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Much Abrew: Pioneer Dredge


Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. The story of Pioneer has been a strange one. Last fall, when the format was first created, Pioneer was my number one favorite format to play in all of Magic. The metagame was new and surprisingly fair. Then, Theros: Beyond Death came along and unleashed three dominant combo decks into the format: Inverter, Lotus Breach, and Heliod / Ballista Mono-White Devotion. With combo taking up most of the meta, my interest in the format quickly waned. If you're going to die to a combo on Turn 4, you may as well just play Modern, where at least you have tons of janky, fun, fringe decks and cards to work with. Despite constant complaints and a dwindling number of players (with Magic Online events sometimes refusing to fire and long wait times in the queues), Wizards refused to take action for months...until this week. With the huge banned-list update on Monday, Wizards effectively (and finally) killed the top three combo decks in the format, along with Kethis Combo for good measure, which means I'm suddenly very excited to play Pioneer again!

A few weeks back, we did an Instant Deck Tech for Pioneer Dredge but unfortunately never got a chance to actually play the deck because we were on Pioneer hiatus at the time. Well, today, we're going finally give the deck a shot and see if Silversmote Ghoul, combined with cards like Prized Amalgam, Narcomoeba, and Creeping Chill, can make for a competitive and fun deck in the format. More importantly, our league today will give us a chance to see just how fixed the Pioneer meta really is post-banning. Can a Dredge-like deck work in Pioneer even without literal dredge cards? What is the Pioneer metagame like now that four of the best decks in the format are banned? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Much Abrew: Pioneer Dredge

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Discussion

  • First off, as far as Pioneer Dredge itself, the deck wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it felt really solid. We managed to grind our way to 4-0 before losing to Sram in the last round of our league, just missing out on the 5-0! While the deck felt good and seemed competitive, be warned that the "Dredge" name is deceiving. I went into the league expecting to do some crazy things on Turn 2 or 3—like Modern or Legacy Dredge in their respective formats But in reality, Pioneer "Dredge" is more of a grindy, graveyard-based midrange deck. While it's theoretically possible to end up with seven or even 10 power on Turn 2, it requires a lot of luck and isn't especially likely. The true power of the deck is that in the mid- and late game, all of our creatures keep coming back from the graveyard for free each turn, which allows us to chump-attack into our opponent's board (or, in a pinch, chump block forever) until we finally grind our opponent out of the game with random graveyard dorks and Creeping Chill
  • Secondly, as far as Pioneer in general, the format feels amazing again. We played five completely different decks in our league, and most of our matches were extremely close and interactive. The most degenerate thing we saw was Sram, Senior Edificer going off, but this is partly our deck's fault for not really playing any removal in the main deck and not much removal overall. While Sram is good, it can be kept in check fairly easily if you're playing a bunch of Fatal Pushes. Even better, playing five different matches in a league matches up with the other Pioneer leagues I played this week, where playing at least four and often five different decks is the norm at the moment. Pioneer is awesome again, at least for now, and I wouldn't be surprised if the format really was fixed for the long-term (or at least until Wizards prints another batch of silly, broken combo pieces, which, based on the last year, could quite literally happen any set, although perhaps Wizards has learned its lesson). 
  • Back to the deck, there isn't really a ton to say about actually playing it. Every card in our deck either puts cards into our graveyard or gives us value from the graveyard. The biggest thing I learned during the league is to mulligan aggressively. Pioneer Dredge has a bunch of cards that you really don't want to draw (like Creeping Chill, Prized Amalgam, and even Silversmote Ghoul). If you have a hand full of stuff that is better in the graveyard but few enablers like Merfolk Secretkeeper, Stitcher's Supplier, or Satyr Wayfinder, it's usually best to mulligan. The total number of cards in hand isn't that big of a deal for Pioneer Dredge because milling things like Prized Amalgam and Creeping Chill is almost like drawing a card, so a five-card hand with a bunch of graveyard fillers is much better than a seven-card hand without any (or many).
  • Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is still a busted Magic card, and it's even better in Pioneer Dredge than in most decks because we dump so many cards into our graveyard that we can normally escape it every turn, if we need to. Plus, the three life Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath gains us triggers our Silversmote Ghouls to return from the graveyard, which also triggers our Prized Amalgams. In the late game, we often legend rule our own Uros just to trigger our Silversmote Ghouls to rebuild our board each turn. 
  • I will say that the one frustrating aspect of the deck is that it has some really, really bad draws. Casting a Satyr Wayfinder to mill over a bunch of lands and Grisly Salvages only to top-deck Creeping Chill or Narcomoeba the following turn can be infuriating, although random is random, and it's important to remember that for every time we mill poorly, there will be another time we mill wonderfully. That said, topdecking Creeping Chill is still rough. 
  • All in all, both Pioneer Dredge and the Pioneer format felt great! If you've been sitting out the format based on the Theros: Beyond Death combo meta, I'd encourage you to jump back in. Pioneer is once again in a great place and super fun to play! Oh yeah, and if you like grinding value out of the graveyard, give Pioneer Dredge a shot. The deck is certainly good enough to 5-0 a league and offers an immense amount of free value in the mid- to late game. Just don't expect to have crazy Modern or Legacy Dredge-style starts.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today! What do you think about Pioneer post-bannings? How about Pioneer Dredge? Let me know in the comments! 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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