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The Week That Was: Seismic Shifts

December 01, 2023
Corbin Hosler

Not since Indomitable Creativity has a Treasure token on turn two been so imposing.

You're playing Pioneer, and your opponent passes the turn with no play on turn two. You feel pretty good about this development and play out your third turn. Then your opponent discards Magma Opus to make a token, untaps, and plays Geological Appraiser.

A flurry of actions now follows — I'll let metagame expert (and Hall of Famer) Frank Karsten take it from here (for more on the deck and the rest of the Pioneer field at the Regional Championships last weekend, check out Frank's Metagame Mentor column.

The combo starts by resolving Geological Appraiser. You're guaranteed to discover into either Glasspool Mimic, which copies Geological Appraiser, or Eldritch Evolution, which turns the four-drop into Trumpeting Carnosaur. In both cases, you get another discover trigger and can keep the chain going. You keep discovering for a while until your board is wide enough, at which point you use Eldritch Evolution to get Doomskar Titan, give haste to all your creatures, and attack for the win. If you accidentally drew Doomskar Titan, then you can evolve Trumpeting Carnosaur into Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant and set up a lethal attack after all. With the Treasures created by Creative Outburst and Magma Opus, the deck can consistently cast Geological Appraiser on turn three, winning the game on the spot.

Geological Appraiser 636885 Eldritch Evolution

Congrats. You've just been introduced to Geoform.

And your opponent might have been Guillermo Sulimovich, the newest Regional Champion after winning the South American Magic Series with the breakout deck last weekend.

"My friend Scotty showed me the deck on the Friday morning before the Regional Championship," Sulimovich said. "When I started testing it and realized you consistently won on turn three with one card, I understood two things: this was the best deck in the format, and it could be banned after this tournament."

"I was a little bit nervous because I didn't know how to play perfectly against the other decks and didn't know how my opponents were adapting their decks against me," he said. "But the deck worked perfectly."

That it did — Sulimovich went 20-5 in games played over the course of the Regional Championship, his quick adaptation and confidence in himself paid off with a spot at the Pro Tour (along with runner-up Santago Bigatti) and a seat at the World Championship.


We may be living through a rare moment in Magic history. Not to oversell things, but in moments like this when everyone is talking about a new breakout deck that may not stick around, I think something can get lost. At the heart of every "broken" deck is a story of someone who did what every Magic player dreams of when they first discover the competitive metagame — heck, what they do when they lose to their sibling's flying deck for the first time — breaking the format wide open.

We've seen this before in Magic. One of the most famous "recent" examples would be Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, colloquially known as Pro Tour Eldrazi. A new set had just dropped, and there were rumblings of a new archetype that was winning heavily in private testing circles. Teams went into seclusion a week before the PT; and when they came out, we were treated to a true spectacle of competitive Magic: an eternal format (in this case Modern), turned completely upside down for a weekend. Eldrazi exploded onto the scene, and three distinct versions made up six of the top eight decks in the tournament (Affinity comprising the other two).

By the time Jiachen Tao defeated Ivan Floch in an all-Eldrazi finals, it was clear we were living in a moment that might not last long, and the Eldrazi Winter that followed ended with the removal of Eye of Ugin from the format.

We saw a similar story with Amulet Bloom after it made the finals of Pro Tour Fate Reforged in the hands of Justin Cohen. While Antonio Del Moral Leon won the title with Splinter Twin, it was the Amulet of Vigor deck that felt like the real breakout at the time. Both Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom eventually received bans; but even today, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker sees play, and Amulet Titan's newest iteration is one of the top decks in the Modern format.

Going back further, there's the original Urza's Saga Combo Winter with Tolarian Academy that gave the Eldrazi's reign of terror its namesake. And the Recurring Nightmare that followed. And who can forget Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis? Oko, Thief of Crowns?

While these cards dominated formats for a short period of time, they all started with those first few innovators taking the bold first leap — like shuffling up a deck in Round 1 that you had no clue existed 24 hours earlier.

That's a difficult decision for even a seasoned pro. For a longtime Magic player like Sulimovich who just made the leap to competitive play last year? It's a stunning call. Because unlike some of the previous events I've talked about, the South America Regional Championship came directly in the middle of the discovery period of the deck, not after it was a known quantity — only six players in a field of 164 registered Geological Appraiser.

"To be honest, I wasn't completely comfortable changing the deck in the last week," Sulimovich admitted. "But the fact that there was so little time before the tournament also played in my favor because my opponents weren't able to prepare enough against me since most players won't switch decks with less than a week remaining. The credit goes to Gustavo Fischer; he showed me the deck and worked with me on improving it when it wasn't on the radar, which was crucial for such a short period of time."

There are several decks that present a virtual win by the third turn in Pioneer, but while Geoform (named after its similarity to previous Neoform combo decks), could win on the combo angle, it was a different innovation that helped Sulimovich to victory: Torrential Gearhulk. Flashing back Magma Opus goes a long way against decks hoping to use one key piece of interaction to stop the combo.

"A big advantage of the deck is that opponents couldn't pass their turn completely tapped out, which gives you time to set up parallel plans, like Gearhulk plus Opus, which are also incredibly strong," he explained. "The Regional Championship is extremely hard; only two players qualify for the Pro Tour. To win, you have to be a master playing a well-positioned deck in the format, or you have to break the format."

That second outcome is extremely rare, and it's become a memory of a lifetime for the 32-year-old Uruguay native who first started Magic with a Seventh Edition Two-Player Starter Set.

"It's a dream come true," the Worldly Counsel team member marveled. "I started playing Magic when I was 11 years old. I never knew what I was capable of, and it excites me to see that every day I surpass my expectations and achieve greater things than I ever could have imagined. Now my plans are to focus on the upcoming Pro Tour in Chicago. One step at a time."

Looking Ahead

Speaking of Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor, it's coming in a few short months as part of MagicCon: Chicago. But first, we have the matter of the Regional Championship circuit to settle — and the future of Pioneer could look very different from this past weekend.

There's still one more major Pioneer event left on the Regional Championship schedule for 2023: the RC for the United States, coming up on December 16-17 at Dreamhack in Atlanta, Georgia.

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