The Top 16 Pioneer Decks from Cardmarket Series Paris
- Rodrigo Martin
Cardmarket Series Paris gave us a Top 8 filled with Spirits and White-Blue Control. Red-Green Stompy and Sultai Midrange made it to the semifinals, while Lotus Breach claimed the trophy as well as the Players Tour invite. But where was Dimir Inverter? In the Top 16, that's where!
Howdy folks! I don't know you, but I can't get enough of Pioneer. The format is super complex at this point, with a plethora of top-tier decks that recently emerged: Dimir Inverter, Sultai Delirium, and Lotus Breach are the predominant ones, although you can still play any monocolored archetype to success, either white, black, or red.
The Cardmarket Series Top 16 showed a wide variety of possibilities and how all of them have included a great amount of Theros Beyond Death cards while adapting their sideboards to beat the format's top dogs. So, without further ado, let's get right into it!
1. Monowhite Devotion Combo
During spoiler season, we talked about how impactful the new interaction between Walking Ballista and Heliod, Sun-Crowned would be. It turns out the deck is the real deal. As you'll see, a couple of versions sneaked into the Top 16 at Cardmarket Series Paris.
Monowhite Devotion is not an all-in glass-cannon combo, rather, it works as a midrange shell that packs an alternate route to victory if opponents are not cautious enough. At first, it seemed like adding green was the way to go in order to tutor up the combo pieces. However, a second color weakens the devotion plan of making Heliod an indestructible threat, so let's keep things simple and play a lot of white-mana symbols …
A key card to consider when building the deck is Arcanist's Owl, which has a twofold purpose: its enter-the-battlefield ability allows you to find either Heliod or Ballista on the top four cards of your library, while also hitting enchantment removal in the shape of Stasis Snare or Quarantine Field. Secondly, once it's in play, it immediately gives Heliod enough devotion to become a creature, plus being a flying threat itself.
When setting up the combo, there are several ways to speed things up in order to assemble a two-counters Ballista plus Heliod with 2 open mana for the God's activation: With Daxos, Blessed by the Sun and Anafenza, Kin Tree-Spirit you can immediately pump a Ballista when it comes into play, plus Idyllic Grange fits the same role too, allowing a turn-four kill if you played Heliod on three.
Looking closer at each of the Top 16 lists, both players took their combo matchups very seriously, adding three copies of Gideon of the Trials into their 75. He is one of the best answers white has to fight against Dimir Inverter, since they cannot win via Jace's passive ability or Thassa's Oracle trigger unless they get rid of your planeswalker first, a task that becomes even more challenging if you have multiple Gideons in play.
You can find a great addition from Theros Beyond Death in both lists. Elspeth Conquers Death made a huge impact in Standard and is easy to cast in this shells thanks to Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. The white Saga comes in super handy in grindy matchups as it can exile problematic recurring threats such as Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath or other escape cards and then on its final chapter it can rebuy one of your combo pieces from the graveyard if needed.
|Monowhite Devotion by Konstantin Hummel, 15th|
|Monowhite Devotion by Axel Signargout, 11th|
2. The Bogeyman of the Format
Let me start with one quick thought: one of the reasons Pioneer is at the top of its popularity right now is because a deck can start as a total "meme" and a couple weeks later stand as the best archetype in the format. This is what Dimir Inverter has done since Theros Beyond Death became legal, all thanks to Thassa's Oracle.
At this point, if you want to succeed with the deck, you need to be prepared to face a ton of hate and also the mirror match and there are several ways to achieve these goals. Comparing the CM Series lists, both Arnaud and Jules include alternate win conditions in the sideboard, starting with The Scarab God, a pretty resilient creature that is hard to deal with. Arnaud chose the Pack Rat plan, while Jules preferred to rely on Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. There are other pieces of technology to check out, for example that singleton Ashiok, Nightmare Muse from Jules or Arnaud's two copies of Enter the God-Eternals.
