The other day I released a video essay on my YouTube channel discussing all of the reasons I think A-Winota, Joiner of Forces is an amazing Magic card. In the aftermath of the release, I found myself reading Reddit comments on the video (I know, bad idea) along the lines of, "I didn't watch the video BUT..." where people went on to complain about how broken Winota is as a card.
While I can see where they're coming from, I guess (dealing with her and Agent of Treachery at the same time was a bit much, I guess), I couldn't imagine why they would think Winota was still a problem. She hardly puts up numbers in Standard anymore, is banned in Historic, and hasn't made much of a splash in Modern or Legacy. Then, after reading a tweet from Filipa Carola on Twitter, I remembered that Pioneer was still a format and that Winota was still legal there!
Pioneer friends, please forgive me. I started building a few Pioneer decks right as the Pandemic was starting (late to the Pioneer game, I know) and then promptly forgot the format existed because I wasn't able to go to any of the burgeoning Pioneer events in my hometown. However, with Pioneer still developing on MTGO and the likelihood that it will one day be a supported format on Magic Arena as well in sanctioned paper play (post-pandemic), I think it would be foolish to keep ignoring the format and its financial implications. With that in mind, I started sifting through Pioneer league results, and today we're going to look at five cards that are worth speculating on. I also made a video companion to this article, which you can watch below!
Winota, Joiner of Forces
Let's go ahead and start with A-Winota, Joiner of Forces. Winota is the backbone of a sweet Naya Midrange deck in Pioneer and after looking at the list that EmErgy took to a 5-0 finish in a Pioneer League on MTGO on 11/26/2020 I immediately ordered the singles I was missing to have the deck in paper. The deck looks to ramp with early non-human creatures such as Elvish Mystic, Llanowar Elves, and Lotus Cobra into threats that also make non-human creatures like Goblin Rabblemaster and Legion Warboss to finally set up an epic A-Winota, Joiner of Forces into Angrath's Marauders. If you need to find any of your awesome creatures, you can employ Eldritch Evolution to sac one of your mana dorks and find something better.
With regular printings of Winota going for around three dollars and the extended art selling in the six to seven dollar range, I think there's a lot of room for growth with the card and now is a great time to pick up your copies. As always, I lean towards trying to secure the non-foil extended art version of the card (I believe competitive players who want to "bling" out their decks without risking game losses due to curling foils will gravitate towards these options) and if you can get them closer to the five or six dollar price point I think they are definitely worth snapping up. I also don't think it's a bad idea to be picking up the related rares like the goblins or the Marauders, which are all powerful cards that should see some growth when paper play resumes.
Anyone who watched my Twitch stream while Wilderness Reclamation was still a thing is probably familiar with how salty Rec decks made me when I had to play against them. The mana advantage these decks create can be absurd, which is why the card is banned in Standard and Historic. At four mana, it never really took hold in Modern or Legacy, but the Temur Rec list that it has found its home in with Pioneer is a force to be reckoned with. Now, I know I rarely talk about uncommons, but when one is the backbone of a deck like Wilderness Reclamation is, I think it's worth taking a look at. So far it has only been printed in Ravnica Allegiance and Commander 2020 and both copies are sitting in the two to three dollar range - which is impressive for an uncommon these days.
Now, it's also worth considering the fact that there is a good potential for this deck to get hit with some bannings once paper play resumes. The list that Bielzito took to a 5-0 finish in a Pioneer League on MTGO on 12/10/2020 uses a playset of Wilderness Reclamation to help set up powerful spells like Expansion // Explosion, Shark Typhoon, and of course features the much-maligned Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. There's also a playset of Growth Spiral - and as we saw with Historic, Growth Spiral plus Wilderness Reclamation is a good recipe for a banning.
However, if you can be picking up copies of Wilderness Reclamation on the cheap at your local shop without messing with shipping costs, I think this is a great card to have plenty of copies of in your speculation box once Pioneer paper play resumes - just make sure to be paying attention to tournament results and Twitter outrage so you can sell them before a banning happens.
