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Pro Tour Phyrexia Pioneer Metagame Breakdown

February 16, 2023
Frank Karsten

The Pro Tour is back! At Pro Tour Phyrexia, taking place February 17–19 at MagicCon: Philadelphia, 218 of the world's best Magic: The Gathering players will compete for $500,000 in prizes, several World Championship invites, and a prestigious trophy. While most competitors earned their invitation via Regional Championship performance, the field also includes Magic Hall of Famers, top online players, and the fiercest competitor of them all: reigning World Champion Nathan Steuer. The Pro Tour is truly one of the highest levels of tabletop Magic competition at a global level.

The formats are Phyrexia: All Will Be One Booster Draft in the morning of Friday and Saturday, followed by Pioneer for five rounds afterward each of those days. Pioneer is also the Top 8 format on Sunday. To follow all the action, catch the stream at, which begins at 11 a.m. ET on Friday and Saturday and at 9 a.m. ET on Sunday.

Pioneer Metagame Breakdown

Pioneer is a non-rotating format based on expansion sets and core sets from Return to Ravnica onward, with the most notable cards on the ban list being the fetch lands. With nearly 10,000 legal cards Pioneer features a variety of powerful strategies—and the newly added cards from Phyrexia: All Will Be One have increased the competitive diversity further.

The metagame at the Pro Tour breaks downs as follows.

Archetype Percentage of Field Count of Archetype
Rakdos Midrange 15.1% 33
Mono-Green Devotion 13.8% 30
Gruul Vehicles 9.6% 21
Lotus Field Combo 7.8% 17
Mono-White Humans 6.9% 15
Azorius Control 6.4% 14
Rakdos Sacrifice 6.0% 13
Izzet Creativity 6.4% 14
Izzet Phoenix 5.0% 11
Selesnya Angels 3.2% 7
Omnath to Light 1.8% 4
Abzan Greasefang 1.8% 4
Abzan Auras 1.8% 4
Mardu Sacrifice 1.4% 3
Enigmatic Fires 1.4% 3
Dimir Control 0.9% 2
Selesnya Auras 0.9% 2
Azorius Powerstones 0.5% 1
Selesnya Company 0.5% 1
Jund Citadel 0.5% 1
Esper Control 0.5% 1
Azorius Spirits 0.5% 1
Golgari Elves 0.5% 1
Azorius Lotus Field 0.5% 1
Bant Auras 0.5% 1
Golgari Devotion 0.5% 1
Temur Vehicles 0.5% 1
Grixis Midrange 0.5% 1
Mono-Black Midrange 0.5% 1
Izzet Mindsplice 0.5% 1
Storm Herald Combo 0.5% 1
Mono-Blue Spirits 0.5% 1
Esper Greasefang 0.5% 1
Bant Humans 0.5% 1
Grinning Ignus Combo 0.5% 1
Atarka Red 0.5% 1
Orzhov Auras 0.5% 1
Azorius Yorion 0.5% 1

The metagame features dozens of different archetypes, including aggro, midrange, control, ramp, combo, and plenty of spice. All Pioneer Constructed decklists for the tournament will be published on the Pro Tour Phyrexia event page on Friday February 17 at the beginning of Round 4 gameplay, approximately at 2 p.m. ET.

The most-played nonland cards across all main decks and sideboards were Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Thoughtseize, Fatal Push, Llanowar Elves, Elvish Mystic, and Bonecrusher Giant.

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker Thoughtseize Fatal Push Llanowar Elves Elvish Mystic Bonecrusher Giant

These staples remain the pillars of the format, and they can be found in a variety of decks. If you'd like a deeper introduction to the format, then I recommend my Pioneer primer last month: It describes the game plans, matchups, and Regional Championship developments for all the top archetypes.

At Pro Tour Phyrexia, the most-played archetypes are Rakdos Midrange (15.1% of the field) and Mono-Green Devotion (13.7% of the field). This is similar to the metagame at the Regional Championships at the end of last year. Indeed, out of all players who qualified via the Regional Championships, a large majority brought the same archetype to the Pro Tour. However, the Pro Tour metagame also features several developments and surprises.

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The rise of Gruul Vehicles: Gruul Vehicles had one of the better win rates at the Regional Championships, and its metagame share has grown further since then. With the plan to curve Llanowar Elves into a three-drop on turn two, it benefited from the Phyrexia: All Will Be One additions of Copperline Gorge and Migloz, Maze Crusher, making it the third-most popular archetype at Pro Tour Phyrexia. Out of the 21 Gruul Vehicles players, 8 run a full play set of Werewolf Pack Leader, whereas the other 13 opt for Jegantha, the Wellspring and/or more copies of Mutavault instead.

