Metagame Breakdown December 7th, 2022

Join Darthjacen for a breakdown of this week's top Pioneer decks and the meta shifts that were seen in recent events


Each week, we here at Playing Pioneer take a deep dive into the Magic Online results for Pioneer. We take what data we do have and breakdown what decks sit where in the overall metagame of Pioneer. These tier lists include a rolling average to ensure decks don’t move too volatility on the tier list after one good week. If you’re looking for an example of that tier list, here is this week’s tier list.

This metagame breakdown article will accompany that tier list each Wednesday and will go over the top decks, why they have seen increases, decreases, or stagnation in play, and cover what stands out for why these decks are contenders in the metagame.

So, let’s break down the various events we are drawing data from this week!


This week we have our standard set of data looking at the Magic Online Pioneer Challenge along with a Magic Online Championship Series Showcase Challenge, and various Preliminary events throughout the week. For the Challenges, we are looking at all decks that earned the same number of points as the player in 16th in each event and for the Preliminary events we are looking at all 4-0 and 3-1 decks.

We also had the next batch of Regional Championships this weekend including the South America Magic Series and MIT Championship. These Regional Championships feed into the largest events on the upcoming Organize Play calendar and of course will count towards our data for this week. We also had the Last Chance Qualifiers for the Magic Online Championship Showcase along with the 32-player Showcase Challenge to add to our data this week.

Each of these finishes are called qualified finishes and are part of how we determine which decks have seen success over the past weekend. While the number of finishes doesn’t account for all the purposes of decks moving, it can serve as a backbone to various arguments for moving a deck up or down the rankings.

Now that we’ve covered our data set, let’s get into the decks that will show up at your upcoming events!

Metagame Breakdown


Decks in this tier are the most heavily played and format dominant. These decks are the core that the rest of the meta revolves around. Players should be prepared to face these decks multiple times throughout a given event.

Rakdos Midrange

Deck Overview: Rakdos Midrange is the premier midrange deck in Pioneer. It continually puts up top results through discard, removal, and difficult to answer threats.

Why it’s in this tier: This week, Rakdos was the dominant deck. Thanks to an astonishing thirty-two qualifying finishes, Rakdos had more than double the second-place decks’ number of finishes. This week, we saw Rakdos get a huge boost thanks in part due to the MOCS Last Chance Qualifiers and the Prelims, but even when just looking at the larger events, Rakdos still put up more qualifying finishes than Green Karn.

With strong matchups into most of the best decks in the format along with the addition of Misery’s Shadow giving a better early means to pressure life totals and Planeswalkers, it’s not shocking to see Rakdos again sit atop the Pioneer Metagame. While the rise of Lotus Field is of concern, having seven two-drop creatures to follow up discard with can help level out that matchup and brings even one of Rakdos’ worst matchups into a realm where you can easily steal matches.

Mono-Green Karn

Deck Overview: A ramp deck that leverages powerful Planeswalkers and high toughness threats to control the board before comboing your opponent with Chain Veil, Pestilent Cauldron, and your suite of difficult to answer Planeswalkers.

Why it’s in this tier: With thirteen qualifying finishes this week, Mono-Green Karn maintained a healthy lead for second place over a smattering of other decks that all sit with less than ten qualifying finishes each. Green has slowly started to lose ground in terms of metagame percentages since the 20% plus weekend in Atlanta, but the deck is still a top choice in Pioneer.

While the Izzet Phoenix and Mono-White Humans matchups are scary, Green still does a great job of beating up midrange and control decks that can’t close out the game or Aggro decks that don’t have access to flying or Brave the Elements. The number of tough matchups continues to grow for this deck, but on raw power level alone, Green is unlikely to disappear entirely for as long as Karn, The Great Creator and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx are legal in the format.


Decks in this tier are on generally on the same power level as those above it, and consistently post top results at events. However, due to certain factors like deck population or weakness in a key matchup they are not as format dominant.

Izzet Phoenix (Down)

Deck Overview: Leveraging some of the best two-drop creatures in the format along with the best cantrips, delve spells, and removal, Izzet Phoenix leverages many decision trees to find close wins and rewards deck mastery.

Why it’s in this tier: With a paltry four qualifying finishes, this was one of the worst weekends for Phoenix in ages. It’s not hard to figure out why that’s the case though: Rakdos remains a difficult matchup that currently has a massive percentage of the metagame share and Lotus Field continues to pick up in popularity. This weekend’s results have me wondering if Phoenix aren’t better off moving towards playing Rakdos over Phoenix as you can still beat up the aggressive decks and the Mono-Green Matchup is much better with Misery’s Shadow.

For Phoenix, the deck is still great at beating up Mono-Green, Spirits decks of all flavors, and winning elongated games where you have access to your whole deck thanks to Treasure Cruise and Pieces of the Puzzle, but the questions are starting to add up.

