We’ve got another Pioneer tournament write-up for you MTG fans—and for today, we’ve actually got a write-up for last week’s tournament (with yesterday’s write-up coming tomorrow!) As a quick reminder, this article series has three primary goals:
- 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.
- Provide a mini-primer for and commentary about the top performing decks.
- Commentary on the Pioneer format itself, especially as someone can expect to experience it by playing at a local game shop.
The following decks went 3-0 from the tournament that took place on Thursday, January 16th:
Mono-Green Ramp by Paul Berman
For those who follow Pioneer at all, you’ve almost certainly come across one of the top-performing decks—Mono-Green Ramp. For anyone who has played at Game Grid in Lehi, you’ve also probably come across Paul—one of the top-performing players. The basic strategy of Mono-Green Ramp is to play lands and creatures on the early turns that enable you to (you guessed it!) ramp:
- The one drop mana accelerants Arboreal Grazer, and in Paul’s version (in a slight diversion from a lot of Mono-Green Ramp decks), four Gilded Goose.
- The three mana Elvish Rejuvenator and Nissa’s Pilgrimage that let you dig for and play an extra land (not just a forest!)
- Castle Garenbrig and Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
So what are you ramping into? Well, it’s fun to point out that some of the big beaters that you can ramp into also have effects that help you ramp even further:
At the upper-end, the deck plays its real win conditions, which are some of the most powerful cards with the most powerful effects in the entire format:
- World Breaker, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger—all of which have massive stats and can exile a variety of permanents
So yeah, when the deck ramps how it wants to, its inevitability can’t be rivaled by almost any other deck in the format.
When I asked Paul about his deck and his road to 3-0, he noted that the deck played well, and that he was very happy with nearly every card choice, especially his main deck. He did say that he was considering removing two Courser of Kruphix for one more Spatial Contortion and another Tireless Tracker which he felt would be a good choice for the midrange and control matchups.
I’d be really curious to see what changes Paul would make now in reaction to the release of Theros: Beyond Death. Is he going to go Simic in order to play Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath like we are starting to see? Is he still playing the deck? With as strong as Paul and the Ramp deck play, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another 3-0 finish and get his take soon.
Jeskai Fires Superfriends by Dan McCallum
“Superfriends” is a common name given to a deck whose main goal is to fill the board with a lot of different planeswalkers—and the Jeskai Fires version Dan piloted features a lot of them and (thanks to Fires of Invention) plays them fast. For those who might need an introduction to how it actually plays out and what it’s win condition is, let’s dive in, bullet-point style:
- First, the deck doesn’t run instants (and only 3 creatures), so it can profitably run six or more Anger of the Gods and Supreme Verdict—enabling the deck to survive against creature-oriented decks.
- So what are those three creatures? Fae of Wishes—a card which gives the deck the ability to reach into its 1-of-each sideboard for even more sweepers, planeswalkers, or whatever powerful utility card it needs at the moment.
- Second, the deck is hoping to follow up it’s turn three Anger of the Gods, Narset, Parter of Veils, and (importantly for nullifying counter spells) Teferi, Time Raveler to set up casting it’s namesake, Fires of Invention.
- With Fires of Invention out, the deck then proceeds to introduce multiple planeswalkers—whichever ones have the best set of abilities for the current matchup.
- I won’t be reviewing every planeswalker’s “job” in the deck, but let’s just say that there’s at least one ability that going’s to foil your best laid plans.
- So which card causes you to actually lose? That would be either Elspeth Sun Champion‘s inevitable army of 1/1 white soldier creature tokens or Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God “ultimate” ability that causes the opponent to lose the game if they don’t control a legendary creature or planeswalker.
So as you might imagine, once the deck starts playing its planeswalkers, the opponent gets closer and closer to being practically “locked” out of the game. I think the deck is very powerful, and if a deck doesn’t have a way to get rid of Fires of Invention well before the superfriends assemble, have a more commanding board presence (no easy task), or can combo to win, you just flat out aren’t likely to win. However, the deck does demand a lot out of the pilot. For example, not only do you need to know all the text on all the planeswalkers, but you also need to have a firm grip on all of the text on all of the (many) sideboard cards! In other words, there will be a few turns where the pilot will feel like the following meme:
Lastly, in the hands of a strong player (which Dan certainly is), Jeskai Fires Superfriends is certainly a nightmare menagerie of the most powerful planeswalkers from the past seven years—and (in my opinion) one of the better, most underrepresented decks in Pioneer.
Pioneer Format Commentary
A Harbinger of Whats to Come
For this part of the article, I thought I would I do something fun and scan the latest decklists (going 4-1 or better) from the MTGO Preliminaries and Challenges for decks that have any Theros:Beyond Death cards. We’ll take a look at the decks that went 5-0 in MTGO Leagues in the next article. I’ll present them without commentary (and with lazy formatting).
By way of clarification, the latest cards have been legal to play on MTGO since Jan 16th.