Temur Reclamation Goes Wild in Pioneer
- Rodrigo Martin
Temur Reclamation was one of the best performing decks over the last year in Standard. Recently banned even before rotation, the strategy has found a new format to conquer. Right now it stands as the king of the hill in Pioneer. Let's take a closer look at the current trend and possible futures.
Summer is almost over and we are close to the Zendikar Rising release date. The fall set is always the one we get to play the most. It also comes at the same time as Standard rotation, and personally it is the one that usually hypes me the most. As such, I want to take a quick look at some new cards before this article ends, but today's focus is on developments from the recent past of Pioneer. The format received a huge shake-up when Wizards finally decided to take action against the top-tier combo decks that populated the metagame. As everyone should know by now, Dimir Inverter, Heliod Ballista, and Lotus Breach are no more, leaving almost an empty canvas to start over.
Within that scenario, a former Standard bogeyman showed up to take over the format: the one and only Temur Reclamation. It had previously dominated Standard, until it was tossed out in the same banned and restricted announcement that changed Pioneer. Let's properly dissect the strategy, its ups and downs, and look at some potential additions from Zendikar Rising.
An Exploding Arrival
Let's get started with Temur Reclamation 101. At this point in time, the deck's basics, key cards, and central play patterns are pretty well known from its Standard counterpart. However, it needs to adapt to the Pioneer environment.
|Temur Reclamation by ivanguille, 5-0, Pioneer League, September 7|
One could categorize Temur Reclamation as a ramp deck with a two-card combo inside — the namesake enchantment plus Expansion // Explosion. Casting Explosion after tapping and untapping all lands in the end step grants an absurd amount of cards, usually fueling another, lethal Explosion later on. In order to get to this point, the first goal is to get ahead on lands as quickly as possible with ramps spells that also replace themselves like Growth Spiral and Uro. Secondly, you need to resolve a Wilderness Reclamation while also keeping the board free of problematic threats.
Last but not least, to close up the game there are three alternate finishers: the first and most in-your-face option is a deadly Explosion indeed aiming at the opponent's face. Shark tokens from Shark Typhoon can get there as well, and finally you can always count on the Elder Giant itself to get the job done. Let's further divide the main deck into four different categories to see where each card fits …
Historically, ramp spells used to have a drawback. The price you paid for adding cards like Rampant Growth or Wild Growth to your deck was that once you entered topdeck mode they were almost useless. Now they have no downsides anymore as they can always cycle into additional business. The combination of Uro plus Growth Spiral became quite oppressive in Standard, as we already mentioned. Now it's no longer available, this deadly duo is making a huge impact in Modern where different green-blue shells (Temur, Bant, and Sultai) also known as "Uro Piles" are making good use of this efficient mana ramp. Of course, it was only a matter of time until they landed in Pioneer.
Regarding the Wilderness Reclamation, Growth Spiral allows you to play it on turn three, virtually adding four extra mana right away, though limited to be spent on instants. But that's something this particular strategy takes great advantage of. Having a Reclamation in play gets you so far ahead as it doubles the mana at the end of each of your turns, so five lands add ten mana, six is equal to twelve, and so on and so forth; overall allowing you to pay for Shark Typhoon's cycle cost, Expansion // Explosion, or even Cyclonic Rift's overload cost to reset the board when needed.
Permission and Interaction
This is the section where we find Pioneer-specific additions. Starting with Censor, this cycling countermagic has become a pillar in every blue control shell, allowing you to counter any spell at a cheap cost if the opponent is constrained on mana or doesn't play around it. The greatest feature of Censor is that it doesn't matter if opponents know you run the card in your main deck, since they need to respect it, and even if they do play around it, you are gaining a virtual advantage since they need to keep an extra mana open. Therefore, it's always taxing their spells and slowing them down no matter what. And just like the ramp spells, there are no dead spots for this card, as you can always cycle it so it becomes graveyard fodder for Uro's escape cost.
