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, I'll cover the Regional Championships for the United States, East Canada, China, Mexico/Central America/Caribbean, and South East Asia.
After celebrating the champions, who earned their trophies by displaying their prowess in the Pioneer format, I will provide the combined metagame breakdown and match win rates for all major archetypes, followed by an overview of the most notable Pioneer developments, including spicy lists that earned a Pro Tour qualification. Overall, it was a major victory for off-meta, unpopular archetypes, showing that anything can win in Pioneer.
Top players from these Regional Championships earned invitations to Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings, held during MagicCon: Barcelona on July 28–30. This will be an exciting event, but you don't have to be qualified for the Pro Tour to enjoy it. There's something for everyone—awesome cosplay, incredible artists, fascinating panels, direct Pro Tour Qualifiers, the Secret Lair Showdown, and more. The event celebrates all things Magic: The Gathering, and tickets are on sale!
Congratulations to the Regional Champions!
Bradley Schlesinger won the Dreamhack Magic Showdown (i.e., the Regional Championship for the United States) with a Gruul Vehicles deck, defeating Matt Foreman, playing Rakdos Sacrifice, in the finals. Both finalists earned an invitation to World Championship XXIX, and the top 48 eligible players earned an invite to Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings. As Abe Corrigan and Sol Malka were already qualified for this Pro Tour, their invites pass down.
First Regional Championship? Time to add first Pro Tour and first World Championship to that list!— Face to Face Games (@FaceToFaceGames) June 4, 2023
Théo Jacques-Griffin, @GriffinMTGs, is your Canadian Regional Championship East winner! Congratulations! #F2FYYZ #MTG pic.twitter.com/uA5048UkRK
Théo Jacques-Griffin, a 17-year-old talent who picked up paper Magic in September 2022, won Toronto's F2F Tour Championship (i.e., the East Canada Regional Championship) with an Azorius Spirits deck, earning an invitation to World Championship XXIX. In addition, the top 8 players earned an invite to Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings.
Congratulations to Jianwei Liang, who emerged victorious at the Regional Championship in China, playing a fiery Atarka Red deck! 🎉— PlayMTG (@PlayMTG) June 5, 2023
See you at the Pro Tour and the World Championship! pic.twitter.com/EKFbRHDvoi
Jianwei Liang, who didn't lose a single match all weekend, won the MTG China Open (i.e., the Regional Championship for China) with an Atarka Red deck, earning an invitation to World Championship XXIX. In addition, the top 8 players earned an invite to Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings.
Archi Peralta won The Gathering Final Showdown (i.e., the Regional Championship for Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbea) with a Gruul Vehicles deck. His list—the third red-green deck to win a trophy this weekend—used both
Congratulations to the Southeast Asia Regional Champion Weng Heng Soh! Piloting a Mono Green Devotion deck through the Pioneer Championship Finals, he ultimately defeated runner-up Kelvin Hoon’s Mono-White Humans deck in the finals to emerge victorious! pic.twitter.com/NFPJfoUVDA— PlayMTG (@PlayMTG) June 6, 2023
Weng Heng Soh won the South East Asia Championships (i.e., the Regional Championship for South East Asia) with a Mono-Green Devotion deck, earning an invitation to World Championship XXIX. In addition, the top 8 players earned an invite to Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings.
The Metagame and Win Rates
Based on the nearly 2,000 decklists submitted across all five Regional Championships, I determined the combined metagame share and the match win rates (non-mirror, non-bye, non-draw) of every archetype.
