding the Old Gods at instant-speed, and that flexibility pays off in a format where artifacts and enchantments are commonplace in the competitive landscape.
Honorable mention because, while I haven't tested anything regarding this card, usually flexible tutors tend to give consistency to broken ideas in competitive formats, if you know where to look.
The new tutor is also an interesting option for Goodstuff archetypes with Yorion, Sky Nomad.
Urborg Lhurgoyf is only similar to Tarmogoyf — which, as proven in the Historic, became an outdated threat — at its cost.
I can imagine some variants of Abzan Greasefang trying to adopt this card, or Delirium looking to take advantage of it, but the format is already so geared towards graveyard interactions that the absence of any other attached effects seems to make the new Goyf minimally mediocre even in strategies that want stuff in their graveyards, as normally the creature counts on those lists aren't high enough to consistently make it a respectable threat.
People want to make Colossus Hammer work on Pioneer too, so Astor, Bearer of Blades deserves an honorable mention as it helps you find the combo piece while also functioning as an enabler, but for a cost that I consider as heavy for a combo that wants to win the game quickly.
Balmor, Battlemage Captain is a decent choice for Prowess lists as it provides yet another additional power boost for creatures, as well as granting them Trample.
It significantly speeds up the clock and makes even non-prowess creatures like Ledger Shredder more menacing for every spell you cast, in addition to passing the Reckless Rage test.
The new Ertai is an interesting variant of the spell category similar to Vendilion Clique, offering a card in exchange for countering or destroying anything on the other side of the board.
I see it as a pretty solid option for Pioneer's Metagame on lists like Dimir Control, or Grixis Midrange variants that appear occasionally in Leagues.
King Darien is a decent new lord for Humans, especially in Bant or Selesnya variants that don't have General Kudro of Drannith. But unfortunately, his abilities only interacts with tokens, making him "just" a three mana lord with a mana sink ability that will be underused.
Honorable mention as a possible addition to Angels decks as a decent late-game manasink to keep your resources flowing, but its subtypes don't interact with the archetype's purpose, other than forcing the addition of an extra color.
Honorable mention as a potential cost-saver for artifacts and enchantments at a decent cost.
There aren't many effects and/or spells that require paying life to activate or cast on Pioneer these days, something that could change with the Defilers released in Dominaria United, and make Karn's Sylex an option in the vast toolbox of Karn, the Great Creator.
As a Sweeper, the fact that Sylex comes into play tapped and "announces" the board wipe is a big con in its usefulness, but the scope of clearing the board from turn 4 against any nonland on the battlefield can make it more useful than what we are currently evaluating.
I don't think Weatherlight Compleated does enough on its own to earn its slots in archetypes like Rakdos Sacrifice, where it questionably interacts with the proposed strategy, as you need four Cat-Oven cycles to turn it into a creature, or from multiple repeated sacrifice effects, forcing you to stretch out longer than you normally would if you really want to take advantage of the vehicle to set the clock.
On the other hand, Rakdos Sacrifice tends to have trouble keeping the flow of good cards flowing after the first few plays and often ends up crashing in the face of a string of bad draws, and Weatherlight Compleated helps with that thanks to Scry 1 and extra draws.
Thran Portal is a bizarre mix of several lands coupled into a single card: it's a Gate, works like a painland, chooses a land type as if it were a Fabled Passage, and has the condition to enter untapped as a fast land.
Without fast lands, I could imagine it as a decent and viable option for the most varied archetypes, but with the arrival of the allied Painlands to the format, its utility space becomes much more limited as it offers the same restrictive condition to pay life to generate mana.
That said, I believe that multicolored archetypes that care about land types and want flexible drops can leverage Thran Portal to perfection.
The allied Painlands cycle is finally coming to Pioneer!
With Adarkar Wastes, Sulfurous Springs and Karplusan Forest in Dominaria United, and the future arrival of Underground River and Brushland in The Brothers' War, allied manabases receive an excellent boon that makes it possible to be more consistent in playing with untapped lands in the first few turns for the small cost of 1 life whenever necessary.
All the cycle have some potential, and will possibly be used as 2-ofs or 1-ofs in certain archetypes, and even as 4-ofs in more aggressive decks, but like the enemy lands cycle, they won't be unanimous, and they might eventually end up dated in relation to the other lands, especially if the allied Fast Lands cycle appears in the future in Phyrexia: All Will be One or March of the Machine.
That's all for today.
Dominaria United brings a dozen interesting options to Pioneer, with some of its cards definitely deserving of space in the maindeck and sideboard of their respective archetypes, with the potential to significantly alter some of the main structures of the format, but absolutely nothing seemingly arrives to the level of breaking the Metagame.
Thanks for reading!
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