Brewer's Paradise Pioneer: Dimir Control
With a new non-rotating Constructed format, players now face exciting opportunities to build decks with their favorite cards from past Standard environments. In Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Andifeated has found the perfect nostalgia-inducing card to brew with. Read how he approaches a new format!
Being a Pioneer
I started playing competitive Magic and preparing for tournaments when netdecking was as normal as it is today. There weren't as many tools available to gather data on decklists and more time was needed to solve metagames and formats, but building your decks for tournaments based on successful lists from other players already was the norm. Between time constraints and many players working on the same decks, this is a natural development and something I did for the most Constructed tournaments I attended. I tried to understand the metagame and to predict what was going to change until the day of my tournament, and then I picked an archetype that would be good in that field. I looked through all successful lists and tried to tune them for my needs and expected metagame.
I never built a deck of my own from scratch or was ahead of the metagame with a brand new archetype. While this certainly made for the best use of my time while maximizing my ability to win matches, I started to feel like I was missing out on opportunities not being able to imagine and build strong decks that hadn't been found yet. My older friends always told me stories about tournaments and metagames they broke back in the day when netdecking wasn't a thing yet. Back then, you could come up with your own synergies and combinations of cards nobody was prepared for, which resulted in decent players achieving higher win rates than they do today. I always wanted to master the skill of building strong decks before anybody else finds them, but didn't want to invest the necessary time.
Pioneer is the perfect opportunity to start building up this skill, as the format is big enough that some time will pass before the metagame settles down and people find the best decks. Therefore, I will try to build as many decks as possible as long as the format is young and still in flux.
Find the Busted Cards
The first thing I did when Pioneer was announced was to take a look at all broken Standard decks since the release of Return to Ravnica and to identify the best cards from them. Wizards will certainly ban some obvious candidates before Players Tour Brussels. However, there is one card I remember defining Standard for the entirety of its legality where I think a banning is pretty unlikely …
While others wasted their time playing with Aetherworks Marvel, Felidar Guardian, and other cards that would get banned soon, I decided I wanted to find the best use for Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound.
From Pioneer Prodigy to Dimir Diamond
Let's take a closer look at one of my favorite cards of all time! Jace fit into many different decks while he was Standard legal and demonstrated outstanding power in every single one of them. Although he can shine in many different strategies, some things have to be true about your deck to make him realize his full potential. First of all, without cards in your graveyard, Jace won't flip and stay a simple Merfolk Looter. Merfolk Looter isn't a bad card and has seen play in Constructed decks, but the backside of Jace is much more powerful. Therefore, your deck should be good at filling the graveyard to increase the potential of an early Jace transformation.
On the same note, flipped Jace's quality directly correlates with the number of useful instants and sorceries in your deck. His +1 ability isn't what makes him an asset. Flashing back a spell about every other turn in a Snapcaster Mage imitation is what makes him powerful. Thus, we should try to fit him into a shell where we can flip him fast and have access to many different spells we want to cast again.
Another big factor when deciding which cards to include in our Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound deck is that he starts out as a creature. While that means he can block attackers with 1 power without dying, it also means that Fatal Push and other removal spells can target him. Planeswalkers are usually hard to get rid of as creature removal can't target them and so they provide threats your opponents may have dead cards against. A classic control deck that doesn't rely on creatures has the advantage of ignoring effects that target creatures, which leaves opponents with many bad draws throughout the first game, and leaves them guessing after sideboarding.
If you're playing Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound in a control context, this advantage will be gone. That makes it better to move him to the sideboard and stay creatureless entirely, or to include additional good creatures that require your opponent to draw multiple removal spells if they want to keep you off of threats. It also makes cards like Liliana, the Last Hope and The Scarab God better. Those cards fit nicely into a control strategy, but they suffer from not having creatures in your deck.
As Dig Through time, Thoughtseize, and Fatal Push work very well alongside Jace and I suspect them to be among the most powerful cards in the new Pioneer format, I've decided to put them all together for my first Pioneer brew, which is Dimir Control:
|Dimir Control by Andifeated|
While it's hard to build a control deck without knowing the expected metagame yet, this one plays so many powerful cards and generic answers that I'm not afraid to bring it to any early Pioneer tournament.
