Power and Value Review for Pioneer Challenger Decks 2022

full complete review of MTG Pioneer Challenger Decks 2022 - Value, Upgrades for all 4 decks

Power and Value Review for Pioneer Challenger Decks 2022

The Pioneer format has been gaining more attention lately as a lite version of Modern, as players and stores gravitate toward the online MTG Arena for Standard formats. It’s nice to see that Wizards of the Coast hasn’t abandoned the format, and have even set out to release 4 very capable preconstructed Challenger decks that any player can take straight out of the box to play.

Check out the full deck lists here!

Because Pioneer isn’t particularly a good starting point for new players, we’re leaving out the “Beginner Friendliness” category that you might have seen in our deck reviews. Despite that, Pioneer Challenger Decks follow the tradition of providing ready-to-play decks right out of the box, including 60 cards in the main deck, 15 cards in the Sideboard, and even comes with tokens and a carry box.

Here’s a quick recap of our categories!

Power Level: How likely can the deck hold its own and win against the other recent precon decks?

Value: How good is the deck in terms of financial value of reprints, as well as future potential gain?

Upgradability: How easily can this deck be upgraded and optimised with a small budget? A high potential for upgrades will lead to better scores.

Izzet Phoenix Pioneer Challenge Deck Review

Power Level

Izzet (blue-red) decks are generally strong, and there are always a few iterations in every Pioneer meta, with the latest one including Ledger Shredder from Streets of New Capenna. This Izzet Phoenix deck uses Thing in the Ice and the transformed Awoken Horror as a beefy blocker and subsequently a true Nightmare that terrorises the opponent.

The other significant threat is its namesake Arclight Phoenix, able to come back from the Graveyard to the Battlefield and attack immediately. The 3 Instants and Sorceries requirement is pitifully easy in this deck, with over 31 such cards in this deck. Many of these are burn spells like Flame-Blessed Bolt that can also kill of aggro Creatures, or cantrips that replenish your hand.

The Sideboard is filled with even more mass burn spells, and also includes a full playset of Mystical Dispute to counter any mirror matches or other blue-centric midrange decks.


This Pioneer Challenger Deck also stands at the top of the value standings, thanks to 2 copies each of Thing in the Ice and Arclight Phoenix. There’s even 2 copies of Expressive Iteration that have been hard to acquire since the unpopular Strixhaven set was not as widely open as others.

While not unique since all the Challenger decks have this, 1 copy of the Shock Land Steam Vents and 2 Sulfur Falls makes this Pioneer Challenger Deck a value buy even for any casual collector.


The main disappointment with Pioneer Challenger Decks is that they are intentionally don’t include 4 copies of key cards, and that does hamper its effectiveness in a real game. At the very least, you’d have to upgrade with 2 more Arclight Phoenixes, and perhaps 1 more Thing in the Ice. Ledger Shredder is also an option to replace the Crackling Drakes but only if money isn’t an issue.

Thankfully, effective blue and red Instants aren’t expensive since most are Commons or Uncommons. There are already 4 copies of the pricier Consider, so there’s no concern for that. Rending Volley and Reckless Rage are some of the better burn spells for the Pioneer format, but they also come at a price.

Final Verdict

The best Pioneer Challenger deck of the bunch for 2022. Wizards deserves credit for building an Izzet version that includes a number of pricey Rares and Mythics Rares, and didn’t shy away from other notable Commons and Uncommons. The Phoenix deck is also very versatile and will do moderately well even as the meta shifts over time. (4 out of 5 stars)

Dimir Control Pioneer Challenger Deck

Pioneer Challenger Deck Dimir Control deck list

Power Level

Dimir (blue-black) is another powerful combination, since black offers a lot of control pieces that augment blue. However control decks need a strong winner to close out the game, and this Pioneer Challenger Deck lacks that. There are 2 copies of Torrential Gearhulk and 1 Shark Typhoon, which might be too few to pose a threat. The Gearhulks are easily removed and they don’t even have Flying, and there are no Planeswalkers, often a key ingredient in control decks.

The deck is stacked with removal and control spells though, with 4 copies of the premium Fatal Push doing double duty in the power and value. departments. Drown in the Loch is alright since this isn’t exactly a mill deck. Exintction Event is somewhat situational since you might only be clearing some of the opponent’s threats.


Buoyed by Fatal Push, Shark Typhoon and Torrential Gearhulk, the Dimir Control Pioneer Challenger Deck doesn’t do badly in value, even outdoing the next 2 decks on the list. You’re also getting a Watery Grave Shock Land, 1 of the more highly sought after, and 2 Drowned Catacombs.

Middling cards such as Extinction Event and Murderous Rider could fall in price over time, as more copies are opened through these decks. If past performance is any indication, those in lesser demand will see a dip, while powerful cards (Arclight Phoenix etc.) will still retain good value.


Including a few Planeswalkers or top-end Creatures could be a good idea in a control deck. For example Lolth, Spider Queen is a great addition that can generate token Creatures for you while drawing extra cards. The new Sheoldred, the Apocalypse is also a nice control piece that can sit back and slowly drain the enemy’s life total.

There are some better removal options out there in Pioneer than Drown in the Loch, with Heartless Act and Infernal Grasp both very cheap and come with fewer drawbacks. Those can’t counter spells like Loch, but since this isn’t a mill deck, it’s going to be very situational anyway. We would also replace Extinction Event with Languish as a -4/-4 effect can cover many more bases than an even or odd casting cost.

