How to Beat Llanowar Elf in Pioneer

Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic have been very popular in Pioneer since the format was born, but I think they are at their peak right now, and before calling for bans for those cheap mana accelerants it’s important that we bring the right tools to beat them.

Wizards in the past has said how they would never reprint Llanowar Elves in Standard, because how much it warps the game / format if a player leads with it on turn 1, especially on the play.

They then walked back their words and printed it in Dominaria, but in the same Standard format as Fanatical Firebrand and Goblin Chainwhirler, as a result Green wasn’t dominating and was kept pretty well in check by Red.

In my last two Pioneer leagues I’ve played against 6 Llanowar Elves decks, and in one of them I was playing a Llanowar Elf deck myself, so it’s now mandatory to get ready for this mana dork strategy and pick up the right tools.

Goblin Chainwhirler

Goblin Chainwhirler has been the best card against Green Aggro decks last year in Standard, and I’m positive in saying that will be the best card against GreenX strategies in Pioneer too.

It kills Elves and 1/1 tokens (from Goblin Rabblemaster, Legion Warboss, Lovestruck Beast), as well as blocking and attacking incredibly well. It does cost triple red, which means you can only play it in MonoRed or decks with a very light splash, which is what I’ll focus on today in my article, starting with Christian Calcano’s Goblins deck.

Goblins – Christian Calcano – Pioneer – 5-0 MTGO League


1 Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
4 Castle Embereth
3 Goblin Ringleader
2 Siege-Gang Commander
2 Goblin Trashmaster
4 Goblin Chainwhirler
2 Goblin Rabblemaster
4 Fanatical Firebrand
4 Skirk Prospector
19 Mountain (343)
2 Goblin Warchief
2 Dragon Fodder
2 Legion Warboss
1 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Goblin Instigator

1 Rending Volley
2 Goblin Rabblemaster
2 Legion Warboss
1 Chandra's Defeat
1 Goblin Heelcutter
2 Volley Veteran
4 Goblin Piledriver
1 Legion Loyalist
1 Redcap Melee

This list not only has Goblin Chainwhirler to interact with Llanowar Elves, but also Fanatical Firebrand which is a great one-drop in red right now, and probably among the best.

This deck fuels itself with Goblin Ringleader and tries to go over the top with Siege-Gang Commander and Goblin Trashmaster + lots of Goblin tokens.

Goblin Rabblemaster and Legion Warboss gets way better when on the play, and I liked what Calc did here with more copies of them in the sideboard. Especially against decks without creatures where you can just board out your Goblin Chainwhirler to upgrade them.

Volley Veteran is very close to Flametongue Kavu in this deck, and I wouldn’t hesitate in put the full 4 in the sideboard, to replace some Ringleader against Steel Leaf Champion and Lovestruck Beast, as this deck could have trouble dealing with large creatures.

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

If you liked Goblin Chainwhirler with it’s normal stats, you might like it even more after you see how crazy it can get with Torban, Thane of Red Fell, and the same works for Fanatical Firebrand.

Torban is very good in some scenarios, but it isn’t a Goblin, meaning it’s slightly worse in this deck, but it could find a home in different versions of Red.

Although there are very many different great 4-drops in Red – just to mention a few of them you have Rekindling Phoenix, Hazoret, the Fervent, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Experimental Frenzy, so you need to be careful which you choose.

Soul-Scar Mage

Another creature that works wonders with Goblin Chainwhirler is Soul-Scar Mage, as it will leave a permanent -1-1 counter on your opponents creatures, which might be crucial against Surrak, the Hunt Caller and Steel Leaf Champion, as well as opposing Chainwhirlers.

Soul-Scar Mage will also make all your burn spells be good combat tricks, like against Lovestruck Beast, and it will make your Glorybringer and Chandra, Torch of Defiance answer Rhonas, the Indomitable.

BR Vehicles – Andrea Mengucci – Pioneer


11 Mountain (343)
2 Canyon Slough
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Foreboding Ruins
4 Blood Crypt
4 Scrapheap Scrounger
4 Bomat Courier
4 Bonecrusher Giant/Stomp
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2 Glorybringer
4 Goblin Chainwhirler
3 Heart of Kiran
4 Rekindling Phoenix
2 Abrade
3 Wild Slash
3 Soul-Scar Mage

2 Aethersphere Harvester
2 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2 Damping Sphere
3 Dreadbore
4 Thoughtseize

This is basically the Worlds’s 2018 winning deck. RB Vehicle was tier 1 for many months back then, and it’s not surprise to see it doing well even in Pioneer.

I think this deck has all the tools to compete in a broad format, and it certainly has a positive matchup against Green strategies powered by Llanowar Elves.


Rekindling PhoenixBomat Courier

Another great card against Green last year was Rekindling Phoenix, and it is also very effective against Supreme Verdict

But more than Rekindling Phoenix, the best thing to do against Control decks is Bomat Courier. While Bomat is a must sideboard out vs Red and Green decks, it is insane against any deck that want to slow things down, and in a deck with 25 lands you’ll be able to hit all your land drop and draw many cards by turn 4 or 5.

I have tried Unlicensed Disintegration, but I have not been impressed. 3 mana was actually a lot, and with 3 Soul-Scar Mages even a timely Wild Slash or Abrade were enough to win the combat phase.

Pioneer is still a format that needs to shape up, and the next banlist will come in just few days. I expect no changes but wouldn’t surprise me a ban of Llanowar Elf and Elvish Mystic if metagame doesn’t manage to adjust.hazor


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