August 12, 2022

The popular paper format MTG has its meta torn!

The qualifying season for the regional championship is underway! MTG Pioneer is the focus format, and A LOT has changed in three days. Before now, Pioneer seemed like a format dominated by a few core archetypes. Between print and online events, it’s clear now that the format is actually wide open, and no one knows which is the best choice. Everything seems to beat something else, and the meta changes make dead decks reappear. Here are the highlights of the various regional MTG Pioneer qualifiers this weekend!

Old technology renewed

Boros Heroic won the MTGO Super Qualifier alongside a more traditional Izzet Phoenix Combo roster. While both decks highlighted a new technology option to fit the current MTG Pioneer Metagame, Boros’s is much spicier. Demon Slayer Paladin does a nice job of identifying a weakness in the current metagame. Previously seen in the Azorius Auras builds in Pioneer, almost all suppression spells circulating today are black and red targeted suppression. This makes Fiendslayer Paladin an absolute nightmare to play against. With the Phoenix and Rakdos decks being the first midrange suppression-based decks in the format, Fiendslayer Paladin becomes incredibly difficult to suppress by obscuring all of the format’s most common suppression pieces. Most decks interested in cards targeted by Fiendslayer Paladin have traditionally been sketchy matches for Boros Heroic. This new technology can flip the script and help the Heroic deck climb to the top of the metagame!

thing in the ice

The new Phoenix technology isn’t quite as exciting, but there’s a good reason for that. Izzet Phoenix Combo (using time intrusion and Galvanic iteration for a possible victory condition) in Pioneer now includes two copies of Thing in the Ice. This is mainly in response to the rise of Mono-Green. thing in the ice gives the Phoenix deck an easy way to manage Green’s board and win the game instantly through combo tricks when flipped over. It turns what was a bad game into a better one. Arclight Phoenix as an archetype performed strongly this weekend. Therefore, it is essential to keep this in mind when heading to your RCQ event.

Something you’ve never seen before

A MTG Pioneer Regional Championship qualification document was shared between a Rakdos player and a Dimir player. While the Rakdos player was nothing interesting, the Dimir player was onto something the format has yet to see. This wacky mid-range game uses various tempo-oriented pieces and aims to finish longer games with The scarab god. This may interest you if you are looking to test another way to attack the Pioneer meta.

Is Rakdos really good now?

kroxa, death hunger titan

chaos devil

For a while, Rakdos was the worst Pioneer deck anyone played. That being said, for the first time this weekend, Rakdos actually performed well. Legend of Rakdos Luis Salvatto rode an updated Rakdos Midrange deck to win a Pioneer challenge this weekend. The same list reached the top 8 of the Pioneer Super Qualifier. Not counting the additional RCQ Division win with Dimir Scarab God, Rakdos Sacrifice also had some decent results over the weekend. This version is based on a deck that streamer MTG D00mwake brewed. Several players have had good results in paper RCQs, winning various events. When choosing between these builds for your tournaments, I advise you to think about the meta of your region. Suppose there are a lot of creature decks (aggro or mid-range) running, then Sacrifice is the way to go. Rakdos Midrange has a stronger spread overall, but also has the worst? This translates to: a good draw in Rakdos Midrange beats everything. A bad guy loses everything. As a result, this deck can be surprisingly decisive if you choose to take it.

The biggest thing all Rakdos decks have in common is that they don’t have a formidable Mono-Green Devotion clash. The results indicate that Mono Green decks are currently heavily targeted by the metagame. Many successful decks take advantage of this, but Mono Green could make a resurgence! Extinction event is a great new addition to solve this problem, but if you’re expecting a lot of Mono-Green this weekend, stay away from Rakdos.

Esper control?

disappearing verse

Esper Control is not a deck you immediately think of when setting up a Pioneer event. Yet, quietly, this archetype won two different RCQs over the weekend. Boros Heroic may be on the rise with its success in the MTGO Super Qualifier, and having tools that can remove creatures, as well as deal with the opponent’s game plan in hand, is paramount to bringing down the deck. Added black to gain access to Thought takingtherefore, is essential.

