I’ll admit it, I love Pioneer. The format feels wide open, just like Modern did back in 2012 where the possibilities were endless and there was so much room to explore. However, a great deal of archetypes that we’ve seen show up in the first month have been ported versions of existing Modern and Standard archetypes–Hardened Scales, Arclight Phoenix, Ensoul Artifact, Nexus of Fate, or tried and trues like Monoblack aggro, Burn, and Monogreen ramp.
The most interesting part of non-rotating formats is the fact that, with a larger selection of tools at our disposal, we often find redundancy for certain desirable effects. This means more consistency. Take Burn for example. One Lightning Bolt is good, but seven is a deck. The question now becomes, “what kind of effects have been printed multiple times in the scope of Pioneer that we can exploit?”
How about Xcmc creatures?
This format has a surprising number of options: Walking Ballista, Hangarback Walker, Chamber Sentry, Endless One, Ugin’s Conjurant, and Throne of Eldraine’s most recent addition to the club; Stonecoil Serpent.
What is the best way to exploit these creatures?
The funny thing about X spells is that X can be anything…even 0. But why would you want to want to throw away your card for no reason? Because we’re playing Cheerios.
Both Midnight Reaper and Grim Haruspex allow you to draw a card when a creature you control dies. That includes our 0s. Once we land one of our 3-drops, we are now able to cycle through each of our 0s and fill our graveyard. Enter Zulaport Cutthroat and Cruel Celebrant…
Thanks to the size of the Pioneer card pool, we have these two different Blood Artist variants to work with. Each time we cycle a 0, we drain the opponent 1 life. This offsets the life loss from Midnight Reaper while presenting a very real threat on your opponent’s life total.
And third, the glue that holds the deck together: Rally the Ancestors.
Rally has some very interesting wording that we get to exploit–Return each creature with mana cost X or less to the battlefield. With one of our three-drops in play, for WW, Rally draws X cards where X is the number of creatures we’ve cycled. With up to 24 0s in the deck, we’re going to draw more than the average Treasure Cruise. With one of our Blood Artist effects in play, we also drain X, which is typically enough to combo kill the opponent at instant speed.
Moreover, we can cast Rally for X=2 or X=3 to return all Blood Artists and our three-drops for a one card combo kill. We can fairly reliably go off as early as turn 4 or set up to go off on turn 5 through heavy disruption.
Now that we’ve established how the combo line works, what happens when that doesn’t come together? Maybe our opponent has a Scavenging Ooze or a Rest in Peace and an Unmoored Ego naming Rally the Ancestors? Well, we have up to 24 x-spell creatures that we can cast on curve, each representing a substantial mid or late-game threat, demanding an answer from the opponent, and, with Grim Haruspex or Midnight Reaper in play, our creatures can’t be removed profitably.
Now the question is, where does this deck struggle? The most problematic card to deal with is Eidolon of the Great Revel as it stops us from comboing off. Beyond that, Burn typically has enough ways to pressure our life total that going big is not a viable option. Scavenging Ooze and Rest in Peace/Leyline of the Void stop our Rally plan, but Ooze specifically can become large enough to outpace our curved out X spell creatures. The sideboard has five removal spells for Ooze, seven for Eidolon, and two pieces of artifact enchantment removal. We also have eight discard spells for the control matchup, though Duress could be swapped out for other metagame-dependent choices.
As it currently stands, in testing with this deck, my record has been 25-5. I’ve been impressed with the way it is able to stave off big players in the current metagame by stabilizing the ground in aggressive matchups like Monoblack Aggro, put consistent pressure on the board against UW Control, and combo killing against Monogreen Ramp and Field of the Dead strategies. I will continue to iterate the list, especially in the face of a shifting metagame, but I believe a flexible strategy that can go low and tall, grind, as well as combo, is prepared for most things this format has to throw at us.
Below is my current configuration:
Adam’s BW Cheerios [12/2019]
4 Stonecoil Serpent
4 Grim Haruspex
4 Chamber Sentry
4 Midnight Reaper
4 Walking Ballista
3 Hangarback Walker
4 Endless One
4 Zulaport Cutthroat
2 Cruel Celebrant
3 Ugin’s Conjurant
4 Rally the Ancestors
4 Concealed Courtyard
4 Caves of Koilos
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Collective Brutality
4 Fatal Push
1 Declaration in Stone
Thanks for reading! Please leave any questions you might have in the comments section below.