VIDEO: What the Hell Happened to Pioneer


Just over one year ago, Pioneer was the fresh and new Magic format that everyone was excited about. Showing promise of a return to the golden age of Khans of Tarkir Standard, Pioneer gave us hope of being able to play some of our favorite cards from recent memory again.

Time StampTranscript
0:00 Boom! What is up everybody? It is Dan here, MTG Tavern back for another video of Cardmarket, and in today's video, we are going to be discussing Pioneer, and more specifically, what the hell happened? When Pioneer was first announced, people were – overall – pretty excited for the format. It was "Modern-light", without having to worry about some ridiculous strategies that you could hit in Modern. It was not as expensive as Modern at that particular time, and it felt like you would be able to play some decks from Standard past – at least some cards – in a new format that were not quite good enough for Modern. It felt like a fresh new change, everyone wanted to be involved in from the ground up. Unfortunately, within a few months the format had become rather stale, and to the point, nowadays, where most people probably forget Pioneer even existed. What the hell happened? Why did this format about everybody in the community – EDH players, Modern players, Standard players who are all behind – what happened? Why is it just a non-factor over a year later? That is the discussion piece we are going to be having today, what was the downfall of Pioneer, and what needs to happen to bring it back to life; but before we get into that, do not forget if you are not subscribed to the Cardmarket channel, go down below, hit the subscribe button, leave me a thumbs up so that we k that you like this kind of content. I am personally aiming for a 15 000-subscriber count by the end of this year. That might be a bit hopeful. I do not know what Cardmarket's KPIs are, but that is my KPI. Aim high, and then that way, you will always get the best. Let's go and talk Pioneer.
1:33 The downfall of Pioneer may have started on the outset with the banning of the fetchlands. A lot of people do like playing with fetchlands, they like their decks to be consistent in the formats they play with those particular lands. Otherwise, you may as well just play Standard. I can absolutely see the theory behind banning fetchlands in Pioneer; it has its own different identity to Modern. Wizards forgot about the fact that Pioneer would not have Blood Moon, Cryptic Command, Path to Exile or Lightning Bolt – all of these different powerful spells – so it would have its own different identity to it. That meant that lands from certain sets became really expensive for absolutely no viable reason other than the fact they were in Pioneer. For example, Blooming Marsh, or any of the fastlands from Kaladesh, became quite sought-after cards and were pushing 10, 15, 20 euros a piece. All of a sudden, when you spent all of this money on your Modern deck, and then you see this shiny new format Pioneer, but you are going to have to spend three or four hundred euros or dollars on a single deck in that particular format, that is not very appealing.
2:32 I would rather just stick to the Modern where I have already spent all of my money, and I can actually play with my cards there. I will stick to that, thank you very much. The next real problem for the format came along from what was meant to be a positive and a well-intentioned thing from Wizards of the Coast. They were going to be banning cards week in, week out. You can certainly see, in theory, why that is a good thing. That way people get to experience in the early days of the format what is broken, what is not broken, feel like they are contributing to the overall health of the format in the early parts. Then, going into the new year of 2020 January, February Wizards of the Coast were saying: "that is pretty much it for bans, we are going to be keeping an eye on the format, obviously, but we are not going to be banning as frequently as we were before." Okay, fair enough, we are through that dodgy early period of the relationship with Pioneer; now we are going to be a bit more stable. We can start planning for the future. Unfortunately for Wizards of the Coast – this is not their fault or Pioneer's fault – it is just, unfortunately, the way the world has been. In 2020 COVID 19 hit in March and April of that year. We were starting to get paper tournaments in Pioneer.
