Transparency: Our Weekly Tier List Updates

Ruckman breaks down some changes to Playing Pioneer's methodology for creating and sharing the weekly tier list.

Your Feedback

Hello PlayingPioneer readers!

Allow me to start by saying we’ve read all the feedback you have provided over the last few weeks in regards to our weekly Pioneer Tier List. This page has quickly become the main draw for a lot of our visitors, and it is important to us that readers get as much out of it as possible. Because of this, it is important that we acknowledge this feedback and explain how we will be using it to improve our reader experience. However, before I delve into those upcoming changes, allow me to peel back the curtain on how we determine the weekly tier list.

Current Methodology

  1. We start by compiling a list of all the decks that place in the top16 of mtgo challenges/PTQ’s/Showcases that occur in a week, decks that finish 3-1 or better in all prelims, and decks with similar placements in other large events. At the moment these other events are few and far between, but in the past we’ve included the Pioneer 5k at SCG Indy and the Hareruya God of Pioneer event.
  2. From there these numbers are compared to historical data points from the previous two weeks to analyze shifts and help demonstrate overall movements within deck population in the meta. These combined data points set our baseline.
  3. After our baseline ranking has been established, our competitive guides (IslandGoSAMe, DarthJacen, KarnageKardsENT, and Ricky from Crew3) go in and adjust decks either up or down up to a single ranking level based their matchups against other decks ranked similarly or higher.

So now that we’re clear on the intended process, let’s talk about some of the problems we’ve run into in implementing it. As well as list a few key common points we see in feedback.

  1. Lack of Events: It has been pointed out that we’re heavily reliant on MTGO results when determining our rankings. Unfortunately that’s just the current nature of the format and the state of magic as a whole. As paper events on the scale of those previously mentioned take place more frequently, they will be included in our data points as long as decklists are made available.
  2. Historical Data: We haven’t been as stringent on the importance and inclusion of the two previous weeks of historical data and have at times settled for just comparing the current week’s data to last week’s posted tier list. This of course has the propensity for a deck that might be suffering from a single off week look like it’s entirely fallen off the meta.
  3. Rapid Movement: Pioneer continues to be a format in flux. While a small number of decks consistently hold the top seats for one reason or another, there are constant shakeups below them. New decks get introduced into the format, old decks find new life, players can more readily respond to the format thanks to rental services, and these same rental services also run out of cards limiting access to certain archetypes. Whatever the reason, decks can be here one day and gone another. 
  4. Vaguely Defined Tiers: It can be certainly jarring to open the tierlist and see a deck consistently placing well in events be referred to as a C-or-D tier deck. That means it’s gotta be pretty bad right?  Well to us, the S-D ranks are more of a broken out Tier 1 in a classic Tier 1,2,3 system. This disconnect in understanding has been the root cause of plenty of issues, and has been one of the biggest points of contention in how best to handle your feedback internally.
  5. Transparency: No matter how much we assure you in our process, transparency in decision making goes a long way.

Planned Changes

Those five points of discussion above certainly aren’t the only pieces of feedback we’ve received about the tier list, but we believe them to be some of the most pressing and important to resolve. So, in order to address your concerns and re-assert our commitment to being an indispensable resource for the Pioneer community the following changes will be made and start being implemented on the Pioneer side of the website starting with the next tier list:

  1. The existing tiers will be more clearly defined, and if we still see substantial amounts of confusion we are open to further changes.
  2. We will strive to adhere to our intended process and make sure we are diligent in including historical data when determining our baseline tier list before making matchup adjustments.
  3. For the sake of transparency and clarity in our choices, each weekly tier list update will now be accompanied by a brief article (or video, or both) explaining any tier movements, new placements, or anything else of note we feel pertinent to discuss that week. We have already implemented this on the Explorer side of our website, with the first one being live now.
  4. Finally, we will also be introducing a monthly write-up that will act as a snapshot of that month’s meta game. This snapshot will place decks based on an average of their placements throughout the month, and include a brief description of any major trends in deck popularity or format dominance that month.

We hope these upcoming changes are a suitable response to a lot of the feedback we have seen and been provided over the last couple weeks, and again shows our commitment to providing the best content we can for this great format. Thank you for reading, and we look forward to your responses as these changes get implemented.

  • rose-emoji

    Network Administrator/Publisher

    rose-emoji started playing Magic: The Gathering during Battle for Zendikar, then took a break from the game until Throne of Eldraine. Pioneer got him back into Magic full-force, and the launch of Arena on mobile hooked him in forever. Now that his favorite format is working its way onto Arena, he can be found grinding the format to death. Only ever Grixis colors, but sometimes he can have a little Jund as a treat.

  • Ruckman


    Having started playing Magic shortly before the release of Return to Ravnica, Ruckman’s Magic lifespan covers the breadth of the Pioneer format. Despite not being a stranger to the Top 8 tables of the old IQ and PTQ systems, most of his competitive experience comes from the other side of the event space, where he served more than five years as a level-two judge, only hanging up the black shirt for good at the beginning of 2022. Currently, you can find him making Pioneer content for Crew3 on your favorite podcasting platform or on Twitch/YouTube.

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