Players Tour Phoenix was this past weekend, and first things first I want to shout out Gonçalo Pinto for his incredible data work. He compiled a Google Data Studio with a full breakdown of the metagame and matchups for all three Players Tours.
Let's start with the metagame breakdown for PT Phoenix:
The top five decks are the decks I listed last week as the decks to beat alongside Lotus Breach, a deck people should have respected, but didn't. As the weekend played out however, it was very clear which decks formed Pioneer's new top tier, and which decks didn't.
Lotus Breach was far and away the most successful deck of the event, and Dimir Inverter looked strong enough to remain in Pioneer's top tier despite the big target on its head. Azorius Control and Sultai Delirium had stronger matchups against the field than Dimir Inverter, but both have negative matchups against the combo decks. Their strong aggro matchups carried them in Phoenix, and I don't expect them to remain a solid choice moving forward.
Disruptive aggro had a poor showing. Both Mono-Black Aggro and Bant Spirits had losing records—pretty disappointing for decks that are supposed to be strong against the two combo decks. Shockingly both were just under 50% against Dimir Inverter, and Mono-Black Aggro only won one out of 16 matches against Lotus Breach.
Mono-Red Aggro performed poorly against Sultai Delirium and Azorius Control, but was basically the only bad matchup for Lotus Breach. That sounds good, but unlike last week Dimir Inverter was a bad matchup in Phoenix. The adjustments that Inverter decks made to tackle aggressive decks like Spirits and Mono-Red were enough to swing this matchup.
Before I get into the tier list itself, I want to give a heartfelt congratulations to Corey Burkhart for not only landing his elusive Top 8 finish at a PT, but winning the first one outright. The mental fortitude to play well and come back from a 2-3 start is nothing short of incredible.
Hear me out. Jund. But as a combo deck. That's it, that's the
tweet deck. This is a Thoughtseize control/midrange deck with a combo finish. That's a large part of why it's so powerful. Yes, the combo itself is very hard to disrupt outside of countermagic, but this is largely a Thoughtseize/Fatal Push deck with a much faster and more powerful endgame than Emrakul, the Promised End.
The biggest reason I think this deck stays around is that blue and black have the tools in Pioneer to adjust week to week. We've already seen it succeed even when it was the most targeted and expected deck of the weekend. It has an even or favorable matchup against basically everything but Lotus Breach. If you can fix that without sacrificing the aggro matchups, you've got The Deck.
At PT Phoenix Lotus Breach was hands down the most successful deck. Even with 33 pilots the deck put up an astonishing 62% win rate against the field. Where Dimir Inverter had an even to favorable record against most of the field, Lotus Breach had even better stats. Mono-Red Aggro was the only unfavorable matchup, Bant Spirits was even, and then the next closest matchup was still a 56% win rate against Sultai Delirium.
These are some absolutely incredible statistics, but I don't expect these to hold. Unlike Dimir Inverter, Lotus Breach has some very potent and powerful targeted hate cards like Damping Sphere, and I feel that with appropriate respect this deck ends up at a more reasonable win rate.
That said, this deck will not fall out of tier 1 as long as it's legal. It's too powerful and consistent in what it does, and a good Inverter matchup means it's here to stay.
Why am I listing this in "Decks to Beat" alongside the two strongest decks in the format? Because it's good against basically everything else. This weekend Azorius Control and Sultai Delirium basically took it on themselves to beat up all the aggro decks, but (apart from Bant Spirits) Sultai Delirium beat them better and was less vulnerable to Lotus Breach.
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath ties this deck together and makes it the best midrange deck in Pioneer. This deck has access to the best interactive tools in Fatal Push and Thoughtseize, and gets even more customizability than Dimir Inverter does. While I do think this deck is "worse" than Lotus Breach and Dimir Inverter, I think it's the only non-combo deck in tier 1.
Also, let's be honest: grinders love midrange decks.
Azorius Control actually did okay this weekend, but as noted above I think it's currently worse than Sultai Delirium as a metagame choice. Bant Spirits had a terrible weekend and its stock will drop, Lotus Breach will be everywhere, and this deck can't help but get annihilated by Thought Distortion. The matchup is shockingly bad for a countermagic deck.
While the Sultai Delirium and Dimir Inverter matchups aren't quite as bad, they're still unfavorable, and I don't think people should be playing this deck while the top tier remains three bad matchups.
Mono-Black Aggro has moved from "Merely Fine" to a deck I'd actively recommend against this week. Just shy of breaking even against Inverter isn't terrible, but the matchups against Lotus Breach and Sultai Delirium are absolutely abysmal. No, seriously:
Do not play this deck.
Spirits was one of the most played decks this weekend, but it went terribly. Bant Spirits was lauded as the combo killer, but it came up just shy of 50% against both Breach and Inverter. Where Dimir Inverter seemed to be ~55% against everything, Bant Spirits looked a lot more like 45% against everything.
I don't think Bant Spirits is abjectly bad, but I don't believe it to be a competitive choice right now. That said, people will still be playing this deck in reasonable numbers. People love tribal decks and flash decks more than is healthy for them, and this is both. Know the combat math, know the tricks, know how to beat Spirits, but don't play this deck.
Mono-Red Aggro had a subpar weekend as well, posting a losing matchup against Sultai Delirium and Dimir Inverter. Chonky Red is really dead, and it looks like Mono-Red Aggro may be on the way out.
With that in mind, don't skimp on the cards that make this deck perform poorly. It was the only deck with an actively good Lotus Breach matchup, and Dimir Inverter can easily go from a 40% matchup to a 60% matchup if Inverter stops playing the sideboard cards that keep Mono-Red in check. The adjustments from last weekend are what made Inverter strong against Mono-Red instead of weak to it.
Mono-Red isn't tier 1, but it will spike an event if people disrespect it.
Playing Dimir Inverter over Lotus Breach might be a leak, but I think that looking to improve that matchup is probably a better bet than trying to fight through this week's hate for Lotus Breach. I'm probably starting from Oliver Tomajko's list this week, as I think four Thought Erasure and maindeck Mystical Dispute will help a lot against Lotus Breach. I also like the four Legion's End in the sideboard—it's absolutely not messing around with the aggro decks given the maindeck focus on other matchups.
SCG Indianapolis isn't for another week, but I'll likely be sleeving up Dimir Inverter or Sultai Delirium and testing those two decks over the next week. Don't be afraid to come up and say hi if you see me there! I'm relatively easy to spot on tournament weekends, just look for the guy in the Yoman5 t-shirt.
Pioneer is finally getting less fair, and aggro doesn't quite seem to be the answer to this metagame. Take your combo deck of choice or join me in tricking myself into figuring out a good plan with Sultai Delirium for the combo decks since it seems to stomp everything else. If you're not playing any of those three, good luck and have fun. I hope you prove me wrong, but I don't expect it.
Meanwhile, you've got one last shot to #FindYourChampion as we head into the World Championship this weekend in a mixed format of Standard and Draft. I may have chosen Ondřej Stráský as my champ, but as we near the event I think the best money is probably on Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, with Autumn Burchett having the best Standard record and Paulo pulling away via Draft. I can't wait to watch the coverage all weekend long. May the best player win!
Adam "yoman5" Hernandez is a streamer, brewer and competitive player with a keen sense for what makes a deck tick. He writes about changes in Standard and Pioneer and the art of deckbuilding.
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