3:31 As good as it is to have tournaments on MTGO, where your favorite streamers stream Pioneer leagues or Pioneer big tournaments on MTGO, it is paper tournaments what you want to watch. They were gone, and they have not returned since. That was, for me, the biggest nail in the coffin for Pioneer at the exact time it just needed to push on from those early days of the format; COVID hit, and there was no coming back from that one. Ignoring COVID, bannings, unfortunate situations that Wizards of the Coast, and particularly Pioneer, have found themselves in with that particular format, why are people still not playing the format? Because they are not banning as much in that particular format, and sure there is COVID around, but you can still play it on MTGO, but if you look at the actual Challenges, they are much lower numbers than everybody else. Why is that? The first big problem for me is the recent power-creeping effect that has happened on Pioneer.
4:25 We were all excited about Pioneer, originally, because we were able to go and play cards or even decks from Standard past: Siege Rhino, Courser of Kruphix, Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise, Thoughtseize, all these good cards. They were able to be played in Pioneer. We felt we were part of the good old Standard times. Let's be honest, Standard in the last few years has not been at its best, but back in Khans of Tarkir, a golden age for Standard, that was amazing. We were excited about playing that in Pioneer. The problem is that in recent years there has been a massive power-creep, and there is no point in playing Siege Rhino or any of those cards – outside Thoughtseize and Dig Through Time – when you could just play Omnath, Locus of Creation, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, Mystic Sanctuary, triomes, and cards like those. If I cannot play with most of those cards in Modern, and I cannot play with them in Standard, and I want to play with them Pioneer, but I cannot because they are not good enough, why am I even playing Pioneer?
5:10 "Sticking with power-creep, most of those power-creeped cards the likes of Omnath, Uro, and all other good cards have crept into Modern. I could play with all these cards in Pioneer, or I could go and play with them in Modern. Speaking of Modern and Pioneer being very similar, a lot of the decks are reasonably alike. Granted they do not contain the same cards, but Mono-red Prowess or Mono-red Deck Wins is a big deck in the format right now in Pioneer. Mono-red Prowess is a big deck in Modern right now too. If I get a choice of playing with much worse cards in Pioneer or much better cards in Modern, but they are reasonably similar decks, I am going to choose Modern. The power-creep has hurt Pioneer as a format. As somebody who does not like playing normal decks in Modern – I get a little bit bored of those rather quickly – when I go to Pioneer where every deck or every matchup is pretty much the same in one way or another, then, I do not want to play that. I want to brew decks and do something a bit more fun. A major reason for brewing being quite hard might be the fact that actually you have to play a certain type of deck or you are funneled into a certain type of deck. Because fetchlands are banned, it seems like you can only play mono-colored, maybe two or three colors at most. "
6:24 There is, to be fair, the Niv-Mizzet Reborn deck which does not do too much early, but it feels like brewing is hard when you are only playing one or two colors at most. You do not have many options. If you are going to be playing, for example, mono-green, you are either playing planeswalkers or big creatures from recent sets. If you are playing mono-black, you are probably playing an aggressive strategy or you are playing a bit of hand disruption. You are not able to play an Eight-rack-style deck, you are not able to play some kind of prison-style deck in Pioneer. It is all aggro, onboard control, or ramp. That is pretty much it. In Pioneer, the answers are rather worse, not even close as being on the same level, than the actual threats. That is the reason Mono-red is so good in the format, Mono-black Aggro, Mono-green Aggro, Mono-green Planeswalkers. It is because the threats are so much more powerful than the answers. The answers are laughable outside of Fatal Push. That is not very interesting.
7:17 If both players are just playing huge creatures and hoping that we get through for more damage in our opponents, then, in a weird way, that is just exactly the same as Modern which can be sometimes an uninteractive format, but it is just a different type of uninteractiveness. Let's talk about something a bit more positive. What can we do to make Pioneer something that we actively want to play in the future? For me, the first thing that needs to happen is a ridiculous amount of bannings. I feel like a bit of a hypocrite saying that, because cards are banned in Modern way too quickly. For example, Faithless Looting and Mox Opal. I do not think they needed to be banned at the times they were particularly banned, but with that being said, in Pioneer bans have to happen. If we go back to Inverter of Truth being banned, Wizards of the Coast just a week or two earlier said: "Inverter of Truth is fine, there is nothing wrong with it the format is fine". Well, if people are not playing the format, there is a problem. If people are not playing Pioneer, there is a problem. We are talking about 20 plus cards need to be banned to reinvigorate the format, most of being from recent sets, and from some of the mono-color decks. Speaking of bannings or unbannings, this time just unban the fetchlands, and bring into the format – in some way or another – the enemy fetchlands as well so there is more even distribution of lands.
