Last Week in Pioneer: May 13
May 13, 2024
By darthjacen

How’s it going everyone? There was another large data set this week thanks to a 232 player showcase challenge as players vie to reach the highest level of competition that Magic Online has to offer. With over eleven-hundred data points again this week, we can start to see some continuing trends from the past few weeks along with some spicy new decks to highlight from the last week in Pioneer.

So, let’s dive right into this week’s data!

Looking at the Data

Over the past week, we’ve seen the continuation of a trend pointed out previously: Phoenix is starting to lose meta share while Niv to Light is rapidly approaching the most representation overall. With Vampires holding onto the top spot by one percent, twelve lists overall, the dragon hasn’t quite landed the top spot, but the days of looking at Pioneer as a two-horse race are over, Niv is here to stay.

Along with the top three decks all over ten percent, Amalia and Discard put up solid weeks with seven percent each, which is a gain of one percent for Amalia, but a loss of two percent for Discard. It seems with the continued rise of Niv and the slight drop-off of Phoenix overall, Discard isn’t seeing the most overall play, but that doesn’t speak to how it’s performing, just the play rate.

Next up, we see the slew of aggro decks in Gruul Aggro, Red Aggro, and Ensoul, with six percent, four percent, and four percent overall respectively. This is a three percent drop for Gruul aggro, while a two percent drop for Red Aggro and a one percent gain for Ensoul. While aggro is still seeing plenty of play and results, it is notable that as the top of the metagame solidifies around Vampires, Niv, Phoenix, Amalia, and Discard, aggro is starting to struggle putting up the strong metagame numbers of the early weeks of Outlaws of Thunder Junction. Will Slickshot Show-Off rebound in the Premier or Winner’s metagame, or is the reemergence of aggro on the decline in this world of midrange and over-the-top strategies?

Once we move over to the Premier metagame, which consists of all prelims, challenges, showcase challenges, and more, we see some more consolidation at the top. With Vampires and Niv holding their spots with the same percentages as overall, Phoenix is the deck to pick up a percentage and move back into striking distance of Niv with twelve percent. The next slew of decks remains in the same order with Discard gaining a percentage, Amalia holding steady with seven percent, Gruul Aggro maintaining six percent, and Red Aggro and Ensoul holding at four percent.

Along with the aggro decks, Azorius Control retains its spot as the last four percent deck before Creativity, Quint Combo, and Lotus Field remind us of the combo side of the format, each with three percent. With twelve decks holding at least three percent or more of the premier metagame, there’s plenty of diversity present, even if there is a clear top of the metagame and even a clear second shelf of decks that are sitting above five percent each. But, as we look at the top of the standings, what decks are converting from high play rates to top finishes?

Well, here’s where the other shoe drops. While Vampires holds onto first place with a strong fifteen percent of the winner’s metagame, Phoenix jumps right back to second place with fourteen percent. Well, it may be a bit disingenuous to give it sole possession of second place when Niv finished with thirteen percent, but the total representation was forty-three results versus forty-three respectively. Either way, we see that the top three continue to sit within striking distance of each other, even if Vampires does have a little more distance between the other top shelf decks.

Next up, we have Amalia and Discard, each with nine percent of the winner’s metagame followed by Gruul Aggro, Ensoul, and Azorius Control, each with five percent. While the decks are mostly in the same order, we can see the aggro decks holding on, while Discard and Amalia continue to pick up some extra percent.

We see the consolidation towards the top of the metagame as in the Overall Metagame, the top ten decks made up seventy-three percent of the metagame, the top ten decks of the Premier Metagame made up seventy-five percent of the metagame, but the top ten decks of the winner’s metagame makes up eighty percent of the metagame. This continued consolidation is consistent with the experimentation present in leagues and even preliminary events, but as we look at the top of the standings, the brews aren’t finding the same level of success as the established format staples.

However, what if we dial in to the very top of the events and look at challenge and showcase challenge top 8s?

Here, we see a very different story from all the earlier metagames. With Phoenix sitting well above the rest of the format with thirteen top 8s, a full twenty percent of the total top 8s. Discard shoots to the top with ten top 8s, putting up sixteen percent of all top 8s. Niv remains in third place with nine top 8s, but Vampires falls from number one across the board to fourth place with only seven top 8s.