Mono-White Humans

Deck Overview: An Aggro deck trying to close the game out quickly through the various synergies of the humans cards in Pioneer alongside Brave the Elements as a lethal finisher.

Why it’s in this tier: With six qualifying finishes this weekend and none in the Magic Online Showcase Championship or the Last Chance Qualifiers, it’s easy to see why the amount of Mono-White is down this week. Rakdos and Izzet have strong matchups into this deck, even with solid sideboard tools to help the matchups and Rakdos was out in force this weekend.

While Mono-White still does great into Lotus Field and Mono-Green Karn, it has some trouble finishing off some of the other decks that have been picking up play percentages like Selesnya Angels. I expect the premier Aggro deck in Pioneer not to go anywhere for now, but the question remains if Aggro can survive in a format dominated by Rakdos.

Lotus Field Combo

Deck Overview: Using Lotus Field, Thespian Stage, and untap effects, this deck combos out anywhere from turn three to five and manages to beat up on control and midrange decks.

Why it’s in this tier: The Lotus Field Combo stock continues to rise with seven qualifying finishes this weekend including a Pioneer Challenge and Magic Online Championship Showcase win. The deck is incredibly powerful and skilled pilots are dominating high level events thanks to the deck’s great matchup into Azorius ontrol, Izzet Phoenix, and Rakdos Midrange.

Even though the deck can struggle against Aggro and has a close matchup into Mono-Green Karn, MTGO user SneakyMisato leveraged some new tech in Hope Tender, main deck Extinction Event, and Elder Gargaroth to weather the storm until comboing for the win. Thanks to the deck adding in Pithing Needle to slow down Karn, The Great Creator as well, the deck has greatly picked up in terms of quality for skilled players and is a top deck moving forward in the format.


Decks in this tier are proven performers with strong finishes that will reward good player skill/dedicated play. However, they generally lack a certain level of power/consistency to take them to the winner’s podium on a regular basis.

Gruul Vehicles

Deck Overview: A more midrange Gruul Aggro deck leveraging the power of Esika’s Chariot and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship to help finish out games against midrange and controlling opponents.

Why it’s in this tier: Gruul Vehicles has started fading from the Pioneer Metagame and we see this with another weak weekend with only two qualifying finishes. While the deck manages to have a strong Rakdos Matchup thanks to the power of the vehicles proving difficult to effectively two-for-one, much of the format has moved towards slower and larger decks that can easily beat Gruul.

While the power level of this deck is high, with the continued increase in Azorius Control, Selesnya Angels, and Lotus Field, we are seeing the deck having natural predators at the top tables and the deck continues to suffer a bit in terms of results. I wouldn’t be shocked to see this deck drop a tier or two in the upcoming weeks.

Selesnya Angels

Deck Overview: Leveraging the power of two and three-drop angel creatures, this lifegain deck keeps Aggro decks at bay while having enough staying power with Collected Company to fight off Midrange decks.

Why it’s in this tier: This deck continues to show up thanks to its strong matchup into Aggro and various midrange decks with the printing of Kayla’s Reconstruction. Given the deck’s ability to quickly close out a game with Righteous Valkyrie, it can also hold its own against Mono-Green Karn, especially with Pithing Needles in the sideboard. With five qualifying finishes, the raw numbers are still a little lacking, but the deck continues to look impressive when it shows up.

I suspect the continued rise of Azorius Control will be damaging to this deck as well and we will see the metagame shift once again around Control showing up more. If that does happen, expect Angels to drop back down a bit as Angels hates playing against Control, even with Reconstruction.

Azorius Control

Deck Overview: The premier pure control deck, Azorius Control leverages counterspells, wrath effects, and powerful Planeswalkers to take over the game and keep opponents from realizing their gameplan.

Why it’s in this tier: Azorius Control continues to serve as the format’s default control deck and put up another strong weekend with seven qualifying finishes. The deck does benefit from the metagame being shaped around the lack of control that was present for months thanks to the dominance of Mono-Green Karn. With Karn starting to wane in popularity a bit, Azorius has found some more footing into the format. Powerful cards like The Wandering Emperor, Supreme Verdict, and Dovin’s Veto can win matchups against underprepared opponents and most sideboards aren’t prepared for Control right now in Pioneer, so take advantage now while you can!

The oddest thing about Azorius Control is that you have strong matchups into the other B-tier decks and most of the decks below B-tier, but your matchup into the S-tier and A-tier decks are bad. Strong Rakdos, Karn, Lotus Field, and Phoenix opponents will eat Azorius Control alive on average, but the deck has found the tools to beat up the rest of the format and you only need to steal a handful of bad matchups to win any given event.


