[Pioneer Building] Kaladesh through Core Set 2019

Hi everybody, and welcome back to Strictly Average MTG. This is the sixth article in this series highlighting each era of Standard that encompasses the sets included in Pioneer. This is done to showcase the decks that were in Standard, and hopefully spark some interest in these decks or card combinations when you build your Pioneer decks.

Just a reminder that the sets I talk about today can be viewed here.

Last time I wrote about the Standard era that covered Battle For Zendikar all the way through Hour of Devastation. During that time not only did Wizards of the Coast (WotC) reverse their decision about two Standard rotations, but we also had the first cards banned from Standard since Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic were banned. It was a time in Standard that seemed to start off well enough (all things considered), but by the end a lot of players were frustrated due to the constant changes by WotC and cards being banned.


So how does this one shape up? Let’s take a look at what we were working with.

  • Kaladesh
  • Aether Revolt
  • Amonkhet
  • Hour of Devastation
  • Ixalan
  • Rivals of Ixalan
  • Dominaria
  • Core Set 2019

There were a lot of key cards from this era that still see play today across multiple non-Commander formats (everything is playable in Commander, folks).

Approach of the Second Sun, Search For Azcanta, Goblin Chainwhirler, Llanowar Elves, and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria were some of the key cards from this time.

What? Yes, I did say Llanowar Elves.

More surprising than the fact we were going back to Dominaria (and sadly only for one set) was the fact that one of the game’s most beloved, and iconic creatures was returning to the realm of Standard.

He even had a new look too!

The evolution of the elf reminds me of something similar…

…but I can’t quite place my finger on it. I’m sure it’ll come to me later.

So yes the “Keebler” Elf himself is back in Standard, which now makes him legal in Pioneer, and along with Elvish Mystic they will be looking to start some trouble.

Speaking of trouble there were yet more cards that were banned from Standard around this time. They were:

While Rampaging Ferocidon was eventually unbanned in Standard right before it left the format these others were banned as their strategies (Energy, and Mono Red decks respectfully) were still omnipresent in the format regardless of new cards added, or other cards being banned. One wonders what would have happened to Aetherworks Marvel if Attune with Aether was the first card with Energy banned.

Outside of having (1). Pirates (and Vampires) vs Dinosaurs (and Merfolk), (2). an Egyptian-based plane after spending time in one that is inspired by Steampunk, and (3). returning to Dominaria for the first time since Time Spiral, we also received our first core set since Magic 2015 (unless you count Magic Origins as one, but I don’t). A lot of things that fans have loved, and been asking for, were finally happening. Was it a great time to be a fan of Magic: the Gathering? Yeah. It was.

This was also a return to defining decks by archetype, and having at least one of each (Aggro, Control, and Midrange) be properly represented. I already mentioned Ramunap Red (which was still called that even after the banning of the namesake card), and Mardu Vehicles (which replaced Gideon, Ally of Zendikar with Gideon of the Trials), but there were some other decks as well. Let’s take a look.


Steel Stompy

Creature (28)
Verdurous Gearhulk
Vine Mare
Steel Leaf Champion
Servant of the Conduit
Llanowar Elves
Rhonas the Indomitable
Greenbelt Rampager
Thorn Lieutenant

Artifact (2)
Heart of Kiran

Enchantment (3)
Cartouche of Knowledge

Instant (2)
Commit // Memory

Sorcery (3)
Adventurous Impulse

Land (22)
11 Forest
Botanical Sanctum
Hinterland Harbor
Aether Hub
Hashep Oasis
Sideboard (15)
Aethersphere Harvester
Vivien Reid
Thrashing Brontodon
Sorcerous Spyglass
Blossoming Defense

How the deck works

With the help of Llanowar Elves you can play a turn two 5/4 creature: Steel Leaf Champion. It can’t be blocked by the smaller creatures that usually see play in the first few turns, and can help you get an advantage very early in the game. While Rhonas the Indomitable may not seem like a great card to play if you don’t have a big creature on the board, keep in mind that you’ll have extra mana to use. Making a small creature big enough to attack with Rhoans’s ability before combat is a very common line of play.

Pioneer Impact

If you want to focus on playing a steady stream of big creatures there are a lot of options. You’ll probably want to start with adding copies of Elvish Mystic to the deck to increase the chance of having a mana producing creature on the first turn. Choosing Questing Beast can lead you toward the Mono Green Devotion decks that have been doing well despite recent bans. Alternatively, you could play a monsters-style deck running cards such as Stormbreath Dragon, Dragonlord Dromoka, or even Siege Rhino. You’ll have to adjust your mana accordingly, but you’ll have the turn one creatures you need to make big plays each turn.


