Tier List Companion – Aug 2nd, 2023

DarthJacen breaks down movements and changes in yesterday’s Pioneer tier list.


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 break down which decks sit where in the overall metagame of Pioneer. These tier lists include a rolling average to ensure decks’ movement isn’t too volatile on the tier list after one good week. Here’s the Tier List from this week that we’ll be working with.


The Data

Each week, we look at top Magic Online Tournaments including the weekly challenges, any Regional Championship Qualifiers, or Magic Online Championship Series events, along with the Pioneer Prelim events. 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.

If there are any high-profile paper events, we will also include those. Some examples of events we would count are SCG Con events, NRG Events, Regional Championships, Pro Tours, etc.

Here were this week’s events:

Now that we’ve looked at the data, let’s take a look at what changes occurred in this week’s tier list!

Metagame Breakdown

Moved Up

Azorius Control


With Pioneer done at the premier level for a little bit, we’re back to our regularly scheduled weekly programs. The Pioneer challenges and preliminary events are back to being our primary form of seeing the metagame evolutions of the format each week. While these periods between larger events can see the metagame stagnate, here’s hoping that we continue to see innovations like with RW Convoke, RW Pia, and the Archfiend archetypes that all debuted this season.

This week though, there wasn’t too much movement as the top decks continued sitting atop the metagame and a clear delineation formed. With eight decks in the A and B tiers, it does feel like the format has once again solidified into the top challengers and decks waiting patiently to have a breakthrough.

With nine qualifying finishes, Rakdos Sacrifice remains the top deck in the format after an incredible Regional Championship season. The deck saw Cat Oven displace the long-standing Rakdos Midrange as the best red-black deck of Pioneer and radically shifted how other decks interact with the format. While only three of the finishes came from the challenge, it isn’t unusual to see the top deck put up slightly less impressive numbers once players know to target it. Even so, if you’re not prepared to face this deck at least once or twice per event for the foreseeable future, you’re going to have a rough time.

While not in the A-Tier, Azorius Spirits did squeak into second place this week with eight qualifying finishes including seven in the challenges. It’s clear that Spirits is the best tempo deck in the format right now and even with a Rakdos deck on top, these ghosties are primed to take over the metagame. After such a strong weekend, I would expect Spirits to crest into A-Tier next week if the deck puts up similar results this next weekend. Much like Rakdos Sacrifice, skilled players must respect this deck as a force in upcoming tournaments.

Third on the list is the other A-Tier deck that spent some of the RC season in S-Tier: Green Devotion. With seven qualifying finishes, the deck didn’t have a bad weekend, but we’re seeing the continued presence of Spirits, Mono White Humans, RW Pia, and more that can challenge this titan of a strategy. While Karn, the Great Creator has overcome most challenges posed in Pioneer, expect the deck to struggle a bit if Spirits remains this powerful, though  we did see Devotion take down one challenge this weekend by beating spirits in the finals. If you’re looking for the stock-standard best deck in the format that doesn’t change much with the tides, then this is the deck for you!

After these three decks, there’s a slight drop off in quantity of finishes for Azorius Control and Lotus Field, each with five finishes respectively. While Lotus continues sitting in a strong position while trying to survive the various aggressive decks and tempo decks, Azorius Control seems to be picking up steam. With the eighty-card variants seeing some success lately – thanks in part to the power of Farewell in a format littered with non-creature permanents that matter, we are seeing this deck’s stock rise a bit. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Azorius start to trend towards the B-Tier if it can consistently figure out a way to handle the non-aggro decks above it in the tier list, as the various aggro decks are actually less threatening than decks like Green Devotion, Lotus Field, and Abzan Greasefang for the strategy right now.

We have a grouping of strong aggressive decks that continue oscillating. Some weeks we have seen Mono White Humans sit atop the aggro throne, other times it has been RW Convoke, Atarka Red, Mono Red Aggro, RW Heroic, or RW Pia. This week it was Mono White Humans putting up the best results with four qualifying finishes, but they all came from qualifying events – showing the struggle that aggro decks are having in the face of Rakdos Sacrifice.

Part of the reason these decks moved towards a more grindy strategy like RW Pia was to deal with the inevitability of Rakdos Sacrifice, but even so, we didn’t see a lot of success from Pia, Convoke, or other RW decks this week. With RW Heroic and Mono Red Aggro each putting up two finishes and the rest sitting at either zero or one finish respectively. While we are seeing the stock of Spirits rise each week due to it’s ability to play the aggressive game while being disruptive, we are seeing pure aggro struggling to get through Green Devotion, Rakdos Sacrifice, and Azorius Control right now. While players need to respect and account for these decks in events, it does seem like aggro may be declining outside of Spirits at least until someone can answer the Rakdos Sacrifice problem.

Wrapping Up

There you have it, our weekly breakdown of all the top contenders and frequent fliers of Pioneer. 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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