Wizards of the Coast gifted us a new format on Monday: Pioneer. The new constructed format includes all cards that have been printed in Standard-legal sets starting with Return to Ravnica in 2012. As it happens, I began playing Magic competitively around that time, so I have vivid memories of the best Standard decks of the Pioneer era.

This week, everyone in Magic is processing the announcement of Pioneer and trying to wrap their heads around the new format. In that vein, I looked at Standard’s past all-stars to consider just how those decks could look with the full Pioneer card pool.

Let’s start with Green-Black Delirium from the Standard era of Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad blocks.

Green-Black Delirium

Creatures (16)
Grim Flayer
Pilgrim’s Eye
Tireless Tracker
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Mindwrack Demon
Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Noxious Gearhulk
Emrakul, the Promised End

Spells (21)
Liliana, the Last Hope
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Grasp of Darkness
Grapple with the Past
Dead Weight
Vessel of Nascency
Ruinous Path
Lands (23)
Blooming Marsh
Hissing Quagmire
Evolving Wilds

Sideboard (15)
Natural State
Gnarlwood Dryad
Appetite for the Unnatural
Flaying Tendrils
Transgress the Mind
Pick the Brain
Tireless Tracker
Emrakul, the Promised End
To the Slaughter
Distended Mindbender

This deck is one of my favorites. I got plenty of experience playing it before Emrakul, the Promised End got banned. I do think there could be a good GB Jund-style deck without the need to dip into Red. One card that I would love in the 75 is Thoughtseize, a card that will always see play in any format it is legal in. A newer proactive threat I would like to see is Questing Beast.  There were a lot of good Planeswalkers printed since the inception of the Pioneer format, and Mindwrack Demon doesn’t stack up well against the new Throne of Eldraine chase mythic.

Courser of Kruphix counting as a double type is huge in this style of deck, and the prophetic centaur is a big part of the grind engine when it comes to what GB wants to do.  Some notable cards that could make it as well are Once Upon a Time and Grisly Salvage. At this juncture, I’m not sure which would be best or what would be good to cut, but I do think those cards may add extra consistency to the deck.

I would give this strategy a mid-tier rating to start but wouldn’t be surprised to see it excel past that depending on how things play out.

Copy Cat Combo

Creatures (17)
Servant of the Conduit
Rogue Refiner
Whirler Virtuoso
Felidar Guardian

Planeswalkers (9)
Saheeli Rai
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Nahiri, the Harbinger
Nissa, Steward of Elements

Spells (14)
Attune with Aether
Harnessed Lightning
Oath of Chandra
Oath of Nissa
Lands (20)
Aether Hub
Botanical Sanctum
Game Trail
Spirebluff Canal

Sideboard (15)
Oath of Chandra
Authority of the Consuls
Bristling Hydra
Natural Obsolescence
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
Tireless Tracker

This previous Standard deck was by far one of my favorite decks I played in the format.  It felt already Modern power level in its time in the sun, seeing comparisons to Splinter Twin – the ability to be a solid mid-range deck with an ‘Oops, I win’ button.  To start, three cards I would cut are the Nissa, Steward of Elements and one copy of Nahiri, the Harbinger. These cards, whilst serving a purpose, do not line up well with the advent of Oko, Thief of Crowns.  Oko has shown to be one of the more powerful three-mana Planeswalkers in any format it is registered in.

Oath of Chandra is next on the chopping block. I really like a few copies of Once Upon a Time here to find an untapped green source, a combo piece, or just an efficient creature to help smooth out your draws.  The sideboard itself is pretty wild, but I could see cards like Teferi, Time Raveler making his way in there. I also can see Questing Beast edging out Bristling Hydra, and the potential addition of Den Protector.

In such an unmapped format, I’d give this deck a high-tier rating, and really pray it’s as good as I hope it to be.

Ramunap Red

Creatures (26)
Bomat Courier
Soul-Scar Mage
Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
Earthshaker Khenra
Harsh Mentor
Rampaging Ferocidon
Hazoret the Fervent

Spells (10)
Lightning Strike
Lands (24)
14 Mountain
Ramunap Ruins
Scavenger Grounds
Sunscorched Desert

Sideboard (15)
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Chandra’s Defeat
Magma Spray
Pia Nalaar

This deck has had two cards banned, so it’s clearly a busted deck, right?  While Ramunap Ruins and Rampaging Ferocidon did get banned, Mono Red still stayed pretty well positioned. Pioneer wise, this deck will look much different and won’t need as many creatures to be good in the format. I think the deck can cut Harsh Mentor, Kari Zev, Skyship Raider, Earthshaker Khenra and potentially a few copies of Hazoret the Fervent to start.

Over the last seven years, red decks have received a plethora of tools that can see play in this style of deck. Skullcrack and Wild Slash, for instance, are nice additions when it comes to utility spells. The main creatures that the deck can stand to factor in are Monastery Swiftspear and Goblin Chainwhirler. Good old ‘Taylor Swiftspear’ is known to be one of the best one drop creatures to ever grace the battlefield, and the ability to Light up the Stage and allow her to really perform whilst generating card advantage is something that really excites me. We can drop the colorless deserts in favor of more red sources for Chainwhirler.

Historically, aggressive red-based decks perform well in new formats. I’d give this deck a high chance of success as things stand.

There’s no shortage of decks available in the Pioneer format, and it’ll take a little while to see what really breaks the metagame wide open. With a brand new format on the horizon, what are you planning to play?

Zack is a SCG grinder with one ultimate goal: getting to the Players Championship. Based out of NYC, you can find him in other cities every weekend trying to hit that goal. When he isn’t traveling he streams. Follow his journey on Twitter!

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