Feature Article from Yoman5

The Pioneer Metagame After Brussels and Nagoya

Yoman5

2/5/2020 11:02:00 AM

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This weekend we had not one, but two Pioneer Players Tours, with a whopping 576 decklists submitted and a ton of data to comb through. Thankfully, this is the internet age and folks have already crunched the numbers for us. Below are the win rates of each archetype as calculated by minmaxblog.com.

Pioneer Metagame Breakdown

Mtgmeta.io has breakdowns of the matchup spreads for the ten most played archetypes of both Brussels and Nagoya. I highly recommend you look through these resources as you make your final decisions of what deck to play and how to tune it this week. It's one thing to hear me tell you that Big Red is a terrible choice this week, but it's quite another to look at its Dimir Inverter matchup and see a 13 percent win rate. Yeah, it's that bad.

This week is the biggest tier list yet, so I'm going to dive right into it. I've added an entire extra category this week for the decks that don't fit in the usual three categories, but aren't bad choices. These decks are fine.

Decks to Beat

Dimir Inverter

Let's not beat around the bush, this was the talk of the tournament and one of the most played decks. Kanister nearly won PT Brussels with it, and the archetype more than half of PT Nagoya's Top 8. It also posted one of the highest win rates despite its metagame share. This deck is real, and it's here to stay.

The strongest decks into Dimir Inverter on the weekend were by far the Mono-Red Aggro decks and opposing, faster combo decks like Lotus Breach. Dimir Inverter needs time, and these decks give it the least breathing room while being some of the most resilient to Thoughtseize.

Killing Dimir Inverter is a more effective tactic than trying to interact—Mono-Black Aggro and Izzet Ensoul both had negative results despite their relatively quick clocks. If you want to beat Inverter, faster is better, and light disruption simply doesn't cut it.

Bant Spirits

Spirits was another big deck for the weekend, winning PT Nagoya and putting up good results across several players. I'm highlighting the Bant version here because it outperformed the Azorius versions by a good margin. One of the big reasons for that is a much better matchup against things like Mono-Black Aggro because Collected Company gives you a boost in card advantage and tempo in those heavily interactive matchups.

I will say that Spirits did not put up quite the numbers against Dimir Inverter that many expected, but I don't have enough data on Bant specifically in this matchup. As noted above, disruption is not as effective against the Inverter deck as many expected, and Spirits is slower than many of the other aggro decks in the format.

Sultai Delirium

This is the breakout deck of the weekend. Joel Larsson and crew absolutely smashed the competition this weekend, with the archetype posting a whopping 72% win rate. Thoughtseize and Abrupt Decay are back together again, but this time with a better supporting cast than ever before.

One of the largest problems for Sultai Good Stuff before was that it would simply run out of cards. Very efficient one-for-one trading was something it excelled at, but it couldn't pull away with many games without Tireless Tracker in play, and in the face of decks like Azorius Control and Five-Color Niv that's simply not going to cut it. That's where Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath comes in.

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

Uro offers the deck consistent and repeated access to a large, stabilizing threat that provides not only steady card advantage but an ability to develop additional lands to cast those extra cards. Perhaps most importantly, Emrakul, the Promised End is no longer stranded in hand as often as before, and casting Emrakul alone wins most game states.

People have been messing around with combining this deck with Dimir Inverter to get a stronger midrange deck and a stronger endgame than even Emrakul, but these builds are in the beginning stages as people work on the deck. The mana in many builds is rough, and finding space for all of the lands, enablers and Inverter pieces can be difficult. Keep an eye out for it this weekend, though, as it wouldn't shock me to see a powerful combination of two of the best decks that overlap on two colors.

Mono-Red Aggro

Oh, and one final best deck. Don't sleep on this, because it made people look foolish all weekend. Mono-Red Aggro had the second highest win rate of the weekend, right behind Sultai Delirium. As people scale up and try to out-greed each other in Inverter mirrors, Mono-Red will quietly dominate each and every one of them.

It's simply much more efficient than most of the other top decks, and doesn't have any mana problems. Decks like Lotus Breach or Dimir Inverter are in for a world of hurt if Torbran, Thane of Red Fell lands on an uncontested board. The Spirits matchup is fairly even. The only bad matchup among the most popular decks looks to be Five-Color Niv, and I really don't think people should keep playing that deck.

Decks People Will Play, but Shouldn't

Five-Color Niv

Yeah I'm calling all of you out. Stop it. This deck had a terrible record against the field, but continues to be one of Pioneer's most played decks. Even the Czech House testing group decided on this deck, though they admittedly had the best version I've seen yet.

Even when you slim everything down to get the leanest mana possible, I don't think this is actually better than just slimming down further and playing Sultai Delirium. Bring to Light and Niv-Mizzet Reborn are definitely powerful cards, but at this point the deck building cost is too high relative to the power gained.

