Pioneer as a whole has seen some major metagame shifts over the past couple months. What was once a format so heavily dominated by mono-green Devotion and Rakdos midrange now showcases decks like Izzet Phoenix and Boros Convoke up near the top. Unique decks like five-color Rona, Herald of Invasion combo featuring Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast have also solidified their spots in the metagame. Pioneer as a whole has more to offer in the way of diversity than it has in quite some time, and there’s definitely room for some intriguing deckbuilding decisions.
Speaking of which, every now and again, a deck that is so interesting and different pops up and catches your eye. Just the other day, a strange Dimir deck with a cool Reanimator-style package had a solid performance in a Magic Online Pioneer Preliminary event. This deck looks nothing like any other top tier archetype in the format. Does it have what it takes to replicate or even improve on this performance moving forward? While there are certainly some question marks regarding exactly how the deck is constructed, it has some interesting things going for it.
The main goal of this deck is to be able to get a top end finisher into your graveyard in order to bring it back to the battlefield (or make a copy of it, as we will see later) for cheap. The best Creatures to bring back are Agent of Treachery and Phyrexian Fleshgorger. What’s nice about the latter of these Creatures is that you can simply cast it on turn three using the Prototype ability, and this is strong enough in many cases to force your opponent to interact. If they kill it, though, they risk you bringing it back from the graveyard as a seven-power monster.
Of course, in order to get these powerful threats into the graveyard, this deck utilizes a handful of discard outlets. Evangel of Synthesis is at the top of that list. Much like Fleshgorger, the Evangel is a reasonable threat on its own, but getting to dump a copy of Agent of Treachery or Fleshgorger into the graveyard for cheap is pretty powerful. Similarly, Champion of Wits is another solid discard outlet. It’s a little less efficient, but does provide you with the luxury of Eternalizing it later in grindy games.
This style of deck would obviously not be complete without some powerful ways to bring your elite threats back to the battlefield. In the five-mana slot, this deck features two different cards to help with this. First up, the deck utilizes four copies of Liliana, Death’s Majesty. Liliana may not be one of the top Planeswalkers available in Pioneer in general, but it fills its role quite nicely in this deck. You have the option to immediately use its -3 ability to bring back one of your strong threats.
What if you’re facing down graveyard hate or don’t have anything worth bringing back at the moment? No need to fear, since you can simply use Liliana’s +1 ability instead, helping you both win grindy games and fill your graveyard to find Reanimation targets.
In addition to Liliana, this deck also makes use of Archpriest of Shadows. This card can allow you to Reanimate heavy hitters from your graveyard if it goes unchecked, but thanks to its Backup ability, you can buff another Creature you control and threaten to bring back one of your haymakers when that Creature connects. Importantly, you can bring a Creature back when you deal combat damage to a player OR BATTLE, which is more relevant than you might think.
A Battle Subtheme
The last piece of the puzzle that holds this whole strategy together is the inclusion of Invasion of Amonkhet. Right off the bat, when Invasion enters, you get some value, including milling three cards to potentially hit a big Creature. From there, if you can attack down the Battle, you get to transform it into a 4/4 copy of any Creature in your graveyard.
Having threats like Phyrexian Fleshgorger and Archfiend of the Dross to help attack down the Invasion is important, and while Invasion isn’t exactly a “Reanimation” effect, you still get to copy any enters-the-battlefield effects from a Creature in your graveyard, such as Agent of Treachery, when Invasion transforms.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Where this deck likely shines is against other midrange decks. Between Thoughtseize, Fatal Push, Invasion, and a bunch of decent beaters at three and four mana, this deck can play a grindy game and put some pressure on the opponent. However, being able to go bigger than other midrange decks thanks to the likes of big haymakers to bring back from the graveyard can be quite powerful. Not to mention, this deck uses Yorion, Sky Nomad as a Companion for extra value and can simply hard cast cards like Agent in games that go long.
The biggest weakness this deck appears to have is simply that its cards are a bit clunky. Many of the threats aren’t super efficient, so attacking down Invasion isn’t always easy. Against opposing combo decks like Lotus Field combo, this deck can’t put a ton of pressure on the opponent, so it’s a bit reliant on Thoughtseize to help in that regard.
Fatal Push and The Meathook Massacre can help you stabilize against aggressive decks, but against control decks or tempo-style decks like Azorius Spirits, simply tapping out for clunky threats isn’t ideal given that the opponent can simply counter the cards that matter most. It seems like this archetype’s competitive viability is a bit metagame dependent and is likely less consistent than some other top tier decks. Still, if you are looking for an off-the-wall strategy that is fully capable of winning matches, this deck could be right up your alley.