Players Tour Preparation: My Pioneer Deck for Brussels
After six Grand Prix Top 8s and one Pro Tour Top 8, Christian Seibold is back for more and has his sights set on Players Tour Brussels. Going into the tournament, he shares the story of his Pioneer preparation and reveals the brand new tech he's playing this very weekend!
As soon as you could play Pioneer on Magic Online, I started testing for the Players Tour. Playing in the early stages of the new format really was an interesting experience. It was a brewer's paradise. Only the fetch lands were banned at the time, but other cards would soon follow. I think Wizards did a great job not banning cards like Dig Through Time, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, or Aetherworks Marvel right away just because people thought they would dominate.
The first deck I tried out was Monoblue Devotion, because I had good memories from back when I played it in Standard. After several leagues, I realized that the matchup against control was just too bad. Oko, Thief of Crowns posed a big problem too, because he could turn all your key creatures into Elks. The next deck I tested was Monoblack Aggro and this one had a great win rate. Unfortunately, its best card, Smuggler's Copter, got banned, and it did not appeal to me anymore afterward. I started testing some other decks such as White-Blue Control, Jeskai Ascendancy Combo, and Eldrazi Ramp, but none of them stood out for me. White-Blue had issues against various cards and Ascendancy and Ramp were just too inconsistent.
Since the Gräfensteiner brothers were qualified too, I tested with them. Tobias showed me a deck with which he had had good results.
This is an early sketch of the deck. As Oko was probably the best card in the format, we played four in the end, and after Once Upon a Time's ban we replaced it with something like Vessel of Nascency. Oko, Thief of Crowns and Wicked Wolf either acted as an alternative win condition or bought enough time that you could eventually kill them with your combo. The cool thing about the deck was that it could combo off pretty fast and with four Fae of Wishes // Granted you didn't have a hard time finding its key card.
In case you don't know how the combo works: When Possibilty Storm is on the battlefield, you cast an Adventure sorcery. Possibilty Storm triggers and let's you cast Enter the Infinite, since it is the only sorcery card in your deck. You draw your whole deck and put Borborygmos Enraged on top of your library. Then, still during the same turn, you cast a creature, for example Walking Balista, which the Storm again trades in, this time for Borborgymos. Finally, you kill the opponent by discarding your lands.
The deck was pretty good, especially against the most played deck at the time. It was basically a mirror match, but they played other big creatures and you could win with the combo. After the Oko ban, it became much harder to survive and your alternative win condition was gone. Nevertheless, I somehow still liked the Possibilty Storm combo and invested a good amount of time in the deck. I tested various blue-red versions. Here is a list that managed to go 5-0 in a league:
|Possibility Storm by Just4myrage|
Other versions included more removal and did not play Fae anymore, because in the developing format you could no longer afford to pay 4 mana for a tutor. The game plan was to survive until turn five, cast Dig Through Time to find your pieces, and kill on turn six. I liked the concept, but it had too many problems. Aggressive strategies with disruption in the form of Stubborn Denial or Thoughtseize were problematic, and Teferi, Time Raveler in particular destroyed the deck because it shuts down the combo. Also, the whole thing sometimes defeated itself when you drew both copies of Enter the Infinite — not often, but it did happen.
After months of playtesting I still didn't have a deck and was very disappointed. I hoped that Theros Beyond Death would shake up the format and we would find some cool new thing. When Heliod, Sun-Crowned was revealed, the Magic community went wild because it was a two-card combo with Walking Ballista. Most of the people, I included, thought that the combo would be banned right away. Wizards did not ban it, and after we tested it, we realized that the combo was actually not that broken. It costs a lot of mana and time to set up. We figured the best version would be monowhite, because Heliod should be played in an environment were it can turn into creature. We tested Monowhite Heliod against some of the top decks and realized that it just was not good enough.
The deck was good against most of the creature decks, but it struggled against control, ramp, and combo. Playing it would definitely be a gamble. When you get a bit unlucky with matchups, it could go quite badly.
