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Pioneer Beginner’s Guide: Format Details and Starter Decks

Today, we’re going to look at one of my favorite formats in Magic: Pioneer. For those who have not had the chance to dive into Pioneer yet, this is a guide to get you into fighting shape quickly for any upcoming Pioneer events you might have!


What is Pioneer?

Pioneer is the latest constructed paper format in Magic. Debuting in October 2019, Pioneer saw a quick rise in popularity thanks to Star City Games changing their Invitational’s format to feature Pioneer. Afterwards, during the height of the pandemic, Pioneer began to lose players as combo decks heavily defined the metagame. After several waves of bans, Pioneer now sits as the latest premier organized play format with plenty of upcoming events over the next year bolstering a new wave of players’ interest in the format.


What sets are legal in Pioneer?

Starting with Return to Ravnica, all Standard legal sets through the current set are Pioneer legal.

  • Return to Ravnica
  • Gatecrash
  • Dragon’s Maze
  • Magic 2014
  • Theros
  • Born of the Gods
  • Journey into Nyx
  • Magic 2015
  • Khans of Tarkir
  • Fate Reforged
  • Dragons of Tarkir
  • Magic Origins
  • Battle for Zendikar
  • Oath of the Gatewatch
  • Welcome Deck 2016
  • Shadows over Innistrad
  • Eldritch Moon
  • Kaladesh
  • Aether Revolt
  • Welcome Deck 2017
  • Amonkhet
  • Hour of Devastation
  • Ixalan
  • Rivals of Ixalan
  • Dominaria
  • Core Set 2019
  • Guilds of Ravnica
  • Ravnica Allegiance
  • War of the Spark
  • Core Set 2020
  • Throne of Eldraine
  • Theros Beyond Death
  • Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths
  • Core Set 2021
  • Zendikar Rising
  • Kaldheim
  • Strixhaven: School of Mages
  • Adventures in the Forgotten Realms
  • Innistrad: Midnight Hunt
  • Innistrad: Crimson Vow
  • Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty
  • Streets of New Capenna

What cards are banned?

These cards are currently banned in Pioneer:


How do cards come into Pioneer?

Thus far, the only way cards have entered Pioneer are through Standard legal sets released from Return to Ravnica forward. There have not been any supplemental or Pioneer specific products, akin to Modern Horizons.


What are some Format Staples?

Check out a more detailed overview on MTG Meta’s Card section:

Creatures

Instants

Sorceries

Enchantments

Artifacts

Planeswalkers

Lands

Sideboard Specific


What are some top decks to know?


What are the top Aggro decks?


What are the top Midrange decks?


What are the top Control decks?


What are the top Combo decks?


What are the Budget decks?

In our Budget Pioneer Decks for Beginners Guide, we’ve compiled some cheap, but competitive starter options that players can use to jump right into the format.


How is it related to Explorer?

Explorer is a digital-only format available on MTG Arena, which uses the same set legalities as Pioneer (but with an independent banned card list). It is acting as a temporary bridging format so that MTG Arena can one day support Pioneer when all the cards are backfilled. Wizards of the Coast anticipates this to take a “few years” but can speed things up depending on the demand.


Where can you play Pioneer?

With the addition of the Explorer format on Magic Arena, one day you will be able to play Pioneer on Arena. However, for now, you can play Pioneer on Magic Online or in paper.


Does Pioneer have Organized Play support?

Yes! With the latest Organized Play announcement, the upcoming Regional Championship and the first Pro Tour in 2023 will both feature Pioneer as the constructed format. Local Regional Championship Qualifiers will also have Pioneer as an optional format for players to qualify through for the Regional Championships.

Thanks to the Organized Play announcement, we have also seen a large spike in the Pioneer player base on Magic Online, including league play and weekly format challenges, which have averaged between 80 and 120 players each weekend since the announcement.


Where can I find Pioneer videos, guides, and streams?


Wrapping Up

There you have it, a complete introduction to the Pioneer format. Hopefully this will serve as a resource you can continue to check back to whenever you have questions around the format. Thanks for reading and be sure to stay safe out there, especially at the upcoming paper Pioneer events!

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darthjacen
darthjacen

darthjacen has been playing Magic since Dark Ascension and plays Standard, Modern, Pioneer, and Limited. With a Grand Prix win in 2015 and an SCG Team Top 4 in 2019, he continues to pursue competitive Magic at every turn. You can follow him on Twitch and YouTube.

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