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Metagame Mentor: Pioneer at the September 2023 Regional Championships

October 05, 2023
Frank Karsten

Hello and welcome back to Metagame Mentor, your weekly guide to the top decks and latest Constructed developments on the path to the Pro Tour. Today's article covers the two Regional Championships from last weekend, held in Lille, France and Calgary, Canada. We'll also take a closer look at the most important additions to Pioneer from Wilds of Eldraine.

Congratulations to Two Regional Champions!

Adrián Iñigo Tastet won the Legacy European Championship (i.e., the Regional Championship for Europe/Middle East/Africa) with a Lotus Field Combo deck, defeating Lars Henrichvark, playing Abzan Greasefang, in the finals. Both finalists earned an invitation to Magic World Championship 30, and the top 24 players who were not yet qualified for the Pro Tour in Chicago in February 2024 earned an invitation to that event.

Adrián Iñigo Tastet, a 24-year-old player from Madrid, Spain, picked the perfect deck for the weekend: "We had a good testing group for the deck and thought that it would be well positioned. With our configuration, we liked it a lot against Phoenix and red-black. And we had Mateo Ferreira to learn from." Their testing group crushed the event, as teacher Mateo "TheManLand" Ferreira finished 14th in the European Championship himself. In addition, they shared their list and conclusions with Eugeni Sanchez, who piloted it to an 18th-place finish.

Their version of the deck featured a novel inclusion: Discontinuity. When played in response to Lotus Field's enters-the-battlefield ability, the instant can end your own turn, allowing you to keep all of your lands. Alternatively, it can act as a payoff for having lots of mana, ending your opponent's turn at will. With three players on this innovative list advancing to the next Pro Tour, it was an awesome showing for the group of Spanish players.

Boston Schatteman won Calgary's F2F Tour Championship (i.e., the West Canada Regional Championship) with an Izzet Phoenix deck, defeating Liam Kane, playing Rakdos Sacrifice, in the finals. Boston Schatteman will be representing Canada at World Championship 30, and the top 4 eligible players earned a Pro Tour invite.

Boston Schatteman, who improved on last season's Top 4 finish at the Regional Championship in Vancouver, traveled 4,000 kilometers from Toronto to Calgary with friends. Their friend group finished both first and second, and both trophies headed to the same shared accommodation afterwards. Like in Europe, it was another truly stunning performance from a testing group.

A notable new inclusion in his list was Sleight of Hand, whose reprint in Wilds of Eldraine made it available to Pioneer. It's more efficient than previous alternatives like Chart a Course. With 12 one-mana cantrips, it becomes far easier to chain three spells on turn three, returning Arclight Phoenix with ease.

The Metagame and Win Rates

In total, 851 decklists were submitted across the two Regional Championships. After fixing archetype labels, I determined the combined metagame share and the match win rates (non-mirror, non-bye, non-draw) of every archetype this past weekend. In the following table, each archetype name hyperlinks to a well-performing decklist close to the aggregate of that archetype.

Archetype Percentage of Field Match Win Rate
1. Rakdos Midrange 11.8% ↑↑ 50.4%
2. Mono-Green Devotion 10.7% 48.2%
3. Rakdos Sacrifice 8.9% 51.3%
4. Izzet Phoenix 7.4% ↑↑ 52.3%
5. Mono-White Humans 6.6% 48.7%
6. Azorius Spirits 6.1% 49.6%
7. Lotus Field Combo 4.3% 53.6%
8. Azorius Control 4.3% 44.7%
9. Boros Heroic 4.1% ↑↑ 53.6%
10. Boros Convoke 3.8% 51.1%
11. Omnath to Light 3.6% ↑↑ 51.7%
12. Abzan Greasefang 3.3% 52.9%
13. Azorius Lotus Field 2.9% 47.3%
14. Gruul Vehicles 2.6% 50.0%
15. Izzet Creativity 2.4% ↓↓ 49.7%
16. Enigmatic Fires 1.8% 55.7%
17. Waste Not 1.4% 50.5%
18. Dimir Control 1.2% 43.9%
19. Neoform Atraxa 1.1% 36.7%
20. Atarka Red 0.9% 34.6%
21. Mono-Black Midrange 0.8% 48.1%
22. Selesnya Angels 0.8% 43.6%
23. Rona Lukka Combo 0.8% 50.0%
24. Dimir Rogues 0.7% 29.0%
25. Golgari Midrange 0.6% 48.6%
26. Boros Pia 0.6% ↓↓ 42.9%
27. Other 6.5% 51.0%

The "Other" category included such deck archetypes as Sultai Rona, Rakdos Transmogrify, Jeskai Ascendancy Combo, Mono-Red Aggro, Goblins, Niv to Light, Izzet Transmogrify, Mono-Blue Spirits, Storm Herald Combo, Estrona to Light, and more.

