Two weeks ago, I had a hankering to play some Pioneer. There are 12+ local game stores (LGS) in the greater Sacramento area, but only one store held a weekly Pioneer tournament. Knowing Pioneer wasn’t the most popular Magic: the Gathering format, I set my expectations low and threw together a Niv-Mizzet Reborn deck.
I drove 40 minutes to get to the LGS and bought the last cards I needed for my deck. But when it came time for the tournament, there were only two other people signed up to play. The tournament did not fire.
I did get to play some Pioneer that day. The format seemed fun from the limited number of games I played. But my experience confirmed my suspicions–Pioneer was a dead format.
But, in light of a new announcement by Wizards of the Coast, there could still be hope for the Pioneer format. It may just turn a new leaf.
Why Did Pioneer Die?
When Wizards of the Coast created Pioneer in October of 2019, the format received a burst of hype from the MTG community. Many players dug into Pioneer’s wide-open metagame, tinkering with fan-favorite archetypes like Feather, the Redeemed, and Arclight Phoenix, and experimenting with new strategies such as Soulflayer.
However, there were still many players on the fence when it came to Pioneer. In the early days of the format, I tried rallying my friends and nearest LGS to organize a Pioneer event, but they were cautious. My friends wanted to wait and see how the metagame developed before investing in a deck. And my LGS didn’t know if there was enough player interest. In hindsight, I think this was a smart approach.
But at the time, I was optimistic about the new format. WOTC was extremely involved in shaping the format. They frequently banned cards as players discovered new ways to break the metagame. And overall, they supported the format.
Then the pandemic happened. Players couldn’t play in person anymore. WOTC, like many other businesses, had to adapt to the challenges of a new world. Magic largely shifted to digital play. And as a result, Pioneer fell to the wayside.
A New Hope For Pioneer’s Future
On March 31, 2022, Wizards announced a new structure for Magic’s Organized Play and the return of competitive tabletop play. Pro Tours return as the peak of competitive play with a new, simple pathway to qualify.
How does this affect Pioneer?
Pioneer is the featured format of the first returning Pro Tour. In addition to this, the first round of Regional Championship Qualifiers–the first step to reaching the Pro Tour–will feature Pioneer, Standard, Modern, or Limited. And the first Regional Championships will be Pioneer.
This is exactly the kind of support that Pioneer needed to return from the grave. Players seem excited for the upcoming Pro Tour, and since WOTC’s announcement, they began buying out Pioneer staples like Winota, Joiner of Forces, Hengegate Pathway, and more, which you can read about in my article, The Great Pioneer BOOM – Card Prices Are Going UP!
What Does Pioneer Look Like Today?
Between Pioneer’s inception, its death, and its rebirth, a lot has changed. Many more MTG sets were released. And the metagame naturally changed. But it appears diverse, healthy, and extremely fun.
Are you excited for Pioneer to come back? What decks are you interested in playing?