Being Wasteful in Pioneer
Geez, it’s been quite a while since I last wrote an actual paper article. I used to write about every topic under the sky; limited, card prices, you name it. But my schedule changed and I had less and less time to spend sitting down in front of a computer to write. Of course you can still find my podcast from time to time when everybody’s schedules line up, but as for written articles something special needs to happen.
Today is one of those days.
If you’ve been following my website for the last few years then you can probably remember how big of a fan I was of Frontier. I loved the format and played it in Tokyo at Hareruya whenever I had the chance. The MTG gods smiled upon me and blessed my devotion with the Pioneer format. I’ve enjoyed every moment of the format thus far and have thoroughly enjoyed exploring it. The Frontier podcast I did for two years has now evolved into a Pioneer one called The First Pioneers. You can follow his link to check it out.
Waste Not, Want Not
I’ve had my ups and downs in Pioneer so far. I played through all of the metagames before the bannings happened and was made miserable by Saheeli Combo, Oko decks, and Leyline of Abundance devotion. Not too long ago I attended Grand Prix Nagoya at the Magic Fest there and had a blast playing the format I had loved for so long on the competitive stage. While my mono green ramp deck wasn’t a good metagame call into UB Inverter and UR Ensoul decks that weekend, I gained a lot of knowledge about a variety of decks and also some insight on how the format is shaping up.
After the poor showing of mono green ramp and my apprehensiveness towards buying 4 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath at $40 each, I decided to try out some other archetypes. I’ve steered away from the developed ones for the moment to focus on cards I enjoyed playing with before. One of those cards was Reckless Bushwhacker which I’ve been trying out in a Boros tokens deck that goes wide and hits hard. The other card I loved so much during Frontier was Siege Rhino. I wanted to make Abzan work so I’ve been brewing both aggro and midrange versions. They are definitely fun to play, but are lacking an edge that so many of the other competitive decks have. After a handful of middling results online and at local events (I did make top 4 of a small Pioneer tourney with it though), I decided it was time to try something new. It all started with one of my new favorite cards from Theros Beyond Death.
When I finally had a chance to look at the entire Theros Beyond Death spoiler, this card blew my mind. A two mana 6/6 that makes an opponent discard a card and possibly deal 3 damage whenever it attacks? I wanted to brew with it but initial testing with Aristocrats, Mardu, and Jund bore no fruit. I set it aside and didn’t start looking at it again until I decided to move on from Abzan aggro in Pioneer. That’s when it struck me:
Waste Not had always seemed like a great card, but how to take advantage of it? Kroxa and Waste Not definitely had some synergy, but I would need more than those two cards to make a deck. Of course Thoughtseize was an auto include in this build, and if I was going to be playing Rakdos colors, then Kolaghan’s Command would also be part of the deck. Those are all powerful cards in their own right, but I still needed to push the synergy further.
That’s when I had an eureka moment.
Turn 2 you play a Waste Not, turn 3 a Collective Defiance targeting your opponent and forcing them to discard their hand and draw a new hand. Depending on the deck this can be anywhere from 4-6 cards, but the amount of value you get from this line of play is insane. Any land discarded with Waste Not in play gains you 2 black mana, any creature discarded makes a 2/2 zombie token, and any non creature non land card draws you a card. It’s quite possible that you can empty your hand on turn 3 and empty theirs and have such an oppressive advantage that there’s no coming back from it.
(NOTE: You can see the original Visual view of the deck here if you want. )
This deck only gets worse for your opponent the more Waste Not you have in play. If you can cheat one into play off of a Collective Defiance turn 3, you can then get 4, 6, even 8 mana to play around with. This leads to turn 3’s where you use Collective Brutality to draw more cards and get rid of their spells. Thoughtseize becomes a 1 mana lose 2 life your opponent discards a card and you put a 2/2 Zombie into play or it draws you a card. It’s also possible that you can cheat a Rankle, Master of Pranks into play on turn 3 and then attack to make them further discard cards.
There are so many lines of play and so many interactions. It’s an incredibly satisfying deck to play in the Pioneer format. Burglar Rat and Geier Reach Sanitarium are more of a ‘crap shoot’ as to what kind of bonus you’d get, but the Sanitarium proves to be a good discard engine for when your opponent runs out of cards and you want a chance to draw more or to get more mana. One card that really surprised me in this build was Plaguecrafter.