Azorius Approach

Enchantment (7)
Cast Out
Seal Away
Search for Azcanta

Instant (16)
Settle the Wreckage
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Blink of an Eye
Essence Scatter

Planeswalkers (6)
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Gideon of the Trials

Sorcery (4)
Approach of the Second Sun

Land (27)
Glacial Fortress
Irrigated Farmland
Field of Ruin
Ipnu Rivulet
Memorial to Genius
Sideboard (15)
Torrential Gearhulk
Regal Caracal
History of Benalia
Nezahal, Primal Tide
Forsake the Worldly
Invoke the Divine
Gideon’s Reproach

How the deck works

This is a return to true draw-go control (which of course makes me happy). You want to play mostly at instant speed using Search For Azcanta to filter through your draw steps looking for the most optimal card for your turns. Sometimes you’ll need a spell, and sometimes you’ll need a land. Eventually you will land a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and start drawing a lot of extra cards. You’ll want to then cast an Approach of the Second Sun, and within a turn or two aggressively re-draw it, cast it a second time, and win. You plan B is Gideon of the Trials, who forces your opponent to overextend into your Fumigates, and can attack as well.

Pioneer Impact

Where do I begin? There are so many options for the deck, and clearly you want to run Supreme Verdict here, but the real power lies with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. While many thought a seven-mana sorcery would not be a winning strategy in Standard, it’s even more difficult to imagine that in Pioneer. However, it can be a reality. Using Teferi to make your sorceries essentially into instants allows you to cast Approach of the Second Sun on your opponent’s turn. Then if you have another one, or can perhaps cast Dig Through Time while having mana left over, you can do it again for the win. The counterspells are also upgraded in a deck like this to make sure they can hit key non-creature spells early, and are unconditional later in the game. A lot of the cards played in Azorius Control in Modern have been printed in sets legal in Pioneer.


Dimir Midrange

Creature (15)
Champion of Wits
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
The Scarab God
Torrential Gearhulk
Hostage Taker

Enchantment (2)
Arguel’s Blood Fast

Instant (13)
Vraska’s Contempt
Fatal Push
Essence Scatter
Commit // Memory

Planeswalker (1)
Liliana, Death’s Majesty

Sorcery (3)

Land (26)
Aether Hub
Drowned Catacomb
Fetid Pools
Field of Ruin
Sideboard (15)
Jace’s Defeat
Moment of Craving
Walking Ballista
Vizier of Many Faces
Essence Extraction
Sorcerous Spyglass
Spell Pierce

How the deck works

This deck featured one of the most popular cards of recent Standards: The Scarab God. Its ability to take a creature from any graveyard, and at instant speed, provides you a constant stream of attacking creatures. Being somewhat indestructible made this a very popular choice for many players. Use your removal spells you make way for your creatures to attack while drawing extra cards during key points of the game. It’s common for this deck to bin a Torrential Gearhulk with a Champion of Wits only to then return it as a 4/4 Zombie (and get its enter the battlefield effect). That’s quite strong.

Pioneer Impact

The first thing to note about this deck is that your removal is a lot better. For instance Murderous Rider can be used three ways:

  • Use its Swift End option.
  • Cast it coming off an adventure.
  • Bring it back with The Scarab God making it a 4/4 Lifelink creature.

That’s a ton of value on one card. Outside of that, Fatal Push seems to be an easy include, but don’t forget that Doom Blade is legal. That could be a great sideboard option against aggressive non-Black decks. Drown In The Loch could be beneficial if you take a Mill approach to attack the opponent’s library. If that doesn’t interest you then you can attack their hand with discard spells. Also remember that Liliana Vess was printed in Magic 2015. Not only can you tutor for a key card, but a constant targeted discard effect only makes your Scarab God’s ability more potent.

Along with the decks that survived from Standard rotation in the previous article there was still a lot of play with this era of Standard. Many decks emerged by the end of this time frame, and when there are many different decks, and representatives of each archetype, that can be quite healthy.

In Conclusion

No matter how you “Approach”ed Standard during this era, it was a lot of fun. It felt like WotC understood what players wanted, and was slowly washing away how Standard was designed to incorporate their short lived “twice a year rotation” to bring it back to once a year. While the sting of having nine cards banned since the beginning of 2017 was still felt, looking at the aftermath there was still a lot of fun to be had.

Your Thoughts

Do you still have your old deck? If you do you may have a good jumping off point to get into Pioneer. Which of these decks have you played? What other cards would you add to them? Let me know by leaving a comment, and make sure to follow me on Facebook as well as Twitter.

Next Time

Only one more article to go, and that’s to review the Standard environment we just left. Join me next time as I return to Return to Ravnica.

Until then…


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