What do you think? Will the deck take some losses in the next banned and restricted announcements? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
|Dimir Inverter by Arnaud Hocquemiller, 9th|
|Dimir Inverter by Jules Rameau, 13th|
3. White-Blue to the Rescue
Despite so many combo archetypes these days, there is room for some others strategies in Pioneer too, as long as you adapt to the top-tier decks. Two different white-blue builds also managed to be represented in the Top 16 in Paris. In this fast changing metagame, Spirits has been trying to find its spot for a long time. It had a poor matchup against Monogreen Ramp, a deck that fell out of favor in recent months with the arrival of Dimir Inverter and Lotus Breach. Now Spirits are rising in popularity again.
The main reason it is a viable deck is because nowadays tapping out during your turn could mean game over, however most of this tribe's creatures have flash while attacking in the air. So, against the aforementioned decks, you can deploy a couple of early threats and then keep your mana open, holding up Spell Queller in case they try to go off.
|White-Blue Spirits by Jean-François Rubi, 16th|
Quentin Garchery took a different approach to the same color pair. He assembled a nice White-Blue Control, adding a couple of spicy Theros Beyond Death cards I would love to mention: There's Thassa's Intervention, a modal spell that serves either as additional countermagic or a mini-Dig Through Time depending on the state of the game. In the sideboard, Dream Trawler has immediately replaced Lyra Dawnbringer as the flying lifelink fatty of choice due to its hexproof ability. Some other lists even include a single copy in the main deck.
|White-Blue Control by Quentin Garchery, 10th|
4. A Field Full of Lotuses
Moving completely to the other side of the spectrum, we find the purest combo strategy of the format. Lotus Breach has become a top deck through Theros Beyond Death cards as well, specifically Underworld Breach, one of the two namesake cards that define it. Having the Breach as your main enabler to combo off leads to the inclusion of Fae of Wishes // Granted, since it opens up a sideboard full of silver bullets to grab starting with the fourth Breach copy, making you virtually play seven of them. It also allows access to some alternative win conditions such as Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, which can sweep the board from either threats or hate pieces, or Jace, Wielder of Mysteries.
Personally, I believe this archetype can only become better as more sets are added to the format. It is capable of doing degenerate things and it's hard to combat since the key card is a hexproof land. It's really hard to interact with it, so at some point we might see some bannings aimed at Lotus Breach in order to nerf the deck's raw power.
|Lotus Breach Combo by Julian Hecker, 12th|
5. Delirium Is All You Need
Last but not least, we have one of the newest Pioneer archetypes. At Players Tour Brussels, champion Joel Larsson had coined the deck name Swedish Sultai. If you played during Shadows over Innistrad Standard you might remember how Black-Green Delirium operated. If not, let's say it's a midrange shell that takes advantage of the graveyard with powerful cards like Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound and the recently printed Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. The legendary Elder Giant is the key piece the deck was missing to become extremely resilient and grind-happy. Grisly Salvage and Satyr Wayfinder allow you to cast Uro repeatedly, ramping and escaping over and over. Thanks to Traverse the Ulvenwald you can either find Uro or any of your sweet silver bullets: Murderous Rider // Swift End to kill any creature or planeswalker, Ishkanah, Grafwidow to fill up the board and the ultimate closer in the shape of Emrakul, the Promised End which can easily be cast for 6 or 7 mana when your graveyard is fully stocked.
|Sultai Delirium by Alexandre Murgey, 14th|
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, Pioneer is at a very interesting spot at this stage. Lots of cards from Theros Beyond Death made an impact on the format and the top-tier decks are adapting to each other, but there's still a lot of diversity and choices for every type of player.
Moving forward, the next stop of the Cardmarket Series will be held in my home country in Seville. Check out all the info you need here. I cannot recommend enough to visit such an amazing city, full of great landmarks, tasty food, and sunny weather — and what better excuse to travel than playing Magic: The Gathering and earning a place on the Players Tour?
For anything article-related, don't forget to leave your comments below, and if you need any tips or advice for traveling or accommodation, please hit me up on my shared Twitter account. See you in Seville. Until then!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.