It took me 1 week to study how I could possibly take advantage of a semi-defined meta filled with Mono-Red, Rakdos Midrange, Greasefangs, and Mono-Green, and bring a deck that’s not over complicated and people won’t be prepared for.
The common denominator across most decks in Pioneer is winning with damage. Apart from the occasional Teferi emblem, even the control decks win with Shark Typhoon tokens, 1/1 or 2/2 tokens from Castle Ardenvale, and the Wandering Emperor respectively.
I googled cards that negated damage perpetually and did not rely on fogs or prison-like effects that the opponent can pay for. I stumbled upon Nine Lives and I recalled it synergized really well with Solemnity. Interestingly enough, Solemnity hoses some key strategies in Pioneer like shutting down Fable of the Mirror Breaker preventing it from gaining any chapters. It also mutes Thalia’s Lieutenant and even Hopeful Initiate from getting counters and also shuts down Reckoner Bankbuster if you get to play earlier than your opponent.
With these two cards serving as our protection suite, we needed a way to win while the opponent tries to figure out how to break the lock. For the most part, with Enchantment hate not being popular lately, that in itself is a hard task for non-White decks who have access to March of Otherworldly Light or Teferi, Hero of Dominaria to tuck Solemnity.
Since we’re playing enchantments, I decided to use enchantments as well to win the game.
I chose Sphinx’s Tutelage as my win condition because the deck also desperately needed to draw cards. Capitalizing on the popularity of mono-colored decks (e.g. RDW, Green Nykthos, and White Humans), it sounded like a viable option. To hasten the clock, I added Patient Rebuilding as my draw engine. It draws you at least 1 card while having the upside of drawing more which triggers Tutelage more often allowing you to deck your opponent quicker while netting you more cards. Idyllic Tutor was an auto-include to help me find either the lock or the win condition.
This win condition is definitely self-running and needs no other investment. However, it does take time and we run the risk of letting the opponent find an out, or be able to deal damage through the lock like casting Stomp which allows damage to be unpreventable for one turn, or taking an attack from Questing Beast.
So why not win on turn 5? Nine Lives has that last sentence in its card text that says that its controller loses the game if it leaves the battlefield. So why not hand it over to the opponent and destroy it to win the game?
Harmless Offering, much like its ancestor Donate, has been among Magic’s most comedic ways to win the game. Donating Illusions of Grandeur and forcing the opponent to keep paying the cumulative upkeep or else they lose 20 life (and die) is a play you’ll see most often in an EDH playgroup.
Harmless Offering together with Cleansing Nova and Farewell brings the comedy into Pioneer and we can successfully pull this off on turn 5 when you cast Nine Lives on turn 3, Offering on turn 4, and Nova on turn 5. Funny, right?
I took this list to a top 8th finish in a Gameday event attended by 37 players.
After 6 rounds, I finished with a 4-1-1 standing.
(0-0-1) Round 1 – Draw vs. Indomitable Creativity. Essentially I had my opponent locked but couldn’t find my win con fast enough, and the Offering combo got Disdainful Stroke when I cast Nova on the last 5th turn on Game 3.
(0-1-1) Round 2 – Lose vs. Rakdos Midrange. The key learning here is that the deck had no main deck answer to Planeswalkers so Liliana’s ultimate left me with just Nine Lives and no other permanents. Sadly I didn’t get Leyline in my opening hand and my grip got stripped in Game 2.
(1-1-1) Round 3 – Win vs. Jeskai Lotus Control. I loved the synergy between Lotus Field and Discontinuity and skipping the ETB-sacrifice stack to end the turn. That’s one way to ramp without green. The Harmless Offering combo got us through the line. But definitely, control match-ups are difficult for this deck, which is common for combo decks.
(2-1-1) Round 4 – Win vs. Mono Green Stompy. This is where I was brought down to 1 life thanks to some back-to-back hits from Questing Beast. But the good thing is that despite being in the right color, my opponent didn’t think he’d need enchantment removal the Nine Lives lock allowed us to mill him out and take out all the Questing Beasts from the deck leaving the opponent no other way to win.
(3-1-1) Round 5 – Win vs. Naya Transmogrify. I was very surprised by this deck because it has a lot of token-generating instants and sorcery spells and then suddenly the opponent cast Transmogrify revealing a Titan of Industry and taking out my Solemnity and pushing through 6 counters onto my Nine Lives. The good thing is we can always play multiple copies of Solemnity to reset the clock and I won both games by donating Nine Lives and casting Cleansing Nova on the same turn.
(4-1-1) Round 6 – Win vs. Mono Black Midrange. The only card I was afraid of was Liliana of the Veil and fortunate enough my opponent played Liliana the Last Hope instead. WIth the lock setup despite the emblem churning out 56,732 zombies, my life was getting chipped down slowly by a lone Graveyard Trespasser (she makes us lose life for eating a creature card). Several sweepers to keep the board clean and having 2 Sphinx’s Tutelage on the board made quick work against a mono-colored deck. Leyline of Sanctity was the all-star for Game 2, muting any Duress and Thoughtseize that my opponent may have kept. With an opening hand of Leyline, 3 lands, Harmless Offering, Nine Lives, and Cleaning Nova, all I had to do was draw the right lands to win the game, which I did.
The deck is definitely fun to play, and definitely great to bring into an FNM near you. But if you want to win with some style points, feel free to sleeve this up and teach your opponents why they should never take anything from a stranger.
Leave a Reply