We just got the new banned and restricted announcement, and as Wizards promised, there are going to be changes.
In Pioneer we lost Karn, the Great Creator and Geological Appraiser, but we gained the beloved and spicy Smuggler's Copter.
In Modern, we saw bans with Fury and Up the Beanstalk. While I'm not an avid Modern player, these are solid bans and will put the format in flux, but it remains to be seen if we see a lot of new decks or decks that were pushed out by Fury come back to light.
In theory, Fury's absence will make room for more small-creature decks, but Orcish Bowmaster is still a heavily played, incredibly strong card, and the core of Grief Scam is still available. I'm curious to see if we see any more scamming or, since the second-best target is missing, the archetype just ceases to exist.
I've played more Pioneer in the last year or so than I've ever played of any Constructed format, and it was stale. A lot of that was pressure from Mono-Green Devotion pushing out decks. Karn, a completely unpleasant card to play against for almost any deck, is a great ban for the format. It will give artifact-based strategies more room to breathe and unlocks our new toy, Smuggler's Copter.
Geological Appraiser was too explosive for the format, and while the deck hadn't been dominating, it is an unpleasant experience to die on turn three. It's also worth noting that the design space of split cards and cards that can cheat the discovery mechanic would be limited in the future in a way that's not fun if this card were to remain in the format.
Weirdly, this turn-three kill is a play pattern that Greasefang established, so that philosophy is odd. However, I don't think Greasefang needs to be banned.
Greasefang is a logical choice for a starting spot for our new shiny toy, Smuggler's Copter. Karn leaving the format is also great for Greasefang, and it might be time to sleeve up an Abzan deck again.
Copter will not enable turn-three Greasefang wins, but it will contribute well to the fair plan. It's a must-answer type of threat that will leave room for Greasefang to survive and run away with the game. It's unclear if it's good enough, but it's a great starting point for Smuggler's Copter.
Gruul Boats is another deck that people love for Copter. It makes sense, as the deck is a vehicles deck by nature that plays mana elves that can efficiently use the Copter and would help the deck from flooding out. While it's likely a solid inclusion to the deck, the scariest card in the deck was Reckless Stormseeker early, and a curve of Copter into Stormseeker isn't as scary as another two-drop that can pressure my life total.
I think it's going to do enough, and because Copter is sweeper protection, it likely finds a home in any aggressive creature deck. Boros Convoke is the one deck that might not utilize it, as it's off-plan since it can't convoke. Even then, it could do a lot of work against wipes as a sideboard card. I don't know if that's worth the space, but it's certainly a possibility.
Copter may rejuvenate some off-meta decks like Mono B Aggro. Mono B Aggro is a major reason Copter ended up getting banned. That deck was popular in Pioneer's infancy and fell off fast as more powerful cards were printed. Mono B has some soft discard synergies with Copter with its various recurring 2/1 one-drops like Bloodsoaked Champion. It gets to play fistfuls of hand disruption in Duress and Thoughtseize, and it has access to Liliana of the Veil as a sideboard plan against grindier decks.
Mono-White Humans is another option for Smuggler's Copter. While it's not a human and poorly interacts with Thalia, it's a deck that doesn't have haste creatures, so it will always be able to attack because your plan with that deck is to continuously apply pressure. In the short term, I'd place it here to start and play some leagues with it even in the humans form of the deck. We could move away from the humans plan, but I suspect that will make the deck worse.
Rakdos Sacrifice is another meta deck I'd like to try Copter in, and my prediction is that this is the biggest winner of this announcement. It can incorporate Copter by using cats and such to crew it and discard cats. It will also get to loot away its cards like Fatal Push, Claim the Firstborn, and anything that's off in game one, which was a big problem for the deck. I'd likely move away from cards like Deadly Dispute to make room, but that remains to be seen.
Kroxa gets a huge boost here from Copter. You can discard it to get value later and play it to crew the Copter to find more gas in certain game states. Copter won't even affect the ability to play Jegantha, which is another big win.
If I were going to play a Pioneer tournament today, my current recommendation for the upcoming regional championships would be Rakdos Sacrifice in a landslide. The deck has always been an overperformer. Mono G was one of the reasons I didn't play the deck in tournaments before, but now Mono G is gone or severely nerfed, and tons of Copter decks are running around that Mayhem Devil will make short work of.
I'm currently loving Rakdos Sacrifice's spot in the metagame, and it will be a popular choice in the short term until a real, new metagame shakes out. I'm worried about an uptick in control decks now that Mono G is gone, so I'd make sure I'm equipped well for that matchup.
I haven't been as excited for Constructed Magic in years as I have been since the unbanning of Copter and the banning of Karn. This should breathe new life into Pioneer and make it less stale. It was as simple as swapping those cards' legality for me.