Last weekend saw the debut of the Pioneer format at the big stage. In both Brussels and Nagoya, we had not only a Grand Prix but also a Players Tour event, for which competitors brought their best Pioneer decks.
In this article, I will construct an overall picture of the metagame and the win rates from last weekend, using the publicly available data.
Top Pioneer Decklists
If you are interested in the top-performing deck lists, then here is a handy overview:
- The Top 8 decklists of Players Tour Brussels. This 384-player invite-only event was won by Joel Larsson, playing Sultai Delirium. In the finals, he defeated Piotr Glogowski, playing Dimir Inverter. More information and highlights articles are available at the PT Brussels text coverage page. In particular, all Pioneer decklists from PT Brussels can be found here.
- The Top 8 decklists of Players Tour Nagoya. This 193-player invite-only event was won by Kenta Harane, playing Bant Spirits. In the finals, he defeated Ken Yukuhiro, playing Sram Auras. More information and highlights articles are available at the PT Nagoya text coverage page. In particular, most Pioneer decklists from PT Nagoya can be found here.
- The Top 8 decklists of Grand Prix Brussels. This 1663-player open event was won by Carlos Moral, playing Dimir Inverter. Additional information is available on the MagicFest Brussels text coverage page.
- The Top 8 decklists of Grand Prix Nagoya. This 1672-player open event was won by Takuya Ishizuki, playing Izzet Wizards. Additional information is available on the MagicFest Nagoya text coverage page (in Japanese).
Note that for the PT Nagoya decklists, some of the archetype labels on the Wizards of the Coast website were inaccurate. For example, several Mono-Red Aggro decks were mislabeled as Big Red, and several Bant Spirits decks were mislabeled as Azorius Spirits. To produce breakdowns and statistics for this article, I manually relabeled every archetype from PT Nagoya.
The Pioneer Metagame
Combining all 593 publicly available Pioneer decklists from these events (i.e, all 384 lists from Players Tour Brussels, all 193 lists from Players Tour Nagoya, and the Top 8 lists from both Grand Prix) and treating each list equally, the following overall metagame breakdown emerges.
The above metagame breakdown gives a good overview of what some of the most accomplished and most successful players were playing last weekend.
Fatal Push and Thoughtseize were the most-played nonland main deck cards across all Pioneer decks, which is not surprising given that Dimir Inverter and Mono-Black Aggro were by far the most popular decks.
But which decks had the best performance?
The Pioneer Win Rates
Since decklists, pairings, and results are publicly available, I can determine the records and match win rates for all decks. The following graphic provides the match win rates in non-bye, non-mirror, Swiss matches at both Players Tour events for decks with a substantial number of pilots. Only Pioneer matches are used; the Draft rounds are excluded. The error bars represent confidence intervals, based on a 95% confidence level under the normal approximation to the binomial distribution.
The Pioneer Tier List, 1.0
Crunching the numbers, it becomes clear that Theros Beyond Death had a huge impact on the format.
Heliod, Sun-Crowned powered Mono-White Devotion, which had a 54.9% win rate, and Heliod Company, which had a 58.8% win rate. Sample sizes are insufficient to decisively conclude which deck is better, but it’s clear that the Heliod + Ballista combo is viable.
Underworld Breach powered Lotus Breach, which had a 54.5% win rate. Although this combines the records of different builds, the Fae of Wishes version that Brent Vos took to the Top 8 of PT Brussels is clearly the best: The three players running that build (Brent Vos, Pascal Vieren, and Niels van der Sande) had a combined 17-7 record in the Pioneer Swiss rounds.
Thassa’s Oracle powered Dimir Inverter, which was not only the most popular deck at the Players Tours but also the deck with one of the highest win rates. With a 57.8% overall match win rate and a decent sample size, it was one of the two archetypes whose 95% confidence interval fell completely above the 50% win rate line. If you want to learn more about the deck, then Luis-Scott Vargas’s primer is a great read, as is Martin Juza’s.
Uro, Titan Of Nature’s Wrath powered Sultai Delirium, which posted an absurd 70.6% win rate and won PT Brussels in the hands of Joel Larsson. This performance proves that milling Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath is a valid plan in Pioneer, and it fits perfectly in a Thoughtseize + Fatal Push midrange shell.
Besides all these high-impact Theros Beyond Death additions, several other observations emerge from the win rate analysis:
- Bant Spirits did much better than Azorius Spirits, so the splash for Collected Company seems worth it.
- Mono-Red Aggro did much better than Big Red, so 1-drops seem superior to Glorybringer, at least in last weekend’s metagame.
- Niv to Light did poorly. Although perhaps the version that Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa took the Top 8 of PT Brussels is viable, on the whole the archetype was the only one whose 95% confidence interval fell completely below the 50% win rate line.
The first big-stage Pioneer weekend was a smashing success, with a diverse metagame and a lot of innovation. I didn’t even touch on awesome brews like Sram Auras, which Ken Yukuhiro took to the second place at PT Nagoya. I’ll just give a quick tip: Back to Nature absolutely wrecks this deck, so consider adding one or two copies to your sideboard.
Next weekend will feature the Pioneer Grand Prix and Players Tour at MagicFest Phoenix. Based on my metagame and win rate analysis, I would expect Dimir Inverter to make a huge showing, and the big question is how to beat it.
Currently, the sample size for last weekend’s matchup data is far too small. For example, Mono-Red Aggro’s record against Dimir Inverter was 7-4 at PT Brussels and 1-9 at PT Nagoya, so the raw results don’t yet provide useful or reliable guidance. Hopefully, we’ll have a better picture next week. In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing the metagame develop further in Phoenix.