Pioneer burst onto the scene this week, seemingly out of nowhere. Magic’s newest official sixty-card format feels a bit incomplete, however. Banning the fetch lands from Khans of Tarkir sounds like a good start, but Wizards R&D outsourced the rest of the banned list to the community. We may have to wait a few weeks before we get a sense of where the metagame will eventually settle.

While everyone else is trying to break the format until they’ve banned ten cards, let’s spend some time at the other end. Here are eight cards that never made huge impacts in their Standard formats but could blossom in the larger card pool. Marginal Standard cards tend to get worse as formats get larger, but sometimes all you need is some critical mass.

8. Tamiyo, Field Researcher

Three colors can be hard to work with in Standard. Tamiyo, Field Researcher got a little bit of play, but Winding Constrictor and Fatal Push made it hard to justify playing green without also playing black. Pioneer will presumably support more than one green archetype, even if the lack of Noble Hierarch makes Bant less attractive than it otherwise would be.

Bant Tamiyo does some serious work, however. I’ve heard stories of her success in Modern from time to time. You can lock down a couple dangerous threats for a couple turns, as long as they aren’t lands. (Mutavault says hello.) Tamiyo’s +1 ability can let you draw a few cards in the right situation, but it also confuses unprepared opponents. Her ultimate is also good, in theory.

7. Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim

You never want to pay mana to use a sacrifice outlet. That probably keeps Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim from Pioneer stardom. But you get a lot of text for two mana, plus a 2/3 deathtouch creature. Mox Amber will tempt more than a few Pioneer explorers, and these colors have some good legendary creatures to join forces.

Every non-rotating format has a lifegain deck out there stalking the middle tiers of the metagame. Why not Orzhov Pioneer Pilgrims? Barrier of Bones might not be good enough to fuel your value-toughness-lifegain engine, but something will be. Huatli, the Sun’s Heart? I trust you to find the way.

6. Keranos, God of Storms

I don’t recall Keranos, God of Storms seeing much Standard play. It’s claim to fame was in the sideboard of Splinter Twin against Jund in Modern of years ago. Saheeli Rai might be interested in similar services before too long.

Pioneer seems perfect for the slow-blue-nonsense decks that want random Lightning Bolts and land redraws on turns twelve through fifteen. We don’t have much in the way of cheap blue cantrips—Opt or not, there is no Thought Scour. With no actual Storm cards either, Izzet mages finally get to sit back and play a slower game. Lots of new planeswalkers in these colors to experiment with, even if you can’t play CopyCat Combo. Get enough of them in play and suddenly you have an indestructable 6/5 too!

5. Eye Gouge

Eye Gouge is a Flavor Hall of Famer. Did you know this card existed? Now you do! I don’t know what twisted Pioneer metagame will have Cyclops running rampant, but I am here for it. If nothing else, Eye Gouge kills Borborygmos Enraged even if you forget the correct name. It also destroys an activated Mutavault.

4. Deathrite Shaman

Speaking of underrated one-mana black spells, have you heard of Deathrite Shaman? It really sucked in Standard without fetch lands to make it a real mana elf. That seems to be where things are headed in Pioneer too.

Maybe the Pioneer metagame will devolve into the quest for the best Smuggler’s Copter enablers. If so, Deathrite offers some nice upside to go with that one-power crew ability. You can loot away whatever cards you want to exile with the other abilities later, I guess. Is that better than Thraben Inspector? You won’t have to sleeve up basic Plains, at least.

3. Stratus Dancer

Morph may be too slow or too niche to make an impact in Pioneer, but I hope not. Den Protector can dominate a slow metagame, and there are some fun rare morphs from Khans block like Thousand Winds. Stratus Dancer loses a lot of power if it’s the only morph anyone plays, but you can wreck people with a hidden on-board counter that can’t be countered back without serious work.

Also, playing a 2/1 flier on turn two can win some games. Stratus Dancer can also block without drawbacks—unlike Welkin Tern or Order of Midnight. You never really want to block in Constructed, but the option can be lifesaving. (You can also pay three mana to block as a 2/2, if you really need that second point of toughness.)

2. Maze’s End

There was a short period of time in Standard when Maze’s End ruled the day. Now we have Gates Ablaze and Gate Colossus to round out the new version of Thawing Glaciers control. Hell, we even have more than ten named gates to thwart Surgical Extraction effects, thanks to Gateway Plaza.

You can also play Field of the Dead and Scapeshift to mix up your strategies, assuming neither of those cards gets banned.

1. Boros Reckoner

Boros Reckoner cut a wide swath through Standard of its day, but that was fueled by Blasphemous Act and Harvest Pyre. Both of those were holdovers from Innistrad block that Pioneer now leaves behind. I’m willing to bet there are some new combos to be built with the Reckoner in Pioneer. You might even be able to play this bad news minotaur for value in an aggro deck. Red devotion?

This one also provides a nice opportunity to shout out the charms we have in Pioneer. (Kristen reminded us yesterday that Rakdos Charm does work.) Boros Charm has made its name in Modern Burn, but it also turns Boros Reckoner into an invincible damage chain of righteousness.

What do you think? Any pet fringe playable Standard cards you want to dust off and take for a spin in Pioneer? By the time the MagicFests come around, you might be able to do it!

Brendan McNamara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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