Last weekend featured the debut of the Regional Championships, the thrice-yearly step on the path to the Pro Tour. In Europe, U.S.A., and Brazil, over 1500 total players arrived with their best Pioneer decks to compete for a combined 92 Pro Tour slots, 5 World Championship invitations, and $255,000 in prizes. And this was only the start of this Regional Championship season, as eight other geographic regions will follow in the weeks to come.
I competed in Sofia, Bulgaria myself, and it genuinely felt like high-level paper Magic again, with all the big names playing at the top tables and the excitement of win-and-ins for Pro Tours. This sentiment was echoed by many players I talked to, some of whom gathered in testing houses a week before the event. The tournament was well-ran, we had video coverage all weekend, and there were big prizes on the line. Even though I didn't win a lot of matches, I had a great time.
In this article, I will analyze all of last weekend's Regional Championships in a combined way. The article is structed as follows: First, I will celebrate the champions, who received well-earned trophies. Second, I will provide the combined metagame breakdown and the match win rates for all major archetypes. Third, I will showcase the most-played cards from The Brothers' War, as this was the first weekend in which the new set was legal. Fourth, I will go over the top deck archetypes in Pioneer right now. Fifth, I will highlight the spiciest decklists that earned a Pro Tour qualification. Sixth, I will look ahead to next weekend's Regional Championships. Let's get started.
Congratulations to the three Regional Champions!
Miguel Castro won the Legacy European Championship (i.e., the Regional Championship for Europe / Middle East / Africa) with Izzet Phoenix, defeating Théau Méry, playing Azorius Control, in the finals. We will see both at the first Pro Tour in 2023, held during MagicCon: Philadelphia on February 17-19, as well as at next year's World Championship!
You can find the Top 8 bracket, photos, and links to final standings and decklists on the European Championship coverage page.
A huge congratulations to the Dreamhack Showdown Regional Champion, Matthew Saypoff with Mono-White Humans!— DreamHack Magic (@DreamHackMagic) November 21, 2022
And Congrats to our finalist, Ken Takahama. See you both at Worlds!#DHAtlanta #DHMTG #MagicTheGathering @trollasceticftw pic.twitter.com/L8uWMdZDGi
Matthew Saypoff won the Dreamhack Atlanta Magic Showdown (i.e., the Regional Championship for the U.S.) with Mono-White Humans, defeating Ken Takahama, playing Izzet Phoenix, in the finals. We will see both at the first Pro Tour and the World Championship in 2023!
You can find the Top 8 bracket, photos, and links to final standings and decklists on the U.S. Regional Championship coverage page.
Pedro Mocelin won the City Class Showdown (i.e., the Regional Championship for Brazil) with Rakdos Midrange. We will see him at the first Pro Tour and the World Championship in 2023!
You can find the Top 8 bracket, photos, and links to final standings and decklists on the Brazil Regional Championship coverage page.
The Metagame and Win Rates
Based on the decklists from all three Regional Championships, unweighted, I determined the combined metagame share of every archetype. I also calculated their non-mirror, non-bye match win rates. I used my own algorithms and definitions to assign archetype labels, thereby sidestepping any potential mislabeling on MTG Melee. Let's take a look!