Amalia, Azorius Control, Ensoul, Gruul Aggro, and Convoke round out the decks with multiple top 8s, with Amalia sitting at six, Azorius and Ensoul with four, Gruul with three, and Convoke with two top 8s. After that, we have a litany of one top 8 decks, showing there’s plenty of possibilities for decks to spike a top finish.

This last week’s results continue to showcase the changing nature of Pioneer at the top tables. We have Niv looking to secure a top slot, Phoenix slipping in terms of play rate, but dominating the top slots of challenges, Vampires solidly first across the board until we reach the top 8s of challenges, and a variety of competitive decks all vying for a place in the metagame.

Deck Highlights

Translating Standard Decks

After the breakout performance of Slogurk legends at the Pro Tour in Standard, it was only a matter of time before we saw an updated version of the deck make its way to Pioneer. Misplacedginger took the deck to a top 16 finish in a challenge this week and it has popped up in a few other prelims and challenges. It’s very interesting to see the power level of current standard start to trickle down and create archetypes in Pioneer.

While it is still too early to give this deck the credit the Standard version has earned, it is exciting to see the Pro Tour affecting Pioneer. There’s also something to be said for learning this deck, as it can help you in multiple formats and most Pioneer players without an eye to Standard will certainly be caught off guard by this strategy.

Another Standard strategy making its way to Pioneer is Aftermath Analyst style decks. Here, we see a version of four-color Analyst that resembles a Pioneer power level version of the Standard deck. With Nissa, Resurgent Animist, Omnath, Locus of Creation, Worldsoul’s Rage, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Fae of Wishes, Yorion, Sky Nomad, and forty lands, there’s a lot of moving pieces to this deck.

With many midrange decks currently sitting at the top of Pioneer, you’re able to survive long enough to build up your graveyard and board state before comboing out with a massive land recursion turn to burn your opponent out. Add in the power of Virtue of Strength to protect from discard and mega ramp to the mid game, I can see how this deck showed up in several events and even put up some solid results. I’m interested to see which of these Standard transplants will make a bigger splash in the next few weeks.

More Aftermath Analyst

Here we have perennial odd-deck builder Laa11 taking Simic Aftermath Analyst to a top 16 finish in a challenge, showing another way to leverage the power of Aftermath Analyst.

This deck ramps quickly while dumping cards into the graveyard before rebuying those lands and ramping even further into spells like Blue Sun’s Twilight and Storm the Festival – eventually taking over the board with creatures, yours, or theirs. While not quite as focused on the land synergies or combo aspect of Aftermath Analyst as the Standard version, this two-drop is quickly becoming a multi-format staple.

Mill in Pioneer?

Sometimes I see a deck in the 5-0 deck lists, and I can’t help but want to check it out further. Dimir Mill is an archetype that continues to persist in Modern, even with Endurance and the original Eldrazi Titan cycle working to minimize its effectiveness. What if we took away all those cards, could the deck still function even while losing quite a few key cards of its own?

MTGO user Mazianos seemed to think so and I’m very interested to take this deck out for a spin. With eight mill Planeswalkers, solid removal and card draw, you can play a variety of styles to eventually get all your opponent’s cards into the graveyard or exile. My biggest concern with this deck, besides the general concern of aggro just running you over, is that one of the top decks in the format is a Yorion deck. It would take a lot of work to chew through Niv’s library and given its continued rise in the metagame, that could prove a real challenge. Even still, I think this deck could be surprisingly strong into the other midrange decks that can’t close the game quick enough to outrace cards like Fraying Sanity, Jace, the Perfected Mind, Ruin Crab, and Ashiok, Dream Render.

Wrapping Up

There you have it, the last week in Pioneer! We’ve seen the top decks continue to battle for the top spot and a variety of decks all finding various levels of success. While the overall top of the metagame skews towards midrange, there’s plenty of combo, aggro, and even some control in the mix, showing the format’s diversity and adaptability. With more RCQs this weekend and larger MTGO events upcoming, it’ll be interesting to see how the metagame continues to develop, especially in the face of no bans through at least June! 

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