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The Spiciest Pioneer Decks of Pro Tour Phyrexia

February 17, 2023
Frank Karsten

In total, 218 Pioneer decklists were submitted for Pro Tour Phyrexia, but some stand out more than others. The spiciest ones use innovative combinations of cards, represent a novel archetype, or do something that no one saw coming. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the eight Pioneer decks that stood out to me the most. All of them leverage new cards from Phyrexia: All Will Be One and have a chance of winning the Pro Tour.

The spice at Pro Tour Phyrexia is not limited to these eight decks. For example, there are several players who qualified with under-the-radar brews at the Regional Championships and brought the same deck to the Pro Tour, with only minor changes to their builds. These archetype experts include:

  • Dimitar Erinin (Grinning Ignus Combo)
  • Marc Tobiasch (Storm Herald Combo)
  • Scott Polsky (Golgari Elves)
  • Michael Knie (Esper Greasefang)
  • Samuel Eberhard (Jund Citadel)

While I will be rooting for them, their choices for Pro Tour Phyrexia should not come as a major surprise. Instead, let's dive into the eight most surprising choices.

Teammates Lukas Honnay, Jitse Goutbeek, Nick Schirillo, and Zhi Yimin all registered a five-color midrange deck that's reminiscent of Niv to Light—a known Pioneer archetype—but with Omnath, Locus of Creation instead of Niv-Mizzet Reborn.

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The key card in their deck is Bring to Light. With a five-color mana base, it transforms into a tutor that can immediately cast the card it finds. One noteworthy tutor target is Valki, God of Lies, since the rules allow you to cast the seven-mana Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor with Bring to Light. A new tutor target from Phyrexia: All Will Be One is Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines, who doubles the effectiveness of your Leyline Binding while reducing the potency of opposing Esika's Chariot or Cavalier of Thorns.

Emphasizing Bring to Light without running Niv-Mizzet Reborn results in better card quality and a superior mana base. For example, by replacing Niv-Mizzet with Omnath, you can run Chained to the Rocks and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker instead of a wacky collection of gold spells. Omnath, Locus of Creation is high-powered alternative, especially when you trigger Omnath multiple times per turn with Fabled Passage. The original design for the deck was credited to Nico Bohny, and after Lukas Honnay trophied several leagues with a tweaked version, he and his teammates tuned the list to perfection for the Pro Tour.

Four members of Team Handshake (Jonny Guttman, Julian Wellman, Matti Kuisma, and Simon Nielsen) all settled on Abzan Auras, and they were the only players who registered Mox Amber for Pro Tour Phyrexia.

602563 548318 Mox Amber

The deck's game plan revolves around Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice; Sram, Senior Edificer; or Illuminator Virtuoso, which get out of hand quickly if you keep targeting them without Auras. While this is an excellent strategy against decks light on interaction, it used to struggle in the face of removal. Before Phyrexia: All Will Be One, this was mitigated via Gladecover Scout. While there are still Auras player at the Pro Tour who rely on green hexproof creatures, Skrelv, Defector Mite has changes the equation, and Team Handshake's build uses Skrelv as their only one-drop.

Reminiscent of Giver of Runes, Skrelv can be used to protect your key creatures from removal, which turns Illuminator Virtuoso into a more appealing threat. Additionally, Skrelv , can push an enormous creature past blockers, counts as an artifact for All That Glitters, and unlocked Mox Amber. With 11 legendary creatures in the main deck, Mox Amber will be active most of the time, enabling blazingly fast starts. Finally, even the poison counters could matter for Zealot's Conviction—another addition from the latest set. All in all, it's an enchanting new deck.

Jeff Lin, whose invitation source stems from a Qualifier Weekend on MTG Arena, brought a unique artifact-based control deck that I dubbed "Azorius Powerstones".

The Mightstone and Weakstone Static Net Karn, Scion of Urza

The Mightstone and Weakstone and Static Net put Powerstones onto the battlefield, which can be exploited in various ways. Their mana can be used on Thraben Inspector's Clue token, to pay for Moonsnare Prototype's channel, to activate Reckoner Bankbuster, to grab Yorion, Sky Nomad from the companion zone, and more. A Powerstone token also contributes towards the city's blessing for Arch of Orazca, helps pay for Metallic Rebuke, and boosts the Construct tokens from Karn, Scion of Urza, which is the deck's main win condition.

From Phyrexia: All Will Be One, Seachrome Coast is an important addition. It adds to the raw number of good dual lands, which is particularly important for an 80-card deck. Even more importantly, Seachrome Coast allows you to consistently cast both Thraben Inspector and Moonsnare Prototype on turn one, which was difficult to accomplish before if you also want several colorless utility lands.

Hisamichi Yoshigoe, who qualified by making the Top 8 at the New Capenna Championship, is a solitary deck builder by nature, and he found a dazzling new take on Gruul Vehicles.