Mystical Dispute is our second blue counterspell, a necessary evil to catch up with other blue-based decks. Once Reclamation is in play, its three-mana cost gets much easier to pay, although it might become a dead card sometimes the late game. Neutralize can also become a consideration depending on the expected meta. Interestingly enough, Dispute is both the most played card and spell in Pioneer, as it can be found in approximately 39% of decklists, which makes a lot of sense since it cleanly answers format-defining cards such as Niv-Mizzet Reborn, Teferi, Time Raveler, or Narset, Parter of Veils for a single mana.
Our final blue entry in this category is Cyclonic Rift, an expensive Commander card that literally saw no play in Pioneer until Temur Reclamation showed up in the format. Usually, Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft would be a better call since it counts as a bounce spell plus a creature. However, in this specific context, the overload clause actually becomes relevant. Reclamation easily allows you to pay a seven-mana cost, basically resetting the board and forcing your opponent to replay everything again.
To close up the interaction section, we need some sort of board wipe in order to get rid of early threats from aggressive decks as well as mana dorks in the shape of Elvish Mystic or Sylvan Caryatid. Right now, Anger of the Gods is our main choice, since Storm's Wrath is a bit too slow for Pioneer's standards. Besides, Anger's exiling effect makes sure all those recurring creatures from Monoblack Aggro never come back and minimizes Lurrus of the Dream-Den's future targets. There is a consideration to swap it for Sweltering Suns, so it doesn't become a dead draw in control matchups. But Pioneer is nowadays crowded by midrange and aggro strategies, so it's better to stick with Anger for the time being.
In this section we find both draw engines as well as the finishers as they are flexible spells depending on the state of the game. Most versions pack at least a single copy of Chemister's Insight, which works nicely in combination with Reclamation the same turn you play it and can also turn a dead card or extra lands into a second copy due to its jump-start clause.
Next we have Expansion // Explosion, a card that normally wins you the game thanks to the extra draws it provides. Normally the play pattern is to cast the first copy with X equals four or five, targeting a creature or planeswalker, and with the cards drawn you will end up finding a second copy or enough other material to finish the game. Needless to say that with multiple Reclamations on the battlefield you can easily deal 20 to your opponent outright. Additionally, if there are few cards remaining in your opponent's library, there is always the possibility to mill them out if somehow they got out of range by gaining a lot of life. Also, don't forget that the Expansion part comes in handy every so often — to win a counterspell war, to copy an opponent's Thoughtseize, or in case you need to double up an Anger of the Gods or even just to have a second Growth Spiral. Essentially it will never become useless even if you are low on lands.
Last but not least, Shark Typhoon can be considered a draw spell of sorts too. But to be honest, this card does a little bit of everything. Being able to create a flying uncounterable body at instant speed works both for aggressive and defensive purposes, to block some early threats, to pressure a planeswalker, or to cycle for a million mana at the end of an opponent's turn for a massive Shark to win the game. Getting to six lands also enables the enchantment mode where you put into the battlefield in hopes of creating a Shark army while casting your other spells, something especially profitable against disruptive decks that don't have a way to get rid of enchantments.
Finally, we all know what Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath does and is capable of, so take into consideration that this is the third route to victory. The strength of the Elder Giant — and of this whole deck — lies very much in the fact that it overpowers most traditional defenses in a number of ways that all generate value and feed each other.
Almost half of the deck is filled with lands since the strategy needs to hit every land drop from turn one up to at least four in order to slam Reclamation and get the engine going. Overall, 28 is the common number almost every current build plays. Currently, three copies of Fabled Passage and some basic lands are common, although this might change once Zendikar Rising becomes legal, as the double-faced modal cards could replace them. But for now this allows access to three colors while adding an extra card to the graveyard for Uro purposes.
Ketria Triome and shock lands are necessary because the strategy is not just mana intensive but also color intensive: you need double green and double blue for Uro's escape cost as well as double red for Anger of the Gods The availability of the Triome is a big boon compared to other color combinations such as Bant or Esper. Two or three copies of Rootbound Crag round out the mana base since we cannot afford more lands entering tapped. If you miss Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin — the legendary enchantment is commonly replaced by Castle Vantress as it saves space on the spell suite. It synergizes just as well as a mana sink with Reclamation and can often be used an additional times for each green enchantment you control.