Final Verdict

Straight out of the box, the Dimir Control Pioneer Challenger Deck is a little lackluster, omitting more popular cards in a format that should have a wide card pool. Planeswalkers are a big part of control decks, so the lack of even 1 here doesn’t look good. On the upside, the value category does hold up, with the inclusion of Shark Typhoon, Watery Grave and Fatal Push as the highlights of the deck. (3.7 out of 5 stars)

Orzhov Humans Pioneer Challenger Deck

Power Level

Humans in Pioneer are more potent because they have access to cards like Bloodsoaked Champion and Thalia’s Lieutenant, while making use of former Standard favourites [/c]Luminarch Aspirant[/c] and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Both the Lieutenant and Aspirant make all your Creatures bigger with the mass populating of +1/+1 counters, while Guardian of Thraben holds off any control or midrange decks that are looking to wipe out the board.

When you start with a good hand and a smooth opening, it’s hard to deny the power or Orzhov Humans. An opponent having 1 big blocker isn’t enough when they’re starting at 4 or 5 Creatures that have 3 power or more. Then there’s Rally the Ranks which is a 2-Mana anthem effect for any tribe. This deck can beat anyone on its day, at least in a best of 1 scenario.

However in best-of-3, this Pioneer Challenger deck can struggle against the sheer amount of board wipes available. There’s Ritual of Soot, Anger of the Gods, and even a Shatter the Sky that can really break Orzhov Humans. The lack of any kind of protection to destruction makes this deck vulnerable.


Humans have always been a great budget option for players who don’t want to break the bank to play Pioneer, and this deck is not much of an exception. The priciest cards come in the Land slots, with Godless Shrine, Concealed Courtyard and 2 copies of Mutavault holding up the fort.

Most Human cards are relatively cheap and affordable, thanks to multiple reprints, and the weakness of demand in most formats. Luminarch Aspirant was reprinted in the Standard Challenger Decks, while Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is also still available in Standard set Crimson Vow.


Because Humans are generally cheap and you want to cast them quickly, there aren’t many better upgrades available. Adeline, Resplendant Cathar can be a good addition since she creates additional Human tokens, and her Power grows bigger the more Creatures you have. She does cost 3 Mana though, more than all the other 30 Creatures in his Pioneer Challenger Deck, and would likely slow down the deck’s pace.

The removal package could also do with a boost. Dire Tactics is a great card in a Humans deck, and having 2 more would bolster the deck’s defense capabilities.

In order to win best-of-3 games, the Sideboard could do with upgrades such as Selfless Spirit (even if it’s not a Human), or Unbreakable Formation.

Final Verdict

Those who love fast games and swarming over the opponent with rallying cries of “braveheart” would be happy with the Humans Orzhov Pioneer Challenger Deck. It’s fast, effective and can punish any opponent with a less optimised opening. It’s biggest weakness is dealing with control decks in a best-of-3 scenario, and some upgrades are needed if it wants to compete on that big stage. (3.4 out of 5 stars)

Gruul Stompy Pioneer Challenger Deck

Gruul Stompy Pioneer Challenger Deck review 2022

Power Level

If Humans represent small and quick, then Gruul’s stompy deck fills in for the big boys category, using beasts and dragons to overwhelm the opponent. The deck can have a blitzing start if you have Llanowar Elves or Elvish Mystic in your opening hand. Once you hit 4 Mana, there’s 2 copies of Questing Beast that can attack immediately, or the red hot Chandra, Torch of Defiance to create tons of value over multiple turns.

Bonecrusher Giant has been an excellent 2-for-1 card in both Standard and Pioneer, and makes another appearance here. Glorybringer can be used to get rid of an enemy Creature, but has the drawback of not being able to untap for 1 turn. Ultimately, the deck is fast and has good Creatures, but there are some glaring omissions such as Burning Tree Emissary that can add 2 Mana when it enters the Battlefield, and Collected Company that can surprise your opponents during their turn.

Without a powerful finisher like Embercleave or The Great Henge, Gruul Stompy might find itself languis


Sitting at 2nd lowest of the 4 in terms of deck value, the Gruul Stompy Pioneer Challenger Deck is lucky to have 2 Questing Beasts and 2Chandra, Torch of Defiances to give it more gravitas. Both are good cards that should hold value in the long term.

The green-red Shock Land Stomping Ground is 1 of the less popular, but being a Shock Land it will still fetch a neat US$10 at least. For reasons unknown, they did not include any Rootbound Crags when the other decks all of their respective counterparts, even up to 4 copies. The lack of these valuable Lands makes this deck less attractive in terms of value of money.

A nice and surprising inclusion is Rending Volley in the Sideboard, which has grown in value recently because of the prevalence of Ledger Shredder. However if more of these decks to open, being an Uncommon its price could be affected.


Green and Red have so many attack options, it’s hard to pick the right ones. Since Gruul Stompy is all about combat, then it could do with a couple of Embercleaves to help Trample over the opponent. If money isn’t an issue, 1 or 2 copies of The Great Henge will immensely aid this Pioneer Challenger Deck’s survivability in the long games.

While Abrade is great, we’re not sure about needing 4 copies of Mizzium Mortars in the main deck. 2 of those would be nice in the Sideboard, and the others could be swapped out for Lighting Strike which has the absolute flexibility of dealing damage to any target. At times, you’d want damage to go directly to the opponent or to 1 of their Planeswalkers, and this is where lightning really strikes.

Final Verdict

Another swift aggro deck that hits hard but lacks some of the classic pieces in green and red. A few cards make the Gruul Stompy deck still worthwhile in terms of money spent, but there’s nothing especially powerful in this starting list that makes us think it can challenge the other decks, not when cheap and effective removal spells are so readily available in the format. (3.4 out of 5 stars)
After playing from Tempest to Urza's Saga block, Ted took a 20 year break from the game before returning to the classic Plane of Dominaria in 2018. His favourite formats are Commander, Draft, and, grudgingly, Standard.

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