Magic: The Gathering's Pioneer format may be new, but players are already hard at work trying to break the format and come up with the most powerful planeswalkers, combos, and interactions. The core of most powerful decks is going to be supported or led by a busted creature base, so brewers are already learning which creatures are most important to the format.
When it comes to identifying the most important and busted creatures in a given Magic: The Gathering format, keep in mind that there's more to consider than raw power level. Utility, interaction, and flexibility (and how well they stand up to the Oko test) are all crucial characteristics and there are some standout creatures that are definitely going to dominate a lot of decklists thanks to checking some combination of those boxes... And some others that will just because they're a blast to play with.
Taking at look at creatures that have demonstrated their strength in both Standard and Modern is a good place to start when it comes to looking for the cards that will end up being the most busted in Pioneer. With that in mind, let's dive into some of the creatures that are about to become familiar faces around the table...
Although some creatures are busted because of their ability to swing in for the win, others are busted because of the combos that they enable. Enter Felidar Guardian's legacy. This is a card that has proven to be a crucial piece of multiple combo strategies and is already an early frontrunner as a piece of what might become one of the most busted combos in the format when the card is paired with Saheeli Rai.
If there's one thing red decks love, it's one mana haste creatures with upside. In a format with no Goblin Guide to lead the way, Monastery Swiftspear is the next best thing. It's hard to see what kind of place aggro prowess decks will have in Pioneer right now, but if other players are idling around getting a combo or control strategy up and running, a quick path to victory may be the best option.
A 2 mana 1/1 common on this list? Really? Yes. Satyr Wayfinder may not meet the traditional "busted" definition, but this creature is going to get play in every deck that can cast it. A world without fetch lands is very tough and this kind of reliable card draw/mana smoothing is a big deal. It also helps will up the graveyard which is just gravy on top.
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
So, does Jace, Vryn's Prodigy count as a creature or a planewalker? Why not both? Considering the impact that this flip creature/planeswalker had on Standard during its original release, it seems too important not to include on the list. Vryn's Prodigy is great at filtering through some cards on the creature side and, once flipped over to Jace, Telepath Unbound, the fun can really begin. Telepath Unbound is sure to be a crucial piece of many deck strategies and players should get used to finding early ways to kill the creature side before opponent's get the chance to take full advantage of it.
Emrakul, the Promised End
This version of Emrakul does exactly what players want to happen when casting an Eldrazi: It makes it nearly impossible for the opponent to get another turn. Emrakul is a huge swing when it hits the board and Pioneer is a set that goes deep enough to contain some very clever ways to get this massive Lovecraftian beast onto the battlefield without coming anywhere near paying its actual mana cost. The format shouldn't be degenerate enough to allow for turn two or three Eldrazi, but it will be very interesting to see just how fast some decks are able to get Emrakul on the board and in control of the match.Arclight Phoenix
Just how easy it will be to cast a superpowered Soulflayer is going to be a very interesting question heading into Pioneer. If players can consistency find a way to get the right creatures in the bin early enough to drop a Soulflayer with flying or some other ability on turns two, three, or four; then things could get out of hand quickly. Obviously the card might have some trouble without fetch lands, but look for players to get creature when it comes to setting up powerful interactions with this card.
The age of Siege Rhino is back. Although Siege Rhino isn't broken in the sense that it wins the game the turn it hits the table, it still backs enough value to make the list. The standout creature from the Khans of Tarkir era of Standard was powerful enough to make a name for itself in Modern for a while and that will very likely also be the case for Pioneer. When casting Siege Rhino's, just get ready to play around Oko's annoying abilities...
Let's talk about another card that dominated Standard decklists during its initial release. Sylvan Caryatid is a mana dork that doesn't hit the battlefield until turn two, but it has the upside of being immune to bolts and other direct damage. That plus it's three toughness make it a very valuable asset in any mid-range deck that can cast it. Get used to being very annoyed with this turn two play.
Although it won't be as powerful without fetch lands, it's important to mention Deathrite Shaman. Yes, this card isn't going to be the same sort of powerhouse that we've seen it be before without fetch lands, but much like Cruise and Dig, it still should not be underestimated. Deathrite Shaman still packs a ton of value and with Abzan sure to be a powerful archetype (see Siege Rhino below), Deathrite is likely going to find a home in a lot of decks.
As the format continues to evolve and grow, it will be very exciting to see how each creature performs and if there are any other surprise cards who end up being super powerful in the Pioneer environment.
Be sure to check back in the near future for more Magic: The Gathering strategy guides, news, and updates. Until then, draw well, planeswalkers!
Magic Arena is available now in select regions on Android and iOS devices. The Magic: The Gathering Throne of Eldraine expansion set will release October 4, 2019.