Tier List Companion – July 19th, 2023

Daren "Servotoken" breaks down movements and changes in yesterday’s Pioneer tier list.

Hey there everyone, and welcome to our weekly Pioneer breakdown. Each week, we at PlayingMTG put together a Tier List to give you some additional insight on what you might expect the Pioneer format to look like moving into this coming week. The goal of the list is to give players a reasonable understanding of the decks that are currently succeeding, as well as a fair assessment of how well positioned each of those decks are moving forward. This is not a comprehensive list that divulges the “true power ranking” of all decks legal in the format, but rather a snapshot of tournament Magic as it could be expected right now. 

As we make changes to the list, sometimes things can seem arbitrary or ambiguous, so this article is meant to go into some more detail on why things have been ranked the way that they have. Here’s the Tier List that we’ll be referencing this week.

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 Preliminary 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. This is omitting Team Trio events, as the other formats involved can skew the numbers across the board.

Here were this week’s events:

Metagame Changes

Moved up

Boros Pia

Izzet Creativity

Strict Lotus

Moved Down

Green Devotion


On the Movement

Once again, we are seeing the ripple effects of Boros Pia’s explosion onto the scene a couple of weeks ago as the deck continues to tear up online events. As the most-difficult-to-cleanly-answer aggro deck, Pia retains the reigns as the up-and-coming deck to beat, especially on MTGO where time in the round is more of a factor than in paper events. We’ve seen similar changes lately, with decks like Strict Lotus, an Azorius Control deck that functions much more quickly than its Lotus-less cousin. Whether this remains an online-only trend or eventually migrates to paper is yet to be seen, but there is definitely a trend popping up where people seem to be valuing their time more than they have been. 

Devotion has moved down this week, thanks to a mix of things. First is the rise in Boros Pia being an unfavorable matchup, between its quick clock and solid removal as an answer to Green’s typical answer to aggro strategies. The rest of the format is also fairly accustomed to what Green brings to the table at this point and most decks have a pretty reasonable plan for it. This is becoming a common trend in the format where the deck at the top of the ranks quickly loses its positioning because it’s pretty easy to target the king with hate. We saw it with Rakdos, and this isn’t the first time we’ve seen it with Green, either. I do expect this trend to continue as long as we don’t see some tremendously busted card out of a new set, since Pioneer has the tools to combat basically any threat at this point. 

Creativity had a good week, though is still lacking that sense of true identity, as we saw an even split between all three of its main win conditions this week. It’s hard to tell whether it’s because of the format’s overall diversity or if the win condition of the deck truly doesn’t matter, but after so many months of a fair distribution of Wurm, Gearhulk, and Atraxa, it might just be fair to say that Creativity is a good deck regardless of its finisher. I’m willing to chalk it up to being a prime example of what we’ve been saying about Pioneer as a format for years now – that whatever you’re most comfortable with is generally the correct choice, and the best deck for you is the best deck for you. 

Aside from these movements, I did want to lastly touch on Rakdos Midrange, the former format boogieman and oppressor. Typically, when we see a deck lose pace as swiftly as Rakdos has in the past month, it’s due to people switching off the deck in favor of something else. This is not what we’ve been seeing with Rakdos, as an investigation of the lower half of most of these events indicates that Rakdos players are still out in force – they’re just losing more often. To be honest, this is a good thing for the format. It shows that people are starting to stick with their favorite decks even though they aren’t in a dominant position anymore or are being specifically targeted with hate. This is something that Pioneer on the whole has been missing and most players mentioned was a premium feature of other non-rotating formats in the past. Between a tremendous deck diversity allowing any deck you devote yourself to to find success and the time of hyper-competition shifting to a different format following the RC move to Modern, Pioneer is poised to open up much more in the coming months to being a lot more enjoyable to a lot more people as the pressure to perform quells and we’re given the freedom to find a deck that works best for us as a player instead of following a trend. Ideally, by the time that the next competitive season comes around we’ll see the fruits of this time of personalization, and a new crop of decks coming forth as a result of people turning their attention to some of the less-thought-of builds that exist right now. 

That’s all for this one. If you are enjoying our Tier List discussions and format observations and want to see more from us, we offer in depth deck guides and sideboard guides – as well as some other sweet exclusive content on our Patreon. We also cover Limited, Standard, and Explorer regularly so keep your eyes open if those formats are of interest to you as well. If you hate our guts and want us launched into the sun, we’ll take your criticisms in any of our various comment sections as well. Until next time, stay safe, play smart, and thanks for reading.

  • 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.

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