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The Fish Tank: Pioneer Edition (Oct. 21-26, 2019)

Welcome back to The Fish Tank, the series where we take a peek at sweet viewer-submitted decks and maybe, with our powers combined, turn them into real, fun, playable lists! Normally, we have a mixture of decks from different formats on Fish Tank, but today, we're having a sort of special edition. If you happened to miss it somehow, Wizards announced a new format this week: Pioneer! Pioneer is a post-Modern format running from Return to Ravnica to the present (and eventually into the future), and judging by the number of submissions I've received this week, players are hyped for the format! As such, we're doing an all-Pioneer edition of The Fish Tank today, and then if you want even more Pioneer fun, make sure to check out my article that will go up tomorrow about tuning classic decks from Standards past for Pioneer! Oh yeah, and to have your own deck considered for next week's edition (and for our Fishbowl Thursday Instant Deck Tech), make sure to leave a link in the comments or email them to me at

When it comes to brewing in new formats, the holy grail is stumbling across the most broken deck possible. In this context, Dredge seems like a good place to start, given that it has, at various times, been the most broken deck in Modern, Legacy, and even Vintage. The problem with Dredge in Pioneer is that the dredge mechanic itself doesn't actually exist in the format, but NazSmith isn't the type to let a small technicality stop him from building the best approximation of Dredge possible without any actual dredge cards. The idea of the deck is simple: stock the graveyard with cards like Stitcher's Supplier and Satyr Wayfinder and then get back threats like Prized Amalgam and Narcomoeba for free! We've also got some sweet Modern Dredge tricks (like draining for up to 12 for three with Creeping Chill), along with some not-so-Modern tricks (like milling over Driven // Despair and using it to empty our opponent's hand of action early in the game). Whether or not Dredgeless Dredge becomes a real Pioneer deck remains to be seen, but if there's one thing we've learned from essentially every format in the history of Magic, it's is that getting free value from your graveyard often leads to broken things, so it probably has a chance.

If Dredge isn't enough to break the Pioneer format, how about Storm? Much like Dredge, the literal Storm cards aren't in the Pioneer format, but we do have Aetherflux Reservoir, which gives us a pseudo-Tendrils of Agony. The main idea of OffTheWalls' build is to assemble Zephyr Scribe with Retraction Helix and a zero mana artifact, which gives us infinite storm count by bouncing and replaying the artifact (which untaps Zephy Scribe when we cast it). Scram, Senior Edificer draws us through out deck, eventually finding Mox Amber to give us the infinite mana we need to cast Aetherflux Reservoir, perhaps tutored from our sideboard with Fae of Wishes. While the deck has a very powerful combo finish, the main concern is that it seems weak to targeted removal. Part of the power of Storm in older formats is the aren't very reliant on creatures, making it hard for some opponent's to interact. With Pioneer Azorius Storm a Doom Blade, Declaration in Stone or revolting Fatal Push can fizzle the entire combo by killing Zephyr Scribe. This said, unimpeded the deck can win quickly, and it is certainly spicy.

While NazSmith might be trying to break Pioneer, BBTRekhyt is trying to jank it. I've always had a soft spot for Timestream Navigator ever since we played it in a surprisingly successful Standard Against the Odds deck, and Timestream Tyrant Turns is basically trying to pull off the same trick (infinite turns with Timestream Navigator) but in a very different way. The goal of the deck is to get a Hellkite Tyrant on the battlefield, activate Timestream Navigator to take an extra turn, use Wishclaw Talisman to tutor up and cast Timestream Navigator again, and then attack with Hellkite Tyrant to steal back the Wishclaw Talisman that we gave to our opponent. We back it up with a ton of removal and disruption, along with Treasure Cruise to draw into our important combo pieces. While it's likely that this one will be more of a fun Against the Odds–style deck than something that will be in the top tiers of the Pioneer format, when everything comes together, it offers a really unique and fun way to win the game!

Aristocrats is the exact type of deck that makes me excited about Pioneer as a format. At various times, it was very good in Standard but not quite good enough to be a real top-tier deck in Modern. The goal here is simple: stock the graveyard with the help of Stitcher's Supplier and various sacrifice outlets, get everything back with Rally the Ancestors, and drain the opponent out of the game with Cruel Celebrant and Zulaport Cutthroat triggers. One bit of constructive criticism for the deck: I don't think that just Stitcher's Supplier is enough self-mill to support the Rally the Ancestors plan, although sadly, there aren't a ton of good options in a straight black-white build of Aristocrats. While it will add a lot to the cost of the deck thanks to the mana, going into green for Satyr Wayfinder and maybe even something like Grisly Salvage would help to significantly speed up the combo-kill. 

When it comes to Abzan in Pioneer, most players seem excited about Siege Rhino, and while I certainly plan to cast more than my share of Siege Rhinos in the format, plainbrad's take on the archetype hits on another one of my favorite archetypes: Gideon Tribal! While losing out on Gideon Jura hurts a little bit, all of the other good Gideons are available in Pioneer, which means the plan of grinding the opponent out with removal, locking them with a Gideon of the Trials emblem, and eventually winning with Gideon beats should have a reasonable chance to succeed in the format. While I like the idea of the deck, some of the card choices are a bit strange, like main-deck Renewed Faith and Flaying Tendrils, although maybe the Pioneer meta will be overflowing with fast aggro decks, and then these cards would make a lot more sense. (One of the hardest parts of building decks for a brand new format is that there's no established metagame to combat.) Whether the individual card choices are correct or not, the broader idea of Gideon Tribal for Pioneer is something I really like and expect we'll be playing at some point in the not-too-distant future.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the first things people do with a new format is to try and break it, and while Dredge is a solid place to start, one of the fastest kills available in Modern involves Sram, Senior Edificer and a bunch of zero-mana equipment in Cheerios. Ericj1222 gives us a Pioneer build of the deck, although since Puresteel Paladin isn't a part of the format, it uses Emry, Lurker of the Loch and Jeskai Ascendancy as its backup combo, with the main goal of both being to draw through the entire deck, stick a Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, and win the game. 

I should probably mention the two main combos of the deck. Combo one is simply to play Sram, Senior Edificer, play a bunch of Accorder's Shields and Bone Saws to draw cards, pick them all back up with Paradoxical Outcome, and do it again until we draw our entire deck. The second involves getting an Emry, Lurker of the Loch on the battlefield with Jeskai Ascendancy. Then, with two copies of Mox Amber somewhere (in our hand, graveyard, or battlefield), we can make infinite mana by looping Mox Amber, untapping Emry with Jeskai Ascendancy every time we cast a copy, and looting through our deck. Eventually, we will use our infinite mana on our Jace, Wielder of Mysteries and draw a few more times to win the game. If that's not enough, we can also win with Aetherflux Reservoir with the same storm-esque loop. 

While this early build of Cheerios might need some tuning, it does look very powerful and can win the game as early as Turn 2 with a nut draw of two cheap artifacts including a Mox Amber, plus Emry, Lurker of the Loch on Turn 1 and a Jeskai Ascendancy on Turn 2. While removal on Emry or Sram shuts down the combo (as does graveyard hate), the power level is quite high, especially for a format like Pioneer that likely doesn't have as many fast combo kills as Modern. I'm probably going to tune this one up and give it a try—the possibility of a Turn 2 kill in Pioneer is pretty intriguing. If you have ideas on how to improve the deck, make sure to me know in the comments!



Anyway, that's all for this week! If you have some ideas for these decks, make sure to let us know in the comments, and if you've got your own spicy Pioneer deck (or any deck, for that matter), make sure to leave that as well! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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