Skip to main content Download External Link Facebook Facebook Twitter Instagram Twitch Youtube Youtube Discord Left Arrow Right Arrow Search Lock Wreath icon-no-eye caret-down Add to Calendar download Arena copyText Info Close

Metagame Mentor: Seven Spicy Pioneer Decks to Qualify You for the Pro Tour

October 19, 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. Pioneer is on stage for yet another Regional Championship cycle, which kicked off with championship in France and Canada several weeks ago. However, most of the Regional Championships in this cycle are still to come. To highlight the most intriguing developments to keep an eye on, today's article will take a closer look at seven innovative Pioneer decks that found success at those first two Regional Championships.

Pioneer Metagame Update

Pioneer is the nonrotating format based on expansion sets and core sets from Return to Ravnica forward, with the most notable cards on the ban list being the allied fetch lands. With over 10,000 cards to choose from, Pioneer features a diverse range of competitive viably decks. While my in-depth format primer based on the Regional Championships in June and July still provides a useful introduction, the metagame constantly evolves.

To grasp the latest Pioneer developments, I analyzed over 600 successful decklists from competitive events over the past three weeks, excluding the Regional Championships in France and Canada that I covered in a previous article. Specifically, I used all published Magic Online decklists from scheduled Pioneer events held from September 28 through October 16. In addition, I used all decklists from the Classic Qualifier at LEC Lille, the CCS Pioneer $5K, the $5k RCQ at MXP Portland, and the $10K Showdown at NRG Indianapolis with net positive wins. To obtain a metric that combines popularity and performance, I awarded a number of points to each deck equal to its net wins (i.e., its number of match wins minus losses). Each archetype's share of total net wins can be interpreted as its share of the winner's metagame.

Archetype Winner's Metagame Share
1. Izzet Phoenix 14.9% ↑↑
2. Rakdos Midrange 10.4%
3. Mono-Green Devotion 7.6% ↓↓
4. Rakdos Sacrifice 7.3%
5. Lotus Field Combo 6.9% ↑↑
6. Boros Convoke 6.5% ↑↑
7. Mono-White Humans 5.2%
8. Gruul Vehicles 4.3%
9. Estrona to Light 4.1% ↑↑
10. Boros Heroic 3.3%
11. Enigmatic Fires 3.1%
12. Azorius Control 3.0%
13. Abzan Greasefang 2.7%
14. Waste Not 2.7%
15. Azorius Spirits 1.8% ↓↓
16. Mono-Red Aggro 1.5%
17. Jeskai Ascendancy Combo 1.3%
18. Omnath to Light 1.3% ↓↓
19. Bant Auras 0.9%
20. Golgari Midrange 0.9%
21. Niv to Light 0.8%
22. Dimir Control 0.8%
23. Bant Spirits 0.7%
24. Azorius Lotus Field 0.7%
25. Archfiend Alteration 0.7%
26. Other 6.5%

The "Other" category included such deck archetypes as Mono-Black Midrange, Mono-Blue Spirits, Rona Lukka Combo, Temur Phoenix, Atarka Red, Izzet Transmogrify, Elves, Dimir Rogues, Goblins, Selesnya Angels, Boros Pia, Selesnya Auras, Esper Control, Rakdos Transmogrify, and more. Deck familiarity and experience remains a key success factor in Pioneer; anything can win in the hands of a capable pilot.

Picklock Prankster Arclight Phoenix

As indicated by the arrows in the table, this winner's metagame over the past three weeks is slightly different from the raw metagame at the Regional Championships in France and Canada. Izzet Phoenix has risen from the ashes again, taking the first-place spot. Many pilots adopted the Picklock Prankster builds that excelled at the European Championship. As a result of the rise of Izzet Phoenix, decks that are well-positioned against it, such as Lotus Field Combo, are ticking up. Decks that struggle against Izzet Phoenix, such as Azorius Spirits, are in trouble and are ticking down.

Seven Sweet Pioneer Decks

Are you looking for a spicy new Pioneer deck to dazzle at your next event or to test for the upcoming Regional Championships? Then I have you covered with a selection of seven successful and novel Pioneer decks for you to check out. All of them finished in the money at the Regional Championships in France and Canada several weeks ago.

How many different combos can you fit into one Pioneer deck? According to Pro Tour champion Samuele Estratti, who earned a Pro Tour invite by finishing first after the Swiss at the European Championship, the answer is at least three. The deck he used 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. He referred to his wild brew as Estrona to Light, a three-part portmanteau of the first three letters of his last name, Rona, and Bring to Light.

