Games Haven Monthly $1K Series 2019

14th Dec 2019

Games Haven Paya Lebar

It's the end of the year and what better way to close the year and welcome in the new one than with Magic's newest official format - Pioneer! 38 rugged pioneers braved the (eternal and neverending) rain to try and win our usual treasure chest of cash in the new format. With Wizards moving and shaking the format every week or two with banlist updates by using the world's playerbase as their prime data-generating source, what would this iteration of Pioneer bring? Here's our humble little data sample among the millions.

We'll immediately address the elk in the room - Oko, Thief of Crowns. Not content to dominate Standard until Wizards literally yeeted him out of the format, Oko is proving to be a major headache in Pioneer as well. As with in Standard, T2 Oko puts the player so far ahead that it all but dooms the opponent to play catchup for a significant portion of the game, if not the entire game. The much higher number of 1-drop mana accelerants in the format also all-but-guarantees a T2 Oko as well, a grim prospect and a clear sign of a format-warper. In the context of the current metagame, there are only 2 playable, maindeckable clean answers to T2 Oko, and those are Thoughtseize and Spell Pierce. Those are not good numbers and neither card is an automatic 4-of to begin with, which increases Oko's stock even more.

Will Oko finally be hammered out of Pioneer as he was in Standard? Well, the good news is that we have less than 24 hours before we find out. The bad news is that we might have to add 7 days to that. Either way, it'd be a Christmas Miracle.

The truly good news is that the strength of Oko has not yet dampened enthusiasm for the new format, and we see new strategies take shape every week, both in response to and independently of the banlist updates. For example, even with the Leyline of Abundance ban, we have seen Mono-Green Stompy shift faster than their mana acceleration and now we have a still-fearsome package that churns out monsters like no tomorrow. 6 power on board on Turn 2 is a common sight, and Ghaltas on T4 might be rare but very much in the realm of possibility. Add Surraks into the mix and you might find yourself a bloody footprint in the ground before you know it. The deck is straightforward, but its raw combat power demands that you respect it on the ground. As a bonus, here is some endorsement from the man, the myth, the legend himself, Kelvin Chew:

"Lovestruck Beast is secretly the best creature in Pioneer."

Well, the context of the statement is that his Lovestruck Beast (in a different deck) single-handedly mauled and mangled 7 spirits on its own, but the point is solid. Lovestruck Beast represents the best of the current Mono-Green builds - the creatures are competitively undercosted and have relevant, combat changing abilities. If any of them have drawbacks, like Lovestruck Beast does, the deck is built in such a way that they aren't really drawbacks for majority of the time.

Perhaps as a response to fears that Pioneer would become Midrange: the Gathering, UW Control is looking to assert itself in the nascent Pioneer metagame as the best of the available control variants. Not caring about looking cute with a black or red splash, UW Control is like its Azorius namesake - rigid, unbending and supremely confident in the laws it itself sets down. And in most cases, it does in fact have the Supreme Verdict (get it? get it?). UW Control has found that despite their lack of notorious control all-stars from other formats such as Force of Will, Force of Negation or Cryptic Command, what they have left is sufficient for the format. In the absence of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Pioneer's version is helmed by none other than Teferi, Hero of Wakanda. Dominaria. Same same lah.

Both Teferis are powerful and extremely relevant in Pioneer for exactly the same reasons they were in their times in Standard. Both generate immediate card advantage with card draw, and also provide virtual card advantage by bouncing troublesome permanents. Three-feri's static ability also ensures that the deck's opponents play according to the UW player's timing and not their own, which is something that can outright cripple some decks from the get-go (cough cough Nexus cough cough). Te-five-ri is a win condition by himself, and the fact that savvy players are cognizant of this already drastically changes how they play, usually to the control player's benefit. Back up both Teferis with a robust tempo-and-counter package and the deck is a solid addition to Pioneer's ranks. It also has the benefit of not being broken enough to warrant any bans (yet).

Izzet Phoenix was our next-most represented deck, and it takes full advantage of the fact that Treasure Cruise is not banned yet. The deck opts for pure, indiscriminate draw power to cycle through 53 cards to find Arclight Phoenixes, and this means that sometimes the deck loses to itself when variance gives its pilot the cold shoulder (have you seen 4 Phoenixes in the bottom third of the deck before?). To mitigate this somewhat, maindeck Things in the Ice are played, although this means that improper sequencing sometimes can trip up an inexperienced pilot. Also, Thing in the Ice has such a long and telegraphed setup time (by Pioneer standards), that it is a very real possibility that before it can awaken, it becomes Elk in the Ice instead.

