In the past, the United States Regional Championship came at the end of a cycle, providing one of the world’s largest fields lots of information on the format before battle began. This time around at Dreamhack Dallas, more than 1,100 players gathered on the first weekend of the Regional Championship cycle to do battle in a refreshed Pioneer format. With dozens of Pro Tour invites on the line – not to mention a pair of seats at the Magic World Championship later this year – it was a high-stakes tournament with some of the best players seen at the Pro Tour competing for the Top 8, World Championship invite and title of Dreamhack US Regional Champion.
After 14 rounds of play in a diverse Pioneer format, the Top 8 came together headlined by six different archetypes in a field that had been dominated by Rakdos Midrange. A thrilling Top 8 bracket shook everything out, and in the end, Bradley Schlesinger emerged victorious over Matt Foreman in the finals to earn the title of Dreamhack Dallas and US Regional Champion!
Schlesinger went the distance by defeating Foreman (a former Grand Prix finalist themselves) in an incredibly tight finals match that saw Foreman’s Rakdos Sacrifice deck go blow for blow with Schlesinger’s Gruul Vehicles deck featuring the breakout card of the weekend,
This is new ground for Schlesinger, a 28-year-old Milwaukee native who continues to take steps in his Magic career. He made Day Two at the last Regional Championship in San Diego, then finished in the Top 32 of the Secret Lair Showdown at MagicCon: Minneapolis. Now, he’ll back on the Pro Tour for Modern at MagicCon: Barcelona in July and the Magic World Championship later this year.
THE TOP 8
It was a massive tournament field in Dallas, with 1,174 players to open up Round 1. Eclipsing even the huge event in San Diego during the last Regional Championship cycle, this tournament was an opportunity for players and teams who have found an edge in the Pioneer format to make the most of it. And that’s exactly what happened – Rakdos Midrange was the most popular deck in the room when play began, but only two Rakdos decks made the Top 8, and both were the Sacrifice variant that itself accounted for just 3% of the field.
You can find the Top 48 decklists here.
Longtime judge Elliot Raff stormed his way through the swiss rounds, entering the Top 8 undefeated as the top seed. It was the culmination of a very unexpected path for Raff, who has made a career out of judging events but will now play in his first Pro Tour instead. The Top 8 as a whole featured a host of players making their first premier finish, and the results show that experience in the format was perhaps the most important attribute on the weekend.
Congratulations to our Top 8 Pioneer Regional Championship players!— DreamHack Magic (@DreamHackMagic) June 4, 2023
🥇Elliot Raff (still undefeated!)
🏅Duy Vu#DHDallas #DHMTG @PlayMTG pic.twitter.com/FPs1XVOd8u
Pioneer refuses to be pinned down. A format that many considered “solved” as recently as six months ago has been completely upended by a Regional Championship season, a Pro Tour and now another round of Regional Championships. In that time, we’ve seen a number of sets added, and March of the Machine has continued to push the format forward as seen by the vital inclusion of
As seen in other Regional Championships across the world, Rakdos Midrange was the most popular deck but far from the most successful. In fact, the only two black-red variants that made the elimination rounds in Dallas was a pair of Rakdos Sacrifice decks. Six different decks broke through to the Top 8, but lurking just below was some spice in the form of Brian Boss’ Jeskai Ascendancy combo.
Another unexpected winner was Dimir Rogues, which has transformed the familiar Standard deck into a tricky Pioneer build that can attack on an angle many decks just aren’t prepared for. That was enough to send Toph Robinson to the Top 8, while the other hot new deck on the block Boros Convoke helped several players including Max McVety qualify for the Pro Tour.
The next stop for the dozens of newly minted Pro Tour competitors is MagicCon: Barcelona and Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings. Additionally, many of these same competitors will be back at the next Regional Championship at Dreamhack Atlanta later this year.
With the first weekend of the Regional Championship cycle now behind us, Pioneer is more wide open than ever. The Pro Tour field in Barcelona continues to shape up, and the final spots will go to those best able to master the evolving format in the upcoming Regional Championships. Congrats again to Bradley Schlesinger, the US Regional Champion!