Rally the Ancestors has the honor of being one of the most broken combo decks from the old Standard formats that make up the Pioneer format. This seems like a solid way to go about finding new archetypes to try in the wide open Pioneer format, so let's brew!
Rally the Ancestors Decklist (Pioneer)
4 Rally the Ancestors 2 Return to the Ranks 4 Thoughtseize 4 Stitcher's Supplier 2 Cryptbreaker 4 Cartel Aristocrat 4 Cruel Celebrant 4 Zulaport Cutthroat 4 Corpse Knight 4 Wayward Servant 4 Concealed Courtyard 4 Godless Shrine 4 Isolated Chapel 4 Caves of Koilos 6 Swamp (339) 2 Plains (331)
This deck is built entirely around these two similar gamebreaking spells. Rally the Ancestors is stronger, as it can be cast at instant speed and only requires four mana and an empty board to win the game. Return to the Ranks is still quite strong, as its convoke ability makes it extremely easy to cast most of the time anyway. The correct number of these effects in the maindeck is likely somewhere between six and the full eight copies. In sideboarded games, we might expect to face graveyard hate, so we want to be able to trim down our reliance on the combo kill.
We're very happy that Cartel Aristocrat exists, or else there would not be any free repeatable sacrifice effect available in the format below three mana. Hopefully four copies of this effect is enough between our extra draws and milling with Stitcher's Supplier.
We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the main effect that this deck is looking for. Blood Artist is the only creature in this club that exists in Modern but didn't make the cut to Pioneer, and Corpse Knight and Cruel Celebrant are very recent printings that look ready to make their impact on the young format. We might find during further testing that just running eight copies of the enters-the-battlefield versions (Wayward Servant and Corpse Knight) is good enough and we could completely ignore the sacrifice element that usually goes with Rally the Ancestors. However, running such a large critical mass of these creatures can make it incredibly difficult for any of our opponents who rely on combat or removal, as they will never be able to let any of our creatures die without killing themselves.
We're a bit flooded on the 2-drop slot and above, so we need some quality 1-mana spells to round out the deck. Stitcher's Supplier fits well as a cheap creature that we want to die. It fills the graveyard for our signature white spells and is a zombie for Cryptbreaker and Wayward Servant. The self-mill action increases our ability to combo kill quickly, but if we are facing an opponent who is looking to slow the game down rather than race towards a combo it is easy to sideboard out (especially if we expect sufficient graveyard hate). Thoughtseize is one of the best individual cards legal in Pioneer, and we're happy to include some cheap interaction that can both slow our opponent down and protect our combo pieces. The simple fact that this deck can make room to play Thoughtseize without really hurting for combo slots makes it a much scarier deck to play against.
We don't want to spend too much time developing a sideboard plan when the metagame is still completely unknown, but we do know that we want to plan for opposing hate cards against our graveyard-based strategy. Fragmentize seems like a solid answer to many hate cards such as Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void that could also be useful in other matchups. We could go harder on the discard plan with cards like Duress or Collective Brutality. Eerie Interlude seems like an interesting option to consider if we are fearful of things like Anger of the Gods and Cry of the Carnarium – it keeps our creatures out of exile and could also potentially just trigger all of our enters-the-battlefield effects enough times to simply win the game on its own.
In this early metagame, brewers should be doing their best to build busted decks that earn their best cards a ban. This is a combo deck that looks impressively consistent, so we're excited to continue working on this list to see just how good it rally can be.