Sheoldred, the Apocalypse
17, Dec, 23

1300-Player MTG Regional Championship Indicates New Tier 1 Strategy!

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Article at a Glance

Pioneer has certainly had its critics over the years. One of the biggest complaints players have had regarding the format is that it had been relatively stale for quite a while. Mono-green Devotion and Rakdos midrange sat atop the totem pole, and it didn’t seem like much was going to change.

Since the release of Wilds of Eldraine and The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, however, there have been some noticeable metagame shifts. Decks like Boros Convoke burst onto the scene and grew in popularity even further. Izzet Phoenix also grew in popularity, while a unique Grixis version of the Phoenix archetype emerged thanks to the printing of Bitter Triumph.

Not only did new printings make specific archetypes more (or less) popular, but the banning of Karn, the Great Creator and Geological Appraiser also greatly affected the Pioneer metagame. This weekend, we got to see how these bans would affect things in a highly competitive environment. The Pioneer Regional Championship in Atlanta is underway with over 1300 players, and there’s a lot of information to take away from the metagame of the event.

Day 1 Metagame Breakdown

Just by looking at the graphic of the day one metagame breakdown for the Pioneer Regional Championship in Atlanta, we can get a glimpse of some major changes to the Pioneer metagame. First of all, Rakdos midrange was registered by the most players by a pretty big margin. There was a period of time this year where Rakdos midrange appeared to be on the downswing. However, a few key factors have changed that put Rakdos in a much better spot.

One of the decks that has helped keep Rakdos in check to an extent has been mono-green Devotion. Cards like Old-Growth Troll and Cavalier of Thorns were not ideal threats to kill with typical removal. Meanwhile, both Karn, the Great Creator and Storm the Festival threatened to generate a lot of value. With Karn out of the picture, though, mono-green Devotion fell off the map in a huge way. Discover combo decks using Quintorius Kand were also played in minimal numbers, further boosting Rakdos’s position in the metagame.

Next in line, we have Izzet Phoenix as the only other deck with a 10%+ metagame share. Izzet Phoenix is quite a strong deck, maximizing the power of Treasure Cruise, one of the best cards in the format. Ever since Sleight of Hand was added to Pioneer in Wilds of Eldraine, the deck has increased in popularity a great deal. From the look of things, it doesn’t seem like the deck is going anywhere.

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Day 2 Conversion Information

Perhaps the most interesting takeaway from this major Pioneer tournament is just how dominant the Abzan Amalia Benavides Aguirre combo deck has become. Despite being the third most played deck in day one with a metagame share of under 10%, it was the most played deck in day two. Both Rakdos Midrange and Izzet Phoenix had just under 50% win rates throughout the tournament. Considering how many players were playing these two decks, this is quite reasonable.

Amalia combo wasn’t too far behind in popularity, though, and saw a win rate of over 55%. This was the highest win rate of any of the 10 most-played decks from day one. Azorius control saw a win rate of just below 55%, showcasing its excellent overall performance in the tournament, too. Temporary Lockdown is exceptionally well positioned considering how many players are playing Abzan Amalia combo and Boros Convoke, so this definitely makes some sense.

On the flip side, there were a couple notable decks that had rather poor win rates. Among decks that showcased at least 10 players using the deck, Abzan Greasefang was the only deck with a win rate below 40%. This is likely attributed to the fact that players were packing graveyard hate for decks like Phoenix, so Abzan Greasefang got all of the splash hate.

Interestingly, Azorius Lotus Field also saw a very poor win rate of just over 40%. If anything, this showcased just how much stronger traditional Azorius control performed.

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An Uninteresting Top 8

Amalia Benavides Aguirre

Sometimes, despite dominant performances by tier one strategies, unique breakout decks or lower tier archetypes sneak their way into top 8. At this tournament, though, this was not the case. In fact, the top 8 specifically featured only the top four decks of the tournament: Rakdos midrange, Izzet Phoenix, Abzan Amalia combo, and Azorius control.

That said, the newer iteration of Rakdos Midrange featuring Inti, Seneschal of the Sun and Smuggler’s Copter did make a top eight appearance. This deck features a more aggressive take on the Rakdos Midrange strategy, using Inti to establish a quicker clock and generate a ton of advantage.

Not only that, but each of these decks showcase exactly two copies in top 8. It’ll be interesting to see how the top eight unfolds.

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A Unique Build Barely Misses the Cut

Another intriguing aspect of this tournament was where Smuggler’s Copter was primarily utilized. When the card was unbanned, there was hope that this would give rise to more aggressive Creature decks. Instead, the card helped make Rakdos midrange even stronger, while decks with lots of small Creatures either saw minimal play or didn’t implement the card in general.

That being said, there was one deck that is worth mentioning that makes great use of the powerful Artifact. With a record of 11-3, mono-black aggro just barely missed the cut, finishing at 13th place. This deck is somewhat reminiscent of the mono-black aggro decks that thrived back when Inverter of Truth was still legal. However, there are a ton of cool inclusions in this particular build.

Deep-Cavern Bat in conjunction with Thoughtseize give this deck a lot of disruption against opposing combo decks. Bloodsoaked Champion is a great card to pair with Smuggler’s Copter, given its ability to repeatedly come back from the graveyard and Crew Copter itself. These cheap Creatures also make Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor a nice source of card advantage, something this deck was lacking.

Add in some specific hate pieces, such as Knight of Dusk’s Shadow out of the sideboard against Abzan Amalia combo, and you’ve got a gameplan. This archetype is definitely worth monitoring in the coming weeks, as a fantastic performance like this can’t go ignored.

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