Glorybringer - Illustration by Sam Burley

Glorybringer | Illustration by Sam Burley

A lot of online Magic discussion lately has been centered around the idea that there are just too many products. I, for one, love it.

Not every product is for me, so I largely ignore releases designed for Commander players and just focus on sets that I can draft or play in competitive formats. But with all the products being released recently it can be easy to forget one or two even exist.

WotC releases Challenger decks twice a year. This a series of preconstructed decks geared more towards competitive play. Today I’m going to break down the latest batch of them, this time for the Pioneer format, and have a look at whether or not you should buy them.

Ready to find out if the Pioneer Challenger 2022 decks are worth it? Let’s dive right in!

What Are the Pioneer Challenger 2022 Decks?

Pioneer Challenger 2022 decks

Challenger decks are preconstructed decks designed for 1-on-1 formats. In this case for Pioneer. They’re designed so that you should be able to play them right out of the box at a local event and have a good experience.

While the Pioneer Challenger 2022 decks aren’t designed to be on the same level as top competitive decks they are a fairly close approximation and come with a high number of chase cards and format staples, especially when it comes to dual lands. The decks this year are: Izzet () Phoenix, Dimir () Control, Gruul () Stompy, and Orzhov () Humans.

Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Decks 2022 | All 4 Decks | Izzet Phoenix + Dimir Control + Gruul Stompy + Orzhov Humans
  • Bundle of 4 Pioneer 2022 Challenger Decks—Izzet Phoenix, Dimir Control, Gruul Stompy, Orzhov Humans
  • Izzet Phoenix (Blue-Red)—cast a whole lotta spells and fly in with spell-loving creatures
  • Dimir Control (Blue-Black)—thwart your opponent’s plans and set your own in motion
  • Gruul Stompy (Red-Green)—accelerate your mana early and crush with giant threats
  • Orzhov Humans (White-Black)—buff your army with anthems and keep your opponent off-balance

Pioneer Challenger Decks 2022 vs 2021

The first batch of Pioneer Challenger decks that we saw was from fall of 2021: Azorius Spirits, Lotus Field combo, Mono Red Burn, and Orzhov Auras. These archetypes were very powerful at the time and some of the top contenders in the format.

Now the auras deck has all but disappeared from the format and the other decks have also slipped down the tier list. Comparing 2022’s choices and 2021’s, 2021’s were much better at the time they were released but have since become obsolete thanks to shifts in the metagame.

Are They Good Value?

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-
Top Pick
Most Competitive
Best for Value
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Izzet Phoenix (Blue-Red)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Dimir Control (Blue-Black)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Gruul Stompy (Red-Green)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Orzhov Humans (White-Black)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Izzet Phoenix (Blue-Red)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Dimir Control (Blue-Black)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Gruul Stompy (Red-Green)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Orzhov Humans (White-Black)
$49.99
$48.00
$42.58
$42.91
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Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Izzet Phoenix (Blue-Red)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Izzet Phoenix (Blue-Red)
$49.99
-
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Dimir Control (Blue-Black)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Dimir Control (Blue-Black)
$48.00
Top Pick
Most Competitive
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Gruul Stompy (Red-Green)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Gruul Stompy (Red-Green)
$42.58
Best for Value
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Orzhov Humans (White-Black)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Orzhov Humans (White-Black)
$42.91

Generally speaking, Challenger decks are always good value. Each one comes with multiple playsets of competitive rares, dual lands, and often mythics.

Each of 2022’s decks is dual-colored and comes with a shock land plus playsets of other good dual lands. Even when the rare playsets aren’t especially valuable, getting them all in one product can be very useful for a lot of players, especially if you don’t buy singles very often.

Of this batch of decks, two are very well built and are pretty close to what you’d expect to see the competitive versions look like, so they’d be great purchases by themselves. Even the other two, are reasonable starts, they just need a lot more fine tuning to make them good.

Pioneer Challenger Decks 2022 Decklists

Izzet Phoenix

Izzet Phoenix Pioneer Challenger 2022 deck

Izzet Phoenix is entirely centered around Arclight Phoenix. These decks are packed full of one and two mana spells and ways to discard the Phoenixes as early as possible. Ideally you’ll be able to cast three spells on turn 3, having discarded a Phoenix or three and then they all come out of the graveyard for free.

Sadly this iteration (pun very much intended) of the deck is kind of embarrassing. A deck that’s built around one card to only have two copies of it is just ridiculous. You should immediately invest in another two copies of the Phoenix if you buy this deck.

Unfortunately there are quite a lot of cards that you’ll need to add if you want to make this deck competitive. It’s usually built to take advantage of Galvanic Iteration copying Temporal Trespass as a big finisher.