It’s a great card in its own right because it helps you against all archetypes. If your opponent is playing creatures you can sacrifice a weaker creature and make them get rid of one of theirs. Against a planeswalker deck it makes them sacrifice their walker. But the last sentence is one that I think many people miss. If your opponent has neither a creature OR a planeswalker, they discard a card which further fuels your Waste Not engine.
The last card I wanted to talk about in this deck is Liliana, Heretical Healer. Between Kroxa, your rats, and Plaguecrafter, it seemed like it wouldn’t be too hard to flip Liliana. While she’s an easy target for removal, you don’t have to worry about her so much since you can get her back with a Kolaghan’s Command later on in the game. If you DO flip her early though she’s an absolute menace. Everybody discards a card, you can get back your non legendaries, and if you can keep her alive for 4 turns you can keep cycling your creatures over and over again. Nasty.
Beating the Pioneer Metagame
Now that I’ve shown you how the deck works, you’re probably wondering if this deck is even viable. How could something as janky as this work against the tier 1 strategies of Pioneer? Before writing it off you should let me explain my own strategies. This is how I would approach the big match ups in the format:
- UB Inverter – The more cards you make them discard into their graveyard, the worse Inverter of Truth becomes. Being able to nab their key cards and keep your hand full will go a long way towards beating them. Slaughter Games would probably destroy them, and you’d have more than enough time to take over the game when they are in top deck mode. Sure their Dig Through Time becomes better, but most only play 1-2 copies which means they’d still have way too many cards in their graveyard afterwards.
- Mono black/Red aggro – I’m not 100% sure on these match ups yet, but it seemed like I would struggle against them which is why I have 2 Ritual Of Soot main board, and in the sideboard I have Languish and Anger of the Gods. Between those board wipes and 4 Gifted Aetherborn, I think I can stay alive long enough to take over the game with Kalitas or Kroxa.
- Heliod Combo Devotion – Similar to the aggro match ups, the board wipes do very well against this deck, especially Ritual of Soot. Adding in Slaughter Games to hit their Heliod or Ballista would also work.
- UW Control – The sheer number of discard effects you have should make this an easy match up, but if the game goes long and they draw cards like Sphinx’s Revelation you can expect quite a battle. Don’t let them counter anything and disrupt their hand early. Angrath, the Flame Chained and Damping Sphere would probably work well against them.
- Lotus Breach – In this match up you definitely want to play Leyline of the Void. If you can land that it’s pretty much game over, especially if it’s in your opening hand. Damping Sphere is also good against them. You could probably even cut a few of your discard effects since they’d do plenty of discarding on their own. You will get tons of value from Waste Not in this match up.
- Sultai Delirium – I’d like to think that you’re favored in this match up as well. While making them discard cards helps their delirium, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy does NOT match up well with a resolved Waste Not. Leyline of the Void would come in after sideboarding, and honestly I think the discard my deck has outpaces their card draw off of Uro and other card advantage.
- Simic Ramp – I think they’ll be pitching a lot of land into the graveyard against you and that can help you to play out your hand early on. You’d probably want to use Slaughter games in this match up to get rid of Ugin and World Breaker, and Epic Downfall should cover you against Ulamog or Emrakul if you draw it. Probably won’t see this deck though.
- UW Spirits – Not quite sure of this match up, but you can definitely make them run out of cards quickly and make their cards on board more susceptible to removal. Ritual of Soot seems good against them, as does Collective Defiance which can do 4 damage to creatures and get around a buffed up spirit. Languish and Anger of the Gods would also come in from the sideboard.
I think that pretty much covers what you need to know about the deck and its match ups. I highly recommend trying it out with your friends or online. As I said before, it’s an incredibly rewarding deck to learn how to play and does something totally different than every other deck at the moment. It’s part control, part combo, but all fun.
If you liked this content be sure to follow my Pioneer podcast the First Pioneers on Podbean, Spotify, and Itunes. If you have any comments, suggestions, or just want to say hello please do so down below! I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s deck list and I look forward to hearing what you think about it after you try it out!