Charting a Course: 6 ways to start playing Pioneer in 2023

Arinceo goes into all the ways we can play our favorite card game

2022 was a massive year for the Pioneer format. With COVID restrictions easing around the world, the return to paper play at the beginning of the year renewed interest in the format as players looked for a more affordable format to enter than Modern.

The competitive spotlight was then directed onto the Pioneer format with the announcement of paper Pro Tours returning to the Organized Play structure in the middle of the year. We’ve just finished a cycle of Regional Championships all played in Pioneer around the world, with the first Pro Tour of 2023 to be Pioneer in a matter of weeks.

With this in mind, you might be a player looking to step into Pioneer at some point in 2023, whether it’s socially or competitively. Today we’re going to look at six ways you can start playing Pioneer!

Paper Play

Buy a Challenger Deck

Over the past two years WOTC has released eight different Challenger Decks to provide an easy starting point of entry into Pioneer. These are perfect for players without an existing collection to start playing the format at a decent power level. In October we had Orzhov Humans, Gruul Aggro, Izzet Phoenix and Dimir Control decks released, all of which you can play out of the box at your LGS or begin upgrading into a tier decklist at your own pace. Click here to check out our recommended upgrades article!

Grind the Circuit

For those of you with a competitive mindset, January sees the start of the newest cycle of Regional Championship qualifiers, which is the first step on the paper pathway to the Pro Tour! At Playing MTG we keep our format Tier List updated on a weekly basis – while there can be rogue decks at events more often than not these are the lists you’ll be seeing winning or finishing in the Top 8 of events. Once you’ve found a Tier List deck you like, you can use TCG Player to buy the cards you need to get going.

Brew your own

With a card pool stretching back to 2012, there is still plenty of unexplored space within the format for innovation and each new set release provides potential new decks that interact with older cards. If you’re coming back to paper Magic for the first time since the pandemic or even longer, you may want to build a deck with a favourite card. Check out Alex’s Brewing 101 article for tips on how to get started!


Webcam Magic

Got your paper deck but nowhere to play? You can join the PlayAway discord for casual games of webcam Pioneer, or join one of the regular leagues organised on the server. This is a great way to get the social experience of paper magic without the need to match the schedule of your LGS.

Play Pioneer-lite on MTG Arena

If you want the option to play matches wherever you are on a mobile device, MTG Arena offers the Explorer format, which features all Pioneer-legal cards currently programmed into the program. The latest Explorer Anthology has brought the format much closer to full Pioneer thanks to the addition of cards like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Check out our Explorer hub for more information!

Magic Online

For high-level Pioneer play from the comfort of your own home, you can’t go past Magic Online, which has a regular schedule of events to scratch your competitive itch featuring some of the best players in the world. While you can purchase cards on Magic Online using in-game currency, using a rental program like Cardhoarder allows you to switch between decks for a recurring fee.

Until Next Time

Hopefully you’ll choose to get involved in Pioneer through one or more of the options above – you can also sign up to our Patreon to chat with me and the rest of the PlayingMTG team on playing the Pioneer format while also gaining access to our Premium Deck Guides and articles from the likes of Hall of Fame player Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa!

  • Arinceo

    Author/Data Coordinator

    Arinceo has been in an on/off relationship with Magic since cracking his first packs in 2004. After watching his beloved Hardened Scales deck suffer the loss of Walking Ballista he jumped back into Pioneer following the release of the 2021 challenger decks and is active in the community on the PioneerMTG subreddit and Twitter. Arinceo compiles most of the competitive data used on our meta data page and elsewhere.

Liked it? Take a second to support PlayingMTG on Patreon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *