Pioneer is a new format, and a lot can change quickly, but I have to say after playing Sultai Midrange the deck feels very good. To fight the combo strategies, Thoughtseize is incredibly important as perhaps the best disruptive spell in the format. This deck wants to interact early with the opponent, and then it becomes easy to takeover the late game. Oko, Thief of Crowns is going to be very strong in this format, and so is Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. These cheap planeswalkers provide an easy way to gain a big advantage over the course of multiple turns. I wasn't surprised to see this list do so well in the MTGO Challenge.
These games showcased exactly what this deck is all about. It really is a collection of good cards, almost like Jund is in Modern. I was impressed, as I did end up going 5-0 in the league, and it didn't feel like there were any super bad matchups. The games were grindy, and difficult to navigate at times. This is going to take additional repetitions and playing more games of Pioneer to further iron out. Dig Through Time was nice, but also wasn't as important as I thought it would be.
Most of the games come down to early disruption like Thoughtseize, Fatal Push and Abrupt Decay, and having a planeswalker like Oko, Thief of Crowns. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet provides a nice way to close games out. In these matches we didn't play against much removal for our planeswalkers, though that is likely going to change as the format progresses. The cards in the maindeck that weren't that impressive were the two Opt and the two Drown in the Loch. Both spells felt okay, but not especially important. I could see playing a version with Gilded Goose to make Oko, Thief of Crowns even better, though the Goose isn't good if you don't draw an Oko.
As far as the sideboard is concerned, it is currently very heavily geared toward control matchups. There is definitely some room to maneuver with it, as we faced multiple matchups where we had very little to bring in. Cards like Veil of Summer and Noxious Grasp are fairly narrow, but that doesn't mean it's incorrect to play them. If there are lots of aggressive decks like Burn running around, a card like Collective Brutality might be worth a slot. There is plenty of room to play around with the sideboard as the metagame becomes more defined.
This was definitely a fun set of matches to record, and I'm looking to play more with Pioneer moving forward!
Seth Manfield is a professional Magic player and member of both the Magic Hall of Fame and the 2019 Magic Pro League.
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