Last updated on November 6, 2020
Dig Through Time | Illustration by Ryan Yee
MTG Arena is a huge part of the Magic ecosystem right now. It’s near impossible to avoid it since the premier format (Standard) has all but completely shifted to the digital sphere. Newcomer Pioneer is in the prime spot to become the platform’s premier non-rotating format, though, with its relatively new card pool and decrease in cost from Magic’s sweetheart, Modern.
But the question remains: how does Wizards implement cards from the Pioneer card pool into Arena? To answer that, we need to travel back to the start of Magic Online (the now-aged game used to play Modern, Legacy, and such) to see how old cards were implemented over there.
The answer is a Masters set. In fact, this was how the Masters Edition sets were born. Enter Pioneer Masters! I’m here to give you the 411 on the set and what I—your humble British host, tea and crumpets included—think Pioneer is headed with this set.
So, let’s begin!
Master of Cruelties | Illustration by Chase Stone
Pioneer Masters has no confirmed info other than that it’s coming out in 2021, after a delay for more playtesting and due to the Kaladesh Remastered set’s increased priority. There’s no indication of what will be in the set, other than a selection of curated Pioneer cards to add to Arena.
The set will be available to draft and in packs on MTGA and for constructed play. This means that it’ll either be Historic-legal or Pioneer will become a format on its own in Arena, but there’s no confirmation yet of which is the case.
The Unspeakable | Illustration by Khang Le
There are currently no spoilers out for Pioneer Masters. We’ll keep you updated here as soon as we get some, though. Stay tuned!
With zero information on the actual set, nothing here can be confirmed as set in stone. With that being said, there are a few things that I can say with the utmost confidence:
- Cards that appear in Kaladesh or Amonkhet Remastered probably won’t appear in this set.
- Cards that are currently Historic-legal probably won’t appear in this set.
I put together my top five picks for what I think will be reprinted in Pioneer Masters:
Dig Through Time / Treasure Cruise
Whilst I don’t think that both of these from Khans of Tarkir will be in the set, I do think that they’re some of the best cards in the format, and so one (if not both) of will probably make an appearance.
Supreme Verdict, from Return to Ravnica, is the best board wipe in the format. Historic could definitely use it to deal with decks like goblins. This would be a huge addition to the format as well as being a staple of Pioneer.
This card does it all: it’s one of the best available to midrange decks and is highly beloved by the community. Originally printed in Eldritch Moon, the card just missed the Arena era but it’s an iconic card for the format.
Bring to Light
The card that helped birth the incredible “Niv-to-Light” archetype, Bring to Light would be a very sad omission, especially with so many multicolored cards in Historic that Niv-Mizzet Reborn can capitalize on.
Honorable Mention: Fatal Push
The most iconic removal spell within Pioneer. But it’ll probably be reprinted in Kaladesh Remastered. It’ll be on Arena soon one way or another, no doubt about it!
Pioneer and Arena: A Love Story
Pioneer was plagued with a lot of bad luck from its inception. What was initially a very hyped format got torn down by a pandemic, lack of bannings, and an egregious combo deck with a monolithic presence that took over the format.
Since then, the format has continued to see its hype dwindle. I tried to play some Jund Midrange but the only deck that seemed prevalent was Wilderness Reclamation ported from Standard, which reinforced the idea that Pioneer is the post-Standard sandbox for those who want to reuse those cards.
The ManaTraders Series started off with Pioneer but hasn’t revisited the format since the hype died, sticking with Modern and Legacy for the past couple of series’.
Could a potential move to Arena be the solution? Or is this just a symptom of a dying orphan format? There are so many interesting things to consider when looking at the format as a whole. Only time will tell, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Gurmag Angler | Illustration by Yw Tang
What’s the Set’s Purpose?
There are a few implications with this set.
It means that WotC is looking to start shifting Pioneer to Arena after its lack of success in Magic Online. This will open the format up to a lot of people and bring it over to the flagship platform, which means that the player count should go up. It’ll also increase the interest for digital Pioneer events, which means that Wizards may be making it the successor to Modern (or attempting to).
This could be really important for the growth of both Pioneer and Arena. Splitting the player base over two platforms makes overall retention lower, so this could help bring more players into the format, especially during the pandemic.