602778 Rite of Oblivion

The resurgence of Rakdos Sacrifice: Rakdos Sacrifice is another archetype that has ticked up after an excellent performance at the Regional Championships. Since the deck typically doesn't play cards that cost more than three mana, Blackcleave Cliffs has been a solid boost for its mana base. Besides fourteen Rakdos versions, there are also three spicy Mardu builds in the field, splashing for Rite of Oblivion and Showdown of the Skalds. If you would combine both versions, then they would collectively be the fourth-most popular archetype.

Worldspine Wurm Xenagos, God of Revels

The surprise of Izzet Creativity: Izzet Creativity, after a middling performance at the Regional Championship, has surged to a whopping 6.4% of the Pro Tour metagame. Although it doesn't exploit any new cards, it provides a consistent and powerful combo. The most prominent build aims cast Indomitable Creativity for X=2, putting Worldspine Wurm and Xenagos, God of Revels onto the battlefield. The resulting 30/30 creature with trample and haste allows for a swift victory.

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The allure of Auras: The introduction of Razorverge Thicket and Skrelv, Defector Mite in Phyrexia: All Will Be One has led a re-emergence of decks based around Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice. Adding up all the different color combinations, eight players settled on such decks, with Abzan Auras being the most popular version. In my archetype labeling, I've included a color if a deck contains at least two cards of that color between main deck and sideboard, along with at least two dual lands for that color. So, Abzan Auras is a base Selesnya deck splashing for several black cards with white-black dual lands. However, singleton Auras for Light-Paws that are only castable via Mana Confluence did not influence the color label.

All these deck choices may be the key to victory, especially when they're piloted by some of the best players in the world.

The Most-Played Cards from Phyrexia: All Will Be One

Phyrexia: All Will Be One, which hit the format just two weeks before decklists were due, had a considerable impact on Pioneer. The following table breaks down the most-played new-to-Pioneer cards among all Pro Tour Phyrexia decklists.

Card Name Total Copies Main Deck Copies Sideboard Copies
Blackcleave Cliffs 129 129 0
Copperline Gorge 81 81 0
Razorverge Thicket 60 60 0
Skrelv, Defector Mite 44 41 3
Migloz, Maze Crusher 38 38 0
Thrun, Breaker of Silence 15 0 15
Lukka, Bound to Ruin 15 4 11
The Filigree Sylex 14 0 14
Seachrome Coast 13 13 0
Sword of Forge and Frontier 13 3 10
Ossification 11 8 3
Darkslick Shores 11 11 0
Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines 10 7 3
Sheoldred's Edict 9 9 0
Cankerbloom 7 2 5
Zealot's Conviction 7 4 3
Nissa, Ascended Animist 6 2 4
Prophetic Prism 4 4 0
Annihilating Glare 4 4 0
Atraxa, Grand Unifier 4 0 4
Blue Sun's Twilight 4 0 4
Mindsplice Apparatus 4 4 0

The most important new additions are the allied fast lands. For example, Blackcleave Cliffs has boosted the mana base of Rakdos Midrange, Rakdos Sacrifice, and Mardu Sacrifice. In addition, Copperline Gorge has made it easier to curve turn-one Llanowar Elves into turn-two Reckless Stormseeker. Furthermore, Razorverge Thicket has upgraded the early-game mana consistency of Selesnya Angels, Abzan Greasefang, and various Aura decks.

In terms of nonland cards, the most-played one is Skrelv, Defector Mite, largely found in Light-Paws decks like Abzan Auras. In this deck, Skrelv not only protects key creatures but also counts as an artifact for All That Glitters and as a legend for Mox Amber. Several Mono-White Humans players have embraced a few copies of Skrelv as well.

For Gruul Vehicles, the most important nonland addition is Migloz, Maze Crusher. Migloz is a well-statted three-drop that dodges The Wandering Emperor with its vigilance ability, evades Cauldron Familiar with its menace ability, towers over the battlefield with its +2/+2 ability, and destroys opposing copies of The Akroan War or Sword of Forge and Frontier with its final ability. That newly introduced Sword could otherwise pose a big problem for a red-green deck.

Finally, The Filigree Sylex and Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines are two important new silver bullets. The Filigree Sylex, which is a tutor target for Karn, the Great Creator, represents only a small improvement over Ratchet Bomb, but Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner can untap it repeatedly, unlocking the 10-damage effect as a win condition. Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines, who is a tutor target for Enigmatic Incarnation or Bring to Light, doubles the effectiveness of her controller's Leyline Binding while reducing the effectiveness of opposing Esika's Chariot or Cavalier of Thorns. Even though Elesh Norn is merely a singleton in the decks that include her, she may be frequently put onto the battlefield with a tutor effect.

If you're eager to find out which cards and strategies will come out on top and who will carve their name into competitive Magic history, then don't miss all the live action. Coverage begins Friday, February 17 at!

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