Pioneer Tier List Update September 6, 2022

An explanation of this week's Pioneer tier list movements and placements.

Click here for the tier list!

S Tier

Green Devotion (Stable) – Though Green Devotion didn’t pick up much from the new set, its consistency and explosiveness have carried it through this first week with the new cards. On top of its favorable matchup against midrange strategies in general, the deck has experienced a big boost with its ability to summon its graveyard hate against the recent influx of Greasefang strategies as well. Liliana’s printing seems to have bolstered the Devotion deck’s winningness even more than we had anticipated, and the deck has secured itself once again in our S tier. Should things continue on this trajectory, it may well be that the deck once again reaches problematic levels as well. 

A Tier

Izzet Phoenix (Up from B Tier) – Phoenix saw a large uptick in popularity this weekend as players decided to combat the experimental decks with something tried, true, and powerful. The deck’s relative powerlevel has gone unchanged, also not picking up much from the new set, so the only factor in its movement on the tier list is popularity and density in the events that we scan. We expect this to be the case for a while as the deck remains “Everyone’s favorite Plan B”. 

Abzan Greasefang (Stable) –Greasefang was the archetype that every player pegged as the ideal first home for Liliana of the Veil, and staggeringly they were all correct as the powerful planeswalker makes her first appearance in a home that she’s not exactly used to conventionally. The Abzan version of the deck has an even matchup against Devotion, and easily slides underneath a good portion of the rest of the top decks in the format. It has a high capacity to play through hate cards such as Rest in Peace, and Liliana even further improves the deck’s backup plan as a grind-em-out strategy.

Azorius Control (Stable) – Azorius remaining in place comes as a bit of a surprise, as conventional wisdom states that at the beginning of a “new” format, the control decks typically fall short as their answer suite needs adjusting to the changes in the metagame. It turns out that Teferi and the Wanderer are strong enough a blanket answer to any threat that the deck doesn’t need to spend any time on the sidelines, which may not be surprising to anyone who’s picked the deck up in recent months. While we don’t expect the deck to outperform Green Devotion anytime soon, the strategy on the whole remains a solid option for those looking to spend a bit more time each round slinging spells. 

Rakdos Midrange (Stable) – The addition of Liliana of the Veil has clearly increased the power level of Rakdos even more. However, adding more three-drops is not only on-brand for this deck, but seems to be the right call as it took down a challenge this weekend with three copies of Liliana of the Veil main. This deck continues to put up consistent results and is a top finisher every week on MTGO in the challenges. While we are still waiting to see what overall effect Dominaria will have on Pioneer, it’s clear that Rakdos has gained even more power, even while already being a top deck. 

B Tier

Mono-White Humans (Down from A Tier) – Humans continues to be the most popular aggro strategy in the format, both for its simplistic and straightforward design and its relatively low barrier to entry for the format. The deck failed to pick up anything useful from Dominaria, and slowly the other decks in the format that have, such as Rakdos Midrange and Greasefang, are starting to work their way past mono-white in the rankings. We expect the deck to remain the best overall option in terms of aggression in the format for a while, though aggressive strategies as a whole have fallen a couple of marks due to the overwhelming presence of black based midrange strategies. 

Bant Spirits (Stable) – As the format picks up more midrange pieces and experiments more with fringe strategies, the spirits lists with access to Collected Company and Spell Queller will continue to remain the better option. As opposed to its mono-colored counterpart, Bant spirits doesn’t depend on racing to survive in an open field with its capacity to sit back and outvalue opponents over time. With three top16 finishes this weekend, the deck is slowly closing the gap between where its at and the decks above it. 

Boros Heroic (Stable) – The future of this deck is looking a bit shaky. Although its best matchup, Green Devotion, is still the most popular deck in this format, there is one new issue that it has to find a way to deal with: Liliana of the Veil. Rakdos Midrange was already a not-so-great matchup for Boros, and the addition of edict effects on a reasonable spot on the curve make it so that God’s Willing is no longer the catch-all answer that it used to be. We don’t have strong anticipations for the archetype one way or the other, and are holding judgment to see how the deck performs in the coming weeks. 

