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Pioneer: All about Magic's ever-growing format

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Pioneer is turning 3! Let's talk about the format that has grown the most currently, its creation and decks, how the Metagame has been shaping up, where to play and deck suggestions.

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переведено Romeu

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рассмотрено Joey Sticks

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What is Pioneer?

Pioneer is a format created in 2019 in which cards released from the Return to Ravnica onwards are legal. This already covers almost 11 years of legal sets within the format.

Before going through your old trade binder to build a deck, it's good to understand an important aspect about Pioneer: like any format, sometimes overly powerful cards are released, and by showing too much dominance, some of them were banned.

Pioneer is also a format that serves as an option to play your cards after the Standard rotation.


Dissecting here, Standard is the main format of Wizards, where most of the sets are released, and that each year, 4 sets come out to make room for new sets in the format.


Right before the format was created, WotC made it clear in its announcement about seeking a more organic development.

With that in mind, it was decided to create it without any bans, even with cards that were problematic when legal in Standard, except for the 5 fetchlands released in Khans of Tarkir, as it was considered these cards would streamline the format's deckbuilding.

In the early months of Pioneer, players brought old popular decks into the pattern to test out the newly launched format, such as Copy Cat, Marvel and others, and as soon as Banhammer went down, more Pioneer was formed.

Cards like Felidar Guardian, Field of the Dead, Uro, and Inverter of Truth were banned alongside quite a few others throughout the years:

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The Pioneer Today

Today, there is a good variance of decks playing with some cards that appear throughout the format, and here we can have an idealink outside website of what one needs to get into it.

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The top 4 decks in the format currently are Rakdos Midrange, Nykthos Ramp, Izzet Phoenix, and Mono White Humans. A Midrange, a Combo, a Tempo and an Aggro, showing diversity and different game types for any taste.

I separated the cards that make the most difference in each deck, in addition to talking about each one of them and how they play.

Metagame and Decklists

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Rakdos Midrange has many removals and the strongest discard tool ever created in Magic: The Gathering, Thoughtseize. It interacts with whatever is on your opponents' hand by the cost of one black mana and 2 health points. Early game it is amazing and though later on it can be a terrible topdeck, it is essential so you can deal with cards that cannot come down, or that you don't want to be cast, ever.

Its game is very interactive, and when you are matched against Mono White (or Aggros in general), it can remove its discard and put in more removals and strong creatures that put a hamper on Aggro decks' plans. Check out a Deck Tech and Sideboard Guide for Rakdos right herelink outside website.


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Nykthos Ramp has been a common deck since the format was created, but before that, it was even called Mono Green Planeswalkers.

Since Karn has been getting new toys to fetch from the sideboard, this has become a combo deck that often manages to go off on turn 3 with the right draws.

We had several bans because of this deck, as they were cards that combo easily, and it is still possible that they have new bans in the format. Many bet on the card that gives the deck its name, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to take the hammer someday, since it easily generates a lot of mana, even more so in green which was always good at it. But the combo is only possible with Karn, the Great Creator, which could be another option — and with its banning, it could keep a traditional deck and card alive in the format.

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Phoenix is another popular deck since Pioneer was created. With the ability to easily bring Arclight Phoenix out of the Graveyard to turn the tables in your favor, in addition to the Thing in the Ice, it's a very effective strategy.

A "new" card that was an instant addition was Ledger Shredder, which, brings an excellent threat that also puts Phoenixes in the graveyard while getting stronger.

WotC even released a preconstructed deck of Izzet Phoenix. To learn more about it and how to improve the deck to a competitive level, right herelink outside website.

On opponents: the creatures that Mono Green brings in and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben can disrupt the game plan, but with a removals package and an extra turn with Phoenix in the graveyard, we can take the victory from the opponent's hands.

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Mono White Humans became a reality with the Innistrad: Midnight Hunt set bringing Thalia into the format, making it possible to tax non-creature spells, and bringing one of the best Aggro creature ever printed to white: Adeline, Resplendent Cathar.

In addition to easily scaling damage with her ability, Adeline creates tokens every time she attacks, putting pressure on the board.

It's worth mentioning the wonderful Brave the Elements, which can both protect your creatures, and on a mono-colored board remove blockers and attack for lethal.

The decklist has a packgae of creature-shaped removals like Brutal Cathar to control the enemy board and Mutavaults to add pressure, in addition to being difficult to remove sorcery speed.

Other Decks

Other decks that also stand out and get an honorable mention are Azorius Control, Abzan Greasefang, Gruul Midrange, Hidden Strings (Lotus Combo) and Selesnya Aggro.

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You can check out more about the Pioneer metagame in this articlelink outside website, in addition to competitive decks to start herelink outside website.


Pioneer's Main Staples


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Lands (not counting basic ones)

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Where to Play Pioneer

You can play the tabletop format at your favorite store or via MTGO (Magic: the Gathering Online).

If you want to play a similar format through Magic Arena, you can also play Explorer.

About Explorer and Magic Arena

Magic Arena still doesn't have all Pioneer-legal sets available, missing some important arcs - it has sets from Ixalan (2017) onwards. But through several relevant reprints in the format and the Explorer Anthology 1link outside website and Explorer Anthology 2link outside website, most of the relevant cards from these sets can be found in Arena.

Since it's not "all done" yet, certain decks that can be made in Pioneer won't be playable in Explorer, and some decks can change a lot with the Metagame.

Classics like Mono Green Ramp and Izzet Phoenix play in the format, as does the mighty Rakdos Midrange. With the addition of the latest Explorer Anthology, the formats are expected to become much closer together, including the addition of Nykthos to upgrade devotion decks.

Commander on Pioneer

When the Throne of Eldrainelink outside website set was released, a lot was said about how powerful it was in Standard.

And there was one more surprise: WotC launched 4 commanders in Standard to promote the Brawl format, launched 4 decks with cards that didn't come in traditional booster packs, but that were added to standard and consequently to Pioneer and that one of them greatly affected the format.

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Korvold proved so powerful, even with 5 mana and a sacrifice shell so good at the time that it was one of the top decks in the format, it already paid for itself as soon as it entered the battlefield generating value, and many times untapping with it was enough to win the game.

Are Commander exclusive sets legal on Pioneer?

No. Commander-exclusive sets such as Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gatelink outside website are legal only in Commander and eternal formats such as Legacy and Pauper.



There's a lot to talk about and enjoy in this wonderful format, plus plenty of room to explore it, and a lower cost of entry than Modern.

And one more advantage is that if you have a very advanced collection in Arena, it is possible to delve through decks there in Explorer to then decide whether you want to build them on tabletop or MTGO.

That's all for today!