Good morning all! About a week ago, Blake Rasmussen hosted an interview with Chris Kiritz about the state of MTG Arena’s economy and other hot topics regarding the community. Although much has been said, the general reception of the discussion has been less than ideal. If you are interested in what was discussed, you can check out the article below.
One of the most interesting parts of this conversation was actually the one that was mostly said as a flippant comment! When they received a question about whether Pioneer had plans to come to Arena, the answer was not quite yet, but that a different format was in the works as a non-rotating tabletop format that would be here soon to serve as Pioneer’s “transitional” format .
I don’t understand how this got under the radar, but I found this to be some of the most exciting news! A big complaint with Historic was that it was already hard to get into and the extra products made it even harder, but this format aimed to be what Historic was originally marketed, a super Standard where old good decks could still play. With this information, we have a good amount of information on what this new format could be and what we could expect from it! Let’s break down the two potential options on what I think this format could be.
SIZE #1: PIONEER LITE
For those unaware, Pioneer is an Eternal format introduced on October 21, 2019 that uses all maps from eReturn to Ravnica. It was a super interesting format as it was meant to be a bridge between Standard and harder to enter Eternal formats and would be organized very aggressively (it started with weekly ban announcements) to ensure a good format. Although the format’s reception was quite good, it suffered from two major stumbling blocks.
Firstly, Pioneer was not particularly supported in the tournament scene, which hurt his chances of widespread play (although Star City Games used him as a replacement for Legacy in their events). However, that pales in extreme comparison to the real knee of death, the pandemic. Releasing a new format so close to Magic’s substantial change was extremely difficult for the format in general.
Nevertheless, Pioneer has persisted in being a fun format that many of its players support and its popularity is growing day by day. This is significant especially since it has become an eternal format untainted by additional sets with powerful cards such as Modern Horizons or Commander cards.
Also, Pioneer was originally supposed to be on Arena, as they started introducing Amonkhet and Kaladesh Remastered sets, but that move was reversed for unknown reasons.
Just yesterday though, the Midweek Magic released this week was What Was Written, a format where any card on Arena that was legal in Pioneer is legal in the event and the same Pioneer banlist. This meant that cards banned in Historic like Fires of Invention and Winota, Joiner of Forces were allowed.
While you might think this would look like a really nerfed form of Pioneer, you’d be surprised at the quality of the decks there. Upon closer inspection, it turns out that Arena may already have more Pioneer than previously assumed.
Running the numbers, Arena has 5,649 / 8,934 (63%) of Pioneer’s cards and while that seems like a low percentage, you have to keep in mind that a large majority of that is filler that would never see the game even if it was legal. So it’s not necessarily the best parameter to remember, why not look at Pioneer’s most popular turntables?
Pioneer Azorius Command
Pioneer Izzet Phoenix
Pioneer Naya Winota
Azorius, Phoenix, and Winota are among Pioneer’s most popular (if not the most) decks right now, respectively. What would their Arena versions look like?
Pioneer Lite Azorius control
Pioneer Lite Izzet Phoenix
Pioneer Lite Naya Winota
Of all of these, I’d say Azorius Control comes closest to a full port. The only card we didn’t get to play is Supreme Verdict, and while good, Doomskar is a pretty strong wrath, making it a very close iteration of the original.
On the other side of the coin, Phoenix is probably the most affected as he loses two of his best cards in Thing in the Ice and Treasure Cruise. While he can still survive without you having similar options in Smoldering Egg and Ox of Agonas, they’re definitely not as good.
Finally, Naya Winota is very close as well as mainly missing Elvish Mystic and some auxiliary pieces like Voice of Resurgence and Selfless Spirit. Although they seem hard to replace, Gilded Goose is a reasonable change for Elvish Mystic and the other two can be replaced with any reasonable cheap non-human threat.
All in all, this potential format would be as I explained, a “Pioneer Lite”. We would be missing some very powerful pieces, but realistically any legal deck could potentially
While the concept of this event carries a lot of weight between the proximity to the Port, the What Was Written event, and Pioneer was originally slated to be on Arena, it’s also not the only potential eternal format. The biggest detractor to this theory is that there would be a greater emphasis on tabletop convertibility between Arena and Paper, so still needing historical additional products (albeit a few of them) would be pretty weird.
While Amonkhet and Kaladesh Remastered weren’t a problem (because they’re mostly just Standard cards), they also included cards that weren’t available in Standard. On the other side of the coin are Jumpstart maps where some of them would fit into the pre-Return to Ravnica category while many don’t. To have a mix of additional products where not all cards are legal in said products would certainly be rather odd. So what else could this potential format be?
FORMAT #2: A BREATH FROM THE PAST
A month ago we had another event for Midweek Magic called a blast from the past with a simple premise, any forward Ixalan card is legal as long as it was legal in Standard.
What it ended up being was a literal Super Standard. All the cards available in Standard, all the bans that happened in Standard, go crazy. It played very similarly to Historic with a long list of bans, but I think the format lived up to its thesis. What we saw was a great mix of decks from different eras of Standard and some decks that received major upgrades if they had access to everything.
If you want period pieces, you can play Mono White Aggro from Ravnica or Dimir Rogues from the latest Standard rotation.
Blast From The Past Budget Monowhite
Blast from the Past Dimir Rogues
However, if you want decks that are conglomerates of cards they have access to, you can look to Azorius Control or Sultai Ultimatum.
Blast from the past Azorius Control
Breath of the Past Sultani Ultimatum
While it’s significantly less exciting than Pioneer on Arena, it would make a lot of sense as a potential format. Makes sense because that’s where Arena started, it wouldn’t require any additional product, and it would work like any other eternal format with the shortest lifespan of any of them (late 2017 future).
All they would then have to do to implement this format would just be decide on the initial ban list and could also explain how they could roll it out soon without much fanfare. I think if it was a more Pioneer-like format there would be a lot more hype generated by ads and teasers, but since it’s a more casual mention I think it might be a simpler undertaking.
Whichever direction they choose, adding a true Eternal format that can convert to paper and not require additional products is a huge win for Arena players where almost all Constructed formats require more and more products just to keep up.
Which of these formats do you prefer? Which do you think is most likely? Let me know what you think in our Discord community!
Have a nice day!