Even though I did not like the plan very much — as it was too reactive, slow, and had some problematic matchups — I wanted to stick with the team's choice. But just before I ordered the cards for it, my friends told me they found the answer to all of our problems. They found …
|Blue-Black Inverter of Truth|
I only needed to play one match to realize that this was the deck I was going to register for the PT. It just played so smoothly. The deck was more or less a better version of my earlier Possibilty Storm experiments, only it featured better cards overall and a better combo. Our team entered about fifteen leagues and boasted a win rate of 75%.
The discard spells help you protect your combo from counterspells, buy time by taking opposing threats, and fill the graveyard for delve. I think six discard spells is a good amount. I can see playing maybe one more Thought Erasure, but I do not think it is needed.
I don't think you can go lower than four copies each of Inverter of Truth and Thassa's Oracle, because casting a delve spell turn five and killing turn six with your combo is the main game plan. On the one hand, I can see cutting a Jace, because he is too slow in some matchups and because having six cards that win with Inverter should be enough. On the other hand, Jace can take over a game in control matchups and can be played on turn five with Mystical Dispute back-up up or on turn four after discard took opposing counterspells. For example in the mirror, Jace is a great card.
These are the pieces which help you find your key cards. Dig Through Time is very important, as it empties your graveyard for the Inverter/Oracle combo. Discovery // Dispersal is basically a 2-mana Preordain with the upside of putting the cards into the graveyard, and sometimes you do want to cast Dispersal. Opt is the best 1-mana cantrip in the format and you should always run four. You could go with four Dig and three Dispersal, and I am not sure yet which combination is better.
Fatal Push is very important to stop early aggression; between Fabled Passage and Field of Ruin you can often enough get rid of bigger threats too. Murderous Cut is another way to empty your graveyard and can be a great tempo play when cast for 1 mana. It's possible to cut the second Cut, but then I would definitely play four Dig Through Time. The single copy of The Scarab God acts as an alternative win condition in case your Inverter gets removed by Slaughter Games or Unmoored Ego. Also it is a card that can win games on its own in certain matchups.
The mana base is the biggest question mark of the decklist. Full sets of Watery Grave and Drowned Catacomb are automatic, and I also like a combination of Field of Ruin and Fabled Passage to fill the graveyard and trigger Fatal Push. The one Castle Vantress proved pretty important at times too. The hard part is to find the right combination of Temple of Deceit, Fetid Pools, and Choked Estuary. The problem is that you really want black mana on turn one for Push or Thoughtseize, especially on the draw, but basic Swamps are quite bad when you want to cast Jace, Wielder of Mysteries or two Thassa's Oracle. Maybe the solution is to play four Estuary and four Pools, but the Temple's scrying is pretty valuable as well. Maybe we figure out another configuration, but right now I think this is fine. I could also see cutting a land, if you want to make room for another card.
We figured the main goal was to have at least six cards in the sideboard to bring in for our removal spells. We also wanted at least six cards in the sideboard to replace our discard spells, which were just bad against Monored or Monoblack Aggro. The latter requirement fulfilled two Liliana, one Bontu's Last Reckoning, two Cry of the Carnarium and one Legion's End — all important cards against aggro decks. I would not go lower than four Mystical Dispute, because it is just such a great sideboard card against most of the blue decks. I really like the combination of two Unmoored Ego, two Ashiok, Dream Render, and one Grafdigger's Cage against various decks built around a combo or graveyard. Overall I am quite happy with the sideboard and would not change a single card at the moment.
I am quite happy with the deck and I am looking forward to playing it at the Players Tour. I can only recommend you try it out yourself. It is so much fun and actually plays out differently than you might think. Sometimes, you cast Inverter of Truth after trading resources and win by attacking three or four times. You also get games where Jace takes over. And of course, often enough, you simply win by turn five after you disrupted your opponent in the early game, played Inverter turn four, and Oracle or Jace turn five. I don't think I have to give you any advice for how to play the deck. You'll figure out yourself when to go for the combo, when to wait, which cards to exile with delve, et cetera.
Thanks for reading!
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