Emerging Pioneer Staples

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2020 is here, and it’s going to be a big one for Pioneer. With the new year comes the first Premier-level Pioneer events, which until now has been played mostly on Magic Online. Bringing Pioneer to Magic Fests and the Players Tour, the first of which is at the end of January, will drastically drive up demand for cards while increasing exposure to the format. Add in the fact that the upcoming PTQ season will be Pioneer, and you have a recipe for higher prices. That makes Pioneer cards look like a great place to be heading into the spring. 

At this point, the constant bans that defined the early days of the format are behind us, and the metagame is stabilizing. I expect staples from all of the top decks to appreciate in value, so now really is the time to buy-in to any deck you know you plan on playing.

This past weekend, I burned the last bits of credit from online stores and spent some cash getting the cards I was missing from Mono-Black Aggro, and I’m eyeing some Teferi, Hero of Dominaria to have access to the Azorius Control deck. I’ve also been exploring the possibility for some spec targets, some as solid options in top-tier decks likely to see slow and sure growth, and some a bit more speculative. Upcoming events do hold the potential to rock the boat and the metagame, and any breakout deck would bring with the chance for breakout prices.

Mono-Black has recovered from the Smuggler's Copter ban and is again the most popular deck in Pioneer, and with a great track record. I’ve been following innovations in the deck, and by increasing demand for new cards they could drive up prices. An example is Dread Wanderer starting to see play as up to a 4-of, which explains its price increase from $1 to $1.20 in the past week.

Another piece of growing tech in the black deck is Rotting Regisaur, up to a four-of as a huge threat that plays well in a deck that can quickly empty the hand. 

Green decks that once defined the metagame suffered from the Oko, Thief of Crowns ban, but a new Mono-Green deck that merges an aggressive plan with the Devotion of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyxhas become one of the top contenders in the field. It has driven up the price of its cards online, and I’ve identified two that look particularly attractive. 

Surrak, the Hunt Caller is a staple of the deck as a 4-of, where it helps give it a sort of combo kill with a hasty Ghalta, Primal Hunger. What stands out about the card is its low spread, which at the time of this writing was actually negative, with Cardkingdom is paying $0.72 and selling for $1.79, but they are widely available on TCGplayer for around $0.60. Buy prices have now fallen a bit and the cheapest copies are drying up, but once more people catch on to the deck I expect them to start increasing across the board.

Another staple is Rhonas the Indomitable, which while only a 2-of, has the upside of being used in another rising archetype, the Soulflayer-Zetalpa, Primal Dawn deck that is now putting up very real and consistent finishes. Its price doubled over the course of December to around $13, but it has stayed stable. With buy prices at $11, it could be a solid play if these decks become mainstays. 

One strategy starting to pick up steam online is a Dredge-style graveyard deck, without Dredge cards themselves but many of the familiar payoffs like Prized Amalgam and Narcomoeba. Seemingly a key card that has brought it to the next-level is Decimator of Provinces, which gives it a powerful kill-condition to pair with its small creatures. 


CardKingdom is paying $0.8 for Decimtor of the Provinces,  so when I found some available for under $1, I picked up a handful of low-risk playsets, and I’m going to hold onto them with the hope the deck sees a real breakout and the price spikes. A finals finish in the SCG Pioneer Classic this week in the hands of Ross Merriam could be exactly what I was looking for.

The biggest emerging Pioneer trend online this week is a Five-Color Niv-Mizzet Reborn control deck. It started picking up steam early in the week when a 5-0 in a Preliminary event caught attention, but another on Friday by the same player turned things into a frenzy over the weekend, which culminated in the Pioneer Challenge where it took three of the top four spots! The price of Niv-Mizzet Reborn has consequently spiked online, along with solid growth by four-ofs Fabled Passage and A-Teferi, Time Raveler

Heliod, Sun-Crowned is one of the hottest cards in Theros: Beyond Death, as seen in its price as the second-most expensive in the set so far, because of its incredible combo potential with Walking Ballista. This Pioneer-legal combo is sure to make waves in a format where a two-card combo was recently banned, and as such Walking Ballista has seen a nice price spike. It’s not clear what the best deck for the combo will be, but I imagine one viable strategy will be a White Devotion plan with cards like Knight of the White Orchid that makes the most of all the God has to offer. A very attractive piece of that plan could be Archangel of Tithes, which almost turns it on single-handedly. 

While this creature was never quite good enough for Modern, Archangel of Tithes seems perfect in power level for Pioneer, and is well-positioned in this metagame where aggressive decks in all colors are among the most successful. It’s especially attractive now that Mono-Red aggro is becoming one of the best in the field. It matches up quite well against their strategy, and the five-toughness flier matches up perfectly against their top-end of Glorybringer



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