|Archetype||Percentage of Field||Match Win Rate|
|1. Rakdos Midrange||21.1%||48.2%|
|2. Mono-Green Devotion||11.1%||53.8% ✓✓|
|3. Izzet Creativity||8.2% ↑↑||45.8%|
|4. Azorius Control||6.7%||51.1%|
|5. Abzan Greasefang||6.0%||49.3%|
|6. Mono-White Humans||5.9%||52.5%|
|7. Boros Convoke||4.2%||47.7%|
|8. Lotus Field Combo||3.7%||50.7%|
|9. Enigmatic Fires||3.5%||50.4%|
|10. Azorius Spirits||3.2%||57.0% ✓✓|
|11. Rakdos Sacrifice||2.9%||59.1% ✓✓|
|12. Omnath to Light||2.4%||47.0%|
|13. Gruul Vehicles||1.8%||51.0%|
|14. Dimir Rogues||1.4%||50.2%|
|15. Neoform Atraxa||1.4%||47.9%|
|16. Rona Combo||1.1%||48.0%|
|17. Mono-Black Midrange||1.1%||44.4%|
|18. Izzet Phoenix||1.0%||43.0%|
|19. Niv to Light||1.0%||42.6%|
|20. Selesnya Angels||0.8%||54.3%|
|21. Azorius Lotus Field||0.8%||62.5% ✓✓|
|22. Mono-Blue Spirits||0.8%||54.2%|
In this table, each archetype name hyperlinks to a well-performing decklist close to the aggregate of that archetype. The "other" category, continuing the descending order, included such deck archetypes as Orzhov Humans, Jeskai Ascendancy Combo, Mono-Red Aggro, Grixis Midrange, Elementals, Izzet Control, Selesnya Auras, Bant Auras, Grixis Transmogrify, Goblins, Dimir Control, Selesnya Vehicles, Selesnya Company, Bant Spirits, Mardu Sacrifice, Jeskai Control, Golgari Midrange, Waste Not, Atarka Red, Transmogrify Fires, Esper Control, Jund Transmogrify, Keruga Fires, Elves, Four-Color Humans, Jund Sacrifice, Abzan Sacrifice, Storm Herald Combo, Orzhov Midrange, Izzet Ensoul, Esper Greasefang, Five-Color Transmogrify, Rakdos Creativity, Jeskai Creativity, Simic Devotion, Hammer Time, Archfiend Alteration, Possibility Storm, Mono-White Midrange, Grixis Phoenix, Golgari Vehicles, Orzhov Pact, Rakdos Lutri, Esper Legends, Gruul Dragons, and more.
The number of competitively viable Pioneer archetypes remains enormous, and deck familiarity is a significant success factor. My advice for navigating the Pioneer format is to invest time in mastering your preferred deck. A skilled player who is well-versed in their deck's interactions and matchup strategies, with a well-adapted sideboard for the metagame, can win with almost everything.
The overall distribution of decks was strikingly similar to the one seen at the top tables of RCQs and online events in recent weeks, cf. last week's metagame roundup. The biggest difference was the rise of Izzet Creativity. However, the deck did not perform well at the Regional Championships, with a below-average match win rate. The match win rate of the most-played deck, Rakdos Midrange, did not clear the 50% mark either.
The best win rates against the field were posted by Mono-Green Devotion, Azorius Spirits, Rakdos Sacrifice, and Azorius Lotus Field. As indicated by the check marks in the table, it would be very unlikely (<2%) to see a result at least as good as theirs when the archetype's true win rate would be merely 50%, suggesting that their metagame positioning is above average in a statistically significant sense. We might see an uptick in the numbers of Azorius Spirits, Rakdos Sacrifice, and Azorius Lotus Field in the Regional Championships to come. These three archetypes have no pronounced weaknesses against the most popular decks in the current metagame, and they may be underplayed at the moment.
Overall, it was a big victory for the unexpected decks in Pioneer that were not as popular but that put up great performances nevertheless. Let's zoom in on the biggest deck-related innovations, lessons, and developments to come out of this first Regional Championship weekend of the cycle.
Azorius Lotus Field Broke Out
In his second Regional Championship Top 8 in a row, white-blue control specialist Patrick Wu made the finals of Toronto's F2F Tour Championship. His Pioneer deck used
Azorius Lotus Field is not a brand new archetype. For example, Kazuya Kiyofuji used a similar list to make the Top 8 of last year's Regional Championship in Japan, and he followed it up by taking the deck to a 59th-place finish at Pro Tour Phyrexia. Nevertheless, the strategy fell out of favor since then, and I chose to view it as an Azorius Control variation when I wrote a Pioneer primer in April. But after a resurgence at last weekend's Regional Championships, I made the distinction again, and my analysis showed that Azorius Lotus Field was one of the breakout decks of the weekend, with an amazing 62.5% win rate.
Besides Patrick Wu's dominance in Canada, Azorius Lotus Field was 0.8% of the metagame as a whole and put multiple players in the Top 16 at the Regional Championships in Mexico and China. If
Azorius Control Succeeds with Companions
Azorius Control did fairly well. Rakdos Midrange and Mono-Green Devotion, the two most-played decks in the field, earned 10 and 13 Pro Tour qualifications respectively last weekend. Azorius Control was not as popular, but it still earned 8 qualifications, making it the third-most successful archetype according to this metric. For a large part, this was due to streamlined builds using different companions.
