Weekly Pioneer Tournament Write-Up and Commentary

We’ve got another Pioneer tournament write-up for you MTG fans! This one also features a unique way to browse (my take on) the top cards for Pioneer from the newest set—Theros: Beyond Death! As a quick reminder, this article series has three primary goals:

  1. Share with the everyone the top performing decks from the premier weekly Pioneer tournament taking place at Game Grid Lehi, located in Utah County, Utah.
  2. Provide a mini-primer for and commentary about the top performing decks.
  3. Commentary on the Pioneer format itself, especially as someone can expect to experience it by playing at a local game shop.

Tournament Results

The last tournament took place on Thursday, January 9th 2020—and due to the number of players—there was exactly one deck that went 3-0:

Gruul Aggro (aka Gruul Company) by Shaun Rossiter

If you think this deck looks familiar, you would be right… it’s the same deck (and pilot) that went 3-0 in the previous week! Instead of introducing the deck as I would normally do, I would just refer anyone unfamiliar with Gruul Aggro in Pioneer to look at last week’s write up. For this week’s comments about the deck, I’ll point out the changes Shaun made and jump right into his comments.

From the maindeck, Shaun removed one Heart of Kiran and added an additional Scavenging Ooze. For the sideboard, he added three Heroic Intervention and one more Scavenging Ooze. He removed the three Abrade completely, and took out the Rekindling Phoenix.

His path to 3-0 featured a victory over a Black Devotion list that splashed blue for The Scarab God (spicy!), a Mono Black Aggro list, and in the championship round, faced off against my Atarka Goblin Cavalcade list (that I’m too modest to comment on right now). Shaun’s list absolutely destroyed mine. It was faster, packed more of a wallop, and was just flat out more consistent. Shaun commented his other games were closer, but noted that his deck performed well in all of the matchups. He liked his sideboard changes, although he (yet again) did not have to experience the sweepers he most feared. He is considering adding Gruul Spellbreaker to his deck, but is unsure of what cards he would cut to do so. We chatted about some possibilities, and when Domri, Anarch of Bolas and Heart of Kiran came up as potential cards to cut—since Collected Company doesn’t hit them (and that Domri’s ability shuts off Lovestruck Beast)—he noted that both cards performed very well, and that his CoCos were doing just fine finding enough targets. We’ll have to wait and see if he makes more changes, and if his luck continues, we will find out sooner rather than later!

I did get a kick out of a story Shaun shared with me about what happened when he shared last week’s write-up with his non-MTG playing family members. As you might expect, the amount of jargon inherent in any deep-dive style article about any hobby—much less one as jargon prone as MTG—made the article almost incomprehensible for them. Shaun’s Dad, after extending his confused but sincere congratulations, commented that he, “look out for the sweepers,” despite having any clue as what they might be. That had us all laughing, and kicked off a conversation about some of the MTG jargon we take for granted, and how confusing it must be for new players and outsiders. Well, Shaun’s Dad (if you are reading again), I’ll shed some light on at least one for you. A “sweeper” is a nickname for any card that kills multiple creatures at once, which requires the players to remove all their creatures from the table—kind of like how a broom can sweep and clean up multiple things at once. Such a card (and there are many, hence the utility of the nickname) would be bad news for your son’s deck, as his deck would struggle to win after one was played. This week, you might go more specific and tell him to look out for Supreme Verdict for real laughs… but he’s going to read this article before you do… so I don’t know what you might throw in as a joke—but good luck (ha)!

Blue-White Control by Colter Anderson

First off, Colter’s Blue-White (Azorius) Control deck was the 2-1 “winner” of the Pioneer tournament that took place on December 19th (that I was absent from). I wanted to share it, not only because he had the highest placement in the tournament that week, but that it would be fun to note that the most popular control deck in Pioneer is showing up around our tables.

Instead of doing a full consideration of the deck itself (as I’ve not had the opportunity to sit with Colter and discuss it), I’ll share with you what I think is the best article on Blue-White Control in Pioneer I’ve seen. I suspect we’ll see this deck 3-0 again soon, so stay tuned for Colter’s take (that is, of course, assuming he’s still playing it).

Pioneer Format Commentary

Full Theros: Beyond Death Spoilers—Decklist Style

So I’ve decided to change my initial plan for how I would approach my commentary on the “best cards for Pioneer from the latest set” portion of the article. Instead of doing a “top 5” list that would mostly include the obviously good cards you’ve (probably) already heard about, I’m going to go a unique route and show you the cards (formatted like a decklist!) that represent all of the cards I think do something interesting, new, and that might be worth your time to evaluate. I’ll clarify that I’m not necessarily endorsing these cards as powerful (or even good) but that I am endorsing them as ones you might see pop up, or that you might consider. I’m setting the bar somewhat low for inclusion, but hopefully not too low (I’ll also admit I’m rather mediocre at evaluating blue cards).

Looking Forward

I’ll now close this article as I usually do, with a few unorganized comments and thoughts:

  • The quality of the players and decks at our tournament is pretty solid. I’m impressed. More importantly, it’s also a fun and inviting crew, with a good variety of decks (it’s not all just meta decks).
  • The next Thursday night Pioneer tournament taking place where you can include cards from Theros: Beyond Death will be Jan 30th (the set’s official release will be the day after our tournament on the 23rd).
  • Wizards of the Coast announced this week that they are aware of the buzz around the Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Walking Ballista combo in Pioneer and gave us the following information:

We’ve generally been happy with how the metagame has been evolving and have determined no need for changes at this time. Going forward, we’ll be syncing up any Pioneer changes with the B&R updates for all other formats. Instead of the weekly Pioneer updates we have been doing through the end of last year, you can expect an update cadence closer to every six weeks, or whenever B&R changes for other formats are needed.

With the upcoming Players Tour and Grand Prix tournaments featuring the Pioneer format in early February, we hope not to make changes to Pioneer until after those events.

We’re also aware of the community buzz around the combination of Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Walking Ballista in Pioneer. In keeping with our philosophy of letting the Pioneer metagame prove itself through play results, our plan is not to take any preemptive action against this combination. If, after the Pioneer Players Tour and Grand Prix tournaments, the results of league and tournament play bear out that this combination is a long-term threat to the health of the format, we’ll consider changes at that time.

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