Looking for something fun to try when Phyrexia: All Will Be One hits the streets next week? Faithless Brewing has you covered! On the podcast, we reviewed the full set in both Modern and Pioneer, but now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and start brewing.
In this article we present 15 new Pioneer decks from the mind of our resident brewmaster, David Robertson. These decks are not yet tested, and meant to be more of a sketchpad. The goal is to highlight interesting synergies and start to envision how these cards might function together.
On to the lists!
Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines
Is it possible for a $60 card to be underrated? Elesh Norn is already starting fights at Commander tables, but her strength in 1v1 formats should not be underestimated. For a creature that “dies to removal,” Elesh Norn is quite tricky to kill. Damage based effects are unlikely to succeed, and Leyline Binding is a no-go.
Still, with any card this high on the curve, the question is always “What can you do for me right away?” Elesh Norn lacks an ETB trigger of her own, but perhaps with clever deckbuilding we can have Machine Mama generate immediate board impact.
Deck 1: Selesnya Kiora Ramp
This is the deck I am most excited about. I think Elesh Norn actually blanks a lot of decks, and the rest of this deck just goes over the top of every other fair deck in the format.– David Robertson
The sideboard is focusing on control and combo. It even includes 2x copies of Valorous Stance for the mirror!
Black Sun’s Twilight
Black Sun’s Twilight is a pretty terrible removal spell for most of the game. But from six mana onward, it becomes incredibly dangerous and explosive. How to access this late game power without clunking our deck up with overcosted removal? Enter Micromancer
Deck 2: Sultai Micromancer
Is it really a brew if it only includes a singleton from the new set? I’m really stoked to cast Black Sun’s Twilight but I don’t want too many of them in the deck because it’s a clunky removal spell after all, so let’s play the full boat of Micromancers so we can find it when we need it.– David Robertson
Lier, Disciple of the Drowned is super sweet here as a Traverse target (recast Traverse!). Lier is also amazing with Malakir rebirth in the graveyard, and yes, EOT Black Sun’s Twilight to kill their creature get back Lier, then on your turn do it again, is going to give you the kind of HIGH you can’t legally buy.
For our threat package, I tried to focus on creatures that were must-answer problems for certain archetypes.
They say there are no bad mechanics, only bad cards. Toxic is a mechanic that doesn’t offer much for 1v1 constructed, yet certain Toxic creatures may be efficient enough that we play them anyway.
Does Bloated Contaminator pass this test? 4/4 trample for 2G isn’t enough by itself, so the trick is to make the combat damage trigger explosive and synergistic. Unfortunately, Bloated Contaminator doesn’t naturally grow from its own proliferate trigger, but finding a +1/+1 counter to throw on it shouldn’t be too hard.
Deck 3: Selesnya Hardened Scales
Lots of people are proposing lists with Bloated Contaminator where they are trying to do Nykthos things, but I think we need to be wary of just building a slightly worse Mono Green Devotion.
This list is MUCH closer to the ground and isn’t playing suspect cards like Voracious Hydra or Burning-Tree Emissary. We are all out aggro. The nut draw of T1 Elf, T2 Bloated Contaminator. T3 Hardened Scales + NIssa, Voice of Zendikar and activate her -2 represents 25 damage by turn 4, most of it with trample.
Ranger Class is a great value card that works well with Contaminator and also lets us sink our mana in the lategame. Also, the Selesnya manabase is now glorious thanks to Razorverge Thicket. I’m unsure on the 4 mana planeswalker slot; they might be too clunky.
– David Robertson
The Filigree Sylex
Some people look at The Filigree Sylex and see a glorified Ratchet Bomb. Others look at the third ability and see Hidetsugu’s Energy Drink. 10 damage in one shot is spectacular, of course, but 10 damage is not 20. Unless…
The surprising combo of The FIligree Sylex and Solphim, Mayhem Dominus (which doesn’t care about color, unlike Torbran) has brewers taking a much closer look at the Oil mechanic. Many Oil-friendly cards, such as The Mycosyth Gardens, Migloz, Maze Crusher, Bloated Contaminator, and Thirsting Roots are almost playable. Can we just throw them together and call it a deck?
Deck 4: Gruul Turbo Oil Combo
This list is inspired by Karsten’s tweet. We don’t need to do the full 20 (although we can!), but just doing 10 with The Filigree Sylex is going to be pretty good a huge % of the time.
Our deck has nothing that dies to Stomp, and Thundering Raiju is actually great with all of these proliferate effects and oil counters.
– David Robertson
All Will Be One
This card is so baller they named the whole dang set after it. (That’s how this works, right?) Counters of any variety are not so difficult to come by if you’re willing to look for them. As you do so, All Will Be One lays waste to your opponent’s creatures, or more likely, their life total. Cast a Narset? Deal 5 damage. Play Dark Depths? Sure, take 20. You can even go infinite with effects like Quest for Pure Flame (in Modern) or The Red Terror (in Commander).