|Archetype||Percentage of Field||Match Win Rate|
|1. Mono-Green Devotion||20.7%||48.6%|
|2. Rakdos Midrange||14.0%||50.4%|
|3. Izzet Phoenix||11.3%||53.3%|
|4. Mono-White Humans||6.2%||51.9%|
|5. Azorius Control||5.8%||51.4%|
|6. Gruul Vehicles||4.4%||52.0%|
|7. Abzan Greasefang||4.3%||47.3%|
|8. Keruga Fires||4.3%||44.9%|
|9. Bant Spirits||3.1%||47.7%|
|10. Selesnya Angels||2.4%||54.0%|
|11. Mono-Blue Spirits||2.2%||48.1%|
|12. Rakdos Sacrifice||2.1%||53.4%|
|13. Lotus Field combo||1.8%||57.2%|
|14. Enigmatic Fires||1.6%||54.3%|
|15. Izzet Creativity||1.2%||52.2%|
|16. Izzet Prowess||1.2%||46.1%|
|17. Mono-Red Aggro||1.1%||48.3%|
|18. Atarka Red||1.0%||47.6%|
|19. Niv to Light||0.9%||43.4%|
|20. Dimir Control||0.9%||50.0%|
|21. Esper Control||0.7%||41.0%|
|22. Selesnya Auras||0.5%||54.7%|
|23. Mono-Black Midrange||0.5%||50.0%|
|24. Boros Heroic||0.5%||51.7%|
|25. Azorius Spirits||0.5%||54.7%|
The "Other" category included such decks as Bant Humans, Orzhov Humans, Grinning Ignus combo, Azorius Soldiers, Dimir Midrange, Jund Sacrifice, Selesnya Company, Boros Midrange, Boros Artifacts, Mardu Greasefang, Bant Company, Elves, Orzhov Midrange, Vannifar Humans, Gruul Celebrant, Golgari Citadel, Boros Obosh, Mono-Black Aggro, Azorius Humans, Mono-White Devotion, Vampires, Jund Citadel, Four-Color Humans, Rakdos Creativity, Orzhov Greasefang, Izzet Spirits, Azorius Lotus Field, Dimir Improvise, Storm Herald combo, Mono-Red Creativity, Gruul Company, Blue Devotion, Gruul Ramp, Izzet Ensoul, Dimir Rogues, Acererak combo, Selesnya Humans, Golgari Delirium, Bant TurboFog, Esper Humans, Esper Greasefang, Golgari Stompy, Jund Midrange, Fight Rigging, Jeskai Hinata, Golgari Midrange, and Jodah Humans.
The metagame across the three Regional Championships was largely many players expected. The most-popular archetype was Mono-Green Devotion, but it had a clear target on its head and scored a below-average win rate as a result. Players were ready for it, and no deck in Pioneer is unbeatable.
Lotus Field combo and Izzet Phoenix had an excellent performance; they were superb choices for the weekend, and I would expect to see them rise in popularity in the coming weeks. By contrast, Keruga Fires did poorly, largely as a result of a bad matchup against Mono-Green Devotion.
To me, the format looks diverse and balanced. The Top 8 of the U.S. Regional Championship had eight different deck archetypes, every color is represented, and the winrates of the most-played archetypes are close to 50-50. When this is the case, skill and expertise at piloting your deck and knowledge of your matchups and interactions is often the crucial factor.
As U.S. Regional Champion Matthew Saypoff said in his winner interview: "Any deck can do well in Pioneer … So it's really a matter of picking a deck you like the play pattern of and can get really good at."
The Most-Played Cards from The Brothers' War
In last weekend's Regional Championships, the most-played cards overall, summing copies in both main decks and sideboards other than basic lands, were
What's more interesting is the impact of The Brothers' War on Pioneer, as this was the first weekend where the new set was legal. The following table has the 25 most-played new-to-Pioneer cards in decklists submitted to last weekend's Regional Championships.
|Card Name||Total Copies||Main Deck||Sideboard|
To show where some of these new cards found home, let's go over the top-tier decks in the metagame right now.
The 8 Decks to Beat in Pioneer
The eight decks I will highlight in this section include the four most popular archetypes—Mono-Green Devotion, Rakdos Midrange, Izzet Phoenix, and Mono-White Humans, all of which gained new cards from The Brothers' War—plus four promising archetypes that had a great performance last weekend. If you're unfamiliar with Pioneer, then I recommend reading my format primer from last week first.
All of the decklists I will show were played by players who placed highly enough to earn a Pro Tour invitation, so we'll see all of them at the Pro Tour held during MagicCon: Philadelphia on February 17-19, 2023. In selecting specific decklists to highlight, I favored the ones with innovations from The Brothers' War.
Mono-Green Devotion was the most popular deck archetype at 20.7% of the field, but it merely had a 48.6% non-mirror match win rate. According to the data, it was great against Rakdos Sacrifice and Keruga Fires but weak to Selesnya Auras, Boros Heroic, and Mono-Blue Spirits.
The deck did gain a lot of new cards from The Brothers' War to bolster
Brent Vos, who finished 9th at the European Championship, went even further by running three total copies of
His list also goes against the mold by running 22 lands, which I believe to be the correct number. Little tweaks can go a long way.
