Pioneer is a non-rotating constructed format that was first introduced in October of 2019. All cards printed from Return to Ravnica and onwards are legal for play with the exception of a number of cards that have already made the format's banned list. When it was first introduced, Pioneer was supposed to be a new take on the well-loved Modern format. Then came the events of 2020, and the Pioneer format was nearly all but forgotten.
Due to this unfortunate timing, Pioneer was never truly given a chance to come into its own. However, it appears that the format may finally be receving its well deserved redemption as Magic: The Gathering Arena announced the introduction of an entirely new format: Explorer. This format will use all of the Pioneer legal cards currently on MTG Arena with plans to eventually develop into full-fledged Pioneer as is currently available in paper play. In lieu of this exciting announcement, let's take a look at some of the tools the Streets of New Capenna will be bringing to this fledgling format.
9 Professional Face-Breaker
One thing mono-red decks are sorely missing is reliable draw. While professional face-breaker isn't as reliable as we might like, it's about as good as red is going to get concerning card advantage. Priming face breaker with a turn one and turn two creature not only leads to possible card advantage, but a nearly guaranteed mana advantage.
We've all seen just how powerful treasure tokens can be, and mono-red benefits just as much from some early ramp if the deck is built properly. The jury is still out on whether the face-breaker will be smashing into constructed formats, but Pioneer's five color humans deck is a good place for this card to get its feet wet.
8 Extraction Specialist
Speaking of five color humans, here's another welcome addition to their card pool. There's no shortage of cards with enter the battlefield effects in the list already, so being unable to attack or block until extraction specialist leaves the battlefield isn't as punishing as it might look. Not to mention, returning a thalia's lieutenant for an extra board pump is pretty gross.
This could be just the tool humans is looking for to climb its way back into a top spot of the meta. Even if it's not, this is one more stepping stone on the deck's way there.
7 Void Rend
Void rend will certainly be making a splash in standard, and it's fairly safe to say this card will be rearing its head in Pioneer as well. However, looking at the meta, there's not a clear place for it to slot into at the moment. Azorius control could splash a bit more black to include it, but it just may not be worth the trouble at the end of the day.
Then again, a surefire answer like void rend is exactly what a control deck wants in its sixty. Perhaps this card could lead to esper finally emerging in the meta? If it does, starting with azorius control's list is a good place to begin your experimentation.
6 Giada, Font of Hope
It only makes sense that this flavorful print comes alongside the return of Elspeth. Angels has long been on the cusp of becoming a deck in Pioneer, and Giada has many players hopeful that it will push the deck over the edge of viability. A solid two drop is exactly what the deck has been needing, and boy does Giada deliver.
With two keywords, the ability to mana ramp, and an effect that will provide a ridiculous amount of counters to your other angels, this is a two drop that demands an answer unless your opponent wants the game to swiftly spiral out of control. All the better for the angel player, as when Giada is answered that means your opponent has one less removal spell for your bigger angelic threats.
5 Corpse Explosion
Mardu greasefang may be in the market for a wrath effect, and corpse explosion is here to deliver. Furthermore, the existence of stitcher's supplier makes this card much more appealing than it already is in Standard.
Rakdos midrange could also make use of this card as the deck is well acclimated to filling the graveyard thanks to Kroxa. With two meta decks in existence that this card already slots into nicely, it would be hard to believe that corpse explosion doesn't make an appearance somewhere. It's about to get fleshy.
4 Three Color Lands
Magic players have been patient, and now our collective patience has finally been rewarded. The remaining color combinations of tri-color lands started by the triomes in Ikoria are here!
These lands will open up new deck possibilties that could not have existed without them, so it will be fun to see what shakes out from their introduction to Pioneer. Notably, one of the lands is in esper colors, a deck that was previously talked about in the Void Rend entry.
3 Elspeth Resplendent
This new Elspeth print may not be as strong as one of her previous iterations, but it's a powerful and interesting card all the same. Looking at the current meta, it's possible that Elspeth is tried in the greasefang decks as an added way to search for the okiba boss while also providing the opportunity to snag a victory despite an opponent's graveyard hate.
Furthermore, this card is certainly powerful enough to slot into another deck and Azorius Control might just be a good fit. If not, there may just be a new angel deck that she could fit into for extra staying power.
2 Tainted Indulgence
Tainted indulgence is going to rock just about every other constructed format with its introduction, and Pioneer is no different. This is one of the best draw spells that the game has ever seen, so you can be sure that Pioneer control players will be happy to get their hands on it.
Again, this card is yet another reason that we may see Azorius Control quickly pivoting into an esper formation. In fact, tainted indulgence is probably the card that makes the best argument for the transformation.
1 Ob Nixilis, The Adversary
What's better than a planeswalker? How about two of them! While the casualty mechanic has some neat uses on other cards, this is undoubtedly the card that's going to end up making casualty go down in history. With two of these planeswalkers in play, you can threaten to make your opponent lose four life if they don't discard starting as early as turn three. That's a line that any aggressive deck can get behind.
Not to mention, wrath effects won't save your opponent seeing as Ob Nixilis is a planeswalker! However, it is worth mentioning that the copy this card's casualty effect makes can be dealt with at instant speed, preventing it from ever being activated. While most planeswalkers don't have this drawback, the copy does due to the original Ob Nixilis still being on the stack when the copy enters the battlefield. Nontheless, this card is sure to prove itself a true adversary in Pioneer as well as other constructed formats. It feels good to be bad, doesn't it?
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