If this all sounds pie-in-the-sky, it’s because yes, to some degree it is. But the first step to evaluating brew-around cards is envisioning the best-case scenario and seeing if it passes the power test. From there, we can inquire into the cost of setting all this up and the fail states, and evaluate from there if the juice is worth the squeeze.
Deck 5: Izzet Compleation
All Will Be One is a super powerful card, and they even gave us a way to play it a turn ahead of time with an artifact that gives itself counters! Experimental Augury holds the whole deck together: if you cast Tablet of Compleation on turn 2, then Augury lets you spend 4 mana Turn 3 by proliferating the second Oil counter onto the Tablet.– David Robertson
Chandra, Awakened Inferno being uncounterable gives us some game against control, where All Will be One is unlikely to ever resolve, but it can win all by its lonesome. With All Will be One in play, Big Chandra is just an insane clock in midrange matchups, allowing you to catch up form taking turn 4 or 5 off to “do nothing.”
Malcator, Purity Overseer
Ah Blade Splicer, how I have missed thee. Malcator brings almost-Blade Splicer stats to Pioneer for the first time, although it requires a second color and a legendary creature. In exchange, we get a tantalizing clause promising us Even More Elephants (okay, Golems) if we can just keep the artifacts flowing in batches of three.
Malcator’s baseline is already powerful enough. The question to my mind is this: if we have concluded that our path to victory involves making lots of Golems, are we better served trying to play lots of artifacts (for Malcator’s second ability), or by simply loading up on blink effects to reuse the ETB ability many times? I suspect the latter approach is safer, but it’s also less interesting (blink decks are bit played out at this point, although less so in Pioneer). David, of course, is always up for unique challenges, so let’s see if it’s true that good Golems come in two and threes.
Deck 6: Esper Kaya Tokens
Back when Modern was Modern, I had an unholy love for Blade Splicer + Flickerwisp + Restoration Angel shenanigans. Malcator is a VERY interesting card that can generate 7 power across three bodies the turn it comes into play, and can continue to generate value on every turn after that.– David Robertson
This list might finally be the first reasonable home for Kaya, Ghost Hunter. Deadly Dispute sacrificing your Shambling Ghast on turn 3 and casting Malcator gives you three artifacts hitting play that turn. That’s 7 power on turn 3 for one card!
What about this magical Christmasland? Turn 3 play Kaya, turn 4 use her -2, then play Sram’s Expertise into Malcator. We get 6 1/1 Servos plus 4 3/3 Golems (two immediately, two on end step), not to mention we get to keep our elephant wizard! Even targeting Malcator with Malakir Rebirth then Deadly Disputing is 2 artifacts, you just need one more from somewhere.
There’s lots to explore here, and I’ve had multiple versions of this list in my drafts.
Deck 7: Azorius Artifacts
Malcator again! We had tried out a similar shell last set with Combat Thresher in the three drop slot. Dan liked it, but found that our threats (Thresher, Patchwork Automaton, and Ingenious Smith) took just a little bit too long to get online. The naturally bigger creatures from Rakdos were able to put him on the back foot too often, because we couldn’t trade on turn 3 and lived in fear of Stomp.– David Robertson
This update looks to exploit Malcator to try to fix that as the Golem(s) trades or blocks every creature in Rakdos except Sheoldred. We have the ability to play turn 3 Darksteel Citadel + Malcator + Mox Amber (three artifacts), or turn 3 Malcator + Amber + 1 drop (three artifacts) to get 7 power immediately. We also have the ability to generate three artifacts on subsequent turns, so the opponent is obliged to kill our 1/1 when they might prefer to ignore it.
We have Ingenious Smith to find the pieces to make our Malcator sequences more consistent. Mox Amber also turbocharges our Patchwork Automaton level ups.
Atraxa, Grand Unifier
What if Griselbrand and Niv-Mizzet had a baby? Atraxa, Grand Unifier is that sweet love child, and she slaps HARD. Her combat stats immediately dominate any battlefield (lifelink AND vigilance on a 7/7 flier??), and that glorious ETB triggers takes the best part of Niv-Mizzet Reborn and removes the requirement that you fill your deck with silly gold cards. The first time your Enigmatic Incarnation opponent transforms their Leyline Binding into a fresh hand of cards and a massive two-way threat, you’ll come to respect that Atraxa is not just for Commander.
The question, of course, is how to get Atraxa into play. Seven mana is longer than most players are willing to wait, so we are left with various tantalizing possibilities for cheating her in ahead of schedule. Do we use reanimation? Indomitable Creativity? Or perhaps fastest of all, Neoform on a 6 drop that we Delved into play ahead of schedule?
