Pioneer dodges Banned and Restricted announcement, MTG combo decks remain at the top

Inverter of Truths is sticking around for now.

Image via WotC Magic: The Gathering

Magic: The Gathering’s newest eternal format avoided any bans in today’s Banned and Restricted announcement, leaving many Magic fans worried about the future of Pioneer.

The only change to Pioneer was the unbanning of Oath of Nissa, which was banned in November 2019 for being a key part of the dominant Mono-Green Ramp strategy.

“The release of new sets has added power to other archetypes and generally expanded possibilities for deckbuilding,” Wizards of the Coast said in the Banned and Restricted announcement. “The metagame is now in a place where we feel that unbanning Oath of Nissa is a reasonable step to take as far as adding some power back to Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx ramp decks and other archetypes that revolve around key creatures, lands, or planeswalkers.”

Some fans were unsatisfied by the announcement, with many hoping for major changes to Pioneer, which has degenerated into a combo-heavy metagame with two format-warping decks.

Inverter of Truths was the primary card that many hoped would be banned. As a part of the Dimir Inverter strategy, the card looks to combo with Thassa’s Oracle to win by self-mill. 

Image via WotC Magic: The Gathering

Another strong combo deck that popped up takes advantage of Underworld Breach from Theros Beyond Death as its engine to combo off.

The issue with these decks is their lack of interaction and their high play rates. As with many combo decks, they ignore interacting with their opponents to rush their combo and win the game. Many players find these decks boring to play against. The issues are amplified by Pioneer’s player base, which flocked to the format to get away from Modern’s combo metagame.

Wizards came into Pioneer trying to apply aggressive bans to oppressive strategies, but today’s announcement runs counter to what many players expected from the format.

While Pioneer isn’t popular on Magic: The Gathering Online, the league results available show that Dimir Inverter is one of the most-played decks in Pioneer, making up generally 20 percent of the metagame in most leagues.

Despite the concerns of many fans, Wizards seems confident that Pioneer is in a healthy state.

“We are keeping an eye on the populations of combo decks in the environment, although the perception that combo decks have dominant win rates isn’t backed up Magic Online play data,” Wizards said. “We are also seeing a variety of lesser-played decks having success, which indicates that the metagame may continue to shift.”