Pioneer Tournament Breakdown
Over the weekend we held our first Pioneer tournament since re-opening and it was a great hit. We had a total of 14 players taking part, representing a whopping 11 different archetypes! I’m going to take this opportunity to run through a few of the different decks that were played to give a bit more of an in depth look into the format.
In my previous article (shameless self plug) I took a look at the new Pioneer Challenger decks (still available at Athena Games) and gave a rough breakdown of how the decks worked, three out of four of those were played at the weekend, the notable exception being lotus field combo, so those will be skipped for now.
Izzet (blue-red) Phoenix
This was the most popular deck played, with a total of three copies. The deck revolves around flooping (a technical term for cheating a creature into play) multiple copies of Arclight Phoenix into play by casting spells, usually these draw cards, put cards into your graveyard, or interact with what your opponent is trying to do. Additional threats come in the form of Thing in the Ice and Smoldering Egg/Ashmouth Dragon, all of which reward you for casting a bunch of spells.
The power of this deck comes from it’s versatility and consistency. As the deck is mostly made up of cantrips (spells that replace themselves by drawing after they’ve resolved) it’s really efficient at finding they key cards it needs, and being a blue deck it has access to counter spells and the best mass draw spells in the format, Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise.
We had a few different control decks played over the weekend, including the one that won the tournament. Esper (blue-white-black) control and Jeskai (blue-white-red) control have a similar build by win in vastly different ways. Esper usually wins using the traditional UW (blue-white) methods of Approach of the Second Sun or large planeswalkers once you have a control over the game.
The Jeskai variation seeks to leverage Fires of Invention to gain massive mana advantages over its opponents also having access to the old standard package of Lukka and creature tokens to floop (see previous) an Agent of Treachery into play from your library and start stealing your opponents stuff.
The other control variants were a Grixis (blue-black-red) control/ midrange deck which utilises creatures like Nicol Bolas, the Ravager and God Eternal Kefnet, alongside efficient black removal spells and red mass creature removal like Anger of the Gods to control the board. This build usually wins through the large flying creatures which give the deck a quick clock if not interacted with.
The last control deck is a bit of a stretch in Sultai (blue-black-green) flash. This deck uses a lot of the favourite control cards such as Torrential Gearhulk and Dig Through Time, but also has access to smaller flash threats in Nightpack Ambusher and Brazen Borrower which give the deck the ability to cater its game plan dependant on the matchup.
The rest of the field was made up by the various aggro decks in the format, this included Spirits, Burn and Auras which I went over previously so I’ll skip them for now.
This leaves the last three decks, firstly Boros (red-white) prowess. This deck looks a lot like burn, but with the game plan more focused on prowess and magecraft creatures like Leonin Lightscribe and Clever Lumimancer. This still uses a lot of the same spells seen in the burn decks, but the heavier focus on creatures gives the deck more sustained sources of damage rather than purely relying on spells. The downside here being that it’s weaker to your opponents having big blockers and removal where the more burn heavy variation largely ignores creatures.
Azorius (blue-white) Scissors is one of the more interesting aggro decks in the format, utilising cheap aggressive artifacts alongside Ensoul Artifact and All That Glitters to make your smaller creatures into impressive threats. Haste threats like Gingerbrute and surprise creatures like Mutavault give the deck the extra bit of reach in needs to hit through control decks, backed up by Stubborn Denial to give the deck some more interactive elements.
Vampires is a mono-black aggro deck that seeks to take advantage of some efficient smaller creatures like Knight of the Ebon Legion in the early game and use some powerful forms of card advantage like Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord and Champion of Dusk to maintain their aggressive starts into the mid-game. The deck has access to all the best cheap removal spells to clear out annoying blockers as well as hand disruption for control decks giving it a lot of angles of attack in most matchups.
I think this tournament was a fantastic display of how fun and diverse the pioneer format is, and the amount of deck-building options exist within it. Hopefully going forwards we’ll have plenty more Pioneer tournaments for you to test out your latest decks and innovations.
Our next scheduled Magic tournament will be the Store Championships on December 4th which will be modern, look forward to seeing you then!