Wizards of the Coast shocked the Magic: The Gathering world today when it announced Pioneer, a new format that will begin with the Return to Ravnica set and encompass every Standard-legal set released afterwards. Magic: The Gathering has been diversifying its format offerings as of late as the game continues to expand in popularity, with Brawl being introduced on MTG Arena as a rough approximation of the wildly successful Commander format while Pauper, a common cards-only format, has been getting increased support and could even spill over into competitive tournaments as a staple in the future.
Magic: The Gathering has been experiencing some struggles with its Standard format recently, which might have also incentivized Wizards of the Coast to come up with a new non-rotating format that's more accessible to newer players as an alternative for when Standard is particularly tiresome to play. A new Banned & Restricted announcement made earlier today saw Wizards of the Coast just ban Field of the Dead after it became too oppressive to other strategies, and players are still worried that the color green - which has two of the most powerful planeswalkers in the format and many tools to ramp up to playing them ahead of curve - will simply slot in to take the place of Golos/Field of the Dead decks as Standard's de facto best choice. Having "eternal" formats, with card pools that don't rotate but simply expand with new set releases, tends to result in more diverse fields and deck choices that players can commit to without fear of them becoming useless once key cards leave the card pool.
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer will use set from Return to Ravnica going forward, with notable exceptions in the form of non-Standard products like Modern Horizons and the Commander sets. The format will also have a banlist right at the outset that includes only five cards - Flooded Strand, Polluted Delta, Bloodstained Mire, Wooded Foothills, and Windswept Heath. Fetch lands have been a point of contention in non-rotating formats before, as they often lead to a lot of downtime in between plays due to players constantly searching their decks and shuffling, and they also enable some of the most powerful manabase configurations in Magic: The Gathering. Here's what Blake Rasmussen had to say about the choice in the official announcement post:
"We'll talk more about the B&R philosophy on Thursday, but the gist of the banning decision is as follows: mana bases witch 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 defines 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."
It's strong reasoning, and it's a good starting point for a format that will be looking to quickly distinguish itself from Modern, Magic: The Gathering's most popular competitive format and another non-rotating base. Pioneer will almost immediately have an impact on competitive play, and it will release in just a few short days on Magic Online, but it won't be coming to Magic Arena anytime soon thanks to the large amount of cards that aren't programmed into that client from past sets. The format will feature into the first Players Tour Series of 2020 as well as the Players Tour Finals in April, and in March 2020 it will begin featuring as a tabletop qualifying format, too.
There's a lot of work that goes into new formats and Magic: The Gathering Pioneer will likely be totally broken by players within days of its initial release. How frequently the ban list is updated for Pioneer will likely level off in the long-term, but players should expect a lot of cards on the chopping block in the early days of the format, as a lot of powerful MTG cards have been left untouched to begin.
Source: Wizards of the Coast