The Good: Players Really Can Use Their Old Standard Cards in the Pioneer Format
The only cards banned in the Pioneer format at its inception are the five Khans of Tarkir fetch lands. The explanation for that is simple: fetches and the Ravnica shocklands would make the format just like Modern. Wizards made the correct decision there. They have no intention of displacing Modern.
The great news then is the stagnant market for Return to Ravnica block cards is stagnant no more. Also, the market for shock lands will be healthy as ever. It also provides a great way for players that started around Return to Ravnica or afterward to pull out some old cards to build with. Around that time many new players entered the game and print runs increased to keep up with demand
It's true that Standard players currently can't just jump right into modern. The thinking is that this will be a more accessible format because the cards are more readily available. Many of the cards between 8th Edition and Avacyn Restored have become quite expensive. That’s not the case for many of the cards from Return to Ravnica forward, many of which have gotten significantly cheaper since leaving Standard. That's true, and it's a great idea. But…
It's true that Deathrite Shaman, the "one Mana planeswalker" banned in Modern will be in Pioneer. But, that's not an issue. His banning in Modern had more to do with his power level in a format with fetchlands. Since those don't exist, he's much more fair. I'm actually referring to other cards that required Standard bans because they warped the format. These include:
- Emrakul, the Promised End
- Smuggler's Copter
- Reflector Mage
- Felidar Guardian
- Attune with Aether
- Rogue Refiner
- Aetherworks Marvel
- Ramunap Ruins
- Rampaging Ferocidon (since unbanned)
- Field of the Dead
It's not unreasonable to think that some or all of these cards could become powerhouses in Pioneer. In fact, people quickly geared up to build Copycat Combo (thanks a lot Felidar Guardian) and Aetherworks Marvel decks that also play Emrakul, the Promised End. But, neither of these decks have ruined Modern. And looking at Channel Fireball's list of 12 Pioneer Decks to build around do contain old favorites like Burn, Mono-Blue Devotion, Esper Control, Abzan Mid-range, and more.
Fortunately, Wizards acted quickly in the very early days of the format to remove some "unfun" decks from taking over the format - including banning Felidar Guardian before Copy Cat Combo overran Pioneer. The announcements were weekly for a bit, and eventually Field of the Dead, Smuggler's Copter, and Standard powerhouse Once Upon a Time made their exit, as well.
The success of the Pioneer format will be highly dependent on unfun decks from previous standard formats not reemerging. Sure, without fetch lands, some of the decks that dominated standard while Khans is Tarkir was legal won't be nearly as consistent. But, some of those old OP favorites have already bit the dust. As Wizards has shown, you can always ban cards, and while it doesn't feel that good, it's good to see Wizards being proactive.
Of course, the one major benefactor of Pioneer - beyond the obvious secondary market implications - is Magic the Gathering online. That's because Pioneer isn't going on Arena. But it is on MTGO.
What's funny about this is I'm sure this wasn't intentional. The obvious reason for wizards to create pioneer is to increase the shelf life of current and future standard sets. But that also means that MTGO will get back a lot of their drafting user base. Suddenly, those cards aren't just good in Standard anymore. And flashback drafts, once a major draw, can return and help provide cards for the format.
Arena has pretty much destroyed Magic Online's user base. But, Pioneer will likely bring a few back. Right off, MTGO held a chaos draft to inaugurate the format. That’s good news for the platform.
The Extremely Good: Pioneer Probably Saves Local Game Stores
The other major winner from the Pioneer format should be LGS's. That's because this is a tabletop format with Wizards support. Recently, a lot of players have abandoned paper for Arena, both for Standard and drafts. Sure, Modern isn't probably ever going to be on Arena, but unfortunately most people can't afford that format in paper.
Also, because a lot of cards are suddenly going to be thrust back into competitive action (hi, Siege Rhino), many singles which were otherwise rotting in binders will reemerge in display cases. The singles market for some of the currently less valuable sets will make a few extra bucks for store owners.
Time will tell, but suddenly Standard rotation will not be the end for a lot of standard stalwarts. This is good for game stores, who aren't suddenly stuck with previous standard Staples in bulk bins. Pioneer will likely get a lot of players back in the door with the excitement of playing their old standard favorites.
Overall, Pioneer seems to be a genius invention for Magic the Gathering. It's going to be far easier to acquire top cards, for sure. How the metagame shapes up will determine if the format has staying power.
Unfortunately, Wizards keeps printing cards that bust competition and require bans to rebalance competitive play. But, will the Pioneer format have enough of a card pool that balances out the power cards in the format? I'm skeptical. But, Return to Ravnica isn't an arbitrary cut off. The preemptive banning of fetch lands may be the right Solution. Whatever happens, the next few months will be exciting as the format emerges.
Do you think Pioneer will last as a competitive format? Are you excited for the Pioneer format?