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Against the Odds: Pioneeramonicon (Pioneer, Magic Online)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 212 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had our first-ever poll featuring the new Pioneer format, and in the end, an old favoritePanharmonicon—came out on top. As such, we're playing Pioneeramonicon today, a deck built around one of my all-time favorite cards! Pioneeramonicon is a UW Panharmonicon deck overflowing with value-heavy enters-the-battlefield creatures, with an infinite combo finish involving two copies of Felidar Guardian for infinite blinking! Is Pioneer a format where Panharmonicon can shine? What are the odds of winning with Panharmonicon in the format? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Pioneeramonicon

The Deck

In theory, a bunch of Panharmonicon builds are possible in the Pioneer format, ranging from mono-black all the way up to five-color. While I'm hopeful that we'll get to more of them in the near future, today, we're playing what I hope is the most competitive Pioneer Panharmonicon deck: UW Panharmonicon. The upside of being in blue and white is that the colors offer a wide variety of strong enters-the-battlefield creatures with card draw, removal, and disruption, along with the blink value of Charming Prince and Felidar Guardian. Most often, we win by simply out-valuing our opponent once we get a Panharmonicon online, although we can also make infinite mana, gain infinite life, draw our entire deck, and even steal all of our opponent's permanents if the cards line up right!

Panharmonicon

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If you've been following my content for any amount of time, you'll know that I love Panharmonicon. Back when it was legal in Standard, we played endless Panharmonicon decks of just about every color combination, and we've played it in Modern a bit as well, although the speed of Modern makes it difficult to take off a turn to get a Panharmonicon on the battlefield. One of the biggest reasons I'm excited for Pioneer is because it gives us a format to revisit some of our favorite cards from Standards past, making it the perfect place to Panharmonicon again. In our deck, Panharmonicon is doing one thing: doubling up enters-the-battlefield triggers from our creatures. Every creature in our deck does something when it enters the battlefield—drawing cards, blinking other creatures, or bouncing our opponent's stuff. And while these creatures are fine on their own, they really shine once we get a Panharmonicon or two on the battlefield. Even outside of just generating value, Panharmonicon is also a key piece of our infinite combo. While we don't go infinite all that often (it's more of a backup plan than the primary goal of the deck), when it does happen, it's super sweet and very game-winning. So, what triggers are we doubling with Panharmonicon?

Card Draw

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In a very real sense, our win condition is drawing more cards than our opponent. While none of our creatures is all that impressive as a threat, with the help of cards like Thraben Inspector, Fblthp, the Lost, and Panharmonicon, we can draw so many bad creatures that we eventually overwhelm our opponent with a motley crew of one- and two-power attackers. Thraben Inspector and Fblthp, the Lost do double duty in our deck. In the early game, they come down and give us some defense to help us stay alive until we get Panharmonicon online. And then once we have Panharmonicon, Fblthp, the Lost turns into a two-mana Divination that leaves behind a body, while Thraben Inspector makes two Clues that we can eventually turn into cards. 

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Cloudblazer is the perfect Panharmonicon card. One of the drawbacks of Panharmonicon is that to get it on the battlefield, we have to take a turn off to cast our do-nothing artifact. This means we often fall behind in terms of tempo, with the hope being that we can catch back up the next turn with the help of Panharmonicon doubling our triggers. Cloudblazer is the best follow-up to Panharmonicon, drawing us four cards and gaining us four life for just five mana while leaving behind a 2/2 flying body. This huge burst of card advantage almost always finds us more creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers, which allows us to snowball our Panharmonicon advantage over the coming turns.

Removal

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Much like Thraben Inspector and Fblthp, the Lost, Reflector Mage and Deputy of Detention are perfectly fine cards on Turn 3 before we have Panharmonicon. And then they become even more powerful once we have Panharmonicon on the battlefield to double their enters-the-battlefield triggers. Reflector Mage bounces our opponent's best creature (or two with Panharmonicon) and makes our opponent spend their next turn not recasting it, while also leaving behind a reasonable body. Meanwhile, Deputy of Detention can deal with any non-land permanent, making it a good answer to things like planeswalkers, which dodge Reflector Mage.

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While Spell Queller does have an enters-the-battlefield ability, it doesn't actually do that much with Panharmonicon most of the time since it's unlikely that two spells will be on the stack (although in theory, it can be relevant). The main purpose of Spell Queller is to give us a main-deck way to deal with spells. Our deck is extremely good at dealing with creatures, either by bouncing or blocking them, but non-creatures can be an issue. Spell Queller is essentially a counterspell on a body, albeit a risky counterspell since if it dies, the spell can be cast—unless we have a Teferi, Time Raveler on the battlefield. 

