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

The Week That Was: Getting Fires Up for the Pro Tour

December 23, 2022
Corbin Hosler

The Regional Championship are the gift that keeps on giving. It's fitting that as we are celebrating holidays right now that players have seen fit to leave some surprises underneath the tree.

If that tree is the Pioneer format, anyway. The metaphor only goes so far—the point is that we've completed another week of Regional Championships played out across Pioneer, and we have yet another innovative deck winning the events in the hands of a worthy champion. Another curveball in a year full of them, all setting the stage perfectly for the first Pro Tour of 2023 at MagicCon: Philadelphia.

I should probably back up a little—forgive me but it's easy to get on a roll here at The Week That Was headquarters when we've nearly wrapped what was (for me at least) a true comeback year for Magic's most enduring quality: the thrill of playing high-stakes tabletop Magic against the best in the world.

Over the past 12 months, players have competed across the world in Regional Championship Qualifiers, aiming to win the local tournament that sends them to one of a host of Regional Championships spread across the globe. Those tournaments bring together the best in the area to compete with truly huge stakes: Pro Tour invitations, yes, but for this string of events World Championship invites as well.

The path is laid out again, a clear line from jamming games of Magic with buddies or on MTG Arena or at the draft tables of Friday Night Magic. The Pro Tour pipeline is flowing, and the Regional Championships of the past six weeks (one remains to be played in China) have been a real throwback to the days of near-weekly Grand Prix. I came into Magic reading Brian David-Marshall writing The Week That Was and recapping the previous weekend's events—getting featured in coverage was an aspirational goal for everyone at my local store who was showing me the ropes. So it's been really fun to document these tournaments in the same way now, as we restart the Pro Tour and fill the ranks of the stories we'll be telling for the 12 months to come.

And there's been plenty of them, too many to list but all documenting the same dream.

Most recently, it was Joseph Karani at the F2F Tour in Canada punching his ticket to the show. A veteran of the previously mentioned Grand Prix circuit—he won GP Indianapolis in 2019—Karani found himself in the position many of us did this year: checking the calendar to see if we can squeeze in another qualifier. And in the case of one Matias Leveratto, that calendar gave me him exactly one weekend to qualify (which he did). My Twitter feed is once again filled with round-by-round record updates and posts giving the latest blow-by-blow of the tournament, from the bad beats stories to the winner's trophy shot.

And it's given us moments like this:

One of the storylines I haven't gotten a chance to devote as much space to is the evolution of the Pioneer metagame over this run. It's pretty rare for a format to get put through its paces quite so severely with such sustained pressure. But with the Regional Championships all slated for Pioneer—which looks a heck of a lot different than the last time it did in a tabletop Pro Tour level tournament—we didn't know exactly what we were getting into, even if we knew (more or less) what the top decks of the format were, with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and its monster Green decks leading the way.

When this happens, things tend to go one of a few ways: things can coalesce into a singular "best deck" (Cawblade, famously). Or we can get the classic rock-paper-scissors metagame (where, for instance, Ramunap Red beats Blue-Black Control but loses to Temur Energy, which was itself weak to Blue-Black).

Or we can get a kind of third route, where the format more or less settles around a handful of diverse decks with no true hierarchy—I think of it more as "tiers" than anything else, with a major feature being the ability of a deck to move up or down the tiers based on the pilot and the pairings. Any Given Sunday, so to speak, for you American football fans. The halcyon days of exploring the then-new Modern metagame back in the day are probably the best example of this, but Pioneer in 2022 is giving off some of those same vibes to someone who has been following results religiously for the past two months.

Which, by the way, you can as well! My column mate Frank Karsten covers the week-to-week shifts of the format and the impact of new sets (The Brothers War has made its impact felt). Check out Frank's column for more.

When the Regional Championship season opened up, we found out very quickly that it wasn't exactly a Devotion world the rest of us were living in. In fact, Rakdos Midrange kicked things off with a bang—victory in the first set of events—and despite several other decks including Mono-Green Devotion picking up wins it was the traditional Rakdos route of doing Rakdos things we've seen over the past few years of online events.

But just like I did when I scanned all those BDM articles back in the day, I know it's not the traditional value deck you're looking for—it's the brews that can take a tournament by surprise and maybe punch a Pro Tour ticket while you're at it.

Which brings me to Brandon Ortiz. And back to Throne of Eldraine.

You might remember a little enchantment that played a very big role across several formats.

Fires of Invention

It's back. In a big way. In fact, Ortiz's victory at The Gathering Showdown Series (the Mexico City Regional Championship), featured a Fires of Invention mirror match, with Alonso Mijares' Enigmatic Incarnation take on Fires of Invention no less significant than Ortiz's "traditional" Fires of Invention list featuring more Eldraine throwbacks like Kenrith, the Returned King and Bonecrusher Giant (not to mention the elemental blob responsible for the most groans in landfall history: Omnath, Locus of Creation).

I use the word significant because of what this particular mana-cheating mirror represents: a challenger appearing. As Frank predicted, the rise of Rakdos Midrange—which could slow down the haymakers from Devotion just enough while interacting favorably with much of the format—led to a subsequent rise in decks that could go over the top of all that fair Magic, and the result is another evolution in the Pioneer metagame. Not bad for a format getting tackled by an entire world of hungry competitors. All of this rewards players keenly following the week-to-week Regional Championship developments (or at least people who read Frank's column!).

So what's next? Fires of Invention strategies certainly has its own weaknesses. Can Rakdos adapt to shift the matchup enough to stay atop the metagame, or will this fundamentally alter how players approach deck selection moving forward? We've got one more Regional Championship left to sort things out before we tie a bow on the format for 2022 and look toward the Pro Tour in Philadelphia and the next Regional Championship qualifying cycle.

The week-to-week flow of high-level tabletop tournaments is back, and it's been a fun ride to chronicle in my first year helming The Week That Was. Speaking of, I'm excited to say Frank and I will be back for 2023!

Looking Ahead

Speaking of 2023, remember it's not just the Pro Tour the Regional Championships are leading toward—there's Magic World Championship XXIX spots on the line every weekend.

The Regional Championship in China is scheduled for this weekend, and it at least begin to tell us more about the answers to these questions, but who knows? Feed the Swarm exists. There's no telling how things will develop before the Pro Tour. That's what keeps it fun!

Once we flip the calendar, the first Pro Tour of the year comes up very quickly. Pro Tour Phyrexia: All is One is February 17-19 at MagicCon: Philadelphia, and that means that players will begin congregating at Pro Tour testing houses just a little over a month from now. Get your holiday Cube drafts in while you can; I'll see you in the queues!

Share Article