Pioneer Metagame Breakdown: Top Decks for the Week of September 14, 2022

In the first of PlayingPioneer's weekly Meta Guides (which will replace our weekly tier list breakdowns), DarthJacen goes over this week's Pioneer tier list and offers insights to each deck's viability and tier list movements this week.


Each week, we here at PlayingPioneer take a deep dive into the Magic Online results for Pioneer. We take what data we have and break down which 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 as to 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 two Magic Online Pioneer Challenges along with 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.

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 reasoning for a deck’s movement, it can serve as a backbone to various arguments for moving a deck up or down the rankings.

For a monthly breakdown of these events, check out Arinceo’s “Charting a Course” series!

Pioneer Competitive Guides

The data above is broken down by our Pioneer Competitive Guides – a group of players on the PlayingPioneer team who have met certain metrics to qualify to be a Competitive Guide and maintained those metrics each month to remain on the competitive team. While leaning on the data as much as possible, the competitive team often shifts decks up and down based on their experience and feelings about expected matchups. The input from our competitive guides, combined with the data, makes up our weekly tier lists.

Metagame Breakdown

S Tier

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: With nineteen qualified finishes this week and the additions of Liliana of the Veil and Sheoldred the Apocalypse, this deck looks like it got the newest tools from Dominaria United and has dominated the early weeks of the format in bigger events. While the deck has some natural predators in the format, each new powerful addition helps to shore those up a bit and give Rakdos even more ability to fight through difficult matchups.

While Green Karn often gets the headlines thanks to how it wins, Rakdos has consistently been putting up unreasonable finishes week in and week out, despite having the second most represented deck as a bad matchup. The power level of this deck is off the charts with the addition of Liliana of the Veil, and I can’t see it falling off any time soon.

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: While this deck didn’t pick up any new tools from Dominaria United, it still managed to put up fifteen qualified finishes. While a few behind Rakdos, both deck put up more finishes than double the third-place deck. While there is a diversity of decks in Pioneer, especially that can win events, it continues to seem like at the top tables, the format coalesces around Rakdos Midrange and Green Karn.

This deck can beat up on creature decks, control decks, and midrange decks, only losing heavily to decks that can consistently kill before you establish your board state or leverage the singular color of blockers in this deck, such as Heroic or Mono White Humans. Much like Rakdos, there are a handful of tough matchups for this deck, but the addition of Liliana of the Veil to Rakdos actually helped keep some of those decks in check, pulling up Karn alongside Rakdos in the metagame.

A Tier

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.

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: With seven qualifying finishes, this deck continues to put up strong results, including winning challenges weekly. The deck can struggle against both Rakdos and Green Karn at times, but as we continue to see the refinement of the sixty-card version, skilled pilots are able to steal some matches against those bad matchups.

Much like with Rakdos, decks are on a clock to end the game against Azorius Control, as Teferi, Hero of Dominaria remains an oppressive threat when left unchecked. This deck leverages cheap counterspells to keep the board from becoming too difficult to handle and you are especially favored against many decks game one, as you make much of their interaction dead. Leveraging a strong sideboard plan for difficult matchups allows you to make your way through games two and three and close out at least one of those games.

Abzan Greasefang

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: Decks at the top tables of Pioneer right now are often trying to extend the game with interaction and removal or accelerate into their combo. Abzan Greasefang works to try and punish decks that can’t hold up constant interaction from turn three on-wards and often will leverage cards like Can’t Stay Away to win through disruption. Abzan Greasefang is the best Greasefang deck at getting your pieces together as soon as possible and constantly threatening opponents with unenviable positions.

Abzan Greasefang put up five qualifying finishes and its ability to constantly put opponents under pressure makes it a strong deck in the metagame. Though, thanks to this increase in Greasefang, we have started to see more Leyline of the Void, a card that can instantly neutralize much of this deck’s gameplan.


Deck Overview: Small creatures pairing up with burn spells and direct damage to kill the opponent before they can get any footing into the game.

Why it’s in this tier: Mono Red had been absent for a few weeks thanks to the rise of Rakdos Midrange and Green Karn, but through constant iteration between the Embercleave version and now the Obosh version, this deck has gained a lot more staying power in the metagame. While the printing of Sheoldred, The Apocalypse is a nightmare for this deck, adding in copies of Roast can help you mitigate the card’s effectiveness.

We mentioned several decks above this trying to extend the game through interaction, Mono Red looks to close the game out as fast as possible and leverages haste threats and burn to punish decks that can’t close them out fast enough. While also putting up five qualifying finishes, the deck mostly found success in the challenges, which is a more interesting development compared to the absence of the deck in prelim results.  Keep an eye on various Aggro decks like this one moving forward, as the mana has gotten better, and decks may not stay mono-colored for Aggro much longer.

B Tier

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.

Mono-White Humans

Deck Overview: Another 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: Humans is a very powerful deck, but the issue remains that in a format where there are plenty of interactive decks, it can be hard to close out the game. Especially tough into Rakdos Midrange, Humans finds success through taking down Green Karn and other decks that don’t play a lot of interaction. Having a good and bad matchup among S-tier decks can often lead to high variance finishes depending on which matchup you found more often.

While the deck didn’t have a great showing this weekend, it continues to be a factor in the metagame and will likely stay as one of the top Aggro decks so long as Green Karn is a top deck. If Green ever finds itself out of the top of the metagame, expect this deck to stat to disappear a bit as well.

Izzet Phoenix

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: It is hard to ever write off this deck. It has been around for ages in Pioneer and through the continual additions of creatures like Ledger Shredder and more efficient removal, the deck continues to put up a strong fight against much of the metagame. With a strong matchup into Green Karn, the deck gets a lot of advantage in that deck being S-tier. Much like Mono White Humans though, the deck suffers versus Rakdos Midrange and the matchup lottery can leave you in some trouble.