8:33 Look, I get it. From Wizards of the Coast's point of view, they want to get rid of fetchlands for newer formats, and they wanted Pioneer to have its own entity, but unfortunately, (this is not hating on anybody here) but it already has got its own identity which is that nobody wants to play it. I think that unbanning the fetchlands would help have some kind of weapon against those mono-colored decks, and maybe, you can bring in some different types of variety into the format. Next up, my God, chill with F.I.R.E. Please, just chill with it, not just from a Pioneer standpoint, but from Standard. This has been the worst year or two, as far as bannings go, for Magic, and it has made a massive impact on not just Standard, not just Pioneer, but also Modern to the point where people are calling for cards that have been printed in recent years to be banned in Modern. In fact, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Once Upon a Time; they have been cards I have been printed in recent years. We need to take it easy with F.I.R.E. for a little bit, because it is making too much of an impact, not just on Pioneer, but also other formats as well.
09:25 Next up, give me a reason to watch the format. Run a tournament. It does not have to be some Swiss amazing event. It can just be something that a couple of casters are at home casting some Pioneer games. Make it so there is a qualifying period to get this Pioneer tournament with a reasonably big prize-pool. For Pro Tours, while we have Historic and Standard on those particular screens because they look way better. Since we are not playing in paper, there is no reason to play Pioneer on MTGO on screen. For Pro Tours keep Historic and Standard, but give me a tournament. Even if just once every three or four months, give me a Pioneer tournament, a qualification tournament where good players have had to qualify for that tournament. Show me the best players with a good prize-pool for that tournament to get me interested again. I do not particularly care about streamers and the MTGO challenges at weekends. Most streamers are better than me, but even so, I have managed to top 32 in MTGO challenge, and I am bloody awful. Get me a much higher level of play where we are talking about the best players in the world competing for prize money and they have to qualify for that tournament. Get some good casters behind it as a weekend tournament.
10:33 Give me a reason to care about the format. Next, Pioneer Horizons. Make a set that only goes into Pioneer, Legacy, Vintage, and EDH. It skips Modern and Standard. Make something exclusive as far as the major formats go for Pioneer. Make it so it has much better interaction early in the game so it does not go into Standard not to ruin the format. It will not go into Modern – it probably would not be good enough for Modern anyway – just give me Pioneer Horizons to really invigorate the format. Sort out these major problems with boring, stale metagames, and add more interaction which is actually viable in the format. At that point, we might get Pioneer being reasonably decent again, it is just not guaranteed to work. Anyway guys, that was me, Dan MTG Tavern. I hope you enjoyed this discussion with Cardmarket. I will see you next time

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Northstar1978(15.02.2021 13:00)

Great Job on this video. Well of course is Pioneer some kind of modern light, because you cant play older cards as after return of ravnica. But honestly: Even the most decks here costs more as some of the good edh decks. Magic is too expensive, and the crowds follows only some of the strategies and all want to play the favorite of the seasons and so this cards gets so expensive. Look at the shocklands from ravnica because this cards are played in every format. At the end pioneer shows the same sickness as all the other formats. Some of the cards are gamechangers, and gamechangers are always expensive. In every format when you play with 60 cards and you can have 4 copys of a card, then you should play monocolor, because many lands needs more reprints. A land should not seems something very special, it should be common.

badhabi7(16.02.2021 23:17)

I Agree. It is too expensive. WotC needs to reprint fetches in rare in 4€ Booster Packs or unbanning fetches in pioneer wont do anything.