Fournier’s Goblin Guide: Kanister’s broken and Pioneer rocks


Welcome to another installment of the Goblin Guide, where I take a look at what’s happened in competitive Magic over the last week and distill that information into recommendations for the weekend’s tournaments. Today, we’re going to quickly recap the events of the Mythic Championship in Long Beach and GP Brisbane, looking forward to Standard GPs in Oklahoma City and Portland in coming weeks. Afterwards, we’ll dig into the quickly-developing Pioneer metagame. Stay tuned next week for Modern, ahead of Face to Face Games Toronto’s Ultimate Showdown! Let’s get right into it.

There was a ton of Standard played last weekend — and it felt oddly fresh, despite it being a rather old format at this point. I guess there’s some upside to banning half of a horrible format, after all. We have two significant events to look at, the more prestigious and innovative one being the Mythic Championship, upon which the MPL descended with a smorgasbord of interesting decks, some better than others. There was plenty of innovation to be found, with Brad Nelson and friends playing a Seth Manfield concoction: a hybrid of Simic Flash and some of the guild’s more midrange cards, like Nissa and Hydroid Krasis.

Going even deeper, we find a Cavalier of Thorns/Quasiduplicate deck piloted by Andrea Mengucci and Lucas Esper Berthoud. These decks are sweet, but they ultimately couldn’t steal the limelight, as I really feel like Jund Sacrifice was the name of the game at the Mythic Championship. Kanister took it down in the end, and sure, he had effectively six byes in the Swiss, and sure, he’s incredibly cool and funny, which many consider to be an unfair advantage in a Magic tournament, but the deck is real. If you’re staring down a bunch of three mana counterspells, while your card advantage engine just requires a bunch of one-drops to assemble, you’re probably going to have a good time. The Jund players have put a lot of work into fixing their Jeskai Fires matchup, landing on Beanstalk Giant as a ramp piece over Paradise Druid to reduce exposure to Deafening Clarion, and it shows. You should play it.

There is, of course, always Jeskai Fires. Grand Prix Brisbane was a completely different story from the Mythic Championship, with a full five copies of the deck flooding the Top 8 bracket. Nothing quite matches this deck on sheer power level, and recent innovations in Sphinx of Foresight and a tight split in the two-drop slot have made it brutally consistent. Of the many lists available, I’d have to recommend Jason Chung’s. It takes advantage of Rei Sato’s Tithe Taker innovation to push tight Flash and Azorius matchups into favourable territory, and doesn’t waste any slots on extraneous cards like unnecessary wrath effects. It even goes so far as to include a clutch third copy of Kenrith in the sideboard for the Cauldron Familiar matchups, where chump blocking can be a nightmare.

Pioneer has moved at a lightning pace since the most recent bannings of Field of the Dead, Smuggler’s Copter and Once Upon a Time. This brazen banning of the top three strategies unsurprisingly caused a bit of an upheaval in the format, and a series of major trends emerged. Simic decks could still operate reasonably well without Once Upon a Time, Nexus of Fate reared its ugly head, and nothing could stop people from playing the Mono-Black Aggro shell. The opening weekend was dominated by variants on a Gerry Thompson Simic Devotion deck oddly reminiscent of the Simic Food decks from Standard, just with the ability to make an even larger Hydroid Krasis. Turns out turn two Oko and playing Nissa ahead of schedule was still a very effective strategy, even if it was rendered slightly less consistent with a banning. Who knew?

These decks are very powerful, and very versatile. I’ve personally played two Pioneer 1ks in Toronto with variants of the deck — albeit with card selection strangled by the cards I found on my desk the night before the event — and took them both down with relative ease. Wicked Wolf was an absolute house, and the versatility of the blue sideboard cards ensured that I had no truly bad matchups across the field.

However, Pioneer never stands still on Magic Online. By the next weekend’s events, a new beast had reared its head: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Azorius Control was back with a vengeance, fueled by the strength of Supreme Verdict against a field of green creature decks. This deck is quite powerful, featuring multiple Standard formats worth of all-star control cards, from Azorius Charm to Teferi, Time Raveler. There’s even the Narset, Parter of Veils/Geier Reach Sanitarium lock — for the uninitiated, activating the Sanitarium on an opponent’s upkeep locks them out of their draw step thanks to Narset’s passive. Couple this with some mediocre counterspells and a Lyra pivot out of the sideboard, and you’ve got yourself a hell of a deck.

There are plenty of other sweet decks rising out of the woodworks of this wide-open Pioneer format, but this deck, as well as Simic, are the two that I recommend in the short-term. Simic is at risk of an almost-inevitable Oko banning, while I can’t imagine any of the core cards in Azorius Control getting the axe in the near future. They didn’t ban Teferi in Standard, so it seems unlikely that a hate mob will be able to get to it here.

Good luck on the battlefield!