Pioneer has obviously been a very popular constructed format, but how well does this format translate to limited? Ever since Pioneer was announced, I’ve been wanting to make a cube for it, and I finally sat down the other day and decided to design one. Pioneer has a unique set of limitations that makes it really fun to design for and has a unique gameplay environment that isn’t present in other cubes. If you are just barely starting to get into cube, this might be a good place to start as it’s relatively cheaper to get into and will still provide a competitive and powerful environment.
For this cube, I decided to focus pretty heavily on 2 color archetypes. Of course, if you decide to buy this cube and do your own playtesting with it, you can change which archetypes you’d like to support, or whether you even want to support archetypes. I choose to focus on the 2 color combinations because they give a lot of direction when building a cube, and to drafters who have never experienced it.
One thing I would like to mention is that I chose not to include any 3-color cards. I find that these cards tend not to get drafted, and with the mana being much worse without fetches, it’s going to be a lot harder to convince people to splash white for that Siege Rhino. If you think that it’s against the identity of Pioneer to not play with cards like Siege Rhino you are more than free to add it and other 3 color cards to the cube if you decide to take this and make it your own.
Starting off with a very simple archetype, UW serves as a great control deck, both in the Pioneer format and in this cube. The combination of powerful sweepers like Supreme Verdict, card draw in the form of Dig Through Time and Sphinx’s Revelation, and wincons with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, UW control has a lot going for it. Notable exclusions include Teferi, Time Raveler as that card doesn’t promote fun gameplay, and in a cube, we have the option to not play it.
This was a more difficult guild to find an identity with. More than anything, it wants to be a control guild in a very similar vein to UW. However, I felt that UW did a better job at being a control deck, and I wanted UB to have an identity that is unique to itself. This is when I found Contraband Kingpin and had the idea to make an artifact deck. With cards like Tezzeret, Artifice Master, Whirler Rogue, and the Gearhulks, this serves double duty as an artifact/control deck that wins the game through powerful cards and the synergy found between them.
This is the deck that I am most excited for in this cube and is something that isn’t really feasible in more powerful cubes. Madness is one of my all-time favorite mechanics, and thanks to Shadows over Innistrad, we have a very powerful base of madness cards to work with. Bloodhall Priest is a very powerful individual card, that can singlehandedly control the board if your hand is empty. Add in a powerful aggressive plan with 2/1’s for one like Falkenrath Gorger and Cryptbreaker, and a few discard outlets, and you have a deck that can get hellbent quick, and kill the opponent soon after.
Who doesn’t love big scary dinosaurs/dragons/beasts? The Gruul certainly love them and are here to smash face with them. With cards like Domri, Anarch of Bolas and Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma, you can get your big creatures out on the battlefield very quickly. The beef that Pioneer provides is also quite extensive, with cube all-stars such as Carnage Tyrant, Questing Beast, and Glorybringer all coming out to kill the opponent. In more unfair strategies, making a bigger aggro deck usually isn’t successful, but with the absence of really degenerate combo decks, Gruul can thrive.
Rather than going tall, the Selesnya prefer to go wide. Make a huge board using Saproling Migration, Raise the Alarm, and Sram’s Expertise. Then make them all bigger with Benalish Marshal and Angel of Invention, and then double your board size with a massive March of the Multitudes. This deck is simple in construction and execution and provides a lot of value in such a combat-centric cube.
With Cruel Celebrant being printed recently, the WB color combination in Pioneer now has 2 aristocrats including Zulaport Cutthroat. With other powerful sacrifice cards like Hidden Stockpile, you can play a very grindy game that taxes the opponent at every turn. Throw in a few token makers such as Secure the Wastes and you’ll have fodder for days. Finish off your opponent with a combo-esque finish with Rally the Ancestors, a sac outlet, an aristocrat, and anything else in the yard.
Golgari has cared a lot about putting things in the graveyard recently, whether it be creatures for undergrowth or card types for delirium, there is a lot of support for graveyard based decks to come together from the last few years of standard. Beat down with the Tarmogoyf of Pioneer Grim Flayer, bring cards back from the yard with Liliana, Death’s Majesty, and disrupt with
Hymn to Tourach Whispers of Emrakul.
A year ago, Simic was one of the worst color combinations in cube. Fast forward to today, and it is now one of the best, thanks to the fantastic support it has gotten from the last few sets. I decided to go with a ramp archetype for Simic, as it lets it take advantage of some of the best cards in the color combination, and also provides clear direction for anyone who wants to spend as much mana as possible every given turn. Play a bunch of dorks, and then follow them up with your choice of Hydra, Planeswalker, or even an Agent of Treachery.
