Magic: The Gathering Announces New Pioneer Competitive Format

Magic: The Gathering is getting a brand new competitive format this year. The Pioneer format looks to become what Modern once was, a format that is easy for newer players to transition into after experiencing their first Standard format set rotation, a middle ground between the newbie-friendly Standard and the power-level of decks in the Legacy format. It's been 16 years since Modern debuted. The number of sets now legal in the format — dating back to 2003’s Mirrodin — is almost as intimidating to new players as the number of cards in Legacy. By comparison, Pioneer will only go back five years, with cards from the 2014 Return to Ravnica set and forward being legal.

“Pioneer will utilize sets from Return to Ravnica forward,” Wizards of the Coast’s Blake Rasmussen explained in the announcement post on the official Magic website. “One goal in creating Pioneer was for the format to be large enough to have cross-block synergies to give the format its own unique characteristics. Starting with RTR gives the format that is the most different from Modern, since Modern launched right before RTR.”

Here’s the complete list of sets legal in the Pioneer format at launch.

Magic the Gathering Pioneer Sets
(Photo: Wizards of the Coast)
  • Return to Ravnica
  • Gatecrash
  • Dragon’s Maze
  • Magic 2014 Core Set
  • Theros
  • Born of the Gods
  • Journey Into Nyx
  • Magic 2015 Core Set
  • Khans of Tarkir
  • Fate Reforged
  • Dragons of Tarkir
  • Magic Origins
  • Battle For Zendikar
  • Oath of the Gatewatch
  • Shadows Over Innistrad
  • Eldritch Moon
  • Kaladesh
  • Aether Revolt
  • Amonkhet
  • Hour of Devastation
  • Ixalan
  • Rivals of Ixalan
  • Dominaria
  • Core Set 2019
  • Guilds of Ravnica
  • Ravnica Allegiance
  • War of the Spark
  • Core Set 2020
  • Throne of Eldraine

Five cards will be banned from the pioneer format from the start. They are the five dual-color “fetch lands’ that were reprinted in the Khans of Tarkir set:

  • Bloodstained Mire
  • Flooded Strand
  • Polluted Delta
  • Windswept Heath
  • Wooded Foothills
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Rasmussen explained that the reasoning behind deciding to ban fetch lands was that “mana bases with fetch lands and shock lands are very strong and make playing three or four colors too easy. Decks can become more homogenous and the format becomes more defined by how many of the strongest cards players can squeeze into one deck. More constraints on mana bases add diversity to the format and make decks play differently from one another.”

Players can begin testing out the Pioneer format on Magic Online beginning on October 23rd. Pioneer premier and qualifying events will begin soon after that, and high-level paper-magic play in the Pioneer format will also begin soon. Pioneer will be one of the playable formats during the first Players tour Series of 2020 and will be used for the Players Tour Finals. Beginning March 21st, some Players Tours qualifying events will also start to use the new format.

No word on if or when this format will make it to Magic: The Gathering Arena, but Arena received its own unique format, Historic. The Pioneer format was announced at the same time that Wizards of the Coast announced one of the most-played cards in Standard has been banned from the format.

Are you excited about the new Pioneer format? Let us know in the comments.