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Welcome back fleshlings. The Mother of Machines seeks an audience as she unveils her new and perfected additions to the Pioneer format. These new staples will ensure Phyrexia's reach to the stars and beyond. Shall we begin?
Ossification is a callback to Chained to the Rocks that, despite costing twice as much, is far easier to cast. Chained to the Rocks needs a Mountain whereas Ossification can use any basic land. While Sacred Foundry and tri lands like Raugrin Triome exist, finding these lands in a format without fetch lands is much less reliable than a basic. Ossification will shine in decks like Mono-White aggro which already play similar cards like Fateful Absence, Portable Hole, and Declaration in Stone.
9. Experimental Augury
I didn't Anticipate this much power creep, but I'm not complaining. Experimental Augury is an instant speed card selection spell with proliferate stapled to it. It has a perfect home in UW Control which attempts to win with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and The Wandering Emperor. Not only does Augury add loyalty to these walkers making them harder to kill and bringing Teferi closer to his ultimate, but The Wandering Emperor puts +1/+1 counters on creatures that can also be duplicated. This can create blowouts in combat, especially since The Wandering Emperor grants first strike to creatures.
Notably, proliferate can also affect sagas, allowing them to advance to the next chapter ahead of schedule. I look forward to moving up the timeline on my opponent's Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki in their end step so I can clean up the board with a Supreme Verdict.
7. Phyrexian Arena
Even after 22 years and twelve printings, Phyrexian Arena is still the same powerhouse its always been. It's hard to overcome the raw card advantage this enchantment provides over a long game. Its life loss is also entirely mitigated by the format staple Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. I could see Phyrexian Arena showing up in the sideboard of RB Midrange to edge out grindy matchups or even in some sort of Mono-Black Devotion style deck with Gray Merchant of Asphodel.
6. Vat of Rebirth
The cat is out of the bag. Vat of Rebirth is an awesome new inclusion in the RB Sacrifice deck. It works seamlessly with Cauldron Familiar and Witch's Oven, getting counters both when the cat dies and when the food is sacrificed to bring it back, making the prerequisite four oil counters easy to attain. The centerpiece of this archetype is Mayhem Devil which is under strict kill-on-sight orders for any opponent. Vat is a great way to keep the pesky devil around, even through a ton of removal.
5. Nissa, Ascended Animist
Ok, first I just need to ask, why did compleating Nissa require shaving her head? Nahiri has hair. Jace has hair. Vraska has...snakes I think?
With that off my chest, Nissa Ascended Animist packs a wallop. It can be cast for anywhere between five and seven mana and churns out massive beaters while generating more loyalty. It can also blow up artifacts and enchantments like the ever-present Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Skysoverign, Consul Flagship, or whatever the opponent's Karn, the Great Creator chooses to bring to the party.
Notably, Nissa adds four devotion for Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, supercharging it for future activations. Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner, a staple in Mono-Green devotion, synergizes well with Nissa by untapping Nykthos and by drawing cards when Nissa's tokens enter the battlefield.
Finally, Nissa's ultimate does a great Craterhoof Behemoth impression and it can be activated the turn she enters the battlefield, turning Cavalier of Thorns and Old-Growth Troll into game-ending attackers.
The only thing holding Nissa back is Mono-Green Devotion centering around Storm the Festival. Although Nissa can be cast for five mana, she has a mana value of seven, making her a miss for Festival. If the archetype shifts away from Festival, I'm sure Nissa will earn her spot in the archetype.
4. Thrun, Breaker of Silence
Guess who's back and just as frustrating to deal with? Thrun, Breaker of Silence is nigh-unkillable for control decks. It can't be countered and it can't be targeted by nongreen spells or abilities the opponent controls. Since it has indestructible on the player's turn, the opponent can't even clear it out with surprise blockers like Shark Typhoon. They will need to rely on board wipes like Supreme Verdict or Farewell to stop him. Edict effects like Liliana of the Veil also work but are much less reliable. For some reason and despite being nearly identical to "hexproof from non-green spells and abilities," Thrun does not have hexproof. As a result Shadowspear can't even lower his shields.
Ultimately, Thrun is a brutal game piece for green-based decks to add to their arsenal and I'm not looking forward to seeing it used against me.
3. Sword of Forge and Frontier
Do you mean to tell me the format defined by Llanowar Elves and Bonecrusher Giant now has access to a piece of equipment that grants protection from both red and green? Sign me up! Sword of Forge and Frontier looks to be a great sideboard option against Mono-Green Devotion and the RG Vehicles deck, providing card advantage and a way to break through board stalls while also being a great defensive tool. The only downside to this equipment is that red and green are the best at destroying artifacts. A well-timed Boseiju, Who Endures can turn a free attack into a suicide mission. This sword has a very high upside, but it comes with a high risk, so be cautious.
2. Atraxa, Grand Unifier
Atraxa, Grand Unifier is a very interesting card and a callback to Niv-Mizzet Reborn. At seven mana across four colors, it's a tall order to cast, but when it hits the battlefield it rains down card advantage in addition to its substantial 7/7 flying, vigilance, deathtouch, and lifelink body.
My goal isn't to cast Atraxa. Rather, I'm interested in cheating it into play thanks to Neoform and delve creatures like Hooting Mandrills. This strategy previously saw some success by putting Velomachus Lorehold into play, but that strategy was fragile at best. Atraxa's immediate card advantage makes it a much more reliable option. Notably, Neoform puts a +1/+1 counter on the creature it finds and Atraxa is an angel, meaning neither Heartless Act nor Power Word Kill can kill it. That leaves Go for the Throat as the only premium black removal spell that can stop Atraxa.
1. Skrelv, Defector Mite
Skrelv, Defector Mite is a Mother of Runes built for Pioneer. At one mana, it fits well on an aggressive curve and helps to break through board stalls. While the life loss or mana to activate it can create difficult decisions during the course of a match, Skrelv more than makes up for it by ensuring snowball effects like Luminarch Aspirant and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar stick around longer.
Generally speaking, the opponent will need to kill Skrelv early and often so they can clear out the real threats. However, if they kill it, Extraction Specialist will be waiting in the wings to bring it right back.
There are so many great inclusions in this set that I didn't have a chance to mention like the return of allied fast lands such as Darkslick Shores. With them, Pioneer is finally up-to-speed with the best non-fetch lands from the Modern card pool. I'm looking forward to seeing how this better mana will affect the format and what new archetypes will be unlocked.
I will be testing all of these new cards once ONE officially releases, so be sure to follow me on Twitch and Twitter to stay up to date with all my new brews. See you all next time!