[Pioneer Building] Dragons of Tarkir through Eldritch Moon

Hi everybody, and welcome back to Strictly Average MTG. I hope you have enjoyed this series so far. We are currently rounding the turn and taking our first steps towards the end of this review. Today is day four of reviewing each era of Standard that has contributed to the new Pioneer format (which turns a month old now, so Happy Birthday Pioneer).

Before I begin I want to mention that any sets I talk about can be viewed here. You can look at all of the products released in Magic: the Gathering’s history all in that one handy link. I use it quite often when writing articles, and it’s a great resource overall.

New year, new rotation

As we march on through 2016 we encounter our first of the new “twice a year” Standard rotations. This was done to not only help keep Standard fresh, but also make sure that cards did not become broken, or abusive, once a new set was released late into Standard’s life cycle. While I’m sure that the players were not happy with this, it was time to see the fetchlands move on. No matter what was done the most skilled players would find the most powerful decks, and run those at every event. This left us the following:

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  • Dragons of Tarkir
  • Magic Origins
  • Battle for Zendikar
  • Oath of the Gatewatch
  • Shadows Over Innistrad
  • Eldritch Moon

While there were no special cards in Shadows Over Innistrad, or Eldritch Moon, unlike the Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch Expeditions, these new sets based on Innistrad did provide us some memorable cards.

The story so far

Since we last left the members of The Gatewatch we saw them not only release two of the three Eldrazi titans, but they also freed Ob Nixils. Now reignited, this demon wanted to enact his revenge on The Gatewatch. It’s a good thing he did not succeed.

During this time in Zendikar Jace was instructed by the spirit of Ugin to find Sorin of Innistrad to help with the Eldrazi menace. As they arrive on Innistrad it appears they may be too late, and the search begins to find out who is behind the influence of the Eldrazi on Innistrad.

Without the fetchlands from Khans of Tarkir, players had to be a bit more creative to run more than two colors. The format slowed down a great deal, and it was even slow enough to run Evolving Wilds. Remember that Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy was still legal so there was extra incentive to keep him in some decks.

Let’s take a look at some offerings in this format.

Jund Delirium

Creature (12)
Grim Flayer
Pilgrim’s Eye
Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Emrakul, the Promised End

Enchantment (3)
Vessel of Nascency

Instant (11)
Grapple with the Past
Fiery Impulse
Kozilek’s Return
To The Slaughter

Planeswalker (3)
Liliana, the Last Hope

Sorcery (6)
Languish
Traverse the Ulvenwald

Land (24)
Forest
Evolving Wilds
Llanowar Wastes
Smoldering Marsh
Swamp
Cinder Glade
Mountain
Sideboard (15)
Transgress the Mind
Distended Mindbender
Pick the Brain
Pulse of Murasa
Den Protector
Emrakul, the Promised End
Duress
Dragonmaster Outcast
Fiery Impulse

How the deck works

Your aim is to place as many card types (creature, planeswalker, land, etc) into your graveyard as possible. The sooner you do that the faster Grim Flayer will be bigger, and the faster you could cast Emrakul, the Promised End for less than ten mana.

Pioneer Impact

It may seem obvious to start here, but you need to fix your mana and Fabled Passage will help do that. Keep in mind you don’t get that mana unless you have four lands in play, and it can only find basic lands. However when you activate it…

…you trigger the Revolt keyword from Fatal Push! In general it can be difficult to to trigger Revolt in Pioneer, but this is one way that feels a bit more manageable.

Another way to fill up your graveyard is with Satyr Wayfinder. A bit more aggressive than other cards in this deck already, but it does get the job done. You can even recur this with Liliana, the Last Hope to keep filling the graveyard. I would also suggest running some Delve creatures such as Tasigur, the Golden Fang or Gurmag Angler as your primary win conditions, while moving Emrakul, the Promised End to the sideboard. These threats are more efficient in the Pioneer format at the moment, and you can get a lot of use out of them here.

Bant Company

Creature (27)
Reflector Mage
Spell Queller
Sylvan Advocate
Tireless Tracker
Selfless Spirit
Duskwatch Recruiter
Archangel Avacyn
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy

Instant (7)
Collected Company
Dromoka’s Command
Ojutai’s Command

Sorcery (1)
Declaration in Stone

Land (25)
Forest
Evolving Wilds
Plains
Yavimaya Coast
Fortified Village
Prairie Stream
Lumbering Falls
Island
Sideboard (15)
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Lambholt Pacifist
Dromoka’s Command
Clash of Wills
Subjugator Angel
Summary Dismissal
Ojutai’s Command
Tireless Tracker
Declaration in Stone
Selfless Spirit
Negate

How the deck works

This deck feels more like the amalgamation of two decks: Bant Humans and Bant Spirits. While not necessarily an instant speed deck there were a lot of cards that interacted with the opponent on their turn (namely Collected Company). You could even flash in Archangel Avacyn, sacrifice Selfless Spirit, and trigger a board wipe on the opponent’s turn. There’s definitely a lot of play with this deck, and over time it became three different decks: Bant Company, Bant Humans, and Azorius Control.