Four Fabled Passage is a must for me as it helps to flip Jace fast, turns on revolt for Fatal Push, and pays for delve costs of Dig Through Time and Murderous Cut, all while fixing our mana. The deck features many double-colored costs and wants untapped lands throughout the mid- and late game. If you don't have your playset of that card yet, I suggest you get it now. It should be fairly important for Pioneer decks as long as we don't get more and better fetch lands in the future—which seems unlikely to me after the initial banned list started with the Khans fetch land cycle.
I'm not sure how many Field of Ruin we want to run. It smooths our deck's synergies like Fabled Passage does, but comes at a higher cost since its mana remains colorless until we have an opportunity to use it profitably or have the luxury to spend the necessary mana. As we don't know yet how many utility lands like Search for Azcanta // Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin, Mutavault, Hissing Quagmire, Lumbering Falls, and Ramunap Ruins will be played in main decks—looks like it could be many—I didn't wanted to start with four. But I could see the need for a full playset of that powerful answer to problematic lands.
Contol decks focus on disrupting the opponent early and slowing their game plan down. In Pioneer, we've got access to powerful and efficient spells that can handle all kinds of threats and keep the battlefield nice and clean while costing not much mana. I suspect Thoughtseize to become a pillar of the format and to be very important for all kinds of strategies that can reliably produce black mana on the first turn. As Pioneer already offers a big card pool, powerful synergies and combinations will dictate the pace of the games we play. Breaking up broken combos with Thoughtseize will buy midrange and control Decks the necessary time to win with card advantage or threats the opponent can't handle in time. It fuels our delve spells fast and can be flashed back by Jace, Telepath Unbound while giving us information about the opponent's plan, which makes it the most important disruption element in our deck.
Disallow also helps to keep the battlefield clear in the midgame. You will rarely point Jace's −3 ability at it—you can still target it and use it to protect a spell you want to resolve on your turn, but there are often better things to do with your Jace. On the other hand, Disallow can solve all kinds of problems, for example stifle a planeswalker's ultimate that would've been the nail in your coffin otherwise. On top, it synergizes pretty well with Torrential Gearhulk and Dig Through Time.
Fatal Push, Murderous Cut, and Hero's Downfall form an exceptionally efficient removal package to pick apart the key creatures on the battlefield. Downfall can even deal with opposing planeswalkers very cleanly. Liliana, the Last Hope and Jace, Telepath Unbound deal with the remaining small creatures, while Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, The Scarab God, and Torrential Gearhulk are phenomenal blockers. So we don't need a board wipe like Languish, Crux of Fate, or Cry of the Carnarium in our main deck.
Card Advantage and Winning the Game
After successfully disrupting the opponent's plan and stabilizing, control decks need to pull ahead and close the game. This control deck uses a mixture of powerful creatures, planeswalkers, and raw card advantagenot to rely on one angle too much and be exploitable like other control decks.
With Jace and Liliana, this deck can reuse cards from the graveyard, neutralize small creatures, and build toward a game-ending emblem if left unchecked. Kalitas and The Scarab God are mighty threats that devastate creature decks completely on their own, and with Hieroglyphic Illumination and Dig Through Time you can simply bury your opponent in card advantage just like Garfield intended. Traditionally, control decks have often earned concessions out of frustration and the need to save time for the following games of the match.
The beauty of Torrential Gearhulk is that it fits in all of the above categories: card advantage, recycling, and a flashy 5/6 body that can easily close out a game after you've exhausted your opponent's resources. Playing so many creatures increases the chance that any one of them sticks on the battlefield and makes Liliana even better as she can bring them back to your hand for additional uses.
There isn't much reliable data out there yet. But we can draw some conclusions from what we got and prepare for the decks that had success in the first week of the format. Based on the minimal data I want to be prepared against:
The first draft of a sideboard could be looking like this:
I haven't digested all decklists yet, but with those cards we should be able to at least stand a fighting chance against most strategies I consider playable at the moment.
I'm very excited to dive into this new format as I was waiting for a new non-rotating format for quite some time now and believed all throughout 2019 that we would get one before 2020. I can't wait for MagicFest Brussels and will prepare a lot for this tournament, so expect me to show off some more Pioneer decks and strategy in the future.
Have you started brewing up deck ideas for the Pioneer format yet? Let me know what your favorite cards are and what you're thinking about this new Constructed format in the comments below!
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