This week the ban hammer flew wide! Modern, Pauper, and something called Historic all lost Staple cards. Arcum’s Astrolabe is probably the highest profile (but Patrick points out that little one mana artifact will continue to light it up in Legacy).
Modern players, though will surely enjoy the opportunity to play regular old basic lands without feeling silly or inadequate.
In Pioneer, Oath of Nissa — a card somewhat philosophically aligned with Arcum’s Astrolabe, actually — is un-banned!
When Oath of Nissa left Pioneer, it was during a time where one more green pip could have felt format-prohibitive. Given the power upgrades to other colors, the Powers That Be in Renton, WA decided to give green a little more consistency.
Patrick and Michael note that, though a very good card, Oath of Nissa is not particularly more powerful than one mana competitors like Traverse the Ulvenwald or Attune with Aether.
Mike’s New Favorite Thing
So apparently they play black in their Historic Red Decks.
Not only that, but Patrick told Mike. And while he started off incredulous, when he found out that the reason is that you can Call of the Death-Dweller up a Goblin Chainwhirler… Like it says, we’ve discovered Mike’s new favorite thing.
Giving the 3/3 first striker menace is bad enough; but they’re not going to have any creatures to block with anyway on account of having already given it deathtouch. Truly this is the world’s cheapest Plague Wind.
It’s a rare tour of formats various. What’s next for Modern, Pioneer, or Historic given the many bans (and one un-ban)? Find out right now!
You don’t know what a Colossus Hammer is, you say? Let us help you out with that…
More on Colossus Hammer in a second; but before we get to Modern and Pioneer [with Companions!] it’s probably worth mentioning Vintage, which is “in a kind of weird, unplayable state” might just feature the first banning of a card before it is actually printed:
Let’s start with Bogles; aka “Infect that’s great against Burn” according to Mike. While Patrick isn’t super happy with that description, the decks are often spoken about in relation to each other. Both are about playing small creatures with specialized abilities that specialize in putting a ton of pants on one of those creatures to win in a small number of attacks.
Infect is historically much more explosive, and a bit faster; but can be vulnerable to point removal.
Bogles, with mostly hexproof creatures, is far more resistant to removal, but less explosive than Infect. But Bogles is slower and — at least prior to the recent availability of Lurrus of the Dream-Den — could collapse like a house of cards if the one creature it drew was dealt with via discard or a Liliana activation.
But now we have Colossus Hammer!
What makes this deck so exciting?
Colossus Hammer plays actual good cards. Don’t forget: Stoneforge Mystic spent most of Modern on the Banned List
This deck can be as explosive as Infect. Kor Duelist + the Hammer itself is worth more than 20 damage
Though the Hammer is a permanent, this deck has some instant speed play. Sigarda’s Aid and Magnetic Theft can act as lethal “Giant Growth”-type cards.
It can defend its combo. Giver of Runes (or Spellskite in some versions) can keep your attacker alive to attack for lethal.
It’s ALSO an Infect deck. What’s better to give +10/+10 to than an Inkmoth Nexus?
Ready to pound the opponent for 20+ (or lethal Infect)? What are you waiting for?
Dimir Inverter is One of the Best Decks in Pioneer
There is no surprise there!
If you can believe it, Inverter of Truth is the worst card in the Dimir Inverter seventy-five! Normally overpowered two-card combo decks at least do the metagame the courtesy of playing a ton of bad cards… But not in this case.
Dimir Inverter can do a passable job of playing a Control deck, though Patrick is quick to point out that a well-placed Unmoored Ego or Slaughter Games for the aforementioned Inverter can knock it down a peg.
But don’t be overconfident if you draw your sideboard cards! Dimir Inverter will often be bringing in multiple Pack Rats or Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet as alternate ways to win.
More impressive than simply winning the Players Tour? Phoenix Champin Corey Burkhart had to rattle off thirteen straight wins to take the title after a slow start.
Lotus Breach is one of the Best Decks in Pioneer
Not to be outdone at Players Tour Phoenix, William “Baby Huey” Jensen put up the umpteenth amazing finish of his Hall of Fame career with Lotus Breach.
Huey is the first person to make Top 8 of a Pro Tour (or Players Tour) in four different decades… And he did it with the mighty Lotus Breach.
Can plausibly viable archetype Azorius Control ever beat Lotus Breach in Game One? Think about that before you next sleeve up an Absorb in Pioneer.
Patrick Explains Bonecrusher Giant to MichaelJ
So here’s the card Bonecrusher Giant:
Or, I guess, here’s the “fun” version of Bonecrusher Giant:
Michael apologizes for ever doubting the power of this card, which not only made Top 8 of Players Tour Phoenix… But helped to win Grand Prix Phoenix in a very different Red Deck.
