Insider: Pioneer Trends This Week

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This week, Wizards of the Coast further upped the ante on their new Pioneer format by featuring an entire week of Player’s Tour Qualifier (PTQ) events on Magic Online, with an event every day of the week. It has brought a ton of attention and players to the format, with events routinely drawing over 300 players, and has driven the market into a complete frenzy. Hot cards have been seeing incredibly price increases - while falling out of favor can drive the price of card down quickly.

This accelerated rate of metagame and finance development on Magic Online provides some great insight into the paper market, which inevitably will follow suit at its own slower pace. 

The story of the week has been written by Mono Black, which won the Challenge event on Sunday followed by the PTQ's on Monday and TuesdayThe biggest breakout card of the week has been Spawn of Mayhem, which appeared in the Challenge-winning list as maindeck and sideboard one-ofs, before showing up as a maindeck four-of in Tuesday’s winning decklist. At that point, the price completely blew up; at one point it reached over 11 tickets, while it was sitting at under 1.5 tickets a week ago. 

Spawn of Mayhem's paper price has started to move in turn, now up to nearly $8 from $7 a week ago. With it proving itself in Pioneer and its Standard prospects improved from bans there, it has a bright future. The downside is that the utter dominance of black decks this week means that there could very well be a ban this week to balance it out. Smuggler's Copter is the most likely candidate, and would certainly be a major blow to the deck and its financial future. I’m confident it could live on, but at this point buying-in on a card in the deck is risky.

That said, one card that doesn’t have much downside is Blood Baron of Vizkopa, which people are now trying as a way to break the Mono-Black mirror, just as it successfully did during its time in Standard. It has a few printings now, but they’ve all tripled on MTGO, from around 0.4 tix to around 1.2, while the paper printings sitting steady around $0.50 to $0.75.

The most promising specs this week will be the stars of next week, and among the Mono-Black decks there are some promising strategies breaking out. One of the biggest Pioneer gainers this week was Goblin Rabblemaster, which more than doubled to over 16 tickets from around 7. This highlights the rise of red decks in the format, which are theoretically well-suited for beating the black decks, while still having a great proactive strategy against the rest of the field.

There are decks similar to those of last season, both aggressive and more midrange versions, but the most successful has been Red-Green decks. These use green mana acceleration to ramp into Goblin Rabblemaster along with Legion Warboss, which has seen its online price increase by over 50% this week, now around 2.5 tickets. It’s also seeing play in the sideboard of the Standard Jeskai Fires deck, and is even counted as a Legacy staple, so at around $3 it could offer some gains in 2020. At under $4 Goblin Rabblemaster looks like an even better spec considering it once demand over $15, though keep in mind it has seen some reprints since. 

A notable spec from the Red-Green deck is Game Trail, which spike this week from under a ticket to over 2. Its paper price shows a perfectly 45-degree line from the $1.3 price point it at at the announcement of the format to over $2.6 now, and showing no signs of changing trajectory. It highlights that any of the lands in this cycle could be great specs, and could only require a metagame shift to drastically increase demand. As a staple of the rising Red-Black decks, Foreboding Ruins may the biggest bargain of them all at just $2, the cheapest in the cycle.

The other major trend developing this week is the evolution of Hour of Promise decks, which has been rising as a promising and powerful alternative to Mono-Black. They come in a few major forms, a ramp-focused deck with Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, a Bant Control deck with Supreme Verdict and Sphinx's Revelation or Hydroid Krasis, and a Golgari-based version with a Jund-like gameplan.

A common theme between them is the rise of Oblivion Soweras a huge haymaker in the Hour of Promise mirror match, where it’s likely to generate massive value against a deck that’s nearly half lands. It’s another card that has seen massive growth online this week, nearly tripling from 1.7 tix to 4.5 on the back of sideboard play as up to a 4-of.

I’ve always been amazed that Eldrazi have never really appreciated in price, I guess they are just too recent and too high in print relative to demand, but Pioneer is a game-changer, so as a Mythic Rare I could see Oblivion Sower spiking from its price under $2, which feels like a steal. There is certainly some risk of a Field of the Dead ban, which could happen at some point, so tread with caution, but it seems safe for the time being.

While not used in every deck, World Breaker is another common presence in Field of the Deadstrategies, where it can be used to exile an opposing copy, so it’s showing up in maindecks and sideboards. It grew by about 50% this week, up to 6 tix from 4. It’s under $4 in paper on the back of Commander and a bit of Modern play, but this development is likely to send it higher. 


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