Mono-Red Aggro was omnipresent as it always is, although the strength of Mono-Green (which is superior on-board) might have hurt its showing somewhat. And Food tokens, those things are brutal. It's almost like eating food actually gains you life in real life or something. Because of this, the unsung hero of the deck is secretly Soul-Scar Mage, who helps cut down all them T2 Steel Leaf Champions down to size and make them fair trades. Mono Red advocating fair magic, who would have thought this day would come?

We also had pepperings of some other archetypes to round out the tables, as one might expect. A bunch of Ensoul Artifact decks twittered around the tables with dangerous-looking scissors, we had a bold attempt of folding Rally the Ancestors and Cauldron Familiar together into a surprise Aristocrats deck and a surprising number of Temur Good Stuff (which if you think about it is just Mono-Green Stompy with extra steps and royal blood). 

Shoutouts to the players who played their favourite decks from Standards past (with Pioneer cardpool updates!) as well as their favourite memes, like Mono-Black Devotion, RG Pummeler, Soulflayer, and Mardu Vehicles. Nexus might have been in that sentence as well, but this writer isn't quite sure that it's anyone's favourite meme.

But moving on, at the end of the day, the one who was crowned was none other than the Master Pioneer himself, Kelvin Chew! Do ask him all about his new MVP Lovestruck Beast, if (when) Oko gets banned soon we'll need to look for other cards to spearhead decks.

Top 8 Decklists

1st Place - Kelvin Chew

Top 8 Profile

What deck did you play today?
Bant Oko Company

 

What would you say was the best card in your deck, and why?

Oko obviously.

 

What card in your deck would you say performed unexpectedly well today, and why?

Selfless Spirit, as I played against 2 UW Control decks.

 

What were some of the challenges you faced while piloting this deck?

Whiffing on Collected Company.

 

Any interesting plays you made or witnessed today at the $1K Series?

Turning my Clue into a 3/3 Elk.

 

Theros spoilers have begun! What is your greatest hope for Theros: Beyond Death?

N/A

 

Ashiok, Elspeth and Oko - whose card would you ban, borrow and buy?

Please don't ban Oko.

 

Bant Company - Main Deck

4x Botanical Sanctum

3x Breeding Pool

1x Forest

2x Glacial Fortress

4x Hallowed Fountain

4x Sunpetal Grove

4x Temple Garden

4x Deputy of Detention

4x Elvish Mystic

1x Gilded Goose

3x Llanowar Elves

4x Lovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire

4x Selfless Spirit

4x Spell Queller

4x Tireless Tracker

2x Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft

4x Collected Company

4x Oko, Thief of Crowns

Sideboard

3x Baffling End

2x Aether Gust

2x Disdainful Stroke

2x Dovin's Veto

1x Mystical Dispute

1x Vivien, Arkbow Ranger

2x Knight of Autumn

2x Scavenging Ooze

2nd Place - Faizal "FBro" Rosmaruddin

Top 8 Profile

What deck did you play today?
Simic Devotion

 

What would you say was the best card in your deck, and why?

Oko. Oko is not ok in Pioneer.

 

What card in your deck would you say performed unexpectedly well today, and why?

Wicked Wolf. There are a lot of creature decks and Wicked Wolf eats them.

 

What were some of the challenges you faced while piloting this deck?

Counting devotion.

 

Any interesting plays you made or witnessed today at the $1K Series?

T2 Oko.

 

Theros spoilers have begun! What is your greatest hope for Theros: Beyond Death?

Not to have any bans in Standard.

 

Ashiok, Elspeth and Oko - whose card would you ban, borrow and buy?

Ban: Oko

Buy: None

Borrow: Oko, Elsepth and Ashiok

 

Simic Devotion - Main Deck

4x Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

8x Forest

4x Breeding Pool

4x Botanical Sanctum

2x Yavimaya Coast

1x Castle Garenbrig

3x Llanowar Elves

3x Elvish Mystic

4x Gilded Goose

2x Scavenging Ooze

4x Jadelight Ranger

4x Wicked Wolf

4x Hydroid Krasis

3x Walking Ballista

2x Heart of Kiran

4x Oko, Thief of Crowns

4x Nissa, Who Shakes the World

Sideboard

2x Lifecrafter's Bestiary

2x Aethersphere Harvester

2x Reclamation Sage

4x Negate

2x Aether Gust

3x Lovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire

Top 4 - Yip Zheng Feng

Top 8 Profile

What deck did you play today?
UW Spirits

 

What would you say was the best card in your deck, and why?