Patrick compares this card to one that is a well-known MichaelJ favorite in that is simply ingenious. We won’t spoil it here because it’s super worth it and you should definitely check out this week’s podcast right now to find out more:
The Top 8 of Players Tour Nagoya featured five — count ‘em five — Inverter of Truth decks! Four of them were of a more “traditional” bent (though they featured a ton of individualized choices), and one sweet hybrid brew.
How does the combo work?
It’s not actually a strict two-card combo, even though it often feels like it. If you have a small number of cards in your graveyard (say, conveniently, only two) you can cast Inverter of Truth. All of a sudden you have a call-it two-card library, and you’re one Thassa’s Oracle away from straight wining the game.
A Great Reason to Play Inverter of Truth? They’re Going to Ban Dig Through Time!
Dig Through Time is pretty good at setting up Control decks (it’s a Staple in Pioneer Azorius for instance) but it’s great in this deck.
Basically it turns a small graveyard into a one-card graveyard pretty efficiently. And one card in graveyard is a great place to be if you’re trying to win with Inverter of Truth + Thassa’s Oracle.
Omen of the Sea is an interesting choice — not yet wholly Staple — in Dimir Inverter. It’s a source of devotion to blue (one pip). In tight games where your’e forced to tap out, that one pip might be really important. If you are relying on the UU on Thassa’s Oracle’s top-right, you might not-win if the opponent removes it with an instant speed removal spell like Lighting Strike. Having a single blue pip on the battlefield means that if Thassa’s Oracle goes away, you can still-win immediately (instead of not-winning).
(Of course if you have spare mana you can Opt or Censor your way to zero cards in your library, which will be good enough regardless of how much devotion to blue you have… Or had!)
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is a one card plan, man
All the Ashioks got played in Nagoya!
But Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver in particular is not only good against people who are fighting your combo, but great in the mirror.
Especially against other Dimir decks, Planeswalkers are more durable than other creature types.
Inverter of Truth in… Blue Beatdown?
Basically we’re looking at a Leyline of Anticipation deck (that might already have wanted Thassa’s Oracle) splashing double black for Inverter of Truth.
This deck is worse at setting up the combo, has only two copies of Wizard’s Retort to defend itself, but basically adds an instant win to an already viable strategy.
The Dimir “Devotion” deck splashes fourteen sweet Dimir dual lands to get there… And can even lean on Thassa’s Oracle to find double black.
This deck clearly wins the “style points” award for the Players Tour… Because it’s not even clear what is cooler between Gadwick + Nykthos… or instant speed Inverter of Truth!
Additional advantage: This version will probably still be legal after they ban Dig Through Time.
With not one but two Pro Players Tours on deck this week, MichaelJ and Patrick pore over a ton of the sweet new Pioneer deck lists enabled by Theros Beyond Death.
… And there sure are a lot of them!
With, and Against, Heliod, Sun Crowned
There is perhaps no more important addition to the pantheon of Pioneer deck lists than Heliod, Sun Crowned and Walking Ballista.
The basic combination is simple: With two or more +1/+1 counters on Walking Ballista, you can give it lifelink with Heliod, then remove a counter to shoot the opponent for one. They will take one, the lifelink will return one life to you, triggering Heliod… Who will in turn put a +1/+1 counter on the Walking Ballista. Two cards, infinite damage potential and infinite life!
But what is the best shell to play this powerful pair? In this episode we discuss…
Multiple White Weenie variants… Both a Devotion-based one, and a more “Soul Sisters” flavored take on life gain
Splashing green for Collected Company. If you’ve got Benalish Marshall, you can even Collected Company for a 0/0 Walking Ballista… That will live! Worst case, if you make it to your next turn, you can start putting +1/+1 counters on it the hard way.
A defensive enchantments style with Leyline of Sanctity to power out Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.
How do you fight against this combo? We discuss…
Fragmentize – Which might be better against the artifacts of Izzet Ensoul, if not an instant for fighting Heliod
Erase – Equally one mana, but much better against the indestructible half of this dangerous duo
Deicide – Two mana… But strategically relevant in the new world
Pioneer Deck Lists with Chronic Flooding and Lotus Field
If you can whittle your library down to nothing, a solo Thassa’s Oracle will win the game on the spot. With Underworld Breach, you can even Mill your Thassa’s Oracle and get it back for the win, later!
This combo is potentially quite fast… But also susceptible to many angles of defense. Learn all about them in this week’s episode!
Inverter of Truth for Thassa’s Oracle
One of the most exciting new strategies is a Dimir Control deck that wins with Inverter of Truth into Thassa’s Oracle.
Inverter of Truth is just a 6/6 for four mana… So it’s kind of already awesome. The fact that it can instantaneously give you a tiny library for the Merfolk Wizard setup creates tons of cross-strategy incentive. Dig Through Time can make your library even smaller, while setting up offense or defense.
This one’s an archetype to watch!