602740 Stubborn Denial Crater's Claws

While many Gruul Vehicles players adopted Migloz, Maze Crusher as a powerful and versatile three-mana threat, they generally cut a few copies of Lovestruck Beast or Bonecrusher Giant to make room. But not Yoshigoe. Seeing the potential that Migloz could unlock for a deck built around the ferocious mechanic, he instead cut Reckless Stormseeker and splashed blue for Stubborn Denial.

Although it comes at the cost of Mutavault, the mana base can support the blue splash, and the ability to counter spells like Storm the Festival will certainly come in handy. Another payoff for focusing on creatures with power 4 or greater is Crater's Claws, which can roast opponents for game-winning amounts of damage. The end result is a fascinating variation on the Gruul Vehicles archetype.

Teammates Autumn Burchett, Liam Etelson, and Noor Singh all saw the potential for a white splash in Rakdos Sacrifice and brought their build to the Pro Tour.

Showdown of the Skalds Rite of Oblivion Mayhem Devil

Like Rakdos Sacrifice, Mardu Sacrifice is centered around Mayhem Devil, Cauldron Familiar, and Witch's Oven, which create a once-per-turn loop that drains your opponent, deals two damage, and allows you to block for free.

The unique part is the white splash for Showdown of the Skalds and Rite of Oblivion. These cards, which replace Unlucky Witness and Village Rites in stock black-red lists, provide more staying power, velocity, and battlefield impact. While this strategy was also feasible before Phyrexia: All Will Be One, Blackcleave Cliffs made it easier to construct a viable three-color mana base.

Chris Botelho, who qualified by finishing 23rd at the New Capenna Championship, is the only competitor who registered Mindsplice Apparatus—an exciting new card from Phyrexia: All Will Be One that supercharges Divide by Zero, Pieces of the Puzzle, and other instants and sorceries.

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To Botelho, Mindsplice Apparatus seemed reminiscent of Wilderness Reclamation, but with the added benefit of flash. Given the potential, he tried to slot them into an Izzet Phoenix shell, removing the creatures that he never liked, and the resulting control strategy worked pretty well for him.

In his experience, the biggest weakness control decks had in the format was that too many decks are doing powerful linear things from different angles, and it's hard to answer all of them. Especially when you don't have a real clock. But the Mindsplice shell impressed him because it can close games extremely quickly by chaining extra turns with Alrund's Epiphany and Temporal Trespass. Above all, it allowed him to return to some good old fashioned Wilderness Reclamation-like gameplay: "If just for how fun it is to play if nothing else".

Ben Stark, who used his once-per-season Hall of Fame invite on this event, is the only Pro Tour Phyrexia competitor to register main deck Yorion, Sky Nomad in Pioneer.

Yorion, Sky Nomad Charming Prince Ossification

A core idea in the deck is to enters-the-battlefield triggers via Charming Prince or Yorion, Sky Nomad. For example, suppose you cast Yorion while you control Skyclave Apparition, Aether Channeler, Omen of the Sea, and Charming Prince. By blinking all these permanents, you can exile an opposing permanent, bounce another, and draw a card when they all return. Moreover, when Charming Prince returns, he can blink Yorion, allowing you to do it all over again in your opponent's end step and keep the blink engine rolling.

It makes for a fascinating engine in a blue-white control shell, which additionally features several new standouts from Phyrexia: All Will Be One. Malcator, Purity Overseer provides yet another creature that can be blinked for value, while Ossification is an efficient new removal spell that fits the mana base and that can be blinked in the late game to exile an even bigger threat instead.

Tulio Jaudy finished in the Top 8 of the Brazilian Regional Championships with a similar brew, but his version for the Pro Tour has added several new combos, showing that the work of a dedicated deck builder is never complete.

Eldrazi Displacer Brood Monitor Decimator of the Provinces

While he retained a fair creature core for Collected Company, he has added Kayla's Reconstruction along with a new infinite life combo. If you can hit Eldrazi Displacer, Prosperous Innkeeper, and Fierce Empath in the top cards of your library, then Fierce Empath can fetch Brood Monitor, and you're all set. The three Eldrazi Scion tokens are sacrificed to activate Eldrazi Displacer, blinking Brood Monitor, and you can loop this infinitely often, gaining infinite life with Prosperous Innkeeper in the process.

So while this may seem like a fair green-white creature deck, it packs a surprising punch, and there are many layers. For example, Voice of Resurgence punishes interaction on your turn, Fabled Passage can fetch Wastes for a surprise Eldrazi Displacer activation, and Lovestruck Beast may mistake Haywire Mite for his heart's desire. And as an alternative path to victory, Fierce Empth can also fetch and emerge Decimator of the Provinces. Given that many games may end that way, it's only fitting that Jaudy proposed "Hey Piggy Piggy!" as an alternative name for his archetype.

In conclusion, if you were looking for a brand new Pioneer deck to try out, then give one of these eight decks a try! They might be the key to victory at Pro Tour Phyrexia, and you may be able to see them in action on the livestream over the weekend.

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