Mono-White Book Combo (Yorion)
I hate to highlight two mono-white lists in a row, but this deck (which SeventhProphet has taken two leagues with in two weeks) just looks absolutely miserable to play against and, like it did in Standard, demands some amount of sideboard or even maindeck slots in every deck hoping to 5-0 a league. We’re talking about Book of Exalted Deeds combo – this time in a prison/control shell featuring Yorion, the Sky Nomad.
For those unfamiliar, The Book of Exalted Deeds puts a counter on an angel that says “you can’t lose the game and opponents can’t win the game”. This seems sort of fine on first glance: you just kill the angel, right? Well, it turns out Mutavault and Faceless Haven are both angels, and when they turn back into a land at the end of turn, they become extremely difficult to deal with.
When the Faceless Haven/Book of Exalted Deeds (FaceBook) combo was at its peak in Standard, the FaceBook player would activate the combo and their opponent would think about whether they remembered to put at least one Field of Ruin in their deck. If not, there was no way to win. The widely-accepted approach was to rope FaceBook pilots to keep them from re-entering the ladder and inflicting their evil for three to five minutes. There were calls for bans every other day on the Arena subreddit.
In Pioneer, though, we have more ways of dealing with the combo. Unfortunately for Book’s opponents, there are also more ways to protect the combo – and Pioneer can attach the Book to Mutavault, which becomes an angel for one mana as opposed to Faceless Haven, which becomes an angel for three mana.
This version of the deck actually has quite a few real wincons and doesn’t rely on opponent insta-scooping, forcing them to draw their deck turn by turn or taking them to time. Either way, being the Book player is a lot more fun than being the Book opponent, so let’s talk about playing the deck!
The Control Shell
Like most decks capable of doing so right now (and some that weren’t), the deck has a full playset of Portable Holes in the mainboard. As of this writing, Orzhov Auras and Ensoul Artifact are heavy in the meta and low-curve exile effects are over-performing. In the same vein, we’re running four Skyclave Appartitions, four March of Otherwordly Lights, three The Wandering Emperor and three Touch the Spirits Realms. If 14 mainboard spot exile cards aren’t enough, we have two Settle the Wreckage in the mainboard for wider swings. Two Eiganjo, Seat of the Empires in the main will take care of whatever’s left. In the sideboard we have more spot removal in Fateful Absence, boardwipes in Doomskar and Shatter the Sky.
In short, not much is getting through as far as combat damage. Whatever does, we heal up with Potion of Healing.
Like any combo deck, we need a couple of pieces in hand to activate the combo and win. This deck has a way to tutor out each piece of the combo, cards that protect the combo and ways to tutor its wincons. There are only two pieces we need to activate the “can’t lose the game” combo: a Mutavault or Faceless Haven and The Book of Exalted Deeds. We can grab either land off Golos, Tireless Pilgrim, and we’re running three copies of Search For Glory, which can find us a Faceless Haven. To grab The Book, we can also use Search for Glory or Thalia's Lancers, which can be blinked by Yorion to search again for something else, like our wincon in Lyra Dawnbringer. Once we have the combo assembled, we want to protect it with Tomik, Distinguished Advokist, which is also a legendary card that we can tutor with Search for Glory or Lancers.
I haven’t yet mentioned that the deck is also a white devotion deck, with three copies of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx (which we can tutor with Search for Glory or Golos) to ramp up to our bigger threats, our Thalia's Lancers or to activating The Book, which cost six white mana total. Since the deck can get to five white devotion by turn three, it can ramp to casting Lyra Dawnbringer rather quickly. In game two, depending on the matchup, the deck can board in two Emrakul, the Promised End, which is pretty much a promised end for your opponent (and it’s tutor-able with Search and Lancers). In the absolute perfect world, the deck can cast Emrakul on turn six. Of course, the deck doesn’t necessarily need to win through creature damage. An opponent who knows they can’t answer the activated combo in any of their sixty or even 75 cards could just scoop on spot. If they don’t, and force you to play it out, you likely win by attrition as your deck started with 80 cards and theirs more likely started with 60.
Even if the combo is broken all four times that the deck can activate it, your opponent is still facing a monster of a control deck with some hefty creatures that can’t be ignored.
With white being the Pioneer color of sideboard hate cards, the deck has access to a full suite of cards that counter the current meta (while contributing to white devotion) in Deafening Silence, Rest in Peace (which we’re also mainboarding two of, Elspeth Conquers Death and the colorless Weathered Runestone. The rest of the board is full of spot removal and boardwipes, as previously mentioned.
I don’t like editorializing too much in these highlights, but I hate this deck. I hate how easy it is to assemble the combo. I hate how it manages to do everything in one color. I hate how it doesn’t let me do anything about it. I hate how I’m sleeving up my Ashiok, Dream Renders and Field of Ruins just in case everyone starts playing this.
All joking aside, this deck is extremely intelligently crafted and, based on the feedback it’s been getting on Reddit, I imagine quite a few copies of this will show up the next league. Keep an eye out for it!