Pioneer Impact

Really the key card here is Collected Company. You can build a good stuff midrange deck, or a tribal deck such as Spirits, Humans, or something not currently being seen like Merfolk. Just make sure you put some other form of interaction in your deck such as Immolating Glare, or even Unsummon.

Temur Emerge

Creature (22)
Elder Deep-Fiend
Primal Druid
Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Pilgrim’s Eye
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Wretched Gryff
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Emrakul, the Promised End

Instant (8)
Kozilek’s Return
Grapple with the Past

Sorcery (6)
Gather the Pack
Traverse the Ulvenwald

Land (24)
Forest
Shivan Reef
Yavimaya Coast
Island
Lumbering Falls
Sanctum of Ugin
Cinder Glade
Evolving Wilds
Mountain
Sideboard (15)
Fiery Impulse
Reality Smasher
Summary Dismissal
Negate
Emrakul, the Promised End
Lashweed Lurker
Kiora, Master of the Depths
Eldrazi Obligator
Invasive Surgery
Sanctum of Ugin

How the deck works

The Emerge mechanic was a very interesting one that allowed you to essentially swap a creature on the battlefield with a new one. The Eldrazi have invaded Innistrad, and this (in my opinion) was the best visually represented story mechanic. As denizens of Innistrad interacted with the Eldrazi they would transform into hideous beings not representing who they used to be. Elder Deep-Fiend is the best representation of this, allowing players to play it during the opponent’s upkeep to have them tap four of their permanents. You also could trigger Kozilek’s Return from the graveyard, allowing you to cast it for free to clear the board.

Pioneer Impact

Sadly this deck is so hyper focused on this Standard environment that outside of lands it will be difficult to properly update the deck. Even the creatures without Emerge were made so you can capitalize on the creature dying due to the casting of your Eldrazi. Look for any creatures with abilities when they come into play tapped, but outside of that there might not be much.

Orzhov Control

Planeswalker (11)
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Liliana, the Last Hope
Sorin, Grim Nemesis
Ob Nixilis Reignited

Enchantment (3)
Oath of Liliana

Instant (7)
Grasp of Darkness
Ultimate Price
Anguished Unmaking

Sorcery (13)
Transgress the Mind
Languish
Read the Bones
Ruinous Path
Planar Outburst

Land (26)
Swamp
Plains
Caves of Koilos
Forsaken Sanctuary
Shambling Vent
Blighted Fen
Sideboard (15)
Duress
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Infinite Obliteration
Dead Weight
Linvala, the Preserver
Planar Outburst
Languish
Read the Bones
Anguished Unmaking
Blighted Fen

How the deck works

Now we are at a deck that does its best to be the control deck of the format. Playing more of a tap out control, and using removal to stay alive until you can deploy your planeswalkers, this deck can take awhile to obtain the win. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is the backbone of the deck, deploying 2/2 creatures to help protect you and your planeswalkers.

Pioneer Impact

Unlike the last deck, this one has a lot of room to be upgraded. For starters you can kick Ob Nixilis Reignited out of the deck and replace him with Gideon of the Trials. Your opponent is going to have a very difficult time removing both this Gideon, and the one already in the deck, and thus you have a better chance of staying alive long enough to execute your game plan. Other planeswalkers to consider are Kaya, Orzhov Usurper, and Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord.

Thoughtseize and Murderous Cut are also auto includes. Having access to hand disruption, and removal that could be reduced in cost, could help you cast multiple spells in a turn. Run this with Collective Brutality to pitch duplicate planeswalkers and fuel your Murderous Cut.

Concealed Courtyard and Isolated Chapel help your mana immensely. Casting Thoughtseize on turn one is always an optimal play, and the Courtyard will help you achieve that.

In Conclusion

The last format had a lot going on where every deck was filled with color, many decks (if not all) played the same way, and things felt overwhelming. This format was the exact opposite. Focused decks that have a purpose are always great, and even though there appeared to be a lot of decks in this format these four were so efficient, and tied to their purpose, that they generally were the ones that found the most success. Also with all of them playing in a similar way we were still not seeing the proper representation of the archetypes Aggro, Control, and Midrange. While play was not as great as Standard formats of the past there was definitely a change to power down the format enough to make it enjoyable for many players. Not necessarily a memorable format, and that could have been partially due to the new rotations in Standard, this format did offer a lot of options based on mechanics from all of the sets.

Your Thoughts

So now that we were able to take a brief view of this format what are your thoughts? Did you play any of these decks? How would you try to reconstruct these decks for Pioneer? Leave a comment below and follow me on Facebook as well as Twitter so you can share that with the world.

Next Time

No time to stop and smell the roses. We have to keep going. Tomorrow we move forward again into some changes (again) for Standard so buckle up crew. We’re going for a ride.

Until next time…

TAP MORE MANA!!!

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