Curious Obsession. Also Mausoleum Wanderer, the ETB triggered ability allowed me to

hit in through blockers with reach a lot of times.

 

What card in your deck would you say performed unexpectedly well today, and why?

Settle the Wreckage, opponent didn't expect it.

 

What were some of the challenges you faced while piloting this deck?

Land flooding and wrong decisions.

 

Any interesting plays you made or witnessed today at the $1K Series?

Nil.

 

Theros spoilers have begun! What is your greatest hope for Theros: Beyond Death?

Revive Mono White Weenies with more anthem effects.

 

Ashiok, Elspeth and Oko - whose card would you ban, borrow and buy?

Ashiok - ban

Elsepth - buy

Oko - borrow (no money buy)

 

UW Spirits – Main Deck

4x Glacial Fortress

4x Hallowed Fountain

1x Unclaimed Territory

7x Island

3x Plains

2x Port Town

4x Mausoleum Wanderer

4x Spectral Sailor

2x Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft

4x Rattlechains

4x Supreme Phantom

4x Selfless Spirit

4x Spell Queller

4x Empyrean Eagle

3x Spell Pierce

4x Curious Obsession

2x Teferi, Time Raveler

 

Sideboard

1x Rest in Peace

2x Remorseful Cleric

2x Declaration in Stone

2x Deafening Silence

2x Pithing Needle

2x Disdainful Stroke

3x Mystical Dispute

1x Settle the Wreckage

Top 4 - Joseph Tan

Top 8 Profile

What deck did you play today?
Oko Stompy

 

What would you say was the best card in your deck, and why?

Oko... of course.

 

What card in your deck would you say performed unexpectedly well today, and why?

Steel Leaf Champion. Hard to deal with its clock.

 

What were some of the challenges you faced while piloting this deck?

Deck is quite dependent on mana dorks for the explosive starts.

 

Any interesting plays you made or witnessed today at the $1K Series?

Nexus is back!

Theros spoilers have begun! What is your greatest hope for Theros: Beyond Death?

Nykthos reprint!

 

Ashiok, Elspeth and Oko - whose card would you ban, borrow and buy?

Don't ban Oko please! Don't care about the rest.

 

Simic Midrange - Main Deck

4x Breeding Pool

4x Yavimaya Coast

4x Botanical Sanctum

3x Hashep Oasis

6x Forest

4x Elvish Mystic

3x Llanowar Elves

4x Gilded Goose

4x Steel Leaf Champion

4x Lovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire

4x Wicked Wolf

2x Rhonas the Indomitable

2x Ghalta, Primal Hunger

1x Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig

1x Questing Beast

4x Stubborn Denial

2x Heart of Kiran

4x Oko, Thief of Crowns

Sideboard

2x Scavenging Ooze

3x Aether Gust

1x Heroic Intervention

2x Sleep

2x Thrashing Brontodon

2x Spell Pierce

2x Disdainful Stroke

1x Negate

Top 8 - Derrick Koh

Top 8 Profile

What deck did you play today?
Simic Ensoul

 

What would you say was the best card in your deck, and why?

Metallic Rebuke.

 

What card in your deck would you say performed unexpectedly well today, and why?

Metallic Rebuke.

 

What were some of the challenges you faced while piloting this deck?

Against Sultai Food hard to beat Wicked Wolf.

 

Any interesting plays you made or witnessed today at the $1K Series?

Nexus of fate deck, for its very interesting play.

 

Theros spoilers have begun! What is your greatest hope for Theros: Beyond Death?

Something to kill the cats deck.

 

Ashiok, Elspeth and Oko - whose card would you ban, borrow and buy?

Ban - none

Buy - Oko

Borrow - Ashiok

Simic Ensoul - Main Deck

4x Darksteel Citadel

4x Yavimaya Coast

4x Botanical Sanctum

2x Forest

2x Mutavault

4x Breeding Pool

4x Ornithopter

4x Stonecoil Serpent

4x Gingerbrute

4x Skilled Reanimator

4x Gilded Goose

2x Metallic Rebuke

4x Ensoul Artifact

4x Springleaf Drum

4x Ghostfire Blade

2x Heart of Kiran

4x Oko, Thief of Crowns

Sideboard

3x Aether Gust

3x Stubborn Denial

2x Display of Dominance

2x Return to Nature

2x Aethersphere Harvester

3x Mystical Dispute

Top 8 - Tee Han Yong

Top 8 Profile

What deck did you play today?
Mono Red Aggro

 

What would you say was the best card in your deck, and why?

