Welcome back to another wonderful month of testing the limits of Pioneer, but that’s not all we’ll be testing. No this time we’ll also be testing the patience of all players at your local LGS. Think about it; at a normal FNM you might get to defeat maybe four players, but if you can hold up the whole tournament you can annoy every single player who can hear you utter the word, “Fog”. Turbo-Fog has been the pipedream of many brewers planning to grind the pace of the game to a halt, boards reduced to a mess of creatures and lands dealing no damage turn after turn. “Maybe there is no win-con”, your opponent thinks as they ponder their existence and the futility of even trying. This is more than a win; this is a complete victory via destruction of your opponents’ morale. If this sounds like the deck you want to play in pioneer, then you are in luck! Let’s go over the durdliest deck in pioneer: Sanity Fog.
Now, a deck like turbo fog isn’t built in the same way as a conventional deck that plans to win with creatures; it needs engines that allow it to continue to draw and reuse fog effects. These are important as they allow us to blunt the assault of very angry creatures that very much wish to bash us to death. Importantly though it still needs win-cons, I believe in the durdle but i don’t believe in not winning. Finally we will need a lot of ramp and card selection spells so we can assemble the perfect storm of protection, engine, and in the end a winning combo. To start, let’s cover our acceleration and card selection.
Mill ‘er time
Starting things off the right way with the age old standby of four copies of Consider, don’t play blue decks without it. It can dig for what we want, fill our yard for a delve spell, and it does it all for one mana. Honestly, this card almost makes it feel like we’re playing a 52 card deck with the cardboard velocity that gives us a good chance to get where we need to go. Now, Consider might be the gold standard but the workhorse of the deck is Growth Spiral. This card not only cantrips, but it also lets us drop an extra land to get ahead in mana all at instant speed. So if we need to fog or play a counterspell we can, and if we don’t need to play the counter we can use our two mana to get ahead in cards and mana. Everyone loves talking about delve spells in pioneer, and we are no different. Two copies of Dig Through Time allow us to recycle used cards to locate the missing pieces of our engine, or maybe find the last combo piece to try and win the game. As always, delve carefully. This deck can recur cards from graveyards as well as shuffle cards back into the deck; so don’t exile all of your fogs, and make sure that wincons don’t end up exiled as once it’s delved it’s gone forever. Really make sure you know what you’re delving away, and break those bad habits of just tossing the top cards of your graveyard to the exile pile. As for resolving the spell, this deck is full of two card combos. So, if this doesn’t find you a full combo, it should be able to get at least one piece and a fog effect. Now that we know how to search for cards, let’s talk about what we’re looking for: The Win-cons.
There are two ways we can win the game, either by milling out ourselves or our opponent. Three copies of Fraying Sanity will make sure that all our milling efforts are doubled. Importantly we can enchant ourselves if we are confident we can stick one of our two copies of Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. With an empty library we can use Jace to win the game, and sometimes we will naturally get to a point in the game where our deck is low enough to make Jace pose a threat all on its own. Of course, we can also win the safer way, a good old fashioned two-card combo. Fraying Sanity amping mill is nice, but in tandem with our three copies of Traumatize; it turns into an instant mill for any player with an even number of cards in their library. It’s that simple. And with a growth spiral on turn two, you can play fraying sanity on turn three and end the game by turn four. Even if your opponent has an odd number of cards in their library you will leave them with nothing but their “LAST PATHETIC CARD” (editor’s note: be sure to read this outloud with your best Seto Kaiba Voice) as you cast a fog in their upkeep for maximum disrespect. In the main board there’s no other way to win. You either mill them out or mill out yourself, your opponent’s life total does not matter as we can’t deal damage. Now I think we need to get to the elephant in the room, the engine.
Day’s Undoing in a mill deck?
Now, you might be wondering “Dumb Prizes Guy! How do we win by milling when we play three copies of Day's Undoing?” It’s easy, unlike a traditional mill deck where we chip away at our opponents deck with multiple cards, we are a combo deck that uses two cards to mill all cards at once, so reshuffling our opponents graveyards won’t matter. That being said, we don’t need tricks like Quicken to make this card good, and in some matchups, like mono white and other aggro decks, we can cast this card without the Narset that will stop our opponent from drawing as well. Be warned, without Narset in play this card should only be cast as a last resort. Giving your opponent a full grip is rarely a good idea, though sometimes it can’t be helped. Narset herself is an engine as it will limit card draw of the opponent while digging through our deck to take any nonland card. One copy of each of our other engine cards are used to help keep our hand full of cards. Getting multiple cards per turn is very important if we plan to spend a fog every turn while progressing our combo plan. The simplest plan is Dictate of Kruphix. This flash enchantment is a good ole howling mine but with flash so we can draw the first card, and with Narset around our opponent won’t be drawing anything. This card also makes it so even if we mill them to one card, they will still lose for drawing two cards in their drawstep. Search for Azcanta starts as passive card selection before flipping into an instant speed Narset activation every turn. Since we only need one or two mana to cast a fog, it’s very easy to stop our opponents’ damage every turn with enough mana left over for an Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin activation. Finally we have a copy of Tamiyo, Collector of Tales. This card has gone waaaay up in importance as Tamiyo’s static stops Liliana of the Veil, Go Blank, and Invoke Despair making her the best planeswalker to stop the Rakdos menace. Tamiyo also lets us mill our deck while looking for the last piece of the combo, or lets us recycle some fogs. An active tamiyo is a huge value engine and can easily buy us three to four turns of fogs and while the +1 may not always hit, it still mills us four or even eight with a fraying sanity in play. Our last engine piece is also a win-con, Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. Once again, excellent value even if he’s just milling us or our opponent two cards while finding us an extra card, just waiting to end the game with his static ability. I’d love to find space for a second Dictate main, but the list is so tight that I couldn’t find a cut for the mainboard. Maybe one of the readers might try replacing a Day's Undoing with another Dictate, but in testing the Narset lock was just too game ending if you pulled it off. Now, we can get to the easiest part of the deck. Saying no.
