Sultai Reclamation in Pioneer
Pioneer has been a combo heavy format since its inception. Temur Reclamation with Nexus of Fate being an obvious early deck that since the ban has evolved into a Temur flash deck essentially with Expansion // Explosion being the new finisher. Reclamation hasn't converged on a singular list and still offers a variety of options. From testing, I've reached the conclusion that Sultai currently has the answers and the cards that I prefer for the current Pioneer metagame. If you have played Standard in the past year or so you are likely familiar with how Wilderness Reclamation decks play out and this one isn't too different from the normal lines of play, save for one major exception.
Removal & Answers
Fatal Push has become one of the most powerful removal spells that has ever been printed. Included in the deck is the traditional inclusion of Fabled Passage to make sure you can trigger revolt for the larger creatures.
Thoughtseize is likely that most powerful card in the Pioneer format. In a combo heavy format, it offers answers to various different decks as a disruptive element. Dismantling opponents hands from the early game punishes bad mulligans and mediocre keeps and will help you stabilize until you land your Wilderness Reclamation.
Hero's Downfall has become a strong removal spell in the face of the various combo decks becoming more prevalent in the format Being able to kill Jace, Wielder of Mysteries in response to its +1 has become a very necessary inclusion in Pioneer.
The last mainboard removal is Petty Theft. This deck is based on a hybrid control tempo style and the large advantage you can gain from Petty Thefting your opponent's permanent at the correct time can easily win you the game.
Now like every blue-green deck in the past few years, this deck plays Growth Spiral. The ability to power out your Wilderness Reclamation a turn early or use your mana on your opponents turn keeps the power level of the card high. Playing an instant speed Explore effect in this deck helps you power out your big plays and keep playing on your opponents turn as well as your own.
Next is the format staple Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. Initially for three mana you draw, gain three life, Growth Spiral and enable revolt for your Fatal Pushes. The advantage that the card generates helps get, and keep you ahead. The escape ability that grants this card recursion also helps it become an endgame play that will help close out the game.
The spell suite is designed around making sure you maintain tempo with your opponent while controlling the board state until you can close out the game with your Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and Brazen Borrowers. First is Thassa's Intervention. It acts as a very powerful and mana efficient counterspell while also being able to be used as a lesser Dig Through Time effect. While not a replacement for Hieroglyphic Illumination, the flexibility on this card keeps it as key spell.
Next is Dig Through Time. A key player in a number of decks and might be one of the most powerful blue spells printed in the modern era of magic. This should just be banned and it's a mistake not to be playing this right now.
Assassin's Trophy and Abrupt Decay are just powerful, flexible removal spells. Maintaining board control and answering combo decks is key to making it to the decks larger spells.
Drown in the Loch is an interesting card its power level varies so much between different matchups but it answers combo decks well enough to be included as a counter spell slot. The flexibility between counterspell and removal is what makes this deck run it. Maintaining a high number of spells with flexibility built into them helps this deck have play on both its own turn but the opponent's turn. Dead cards will often just clunk up your hand and kill you otherwise.
Epiphany at the Drownyard is a huge X spell that helps give us a payoff for when we just have all the mana we could ever want. While the opponent chooses the pile we get, with large enough piles, it's rare we'll ever miss out on things we want. The ability to use this on the end step when we have the Wilderness Reclamation trigger on the stack will help us net a brand new hand or more. The other option is to just dump six or more mana into this card on your opponent's end step which will either be countered and help you resolve your spells on your turn, or give you a fresh grip of cards for your next turn.
Wilderness Reclamation allows you to cast spells such as Bonds of Insight during your turn and still hold up mana during your opponent's turn for the vast number of instants available in the deck. As well, the card enables Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath's escape ability very effectively by putting it into the graveyard.
Next up is the most unique part of the deck, the Fae of Wishes package. Magic has had a variety of wish cards from Burning Wish and Cunning Wish back in the day to the more recent Glittering Wish in Modern. Wish cards give you so much flexibility and access to what are essentially tutorable silver bullets in game one.
Ashiok, Dream Render is an all-star in this deck. It is back-breaking Sultai Delirium decks in their current iterations and any deck that sees their graveyard as a value engine or a combo piece, like Lotus Field, means that you shut your opponent out or at least put a massive restriction on their ability to play the game the way that they would like to.
Jace, Wielder of Mysteries earned a slot in the board for two reasons. Games will go long and sometimes this will stand to be a strong wincon but there are some matchups where milling your opponent could stand to net you some value. See the Inverter matchup and how messing with your opponent's count could throw off their strategy.