Skilled pilots continue to find repeated success with this deck, we have seen it start to fall off a bit thanks to other decks being able to attack them with the increase of Leyline of the Voids shutting down this deck and Abzan Greasefang.

Boros Heroic

Deck Overview: Piling up counters and growing your creatures until they can run through opponents, Boros Heroic looks to kill any deck that doesn’t have a glut of interaction early and often.

Why it’s in this tier: A theme of the B-tier decks include being good into one of the S-tier decks, but not the other. Rakdos Midrange has a good time dealing with this deck, especially with the printing of a 4/5 that can’t die to Reckless Rage and Liliana of the Veil killing through protection effects. While the deck can have some high-end finishes, I would suspect this deck is on limited time now if Rakdos Remains a huge portion of the metagame.

Players will continue to try and make the matchup more palatable but having a bad matchup into the highest presence deck by qualifying finishes is a real tough place to be in Pioneer.

Jund Sacrifice / RB Sacrifice

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: The addition of Korvold has helped this deck find some footing again in the metagame, though it still doesn’t seem to be delivering as well in the Challenges as in the Prelims this week, the power level is there. Part of the issue is that Green Karn goes so far over the top of you, that even with Korvold, you’re unlikely to close the game out fast enough. The addition of threaten effects are great and help with the matchup, but you’re still not happy to see turn one Elf most of the time.

In the inverse of some of the other decks above, this deck manages to attack Rakdos Midrange well through repeated value generation and an over-the-top threat that can refill their hand, even in response to removal. Korvold is a KO against Rakdos, so protect it accordingly and leverage your knowledge of Rakdos adding in Liliana of the Veil as a clean answer to a solo Korvold.

C Tier

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.

Bant Spirits

Deck Overview: Leveraging the various spirit effects in Pioneer, this deck adds in Collected company for better staying power and acceleration in the early game.

Why it’s in this tier: Spirits decks find a lot of success attacking the various control and combo decks of the format like Lotus Field or Green Karn. Once again, the issue with this deck in the metagame stems from the deck’s problems with Rakdos Midrange and various Izzet decks that can trade up in mana efficiency. While more powerful than Mono Blue spirits now thanks to Collected Company, I still would caution playing this deck into a room filled with removal and now Liliana of the Veil to help trim down your battlefield.

Mono-Blue Spirits

Deck Overview: Instead of Collected Company, Mono Blue Spirits leverages counterspells and cheap interaction to keep midrange and control decks off their gameplan.

Why it’s in this tier: The deck continues the theme of having a strong matchup into Green Karn and other various over-the-top decks but struggles against removal heavy decks like Rakdos. With the increase in Rending Volley in many sideboards to attack Greasefang, Mono Blue spirits catches a stray shot and loses some power in the metagame. If we see Green Karn or various control and combo decks start to push out Rakdos, Spirits immediately launches into the higher tiers, but for now, there’s just too much cheap removal around.

D Tier

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.

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: You’ll notice the decks that this deck beats – midrange and control. If you can’t close the game out quickly, Lotus Field is very favored to take over the game. Unfortunately, there are plenty of Aggro decks and decks like Green Karn that can end the game effectively on turn four, leaving you without enough time to find consistent results.

Lotus Field always comes back around, but for now I’d leave it at home.

Bant Humans

Deck Overview: Like Bant Spirits leveraging Collected Company versus Mono Blue Spirits, this deck does the same versus Mono White Humans.

Why it’s in this tier: While there were some interesting additions to the deck thanks to Dominaria United in Aether Channeler, it doesn’t do enough to justifying moving the deck up. Like with Mono White Humans, you will struggle into removal heavy decks with Bant Humans, all while having a much worse matchup into Green Karn. Stay away from this bant deck if you want to play humans, instead reach for Mono White.

Izzet Creativity

Deck Overview: Leveraging removal, cantrips, and treasures, Izzet Creativity is a combo control deck that kills out of nowhere with Worldspine Wurm and Xenagos, God of Revels.

Why it’s in this tier: While the deck has some explosivity and can beat decks that don’t interact, it has a hard time dealing with the abundance of quick decks in the format that also have interaction in the form of counterspells or discard spells. While this deck has picked up plenty of success lately, it still is showing up much more in leagues than in bigger events and we will need to see more to move it up.

Enigmatic Fires

Deck Overview: A true late-game engine deck, this enchantment-based deck manages to take over from turns four onward and beat up fair decks like Rakdos Midrange.

Why it’s in this tier: With the addition of Leyline Binding, this deck has found some more steam. Especially thanks to its strong matchup into Rakdos Midrange. The biggest issue with this deck is the set-up time. Unlike many decks, you don’t even start making progress towards your gameplan in a meaningful way until turn three or four. That’s just too slow versus the Aggro decks in the format or Green Karn that can get set up to combo before you’ve even gotten your engines online.

Izzet Pyromancer

Deck Overview: A new deck that has found some popularity thanks to the power of Izzet cards and the ability for this deck to overwhelm fair decks with constant two-for-ones and go-wide threats.

Why it’s in this tier: This deck is able to leverage removal and cantrips much like Izzet Phoenix, but instead of relying on late game finishers as much, this deck looks to take over the board a little earlier with Ledger Shredder and Young Pyromancer. Each time you can get value out of these threats, especially against midrange decks, you slowly pull ahead.

The deck hasn’t shown quite enough to move up year and we’ve seen various builds with Balmor be much faster at threatening opponents and might have more long-term staying power in the format. For now, though, it’s exciting to see another new take on Izzet decks find some success in Pioneer.  

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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