Sifting Through the Aftermath, Part 1
This past weekend we had our first glimpse at Pioneer on the big stage and it did not disappoint. The weekend was packed full of exciting, intense matches and game play. Pioneer is by far the most popular competitive format in Magic at the moment and it’s easy to see why following these events.
We had breakout decks, established archetypes and new takes on those archetypes. The format is still in its infancy, but we are starting to see the emergence of very powerful strategies. The recent releases of Theros: Beyond Death and Throne of Eldraine are a big part of what has driven the power of Pioneer to a new level.
The Players Tour is the new structure for professional Magic and replaces the Pro Tour model and this is the first year it has been implemented. Each Players Tour is region based, the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific; the latter two occurring in tandem this past weekend with the Americas event happening this coming weekend. This is an interesting occurrence for metagame sake, in short, this Players Tour will be affected by the results of Brussels and Nagoya.
The Muscles From Brussels
The talk of the Magic world leading up to these events was the new two card combo deck that were enabled by the new Theros: Beyond Death card, Thassa’s Oracle.
Thassa’s Oracle and Inverter of Truths from Oath of the Gatewatch, with the correct circumstances, are an instant win combo.
Dimir Inverter, as the deck is called, has a very close deck construction and game plan to the modern deck Splinter Twin. Splinter Twin was a Modern deck built around the combination between either Deceiver Exarch or Pestermite and Splinter Twin. The Pioneer version of this is the combination of Thassa’s Oracle or Jace, Wielder of Mysteries and Inverter of Truths. This type of deck is a combo/control deck. I believe that this type of archetype is the most powerful archetype in Magic.
This deck has access to the most efficient disruption and removal spells in the format in Thoughtseize and Fatal Push. Thoughtseize is something that Twin decks did not have access to when it was at the height of its power. At this point we have only scratched the surface at what these decks can do and how they are constructed.
Swedish Pro Tour Champion Joel Larson is now the champion of Players Tour Brussels and he did it his way. Piloting his deck, Sultai Delirium all the way to the finals and taking down said finals by defeating Piotr Glogowski of Poland.
Another Theros: Beyond Death card is prominent in this list. Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath provides this list the ability to ramp and stave off more aggressive decks. This deck also has disruptive tools in the aforementioned Thoughtseize and Leyline of the Void which are formidable tools against many of the prominent decks in Pioneer. Delirium is a deck that is adept at filling up its own graveyard which makes it trivial to Escape Uro.
The decklist is definitely a collection of genuinely great cards. Cards such as Tireless Tracker and Nissa, Who Shakes the World adds the perigee that they’ve carried since their days in standard. This list tops out with the queen eldrazi herself Emrakul, the Promised End. Throw in the spread of sideboard cards that you gain access to and you can see a lot of the power in Joel’s “homebrew”.
Rounding out Brussels’ top eight were 2 Bant Spirits, Mono-Red Aggro, Lotus Breach, Mono-Black Aggro and Niv to Light. All in all, this result was fantastic for the format as a whole.
You Have Brought Honor to Us All
Player Tour Nagoya took place at the same time as Brussels and the top eight definitely reflected a vastly different metagame. The breakout deck of Pioneer took up 5 slots of the top eight while the elimination rounds were rounded out with Sram Auras, Mono-Black Aggro and Bant Spirits. The last of which took down the entire tournament, piloted by Kenta Harane.
Harane’s version of the spirits deck only plays a single non-creature spell in the maindeck, which just so happens to be the only green spell in the maindeck, Collected Company. A deck that is made up of 32 creatures may not seem like it has much play to it, but the spirits deck can be deceptive. Every single creature in this list has a spell like effect as an activated ability or an enter the battlefield trigger.
What this allows you to do is apply pressure to your opponent while simultaneously disrupting their development. The tribe that the deck is built with, spirits, is also one of the only tribes in Pioneer that has a “lord” that exists in the format. The disruptive game plan of this deck shouldn’t take away from the fact that all of your creatures have flying, this makes combat almost one sided.
Rattlechains takes your normal game and cranks it up to eleven. When all of your spirits have Flash you play solely on your opponent's turn unless deemed more beneficial to do so on your own turn.
The finalist of Players Tour Nagoya was none other than renowned brewer Ken Yukuhiro. As you would expect Ken was piloting a deck of his own design in Sram Auras.
Obviously I’m not well versed with this deck, but it does seem like it would follow a similar game plan and play style of aura based decks of formats past.
Plan A here is to stick a Sram, Senior Artificer and then “suit up” one of your creatures with the various auras in your deck. Alseid of Life’s Bounty and Karametra’s Blessing are very versatile tools to protect your creatures or enable them to get through blockers if the board gets too bogged down. The combination of Sram and so many auras you have so much card advantage built into what your deck is wanting to do anyway. Speaking of advantages, if Plan A falls through then we move onto Plan B and build up a wide board of creatures and tokens. Aphemia, the Cacophony is the linchpin of this plan. It’s a simply as exiling the enchantments that have found their way into the graveyard, make a zombie token, rinse and repeat.
I Like Your Plan, Except It Sucks. So Let Me Do The Plan, and That Way, It Might Be Really Good.
This coming weekend is yet another Player Tour, so we still have a lot of information to sort through. We really only find a lot of the initial potential of a format once the professional players get their hands on the format.
Join me next week when I’ll be taking a look at what unravels during Players Tour Phoenix and discuss the standard format as we head into the World Championship.
Good luck, I hope you lose.