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Budget Magic: $100 (76 tix) UR Prowess (Pioneer, Magic Online)


Haluuġivsi, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we have a first on Budget Magic: our first-ever video featuring the Pioneer format! If you somehow haven't heard of Pioneer, it's a new format that features cards from Return to Ravnica up until the present, with fetch lands being banned. For the past few days, I've been playing a lot of Pioneer, and one of the things that I've learned is that until Wizards adjusts the banned list, the right course of action is to play decks featuring busted cards. Today, our busted card is Treasure Cruise, which is often an Ancestral Recall thanks to delve that also happens to trigger all of our prowess creatures to get in a ton of damage. The main goal of our deck is to stick a prowessy threat or two; sling around a bunch of cheap, often cantripping spells to pump our creatures and fill our graveyard; and then close out the game with a huge burst of card advantage thanks to Treasure Cruise! What is Pioneer all about? Can UR Prowess work in Pioneer on a budget? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: UR Prowess (Pioneer)

The Deck

Probably the easiest way to think about UR Prowess is as a spellslinger aggro deck. We have efficient, aggressive prowess creatures, which, combined with cheap burn spells, will allow us to close out the game quickly, but the way that we close out the game quickly is by casting a bunch of cheap cantrips and eventually Treasure Cruise as a weird sort of card-drawing finisher. With a great draw, we can kill our opponent on turn 3, although we also have the ability to play a longer game, especially after sideboarding—when we can bring in counterspells—thanks to the card advantage that Treasure Cruise generates.

The Broken Card

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Wizards has already said that it plans on banning more cards in Pioneer after it sees how the format develops over the next few months. So as we wait for more bannings, the correct way to play Pioneer seems to be building decks featuring one or more potentially broken cards. For UR Prowess, our broken card is Treasure Cruise, which is banned in Modern and Legacy, and restricted in Vintage. While fetch lands being banned in Pioneer does somewhat reduce the power of Treasure Cruise by making it more difficult to fill our graveyard, our deck has a massive 24 one-mana burn spells and cantrips. While the main reason we need these cards is to support our prowess creatures, their additional upside is that they quickly stock our graveyard to reduce the cost of Treasure Cruise. When we're casting Treasure Cruise for just a single mana, it's basically a sorcery-speed version of one of the most powerful Magic cards ever printed in Ancestral Recall, allowing to restock our hand with action to close out the game.

Prowess Creatures

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When it comes to threats, we have three one- and two-mana prowess creatures in Monastery Swiftspear, Soul-Scar Mage, and Stormchaser Mage. Our best hands always have at least one (and often two) prowess creatures since our main goal is to stick a threat on Turn 1 and / or 2 and then cast a bunch of cheap spells to turn our small creatures into massive threats. While all of our prowess creatures are similar, getting +1/+1 whenever we cast a noncreature spell, they each have an upside. Monastery Swiftspear and Stormchaser Mage come down with haste (while Stormchaser Mage also has flying), which allows us to chip in for damage on the turn that we cast them and, in the late game, allows us to deal huge chunks of damage by surprise by casting a prowessy haste creature and a bunch of spells in the same turn. Meanwhile, Soul-Scar Mage makes up for its lack of haste with an ability that allows us to shrink big creatures with our burn spells. One of the downsides of our deck is that all of our removal deals either two or three damage, which means if our opponent can play something large, it will be hard for us to kill. Soul-Scar Mage helps us get us out of these sticky situations by adding 1/ 1 counters to our opponent's creatures when we burn them, shrinking big threats down to a more manageable size and possibly allowing us to finish them off with another burn spell in the future.

Cantrips

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The next piece of the prowess puzzle is one-mana cantrips. These cards do double duty in our deck. First, each of these cards represents a one-mana way to trigger all of our prowess creatures that doesn't cost us a card. Second, our one-mana cantrips allow us to fill our graveyard quickly, to reduce the cost of our Treasure Cruises. Much like our prowess creatures, our cantrips are very similar, but each comes with an individual upside. Crash Through gives our team trample, which is occasionally relevant in helping us deal damage through chump blockers. Warlord's Fury makes blocking hard on our opponent thanks to the first strike. Meanwhile, Opt's scry allows us to filer extra lands out of the way to dig for Treasure Cruise and additional threats or removal, depending on the situation.

The Burn

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Last burn not least, we have our burn. The main theme here is that all of our burn is (at least potentially) just one mana, which allows us to chain together multiple burn spells and cantrips in the same turn to trigger our prowess creatures a bunch of times and deal oodles of damage. Wild Slash and Shock are basically the same card, dealing two damage for a single mana, although every once in a while, Wild Slash's ferocious ability is relevant at fizzling a Fog. While it isn't easy to get a creature up to four power, if we can chain enough spells together, our one-power prowess creatures can get there. Meanwhile, Wizard's Lightning gives us a Lightning Bolt, assuming we have either Soul-Scar Mage or Stormchaser Mage on the battlefield. While not ideal, in the worst case, we can always cast it for three mana, although this isn't ideal.

