As the situation, thankfully, looks to be improving slowly in Massachusetts, the thought of being able to return to a new normal and maybe even have paper Magic events in the not too distant future is one that has my creative deckbuilding juices flowing! So that means a new blog series!
Updated to reflect the June metagame, the top 12 decks in Pioneer come in at a whopping $420 average per deck! Pioneer has been a new, popular format and with the crossover in staples with Modern along with powerful Standard cards seeing play across multiple formats, decks in Pioneer have been quickly trending upward. But have no fear, budget Magic is one of our favorite aspects of the game and we're going to look at budget Pioneer lists that should be ultra-competitive at the shop when we restart Pioneer events! And first up....is Cats!
This is a very tribal deck, making use of all the great cats that have been printed recently, even including a M21 card! So what is the deck trying to accomplish? Let's take a look:
The deck makes use of playsets (four copies) of five different one and two mana cards. Sacred Cat and Leonin Vanguard come down turn one and start the aggressive nature of this deck. Leonin Vanguard can even grow and gain us life which helps fuel our two drop Ajani's Pridemate that gets a counter every time we gain life. Sacred Cat turn one into an Ajani's Pridemate turn one can put a lot of pressure on our opponent early. Bronzehide Lion and Fleecemane Lion are both two mana 3/3 creatures that have added upside. Bronzehide Lion can protect itself or even protect other cats once it dies and Fleecemane Lion can grow quite large late game when we have extra mana to make it monstrous. These 20 cards provide extreme consistency to our deck and become huge threats when we make even better use of cat synergy!
Cats have had a lot of support in the last couple years and this deck is going to make full use of that. Feline Sovereign is a new cat lord from M21 that has the added bonus of main deck artifact and enchantment removal which opens up sideboard slots. Pride Sovereign is a game winning threat all on it's own. It get's bigger for each cat we have out and we can pay a single white mana, tap, and exert Pride Sovereign to make two cat tokens. The downside of this is that Pride Sovereign will not untap on our next turn. Regal Caracal is a five mana cat lord that also creates two cat tokens. We're only running three of the Regal Caracal's because we don't want our hands jammed up with extra copies. Icon of Ancestry is a great three mana artifact that will buff our cats and help us dig for more cats in our deck late game. And lastly, Selesnya Charm is a great modal instant that will either help remove a big creature or give one of our big cats, probably either Ajani's Pridemate or Pride Sovereign, +2/+2 and trample to force that final bit of damage through. The deck is pretty straightforward but the power level is off the charts thanks to the tribal support and strong cards throughout the mana curve. Let's take a look at the sideboard now!
Ok so a quick note about sideboards! When you go on decklists sites that show you the top decklists, most often a sideboard will consist of anywhere between nine to thirteen unique cards. While the top Magic players know the matchups inside and out and know how to sideboard pretty easily, a player who is bringing the same deck to a smaller event might not have the same experience and not know how to sideboard. That many cards in a sideboard can easily feel overwhelming and cause a player to not even sideboard out of not knowing what cards to take in and out. One of the best suggestions I can make to players of all skill levels is to have a sideboard that is comprised of three copies of five unique cards for a total of fifteen sideboard cards. You want to sure up problem matchups for you. That could be decks of a certain color (like mono red or mono black) or certain archetype (combo, control, graveyard).
Devout Decree is a great catchall card for black and red decks that will let us exile a red or black creature or planeswalker. This card is very useful out of the sideboard. Mistcutter Hydra is a GREAT topdeck against control decks that tend to stabilize at five to seven life. Having haste and the ability to not be countered makes this card tremendous. Feed the Clan is another weapon against mono red and burn decks. Gaining up to ten life can be absolutely back breaking for those decks. Unbreakable Formation helps us grow our team of cats but also protects them from board wipes while Tocatli Honor Guard is very good against pesky ETB triggers like Goblin Chainwhirler, Thassa's Oracle, Yorion, etc.
So there you have it folk! The total price of Cats on a Shoe String checks in at an incredible $77.50! I'm not sure you can make a stronger deck at that price point in Pioneer. I hope this decklist helps and keep checking in for more content from across the Standard, Pioneer, Modern, and Commander formats!