Ashiok, Nightmare Muse might be an odd inclusion so far but in slower matchups it is fantastic. It generates a board state while also having built in removal for when your opponent is lacking cards. Typically wish for it against control and sometimes Inverter of Truth if you've gotten them low on cards or are deep into the game.
Back to Nature is in the deck to deal with the green-white enchantress deck made popular by Saffron Olive. Devoting one card in the wishboard seemed reasonable to a deck so quickly rising in popularity. This also sees play against Doom Foretold stax decks that occasionally pop up.
Natural State is just a very efficient answer to the Ensoul Artifact decks that show up frequently. It is also flexible enough to deal with any other enchantment or artifact deck that may show up.
Sultai Charm gives the opportunity to kill mono-coloured creatures or draw cards. This is a highly flexible wish target and even be boarded in for some of the control matchups where you don't need Fatal Pushes.
Noxious Grasp and Rags // Riches are cards that help solve similar problems. They are both in the deck to help with green ramp decks especially the mono-green Karn decks. Dealing with early game threats or large boards of mana dorks helps keep us ahead while also have late-game plays such as taking out a Nissa or stealing a creature. The Riches side of Rags//Riches also has a significant amount of play against ramp decks. Stealing an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger will likely just be a game-winning play.
Unmoored Ego is and will always be a necessity in fair decks as long as two-card combo decks exist. A clean answer that helps you not die while playing your much more fair gameplan.
River's Rebuke is a fixed Cyclonic Rift but is still a very powerful effect in the format. Often times this will be enough to take your opponent out of the game with how much ramp in the format is permanent based. The mana River's Rebuke will require your opponent to recover will either give you an extra turn or just be such a huge tempo play that it will propel you ahead regardless.
Torrential Gearhulk and Mystical Dispute are last but definitely not least since they are actual sideboard cards rather than wish cards. Mystical dispute just does so much work against the majority of control decks and Gearhulk letting you flashback any of the relevant instants out of your graveyard while leaving a 5/6 body afterwards will oftentimes end the game in your favor.
Let's talk about the little sideboarding you are going to do with this deck. As you might imagine with a wish board you are going to want all the flexibility possible when you cast a Granted. The card you are mainly going to be sideboarding in is Torrential Gearhulk since it's the only cards you can't wish for. As well, I typically board in Ashiok, Nightmare Muse, Mystical Dispute and Sultai Charm against control decks.
VS Mono-Red Variants
Typically you don't board in any cards in this matchup. But the cards you should wish for are artifact removal for the cards they sideboard in. Look for Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath in your opening hand as it will be the card that wins you the game.
VS Inverter of Truth
-3 Fatal Push
-1 Abrupt Decay
The removal suite leaving isn't needed in this deck and the best thing to kill is their Narset, Parter of Veils. The three counterspells and wishing for Unmoored Ego are how you typically are going to win this matchup. Leaving one Dispute in the sideboard also allows you to wish for it using your Fae of Wishes. The Gearhulk mostly comes in for its ability to close out the game at instant speed while helping us have more instant speed options against them.
VS Lotus Field
-3 Fatal Push
Removal is just dead in this matchup so get rid of it all in favor of counterspells. We don't get the chance to really wish for the Mystical Disputes either in this matchup, so none can be left in the sideboard. When wishing in this matchup, prioritize Unmoored Ego and hit the most immediate way for them to go off. Next wish for Ashiok, Dream Render. Exiling their graveyard helps the matchup heavily, and the ability to just stumble onto a win by potentially exiling their win conditions off the top is an added bonus.
VS Sultai Delirium
Prioritize your Ashiok, Dream Render first with your Fae of Wishes. Removing their graveyard and shutting off their Traverse the Ulvenwald is the quickest way to win this matchup. If the board gets a bit clogged wish for River's Rebuke or Ashiok, Nightmare Muse to provide efficient blockers and removal.
VS Mono-White Heliod
+1 Sultai Charm
Sultai Charm is a flexible removal spell for their artifacts and killing their mono-coloured creatures. The Ashiok, Nightmare Muse will operate as a way to gain advantage and win the game by putting pressure on with its +1 ability and also offering potential removal for their indestructible permanents.
VS Bant Spirits
Mystical Disputes will allow you to counter their lords and Spell Quellers to make sure you don't die suddenly. When wishing in this matchup Noxious Grasp and River's Rebuke should be prioritized to help maintain board control while the rest of this deck is already set up against creature-based strategies.
The mana base needs a fair amount of work but so far this deck has proven to be an interesting 'fair' deck for the Pioneer format. One could definitely focus more on the control side of the deck and perhaps explore a build without Fae of Wishes, but that's for another day. Until next time I hope you all stay safe out there and next time I'll be delving into something a lot more combo.