Ledger Shredder has also proven its value in the short span of time it’s been available as one of the easiest ways to dump Phoenixes into the graveyard in early turns. This shell is still a good start if this is a deck that you’d be interested in playing, you just absolutely need two more Arclight Phoenixes before doing anything else.

Just one quick note: the list has two copies of Expressive Iteration which is now banned in Pioneer. An exception has been made to allow you to still use them if you use this exact decklist in its entirety. But you’ll have to remove the Iterations once you add the necessary two Phoenixes. Fortunately Galvanic Iteration is very good in the deck and it’s legal, so you’ll only have to swap one Iteration for a different kind.

Sale
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Izzet Phoenix (Blue-Red)
  • 1 battle-ready 60-card MTG Pioneer 2022 Challenger Deck
  • 15-card sideboard
  • 5 double-sided tokens and 6 helper cards
  • 1 deck box (holds 75 sleeved Magic cards)
  • Izzet Phoenix (Blue-Red)—cast a whole lotta spells and fly in with spell-loving creatures

Dimir Control

Dimir Control Pioneer Challenger 2022 deck

Dimir Control is a classic control deck. Packed full of counterspells and removal, your goal is to stop your opponent from winning the game until you can turn the corner and win with a big powerful threat of your own.

Unfortunately this list is a bit of a miss. Dimir control has gained a little bit of popularity recently especially thanks to Gabriel Nassif playing it a lot on stream, but Azorius () is still the best control deck in the format. This list isn’t even that good. It does have quite a few pieces that you would need when building a good control deck, though.

The best part about the list is Shark Typhoon. This has been an absolute powerhouse ever since it was printed, and every control deck is able to run it. It’s also rather pricey at around $10, so seeing a copy here is very good.

The mana base in this deck is very weak, especially compared to the other decks in the list. I’d have much preferred to see a good utility land or two squeezed in, like Hall of Storm Giants or Castle Locthwain. It may not be the best, but this is still a reasonable start and is a good shell to then improve upon as you get to grips with it if you’ve never played control before.

Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Dimir Control (Blue-Black)
  • 1 battle-ready 60-card MTG Pioneer 2022 Challenger Deck
  • 15-card sideboard
  • 5 double-sided tokens and 6 helper cards
  • 1 deck box (holds 75 sleeved Magic cards)
  • Pioneer Dimir Control (Blue-Black)—thwart your opponent’s plans and set your own in motion

Gruul Stompy

Gruul Stompy Pioneer Challenger 2022 deck

The first two decks were kind of misses, but Gruul Stompy redeems this set of precons very nicely. Gruul midrange decks have been popping up lately as they have a notably strong matchup against one of the best decks in the format: Rakdos () midrange. This is your quintessential midrange stompy deck.

You have eight 1-drop mana dorks to help you get up to three mana on turn 2, and this ramp element helps you be faster than the other similar decks in the field. It can really put your opponent off balance if you’re dropping your heavy hitter a turn or two ahead of schedule.

One of the reasons I like Gruul Stompy so much is how close it is to the real deck that’s currently doing well. Other than the mana base which could naturally use some improvement, the majority of this deck can stay the same. The only major difference is the choice of top end.

The competitive versions of the strategy go with a vehicle package of Esika’s Chariot and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship while this deck opts for Questing Beast, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and Glorybringer.

While the vehicles are better in my opinion, the options that this deck gives you are perfectly valid in their own right and the vehicles are relatively inexpensive if you wanted to upgrade the deck. They also allow you to run Jegantha, the Wellspring as a companion, which is a very big upgrade to the deck.

If this is the kind of deck you’d enjoy playing then this is a very good start, and I’m honestly looking at this myself and thinking I want to build it up too.

Sale
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Gruul Stompy (Red-Green)
  • 1 battle-ready 60-card MTG Pioneer 2022 Challenger Deck
  • 15-card sideboard
  • 5 double-sided tokens and 6 helper cards
  • 1 deck box (holds 75 sleeved Magic cards)
  • Pioneer Gruul Stompy (Red-Green)—accelerate your mana early and crush with giant threats

Orzhov Humans

Orzhov Humans Pioneer Challenger 2022 deck

I find this final deck to be very confusing for a number of reasons. Orzhov Humans is the best deck of the bunch and the worst at the same time. It’s the best because it’s very close to one of Pioneer’s top tier decks, and it’s the worst because that deck is mono-white aggro, not Orzhov. And to top it off this deck comes with a playset of Concealed Courtyard when the Izzet Phoenix deck doesn’t have Spirebluff Canal.