Deck 8: Sultai Turbo Atraxa
There’s only one way to find out how good Atraxa is: put it into play on turn 4 and see if that is good enough. Spoiler alert: It won’t be.– David Robertson
Editor’s note: I like the concept, but I disagree with David’s premise. This shell will determine only whether Atraxa, with zero support, can win matches. This is not fair to Atraxa’s main selling point, which is that it doesn’t require any deck warping to consistently draw 3-6 cards per trigger. I’d suggest keeping the Tasigur + Neoform package, but replace much of the fluffy turbo-delve machinery with regular interaction like Fatal Push. For me, Atraxa doesn’t need to come down turn 3-4 to be powerful, just like Niv-Mizzet Reborn doesn’t reward you for “turboing” it into play. A slower, controlling plan that gradually sets up Atraxa (by Neoform, or just by accumulating seven mana) makes more sense to me.
Khemba, Kha Enduring
Boros equipment is a perennial theme that constantly gets new cards and constantly fails to break into Pioneer, although some Colossus Hammer decks have finally started to make a little bit of noise.
Kemba, Kha Enduring is a new quarterback for would-be equipment decks. Kemba swings the Hammer as well as anybody (turn 1 Hammer, turn 2 make a 13/13) and promotes more aggressive play patterns compared to cards like Sram.
We also get a surprisingly clean turn 2 kill in the form of Cacophony Scamp. A turn 1 Scamp, followed by a turn 2 Colossus Hammer plus either Sigarda’s Aid or Resolute Strike, means 20+ damage in a single swing. Is it finally time for Boros Equipment to enter the Pioneer meta in a serious way?
Deck 9: Boros Scamp Hammer
Yawn. This deck is super boring. Will it be good enough? I think it will be playable. Cacophony Scamp, Fireblade Charger, and Seasoned Hallowblade are all warriors, so Resolute Strike will have plenty of targets.– David Robertson
Kemba is a nice add to this deck. It’s even a mana sink if your primary plan is disrupted. I am hoping there is a cooler aggro deck we can build around Kemba instead.
Deck 10: Mardu Fervent Champion
Something like this is much more interesting to me. It is SO hard to get a density of equipment for Fervent Champion to be of any use without Stoneforge to cheat on equipment count.– David Robertson
The Reconfigure creatures allow Astor, Bearer of Blades to search for either bodies for equipment in play, or equipment for creatures in play (sadly, the “For Mirrodin” cards are a total bust). Also Astor grants reconfigure creature equip costs, which lets them equip to Champion for free.
Kemba’s auto equip leads to some NICE openings. Rabbit Battery on turn attack for 1, Kemba turn 2, equip the Battery, attack for 4! Turn 1 Toolcraft exemplar, turn 2 Rabbit Battery, equip, attack for 4. Turn 3 another Battery + Kemba, attack for 9!
Worth noting that Lion Sash is actually a cat for Kemba’s ability. Rebel Salvo will be incredibly cheap in this deck and should be able to handle problem permanents for this deck (Karn, Greasefang, Sheoldred, Kalitas) in a tempo positive way. I think there is a possibility that Sword of F&F might see some play in RG vehicles, but this might be the only other prospective home for the card, excited to see if we can make it work!
Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler
Tyvar is one of the most beautiful planeswalker designs in quite some time. Already, the static ability and the synergistic +1 have us exploring space not seen since the days of Thousand-Year Elixir. We have learned to prefer ETB creatures instead of creatures that need to tap for value. But what if all our tappers had haste?
Tyvar’s -2 ability addresses another huge weakness of synergistic creature decks, namely what happens when all your precious tappers get blasted into oblivion. He even tacks on a bonus mill effect; can we use that?
There’s a ton to explore with Tyvar, and he’s cheap enough to be effective in multiple formats. Do we start with known archetypes, or venture boldly into the unknown? Do we assemble a deep roster of tappers, or focus on just one or two key creatures? Or perhaps the -2 reanimation is where the true power lies?
Deck 11: 4c Vannifar Combo
Aight, I’m not gonna lie to you. Adding Tyvar to this deck makes the mana ROUGH, but he is the straw that stirs the drink.– David Robertson
Let’s talk what you are trying to do. If your opponent doesn’t disrupt you, Vannifar sacs a one drop to find Corridor Monitor, which untaps Vannifar, who then sacs Monitor again to find Extraction Specialist, returning the Monitor. Repeat until you have all of your Extraction Specialists, then repeat for all the Glasspool Mimics in your deck. At the end, search up Tuktuk Rubblefort and attack for 24.