Any format where you can successfully take a burn deck to a 5-0 finish like _ZNT_ did in a Pioneer League on MTGO on 12/10/2020 is a good format in my book. I've always been a big fan of Soul-Scar Mage and seeing it perform so well in several formats, with Pioneer being no exception, warms my heart. Pioneer burn, helmed by companion Lurrus, of the Dream Den, functions like any other burn deck you've seen before. It has a powerful creature suite, usually featuring playsets of Soul-Scar Mage, Monastery Swiftspear, Eidolon of the Great Revel, Ghitu Lavarunner, and Viashino Pyromancer. Pair all of these good red creatures with a bunch of burn spells and you have a quick, powerful deck capable of being fast enough to take on any opponent.
With the only printings of Soul-Scar Mage coming from Amonkhet and the price hovering around four to five dollars, I think now is a great time to pick up copies for your speculation box (or if you're looking to play a sweet deck, of course.) I don't see this rad Mage being primed for a reprint any time soon, and since it shows up in several formats' burn decks, if you want your copies you should definitely pick these up before paper play resumes.
Okay, so I wanted to bring up an Oops! All Spells list without writing about Zendikar Rising's new dual-sided lands (which I have already written about many, many times.) You should definitely be thinking about picking those lands up, but in the Pioneer world, there's another card worth highlighting that features in the Oops! All Spells list - Sylvan Caryatid. This plant is a fantastic mana producer with several upsides from Theros, and so far it only has the Theros printing as well as a gorgeous Buy-A-Box promo version. In Pioneer, Sylvan Caryatid can fit into all sorts of decks that run green, but in Oops! All Spells it pairs nicely with rares like Prized Amalgam, Kazandu Mammoth // Kazandu Valley, Thoughtseize, and like Naya Midrange - Eldritch Evolution. Mana producing creatures are an essential component of this super cool deck that doesn't run any actual land cards!
If you don't already have a couple of playsets of Sylvan Caryatid from back in the Theros era, you can snag non-foil copies of the non-promo version around the four dollar mark and if foils are more your bag, the Buy-A-Box version will run you about eight to ten dollars. The Buy-A-Box version might be a bit expensive if you're looking to speculate on Pioneer really taking off once paper play resumes, but I'm comfortable picking up copies of the regular printing at their current price and will continue to do so until around the five or six dollar mark.
Nissa, Who Shakes the World
After being repeatedly beaten into the dust by her, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to find a mono-green planeswalkers list featuring Nissa, Who Shakes the World putting up decent numbers in Pioneer! This mono-green list is sweet, and like many mono-green lists it focuses on using good mana producing creatures to ramp into super powerful cards like Karn, the Great Creator, Vivien, Arkbow Ranger, and the aforementioned Nissa. This deck also features a full playset of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which is one of those cards I seriously regret selling off after Theros rotated - which is sitting at about twenty dollars apiece now.
Now, there are definitely more printings of Nissa out in the world than there are of the other cards we've talked about so far. With prerelease printings, War of the Spark, the Japanese alternate art War of the Spark, Throne of Eldraine Promo Pack printings, and the stained glass version distributed with Secret Lairs, there are quite a few versions of the card out there. However, with how powerful Nissa can be, I think picking up copies now is still a good idea. I'm personally prioritizing the stained glass variant as well as the regular War of the Spark printing. Both can be had in the four to six dollar range, which I think leaves a lot of room for growth when paper play resumes.
Until Next Time
Well, friends, that's it from me for now! I hope you've been having a great week. Are you managing to get any Pauper games in during the Pandemic? Do you have any sweet lists I should check out? Feel free to hit me up in the QS Discord any time, and you can always feel free to stop by my Twitch channel or Twitter if you want to chat Magic. Take care out there - we've almost made it through 2020! It's hard to imagine, but every day that goes by is a day closer to being able to see you all at a large Magic event again, and that's a thought that makes it easier for me to get through these lonely quarantine days.