This week we’re happy to share a new article by Abby Rose Gibson. Read on below. And thanks Abby!

What an exciting weekend to cap off the rollercoaster year of MTG that was 2019. We had everything come at us. New products like the Collector’s/Deluxe Editions and Brawl Decks. Updates and shake ups to formats in the form of Modern Horizons, and what may have been birthed from the chaos that it created… A new format in Pioneer!

Speaking of Pioneer it was the spotlight of the Win Condition Cup this year. The championship was split format with the new kid on the block taking Choosing to play first. Top 8 we returned to Pioneer and the games were a site to behold.

I was able to get some time with each of our contenders after the event was over. Here is each of their responses to the 3 questions I asked alongside their Pioneer list from Top 8.

1st – UW Control by Camron Neighbours

Abby: “Do you enjoy Pioneer? What do you like the most about it?”

Camron: “Pioneer has been fantastic. It was the perfect breath of fresh air when modern and standard started to become stale. Pioneer allows me to play with cards I love from old standard formats while combining them with the powerful 2019 cards. My favorite part of the format is that the meta isn’t solved. Reasonably being able to play just about any deck you want is the biggest positive of any format.”

A: “What event or moment meant the most to you this year?”

C: “2019 Win Condition Invitational. This was the second COMP REL tournament that I have won, first being an IQ in early 2019. At first, my only goal for the Invi was to get a camera match. In round 3, I accomplished that goal, but I wasn’t ready to end my tournament yet. I got to play against some of my best friends and some of the best players in Georgia, which is what made this win so special.”

A: “Which banning impacted you the most in 2019?”

C:Faithless looting– At the time, I had: Izzet Phoenix, Dredge, and Hogaak all sleeved up. Looting was busted and should have been banned, but all those decks sitting in their old boxes is pretty unfortunate for my wallet.”

2nd – UW Spirits by Joseph Stargel

Abby: “Do you enjoy Pioneer? What do you like the most about it?”

Joseph: “I love it. The games are very interactive and combat math/pressure actually matter because there isn’t a 1 or 2 mana answer to everything.”

A: “What event or moment meant the most to you this year?”

J: “Honestly, I’ve had a bit of a rough year when it comes to results so I would say getting to the finals of the win con cup really reinvigorated me for next year.”

A: “Which banning impacted you the most in 2019?”

J: “There really isn’t one in particular but if I had to pick one it probably is faithless looting because of how much it changed modern and made the deck I was playing at the time significantly worse in mono red prowess.”

3rd – Sultai Dredge by Matt Riggs

(Could not be reached for comment.)

4th – Hardened Scales by Jason Threet

Abby: “Do you enjoy Pioneer? What do you like the most about it?”

Jason: “Of course I do.”

A: “What event or moment meant the most to you this year?”

J: “Not anything to tell really.”

A: “Which banning impacted you the most in 2019?”

J: “None have impacted my deck choices to play. I do however wish OKO hadn’t been banned and hoping it isn’t banned in modern.” he begins to expand upon this initial thought. “With the banning of smuggler’s copter, my side board needed to change to less reclamation sages.

With the banning of nexus, that removed two of the worst type of cards/ decks I would be need to be prepared against ( since wilderness reclamation’s buddy was axed). The most difficult part for pioneer was finding a good 15 card sideboard. I assumed how cheap and unaffected by bans my deck was, that harden scales would have been better represented. Which is why you see the beetle in the side. I also assumed I would play against the mono black menace, so this was the first event I used Voracious hydra main board- as a way to interact with knight of the ebon legion and Rankle. Oko leaving meant my deck was less powerful against the meta, since they lean on Okos plus 1 ability, which either is ineffective or unusable against the deck.”

5th-8th – Sultai Traverse by Sol Malka

Abby: “Do you enjoy Pioneer? What do you like the most about it?”

Sol: “Yes! Pioneer is fantastic. While some oblique strategies have emerged, most of the games are highly interactive. I attribute this to the aggressive, proactive ban policy applied to the format so far.

In contrast, Modern entered 2019 with a ‘two trains in the night’ problem – an uncomfortably high percentage of games where each player simply attempted to execute their own winning sequence before the opponent could, with little or no interaction. 2019 has only exacerbated that problem as powerful cards were introduced (and not banned) that were either overtly hostile to interaction (e.g. Veil of Summer, T3feri) or represented robust secondary win conditions at minimal deckbuilding cost (Field of the Dead; Karn, the Great Creator).”

A: “What event or moment meant the most to you this year?”

S: “Probably Star City Games’ displacing of Standard from the Invitational in favor of Pioneer. Even though I wasn’t participating, I love the loud message it sent to WotC about the quality of product it had released and the ruinous effect it had on what it wants to be Magic’s flagship Constructed format. 2019 was Magic’s all-time nadir in terms of disastrous Constructed releases – worse than Urza block, worse than Mirrodin block – and WotC needed to get that message.”

A: “Which banning impacted you the most in 2019?”

S: “If I’m sticking to the question as worded, the Hogaak/Looting bans, because they allowed me to return fair and versatile graveyard hate (Nihil Spellbombs and Surgical Extractions) to my sideboard in place of the 4 Leylines of the Void I needed during Hogaak Summer.

If I may drift off-topic, I LOVE bans and absolutely loathe when obviously broken cards are left legal. When busted cards aren’t appropriately banned, my desire to play diminishes – as does others’, as evidenced by the 50% decline SCG Modern Open attendance experienced from the start of 2019 to its end.”

5th-8th –

Abby: “Do you enjoy Pioneer? What do you like the most about it?”

S: “Eh it’s fun but I only really like casting esper charm. I like that it is very open to new and fun strategies, this is seen with kyle playing jpjs mono white deck.”

A: “What event or moment meant the most to you this year?”

S: “Probably this event, it was fun and I had a good time with friends.”

A: “Which banning impacted you the most in 2019?”

S: “I mean probably the hogaak ban, but I would love for like 4 cards from 2019 to get banned from modern”

5th-8th – Mono Green Ramp by James Hames

Abby: “Do you enjoy Pioneer? What do you like the most about it?”

James: “I enjoy Pioneer mostly because a lot of the problem cards in modern aren’t in it. I think it still has a ways to go but I’ve had fun with it so far.”

A: “What event or moment meant the most to you this year?”

J: ”The win con cup meant the most. It was really well set up and I had some incredible games against some of the best players in GA.”

A: “Which banning impacted you the most in 2019?”

J:Faithless looting hurt a lot because I was really enjoying playing the blue/red Phoenix deck.”

5th-8th – White Knights by Kyle Reichard

Abby: “Do you enjoy Pioneer? What do you like the most about it?”

Kyle: “I thoroughly enjoy Pioneer, especially post Oko and Field ban. The format seems to be in a place where players get to play decks they enjoy while still remaining competitive. It feels like a format where anything is possible and is very fun to play.”

A: “What event or moment meant the most to you this year?”

K: “Playing in my first Pro Tour was above and beyond my highlight of this year on so many levels. I was able to play along side of so many players I look up too and get to watch them first hand. “

A: “Which banning impacted you the most in 2019?”

K: “Definitely Faithless Looting. I had been playing Mono Red Phoenix for the better part of the year up until its banning and was definitely a moment of needing to reevaluate Modern as a whole.”