Decks in this tier are on an average power level for the format or are heavily underrepresented. Like our B-tier these decks can reward dedication to the archetype, but they will require a more concerted effort. Players should be aware of these decks, but not over-tune for these matchups.

5c Enigmatic Fires (Up)

Deck Overview: Leveraging the power of Enigmatic Incarnation alongside Leyline Binding and other Enchantments, this toolbox deck uses silver bullets to beat any deck it comes across.

Why it’s in this tier: Enigmatic Incarnation seems to be the final winner in the battle between Fires of Invention decks. Keruga Fires has been slowly disappearing and 5c Enigmatic has been picking up more quality finishes including in the Magic Online Championship Showcase this past weekend. While the deck is still underplayed compared to its potential, the deck’s ability to beat up Rakdos Midrange and other slow decks is a big selling point for the future if Rakdos remains a dominating force in the metagame.

Izzet Creativity (Up)

Deck Overview: Turning tokens into a one-turn combo kill thanks to Indomitable Creativity, this deck finishes off unaware opponents with ease.

Why it’s in this tier: With four qualifying finishes, with three coming from the Magic Online Showcase Championship and the Pioneer Challenges, Creativity is on the rise and it’s easy to see why that’s the case. With a strong matchup into both Rakdos Midrange and Mono Green Karn, you have favorable matchups at the top tables and can easily find yourself in top 8 of an event having only faced strong matchups.

Where the deck struggles though is against Mono White Humans, Izzet Phoenix, and Azorius Control. While these bad matchups are heavily outnumbered compared to the good matchups, if you have the misfortune to face the Azorius Control players in a room, expect a swift exit from the event. This swingy nature of matchups can put off some players and may be a reason the deck continues to show up in fewer numbers than it perhaps should.

Abzan Greasefang (Down)

Deck Overview: This deck leverages the power of Greasefang, Okiba Boss and Parhelion II to speed out thirteen flying power and kill the opponent the following turn.

Why it’s in this tier: With only two qualifying finishes, it’s time to start putting this rat on life alert. The deck has been struggling of late with the rise of graveyard interaction thanks to Izzet Phoenix showing up in force. While Izzet is starting to struggle a bit, you still are in trouble against the glut of targeted removal that can answer a Greasefang floating around in sideboards.

If Izzet continues to dip in results and Rakdos continues to take up more and more of the field, Greasefang does start to look more appealing, but for me, this deck continues to show a weakness whenever it can’t just win on turn three. When left unchecked, this deck can run rampant, but at times like this, I’d advise leaving your Parhelion at home.


Decks in this tier will find the current meta hostile to their overall game plan. These decks can find success in the right environment, but the winner’s podium will be few and far between.

Jund Sacrifice / RB Sacrifice (Down)

Deck Overview: This deck takes the pieces of Rakdos Sacrifice and adds green for Korvold, Fae-Cursed King. A powerful addition that allows you to go way over the top much faster than old Sacrifice could.

Why it’s in this tier: Well, it was a quick moment in the sun for Rakdos Sacrifice last week before it came crashing back down this week. With only one qualifying finish each for Rakdos and Jund sac, the deck isn’t finding success in the format right now.

While you have a strong matchup into Rakdos Midrange, the printing of Misery’s Shadow hurt your ability to dominate that matchup with cat-oven combo and with Mono-Green Karn around as well, the number of tough matchups for this deck outweighs its seeming benefits.

Keruga Fires (Down)

Deck Overview: Adventure creatures pair up with Fires of Invention to power out big plays for cheap. Leveraging the power of Keruga, the Macrosage this deck dominates the mid game and pulls ahead starting on turn three.

Why it’s in this tier: The hippo was largely absent from the metagame this weekend and we are seeing 5c Enigmatic picking up more play at top tables. While the deck is powerful, I suspect that telling your opponent you plan on skipping most of the first few turns and that you are reliant on a four-mana enchantment is not a winning strategy right now. Much like with Greasefang, as the metagame adjusts, this deck looks worse and worse. You really don’t want to run into Control with this deck and that is becoming a more realistic possibility as Control picks up more play.

Wrapping Up

There you have it, our weekly breakdown of all the top contenders in Pioneer and why they fall into their distinctive places in the overall metagame. While these tiers can change somewhat frequently, be sure to also check out our monthly overview of how decks performed on a month-to-month basis found here.

Best of luck at your upcoming events and be sure to stay safe out there!

  • DarthJacen

    Pioneer Competitive Guide

    Darthjacen has been playing Magic since Dark Ascension and plays Standard, Modern, Pioneer, and Limited. With a Grand Prix win in 2015 and an SCG Team Top 4 in 2019, he continues to pursue competitive Magic at every turn.

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