Pioneer Snapshot: April 2020

With February and March in the books we are pulling the data to prepare you for the coming weeks. We now have a developed data set of nearly 800 winning Pioneer decklists. We have gone without a ban long enough for us establish the leading archetypes as well as the best performing mainboard and sideboard cards in the Pioneer format. We will be doing this every month going forward so stay tuned.


All data has been pulled from The data set contains nearly 800 decklists from February and March tournament results. Archetypes that comprised 5% or more of the dataset have been identified above. Individual cards have been ranked by dominance rating. This is calculated by multiplying the percent of decks they appear in by the average number of copies that appear in said decks. For frame of reference, a card that appears in 25% of decks as a two of will have a 0.5 dominance rating. For a hypothetical, 100-player tourney this means that there would be 0.5 copies of said card per player in the room.

Top 10 Mainboard Cards
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No surprises here really. They banned the color hate spell for blue and black so those colors dominate the format. People talk about Thoughtseize as if it is unbannable, but with that dominance rating it is certainly a possibility. I am not saying Veil needs unbanned or that Seize needs banned. But the format’s color balance is way off and something has got to give. I see Dig Through Time get mentioned occasionally but I do not get it. Have people not played the format and just approach it from a Modern perspective?

Regardless, the Top 10 was not very surprising as the format is much more centralized than Modern. I will admit that I did not expect Wayfinder to make the cut but it makes sense. Whether you are looking to stock the graveyard, consistently hit land drops, or both he will take care of you. I would not expect any significant shifts in maindecks without a B&R update.

Top 10 Sideboard Cards
Screen Shot 2020-04-05 at 9.56.04 PM

I think this is is really emblematic of the format’s color imbalance. The best way to beat blue decks? Play a blue deck for Mystical Dispute. Making a Mana Leak that cost one more or one less depending on the target was not a great design. Whenever I Dispute a Dispute I get Mental Misstep flashbacks. Worse yet, this is only the sideboard dominance rating. There are an additional 0.2 copies in the average Pioneer maindeck. What does this mean? The average Pioneer Top 8 contains 13.68 copies of Dispute. We do not see anything like this outside of Legacy. Again, I am not necessarily saying to ban Dispute. But non-blue decks need something to shift the current status quo.

Outside of that, things are pretty varied. Notice that there are even more copies of Thoughtseize to throw on the pile. I will say that I had not given any thought to Legion’s End and Baffling End but they seem great. Most of the formats threats are legal targets and exiling rather than destroying is quite relevant. Baffling End getting destroyed is not a common occurrence and Legion’s End will be a two-for-one more often than we think. All of these cards are great but I expect the bottom five to shift around a lot by next month’s Snapshot.

While a lot of this was easy to predict there were quite a few surprises. Pioneer has a long way to go but I am still having some fun. I remember suffering through the first couple years of Modern after all. Are there any sleeper decks though? Any hidden gems that the top decks should be playing? Please share your thoughts with us in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here.

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