Last week, in my discussion of Azorius Control before the Regional Championships, I wrote that the most prominent build from RCQs and online events did not use any companion at all. At the Regional Championships, Wei Wang and Jia Wu indeed found success with companionless builds, and 60-card versions with either no companion or
This suggests that the optimal build of Azorius Control need not equal the most popular one. Also, if you're entering an RCQ, it's important to be aware of what your opponent's companion, if any, can tell you about the deck they might play. Kaheera still strongly suggest Azorius Control, but Zirda and Yorion could also be emblematic of the archetype.
Rakdos Sacrifice Overperformed
In terms of total number of Pro Tour qualifications, can you guess what the fourth-most successful archetype was? Could it be Izzet Creativity at 8.2% of the field, or perhaps Abzan Greasefang at 6.0% of the field?
No, both combo decks didn't do particularly well. Instead, it was Rakdos Sacrifice at a measly 2.9% of the field that clinched a whopping 7 Pro Tour invite-awarding finishes: Kyle Gellert, Liam Kane, Donald Sheldon, Will Pulliam, Logan Nettles, Matt Foreman, and Sol Malka all found success with
Honestly, none of this should come as a surprise. Rakdos Sacrifice was one of the best-performing archetypes at last year's Regional Championships, one of the best performing archetypes at Pro Tour Phyrexia, and it has retained the same powerful core throughout. The deck is not easy to play optimally, but going by raw win rate numbers, it's puzzling that Rakdos Midrange is so much more popular in Pioneer than Rakdos Sacrifice.
Gruul Vehicles Victorious with Voldaren Thrillseeker
If you had asked which color combination would clinch the most trophies in last weekend's Regional Championships, most Pioneer players would probably have guessed red-black. But as it turned out, three of the five events were won by Gruul decks! Jianwei Liang showed that Atarka Red remains a formidable strategy in China, while the curve of
The Gruul Vehicles champions did not agree on all card choices. For example, Archi Peralta used
The resulting mana curve is extremely heavy on three-drops, making the deck even more reliant on
Boros Convoke Fizzled Out
The latest deck in Pioneer right before the start of this Regional Championship cycle was Boros Convoke, which burst on the scene with explosive starts involving
Two Boros Convoke players, both from the United States, qualified for the Pro Tour last weekend. Both of them used
Dimir Rogues Invaded Amonkhet
After the release of March of the Machine, Dimir Rogues entered a resurgence, as many fans of the deck excitedly added
However, after looking over their lists, it seems like
Rona Combo is Fleshed Out
For fans of infinite combos,
At last weekend's Regional Championships, four players earned a Pro Tour invite with this strategy: Antonio Guzman and Gabriel Maxson with disruption-heavy
Elementals Resurgent with Nissa
One of the spiciest decks to earn a Pro Tour invite last weekend was Fredrick Fong's Elementals deck from the South East Asia Regional Championship. While Elemental decks with
Her powerful landfall ability is easy to trigger multiple times per turn with
Spicy New Combos Revealed
To corroborate my previous point on the incredible potential for innovation in Pioneer, there were several spicy brews that found themselves one of two wins removed from a Pro Tour invite. For example, Hammer Time with
The combo involves
All in all, last weekend was a big win for archetypes with relatively small metagame shares, and I'm excited to see how the format will develop. The schedule for the remaining Regional Championships in this third cycle is as follows:
- June 10–11: Europe/Middle East/Africa and Chinese Taipei. The Europe/Middle East/Africa RC will be streamed live on the LegacyEuropeanTour channel, with commentary by Filipa Carola, Matej Zatlkaj, Filip "Skura" Skórnicki, and Will Hall. Coverage starts at 2 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. CET / 3 p.m. JST both days.
- June 17–18: West Canada. There will be live coverage on the FaceToFaceGames channel on Sunday only, starting at 11 a.m. PT / 2 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. CET.
- June 24-25: Japan/South Korea and Australia/New Zealand. The Japan/South Korea RC will be streamed live, with commentary in Japanese, on the MTGJP channel.
- July 1-2: Brazil and South America.
I'm looking forward to watching the livestream from Athens, Greece as Pioneer innovations will be unveiled and a new European Champion will be crowned!