Insider: Predicting the Next Pioneer Spike

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The announcement of the Pioneer format was a monumental moment for Magic and its market. It suddenly and massively increased the utility and value of huge swaths of cards that had been mostly forgotten; long-gone from Standard but too weak for Modern, the stuff of cubes and Commander decks. Now, these cards are front-and-center of Magic’s newest format, and with widespread competitive support already announced, it’s clearly slated to be the new successor to Modern. The show of demand from the market, players and speculators alike, has been incredible, and cards are spiking by the day. 

In the immediate aftermath of the announcement, some low-hanging speculative fruit was picked, but with the cardpool so large and the metagame completely unknown, things are really just getting started. Now the format is live on MTGO and actually being played competitively, with a high-profile Challenge this weekend and a PTQ to come the following. Soon we’ll have access to winning decklists, and their proliferation will create the foundation of metagame.

When we actually get our hands on results and see what’s actually winning, the market is going to react accordingly. Fortunately, there are still a lot of opportunities to cash in on the staples of the future. While much of the movements so far have been based on speculation, Magic Online movements paint a better picture of actual demand from players. A look at the top-gainers on MTGO in the past day reveal some deep insight into the metagame and its staples, and in turn the future of the paper market. 

Starting with the big picture, the biggest Pioneer movers on MTGO have mostly been in line with the biggest and earliest paper movers, with  Smuggler's Copter and Dig Through Time on top, and cards like Aetherworks Marvel and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound close behind. That makes sense given the hype, but these cards have already spiked and now is a great time to sell, not buy. What’s most interesting to me are the other top-gainers that haven’t yet spiked in paper. These MTGO increases are likely to be driven more by organic demand, and provide a look at future staples of the format.  

Hissing Quagmire was the third-biggest gainer on MTGO this week, a staple of all variety of  Black-Green decks, including the Winding Constrictor Hardened Scales deck that has emerged as an early and frontrunner. Any format with Thoughtseize is going to have good black-green midrange decks, and Hissing Quagmire will always be a part of that. It can still be had for around $1.50, a bargain rate compared to Celestial Colonnade’s peak over $70.

The fourth-biggest gainer this week was Declaration in Stone. It’s simply white’s best removal spell in the format, where it lacks a good one-mana option like Path to Exile. On the plus side, it’s quite powerful as both an exile effect and for the potential to take multiple cards at once, and it will be an essential part of the toolbox of most white decks in the format just as it was in Standard. Still very readily available for under $1, I have to imagine this card has room to grow with its investigate Clue-making keyword making it less likely for reprint than the average card.

I was surprised to see Jace, Architect of Thought as one of the biggest winners this week, but with Jace, the Mind Sculptor on the sidelines, JAoT is the best Jace in the format, at least of those that don’t have to flip. It was a crucial card-advantage tool in various blue decks in Standard, including control and Blue Devotion, both of which are being played in Pioneer. With applications in all sorts of blue decks, it makes sense why it’s in-demand. However, it has a duel-deck printing and Return to Ravnica was heavily opened, but at under $2 there’s not much to lose on this staple that once demanded $50.

The Dragonlord cycle from Dragons of Tarkir is one of the most powerful but accessible cycle of creatures in Pioneer, and all of them will be playable just like they were in Standard. The standout there was Dragonlord Ojutai, and it threatens to be the control finisher of choice in Pioneer as well. One of the top gainers online this week, it has budged in paper from around $4.50 to $5, and is likely to continue its upward trajectory.

Master of Waves has seen tremendous growth online this week, and it’s being played as the centerpiece of an aggressive Mono-Blue Devotion deck with Tempest Djinn. MPL player Andrea Mengucci streaming the deck has only added to its popularity. Master of Waves also offers some spicy synergy with Risen Reef in a potential Elemental tribal deck, so it has a lot going for it, not to mention its applications for hosing red decks. It’s already showing some growth in paper and has crossed the $2 mark, with a foil Duel deck printing still under $2, and both likely to keep going.

Speaking of red aggro, all variety of decks that try to get the opponent dead ASAP with red cards are being played. Legion Loyalist doesn’t see play in Burn decks, but it’s a great tool for red decks that swarm, potentially even Goblin tribal versions, and it has seen huge growth online. It does have a Guild Kit printing, and both versions are still around $3, but I could see it really taking off as one of red’s premier one-drops without Goblin Guide around. With a couple of spikes in its recent history to over $10, it should have a lot of upside. 

Plan for Bans

I highly recommend picking up any of the cards I mentioned today if you plan to play with them. Speculation at this stage is certainly still risky, the metagame is in its infancy, but there’s also clearly a ton of opportunity. The most important thing to consider is that bans, multiple of them, will be inevitable, and probably sooner than later, so be sure to have an exit plan that keeps this in mind. 


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