Ahh Fog, just take it in. This classic card from alpha is all the way here in pioneer and we will play four copies. But, just to make sure it’s there when we need it, why not take some extra fog effects? The best variant I could find was Haze of Pollen. Two mana is basically where we have to start, from there we need an upside and cycling is the best upside by far. The big question now is, when do you fog? Early game I suggest letting damage through, but start conserving life around 14-12 life. One thing to be aware of is that Rakdos and Mono-Red both have the ability to play Bonecrusher Giant, and the Stomp spell stops damage from being prevented for a turn. This is the card you have to play around most as it will win the game by breaking through our wall of fogs. But, never fear we have counter spells! Two copies of Negate make so much sense in this deck, we fear no creatures. We do however fear Karn, Stomp, Chandra, and Liliana. Two copies of long time Pioneer staple Unsubstantiate; which can also be used to buy time by bouncing a very big attacker, or we can return a spell off the stack. This isn’t a permanent solution, but often buying a turn is enough to get our plan into motion. We also play two copies of Jwari Disruption. It’s a land, and in a tap out format like pioneer you’ll often be able to snag some Spell with this two mana Force Spike. Since we’re talking about lands, let’s go over ours.
The lands in this deck start simply enough. Four Breeding Pool and Four Barkchannel Pathway with Four Dreamroot Cascade. Just as much two-color fixing as possible, the deck plays cards that cost triple blue as well as wanting to leave up green every turn so having as many duals that come untapped as possible is important. Then we get a bit odd with two copies of both Otawara and Boseiju. Normally decks will only play these as one of’s due to the legend rule, however we need our cards to be spells as often as possible as we lose most games where we draw 3-4 lands running. So, thankfully these lands can be spells when we need them to be, and it’s worth the awkward moments where we draw both copies and need them to be lands.
The sideboard gets a bit tricky for a deck like this, and since we are not playing any creatures we are going to bring a lot of creatures in from the sideboard. Starting with three copies of Nightpack Ambusher, this one man wolfpack can overwhelm a board on its own if we don’t cast spells during our turn. It also makes the opponent second guess their alpha strike at the risk of getting fogged, thus leaving themselves open to our crack back. Next up, two copies of Academy Loremaster; a shiny new 2/3 for 2 here to block and offer our opponent cards if they skip their turn. This card does everything we want to do: draws us cards and slows down the game. Great into hyper aggro and midrange decks, the Loremaster is best when our opponent takes the bribe and draws cards. In my testing, I lost games where I cast this card and my opponent chose not to draw. The creatures don’t stop there with two copies of Hydroid Krasis. The Krasis just lets us refill our hand and gain some life while also presenting a big flyer to win the old fashioned way if we want. Most players will side out removal like fatal push once they see that it’s blank in game one so try bringing in creatures when you think you can catch your opponent off guard. As for the remaining slots we want an additional copy of Tamiyo to help in the midrange matchup and an additional copy of Dictate, which is great in the creature matchups to keep our fogs flowing. Two more Negate help us against control based decks and in Mono-green. We just need to keep Karn and Storm the Festival from resolving to win the matchup so the hard stop is great. In the same vain we want to play two Disdainful Stroke for the mono green matchup specifically. Conveniently, Karn and Storm both cost four or greater so this does a great job in making them try to win with creatures instead of their combo. Finally we round things out with two copies of Aether Gust. The hoser to hose red and green cards can delay a game winning Stomp or a Storm, it can bounce a single big creature, and just slots into our worst situations.
This deck is a lot of fun to play if you like managing risk. You never truly answer your opponents board, only delay your death long enough to hopefully pull off a combo win. I recommend this deck if you want to draw a lot of cards and win from a strange angle. Personally, I loved playing this deck and really seeing the limits of what can be done in pioneer at the local level. The worst matchup is definitely Greasefang, that rat can explosively put 13 damage on the board from nowhere which accelerates the pace of the game that our fogs can’t keep up with. Theoretically it’s a deck that needs to attack to win so it should be fine, however when they play a turn three Greasefang you have to fog from them on every turn. The best matchups are definitely Green Devotion and Mono-White aggro. If your meta is full of aggressive humans or combo focused green players, shut them down with a slew of fogs and negates. Remember “I fear no army or beast, just the morning fog”. Now go prevent damage