Pioneer is a sanctioned, 60-card, non-rotating format that includes every Magic set from Return to Ravnica (October 2012) forward.
The format launched in late 2019 with only the fetchlands banned. Since then, there have been several rounds of bans that have been widely regarded as reasonable and necessary. The full, hover-able banlist can be found to the right on desktop and below on mobile devices.
Pioneer is most closely related to Modern, as they are both non-rotating 60-card formats that go from one set onward – Pioneer goes back to 2012 and Modern goes back to 2003.
Single-card differences like not having access to Lightning Bolt or Inquisition of Kozilek cascade into big differences between Modern and Pioneer in terms of playable cards, absolute staples, and playable archetypes.
For example, Pioneer lacking fetchlands to rapidly fill the graveyard for free has allowed us to keep delve spells like Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise (which are banned in Modern) off of our banlist for now.
Pioneer is slower overall than Modern. The fastest decks in the format have you dead on turn four if they draw perfectly and are on the play. All of our unconditional creature removal is two mana or greater. Our counterspells aren’t optimal. All this to say: the power level overall is somewhere between Modern and the current Standard set, which opens up a lot of fun strategies that aren’t viable in higher power level formats and not available in lower-power ones.
- Financial accessibility. Modern is expensive. Standard rotates. You can get into a Pioneer deck that wins at FNMs for $70.
- It has not yet been “solved”. Almost every MTGO League 5-0 decklist dump since the beginning has included homebrews,different takes on existing archetypes and sometimes downright wild surprises. New sets have much more of an impact on Pioneer than in Modern, since our cardpool is smaller (and always will be). This makes every set release exciting for Pioneer players and keeps the format fresh and new. Sometimes, Pioneer decks are a few swaps away from being Standard-legal.
- It’s on the rise. The pandemic really hurt Pioneer, coming just three months after its launch. We really didn’t get to see its true launch until late 2021, and everyone is playing it.
- The community is amazing and inviting and non-judgemental. This has been the experience at FNMs, on Reddit, on MTGO and on Discord channels devoted to the format.
I hope this has helped to explain the format a little bit, and if you aren’t playing Pioneer, I hope you give it a shot. If your local game store isn’t firing Pioneer yet, you could get on MTGO and join the fun!
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