Green Ramp

Uro is powerful, the mana accelerants are powerful, but the Dimir Inverter matchup is simply too scary. I will say that the deck beat the pants off of Mono-Black Aggro and Izzet Ensoul this weekend, so I'll own my mistakes there.

I think that if you can solve the Inverter matchup this deck becomes a real option again, so the race to find that solution is on. There's not a ton of time for those choosing decks for PT Phoenix, but if you're playing this weekend and are set on playing Ramp, Dimir Inverter and Lotus Breach are the matchups you should be working on the most.

Izzet Phoenix

The most successful Izzet Phoenix deck in Brussels achieved three wins. Yikes.

You simply cannot afford to spend that much time wheel spinning against this format, and a 3/2 flying haste creature is not a big enough payoff.

Decks People Should Respect, But Won't

Orzhov Auras

Shota Takao and Ken Yukuhiro debuted this deck in Nagoya and it put up excellent results. While it looks unassuming, this deck is very capable of turn-four kills and is shockingly resilient.

Hateful Eidolon and Sram, Senior Edificer provide a steady stream of cards if played slowly, while Ethereal Armor and All That Glitters provide explosive closing power. Gideon of the Trials, Thoughtseize and Brain Maggot provide disruption against the combo decks, and while disruption isn't at its strongest against Inverter, in this deck it's most often taking their removal instead of trying to disrupt the combo itself.

Heliod Company

Mono-White Devotion had a fine weekend, but the Collected Company version performed better so I'm highlighting it here. Both versions performed pretty well, but were largely overshadowed by the success of Dimir Inverter and Sultai Delirium.

While I don't think this is as good as the top decks, I do think that it will see a lot of success if people lose sight of it. The big catch is that trying to beat this deck isn't that much different than trying to beat Spirits or any of the aggressive decks, so there's only so weak the format can get to this archetype.

Temur Breach

It seems odd to say people will sleep on Lotus Breach after it did so well this weekend, but the success of several other archetypes again stole the narrative spotlight. Brent Vos's group in particular had the best version of this archetype I've seen yet.

Eschewing the clunkier cards like Chronic Flooding in favor of the previous Lotus Field Combo engine keeps the deck consistent and linear, but several new additions and a refreshed sideboard gave this deck a significant edge. Satyr Wayfinder fuels Underworld Breach and helps find your important lands. Blink of an Eye allows the deck to interact with Inverter and even the aggressive decks in game one. The sideboard has the fourth copy of Underworld Breach to tutor up as well as Tome Scour, granting the deck access to deterministic kills without clogging up the maindeck with enablers.

Supreme Verdict

The sideboard also has multiple copies of Supreme Verdict and Thought Distortion, meant to be sideboarded in for their respective matchups. Supreme Verdict in particular looked powerful all weekend, as Brent constantly had access to a sweeper effect in an archetype people don't expect it from.

Decks That Are Merely “Fine”

Mono-Black Aggro

Mono-Black Aggro performed fine this weekend. The Vampires builds did a better job, but overall these decks were unimpressive. I wouldn't fault anyone for playing it, but I wouldn't recommend it either.

Azorius Spirits

Spirits is largely in the same boat, but lines up a tad better against the metagame I believe is coming up. Bant Spirits performed better and gets the nod, but if you don't have Collected Company, vanilla Spirits is fine. Play the 24th land.

Izzet Ensoul

I know I chose this deck last week, but last Monday and this Monday are so far apart in metagame. By the time my article went up it was clear I underestimated the presence Dimir Inverter would have by the weekend, and Ensoul does not have a good matchup against Inverter. The Hangarback Walkers give it more game against some decks, and probably is good against a rise of Sultai Delirium.

What I'd Play

Mono-Red Aggro

Frankly, if I had more time, I would work on Sultai Inverter combining the best two shells, but I can't in good conscience recommend that right now. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed for more recent iterations and ideas, but for this article I'm recommending Mono-Red Aggro.

You're going to punish a ton of players getting too fancy, you're going to have a good matchup spread initially, and you get to have a good matchup against the Lotus Breach players trying to punish Inverter from the other axis.

We've gotten through two of the Players Tours with one to go. It'll be very interesting to see what lessons players have learned from Brussels and Nagoya. Honestly, I just can't get enough of this format—it seems a lot like what Modern is supposed to be. I can't wait for coverage of Phoenix this weekend, and I'm hoping to see Sultai Inverter take it down.


Yoman5

Adam "yoman5" Hernandez is a streamer, brewer and competitive player with a keen sense for what makes a deck tick. He writes about changes in Standard and Pioneer and the art of deckbuilding.

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