Regional Championship Atlanta starts Saturday, which has certainly put Pioneer and its meta under the microscope. I’ve seen qualified players, newer ones and pros alike, wondering which deck to play this weekend as they test different options.
A common talking point is that none of the decks seem to jump out from the pack, and I think that may be true among the top five or so decks. As long as you’re playing one of those, it is hard to feel like you’ve made a mistake. They all will give you a fighting chance.
I believe those five decks to be Mono Green Devotion, Rakdos Midrange, Izzet Phoenix, Mono White Aggro and Abzan Greasefang.
Mono Green Devotion
Mono Green Devotion is arguably the most famous, or infamous, archetype, depending on how you see things. Combining a strong, midrange ramp plan with a potent combo plan makes the deck dangerous on multiple axes.
Karn, the Great Creator, puts Mono Green from a good deck to a great deck. The ability to grab the best card for nearly any situation with Karn’s wish ability gives Mono Green an incredible amount of flexibility to combat any matchup.
Mono Green is considered by many to be the default best deck in Pioneer, and I expect it to show up in droves in Atlanta. The scary part is Mono Green may already be the best deck, and it is getting upgrades from The Brothers’ War in Cityscape Leveler and The Stone Brain.
With positive matchups against Rakdos and Greasefang, Green has a strong showing against the top decks while easily overpowering lower tier decks. I’d expect Mono Green Devotion to be the most popular deck in the room.
Rakdos Midrange is next on the list, and my personal favorite deck mentioned here. Rakdos is a fairly straightforward, old school, Jund-style strategy with good creatures and efficient removal to clear the way. Fable of the Mirror Breaker is easily one of the most powerful cards in all of Pioneer, and Rakdos Midrange uses it among the best of any deck in Pioneer.
This is a deck that tries to trade one for one on resources with its opponent and use two for ones generated by Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Fable of the Mirror Breaker, Bonecrusher Giant and Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger to gain an advantage. Then it finds a way to win from there.
Rakdos Midrange has fluttered between being a good deck and the best deck depending on the surrounding metagame. Flexibility in deck building makes Rakdos adaptable, and that means it can beat pretty much any deck it wants to focus on beating. However, that leaves it without the broad strokes answers needed to beat everything all the time.
This deck’s performance will likely depend where its pilots choose to put their points in deck building. Extinction Event and Lifebane Zombie excel against Mono Green and Mono White, but they lack power in the mirror and against Phoenix. Similarly, Unlicensed Hearse performs well in the mirror, plus Phoenix and Greasefang, but it doesn’t do much against Green and White. Figuring out that balance will be important for Rakdos players.
Phoenix is an old favorite for many Modern players making the jump to Pioneer, so I expect it will be a popular choice for many grinder level players. It provides the pilot with a lot of agency and decisions throughout the game.
This deck can either grind card advantage by returning Arclight Phoenix multiple times, casting Treasure Cruise, copying spells with Galvanic Iteration or effectively combo killing the opponent by taking multiple turns with Temporal Trespass.
Phoenix has a close matchup against both Rakdos and Mono Green, while sporting a solid matchup against Mono White. A powerful strategy, with a high degree of skill expression makes me believe that Phoenix will do well in Atlanta.
Mono White Aggro
Mono White was built to answer Mono Green, as the best way to beat them is running them down. Mono White is about as aggressive as it gets in Pioneer, but it also has a bit of size to it with Adeline, Resplendent Cathar at the top end to make sure Mono White doesn’t get outclassed in combat.
Brave the Elements can set up kills out of nowhere against opponents who aren’t careful about what color creatures they leave home to block, while also protecting from whatever interaction the opponent may have. Given how bad the mana fixing is in Pioneer, you won’t find many multicolor creatures running around.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben can also make life hard for decks relying on casting a lot of early non-creature spells, such as Izzet Phoenix and Mono Green. Though the matchup against Rakdos Midrange tends to be rough, Extraction Specialist and Wedding Announcement can definitely give Mono White a fighting chance.
I’d say Mono Green and Greasefang are good matchups for Mono White, while Rakdos and Phoenix are negative matchups. Given that, and given its natural strength at combating Mono Green, I think Mono White will be a popular choice among players who aren’t playing Green but want to target it.
Last on the list we have Abzan Greasefang, a deck regarded among the best decks for a while, not long ago. Much of this is due to its inherent strength against Rakdos Midrange.
Greasefang does a lot of self-milling with Satyr Wayfinder, Grisly Salvage and Stitcher’s Supplier to try and find Parhelion II and Greasefang, Okiba Boss. Once you can get a Greasefang in place (either by casting it or reanimating it with Can’t Stay Away), it can reanimate and crew Parhelion II, which often ends the game on the spot. The Greasefang player gets to attack for 13 and leave eight power in angels behind.
Even when Greasefang isn’t reanimating the giant sky bus, Esika’s Chariot and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship can definitely win games, too. Greasefang is oddly resilient as well because of Can’t Stay Away. A single removal spell on Greasefang often isn’t good enough to get the job done.
Greasefang struggles with Mono Green and Mono White because Green can easily go over the top while Mono White doesn’t give Greasefang enough time to set up. Rakdos and Phoenix on the other hand are slow enough and vulnerable enough to all of the vehicles that Greaefang enjoys those matchups. Anyone not respecting the graveyard without being as aggressive as possible is likely not looking forward to facing Greasefang, putting it in a good place for this weekend.
Predicting a tournament metagame with some of the best players in the game focusing on breaking the meta can be challenging — especially because if a team finds something new, it is likely going to be a secret until after the event.
Hopefully, knowing what to expect will help any Pioneer players looking for a home make a more informed decision on what deck to pick up and learn. I’ll be keeping track of the Regional Championship the best I can without video coverage to see which decks are succeeding and which are struggling.
I’m interested to know what comes out victorious, and how the metagame will be shaped going forward. My prediction is that Mono Green, despite having a target on its back, will be the best deck for Atlanta. As always, you can find me on Twitter @RappaciousOne for questions, comments or feedback! I’ll see everyone back here next week!
Michael Rapp is a Modern specialist who favors Thoughtseize decks. Magic sates his desire for competition and constant improvement.