Three Decks to Take from Modern to Pioneer, or Vice Versa
- Marin Magda
Pioneer may be more accessible than Modern, but maintaining different decks in both formats can be very expensive. So let's look at three decks that perform well in either. If you're a Modern or Pioneer player interested to try out the other format, these decks provide a solid starting point!
Besides more accessible than Modern, Pioneer is also one other thing—newer. For this reason, despite the lower price tag, I'd suspect the average person is more likely to have a Modern deck than a Pioneer deck by now.
Due to a Pro Tour announcement and overall solid format execution, Pioneer is finally getting the love it deserves. At the same time, many players must feel overburdened by the news. Why? Because they have yet another format to spend money on, of course! Whether you only have a Pioneer deck or a Modern deck, my mission today is to make the transition—or introduction—easier for you.
If you have neither, you're probably best off just building toward whichever format is more popular in your area or at your local store. If both see play, consider going for Pioneer. It's cheaper, and probably as competitively relevant as Modern in the long run. This article can also help you find a first foothold in both formats. If you build one of the decks below, you're already close, more or less, to its cross-format cousin.
Needless to say, people who already have a Modern deck are in a much better position here. Nonetheless, many Pioneer decks can easily turn into (budget) Modern decks. If you have the land base for a Pioneer deck, you can always just transfer it to Modern as is. It may not work quite as well as it could, but a functional mana base doesn't turn dysfunctional all of a sudden just because of superior alternatives.
Red aggro decks are some of Magic's oldest standbys, yet they're still as strong as ever across most formats. In Modern, Burn was recently a tier one deck, and has barely fallen to tier two at the time of writing. Pioneer's entry isn't exactly "Burn," but both decks are low-to-the-ground powerhouses that aim to finish the game as fast as possible.
The reason why I chose Burn for this collection is that both formats rely on the best cindery one-drop and two-drop. Monastery Swiftspear and Eidolon of the Great Revel are crucial cards without which you can't play these decks. If you have one of the two decks, chances are you own playsets of these cards. Even if you don't, they sure are cheaper than playsets of Ragavan or Urza's Saga.
So, let's say you have a Pioneer Monored Aggro deck. It should look something like this:
|romerito1's Monored Aggro, 1st at Pioneer Challenge, May 1|
If you were to make Modern Burn from this, you don't have to go for Boros immediately. Even Sacred Foundry is expensive now! Instead, you can go for an old-school Monored Burn:
|Modern Monored Burn|
If you already have Monored Aggro in Pioneer, but not Modern Burn, I think you should start off by getting Goblin Guide. Its price has drastically fallen because of the "Love Your Local Game Store" promos which, as an added bonus, do look neat. Then you need Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, and Rift Bolt, in that order. Searing Blaze would generally be near the top of this list, but it isn't as strong without fetch lands.
Burn has generally been more consistent than Monored Prowess. That's why I always leaned more toward it, but if you already have four copies of Soul-Scar Mage, why not try and make a Prowess build instead? You can do that as well for a reasonable price:
|Modern Monored Prowess|
I've refrained from adding Mishra's Bauble and more expensive sideboard cards, but I was tempted. The list without Bauble is weaker. The deck could also benefit from Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, but it can absolutely work without.
At the end of the day, many Pioneer Aggro cards don't work in Modern Burn, but some do. In particular, Eidolon still makes for a good chunk of this deck's price. Also, if you're not planning on winning tournaments straight away, you can always give Prowess a try too.
White-Blue Control is another archetype as old as time itself. There hardly is a format that doesn't have it. Unfortunately, it's not just expensive in Modern but also in Pioneer! Lurrus may be banned in both formats, but Yorion isn't. The Bird Serpent is a must in Pioneer Control, but it's waning in Modern. Nevertheless, I'll include it in a sample Pioneer list for reference:
|Ale_Mtg's Azorius Control, 3rd at Pioneer Challenge, April 30|
You've probably noticed a key control card is missing: Teferi, Time Raveler! One of the strongest Teferi planeswalkers to see the light of day, he proved to be too powerful for Pioneer. The card is still necessary in Modern. It's not cheap, but at least Counterspell and Opt are. I reckon that these are the most crucial updates in this direction. Modern Horizons 2 made the deck even more accessible with Prismatic Ending and Fire // Ice, though at the same time, less accessible because of Solitude.
The deck is much weaker without Flooded Strand, Solitude, and even Snapcaster Mage but can still work. If you cut the latter, you can instead choose Kaheera as your companion. Although far from ideal, you can make some cuts, but I'm afraid you'll have to add T3feri. Without any other expensive jumps from Pioneer, you should end up with something like this:
|Modern Azorius Control|
There's not much to worry about if you're making a move in the opposite direction, from Modern to Pioneer. Especially not if you own Shark Typhoon, which was also heavily played in Modern. If you don't, that and Farewell are the only big cards you should obtain. Also, Pioneer Control lists are forced to rely on The Wandering Emperor more, so a few additional copies are highly desirable.
The only thing that would then remain are the lands. Deserted Beach and Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway are expensive but well worth it. On the bright side, we're fortunate to have access to Field of Ruin and the new Eiganjo in both formats!
This deck is harder to convert but not impossible. Rakdos makes one of Pioneer's premier midrange decks, while it looks quite different in Modern. It's become popular in the latter format mainly because of all the new Modern Horizons 2 creatures. A good Rakdos list in Modern nowadays routinely features Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Grief, and Fury. They're pretty expensive but not without budget-friendly alternatives. We'll prove that by porting the following Pioneer deck:
|Xerk's Pioneer Rakdos Midrange, 1st at Pioneer Challenge, May 15|
Now, I know it is not cheap in general, but Dauthi Voidwalker still costs less than ten euros! I think that's a bargain, so that's one of the first cards you should get for a Modern version of this deck. Other than that, Lightning Bolt is a must, and so is Inquisition of Kozilek for more controlling builds. These are much cheaper than the ones revolving around blinking Elementals from Modern Horizons 2, so I'll try and create one. You simply cannot build a complete version of this deck without them anyway. That's why this deck is last.
Good news is that Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger remains solid in Modern, and so does Fatal Push. Shortly after its release, even Fable of the Mirror-Breaker was heavily hyped in Modern, so you can just keep it. Modern versions of this deck were always heavy on spells, meaning you can even try Dragon's Rage Channeler! I also love Magmatic Channeler, but it's a non-bo with Kroxa, and therefore a no-no.
|Modern Rakdos Midrange|
Earlier on, this deck didn't always feature Blood Moon, but now, without cloaking everything in deep crimson, it just won't budge. If you don't have the budget for it, just use of the backup plans. These are Magus of the Moon main, and Alpine Moon out of the sideboard. Fulminator Mage is an okay-ish sideboard failsafe, and so is Blood Sun for certain metagames.
In case you already own the Modern version of this deck, you should first get the Fable if you don't already have it. Another necessary evil is Haunted Ridge. You may already have Chandra, Torch of Defiance, but if you don't, you should get her too. Everything else is considerably cheaper.
The bottom line here is that, whichever deck you have, transferring it to another format will always be expensive. It's always been like that, and always will be. Hopefully my guide helped you ease the transition from one format to another. The beautiful thing about Magic is that, even though most key cards are expensive, there will always be a cheaper alternative. Well, almost always. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Teferi, Time Raveler are now nearly irreplaceable. If you're a Modern player who hasn't yet invested in the Monkey, maybe take inspiration above and just move on to Pioneer.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, not of Cardmarket.