It's a Mardu Party
Hello gang, David here with the last Pioneer deck for now. In celebration of the Pioneer CHallenger Decks Wizards of the coast revealed in their look ahead stream at the beginning of the month, I’ve been writing articles about Pioneer decks that I think are worth a look. Today I bring you the last of these decks, a special brew of my own, Mardu Party. Introduced in Zendikar Rising, the party mechanic focused on getting at least one each of a Cleric, Rogue, Warrior, and Wizard onto the battlefield. Since Zendikar Rising was a one set block, there isn’t a whole lot of payoffs for the mechanic, but there is a lot of support for it since almost all of those creature types go back to the beginnings of Magic. Now we can’t go back that far in Pioneer, but we get some very fancy toys to play with. For my money, I can see a party deck being taken in two ways. The first is to go Mardu with red, black, and white cards using Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats as your top end and Archpriest of Iona to put on pressure early. The other is to play a more midrange strategy in Jeskai with Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate and Outlaws Merriment to keep up your board presence and always have a full party. I decided to go with the aggro route of Mardu and with some new toys in Innistrad Midnight Hunt, the deck just got a lot better.
These are the Party payoffs in the deck, the reason to bother with the party mechanic at all. Archpriest of Iona is one of the best 1 mana plays I’ve seen in a long time. As soon as you play it, it’s a 1/2 for only one mana, at the very worst, and when you assemble the full party it allows you that extra bit of reach with giving something flying and the +1/+1 boost of power. Honestly, this is the best consistent payoff for the Party mechanic. This card is bonkers. Acquisitions Expert helps us round out our Rogue line up with a 2 drop that can also act as a miniature Thoughtseize or Duress with a decent enough board. Oftentimes this just rips a card of our opponent’s choice out of their hand, but that is useful and sometimes you’ll lead with Iona and get to see two cards and discard one from there. Finally the bomb of the deck, Zagras Thief of Heartbeats. Don’t let the 6 mana cost deceive you, this card almost always hits turn 4 or 5 and leaves up enough mana for some of our combat tricks and interaction. Landing as a flier with haste and 4 power really puts on the pressure but also giving the whole team deathtouch and planeswalker deathtouch makes blocking even our 1/1s really awkward for the opponent. These form the core backbone of the party deck in Mardu but we are still missing our fourth creature type, the Warriors
Here is where a few more deck building restrictions get introduced. We already have to stick to three colors and make sure there is an even spread of our four creature types as well as only selecting for cards that go along with the aggro game plan of smashing face. Well, Alesha Who Smiles at Death is one of the best Warriors for that job, but she introduces another restriction; our creatures want to be power 2 or less. Her first strike in tandem with Zagras giving her deathtouch makes her a very mean blocker and keep her alive through her attacks to bring back whatever we can from our grave. In the build I have, Zagras, other Aleshas, and Haktos are the only cards she can’t bring back from the grave. This lets us keep up our assault on our opponent’s life points. Xathrid Necromancer brings in another restriction in that we want as many creatures as possible to be Humans as well. Zagras is the only one who doesn’t fit this condition but if he hits the board we honestly win most games on the spot. Finding Wizards that are in the Mardu colors and aggressive is a bit of a challenge, much less also ones that are also power 2 or less, but Xathrid Necromancer fits the bill. When we attack with our creatures, even if they trade with an opponent’s blocker we still get a body and even removing the Necromancer gets a Zombie token to keep up the assault. Haktos is the star of the show for Warriors. His casting cost is a bit steep for a three color deck so your mana base has to be able to support him, but if he hits the board there are some decks that just can’t deal with him. They literally can’t remove him at all. If you want to just try out the deck or don’t want to invest in a suitable mana base, Zurgo Helmsmasher is a good alternative. Zurgo isn’t a Human and costs 5 mana instead of 4 but he is easier to cast and serves about the same function.
These cards round out our creature lineup. Jadar is the new inclusion from Midnight Hunt that perfectly fits our deck. He’s a cheap wizard that creates attackers that we don’t mind losing, attackers that are even better with Zagras on the board. Luminarch Aspirant is an amazing card in any deck that wants to get into combat, and we are no exception. Additionally being a cleric and curving nicely with Archpriest of Iona can put in some nice damage early. Thieves’ Guild Enforcer gives us another 1 mana play to start establishing our Party lineup and later in the game will often come down with the +2/+1 bonus. Oh and would you look at that, more deathtouch making her even less desirable to block. All in all the creature lineup is two 1 drops, a cleric and a rogue, three 2 drops, a rogue a cleric and a wizard, two 3 drops, a wizard and a warrior, and only one four drop, a warrior. Zagras is another rogue who reasonably costs between 3 and 4 mana when you want to play him. For the count of each type, there are a total of 7 clerics, 8 rogues, 6 Warriors, and 6 Wizards. The numbers aren’t perfectly even, but you really want to see the clerics and rogues early in the game and you can spend a few turns trying to draw into the Warriors and Wizards since they come in later.
The non creatures in this deck perform one function and one function alone, let us get in for damage. The only minor exception to this being Malakir Rebirth since it just keeps our guys alive, but importantly it is a Modal Double Faced Land card that can be a swamp in a pinch. Since Xathrid Necromancer wants us to play Humans, Dire Tactics is the perfect addition to the deck being on of the best removal spells out there. Ride Down is honestly a pet favorite card of mine, you could cut this for another removal spell, probably either Declaration in Stone or Fateful Absence depending on what your expected matchups are. Ride Down though steals many many games and once your opponent knows you play it, literally no block is safe. Bluffing a Ride Down is very powerful as it means even blocking a 1/1 could result in our opponents losing their creature. Keeping open the two mana for a Ride Down can honestly scare opponents in to letting in free damage that they shouldn’t be letting us get. Finally Boros Charm because it acts as additional reach by dealing 4 to face, can give one of our fliers double strike, or a particularly nasty Ride Down target, and most importantly, save our creatures from a board wipe. Unless you have Malakir Rebirth in hand or an Alesha on the way, one board wipe ends the game; you can’t come back. But Boros Charm gives everything Indestructible and protecting your board when your opponent commits most or all of their mana to a useless play will likely win you the game on the spot.
That’s the deck folks. Everything else is in the mana base and that comes down to budget and preference. The split between colors is almost even with slightly more representation of Black and White cards than Red ones but nothing extreme. This is a fast and fun aggro deck that makes you manage what creature types you have on board and what you are looking to get out of maximizing that value. You have to think a little bit harder than a classic aggro deck, but honestly not too much more. I highly recommend picking up the deck and watching the opponent’s face when they realize they don’t have a card in their deck that can actually kill Haktos. Thank you for reading and happy partying!