Like a True Pioneer: An Exploration of Non-Black Midrange In Pioneer

The goal is to find a deck that could fit the mold of a traditional midrange deck, but doesn’t play the color black. Is that viable, or do we need to either skew back into black or play a deck that is more combo centric masquerading as a midrange deck? 

Can it be done?

First, I’d like to shout-out Kevman91 of the Midrange MTG discord server for presenting this question. “Are there any options for Midrange players in Pioneer outside of Black?”

Looking at Pioneer, it can be easy to tell that there are many midrange strategies available to the format. In my last article, we took a look at the three main archetypes of Rakdos strategies that all seem to lean more into a midrange gameplan. Other strategies can include Jund Food, Niv to Light, and Orzhov Vampires. All decks that feature staple black cards such as Thoughtseize, Fatal Push, and Go Blank.

“But Brad! There are already non black Midrange decks in the format!” I hear you cry. To that I’ll say, you are absolutely correct! However, taking a closer look at these strategies you might find they lean more into other pillars than just Midrange. Izzet Phoenix, Naya Winota, Mono Red 8 Eidolon, and Selesnya Angels come to mind. These are all certainly midrange strategies that show flexibility between aggressive starts and controlling grindy gameplans. Though once we break them down, we realize how they stray away from the “traditional” midrange strategy we see with their black counterparts. 

Izzet Phoenix and Naya Winota fit a bit more in line with a combo deck rather than a midrange deck. Phoenix has the potential to have these splashy plays returning multiple Arclight Phoenixes at once to quickly take down the opponent, as well as copy the extra turn spell of Temporal Trespass with Galvanic Iteration. This is your “plan A” as a Phoenix player, so you’re looking more so for a combo-esque finish rather than a grindy midrange plan. The exact same thing is true for Naya Winota, as the deck looks to turbo out Winota, Joiner of Forces as quickly as possible to overtake the board and potentially even one shot your opponent. Of course, thanks to the new werewolf cards from Midnight Hunt, the deck has a better “plan B” in it’s Midrange style of werewolf beatdown and synergies. Though again, like Phoenix, the game plan is to find your combo-esque finish.

Mono Red 8 Eidilon and Selesnya Angels are a bit closer to your midrange plan, but both stray into other strategies. Mono Red looks to act almost like a prison type of deck that punishes your opponent for casting spells of certain costs and types, while filling the board with other threats. Angels acts as a typical tribal deck with the objective of beating down the opponent with evasive and ever growing angels, but also has the incredibly powerful fallback plan of utilizing the combo of The Book of Exalted Deeds and Mutavault to lock your opponent out of the game completely. 

So the goal is to find a deck that could fit the mold of a traditional midrange deck, that doesn’t play the color black. Is that viable, or do we need to either skew back into black or play a deck that is more combo centric masquerading as a midrange deck? 

So let’s dig into possibilities for each color and color combo! Buckle up!

Mono White

Our first deck starts in mono white with Mono White Legends! Utilizing the power of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Search For Glory to find all of our sweet Legendary cards. Also – thanks to Thalia’s Lancers for being another threat that finds our legendaries and Karn, The Great Creator finding answers out of our sideboard – this deck has a pretty solid midrange plan. Of course, since we’re a legends theme, we have to just throw in the Book combo.

Mono Blue

Just like Mono-White Legends, we’re again playing a Yorion deck featuring Nykthos. Trying to give all of our spells flash with Leyline of Anticipation, utilizing our one-drops and two-drops to interact with our opponent and maintain a board state, and finally getting down our big threats in Master of The Waves and Thassa, God of the Sea. Having access to great filtering thanks to Thassa’s Oracle (winning the game sometimes is cool too, but it’s mostly there for the card filtering and devotion) and card draw thanks to Gadwick, the Wizened makes for a classic midrange deck that simply hasn’t been tried enough in my opinion.