An archetype that is almost as old as the guild itself, Izzet spellslinging is a classic among many cubes, and this past year has been really good for it. With cards like Saheeli, Sublime Artificer and Mizzium Tank serving as powerful threats for the deck, all you got to do is follow them up with a couple of Opts. Unfortunately, the cantrips and burn in Pioneer are not very good, so you’ll have to make do with some tier 2 options like Lightning Strike and Anticipate to really get this archetype singing.
Another archetype that I’m really excited to see in action is WR Heroic. Pump spells are usually too weak to see play in an average cube, and with the lowered power of Pioneer, it might be possible to try Heroic again. I really like Heroic in this list, because it offers a lot of cross synergy with madness and spells. Play a Favored Hoplite, or a Feather the Redeemed, and use spells like Reckless Rage and Cartouche of Solidarity to make your creature huge and get in there. It’s a unique take on aggro that is much more viable with the removal being a lot worse.
Macro Deck Archetypes
Aggro gets nipped pretty hard by moving to Pioneer and loses a lot of it’s best reach spells such as Bolt, Searing Spear, Chain Lightning, and Sulfuric Vortex. Its creature base is very similar to a normal cube, which gives it a lot of power in the early game, but it will lose steam very quickly after a single board wipe. This is why the aggro decks have developed into more synergy based decks, using things like Madness or Heroic to gain an early advantage without committing too many resources, or will just go bigger with GR Stompy. It might be important to tune the amount of board wipes if aggro struggles.
Midrange is king in this cube, and if you can land the biggest threat and protect it, you have a good shot at winning. Every color has good tools to become a midrange color, with GB likely doing the best. GB delirium isn’t the most well-supported archetype mechanics-wise, but I’m ok with that because it might prove to be the strongest color combo overall.
Control has a lot going for it, and Esper decks will probably be very common. Board wipes seem to be very good, and if you can land a huge Planeswalker like Elspeth, the game is probably over. The UB artifact deck exists in part to keep control from being a consistent 3 color strategy that has a ton of powerful tools available.
Combo does still exist, but there are far fewer interactions that can immediately break the game. The Saheeli-felidar combo is in this cube, and Rally the Ancestors can serve as a combo finish, but beyond that, there are very few decks that can be considered true combo decks, as most games will be decided via creatures connecting with the opponents face.
One thing that I really love with this cube, is how effective the cross-pollination is. There are so many different cards that will fit into lots of different archetypes, and make the drafting experience much more interesting as you have to figure out which cards might wheel or not. I just want to take a moment to list my favorite cards that fit in multiple strategies.
Brimaz, King of Oreskos – Tokens, Sacrifice, Heroic
Folio of Fancies – Artifacts, Control, Ramp
Scrapheap Scrounger – Artifacts, Madness, Sacrifice
Rankle, Master of Pranks – Delirium, Madness, Sacrifice
Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin – Heroic, Stompy, Spells
Maximize Velocity – Heroic, Spells, Madness, Stompy
Return of the Wildspeaker – Tokens, Stompy, Ramp
Smuggler’s Copter – Tokens, Madness, Artifacts
Trading Post – Artifacts, Madness, Sacrifice, Tokens
These are just the cards that can fit in 3 archetypes or more. Many different cards in the cube fulfill 2 different archetypes, which makes for a really fun drafting experience because if you realize your deck is being hated out, it’s a lot easier to pivot into another color.
This cube is very different from most cubes I have played. It lacks a lot of the powerful combos that are a part of older cubes and has a much greater focus on eeking out value along the way. This isn’t quite to the extremes that we see in pauper cubes, however, as individual cards carry a lot more weight and can threaten to change the pace of the game singlehandedly. There is a lot more focus on combat, and the interaction between creatures, which makes pump spells something that is actually viable in this cube. Removal is so much worse across the board, with cards like Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, and Lightning Bolt not making it as dangerous to invest a lot of mana into a creature. Planeswalkers also aren’t a huge concern, as far as I can tell, with the majority of stronger planeswalkers being printed before Return to Ravnica.
This cube offers an experience that is far closer to traditional draft than the average cube, while still offering that classic cube experience of powerful cards and great gameplay. I haven’t had a chance to draft this cube yet, but it looks like a blast and I hope that others are able to give it a shot and enjoy it as well. Please give the cube a draft, and tell me what you think of it in the comments below.