Finally, we have Blast Zone, a catch-all answer to permanents no matter which type. For example, we can destroy cheap creatures while developing our game. But it proves especially valuable against Narset and three-mana Teferi, both of whose passive abilities are a major obstacle to Reclamation's regular game plan. It's particularly nice that the enchantment allows the loading up on counters and the sacrificing to happen within a singly turn cycle.
Sideboarding in Pioneer
While I write these lines, it's unclear how Zendikar Rising may impact Pioneer. But for now, Temur Reclamation stands at the top of the metagame, followed by Monogreen Planeswalkers, Monoblack Aggro, Niv to Light, Esper Yorion, and Jeskai Lukka, as well as, to a lesser extent, Monored, Jund Sacrifice, and Spirits.
Since Temur is the best positioned deck right now, expect a ton of hate and every strategy ready to beat you. Despite that, we also have our own tools to fight back, so let's see how to properly use them: Negate comes in against Jeskai Lukka, Esper Yorion, and every deck packing Narset, which is a card that's really painful if we don't answer it. Aether Gust helps against any red- or green-based deck. It is one of the best blue hate cards ever printed, able to get rid of uncounterable spells thanks to the way it's worded. You will love to see it when facing Monored, Niv to Light, and especially Monogreen Walkers.
Magma Spray, Scorching Dragonfire, Star of Extinction — our red cards are mainly here to deal with fast aggressive strategies; both Magma Spray and Scorching Dragonfire are cheap answers that also exile the creature in the process, getting rid of cards like Scrapheap Scrounger, Voice of Resurgence, or Stitcher's Supplier without triggering their death effect. Don't forget that Dragonfire can also deal with planeswalkers, so that little Teferi stops annulling your Reclamation once for all. Moreover, some lists run a singleton copy of Star of Extinction as an additional sweeper to kill both creatures and planeswalkers.
Elder Gargaroth is a new addition from Core Set 2021 that keeps replacing Thragtusk in every possible deck. Particularly useful against direct damage strategies, a 6/6 body for only five mana is pretty hard to kill and the incremental advantage it creates every turn it stays in play is impossible to deal with for Monored, Rakdos Pyromancer, or Orzhov Auras. Closing out the sideboard are an extra copy of Typhoon for control matchups, where its flexibility and uncounterable cycle mode shines, and Niv-Mizzet, Parun as an alternate win condition that cannot be countered and draws you ton of cards if it survives long enough.
Possible Zendikar Rising Additions
One weak spot of a 28-land build has always been the risk of getting flooded with too many lands and too few action spells. This might become history within a couple of weeks, if we replace some lands with the new spell-land dual cards. We could include Sea Gate Restoration // Sea Gate, Reborn or Shatterskull Smashing // Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass from the mythic cycle at very little drawback, although expensive sorceries aren't exactly tempting.
Other options worth testing are Jwari Disruption // Jwari Ruins as a replacement for Censor, Silundi Vision // Silundi Isle to search for Expansion // Explosion, or Valakut Awakening // Valakut Stoneforge to fix our draws in a major way. Our strategy is all about lands and instants, and these cards can be either one or the other. Although we shouldn't go overboard here, because lands entering the battlefield tapped is an issue, and another problem is that they produce only one color of mana. Also note that we can only play one of them as our regular land drop for the turn. We can't put them onto the battlefield via Uro or Spiral.
On the other side, there is a new hate card in town in the shape of Confounding Conundrum. It's a possible answer to Uro and Spiral that also cantrips itself. Though it remains to be seen how effective and popular that'll end up being. In any case, it seems like Reclamation receives some new toys to play with that might even improve its actual configuration. The most likely future will see Temur Reclamation continue to be a major force in Pioneer for the months to come — unless Wizards takes further measures. So if you want to succeed, whether you pick up the deck yourself or try to fight it, be prepared to encounter a lot of Temur.
As usual, thank you so much for reading. I hope you enjoyed the article, and please leave your comments or questions below.
Until next time,
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