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Players Tour Nagoya Day One Metagame Breakdown

February 01, 2020
Rich Hagon

192 players packed decades of Draft experience in their mental suitcases, but Pioneer is shiny, fresh, and new, so there was a ton of uncertainty coming into the weekend. And with uncertainty comes excitement—the Magic community has embraced Pioneer with a passion, and we're all looking at fantastic weekends in Brussels, here in Nagoya, and next weekend in Phoenix.

Of course, the storyline of a format where you can 'play whatever you want' is always a storyline at risk from cold, hard facts, dished out by some of the brightest minds in the game. It doesn't take much to turn 'you can play whatever you want' to 'you can play whatever you want, but only if you don't want to win!' And here at the Players Tour, with seats at the Players Tour Finals on the line, everyone wants to win!

So, let's see what our players from 20 different countries brought to the Pioneer table in Nagoya:

Archetype Count % Field
Dimir Inverter 37 19.3%
Mono-Black Aggro 25 13.0%
Niv to Light 21 10.9%
Blue White Control 14 7.3%
Blue White Spirits 14 7.3%
Izzet Ensoul 13 6.8%
Big Red 11 5.7%
Lotus Breach Combo 10 5.2%
Mono-White Devotion 9 4.7%
Black-Green Stompy 7 3.6%
Mono Green Ramp 5 2.6%
Mono Red Aggro 3 1.6%
Izzet Phoenix 2 1.0%
Sram Auras 2 1.0%
Blue-Black Control 2 1.0%
Four-Color Rally 1 0.5%
Aura Hexproof 1 0.5%
Black-White Vampires 1 0.5%
Dredgeless Dredge 1 0.5%
Gruul Aggro 1 0.5%
Green-White Hardened Scales 1 0.5%
Green-White Ramp 1 0.5%
Humans 1 0.5%
Jeskai Fires 1 0.5%
Jund Sacrifice 1 0.5%
Kethis Combo 1 0.5%
Mono Blue Tempo 1 0.5%
Mono-Black Vampires 1 0.5%
Red-Green Stompy 1 0.5%
Simic Ramp 1 0.5%
White-Black Discard 1 0.5%
White-Blaue Heliod Combo 1 0.5%
Total 192 100%

Is Inverter A Converter?

Well. There is a clear winner here, in terms of representation at least, and that winner is Dimir Inverter. Many players I've talked to this weekend have likened it to the 'bringing a knife to a gunfight' where Inverter is the gun, and everyone else is looking blunt rather than sharp. It's not hard to see why. Inverter invalidates a fair amount of what 'normal' people think of as 'normal' Magic. Want to cast a big fat creature ahead of the curve? Sure, that's fine. Efficient cheap creatures attacking for two? That might get the job done, possibly. Registering a deck with 22 different lands for Bring to Light shenanigans? Alrighty then.

Inverter plays the game differently. Get rid of your library, plunk down a Thassa's Oracle, you win the game. It literally says you win the game on the card. Or use Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. You win the game. It literally says you win the game on the card. And 'you win the game' is the reason Inverter sits proudly atop the Nagoya metagame. All that means, of course, is that people think it's the best. We have to wait until tomorrow to see if it can justify the hype.

Next In Line

While Inverter has been the big noise for the last week, both Mono-Black Aggro (13%) and Niv to Light (11%) have been front and center for a while. Those are the only three decks in Nagoya to breach the 10% threshold, while 10 unique players or more have also sleeved up White-Blue Control (7%), Blue White Spirits (7%), Izzet Ensoul (7%), Big Red (6%), and Lotus Breach Combo (5%). 2006 World Champion, and Magic Hall of Famer Makihito Mihara is among those playing the Lotus Breach Combo. Frank Karsten did a great job explaining the deck.

But the important bit is this: The key combo is with Chronic Flooding. If you control Underworld Breach and Chronic Flooding, then you can repeatedly cast Hidden Strings to mill your entire deck. After all, Hidden Strings untaps lands to pay for its own mana cost, and the trigger on Chronic Flooding pays for escape. This combo doesn't even require Lotus Field. After milling your entire deck, the game is won by casting Thassa's Oracle from the graveyard.

It's clearly a deck in progress, but Mihara was well-equipped to find the perfect build.

I Stand Alone

The depth of Pioneer is easy to spot when you see that 17 players each have an archetype all to themselves. Don't fancy trying out one of the top half dozen decks? Then let me offer you:

  • Four-Color Rally
  • Aura Hexproof
  • Black-White Vampires
  • Dredgeless Dredge
  • Gruul Aggro
  • Green-White Hardened Scales
  • Green-White Ramp
  • Humans
  • Jeskai Fires
  • Jund Sacrifice
  • Kethis Combo
  • Mono Blue Tempo
  • Mono-Black Vampires
  • Red-Green Stompy
  • Simic Ramp
  • White-Black Discard
  • White-Blue Heliod Combo

Have at it!

I Stand With Ken

So those are the seventeen one-ofs in the field, but the most interesting deck in the room has exactly two players, working together to create, well, quite something. Shota Takao is one of those, Top 8 from Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, and with multiple Grand Prix Top 8s behind him. The other? None other than the mighty Ken Yukuhiro. Yes, the deckbuilder extraordinaire has done it again. Now, we don't yet know whether this deck is actually, you know, good, but if Ken thinks it is, that's generally a good sign. Here's the list:

So, first things first: the mana curve tops out at two. Yes indeed. Two mana. Now Sram decks have been seen before—Ken's not inventing the wheel here—but this is a bold call for a big tournament. Here's how a game might play out:

Turn 1—Land, then Favored Hoplite

Turn 2—Land, then Sram, Senior Edificer

Turn 3—OK. We're set up for good times. After our land for the turn, let's start out with Gryff's Boon. Heroic triggers on the Hoplite, making it 2/3. Sram draws us a card, and the Boon makes the Hoplite a 3/3 with flying. Next? Sentinel's Eyes. Now the Hoplite is 5/5, flying, and has vigilance. And we draw another card from Sram. Ethereal Armor rounds out a crazy trio of enchantments—more Sram!—leaving our Hoplite as a 9/9 flying, vigilance beatdown machine!

Of course, opponents might not like that, so cards like Alseid of Life's Bounty, and Karametra's Blessing look to keep the beatstick alive. If your enchantment-stacked creature is a Hateful Eidolon, there's a sizeable upside if it dies, keeping the next wave coming. Plus, Aphemia, the Cacophony can turn the graveyard into more damage down the line.

As so often, Ken is giving us plenty to think about before the Constructed rounds even begin! As the tournament progresses, we'll keep our eye on this low-to-the-ground monstrosity, and all the other decks showcasing the awesome Pioneer format.

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