Mono Red

Oh hey! It’s a non-devotion deck! For the Mono-Red deck we have big red, a deck that looks to utilize early threats and sweepers to control the board and your opponents hand, while working towards eventually dropping an Eldrazi or big planeswalkers like Ugin. The deck boasts card filtering in our new Reckoner Bankbuster from Neon that doubles as a threat, as well as a couple copies of Atsushi, the Blazing Sky to act as a threat on its own that can turn into ramp or card draw.

Mono Green

It could have been easy to just play Mono Green walkers in this slot, which is certainly a great choice! But I wanted to shake it up a bit and not feature Nykthos in three out of the four mono-colored decks. So let’s ramp into some big s#!t. Mana dorks, ramp spells, big threats, and one of my all time favorite cards: Cavalier of Thorns. This deck is just sweet.

Azorious

My choice for my absolute favorite deck of this entire article, we have Azorius Vehicles! With Neon Dynasty we were graced with a plethora of absolutely amazing vehicles for Pioneer as well as an amazing one-drop for the deck in Hotshot Mechanic. Above-curve threats like Mobilizer Mech that additionally crews vehicles for free, removal in Surgehacker Mech, and an amazing supporting cast thanks to all of the artifact synergies we’ve been given in recent sets. I would be shocked if some variation of Vehicles doesn’t make its way towards the top of the format in some capacity.

Gruul

There is the traditional Gruul “big stuff” deck that plays Questing Beast, Glorybringer, Bushwacker, etc. That’s already a pretty sweet midrange deck. For this slot, I wanted to think outside the box. So, let’s try Werewolves. Thanks to Midnight Hunt, we have enough decent cards in tribe to make the deck function, though the day/night mechanic not effecting older werewolf cards is a little awkward. Regardless, the deck is sweet and looks to just beat down your opponent and generate some card value. It could have easily just become another Collected Company deck, but the Arlinn planeswalkers are too sweet to pass up and not play with.

Selesnya

A deck I’ve been excited to come back into the Pioneer meta has been Hardened Scales, and now that we have a sweet new artifact to play with, I think it’s doable – especially in the realm of artifact Scales.

Izzet

What better midrange deck for Izzet than Dragons? Thanks to cards like Sprite Dragon, we have the flexibility to be aggressive while also churning out big ol’ boys and girls of the spiked variety. Removal, card draw, counterspells, and big threats to close out games. What more could you ask for?

Boros

A card that I feel has been underexplored in Pioneer is Fires of Invention. An older idea of the deck was always of the Superfriends variety, so why not do that, but with a Gideon tribal subtheme? We’re going with Yorion to make this an 80-card deck, since we want to fit a bunch of planeswalkers. We have a few extra turn spells in Chance For Glory and Glorious End that we can use to take advantage of Gideon of the Trials’ emblem. Then there’s just a bunch of removal and value cards to get down with Fires.

Four-Color

Now if this entry wasn’t obvious, you haven’t been paying attention to the colors available to us. There is only one answer to playing White, Blue, Red, and Green. Omnath, Locus of Creation. Make a bunch of mana, draw a bunch of cards, slap crazy amounts of value onto the table. Go crazy.

Wrap-Up

So is it possible to play midrange strategies outside the powerhouse of Thoughtseize, Fatal Push, and Go Blank? Abso-freakin-lutely. The beautiful thing about Pioneer is the incredible freedom of creativity available to us as brewers. There are insane amounts of power in the other colors without utilizing black, as we’ve shown here today. Will all of these decks top the entire meta game of Pioneer? Probably not, but with a little bit of testing and fine tuning, any one of these brews has the potential to be a top deck. That’s the great thing about this format, it’s so wide open that you don’t need to feel cornered into playing any particular color or deck. Let your hearts soar and brew until your fingers bleed from typing so many cards into Scryfall.

  • Author/Video Editor

    With a love for Ancient Egypt as a child, Brad’s card game of choice was always Yu-Gi-Oh! until the release of Amonkhet sparked interest in Magic. Ever since then he hasn’t looked back. Pioneer naturally became his favorite format of choice seeing that his starting point with Magic was Amonkhet. Rakdos is his favorite color combination but Kethis Combo will always have that special place in his heart as his favorite deck.

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