Fournier’s Goblin Guide: Pioneer PTQ week and the Montreal F2F Open


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 take a deep dive into the week full of online Pioneer PTQs, with a quick pit stop in Modern to help you prepare for this weekend’s Face to Face Games Open in Montreal. Let’s jump right into it.

Against my better judgment, I’ve played every round of every last one of these Pioneer PTQs, and with the final results released this morning, we have a lot of information to build off of. Saturday’s Pioneer MOCS had some diverse results, with the standout performance being Cain Rianhard’s Golgari Field deck as the sole 8-0. People freaked out, and the metagame shifted a lot in favour of threats that completely ignore zombie tokens, from Questing Beast and Glorybringer to Steel-Leaf Champion. On Monday and Tuesday, the narrative was quite simple: Mono-Black is the best deck, and nobody has figured out how to beat it reliably. Wednesday and Thursday’s events still featured a ton of Mono-Black at the top tables, with several copies in each Top 8, but some people had figured out how to break through: both events were won by Simic variants. Wednesday’s still featured the powerful Steel-Leaf Champion (and a full clip of maindeck Stubborn Denials), but Thursday’s winner looked like the now-banned Standard Simic Food deck, with Hydroid Krasis and Nissa aplenty. Furthermore, a bunch of Gruul Aggro decks have begun to appear over the past two days.

To summarize, it seems that people have, through rapid iteration, found some ways to compete effectively against Mono-Black, and that is to deploy a bunch of beefy creatures before the black deck can both set up a board and disrupt you effectively. These decks often have ten mana dorks, and if you’re stuck on the draw against them, whatever measly turn one play you can muster will immediately be staring down an Oko, a Goblin Rabblemaster or even worse: Steel-Leaf Champion. Yes, this is proof that Llanowar Elves was a design mistake that was inappropriate to constantly revisit, but here we are, playing Magic in a world where snowballing out of control is the name of the game. As such, if you’re playing Pioneer this weekend, I strongly recommend either jamming one of these mana dork decks that plays to the board very quickly, or finding a way to go well over the top of them while keeping the board as clear as possible. Here’s how I’m trying to do that:

I’ve been having a lot of fun with this deck, and felt vindicated as winning lists started cutting Thoughtseizes from the maindeck, matching my experiences with the deck. I’m doing one thing very different from the norm, which is playing a bunch of Ulvenwald Hydras. This throwback to the final form of Aetherworks Marvel Standard is a surprisingly powerful addition to this deck. In addition to being Grave Titan, the Reach keyword is clutch in a ton of situations, thanks to this deck’s weakness to fliers. I’m quite happy with the development of this deck, and while I keep running into a couple matches each event where my opponents have dedicated every single card in their deck to beating the five per cent of the metagame playing Field of the Dead, I keep making deep runs and prizing the PTQs.

Of course, you can’t be faulted for playing the metagame rather than trying to game it, and so playing the most linear and powerful version of the mana dork decks is perfectly reasonable. This list won Wednesday’s PTQ, and while I’m not so certain about the maindeck Stubborn Denials, the strategy of playing five-power monsters on turn-two is no joke.

This Pioneer arms race is all good fun, but this weekend’s local tabletop events seem to largely be Modern, so let’s take a peek at what’s going on in this particular hell-scape. Urza won the GP last weekend, much to everyone’s surprise, and it was, wow, unbelievable, the stock Lotus Box list, the same one that’s won what feels like every single tournament since the SCG where Zan Syed made a fool out of everyone talking trash about Gilded Goose in Modern. Online results paint a different picture, however, with the oft-maligned (by me) Eldrazi Tron utterly dominating across the board. Sure, the Eldrazi part of the deck is still incredibly poor, and it’s not like it assembles Tron very well, but Chalice of the Void and Karn, the Great Creator can apparently carry an infinite amount of dead weight on their backs. So, against my better judgment, and despite my moral framework screaming in defiance, I am going to recommend that you play Eldrazi Tron (or just the Lotus Box Urza deck) this weekend. I’m not happy about it.

Good luck on the battlefield!