Plague Engineer | Illustration by Nicholas Gregory
The New Standard
Standard rotation and the release of Zendikar Rising have harshly affected Arena just a week into its digital release, as well as Standard as a whole. With the MTGO Standard Preliminary not firing (16 people failed to show up), the Arena subreddit in dismay over the new metagame, and Wizards already announcing format changes less than a week into the season, the new Standard is looking to be one of its darkest points in recent times. And it’s difficult to top everything we’ve just been through over the past few years.
This opens a window for Pioneer, though.
It would be a refreshing change for those dissatisfied with the current state of the Arena formats. Pioneer could provide a better experience for players, meaning more players for the format.
Krenko, Mob Boss | Illustration by Karl Kopinski
Pioneer isn’t cheap. At around 3/4s of the Modern deck pricing, playing Pioneer on Magic Online is still pretty inaccessible for a lot of players. Arena reduces this barrier, allowing people to use wildcards to play competitive Pioneer, meaning that they don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a playset of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. Yes, a digital playset of this card costs over 200$ on MTGO.
Moving to Arena will make the format a lot more accessible and put it on a platter for newer players to take part in, rebuilding the format hype and making sure that there’s an ecosystem and metagame within Pioneer.
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath | Illustration by Vincent Proce
With Double Masters tanking the price of a lot of Modern staples for the foreseeable future and Zendikar Rising Expeditions and Modern Horizons 2 bringing the fetch land reprints that we’ve needed for so long to the player base, Wizards seems to have been wanting to revitalize Modern quite a bit. Since the format is at its best now (at least, the best that it has been in two years) players are moving back to the people’s format.
Sadly, this means that MTGO isn’t Pioneer’s turf, so to speak, it’s Modern’s (and Legacy and co., but they just kind of vibe there). A move to Arena could bring the format back to life or signify a death knell for it. As long as Modern stays stable, though, a lot of people won’t see a reason to move from Modern to Pioneer on Magic Online, whereas Arena is currently free real estate with the state of Standard and Historic essentially being a semi-competitive sandbox.
Thoughtseize | Illustration by Lucas Graciano
Speed 2: Cruise Control
After the demise of Dimir Inverter, Pioneer is oddly slow. The format seems to be more sluggish than Historic, and a bore to watch in comparison to Modern, Legacy, and Standards’ past. Which begs the question: where does Pioneer belong?
It’s no longer a turn-5 format as all the combo decks are basically extinct other than the remains of a Lotus Breach carcass. Is the format just Standard plus? Or is it Modern lite?
That depends on where Wizards wants to take it. It’s been nearly a year since the format came to fruition and it doesn’t really have an identity. Which, to get back to the point, could be solved by bringing it to Arena (and closer to Standard), therefore solidifying its place within Magic.
Sinister Sabotage | Illustration by Mathias Kollros
Pioneer and Modern: Battle to the Death (Or Not)
Could Pioneer survive long enough to catch up with Modern’s monopoly on Magic Online with this set and MTG Arena?
This is a huge question on everyone’s mind with this set’s announcement. Is Wizards looking to have the same dominance on Arena as they’ve had for Modern on Magic Online for years?
The issue here is that, even though there have been a lot of powerful cards printed over the Return to Ravnica to Ixalan period, they’re nowhere near the bread and butter a format like Modern had at its inception in 2011. The format-defining cards aren’t as prevalent in Pioneer.
Cryptic Command | Illustration by Jason Rainville
I understand that Wizards thinks Lightning Bolt is too strong for Pioneer, but Wild Slash as the best 1-mana burn spell is too weak for a non-rotating format. The lack of good burn support has turned red into a weak splash colour for board wipes rather than a driving force of aggression.
Grindy Card Advantage
Modern had Dark Confidant. Pioneer has… Uro. But that’s from a recent set and isn’t relevant to Pioneer Masters.
Let’s Take a Step Back
Wild Slash | Illustration by Raymond Swanland
Maybe I’m being too harsh on the format. After all, it does have the best piece of hand-hate (Thoughtseize) as well as an amazing removal suite. There’s still a lot of room for improvement here, though.
Pioneer Masters probably won’t be a significant part of the Pioneer meta with a lot of the most important cards in the being legal in Historic. Only time will tell, but Pioneer needs to look forward to improve.
So that’s it from me today! What do you think: is Arena the new home for Pioneer? Let me know in the comments down there. If you did enjoy, make sure to check out some of our other content for more goodies.
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