The Expected Pioneer Metagame for the Players Tour

Fabrizio Anteri

Fabrizio Anteri


Hello everyone,

The Players Tours are approaching and I can’t wait to see how the Pioneer rounds play out. After the last set of bannings a few weeks back and especially with the introduction of the new set: Theros Beyond Death, the Pioneer metagame has been changing incredibly fast! It is the Sunday before the Players Tours in Brussels and Nagoya as I write this and I know I would be talking about different decks if I was writing this three or four days ago and I would probably have different ideas about the format in three or four days from now.

Public Enemy Number 1

In recent weeks, it was the 5-Colors Niv to Light deck to run the streets. The metagame was well established in midrange grounds and it turns out casting a huge Dragon and drawing a bunch of cards was exactly what you needed to do to pull ahead the rest of the field.

Niv-Mizzet RebornBring to Light

It’s only been really few days since people found the archetypes to beat this deck and I don’t think everyone at the Players Tour will catch up in time. I expect the Dragon to be the most chosen deck of the tournaments.

The Challengers

What are these archetypes that prey upon Niv-Mizzet, you may ask. Those would be the ones with a fast clock and just enough disruption to kill before the opponent has the chance to play all their spells:

Fast Clock with Disruption Decks

Izzet Ensoul

The first contender here would be the fast, efficient and extremely powerful Izzet Ensoul: You mulligan aggressively looking for a hand that can make as many hits for 5 as fast as possible. The more spells of cost four and five in your opponents deck, the better the match.

Ensoul ArtifactSkilled AnimatorShrapnel Blast

Mono Black Aggro

Next we have the resilient and consistent Mono Black Aggro: Probably the best use for the probably best card in the format, 《Thoughtseize》, is with a fast clock of not only aggressive creatures, but also very annoying to deal with because of their recursion from the Graveyard. Add efficient removal and utility lands and you have a perfect formula for success.

Bloodsoaked ChampionThoughtseizeCastle Locthwain

Azorius Spirits

Last in this category is Azorius Spirits. Flying, Flash and tricky creatures. Here we are not even “adding” the disruption on top of the clock because the same creatures beating you down are the ones stopping your game plan. Few interaction and especially sorcery-speed interaction is what this deck is hoping to see. If you are not familiar with the deck or haven’t play the matchup before, you are very likely to miss on some of the interaction or play patterns this deck is capable of.

Mausoleum WandererRattlechainsSpell Queller

Combo Decks

The next block of decks are the combos based on new cards from Theros Beyond Death.

Breach Lotus Storm

Lotus Storm was an existing deck that gained a lot of consistency from 《Underworld Breach》. Kills on turn 3 are possible, but kills on turns 4 or 5 happen almost every time the opponent can’t interact in the right way, and some times even through that interaction. This deck biggest weakness is winning post-sideboard games against prepared opponents. Graveyard hate is the most common way of beating it, but also Discard, Counter Magic, ways of dealing with Enchantments and 《Damping Sphere》s are seeing plenty of play.

Thassa's OracleFae of Wishes

There are a few different versions of the deck, most use 《Thassa’s Oracle》 as their main win condition, but others are still opting for 《Fae of Wishes》 for the task. Some people even decide not to play 《Underworld Breach》 at all, making their deck slower but not suffering to the graveyard or enchantment destruction hate as much. Others are not even playing Green in their deck and leave the 《Lotus Field》 plan as a bonus for the combo or don’t even play the card at all. I believe there is a good plan B for this to have in the sideboard, I just don’t know what that is or if anybody else found it.

Lotus FieldChronic FloodingHidden StringsUnderworld Breach

Dimir Inverter

Next we have another deck using 《Thassa’s Oracle》 to win the game, this time on a Blue-Black shell and 《Inverter of Truth》 to make sure the Merfolk’s trigger wins on the spot. The rest of the deck is a control package to disrupt or slow down the opponent for long enough to find the two combo pieces to close the game. This is the most recent deck to see the light in Pioneer, so is not fully tested yet, but it has plenty of promise. I know a lot of players, especially pros and grinders, enjoy picking up the last piece of technology available on the internet right before an event and I think this is going to be it. I can’t tell how good or how popular is this going to be next week, but I expect it to be both.