Rakdos Midrange was solid all around, with a 14.0% metagame share and a 50.4% match win rate. It was soft to Enigmatic Fires and Gruul Vehicles, but it performed well against Bant Spirits and Abzan Greasefang.
The most-played card overall from The Brothers' War was
Izzet Phoenix had an excellent weekend, with a 11.3% metagame share and a 53.3% match win rate. (To give an indication of significance based on the sample size: the 95% Clopper-Pearson confidence interval for Izzet Phoenix's win rate ranged from 50.5% to 56.2%.) In terms of matchups, Izzet Phoenix was particularly strong against Mono-Blue Spirits, Bant Spirits, and all decks lumped in the "Other" category, yet it had a terrible time against Lotus Field combo.
A popular sideboard inclusion from the new set was
Mono-White Humans was 6.2% of the field and posted a solid 51.9% match win rate. According to the data, it had a favorable matchup against Mono-Green Devotion, but it did terribly against Selesnya Angels, Rakdos Sacrifice, and Gruul Vehicles.
The Brothers' War introduced
Gruul Vehicles was 4.4% of the field and posted a solid 52.0% match win rate. According to the data, it performed particularly well against Rakdos Midrange and Mono-White Humans.
The Brothers' War introduced
Selesnya Angels was 2.4% of the field and posted an impressive 54.0% match win rate. According to the data, it crushed Mono-White Humans decisively.
The Brothers' War introduced
Lotus Field combo was 1.8% of the field and posted an enormous 57.2% match win rate, which is the highest out all major archetypes. So it can be called the breakout deck of the weekend, and that's largely due to its amazing matchup against Izzet Phoenix.
The list of John Tatian, who finished in the Top 4 at the U.S. Regional Championship, did not contain any new cards from The Brothers' War, but he made sure he had
Selesnya Auras was merely 0.5% of the field, which may seem low until you realize that it basically didn't exist in the competitive landscape before The Brothers' War. Yet it posted a very promising 54.7% match win rate. According to the data, it decisively crushed Mono-Green Devotion in particular.
This is all largely due to the addition of
It's always exciting to see brewers do well with their own creations, and the top tables of the Regional Championships featured plenty of decks that no one or almost no one had on their radar. To support this, I'll highlight the three spiciest decks from the Regional Championships to earn a Pro Tour qualification. I am already looking forward to seeing what these players might bring to the Pro Tour in February, as the depth of Pioneer remains underexplored.
Pro Tour Amonkhet Top 8 competitor Marc Tobiasch always brews the spiciest decks, and he didn't disappoint at the European Championship. He finished 21st with a deck that no one saw coming.
The game plan of this deck is to put
At first glance, this combo might seem inferior to
Another benefit is that
Dimitar Erinin, who finished 17th at the European Championship, showed that
So what does the deck actually do? The game plan is to continually cast
Grand Prix Sao Paulo 2014 champion Tulio Jaudy is another renowned deck builder, and he made the Top 8 of the Brazil Regional Championship with a spicy brew.
As he explained, "I wanted to play a deck that could play well against all matchups, with aggressive and controlling capabilities, and some toolboxing to help some situations and adapt. Also, it has access to a combo-ish finish, which can outpace the combo decks." Indeed, being able to loop
Yet the defining feature of his deck are the various disruptive creatures or "hatebears".
The schedule for the remaining Regional Championships in this first round is as follows:
- November 26-27: Japan/Korea, Australia/New Zealand, East Canada, Southeast Asia
- December 3-4: Chinese Taipei, South America, China
- December 10-11: West Canada
- December 17-18: Mexico/Central America/Caribbean
To follow along this coming weekend, bookmark the MTG Melee pages of the Regional Championship in Japan/Korea, the Regional Championship in Australia/New Zealand, the Regional Championships in East Canada, and the Regional Championship in Southeast Asia.
For live streaming coverage, check out the Good Games Twitch channel for video coverage of the Regional Championship in Sydney, Australia! The tournament starts on Saturday at 10:00 am local time, and the Top 8 starts on Sunday at noon local time. Sydney is 10 hours ahead of Central Europe Time, 16 hours ahead of Eastern Time, and 19 hours ahead of Pacific Time. This means that the tournament starts on Friday 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT.