Regal Leosaur
30, May, 23

Breakout MTG Decks Spark Innovation in Major Format!

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Article at a Glance

Pioneer may have its fair share of haters, but it continues to flourish with a wide range of viable decks and consistent room for innovation. This weekend’s slew of tournaments was no exception. Plenty of well-established archetypes put up good results, but not without being joined by a cornucopia of unique decks and card choices that help keep players on their toes. This article focuses on the latter and showcases just how much new cards and deck choices shape the constant evolution of the MTG Pioneer format.

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Five-Color Elementals

Nissa, Resurgent Animist

At the forefront of these unique deck choices is five-color Elementals, which got third place in Sunday’s Magic Online Pioneer Challenge. Five-color decks featuring Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Leyline Binding can be built in quite a variety of ways in Pioneer. From Enchantment-heavy variants featuring Enigmatic Incarnation to more Midrange-style build featuring Bring to Light, five-color decks have had a lot of success in MTG Pioneer. Elementals is no exception.

Elementals is a deck that makes great use of both of Nissa, Resurgent Animist’s abilities. Playing your first land helps you ramp into cards like Escape to the Wilds, and playing your second land provides card advantage in the form of one of your many powerful elementals featured in the deck. What really makes this deck tick is the combination of Nissa and Risen Reef. Nissa provides a constant flow of Elementals to your hand, each of which triggers Risen Reef for additional card advantage and ramp when entering the battlefield. The deck’s manabase contains both Fabled Passage and Broker’s Hideout, so having a second land enter the battlefield in one turn even in this format where Fetchlands aren’t legal is easy.

Having a second land enter the battlefield in one turn is also vital in maximizing the power of Omnath, Locus of Creation. Omnath provides both an excellent way of stabilizing versus aggressive decks through a consistent flow of life gain and a large amount of mana to enable you to add more pressure to the board. Combine this with the flow of card advantage given by Nissa and Risen Reef, and the game quite quickly spirals out of control, especially when Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines gets added to the mix. This deck is extremely cohesive, and after playing with or against it, it becomes apparent just how powerful the deck is when it gets rolling.

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Rona Combo

Rona, Herald of Invasion

Another interesting MTG Pioneer deck, Rona combo, was featured in both of this weekend’s Magic Online Pioneer Challenges in two completely different forms. The combo involves combining the cards Rona, Mox Amber, and Retraction Helix to generate infinite mana. This is accomplished by casting Helix targeting Rona, then casting Mox Amber, and having Rona’s triggered ability cause it to untap. From there, you can float mana with Mox Amber, tap Rona using its activated ability granted from Helix to return Mox Amber to Hand, and continue casting and returning Mox Amber repeatedly, netting one mana each time. Rona is quite effective on its own in this deck, too, as it continuously Loots through your deck, letting you search for the necessary combo pieces. Both variants of Rona combo featured these same three cards, but the rest of each deck, including the win conditions, were different.


The first variant, getting second place on Saturday, is a Sultai shell which wins by casting Granted, selecting and casting Aetherflux Reservoir from the sideboard, and continuing from there to cast Mox Amber repeatedly until you can dome the opponent for 50. Granted is a nice win condition to have since it is still an effective card on its own and can get different sideboard options when the combo is not secured.

One glaring weakness with the combo is that a summoning sick Rona does not help you execute the combo. This deck gets to utilize Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler to get around this by letting you activate Rona as though it has haste. It can even get Rona back from the graveyard, meaning your opponent has to live in constant fear even if you don’t have a Rona on board during their turn. Being Sultai also gives access to Thoughtseize and Fatal Push, two of the best pieces of interaction available in the format.


The second variant, getting 12th place on Sunday, is a Jeskai shell that wins by casting Jeskai Ascendancy, which, when paired with the ability to cast Mox Amber repeatedly, can draw your deck and give your creatures immense power, letting them simply attack the opponent for the win. This deck gives up some interaction and recursion but gains additional value and redundancy. Ascendancy is excellent on its own at digging for the combo and Looting away dead cards, but it also helps fuel Treasure Cruise, an unbelievable card draw spell.

This deck also gets to play Emry, Lurker of the Loch, which is a combo piece, too when paired with Ascendancy and two copies of Mox Amber. By casting Mox Amber with Emry’s ability, you can untap Emry with Ascendancy and float mana with Mox Amber. Using the Legend rule to your advantage, you cast another Mox Amber, untap Emry again, put the tapped Mox Amber into the graveyard, target that Mox Amber with Emry, and repeat. Both variants have their strengths and weaknesses and are both cool options to explore moving forward.

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Other Unique Card Choices

Strict Proctor

In addition to cool deck choices arising this weekend, multiple established archetypes added new or under-utilized cards to attack the metagame. For example, two different top tier archetypes, Lotus Field and UW Control, made top Eight of the Challenge using maindeck Strict Proctor. In addition to being quite good with Lotus Field, Strict Proctor also taxes enters-the-battlefield effects from opponents. With the rise in Boros Convoke that can generate absurd amounts of power quickly thanks to Venerated Loxodon and Reckless Bushwhacker, it makes perfect sense to play Proctor as a meta-call to try to delay the opponent’s game-plan while simultaneously helping your own.

Regal Leosaur

Speaking of Boros Convoke, people are still finding new ways to try to improve the archetype. One major change was showcased in top four of Sunday’s Magic Online MTG Pioneer Challenge. Rather than play Reckless Bushwhacker, the Convoke pilot decided to play Regal Leosaur, which has significantly high upside. First, while not granting haste, it does further boost the power of your creatures when using its Mutate ability. If you can Mutate one Leosaur onto another, however, your whole team gets a whopping plus-four plus-two, an insane swing that can win games otherwise unwinnable.

Voldaren Thrillseeker

In-person tournaments also featured some cool card choices this weekend. Most notably, the Grand Open Qualifier at Valencia featured a Gruul Midrange deck at third place out of 387 players that was playing four copies of Voldaren Thrillseeker. While a reasonable card on its own, it provides a great source of damage and a sacrifice outlet for an opponent’s Creature when paired with The Akroan War. Gruul Midrange is another example of an archetype that has been around for a long time, yet the constant influx of new cards helps keep the format constantly evolving. Pioneer features elite levels of innovation on a week-by-week basis, and I am always excited to see these changes take place.

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