Now in the real world, where your opponent is doing stuff to disrupt you, Tyvar becomes AMAZING. Play Vannifar with haste, sac Voice of Resurgence, find Extraction Specialist, Tyvar +1 untaps Vannifar, sac Voice again find another Specialist. These are the lines that are key against decks with a lot of ways to interact( cough Rakdos cough), where you will never get your combo off.
Fiend Artisan sacrifices Voice to tutor up Specialist for value, or to search up Vannifar to start the chain. There are lots of one-ofs in here; it’s unclear how many you need.
Deck 12: Abzan Clerics
Dan’s famous quote about Priest of Forgotten Gods is, “It just dies. Tyvar is the exact kind of card you want to turn on something that is a magnet for removal. We have a zillion ways to get Priest back and a TON of food for it.– David Robertson
Archfiend’s Vessel isn’t good but Tyvar’s -2 is another way to bring it back from the dead. Pride Sovereign is maybe too cute, but damn is it insane with Tyvar.
Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor is our backup plan if we don’t draw Priest. Gix pays us off for all of these little dudes running around and forces opponents to block Archfiend’s Vessel. Gix can is also a mana sink for Priest + untap Priest.
Deck 13: Sultai Soul Diviner
In this deck, Tyvar supercharges Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Soul Diviner. Tyvar is also a permanent with counters for Diviner to feast on, and Thing in the Ice can tick down out of nowhere.– David Robertson
JVP means we aren’t a counterspell deck, but the rest of the deck is just all interaction. Past versions of this deck got clunky with too many cards like Mazemind Tome. This time, Ledger Shredder is our supplemental source of counters. We can even consider the 5 mana Jace that adds loyalty when you draw (Editor’s note: Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim).
Cost reduction for your instants and sorceries is a powerful ability. No one disputes this, but is it possible that we’ve been trained to think about cost reduction the wrong way?
Goblin Electromancer and Baral, Chief of Compliance dominate the collective imagination in this brewing space. Both are creatures that you deploy early, and then hope to untap with. If you get this chance, you are incentivized to spam off as many small spells in a row as you can.
Enter Mindsplice Apparatus. This peculiar engine invites a totally different play pattern. This is massive, no-rush cost reduction, that invites you to play entirely at instant speed. The longer the game goes, the bigger your spell discount. The sky is the limit once Mindsplice Apparatus is in play, but you need to figure out how to survive that long, and where the big spell payoff is going.
Deck 14: Temur Explosion
Mindsplice Apparatus, how to use this card?– David Robertson
I am interested in casting it faster and playing only instants, so we need Growth Spiral. I am interested in proliferating it, so I want Experimental Augury. I want X spells to pay me off, so I want some number of Expansion/Explosion.
I also want modal spells, so kicker seems very good. Fires of Victory is a fine removal spell early, and then a value play late. Fight with Fire kills Sheoldred and is only CMC 3 on the stack, so it can be copied for the kill with Expansion if it was kicked!
I don’t want to run out of cards or get decked while I am spending all this mana and spinning my wheels, so Commit/Memory seems exactly what the doctor ordered.
Nahiri, the Unforgiving
Nahiri, the Unforgiving is another brilliant planeswalker design. Two minor +1 abilities feed an “ultimate” that doesn’t actually remove any loyalty! How big you go with Nahiri is entirely up to you, especially thanks to the modality of the Compleated mechanic.
The brewing potential of Nahiri centers on the +0 ability (which, notably, can return Colossus Hammers for one last swing). But don’t discount the “friendly rummage” +1 that draws you a card when empty handed. You might even use the “goad” +1 to pick off an unsuspecting creature.
Deck 15: Mardu Humble Defector
Finally, we all know Nahiri is going to be at her best in a Mardu Greasefang shell, but I find that to A) be incredibly boring and B) I still think Chariot is better than Nahiri. So I will leave that work to people who love playing the same tier list over and over (and over) again.
Instead, it’s time to get really wild. I f***ing love Humble Defector and this is the best Humble Defector list ever. Nahiri’s +0 in this deck represents either A) Bloodtithe Harvester kill a creature + make Blood, B) draw 2 with Humble Defector, or C) return Extraction Specialist or get value from Charming Prince.
Claim the Firstborn can target your own Humble Defector or their creatures. Village Rites and Angelic Ascension work on Defector (cast in response to activation), or they can eat a Nahiri creature that won’t survive the turn, or a creature we stole with Claim.– David Robertson
Editor’s Note: You make a great case for Nahiri, so let’s play more copies! In my past attempts with this strategy, winning the game takes forever. Yes, we can activate Defector and sacrifice it a bunch of times, but none of that deals damage to the opponent and we risk running out of deck. I’d trim some or most of the Claim + Ascension + Rites package and devote more slots toward winning the long game. Archfiend’s Vessel? Sheoldred?