As indicated by the arrows in the table, the metagame had undergone a few changes compared to my last Pioneer metagame snapshot in August. Izzet Creativity and Boros Pia fell in popularity, while several decks that gained new cards from Wilds of Eldraine surged ahead. I'll cover some of them in more detail later in this article.

In addition, Rakdos Midrange swapped places with Rakdos Sacrifice, regaining the crown of the most-played archetype. A major reason for this is that Izzet Phoenix has been on the rise since the release of Wilds of Eldraine, and Rakdos Sacrifice struggles in that matchup.

Nevertheless, expert pilots of Rakdos Sacrifice still found success: Liam Kane finished second in Canada, and Christoffer Larsen finished fourth in Europe. You know what these players have in common? Both of them also took Rakdos Sacrifice to a Top 8 finish at a Regional Championship in the previous cycle! Going back to back with the same deck is an incredible achievement that underlines the importance of familiarity and experience with your deck in Pioneer.

The Most-Played New Cards From Wilds of Eldraine

The most-played cards overall were Thoughtseize, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, and Fatal Push—these are perennial Pioneer staples. Yet Wilds of Eldraine introduced numerous important new cards as well. The following table reveals the 23 most-played new-to-Pioneer cards across the decklists registered for last weekend's Regional Championships.

Card Name Total Copies Main Deck Sideboard
1. Sleight of Hand 252 252 0
2. Monstrous Rage 145 145 0
3. Up the Beanstalk 133 133 0
4. The End 91 51 40
5. Imodane's Recruiter 86 85 1
6. Blossoming Tortoise 57 57 0
7. The Huntsman's Redemption 50 50 0
8. Picklock Prankster 48 48 0
9. Regal Bunnicorn 45 45 0
10. Beseech the Mirror 33 33 0
11. Witchstalker Frenzy 31 14 17
12. Virtue of Persistence 26 25 1
13. Quick Study 25 25 0
14. Mosswood Dreadknight 24 22 2
15. Questing Druid 23 23 0
16. Horned Loch-Whale 19 19 0
17. Rankle's Prank 19 19 0
18. Torch the Tower 16 16 0
19. Restless Spire 11 11 0
20. Syr Ginger, the Meal Ender 9 9 0
21. Decadent Dragon 9 3 6
22. Ruby, Daring Tracker 9 9 0
23. Agatha's Soul Cauldron 7 4 3

The two most-played archetypes both had minor gains. Many Rakdos Midrange decks added The End to their sideboard, as it can effectively extract Karn, the Great Creator or Cavalier of Thorns to weaken Mono-Green Devotion. The green deck, meanwhile, gained Blossoming Tortoise as an option. It reduces the activation cost of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, boosts Lair of the Hydra, and ramps you ahead. However, since The End and Blossoming Tortoise were usually played as zero or one copies, they are relatively minor upgrades only.

However, the other additions from the top 9 new-to-Pioneer cards offered substantial boosts to existing archetypes, so let's take a closer look.

Sleight of Hand and Picklock Prankster in Izzet Phoenix

I already highlighted Sleight of Hand when talking about Boston Schatteman's winning deck from the Canadian Regional Championship. It has singlehandedly led to a massive resurgence of the Izzet Phoenix archetype, which climbed to 7.4% of the metagame. Piotr Głogowski finished 16th in Europe with a similar list. However, Wilds of Eldraine provided even more options. Several Izzet Phoenix players added Picklock Prankster as well, with decent success: Gabriel Soto finished in 10th place at the European Championship with the list shown above, and Sergio García went 10-4-1 with a nearly identical deck.

Picklock Prankster is close to an Impulse that fills the graveyard for delve spells like Treasure Cruise. Milling Arclight Phoenix will always be a plus, and Otherworldly Gaze and Demilich offer additional graveyard payoffs. Finally, Picklock Prankster can come down as a 1/3 flier, which is not amazing, but bouncing it Thing in the Ice is a sweet value play that will keep the instants and sorceries flowing. All in all, this is a sweet list, showing that there are multiple ways to build Izzet Phoenix.

Monstrous Rage in Boros Heroic

Monstrous Rage is one of the heaviest-hitting one-mana combat tricks printed in years, and it is particularly effective on Illuminator Virtuoso. Just imagine Illuminator Virtuoso on turn two, followed by double Monstrous Rage and Gods Willing on turn three. With proper connives, that's potentially a 10-power double strike trampler with protection from a color of your choice!

