Jund Em Out in Pioneer
So over the past week or so, an intriguing 5-0 decklist has begun making the rounds online. It looked to abuse Fires of Invention and the sacrificing of another Pioneer special, the previously unplayed Ugin's Nexus. More recently there has been more and more focus on this deck and Karn, the Great Creator in Pioneer. Let's break down how the deck functions as well as its powers and weaknesses in the format.
First, let's talk about Ugin's Nexus. An otherwise unimpressive five mana artifact that prevents extra turns and a replacement effect that exiles itself and gives you take an extra turn. But how can you abuse that efficiently?
Your sacrifice outlets are Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, Vraska, Golgari Queen, and a Trading Post in the sideboard to get with Karn, the Great Creator. And once you can gain some card advantage and draw a few extra cards the engine starts going. One of the key interactions in the deck is once you've exiled your Ugin's Nexus to take extra turns, you can keep activating the -2 ability on Karn, the Great Creator for Ugin's Nexus and keep taking extra turns.
The best way to pull ahead with this deck is its pure card advantage. This is pushed through the combination of Courser of Kruphix, Tireless Tracker, and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove. The generation of clues to draw cards and the life gain off of Courser will keep your life total healthy while creating sizable threats for your opponent. As well the clues generated with a Korvold on the table will generate even greater value. These cards paired with a turn one Arboreal Grazer continues to be a powerful thing in Pioneer.
Part of the core function of the deck is the artifact 'wishboard' that Karn, the Great Creator enables offering a great increase inconsistency for the deck. It offers sideboard silver bullets for various decks game one while also giving us core engine pieces exactly when we need them. Let's review some of the options available to us.
First, Damping Sphere. This is one of the more important silver bullets right now. This deals predominately with the Lotus Breach deck running rampant in the format. It makes their Lotus Field's tap only for one colourless mana but makes their spells progressively more expensive as well. As well, Damping Sphere can be boarded in against the fluctuating tier deck Arclight Phoenix, making it harder for them bring back their phoenixes or dig through their deck efficiently.
Darksteel Citadel exists purely for the ability to get that fifth land. The deck in the mainboard curves out at five, so making sure you can make the jump from 4 to 5 when you are using Fires of Invention is going to be key to make sure you can play Ugin's Nexus and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King on curve.
God-Pharaoh's Statue is an interesting inclusion designed primarily to force your opponent to potentially tap out on their turn preventing possible countermagic. Limiting your opponent's mana if they get to untap will help the deck drastically as removal of key pieces or wasting one of our two spells with Fires of Invention out could be back-breaking. As well, whether this deck goes towards a grindy finish or takes several additional turns, the second line of text could prove necessary.
Heart of Kiran offers the ability to either protect your planeswalkers or deal with opposing walkers. Its ability to be crewed by using a loyalty counter off of one of your planeswalkers is also a key interaction for this card helping you amass a greater creature board presence to declare a large block or close out the game in a large attack.
Pithing Needle is a necessary inclusion with so many powerful planeswalkers in the format. Acting as removal for your opponent's permanents' activated ability will often re-balance the board in your favour.
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship acts generally as targeted removal for a lower loyalty planeswalker or a creature that's causing problems. The ability to Lightning Bolt again on attack is also a key interaction to maintaining control over the board.
Tormod's Crypt is a powerful addition with three of the major decks in the format having some sort of graveyard interaction. Dimir Inverter, Lotus Breach, and Sultai Delirium are all great targets for this free graveyard hate spell.
This card offers its power through the flexibility of the card. It can act as an engine with our Ugin's Nexus, offer us blockers against aggressive decks, discard cards (which you'll have plenty of) for life against burn decks, recur creatures or even draw us cards. While many may disregard this card, its power in the deck is undeniable and ties the sideboard together excellently.
Ugin's Nexus is a key piece of the puzzle for the deck. Including one in the sideboard essentially makes every copy of Karn, the Great Creator in our deck to be an additional copy of Ugin's Nexus. Doing this increases the overall consistency of the deck but also reduces the overall mana curve of the main board avoiding some more awkward possible draws.
Walking Ballista offers a wishable mana sink that holds the potential to win the game once you start gaining several extra turns or have already reduced your opponent's life total with a big Korvold or Tireless Tracker. Being able to put your mana into Walking Ballista while casting your spells with Fires of Invention keeps your efficiency high and maintains a large board presence/control. The ability for this card to not just potentially kill your opponent but any problematic creature or planeswalker is key to the deck.
The two cards you're likely to actually board in are two Legion's End for those general creature matchups and Slaughter Games for an uncounterable sorcery will allow you to pick your opponent's combo pieces out of their deck and leave you favoured against ]c]Inverter of Truths[/c].
Your Opening Hand
The most important few cards in your opening hands so far are lands, Arboreal Grazer and a three mana creature. Having the ability to deploy a Courser of Kruphix or Tireless Tracker early will leave you on an aggressive stance that your opponent will need to respond to. Protecting your three drop is just as important as the advantage that they gain you will keep you ahead of your opponent. As well make sure to have a follow up to your Fires of Invention. Casting it without a follow up will often just be a waste of mana, a card, and your turn. Often times in slower matchups you'll have to be aware that sometimes sacrificing your Fires of Invention, not casting them or boarding some out will be the correct move. You will often have enough lands that you will be able to cast more than two spells and sacrificing the Fires of Invention to Vraska, Golgari Queen or Korvold, the Fae-Cursed King will provide you with more value.
Overall, a powerful new contender in the ever-evolving Pioneer format. An effective midrange deck with a combo like finish. Jund players of all formats can rejoice in the card advantage offered in the deck with value dripping off of every card. As well the deck seems to be ban proof given the current oppressive decks share little to no overlap with this list. Give it a shot, and maybe its time for us to reevaluate some other cards we once considered bulk?