Plus all the Red Decks, Bring to Light, and sideboard strategies you’ve come to expect. What are you waiting for? Check out “So Many Pioneer Deck Lists!” immediately:
In light of the first Pioneer PTQ (and other events) our overlords in Renton, WA started taking the ban-hammer to the available cards in this new format. They plan to update us every Monday. The first one was a riot!
Felidar Guardian – There are lots of good reasons to ban the Copy Cat. It is a key card in one of the two most prevalent (and successful) Pioneer archetypes to date. But maybe more than that, with four toughness, Felidar Guardian is really tough for some decks to deal with (for example a Red Deck where Shock-plus Wild Slash is the default burn spell)
Oath of Nissa – Oath of Nissa was a key early spell in a number of archetypes. This card was a four-of in both of the most popular Pioneer decks (Copy Cat and Mono-Green Devotion). It made the Devotion deck really — really — consistent (especially because of its ability to help hunt up Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.
Leyline of Abundance – Maybe not the most offensive card to anyone’s sensibilities, Leyline of Abundance just contributed to extraordinary explosiveness from the green mana acceleration decks and provided two essentially unearned green pips for Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Patrick notes that there is a long and storied tradition of banning (or just restricting) weird cards so that the card R&D wants to be good can remain in the format. This time it was Leyline of Abundance that bit the bullet.
An Energy Sub-Theme from the Pioneer PTQ?
One curious jumping-off point might be BARONVONFONZ’s four-color Copy Cat deck from the PTQ.
Yes, Felidar Guardian is no longer going to bother anyone (at least not in Pioneer) but it is interesting to think about BARONVONFONZ’s approach and technology.
Our speculation is that the Energy sub-theme was there largely to power up Harnessed Lightning; which can deal four damage to an opposing Felidar Guardian. The deck already had Oath of Chandra to go along with the typical Oath of Nissa set.
Losing Oath of Nissa makes casting Planeswalkers in up to four different colors more challenging. To what degree does Attune with Aether keep a “Temur Planeswalkers” deck alive? Might Traverse the Ulvenwald make a reasonable replacement for Oath of Nissa here?
Mike is skeptical, especially given what’s left in Pioneer…
Not a Single Card was Banned from Wilderness Reclamation
The big winner from the first winner-take-all PTQ event was obviously TROLLINGSARUMAN with Wilderness Reclamation.
This deck is highly reminiscent of the recent Standard deck… But upgraded with Dig Through Time as an additional awesome card to play on your own end step. Not for nothing, this particular awesome card is helpful in finding the “real” signature big blue instant of the deck: Nexus of Fate.
Given the shakeups elsewhere, Wilderness Reclamation combo might be the right place to start. After all, it did rip through a room full of Mono-Green Devotion packing Leyline of Abundance and Felidar Guardian with… um… actual Felidar Guardians. How might it fare against theoretically weaker opponents?
Modern, one of the game’s most beloved formats, takes cards that were legal from 2003 on… So chops off Magic’s first ten years.
Now Pioneer does the same, but starting in 2013. It eliminates Magic’s first twenty years.
It’s the Wild, Wild West.
Pioneer is great, or at least exciting for now because it’s such a wide open universe. There have been lots and lots of bans in Standard over the last six years… But none of those bans have hit Pioneer (yet). It’s like Sam Black said… If you’re not trying to get a card banned, you’re not trying hard enough.
Is Goblin Chainwhirler Good Enough for Pioneer Red Decks?
There have been a number of viable Red Decks over the last six years. Multiple won Pro Tours, even! (Back when we had such a thing.)
Tiny creature decks with Atarka’s Command were great.
We know the Pioneer Red Deck will be less uniform and efficient than the Modern Red Deck. It has to be, right? There will be no Lighting Bolt, for one thing. Will the ever-impressive (in Standard) threat Goblin Chainwhirler make the cut?
Spoiler: Might that creature be great if people are playing 8-12 one drop mana accelerators a la Llanowar Elves?
What Will be the Role of Dig Through Time in Pioneer?
If all you do is resolve a Wilderness Reclamation, you can start casting Dig Through Time the next turn, even if you haven’t put a lot of cards in your graveyard.
But of course you can set up to put cards in your graveyard! Growth Spiral is going to be in a class by itself. But Opt will be great… and so will cycling cards like Hieroglyphic Illumination an Censor.
Censor, in particular, is interesting: There are so many busted things to do in Pioneer… But none of them are permission spells! Censor does double duty here. It’s not much worse than Quench (even if it feels worse, when it happens to you). Its Plan B is so good to help find Wilderness Reclamation and resolve Dig Though Time.
It’s Probably Going to be a Treasure Cruise Deck…
At least until they ban Treasure Cruise.
Format is wild
New ideas are flowing.
All our takes on the first couple of Pioneer tournament results here: