Hello, my name is Briger, and welcome back to the series where I rank the best cards from all of the best sets, which as we all know are the Pioneer legal ones . Today, we are looking at everything from M14 through Journey into Nyx. These sets have some of the most fundamental cards that have shaped the Pioneer meta game from the beginning..
The first set I am tearing my claws into is M14. This set has a ton of bombs that still define the format. From Aggro to Combo, this set provided some important pieces to decks throughout Pioneer’s history. So kicking it off with number three, I have…
This card, affectionately called Young Peezy by the community, is one of the best token makers available. Being able to cast removal and card draw spells while gaining additional value has made this card a legend not just in Pioneer, but in most non-rotating formats at some point. It was a staple in Rakdos Pyromancer back when Lurrus was legal, and is an Izzet Phoenix sideboard all-star. And now that we have gotten a second copy of it in Third Path iconoclast, there is a deck picking up traction called 8 Peezy.
Next, we have an Aggro powerhouse. Mutavault is one of the best creature lands ever printed. Its ability is cheap and doesn’t demand any colors, which makes it the ideal candidate for low to the ground aggressive decks. Being all creature types also makes it a stand out option in decks like Mono White Humans, since it can benefit from their tribal synergies as well. Still, it has been known to sneak its way into an odd Angel deck since it has combo potential with The Book of Exalted Deeds.
Rounding out the M14 top cards is Elvish mystic. This lad is one of the strongest cards in pioneer and has been since the format’s beginning. Don’t let its dinky body fool you; advancing your board by one mana starting on turn one can be extremely potent, and worth the risk of keeping a 1/1 alive. This card is a must-kill for many opposing decks. It is one of the few examples that we have access to that justify use of the phrase ” Bolt the Bird.” Mystic has seen play in various decks through the format, but the most predominant is Mono-Green Devotion. This, paired with Llanowar Elves, allows a player to ramp out insanely fast and consistently, which is partly why Devotion is the most powerful deck in pioneer.
This set was a trip for me. It’s the set where I really got into playing magic when I was younger. There is so much nostalgia here for me. The ascetic is fantastic, and the story is as tragic as a classic Greek tale. It is one of Magic’s finest interpretations of traditional storytelling. It also offered some of the most powerful cards seeing play in Pioneer today.
Anger of the Gods
Starting us off is the mighty Anger of the Gods. Damage based board wipes are very important to many red based decks in the format, and this was for a long time the best of them. Sweeping away a field full of mana elves, tokens, or other fragile creatures can buy several turns, but the real advantage here is the exile. The folly to this type of card in the past was creatures that could return to play once they die, but exiling them makes it so that this wouldn’t ever be an issue. Prized Amalgam? Who’s that?
The following two cards on my list were tough to place because they are both powerhouses in the format and do potent stuff. But one is more powerful than the other, so to number two I place Thoughtseize. This potent hand-hate spell is a devastating early game play in just about any black deck. It’s a single mana to take any non-land from your opponent with zero downside because the two life absolutely does not matter. The effect is one of the most potent disruption spells ever printed in magic, and it is still being cast at the top Pioneer tables to this day.
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
At the number one slot, I had to place the best land in pioneer- Nykthos. This card is a powerful payoff for devotion strategies, frequently doubling or even tripling a deck’s mana output in one turn. This land is really what allows Devotion to go off so effectively and reliably. It’s so good at making mana that many magic players are discussing the merits of having it banned from the format. With no real hate for the card or the strategy viable right now, Nykthos really puts opponents between a rock and a hard place as they decide whether they want to fight the card and include a plan that’s bad against every other strategy available, or if they will just sit back and watch this mana fountain rain Green all over the field.
Born of the gods
Now, after those two bombastic sets, I’m sorry to tell you these following sets shall be a bit less impactful. The card quality in the latter half of the Theros block is insanely low, especially compared to the sets preceeding it. Nevertheless, these sets still had a few golden nuggets for us to find and use in pioneer.
Xenagos, God of Revels
Starting us off is the god of parties, Xenagos! This 5 mana god has a lot going for him. He is big, powerful, and has abs on par with Oko. While this card doesn’t see a tremendous amount of play, it has sprung up recently as a combo enabler in Indomitable Creativity decks, pairing with Worldspine Wurm to attack in for 30 trample damage out of nowhere.
Courser of Kruphix
Next on our list is an oldie but a goodie. Courser is a classic Sultai Delirium card, and has seen fringe play in other various midrange lists. It’s a blocker with a huge booty that also gains life and generates card advantage. It was perfect in the Delirium strategies because it pulled double duty by being an enchantment and a creature, so it fuels Traverse the Ulvenwald and many other Delerium payoffs without too much work.
The final card in this trio is an innocuous little Satyr. This creature is very unassuming at first, only milling 4 cards to search for some lands. But this fine boy is a staple in any deck wanting to get cards into graveyards. It was a staple in Sultai Delirium back toward the beginning of the format, and it is currently still a staple in the Abzan Greasefang decks that are fairly popular these days. Providing a staple spell effect on a 1/1 body may not seem like much, but the capacity to offer this creature as a chump blocker instead of using a sorcery that has the same effect has proven invaluable to most of these strategies.
The final stop on our set sightseeing tour is Journey into Nyx. This set has several pioneer staples that have shaped the format as we know it. While not a noteworthy set in terms of value or power level, the set had some excellent themes and cards that carry some decent impact.
Eidolon of Blossoms
Throughout Pioneer’s history, people have made efforts to craft an Enchantress style deck, or an enchantment based control deck. This card is usually at the core of those, providing a reliable engine of drawing cards and digging through the deck to find the next necessary piece. While these decks haven’t picked up a ton of steam, they’ve been a casual and low-power-level mainstay that we would love to see have its day in the sun at some point.
Eidolon of the Great Revel
This card is a burn must-have. It does so much against decks that keep a low curve, punishing players for trying to be efficient with their mana. The card is also excellent at policing decks like Izzet Phoenix that try to cast a million cantrips for their primary game plan. Though the strategy isn’t at the top of its game right now, this card will continue to be at the deck’s core for the next time Pioneer reaches Burn season.
Now we are to the meat and potatoes of any good aggro brew. Mana Confluence is a staple in all kinds of decks across the pioneer format. It’s a land that makes your mana essentially perfect, being able to tap for any color with the minor downside of losing a life. This card is a massive boon for any brewer trying to make a less supported archetype work, from decks like Selesnya Auras to four and five color nonsense brews.
Whew, that was a lot. Looking back, I never realized how much this de