Recently, there was a ban announcement that surprisingly unbanned two cards. Preordain is now legal in Modern, and Mind’s Desire is legal in Legacy. Perhaps the most interesting part of this announcement, though, was the fact that no changes were made to Pioneer. Mono-green Devotion remains an extremely strong choice, and while Rakdos Midrange has fallen out of favor a fair bit, a different Rakdos deck featuring Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Rakdos Sacrifice, has filled the gap.
While Pioneer may feel stale at times, players continue to innovate, and unique decks continue to break through. Last week, we saw an interesting Rakdos Transmogrify deck win a Magic Online Pioneer Challenge. This week, at the NRG series $5k, a player went undefeated in the swiss rounds with a cool Legends variant, with some similarities to the Esper Legends deck that has been around in Standard even before the banning of Fable, along with other cards. This deck successfully mashes the Legendary Creature theme with elements from the Greasefang, Okiba Boss combo deck. Is this archetype ready to rise to stardom, or is it simply the new hotness? To have a better understanding, let’s take a closer look at what the deck is trying to accomplish.
Legendary Creature Theme
Much like the Esper Legends deck in Standard, this deck utilizes some very strong Legendary Creatures and maximizes them with a few specific cards. First, in the manabase, this deck gets to utilize Plaza of Heroes. Plaza not only helps you cast all your Legendary Creatures across all colors, but it can even protect your most important Legends from removal. This often forces the opponent to answer your biggest threats like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse in a one turn window before you get to untap with Plaza and mana to protect your threat. Pair that with Skrelv, Defector Mite and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and it can be difficult for your opponent to kill your top end threats at all.
Also, within the manabase, all of these Legendary Creatures help reduce the cost of the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty utility Lands. This deck runs multiple copies of Otawara, Soaring City and Takenuma, Abandoned Mire, providing additional flexibility by letting you play them as Lands or utilize their effect.
Another payoff is Rona, Herald of Invasion. At minimum, Rona is a three-toughness Looter. However, Rona untaps every time you play a Legend, letting you churn through your deck relatively quickly to dig for your premier game-enders. Lastly, and perhaps the most important, is a card that is not Standard legal: Mox Amber. Mox Amber is a premier mana accelerant as long as you control a Legendary Creature or Planeswalker. This helps the deck curve into Sheoldred on turn three, or even Raffine, Scheming Seer on turn two after playing Skrelv turn one.
The Greasefang Package
Beyond the typical Legendary Creatures you might find in this style of deck, this deck also maximizes Greasefang, providing another avenue to victory your opponent has to worry about. Just like the popular Abzan Greasefang deck, this deck utilizes Esika’s Chariot and Parhelion II alongside Greasefang for a solid one-two punch. In order to help get these cards in the graveyard, both Rona and Raffine can act as discard outlets for your Vehicles.
In addition to these discard outlets, this deck also plays Emry, Lurker of the Loch. Emry mills four cards when it enters, digging for Parhelion and Chariot. Even without Greasefang in the picture, Emry can still bring back Mox Amber, Skrelv, and Chariot, giving you a nice value engine. While these two portions of the deck may still seem a bit unrelated, they actually work quite well together.
As mentioned, Rona and Raffine work quite well as discard outlets for Greasefang, but there’s more synergy between the two plans than you might expect. One of the things this deck accomplishes is, by adding the Legends subtheme, interacting with Greasefang itself becomes a lot harder. Skrelv can protect Greasefang the same turn you want to bring back Parhelion II.
Unlike with traditional Greasefang, your opponent is also put under additional pressure, and there’s more threats they have to worry about removing. Your opponent can be heavily prepared for Greasefang, come equipped with graveyard hate or Rending Volley, and instead you slam Sheoldred and your opponent’s in a lot of trouble. On the flip side, if they spend resources answering Skrelv, Thalia, Raffine, and Emry, you are much more likely to actually stick Greasefang.
In this sense, this deck is harder to hate out in games two and three, as there’s a lot of cards to worry about. This deck is capable of curving out well and dropping major threats every turn, and just like with traditional Greasefang decks, simply casting Chariot can win games on its own. This deck certainly has a lot going for it, but there are definitely a handful of weaknesses worth mentioning.
One of the biggest weaknesses this deck has is that, while Rona and Raffine are both solid discard outlets, they have to stay alive long enough to actually function as such. There are games where you can set up turn two Rona, turn three Greasefang plus discard Parhelion II, but if Rona dies even to Sorcery speed removal like Dreadbore, you get stranded with Parhelion II in hand. Rona definitely has high upside, but its floor is lower than Raffine’s Informant, at least in the context of Greasefang.
This deck also has a lot less ways to both fill the graveyard and search for Greasefang than the traditional Abzan Greasefang deck. Without the likes of cards like Grisly Salvage and Vessel of Nascency, it’s more difficult to actually set up Greasefang. While having access to both the Legends beatdown plan and the Greasefang combo plan can be a good thing, neither of your gameplans are as streamlined as they could be. This deck has a very high ceiling, presenting the curve of Skrelv into Rona/Thalia into Greasefang/Raffine into Sheoldred, especially when throwing Mox Amber in the mix, but it also has a low floor given potential issues of consistency.
This is especially true given that the deck plays limited interaction and only Skrelv as a turn one play game one. Without Skrelv, your hand may be a bit clunky in the context of Pioneer. Still, this deck definitely has the capabilities of winning with ease and gives you the opportunity to “run hot” during an event. Playing from two different angles also makes it difficult for your opponent to be prepared for everything, which gives you an advantage, especially over graveyard hate. If you enjoy Greasefang but are sick of Rest in Peace, this may be right up your alley.