Jeskai Copycat in Pioneer

Written by Joshua Claytor on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Pioneer

Jeskai Copycat in Pioneer

Joshua Claytor

Joshua is the current content manager of Legitmtg.com and Puremtgo.com.

I’ve struggled with Magic for a while now, wanting to play, but not actually playing, wanting to win, but not actually winning.  I  believe that part of that is because I do not see the Pro Tour (or Player’s Tour or whatever it’s called now) in my future, and for someone whose sole goal in the game was to get back to that level of play again, and keep missing out, well, finding out what Magic means to you is something to consider. 

Pioneer changed that for me.  It gave me a small boost of excitement, and after the initial building bad decks and getting crushed wore off, I started to look at the decks that were being reported as going 5-0 on Twitter and then eventually on mtgo.com.  I was excited to play again.  I wanted to support the new format as much as I could, because I have long said that a format needed to exist between Modern and Standard.  I am happy it is here, and I am even more happy that they took the brave decision to ban fetchlands in the first ban, and left everything else alone.  I don’t know where I stand on bans in the format yet, I can see banning a ton of stuff, I can see banning nothing, and I can certainly see anything in between.  I’ve played a lot of Pioneer on MTGO since the format was announced, and haven’t personally ran into anything that I felt was truly broken.  Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise almost seem fair without fetchlands.  Jeskai Ascendancy dies to own mana base and is easily disrupted.  Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx stops producing a ton of mana with a well timed mass removal spell.  Pithing Needle and Sorcerous Spyglass keep a lot of stuff like Saheeli Rai, Oko, Thief of Crowns, and Teferi, Time Raveler in check.  I haven’t seen a single Aetherworks Marvel in days.  Nexus of Fate, while winning the first PTQ, I guess could be something I could get behind to ban, but I hate that, because I love taking all the turns, and wanting that card, which takes ALL OF THE TURNS, to be banned, seems really bad for my brand.  However, I understand that it creates a terrible play experience, so I would sadly accept it’s inclusion to the banlist, I just hope I don’t have to! 

Of course, my experience is going to be different than others, and it will surely be different to the team at Magic, who has all the data available to them.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there were no additional cards added to the banned list on Monday, nor would I be surprised if some cards found their way on the list. 

That is kinda why I found time to sit down and write something that isn’t State of the Program.  I love that column and I enjoy writing it on PureMTGO since I took over for Pete a few months ago, but I do miss strategy writing, and I do miss writing for both sites. 

In therapy we’re doing stuff now that helps me balance time better.  I am getting myself a regular sleep schedule, because it’s not healthy for anyone, yet alone for nearly 40 year old self to be up for two days, running on a diet of soda and candy.  I’m doing meditation and regular yoga and I haven’t had a soda in a month, as well as working on a plan to quit smoking by tapering off on those as well.  Part of my desire for balance is because I want to write more.  I want to contribute more to the community on a regular basis instead of whenever, and while I do contribute with managing articles I feel like I miss out.  Agoraphobia doesn’t make that any better, but I also understand it’s weird to play in PTQs that one has no intention to go to.  Simply put, the prizes I get I sell and help pay bills.  I also want to prove to myself that I can do this again, just in case I ever do get better and find myself playing paper again. 

I’ve said a lot of words before we got to the decklist, so let’s just get there. 



I went 5-4 in the PTQ on Friday with this list.  5-4 is not the best record of course, and I ended up dropping before round 10 because I was making dinner and was extremely distracted during round 9 of the event.  I had been dead for prizes for hours by then, and realizing that makes me sad, because MTGO PTQ payouts are incredibly bad, which was something I had forgotten.  Even with the average record, I learned a lot about the deck, and played what I thought was very well. 

By very well, I mean there was only one mistake that I made with the deck that jumped out at me.  I’ll be watching the replays and recording them to add them to LegitMTG’s YouTube channel, so it is possible that I didn’t play as well as I remember. 

The matches I played felt fairly even, and that’s incredible to say, considering that I have a turn four kill in the deck.  There was a lot of interaction though, so just having Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian in the opening hand wasn’t a promise of a win.  I would often go for the win and then get blown out by something like Wild Slash or Hero’s Downfall.  The deck, while powerful, didn’t feel like Splinter Twin did in Modern.  It felt like a fair combo. 

Of course, that’s not to say that other’s aren’t doing unfair things with Saheeli Rai.  I played this deck over the 4 color version for one reason, and one reason alone.  The cost of Oko, Thief of Crowns and Teferi, Time Raveler on MTGO are well out of reach of my modest MTGO budget.  Oath of Nissa is a powerful card, and feels like the Faithless Looting of Pioneer.  I for sure see the appeal of playing the 4 color version, consistency in combo decks matters, and this deck has it! 

So after going 5-4 with the deck, did I learn anything? 

I did indeed.  The deck, if it is still legal after Monday’s ban announcement, wants Supreme Verdict somewhere in the 75.  It may not have to be in the main, because having Deafening Clarion is nice against the red and green decks of the format, and Dusk // Dawn is really nice for the aftermath and the killing of nearly everything in the Devotion decks, but this deck, in my hands got absolutely truck sticked against Spirits.  You know what Clarion does on turn three against a Mausoleum Wanderer?  It makes them sacrifice a creature and then beat you.  The Bant Spirits matchup felt like I was gold fishing, and I guess I was, but the goldfish had disruption.  It felt really bad. 

Tithe Taker did a surprising amount of work.  While it is there to protect the combo, putting a tax on the red decks, making it more expensive to burn me was appreciated.  Eating one burn spell instead of two helped to make the matchup feel much more manageable.

Thraben Inspector often times felt underwhelming.  Getting the clue is super nice, and often helped to fix mana in the early game and draw more gas in the late was nice.  It just didn’t feel like it did enough, even though it did plenty.  Wanting to get rid of it is wrong though, and I recognize that. 

Outside of the actual combo, Charming Prince felt like the most important card in the deck.  Life gain against the aggro decks with a body that trades with their creatures, a card advantage engine against control with it’s flicker ability and a card finding engine against combo to secure the pieces you need to win before they did. 

Reflector Mage was just as great in this format as it was in Standard.  It played well in the main and with Panharmonicon in the board, it played even better.  I did wonder if a Panharmonicon deck could be built around the combo shell, with every creature, Tithe Taker excluded, doing something when it comes in to play, the value that one could get off of Panhamonicon in the main is huge.  Oko makes it a bit of a problem though. 

The flying creatures, Cloudblazer and Elite Guardmage are still great. 

I think it’s important to look at this deck as less of a combo deck, and more of a value deck.  Sure you can win on turn four, but most games are going to be grindy affairs.  You’re gonna get so much incremental advantages were you just eventually bury your opponent in them. 

I think if anything catches a ban, that this deck could still be playable, just because it’s a deck with engines that doesn’t rely strictly on the combo alone.  I could easily see Panharmonicon slotting in to the slot that either Guardian or Saheeli fits in, and the deck just going from there, in a white weenie kinda way.  I am hopeful that nothing does get banned two weeks in to the format, but I trust Wizards will do what is best for it.

What do you all think of the deck?  Any thoughts?  Any experience with it that is different from mine?  Sound off below, and thanks for stopping by! 

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