Teferi, Time Raveler might seem strange in our deck since it isn't a creature with an enters-the-battlefield ability, but in reality, it's simply too powerful and synergistic to pass up. Apart from removing the drawback of Spell Queller, Teferi, Time Raveler can bounce one of our own creatures to replay and reuse its enters-the-battlefield trigger with Panharmonicon. And if we get to the point where we want to go infinite, Teferi, Time Raveler protects our combo by making it so our opponent can't cast spells during our turn. Worst case, we can play Teferi on Turn 3, bounce our opponent's best creature to slow down the game, and dig a card deep for a Panharmonicon. While Teferi, Time Raveler doesn't do one specific thing that's great in Pioneeramonicon, it does a ton of little things that together add up to being very powerful.

Blink

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Next up, we have our blink creatures: Charming Prince and Felidar Guardian. The main purpose of both is to re-use the enters-the-battlefield abilities of cards like Cloudblazer and Reflector Mage by exiling them and returning them to the battlefield, although both come with some additional upsides. Charming Prince is one of the best cards in our entire deck. Apart from blinking a creature, the ability to gain three life (or six with Panharmonicon) is huge against aggressive decks, while scrying 2 is almost like drawing a card and, in some situations (if we are digging for a land on Turn 2, for example), is even better than drawing a card since it gets us deeper into our deck to find what we need. Meanwhile, Felidar Guardian is key to our infinite combo. If we can get two Felidar Guardians on the battlefield along with a Panharmonicon, we will have infinite blinks available: Felidar Guardian triggers twice, with one blink trigger targeting the other Felidar Guardian and the other trigger targeting something else. Then, we repeat the process over and over. This allows us to make infinite mana (by tapping lands and then using the extra blink trigger to untap them); bounce our opponent's entire board with Reflector Mage; draw our deck with Cloudblazer, Fblthp, the Lost, or Thraben Inspector; or gain infinite life with Charming Prince. If we add one extra piece of the puzzle, we can also steal our opponent's entire board...

Finishers

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If we add Agent of Treachery to the infinite blink loop, we can steal all of our opponent's permanents. The trick is to assemble the infinite blink combo, draw through our deck until we find our one Agent of Treachery, and then end the two-Felidar Guardian / Panharmonicon loop by blinking Charming Prince and then exiling a Felidar Guardian to return to play during our end step. We can then use some of our infinite mana to cast Agent of Treachery, go to our end step, and when Felidar Guardian returns to play, start the infinite loop again, this time blinking Felidar Guardian and Agent of Treachery to steal all of our opponent's permanents, which should be enough to win the game on any board state. As for Angel of Serenity, it's mostly a really expensive Eternal Witness, allowing us to get back creatures that have died from our graveyard to our hand, although we can also use it to exile our opponent's board and potentially get in a lethal attack.

The Matchups

At this point, it's pretty difficult to break down specific matchups in Pioneer since the metagame is so new. That said, Pioneeramonicon is at its best against creature-based decks, where cards like Reflector Mage are at their best. Against aggro, blinking Charming Prince is often enough to put the game out of reach thanks to the lifegain, while against control, our main plan is to simply outdraw our opponent. Spell-based decks are typically our worst matchup before sideboarding since we have some dead cards, although after sideboarding, cards like Dovin's Veto, Spell Queller, and Pithing Needle improve these matchups. All in all, I'm not sure that Pioneeramonicon has a ton of truly bad matchups. The value-heavy midrange plan keeps us in the game against most archetypes, with who wins often coming down to who draws the right cards for the specific matchup.

The Odds

We played five matches with Pioneeramonicon and won all five, giving us a perfect 100% match win percentage and putting Pioneeramonicon on the shortlist of best Against the Odds decks of all time. More importantly, we actually took down two builds of the Copy Cat Combo deck, which is many people's pick for best deck in the Pioneer format at the moment! As for Panharmonicon itself, while we have a strong enough curve that we can win some games without it, it is an amazing finisher in the deck. In general, it only takes a turn or two with Panharmonicon on the battlefield for Pioneeramonicon to pull very far ahead of the opponent, so even if they eventually manage to deal with Panharmonicon, the damage will already be done. That said, there is some risk: Oko, Thief of Crowns can turn Panharmonicon into an Elk, while red offers cards like Abrade and Kolaghan's Command as main-deck ways to deal with our namesake artifact. In these matchups, it's sometimes better to wait until late in the game to play Panharmonicon, when we can cast it and immediately play something with an enters-the-battlefield trigger, so that even if our opponent can answer Panharmonicon, we can at least get some value out of it. Basically, Pioneeramonicon felt great, and while we'll have to see how the metagame develops, it seems like there is at least some chance that it can be a real deck in Pioneer moving forward!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

So far, I'm in love with Pioneer. Combine this with a bad Standard and a somewhat stale Modern and that means we're heading to Pioneer against next week. Over Against the Odds history "I win" cards have been the foundation of the series, so let's give one a shot in Pioneer! Which of these "I win" cards should we build around next week? Let us know by voting below!

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Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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