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Much Abrew: GB Elves (Pioneer)

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. This week, we're doing something we haven't done in quite a while: play Pioneer! One of the most exciting aspects of Kaldheim is its seemingly endless tribal support. Unfortunately, for some tribes like Elves, there just aren't enough payoffs to make a very strong deck in Standard, but Pioneer offers a perfect place to try out some sweet new Kaldheim Elves! Our plan today is pretty simple: play a bunch of cheap Elves; use Elf token producers like Dwynen's Elite and Elvish Warmaster to go as wide as possible; and then win the game with payoffs like Elvish Clancaller, Shaman of the Pack, and Harald Unites the Elves. How good are Elves in Pioneer? What is the Pioneer format like these days? Let's jump into a league and find out!

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Much Abrew: GB Elves

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  • That was a pretty interesting league. We started off losing our first two matches, and things looked grim. But Elves recovered to win three in a row, to give us a winning record!
  • By far the most powerful aspect of the Elf tribe in Pioneer is its fast mana. Thanks to Elvish Mystic, Llanowar Elves, and Gnarlroot Trapper, we have a massive 12 one-mana accelerants, getting us to powerful three-drops like Steel Leaf Champion on Turn 2 and allowing us to empty our hand quickly. 
  • While our mana dorks are what makes Elves so explosive, perhaps the two most important Elves in our deck are Dwynen's Elite and Elvish Warmaster, both of which usually come along with at least one 1/1 Elf token (while Warmaster can make one every turn if it sticks on the battlefield). While random 1/1 tokens might not sound that exciting, they make excellent chump blockers, allowing us to keep our more important Elves on the battlefield, and also help to support our payoffs, which want us to have as many Elves on the battlefield as possible. 
  • As far as winning the game, our best finisher often is Shaman of the Pack, which gives us a way to burn our opponent out once the board gets cluttered, although Elvish Clancaller's ability to tutor up multiple lords over the course of a few turns is another solid way to close out the game. 
  • As far as our new Kaldheim Elves, we didn't really get much value out of Harald Unites the Elves or Realmwalker, although this makes sense considering they are just one-ofs. Rather than being bad, it was more a case where we just didn't draw them very often (or at all) in this league. Both seem more than good enough to be in the deck. We also managed to win the game with our sideboard Tyvar Kell. While Tyvar Kell is probably a bit slow for Pioneer, it can be solid against midrange or control, rushing toward an ultimate that should be next to impossible for our opponents to beat. 
  • I started playing Elves before the recent banned list update, and my impression of the deck pre-bannings was that while it was very competitive against the non-broken decks in the format, it struggled to keep up with the raw power of cards like Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and Wilderness Reclamation (in fact, I had one match against an Uro Omnath deck where I had the perfect curve and resolved four Collected Company and still lost thanks to the free repeatable value of Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and Omnath, Locus of Creation). Now that most of the degenerate decks are gone, Elves might have a shot to be a real Pioneer deck, if not tier one, at least a legitimate tier two option!
  • As far as the Pioneer format itself, the format is actually super fun post-bannings. While there are a lot of aggro decks running around, the format feels super diverse and - at least so far - not very broken. While Omnath, Locus of Creation is still a scary card, without friends like Uro and Teferi, Time Raveler is might be safe-ish. Meanwhile, the most degenerate deck I've played is Lotus Field combo, which isn't nearly as scary as it was in the past before Underworld Breach was banned. In general it feels like the perfect time to revisit Pioneer. While it might not quite be the wild west of a year ago when the format was first created, right now is the best the format has been in a long, long time.
  • Oh yeah, it's also worth mentioning that I didn't have any trouble finding matches in the league itself. The longest I had to wait was a couple of minutes, which was much better than some of the stories I've heard of people waiting 10 or 15 minutes, or more. Plus, since the bannings the number of players in Pioneer leagues has been increasing, which seems to suggest the banned list update has gotten most players interested in the format.
  • So, should you play GB Elves in Pioneer? Should you play Pioneer at all? I think the answer to both is a resounding yes. GB Elves is exactly the kind of deck that benefited from the broken cards getting banned and might be a legitimate option in the format. Meanwhile, Pioneer is in the best place it has been in the past year, both in terms of interest from the playerbase and the metagame itself. The format should also continue to grow as paper Magic eventually returns and the format finds its way onto Magic Arena. If you've been waiting for an excuse to jump back into Pioneer (or get into it for the first time) right now is the perfect time!


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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