Together, our burn spells combine with our prowess creatures to give us a very fast clock. Remember: each of our burn spells technically deals one extra damage for each unblocked prowess creature we have on the battlefield. This means that a start like Monastery Swiftspear on Turn 1 into Monastery Swiftspear and Soul-Scar Mage on Turn 2, followed by a cantrip and a couple of burn spells on Turn 3 typically adds up to lethal damage, which makes UR Prowess one of the most explosive decks in Pioneer when everything goes its way. Add in Treasure Cruise for some late-game staying power, and we have the recipe for a very strong budget deck!

The Mana

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The mana base of UR Prowess is fairly solid, especially for a budget deck. We get 12 dual lands that either always or mostly come into play untapped, along with four Islands and four Mountains. That said, if you have Steam Vents in your collection, you should probably play it over Sulfur Falls and maybe a couple of basic lands. While Sulfur Falls is fine as long as we draw a basic land, we occasionally get clunky draws with multiple Sulfur Falls and no basic lands, which can slow down the deck quite a bit thanks to its mana coming into play tapped.

The Sideboard

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Sideboard-wise, Wizard's Retort and Spell Pierce come in against control and combo decks, often in place of some of our cheap burn spells. While we don't want to cut all of our burn, they do lose some value in matchups where our opponent isn't playing many creatures, so replacing them with counterspells that can stop sweepers and planeswalkers is typically a solid plan.

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Abrade gives us a way to customize our removal package based on the matchup. While not being able to hit our opponent's face is a big downside (and the main reason we don't have Abrade in the main deck), the flexibility of hitting a creature or an artifact against Affinity or Aetherworks Marvel makes Abrade a very solid sideboard option in the Pioneer format.

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Rounding out the sideboard are two cards that I consider Pioneer sideboard staples. Grafdigger's Cage gives us a way to shut down graveyard decks like pseudo-Dredge and Rally the Ancestors that also stops Collected Company and Aetherworks Marvel. Meanwhile, Pithing Needle is a nice, clean answer to the Felidar Guardian / Saheeli Rai combo that also hits on Aetherworks Marvel and annoying planeswalkers like Oko, Thief of Crowns and various Teferis.

Wrap-Up

UR Prowess felt very strong. We played five matches and ended up winning four, only losing to Ramunap Red in a super-close three-game match that could have gone either way based on who hit better with their card-draw spells. Unfortunately, our Treasure Cruises produced too many lands, while our opponent's Light Up the Stages found some action. Otherwise, we took down a GR Eldrazi deck, Pioneer Affinity, Gr Devotion, and a Mardu Nahiri Midrange build. 

As far as changes I'd make to the deck now that we've played some games with it, I'm actually very happy with the main deck. It's very consistent and quite explosive. While the sideboard could potentially use some updates, it's really, really hard to build a good sideboard for a mostly unknown format since we don't really know what we're fighting against. I'll probably leave it as-is for now, but feel free to make changes based on the decks that you are running into in your local meta or on Magic Online. Once we start getting some tournament results, it will be a bit easier to know what we're aiming for, sideboard-wise.

All in all, UR Prowess was great. If you like being aggro but also drawing a bunch of cards, UR Prowess seems like the perfect budget start deck for the Pioneer format. While there is some chance that Treasure Cruise will get banned, I think that it ranks behind cards like Felidar Guardian on the watch list, so it may stick around for a while. Worst case, if Treasure Cruise does end up meeting the hammer, something like Light up the Stage could fill the role and keep the deck relevant even without Treasure Cruise

Getting UR Prowess down in the ultra-budget price range is possible but also painful since the only expensive cards in the deck are the dual lands. To get the deck down near $50, we need to cut both Spirebluff Canal and Sulfur Falls for more basics and Evolving Wilds. While Evolving Wilds does give us another way to fill our graveyard for Treasure Cruise, the cost is having an enters-the-battlefield-tapped land, which is especially punishing for an aggressive deck like UR Prowess. Meanwhile, adding more basics over dual lands puts us at a bit more risk for color screw. While the ultra-budget build is probably good enough for casual play, I'd certainly try to upgrade the lands before taking it to a tournament.

For our non-budget list this week, we have UR Prowess master Ryan Overturf's build, which is very similar to what we played in the video, with upgrades to the mana base and changes to the sideboard. The mana base upgrades basically double the cost of the deck but do add some consistency. So if you're looking to play the best possible build regardless of the cost, this is probably a good starting point.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. What do you make of the Pioneer format? Should we do more Pioneer Budget Magics in the future? Let us know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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