What makes this format special?

What is Pioneer And Why You Should Care

MTGA
Art for MTG Elvish Pioneer

Elvish Pioneer, a card not legal in Pioneer (Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

You enjoy Standard and Limited, maybe you play Commander with friends or attend the occasional Modern tournament. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the few people that actually enjoy Brawl a lot. But in the endless sea of Magic formats, there’s one that’s rising in popularity and probably deserves more attention. Here’s why.

Seriously, what’s with Magic news these days? Every time we open up Twitter there’s a new format, a new premium set, a new Booster pack, some drama surrounding a Magic artist, and it never stops. One such announcement was almost swept under the rug recently, as new Zendikar packs and Standard bannings were stacked on top. What’s the announcement? MTG Arena will support Pioneer long term. An actual non-rotating format that players can enjoy.

What is Pioneer?

Those players who are a little bit more involved in the game already know Pioneer well. It was introduced last year in paper Magic and is essentially “Modern lite” - an eternal format starting with Return to Ravnica and going forward.

The rather lengthy list of allowed sets goes as follows:

  • Throne of Eldraine
  • Core Set 2020
  • War of the Spark
  • Ravnica Allegiance
  • Guilds of Ravnica
  • Core Set 2019
  • Dominaria
  • Rivals of Ixalan
  • Ixalan
  • Hour of Devastation
  • Amonkhet
  • Aether Revolt
  • Kaladesh
  • Eldritch Moon
  • Shadows over Innistrad
  • Oath of the Gatewatch
  • Battle for Zendikar
  • Magic Origins
  • Dragons of Tarkir
  • Fate Reforged
  • Khans of Tarkir
  • Magic 2015
  • Journey into Nyx
  • Born of the Gods
  • Theros
  • Magic 2014
  • Dragon's Maze
  • Gatecrash
  • Return to Ravnica

Of course, the format has an iron-clad banned list that looks like this:

  • Bloodstained Mire
  • Felidar Guardian
  • Field of the Dead
  • Flooded Strand
  • Leyline of Abundance
  • Nexus of Fate
  • Oko, Thief of Crowns
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Polluted Delta
  • Smuggler’s Copter
  • Veil of Summer
  • Windswept Heath
  • Wooded Foothills

That’s right, these are Fetch Lands! Also the usual troublemakers like Nexus of Fate, Saheeli’s cat, and a few others. In essence, this is a long-term Standard in which your cards never get irrelevant. Unlike Historic, this is a naturally formed card pool from all the Standard environments in the past many years, and not a specially curated “Cube”.

Why You Should Care

The fact that MTGA will be supporting this format is a big deal. It is quite possible that we’ll never see Commander or Modern in MTGA - that’s simply way too much work for Wizards, but mastering and remastering somewhat more recent sets (just like the upcoming Amonkhet), will introduce a sizable card pool for us to play, while also reflecting Wizard’s latest design practices and philosophy, avoiding mistakes made in the past that plague the Eternal formats to this day.

Sure, this isn’t Modern and it definitely isn’t Legacy, but it’s not a bad offering.

MTGA knocks it out of the park in terms of user interface, stability, and presentation. Now, with a large selection of cards for us to use, we can finally get a more “proper” MTG experience at home and stop worrying if our Throne of Eldraine cards will disappear in a year, or pretend like Historic is a serious Eternal format.

It’s not the best experience possible, but it’s the best we’ve got and we should appreciate it.

Also, WotC better reprint Elvish Pioneer in the next Core Set, because we’ll be super upset if it isn’t playable in Pioneer just on principle.

For more MTGA news and opinions, keep refreshing EarlyGame!

Nikola Petrov