In subsequent weeks, Aeterion and Arianne made Top 8s with the deck in Magic Online Challenges, Piper Powell took it to the Top 8 of the $10K Showdown at NRG Indianapolis. Adding in additional placements, the archetype has suddenly claimed a sizeable 4.1% of the winner's metagame, so it's a breakout deck that Regional Championship competitors should keep an eye on.

Jakob Jonsson Åberg, after finding previous success with Waste Not on Magic Online, went 10-5 at the European Championship, finishing in 44th place. Thoughtseize, Go Blank, and Liliana of the Veil can force opponents to discard their best cards before they get to play them, and it only gets better when Waste Not rewards you with extra creatures, extra mana, or extra cards. Once the opponent's hand is empty, Geier Reach Sanitarium can keep triggering Waste Not as well as Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. A valuable new addition from Wilds of Eldraine is Rankle's Prank, which can trigger Waste Not or sweep the board if needed.

More recently, Edel and Brunoprince took Waste Not to Top 8s at Magic Online Challenges, reinforcing the deck's status as a legitimate contender. Over the past few weeks, it has climbed to 2.7% of the winner's metagame.

Alessandro Danesi finished 33rd at the European Championship with a 10-4-1 record. The key card in Danesi's deck is Bard Class, whose second level can reduce the cost of most of the creatures in the deck to zero, allowing you to drop your hand onto the table on turn three. A powerful new addition from Wilds of Eldraine is Ruby, Daring Tracker, who fits the deck perfectly. Her cost is reduced by Bard Class, her haste ability helps trigger Samut, Vizier of Naktamun, and she allows you to add two creatures to the battlefield on turn two alongside Mox Amber. Danesi's deep run proves that with the adoption of Ruby, Daring Tracker, the archetype may be the real deal.

Pascal Vieren qualified for his Regional Championship and the Pro Tour by going 14-1 in the Arena Qualifier Weekend in August, using an Izzet Transmogrify deck with Flip the Switch in Explorer. Transmogrify is more suitable than Indomitable Creativity when you want to support Mirrex into your mana base, use Atraxa, Grand Unifier as your payoff creature, and run Reckoner Bankbuster. Vieren then updated his deck for Pioneer, adding Torch the Tower from Wilds of Eldraine as an underappreciated answer to Arclight Phoenix, and went 10-5 at the European Championship, good for a 52nd place finish. His string of excellent results suggests that his deck warrants serious consideration.

Egor Titov finished 22nd at the European Championship with an 11-4 record, earning a Pro Tour invite. Like Pascal Vieren's Izzet Transmogrify deck, Titov's build uses Atraxa, Grand Unifier, Mirrex, and Reckoner Bankbuster, which means that Transmogrify is superior to Indomitable Creativity. Titov essentially incorporated the Transmogrify combo finish into a Rakdos Midrange shell, as his build of the deck also uses Fatal Push, Thoughtseize, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, along with additional removal and discard. Overall, the idea of a Rakdos Midrange deck with a combo finish is appealing and might still be underexplored in Pioneer.

Marc Tobiasch, who qualified for three Pro Tours in a row thanks to his Storm Herald Combo deck, finished 55th at the European Championship with a new Pioneer brew. On the way to his 10-5 record, I saw him sacrifice Up the Beanstalk to bargain Brave the Wilds, and I wasn't quite sure what he was up to until he started repeatedly tapping and untapping the animated land with Jeskai Ascendancy. This interaction essentially allows you to cast one-mana cantrips for free, and eventually a 20/20 land can attack for the win. Tobiasch' build of Jeskai Ascendancy Combo has not yet become the standard, as Tiemuuu recently finished second at a Magic Online Challenge with a non-green version, but the new Wilds of Eldraine cards do seem like promising additions.

Carson Bell finished 14th at Calgary's F2F Tour Championship with a 9-4 record. Bell's Golgari Midrange deck uses some of the most efficient interactive spells and the most powerful mid-sized creatures in Pioneer. In terms of Wilds of Eldraine additions, Lord Skitter, Sewer King provides an army over time while exiling Parhelion II or Arclight Phoenix from the opponent's graveyard. Moreover, Glissa Sunslayer provides a good reason to choose Golgari over Rakdos, as it provides a slow grind and adds an aggressive angle. Especially alongside Glissa Sunslayer, it makes blocking into a nightmare for the opponent. More recently, JWoods36 and D00mwake took Golgari Midrange to high finishes at Magic Online Challenges, reinforcing the deck's status as a legitimate contender.

Looking Ahead

As this article showed, Pioneer features a large diversity of archetypes that are capable of yielding positive records or even Pro Tour qualifications at the Regional Championships. Most of the Regional Championships are coming up over the next few weekends, and competitors who are still looking for a deck to tackle the metagame may benefit from the ones highlighted in this article.

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

I can't wait to see in where the ever-evolving Pioneer metagame will go next!

Share Article