Lessons Learned from DreamHack Atlanta Regional Championship

Lessons Learned from DreamHack’s Regional Championship

Mason ClarkPioneer

Last weekend, DreamHack Atlanta featured the 2023 season’s first Regional Championship. I competed in the event and secured a Pro Tour invite, learning plenty along the way. So, today we are going to talk about three decks that taught some lessons and secured their pilots pro tour invites. 

The “best” deck for the moment

Izzet Phoenix was the “best deck” for the weekend. Across all the RCs, it had the highest top 8 conversion rate and still posted great numbers down to top 48 for the RC in Atlanta. 

Arclight is a deck that, much like Rakdos Midrange, is trying to control the board to some extent and pressure you before you can recover. However, this deck looks to lean on strong counter magic as its side board weapon of choice compared to Rakdos leaning on proactive answers. 

This means a few things. First, you have a better Mono Green matchup since you can actually stop some of their high-end plays — especially when combined with Thing in the Ice. This card, once fully unleashed, lets you clean up the threats that got underneath you and actually pressure the Mono Green players so they can’t win in time. 

The other big change is that with fewer creatures in your deck, you have a slightly higher fail rate if you draw the wrong card advantage cards at the wrong time. Your deck has eight powerful cantrips in Consider and Opt to help sculpt your draws, but drawing Treasure Cruise before your other important pieces can be a game losing situation. 

The last big difference is you are weaker to sideboard cards. Since your deck leans on the graveyard, you’re more exploitable. As a result, you must dedicate some amount of your own side board to answering these problems. 

Arclight has one other big selling point: Galvanic Iteration and Temporal Trespass. When these cards are combined, you can just take multiple turns in a row. As a result, you can steal games you have no business winning and put a cap on other decks in the format. Rakdos simply can’t do that. 

Then, combine all of that with the ability to more easily find your sideboard cards thanks to your card selection. All that helped set up Arclight to be a very successful deck this past weekend and place a dominating five copies across all the top 8s around the globe. 

Lotus field sees new growth

Joe Lossett is no stranger to picking up one deck and mastering it. He came into the RC with an innovative Lotus Field list. But unlike the builds of old that featured 12-14 wish targets, Joe opted for a more realistic sideboard that was actually dedicated to fixing matchups. 

The first and biggest change is Joe’s 4 copies of Pithing Needle. This card offered Joe a lot of upside against one of Lotus Field’s worst matchups, Mono Green. 

In the past, part of what made Mono Green so good was the Damping Sphere in the side board. With it, Karn could grab it and turn off your marquee card. However, last weekend, a large subset of players cut the Damping Sphere for The Stone Brain. This card allowed them the ability to win by just using Karn’s wish effect. 

While that remained true in game one, post board those Pithing Needles came back in a big way. From proactively naming Karn to even just naming The Stone Brain, Pithing Needle’s presence allowed Lossett to cut Fae of Wishes and bring in Approach of the Second Sun to actually win the matchup. And outside of mono green, they also came in handy against decks like Grease Fang and other, weird combo decks.

Lossett’s other big innovation was including two copies of Silence in the side board over Thought Distortion. Silence solves most of the same problems as Distortion and allows you mana to actually go off on the turn, so they don’t get a draw step. 

Silence is also very good against Mono Green, as playing it on their upkeep basically ends their turn. Meanwhile, when playing against an already great matchup like Phoenix, you never end up in awkward situations where you spend six mana and hope not to die on the next turn.

When you combine the good preparation from Lossett, the willingness to deviate from the norm and a good spot in the meta outside of mono green, it’s easy to see how he secured the pro tour invite this past weekend with Lotus Field.  

Orzhov midrange hits the scene

Raja Sulaiman brought a very interesting and exciting midrange deck to the event. Orzhov Midrange is not something we have seen succeed in Pioneer before, but Raja secured his pro tour invite with the archetype. 

Players often joke about Wasteland Strangler, but it’s an all-star in this deck. With Misery Shadow’s addition to the game, you get a card that helps enable Strangler without being clunky on its own. 

Speaking of enabling Strangler, this deck also plays Vanishing Verse, Graveyard Trespasser and Skyclave Apparition — three amazing cards the deck probably wants regardless of Wasteland Strangler. The deck also has Elite Spellbinder, which is a card we don’t get enough of in Pioneer due to White’s typical role in the format. However, you can use Strangler and this card together to create a mini-discard-into-kill-spell combo. 

You also see a lot of normal tools from Rakdos midrange ported over here. Fatal push, thoughtseize, Sky Sovereign and Sheoldred all show up, so it’s not all cute tricks. There’s a strong foundation in place, but you might have noticed this is also a Yorion deck. That helps make room for all these cards, which also happen to be great flicker targets.

When looking at the deck as a whole, you should think of it as a bigger Rakdos deck. It can’t kill you as quickly as Rakdos can, but it can grind way longer and is favored in most midrange or creature matchups.

The final thing to note about this deck is that it’s also a Karn deck. Now, Karn is often paired with big mana in order to more easily play him and another spell in the same turn. However, we do have a number of cheap artifacts in the side board to allow the same result without the big mana. 

As a midrange deck, this main deck Karn serves a great purpose by shutting off the combo for other Karn decks. So, when you have successfully stopped a string of early elves from Mono Green, you’re able to not worry about the combo as much. 

Also, all the same perks Karn offers against Mono Green also apply to decks like Grease Fang. Sulaiman even loaded his side board up with both The Stone Brain and Damping Sphere to really prevent combo decks from beating him. 

This deck might change what Midrange looks like in Pioneer going forward. And even if it doesn’t, I think it firmly supplants the big, white decks splashing Fable of the Mirror Breaker we spoke about a few weeks ago. 

End step

In the end, Pioneer proved it’s not just all about Mono Green this weekend, and hopefully we see lots more churn going forward. In the meantime, I have a pro tour to prepare for down the road. And as I prepare, I’ll be sure to keep you all updated with the latest meta developments.