Granted, Canal is a much more valuable card thanks to its color combination, but WotC frequently points out how little care and attention they pay to the secondary market so this decision makes little sense to me. This is basically a monocolor deck that’s been forced into dual-color to keep on theme with the rest of the precons, and it has the best lands despite having the least use for them.

Anyway, Orzhov Humans is great. It’s a pure and simple aggro deck that’s designed to make lots of creatures and turn them sideways every turn. A card I would have liked to see included is Brave the Elements, the mono-white version’s trump card against a lot of decks in the format, but it doesn’t quite fit with black creatures in the mix.

There’s not much you would have to do if you wanted to switch this deck up and make the move to competitive. Hopeful Initiate and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar are recent cards that help the deck out a ton, as well as the aforementioned Brave the Elements. Given that it would be a mono-white deck, the only expensive land you’d need to get would be a couple more Mutavaults which you could always trade for using the duals that the deck comes with.

This is a really weird one, but mono-white is one of the absolute best decks in Pioneer. This comes with a lot of the cards necessary to start you off on that deck, particularly the playsets of Thalis and its lieutenant.

Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Orzhov Humans (White-Black)
  • 1 battle-ready 60-card MTG Pioneer 2022 Challenger Deck
  • 15-card sideboard
  • 5 double-sided tokens and 6 helper cards
  • 1 deck box (holds 75 sleeved Magic cards)
  • Orzhov Humans (White-Black)—buff your army with anthems and keep your opponent off-balance

What’s the “Best” Deck?

For Competitive Pioneer

Gruul Stompy Pioneer Challenger 2022 deck

For my money the best deck of the lot is Gruul Stompy. It’s the closest approximation to a good competitive deck. You’d only realistically need to improve the land base for it to be really decent, and from there you can make more improvements like the ones I already suggested. This deck is the best one to start with if you’re looking at getting into competitive Pioneer.

Sale
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Gruul Stompy (Red-Green)
  • 1 battle-ready 60-card MTG Pioneer 2022 Challenger Deck
  • 15-card sideboard
  • 5 double-sided tokens and 6 helper cards
  • 1 deck box (holds 75 sleeved Magic cards)
  • Pioneer Gruul Stompy (Red-Green)—accelerate your mana early and crush with giant threats

For Value

Orzhov Humans Pioneer Challenger 2022 deck

Orzhov Humans is also a good starting point, but it’s not for quite the same reasons. It’s the best value for money with great dual lands, two Mutavaults, and some great competitive playsets.

Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Orzhov Humans (White-Black)
  • 1 battle-ready 60-card MTG Pioneer 2022 Challenger Deck
  • 15-card sideboard
  • 5 double-sided tokens and 6 helper cards
  • 1 deck box (holds 75 sleeved Magic cards)
  • Orzhov Humans (White-Black)—buff your army with anthems and keep your opponent off-balance

Where to Buy Pioneer 2022 Challenger Decks?

The answer to this question differs from region to region, but the Pioneer 2022 Challenger decks should be available at your local game store. Whenever possible it’s always best to support your local store. They’re also available on popular online retailers if ever your store is out.

Wrap Up

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben - Illustration by Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben | Illustration by Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss

Pioneer is a fun and exciting format for Magic. It’s comparatively cheap to build a deck for and doesn’t rotate, meaning that investing a small amount into it should pay you back several times over with the amount of play you can get out of it.

I’ve only had the opportunity to play it a handful of times, but it’s a very fun format and I’m looking forward to being able to play more of it. While the Gruul Stompy and Orzhov Humans are my choices for the best decks, any one of these will help you get a foot in the door with this excellent format.

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-
Top Pick
Most Competitive
Best for Value
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Izzet Phoenix (Blue-Red)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Dimir Control (Blue-Black)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Gruul Stompy (Red-Green)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Orzhov Humans (White-Black)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Izzet Phoenix (Blue-Red)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Dimir Control (Blue-Black)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Gruul Stompy (Red-Green)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Orzhov Humans (White-Black)
$49.99
$48.00
$42.58
$42.91
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Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Izzet Phoenix (Blue-Red)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Izzet Phoenix (Blue-Red)
$49.99
-
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Dimir Control (Blue-Black)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Dimir Control (Blue-Black)
$48.00
Top Pick
Most Competitive
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Gruul Stompy (Red-Green)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Gruul Stompy (Red-Green)
$42.58
Best for Value
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Orzhov Humans (White-Black)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Orzhov Humans (White-Black)
$42.91

What do you think of these decks? Which one do you think is the best among them? Let me know in the comments below or join the discussion in the Draftsim Discord.

Until next time, take care of yourselves!

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