Access to black gives these lists other powerful options to exploit. Worms of disappearance looks absolutely amazing in the current Pioneer meta. Void Tear adds a versatile option that’s rarely dead in hand. Oath of Kaya can slow down aggressive decks and make it difficult to take down your walkers. To finish, Thought distortion grants access to control mirror breaking technology.

Graveyard hate is king, so adjust

unlicensed hearse

If the recent price spike for Unlicensed Hearse hasn’t clarified that, then I don’t know what is. Expect a lot of graveyard hate to show up at your tables. This is all the more true as we have just finished a weekend where Arclight Phoenix decks outperformed. There are Phoenixless Izzet Tempo style decks that work beautifully. These might be a better alternative for players who want to bring Phoenix. All of which says you should expect Phoenix in your field. I wouldn’t leave home without a plan for it.

Lotus Field resurfaces

lotus field

Pioneer’s most infamous combo deck resurfaces. This deck put up results in several Pioneer Challenges and won the Hareruya Japanese Weekend Tournament. Players thought this deck was controlled by Mono-Green Devotion (due to its ability to unleash devastating hate like Damping sphere) and Spirits. Still, with these two decks struggling to get results, lotus field may have the green light again. You roll the dice with this pick. Typically, you’re either heavily favored or heavily disadvantaged in every game, so it’s like roulette. It’s a hard deck to ride to make things harder. If you don’t have experience with this game, don’t pack it this weekend. Train and do your reps, but give yourself more time.

More savvy players at Lotus Field appear to be solving the Mono-Green game. The results indicate that confrontation may not be as bad as people thought. Generally, if Lotus Field has the tools to remove distracting artifacts that Karn, the great creator tutors, then Lotus Field overtakes Mono-Green. As a result, many Lotus Field rosters are playing a heavier artifact hate package, including several witherthe sand natural states in the sideboard, one or less in the main deck, and anywhere between 2 and 4 Boseiju, who endures. There are a lot of different approaches to this deck right now. Finding the right setup can reward experienced players with qualification.

Mono Green and Spirits are missing

horseman of thorns

Another interesting note is that, for the top metagame contenders, the Mono-Green Devotion and Spirit decks performed poorly online. Spirits have a few appearances between the top eight, but mono-green devotion is nearly non-existent except for a few smaller paper RCQs. With heavy ramp decks dominating MTG Pioneer recently, players are eager to put counter spells in their 75s to deal with massive spells. This is kind of a cyclical pattern, though, because if decks stop using the sideboard for Green as much, then Green will once again dominate the competition. Since specific strategies close this deck, it may have a position similar to lotus field in the meta right now as a great tool to do a sort of “meta check” if people are starting to forget about it.

What I recommend for this weekend

It can be difficult to know what to play for one of you, like me, who is competing this weekend. While the performance of many decks depends on your local meta, there are some general decks that I would keep an eye out for. The big decision is whether Mono-Green will be popular or not. Since this deck, like Lotus Field, has fantastic or terrible matchups, this can have a big impact on how your deck performs on the field. If you’re not expecting a ton of green, Lotus Field, if and only if you’re an experienced pilot, and Rakdos Midrange/Sacrifice are healthy choices. If you’re expecting Green, I’d like to fly a deck with a lot more interaction, like Esper Control. Phoenix seems to be the most played MTG Pioneer deck on MTGO right now, so having a plan for that is essential. Otherwise, Phoenix may be your best option in an open field. If you play Phoenix, respect Green. When disrespected by a 75 from Phoenix, Green turns into a bad game.

If you’re going to a more open field, I’d recommend something with a decent match spread (like Phoenix). There are so many viable decks in Pioneer that unless you know your meta, it can be hard to bring in a targeting strategy right now.

If your goal is to qualify for regional championships, you should play on paper. Online MTG is not ideal for competitive businesses at the moment. As someone who prefers to play online, that coming from me is a bad sign.

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