Looking to dip your toes into Pioneer, but don’t want to break the bank? This week I set myself the challenge of building Pioneer deck lists with a budget of $150. I came up with five that I loved, and most were under $100 on paper!

When building these decks, I looked at existing ideas and ideas of my own and tried to formulate affordable versions of them. My goal was to develop decks that were competitive, but reasonably costed. 

A lot of the budget cuts came from manabases. By trimming the number of colors you play, you can save a significant amount of money, as you are typically able to forgo shock lands. If you are looking to invest in Pioneer, owning shock lands would be a good place to start.

For more in-depth advice on investing into Pioneer’s mana, I recommend checking out Emma Partlow’s budget guide to Pioneer dual lands

#1: Red Deck Wins ($60)

 

If you know me, you know I’m a huge fan of closing out games as early as possible. This mono-red deck is looking to do exactly that. 

[[Yorion, Sky Nomad]] has breached the Pioneer format too, and with the rise of grindy decks, I believe aggression is a good way to attack the format. 

Your plan with this deck is similar to what we’ve seen red decks do since they first existed: get damage in early with your creatures, and close out the game with your burn spells. Along the way, you'll generate some card advantage with [[Bonecrusher Giant]] and [[Light Up the Stage]].

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[[Eidolon of the Great Revel]] has been fantastic in this deck for me, as it’s usually a guaranteed 2 damage (and often more), which is punishing for most of the decks we’re seeing in Pioneer. 

If you’re looking to spend a little more on the deck, here are some of my suggestions:

#2: Mono-White Auras ($72)

 

At first glance, this is an underwhelming deck. But this Bogles-style list is reliably able to protect its threats, and can draw an insurmountable amount of cards thanks to [[Sram, Senior Edificer]].

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Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to keep hands with at least one threat and some Auras to get your engine going. Ideally, you will have a [[Sram, Senior Edificer]] in addition to these. I am very hesitant to keep any seven-card hand without a creature in it ([[Lurrus of the Dream-Den]] doesn’t count)—You're better off taking advantage of the London mulligan and aggressively finding better hands.

Once you have your chosen creature threat in play, you will attach various Auras to it in order to attack for increasing amounts of damage. [[Karametra's Blessing]], [[Gods Willing]] and [[Alseid of Life's Bounty]] allow you to protect it from removal spells. If I have one of these one-mana effects in hand, I will almost always hold up one mana to be able to cast or activate them. It’s almost a game of "protect the queen."

[[Cartouche of Solidarity]] provides us with a second creature, which is a nod to the uptick in [[Trial of Ambition]] and other [edict](Diabolic Edict) effects that we’ve started to see.

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[[Lurrus of the Dream-Den]] is the perfect companion for this deck. We don’t lose access to many cards, and [Lurrus](Lurrus of the Dream-Den) recurring Auras and creatures (while being a free eighth card in hand) has given this deck the resiliency it has been searching for. 

If you’re looking to spend a little more on the deck, I suggest adding black for [[Hateful Eidolon]], [[Aphemia, the Cacophony]] and removal spells. Black also grants us access to [[Thoughtseize]] in the sideboard. 

#3: Simic Gyruda ($140)

 

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[[Gyruda, Doom of Depths]] seems to be the card I just will not give up on. But in my defense, it’s a great card that does sweet things, and deserves a chance to shine.

This [[Gyruda, Doom of Depths]] deck aims to establish an early mana advantage over our opponent, cast Gyruda, and start flipping cards from our library. Our deck is build to copy and blink Gyruda to put an unreasonable amount of power into play. 

[[Spark Double]] offers the best clone effect as it allows us to get around the legendary clause, and therefore allows us to keep multiple copies of our Demon Kraken in play.

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One of the key cards we see in the Pioneer version that isn't available in Standard is [[Dragonlord Kolaghan]]. While I’d love to find enough [[Gyruda, Doom of Depths]] off of other Gyrudas to deck our opponent in one turn, it isn’t consistently feasible. We are then left with an impressive board, but in order to kill our opponent, we need to untap with it the following turn. [[Dragonlord Kolaghan]] provides our creatures with haste and solves this problem for us. 

