This last year has been a long and very interesting one for Magic: The Gathering as a game, and we at Cards Realm have started our retrospective season, where we remember important moments of Magic this year and also evaluate the impact that 2022 will leave for the competitive formats.
Today, we're going to evaluate the ten most impactful cards released this year for Pioneer!
10 - March of Otherworldly Light & Farewell
Before Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, Azorius Control and other archetypes with white had to resort to slower or conditional spells to deal with artifacts and enchantments without losing interaction slots for creature removals, such as Portable Hole and Detention Sphere.
The arrival of March of Otherworldly Light and Farewell to Pioneer has increased the flexibility of white to deal with varying threats, and provides an efficient means of dealing with problematic situations in the current Metagame, while also creating enough security for the format, as useful answers for future new iterations that might show up on the next years.
9 - Sheoldred, the Apocalypse
Although all the attention Dominaria United was focused on Liliana of the Veil, it was Sheoldred, the Apocalypse who stood out after its release and became a staple for various strategies on Pioneer.
With its presence mainly in Rakdos Midrange, but also present in Mono Black, Dimir Control and even in some versions of Lotus Combo where it wins the game alongside Peer into the Abyss, Sheoldred conquered her space after proving to be a predominant force in Standard, and her ability to punish long attrition games and midrange mirrors made her a staple in 2022's Pioneer, where she is among the top three most played creatures in the format.
8 - Leyline Binding
Multicolored decks got some new and important pieces in 2022, most notably the missing lands from the Triomes cycle in Streets of New Capenna. But another impactful addition to these strategies was Leyline Binding, which offers a definitive answer to any non-land permanent, with Flash and for up to one mana.
In addition to its flexibility as a removal, Leyline Binding also stands out for its interactions with other cards: it's at the right mana value and with the perfect abilities to be part of Keruga Fires, it's the best interaction that Niv- to-Light would ever wish for, and its 6 cost means Enigmatic Incarnation can sacrifice it to fetch Agent of Treachery, Dragonlord Atarka or Koma, Cosmos Serpent as soon as on turn 4.
7 - The Wandering Emperor
Regarded as the strongest white Planeswalker released to date, The Wandering Emperor has made her mark in virtually every competitive format and is even present in Legacy due to the ideal combination of flexible abilities at a reasonable cost.
Despite being mainly present in Azorius Control and Esper Control, this Planeswalker also finds space in some variants of Esper Greasefang, where she allows a Midrange stance in attrition games alongside Raffine, Scheming Seer.
6 - Capenna's Triomes
Complementing the cycle released in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, the Triomes returned in Streets of New Capenna, albeit under a different name. Representing the home of each of the five demons which leads the five families that rule the plane, these lands have increased the consistency and flexibility of decks that run three or more colors, and have become one of the main reasons why Leyline Binding is so helpful in these archetypes.
5 - Ledger Shredder
Also released in Streets of New Capenna, Ledger Shredder was another game changer for competitive formats in 2022. Several players and content creators initially disregarded the added value that filtering your own hand and growing this creature in the process could bring to strategies that already seek to cast a large number of spells, as Turbo Xerox strategies do.
In Pioneer, the main Turbo Xerox archetype is Izzet Phoenix, which naturally wants to discard certain pieces to the graveyard to return them to the battlefield and/or feed them to cast Treasure Cruise or Temporal Trespass. However, the bird has also found a home in Esper Greasefang and any Izzet deck that seeks to play multiple spells in a single turn, be it alongside Young Pyromancer, Arclight Phoenix or Crackling Drake.
4 - Channel Lands
The Channel Lands cycle was one of the most elegant land designs released in the last decade: the fact that none of them enters tapped makes them essential for any list with one or two colors, but as they are legendary, no deck would really like more than one or two copies of each, mitigating their potential effects over the course of a game.
Even so, virtually all Channel Lands are present in most lists of the format, with rare occasions where we see a deck without at least one or two of them. Therefore, despite being run in a few copies, they have become essential for Pioneer.
3 - Greasefang, Okiba Boss
Our Top 10 list so far brought cards that became important pieces in different strategies, or that collaborated and improved a certain deck, or became important pieces for the format's structure, but none of them created a strategy of their own and succeeded.
Greasefang, Okiba Boss, on the other hand, set out on his own to create a strategy with numerous variants by easily enabling a two-card combo with Parhelion II, where Greasefang reanimates the vehicle and its controller attacks for 13 damage, creating two 4/4 Angel tokens that will grant the other eight damage the next turn.
The potential to create a board position capable of winning the game in two turns has led to this combo being experimented with extensively in various shells on Pioneer, giving rise to more midrange-oriented lists in Mardu and Esper variants, or focused on the Combo-Control plan, or in its most famous version today, Abzan, which performs the combo as quickly as possible while also having powerful interactions alongside Esika's Chariot.
2 - Fable of the Mirror-Breaker
Overall, the most powerful card of 2022 was Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. The new saga does so much for so little that it basically established itself as a staple of many lists that run red in Pioneer, becoming an essential part of Rakdos Midrange, Sacrifice variants and also Mardu Greasefang, in addition to facilitating the use of a third color in decks like Grixis Midrange and increase the consistency for Enigmatic Fires and Keruga Fires.
Another space that Fable of the Mirror-Breaker opened up in Pioneer was the rise of Indomitable Creativity strategies, which could now turn to better means of creating the tokens needed to cast their main card to win the game.
This red saga has done a lot for Pioneer over the course of this year, and its relevance to the competitive landscape is comparable to other cards which are now considered part of the format's pillars.
1 - Unlicensed Hearse
Having a Sideboard card as the most important of 2022 for Pioneer may seem crazy, but if we compare the format we have today with what we had last year, one of the main pieces that changed the Metagame was the existence of a vehicle that could function both as a graveyard hate and as a win condition, which was Unlicensed Hearse.
The artifact released in Streets of New Capenna helped Pioneer to put in check some of the main strategies that were at the top of the format for a long time, especially Izzet Phoenix, in addition to being one of the cards that collaborates in maintaining Greasefang, Okiba Boss in check, despite potentially being a turn 3 combo.
Furthermore, Unlicensed Hearse is such an important means to combat certain strategies in Pioneer and is so easy to fit into most lists that it has become the most played card in the format today, with around two copies present in 38% of decks.
Therefore, due to the changes it caused in the Metagame, its presence on the sideboard of a considerable amount of lists, and due to its potential to remain a staple for years to come, Unlicensed Hearse is the card most important of 2022 for Pioneer!
Pioneer has changed a lot in 2022. We've seen a variety of powerful cards enter the format, as well as impactful reprints like Liliana of the Veil, which didn't make the list as she made less impact than expected in the long term.
Apparently, next year's releases will also bring news that could significantly change the format, in addition to historical reprints from other years of the game, as in the case of Phyrexian Obliterator.
Thanks for reading!
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