C Tier

Rakdos Sacrifice (Down from B Tier) – Rakdos sacrifice took two different paths with its additions from DMU this week, with one list featuring Braids and Weatherlight Compleated and the other splashing into green to gain access to Korvold while keeping a relatively stock build otherwise. It seems as though the Sacrifice archetype is consolidating a bit as it works out the best way to combat the Devotion menace. It is also seemingly the only Rakdos deck that hasn’t gained from the addition of Liliana of the Veil, which was to be expected. A poor week’s showing aside, the core concept is still a strong one, and we expect that once the deck figures out which of the new pieces it wants to pursue and in what quantity, that its ranking may rise back to its previous levels. 

Jund Food (Stable) – The traditional Build of Jund food put up one top 8 Finish this weekend, choosing to omit any new inclusions from DMU. On the whole, the strategy is still relatively weak to the number one deck in the format, but the Jund version of the deck has certainly proven capable of holding its own against the meta at large with some favorable matchup pairings throughout a tournament. Whether or not this variation will supercede its Rakdos flavored cousin is yet to be determined. 

Mono-Red Cleave (Stable) – Mono Red continues to be a staple of the Pioneer landscape, though it has changed from the more burn-oriented build into a creature focused Embercleave build that looks to punish decks like Mono Green Devotion. The same issues persist though as the deck’s draws without Embercleave struggle against large creatures and the deck still finds itself struggling against decks heavy on interaction such as Rakdos Midrange. 

Mono Blue Spirits (Stable) – While the Mono-colored version of the spirits deck had a carrot dangled in front of it from the new set in some additional copies of the Curiosity effect, the strategy on the whole is just generally weaker to the larger metagame forces present at the moment. With the high density of midrange decks packing various types of removal from instant sport removal to board wipes to now planeswalker based edict effects, Mono blue spirits can no longer bank solely on its previous interaction suite to survive. We expect the Bant version to remain the more successful shell as long as midrange is in a thriving position in the meta game. 

D Tier

Izzet Pyro (Up from Off-Meta) – The addition of Balmor has done a lot to bolster the Izzet tempo strategies that rely on creatures, turning their relatively inconsistent aggression into perpetually legitimate threats. While we aren’t certain that the strategy will survive the test of time, it is certainly refreshing to see the Prowess style deck return to the list. Ideally the strategy sees further innovation to keep pace with the rest of the format. 

Niv to Light (Stable)

Lotus Field (Stable) – While Lotus Field had a decent weekend, it continues to suffer as long as Green Devotion remains the king of the format. Between that and the presence of Liliana of the Veil demanding the deck go off as soon as possible instead of sitting back to accumulate cards, Lotus receives further beatings. While we don’t expect the deck to go away entirely as it is certainly a cult favorite, it is definitely not the meta game to be expecting regular success from this strategy. 

Moved to Off-Meta

Bant Humans

  • Darren "ServoToken"


    ServoToken has been playing competitive magic since 2011, spending a majority of that time living in the shoes of a player on a strict budget. After investing a lot of time learning how to make the best of a bad situation, his goals today are to spread those lessons to the often-ignored population of Magic players who can’t afford to drop a car payment on a new deck every couple of months. His mantra is that “You don’t need to play mono-red to do well on a budget”. These days, you can typically find him deep in the archives of Scryfall searching for new cards to brew around or making tweaks to the Pioneer Budget deck spreadsheet on his unending mission to bring his favorite format to the people on the cheap.

  • 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.

  • KarnageKards

    Competitive Team Lead

    KarnageKardsENT has been playing Magic since Scars of Mirrodin. During the Pandemic, he moved to playing MTGO. Today, you can find him playing Pioneer, Modern and sometimes Standard. A mainstay in the Pioneer Challenges, Karnage can be found at Most Eastern F2F stops in Canada.

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