By now, I’m sure you have noticed that we are a blue-green deck playing white, black and red spells too. Our first plan is to Gyruda our way into them; however, if that fails and they are stranded in our hand, [[Aether Hub]], [[Paradise Druid]] and [[Sylvan Caryatid]] can all assist in their casting. 

If you’re looking to spend a little more on the deck, here are some of my suggestions:

#4: Dimir Inverter ($140)

 

I tried my hand at crafting an affordable version of one of the best decks in Pioneer. Due to the budget constraints, I stayed away from [[Yorion, Sky Nomad]] builds and tried to find alternatives to some of the cards usually played.

Inverter of TruthThassa's Oracle

This deck looks to combo [[Inverter of Truth]] with [[Thassa's Oracle]]. [[Inverter of Truth]] exiles your library face-down and shuffles your graveyard into your library, and the goal is to play [[Thassa's Oracle]] once your devotion is equal to or greater than the number of cards in your library.

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[[Dig Through Time]] is essential for this deck, as it allows us to sift through our graveyard and exile cards. By exiling cards selectively, we choose what gets shuffled back into our library with Inverter of Truths, while also leaving ourselves with a smaller library (requiring less devotion to win).

The other card that combos off with [[Inverter of Truth]] is [[Jace, Wielder of Mysteries]]. Jace’s static ability says that if we would draw a card while our library has no cards in it, we win the game instead. The +1 and -8 abilities are impactful, and assist us in shifting our game plan as required. 

Be aware of how many cards are in your graveyard before casting [[Inverter of Truths]], and note the cards you will be shuffling in. If you have zero cards in your library and plan to win with [[Thassa's Oracle]], simply resolving it and putting the trigger on the stack is enough. This way, you still win if it is killed in response. 

If you’re looking to spend a little more on the deck, here are some of my suggestions:

#5: Izzet Ensoul ($90)

 

Aggressive, evasive threats and protective measures have always been a potent combination, which is one of the reasons Izzet Ensoul is a great deck. The list is filled with small artifact creatures that upgrade into evasive threats once [[Steel Overseer]], [[Skilled Animator]], [[Ensoul Artifact]] or [[Ghostfire Blade]] hit the battlefield.

I would not keep any seven-card hands without a turn-one play, creatures, and ways to improve those creatures. This is another deck that can use the London mulligan aggressively to search for powerful starts. Two to three lands is optimal, however I will make exceptions for opening hands with four lands and three impressive and impactful spells.

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Your ideal hand is a turn-one [[Bomat Courier]], with an [[Ensoul Artifact]] ready to go on turn two. [[Ghostfire Blade]] is a great backup plan and equips to your colorless creatures inexpensively, allowing you to develop your board and push damage as early as turn two.

Learning where to attach your Ensoul Artifact against different decks is essential to succeeding with this strategy. Against decks with [[Fatal Push]] or lots of removal, I will try and save it for [[Darksteel Citadel]]. However, against [[Teferi, Time Raveler]] decks I care less about what creature I attach it to, though I strive for [[Stonecoil Serpent]].  

You’re able to deal a lot of damage in the early turns, so your countermagic will mostly be used defensively to protect your board. You will typically aim [[Shrapnel Blast]] at your opponent’s life total, but don’t hesitate to use it to clear off a threat. 

If you’re looking to spend a little more on the deck, here are some of my suggestions:

I've only recently started looking at different formats from a budget perspective, and I think I’ve grown as a deck builder and a player because of it. In my research for this article, I tried my hand at building a Jeskai-Lukka-Yorion-Fires list (because of course [Yorion](Yorion, Sky Nomad) is being played in Pioneer too). I wasn’t able to make it work for under $150, but I did get close! It’s a work in progress, and something I hope to share in a future article.