Eidolon of the Great Revel.

 

What card in your deck would you say performed unexpectedly well today, and why?

Wizard's Lightning, because I drew all 4 against my Nexus opponent.

 

What were some of the challenges you faced while piloting this deck?

Couldn't reach land 2 and 3 when I made greedy keeps. (18 land deck)

 

Any interesting plays you made or witnessed today at the $1K Series?

Every mono-red deck [I saw] switched to the Experimental Frenzy build, while I just replaced the 4 Copters with 4 Viashino Pyromancers.

 

Theros spoilers have begun! What is your greatest hope for Theros: Beyond Death?

Hope it's a good set to PACK WAR!

 

Ashiok, Elspeth and Oko - whose card would you ban, borrow and buy?

Ban OKO

Borrow Elspeth

Buy Ashiok

 

Mono-Red Aggro - Main Deck

13x Mountain

4x Ramunap Ruins

1x Castle Embereth

4x Bomat Courier

4x Monastery Swiftspear

4x Ghitu Lavarunner

4x Soul-Scar Mage

4x Viashino Pyromancer

3x Eidolon of the Great Revel

3x Hazoret the Fervent

4x Wild Slash

4x Wizard's Lightning

4x Light up the Stage

4x Lightning Strike

Sideboard

4x Lava Coil

2x Smash to Smithereens

4x Searing Blood

2x Goblin Chainwhirler

3x Rampaging Ferocidon

Top 8 - Tay Wenkai

Top 8 Profile

What deck did you play today?
Izzet Phoenix

 

What would you say was the best card in your deck, and why?

Thing in the Ice. Clear field and go face.

 

What card in your deck would you say performed unexpectedly well today, and why?

Shock. Clear those mana dorks.

 

What were some of the challenges you faced while piloting this deck?

Keeping one land hands.

 

Any interesting plays you made or witnessed today at the $1K Series?

Nexus deck not having Fog.

 

Theros spoilers have begun! What is your greatest hope for Theros: Beyond Death?

I dunno.

 

Ashiok, Elspeth and Oko - whose card would you ban, borrow and buy?

Ban Oko. Maybe buy the other two.

Izzet Phoenix - Main Deck

4x Steam Vents

4x Spirebluff Canal

4x Shivan reef

2x Sulfur Falls

4x Island

2x Mountain

4x Arclight Phoenix

4x Thing in the Ice // Awoken Horror

2x Merchant of the Vale // Haggle

4x Chart a Course

3x Strategic Planning

4x Shock

4x Fiery Temper

3x Lightning Axe

4x Treasure Cruise

4x Opt

4x Izzet Charm

Sideboard

4x Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft

1x Fry

1x Abrade

2x The Royal Scions

1x Chandra, Torch of Defiance

1x Ral, Izzet Viceroy

2x Anger of the Gods

3x Mystical Dispute

Top 8 - Randy Yeoh

Top 8 Profile

What deck did you play today?
Mono Red Prowess

 

What would you say was the best card in your deck, and why?

Soul-Scar Mage. Good for combat tricks.

 

What card in your deck would you say performed unexpectedly well today, and why?

Mizzium Tank, best replacement for Smuggler's Copter.

 

What were some of the challenges you faced while piloting this deck?

Not drawing creatures.

 

Any interesting plays you made or witnessed today at the $1K Series?

Nope.

 

Theros spoilers have begun! What is your greatest hope for Theros: Beyond Death?

Make mono-red great again!

 

Ashiok, Elspeth and Oko - whose card would you ban, borrow and buy?

Ban Oko coz cancer.

Mono-Red Prowess - Main Deck

16x Mountain

1x Castle Embereth

1x Ramunap Ruins

4x Soul-Scar Mage

4x Monastery Swiftspear

2x Blistercoil Weird

3x Runaway Steam-Kin

2x Bedlam Reveler

4x Shock

4x Wild Slash

4x Light up the Stage

4x Crash Through

4x Warlord's Fury

4x Expedite

1x Funale of Promise

2x Risk Factor

Sideboard

3x Goblin Chainwhirler

1x Chandra, Torch of Defiance

1x Experimental Frenzy

3x Abrade

1x Rending Volley

1x Hazoret the Fervent

1x Mizzium Tank

1x Roast

1x Redcap Melee

2x Lava Coil