Thassa's OracleInverter of TruthJace, Wielder of Mysteries

Heliod Combo Decks (Devotion / Lifelink)

Walking BallistaHeliod, Sun-Crowned

Last for this section we have the 《Walking Ballista》《Heliod, Sun-Crowned》 combo. People have been trying different builds, many times adding a second color for different reasons.I believe having a deck that can turn Heliod into a creature and attack with it is the best approach and I expect two of the Mono White versions to be the most popular of all the options.

White Devotion is a midrange deck attacking from many different angles. 《Gideon, Ally of Zendikar》 can win games on its own, 《Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx》 unfair mana advantages can get out of control very easily, 《Archangel Avacyn》 clear boards and of course while you keep busy dealing with this plan, there is a two cards combo waiting to end the game on the spot.

Gideon, Ally of ZendikarNykthos, Shrine to NyxArchangel Avacyn

White Weenie has a way more aggressive plan with cheap creatures with Lifelink to trigger Heliod and 《Ajani’s Pridemate》 and again a two cards killing combo that could happen as quick as Turn 4.

Leonin VanguardAjani's PridemateDaxos, Blessed by the Sun

None of these white creatures decks would be good enough for the format on their own and the combo is probably the easiest to disrupt, but having these two put together in a deck make for a dangerous option for the Players Tour.

Other Decks

The next section are the decks that proved to be good in previous weeks, but may not be up for the task of beating the main contenders. Not everyone had the time to practice enough with the newest decks in the past few days so they may stick to their trusty guns. Also if people try to level each other too hard, some of these “not as good anymore” decks could actually be exactly what is needed to win the events.

Azorius Control

Azorius Control. People simply love to play this archetype in basically any format, any time. I believe you can beat any deck in Pioneer with Azorius Control, but not with the same 75 cards. You can try and you can get close to the optimal build for the metagame you expect, but there will always be one or more decks you can’t consistently beat. Keep in mind rounds are timed at 50 minutes at the Players Tour, 1-1 is a bad outcome of a match for both players in 99% of the cases and mental exhaustion is a thing.

Sphinx's RevelationSupreme VerdictTeferi, Hero of Dominaria

Ramp Decks (Mono-Green / Simic)

Cavalier of ThornsNissa's PilgrimageUgin, the Spirit Dragon

Ramp decks. The traditionally Mono-Green versions have been good at going over the top of all the midrange decks, suffering to aggro, combo and sometimes control. There is a Simic version of the deck that uses 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》, 《Growth Spiral》 and 《Hydroid Krasis》 to add consistency and life gain, improving against aggro and control, but the combo matches are still a nightmare.

Elvish RejuvenatorUlvenwald HydraUlamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Hydroid KrasisUro, Titan of Nature's WrathGrowth Spiral

Graveyard Decks

The two most popular graveyard decks are Dredgeless Dredge and Soulflayer. Both are consistent at what they do and very good against midrange strategies. I think the format has moved away from that and I don’t expect these to do well, but I am ready to be proved wrong when many others like me underestimate the archetype.

NarcomoebaPrized AmalgamCreeping Chill

Sylvan CaryatidSoulflayerZetalpa, Primal Dawn

Golgari Stompy and Big Red

Last mention I want to make is to Golgari Stompy and Big Red. I believe both of these are good decks in the format facing the wrong metagame at the moment. Arguments could be made about how people could make deck or card choices to improve their chances against certain archetypes and then fall to these two.

Llanowar ElvesSteel Leaf ChampionThe Great Henge

Goblin ChainwhirlerGlorybringerChandra, Torch of Defiance


These would be the decks or version of decks I would expect to be more popular and/or successful at the Players Tour happening next week. I know I didn’t mention many decks people are or were playing for one reason or another, this is mostly my experience playing the format on Magic Online. I am sure others will have a different perspective or maybe they found something good I completely missed.

Feel free to let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@Anteri_F) about your experience of the format, what did I get right or what did I get wrong. Thanks for reading!

Fabrizio (Twitter)

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Fabrizio Anteri

Fabrizio Anteri Fabrizio Anteri is a Pro Player from Venezuela. He has 11 Grand Prix Top 8s and won 5 trophies. He went 2nd place at GP Bologna with his teammates and he joined Hareruya Hopes at The 2nd Hareruya Hopes Open Recruitment. Read more articles by Fabrizio Anteri