Weekly Pioneer Tournament Write-Up and Format Commentary

Today, we’ve got a write-up for the most recent weekly Thursday night tournament that took place on February 20th, 2020 and some Pioneer format commentary.

Meta & Tournament Results

There were eight players at the tournament and the meta was the following:

Simic Eldrazi – 1 Deck
Raxdos (Rakdos Hand Disruption) – 1 Deck
Rakdos Midrange – 1 Deck
Dimir Inveter – 1 Deck
Goat Whack (Gruul Aggro) – 1 Deck
Goats (Gruul Aggro) – 1 Deck
Gruul Company (Gruul Aggro) – 1 Deck
Lotus Breach – 1 Deck


The best performing deck this week went 2-0-1:

Simic Eldrazi by Shane Ball
Road to 3-0

Round 1—Gruul Company – 1-1-1
Round 2—Goat Whack (Gruul Aggro) – 2-1
Round 3—Lotus Breach – 2-1

Deck Introduction

“A beatdown deck—with spice!” is a fairly accurate way to sum up the Simic Eldrazi deck. But where did it come from? For this particular deck, Shane was able to identify its creator, interact with him some, and share with me the story of how they both decided to play it.

On February 9th in Phoenix, a player named Paul de Blois piloted the deck and took third place with it at the Sunday Pioneer PTQ. Shane noticed the decklist and liked it—for the same reasons that Paul decided to build and run it—namely that it’s well positioned to beat the combo decks Lotus Breach and Dimir Inverter. Shane was also able to get some advice from the deck’s creator (on twitter) after that tournament as to what he would change (more on that later). So why is the deck able to handle the combo decks? For that, let’s take a look at exhibit A—the disruptive cards its runs:

Thought-Knot Seer—This card feels very much like the signature card in the deck, with its beefy stats and ability to look at the opponents hand and take the important piece of the combo.
Stubborn Denial—A one mana instant that can counter non-creatures (as long as you have a creature with power 4 or greater). That requirement is almost trivial for this deck, and being able to hit any non-creature spell at the cost of holding up one blue mana is certainly going to steal some games.
Brazen Borrower—Bouncing an important combo piece back to the hand might seem to only delay the combo slightly, but if you are an aggressive, beatdown-style deck it, one extra turn may be all you need to win.

So that’s the decks disruption, but what about its beatdown plan? For starters, the deck features the mana dorks (Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic) to power out the big beaters one turn sooner and also Satyr Wayfinder to dig for the lands it needs (and to put cards in the graveyard for Uro). These cards enable plays like the following:

So yeah… this deck can aggro with quite well. In fact, Shane shared with me that when players see the Llanowar Elves or the Elvish Mystic, they often (incorrectly) assume the deck is a dedicated ramp deck, and therefore highly prioritize killing the mana dorks. This doesn’t hurt the Simic Eldrazi deck nearly as much, causing the rest of the deck’s threats to stick around and do lots of damage. Couple that with the fact that the deck has Stubborn Denial and ways to strip cards from the opponent’s hand, and the deck is attacking on an axis that can be tough for a wide range of decks to deal with.

As for the changes Shane made to the version Paul took to Phoenix (after consulting him), he subtracted two Reality Smasher in the main for two Rhonas the Indomitable —citing Rhonas’ usefulness of being a mana sink and giving trample to the large beaters. In the side, he opted for Shifting Ceratops for its utility vs decks with blue.

Shane’s Interview Comments

How did your matches go? Can you comment about the matchups?
Even though I felt slightly favored against the Gruul Company deck I played in the first round, that was the game I drew. Our first game went long, as our board state just kept getting bigger and bigger where we were both hoping to draw something that could finish the game out. I was very scared in the second matchup though, since the [Goat Whack] deck, went wide and fast—something the Simic Eldrazi deck has a much harder time dealing with. Blast Zone ended up completely saving me! My final matchup was against Lotus Combo—one my deck is tuned to beat.

Are there any card choices you’d like to highlight?
Stubborn Denial—Being able to play this card in a beatdown-style deck felt really, really good. It takes people by surprise and is tough to play around.
Ipnu Rivulet—Very useful when playing against Inverter.
Brazen Borrower—Being able to bounce a permanent and being later being able to swing in for three is exactly the kind of thing this deck wants to do.

Any other comments or shout-outs?
Shout out to Blast Zone for keeping me in that 2nd matchup!

Pioneer Format Commentary

Players Tour Formats Announced+MagicFest = “Pioneer Calendar”

Even if you don’t follow the professional play much, or plan on attending far-away GPs, knowing which tournaments will be playing Pioneer still matters, because the decks played in (and in preparation for) these tournaments get lots of attention—and that often trickles down into decks you will see at local tournaments.

Yesterday the formats for the 2020 Players Tour tournaments were announced, and the takeaway for Pioneer players is that the Players Tour Finals in Houston on April 24-26th will be Pioneer/Standard. It’s also notable that the Players Tour tournaments taking place from May through Mid-October will not feature Pioneer (one is still TBD). However, the MagicFest GPs that will feature Pioneer are the following:

  • Mar 27th – Louisville
  • June 19th – Providence
  • July 31st – Strasbourg

*the formats for the MagicFest tournaments from Aug 14th-Dec 18th are still not yet determined (for us here in Utah, the most notable is the Aug 27th Las Vegas event)

Brief Note on Ban Talk

Whether or not something should be banned from Lotus Breach and/or Dimir Inverter has been discussed quite a bit, so I wouldn’t be adding much at this point to share my personal opinion. However, I do want to share a few ban-related thoughts from a less-discussed angle:

  • The longer we go without any bans, the more people will acquire the decks in question, start acquiring cards to fight them, tweaking their decks to beat them, etc.
  • The longer we go without official word from WOTC either way the more the player base gets split on the topic.

These facts mean that the player base is getting more and more entrenched with their opinions—and that creates the potential for an unhealthy rift (of sorts) to be created no matter what ultimately happens. Most players realize there is a point where certain decks with high win rates will define the format—but it’s an open question whether or not two it’s desirable for two combo decks to sit atop the format. We can all have our opinions, but the opinion we care about the most (in a sense) is the one from WOTC—and we don’t have that yet. Lastly, I’m not sure we can take the fact that they’ve not yet taken action as proof the decks are safe. We know what metrics WOTC uses to make ban decisions, but we don’t know enough about the data or their current thoughts to say either way.

Looking Forward

I’ll close this article with a quick reminder that on Saturday February 29th there will be a free 1K at Game Grid in Lehi. It’s a “team trio” where teams of 3 Players—1 Standard, 1 Pioneer, 1 Modern—face off against other teams for glory and store credit!

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