The introduction of Monstrous Rage has led to a resurgence of Boros Heroic, which rose to 4.1% of the metagame. Drew Christensen used the list above to finish in the Top 8 of the Regional Championship in Canada, while Jesús Ramos earned a Pro Tour invite in Europe with a similar list.

Up the Beanstalk in Omnath to Light

Whether it's Standard, Pioneer, or Modern, the pairing of Up the Beanstalk and Leyline Binding has proven to be very potent. In Pioneer, this combination is mainly available in two different archetypes: Omnath to Light and Enigmatic Fires. Marcin Klimuszko and David Schnayer made Top 8 at their respective Regional Championships with Enigmatic Fires, where Up the Beanstalk can be sacrificed to Enigmatic Incarnation to fetch a three-mana creature. However, Omnath to Light climbed the metagame ranks and also had a great weekend.

In Europe, Arne Huschenbeth finished in 9th place with the list shown above. If you control Up the Beanstalk as you cast Bring to Light, it can trigger twice in the process, providing massive card advantage on top of the powerful tutor effect. Huschenbeth opted not to include Lavinia, Azorius Renegade in his sideboard because he thought "Lotus is like 3% of the meta; why should I commit the slot?" but this choice did not work out for him: In the tournament, he went 12-3, losing to Lotus Field Combo three times. Sometimes you gotta learn the hard way.

Imodane's Recruiter and Regal Bunnicorn in Boros Convoke

Boros Convoke was also boosted by the latest set. Imodane's Recruiter is like a Reckless Bushwhacker that does not need to be surged, and the extra point of toughness and adventure mode is sometimes relevant as well. Regal Bunnicorn can quickly grow into an enormous size when Gleeful Demolition, Thraben Inspector, and Voldaren Epicure add multiple permanents to the battlefield; it's not unusual to attack as a 9/9 on turn three.

At the European Championship, two players went 11-4 with Boros Convoke: Hristiyan Ivanov earned a Pro Tour invite with a Burning-Tree Emissary build, while Vincenzo Cusenza finished with slightly worse tiebreakers using the list shown above. I had a decent showing myself with my own build of Boros Convoke, which aimed to equip Regal Bunnicorn with Embercleave. I won 65% of my matches between the Last Chance Qualifier and European Championship, and I loved how Wilds of Eldraine breathed new life into the archetype.

The Huntsman's Redemption in Gruul Vehicles

Finally, The Huntsman's Redemption revitalized Gruul Vehicles, as it does everything you need in the deck. It provides a 3/3 for three, tutors Voldaren Thrillseeker or Scavenging Ooze, and adds a big trample boost on the third chapter. In addition, if you cast it the turn after The Akroan War, you can use the second chapter of The Huntsman's Redemption to sacrifice the stolen creature, providing free value.

Using the new Saga, Josep Sanfeliu made Top 8 at the European Championship with the list shown above, while Adrien Penard finished 17th with a similar build. In Canada, Attila Fur made Top 8 with almost the same list as well. It was a good showing for Gruul Vehicles overall, and this new build is poised to rise in popularity.

Spice Corner

Pioneer offers a diverse range of viable archetypes, and anything can win in the hands of an experienced pilot. For example, Pro Tour champion Samuele Estratti was first after the Swiss at the European Championship, playing his own pet deck that he called Estrona to Light, a three-part portmanteau of the first three letters of his last name, Rona, and Bring to Light.

Overflowing with combos, Estratti's deck can generate infinite mana with Rona, Herald of Invasion; put Atraxa, Grand Unifier onto the battlefield with Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast; or tutor Valki, God of Lies with Bring to Light. It's an awesome, multi-faceted 80-card brew, and I'm sure that many of his opponents were stumped on how to sideboard against this deck. Yet last weekend's spice didn't end with Estrona to Light.

Rakdos Transmogrify clinched a Pro Tour invite as well last weekend, showing that the depth of the Pioneer card pool remains filled with possibilities. Other off-meta decks like Bard Class, Waste Not, Izzet Transmogrify, Jeskai Ascendancy, and Golgari Midrange finished in the money, all using new Wilds of Eldraine cards. I intend to cover these developments in more detail later this month. After all, most of the Regional Championships are yet to come, and these are some of the decks that Regional Championship competitors should be testing to get to the next stage.

Looking Ahead

The schedule for the remaining Regional Championships in this first cycle of the 2023–24 season is as follows:

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