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Metagame Mentor: Even More Pioneer Decks to Defeat at April 2024 RCQs

April 11, 2024
Frank Karsten

Hello, and welcome back to Metagame Mentor, your weekly guide to the top decks and latest Constructed developments on the path to the Pro Tour. On April 20, the next cycle of Regional Championship Qualifiers (RCQs) will start, featuring Pioneer as the Constructed format for in-store events. So, Pioneer is the format to master right now.

Last week, I provided an overview of the top 10 archetypes in Pioneer, laying down the decks to defeat and the strategies you can expect to see the most. The two most prominent decks in March were Rakdos Vampires and Izzet Phoenix, and this hasn't changed in the first week of April.

This week, I'll dive into fresh, innovative Pioneer decks that can benefit from the element of surprise and that might even be well-positioned in the current metagame. Hopefully, this offers some ideas for cool decks that are both fun and powerful. Afterwards, I'll go back in time to highlight a great deck from the 1997 Magic World Championship, providing a historical lesson on creature selection.

Quintorius Combo Dazzled at Arena Championship 5

The first off-meta deck that I want to highlight is Quintorius Combo, which uses Quintorius Kand's -3 ability to discover Spark Double. By casting it from exile, you drain the opponent for two and create a new, nonlegendary Quintorius copy to keep the chain going. As you keep finding Spark Doubles, you'll drain your opponent for four, then six, then eight, stacking up a lethal amount of triggers. Based on last week's format snapshot, Quintoirus Combo was 0.9% of the winner's metagame in March, but the archetype might be underrated.

In particular, it dazzled at Arena Championship 5. Three players registered Quintorius Combo with four copies of Gyruda, Doom of Depths, and they went 8-6 in matches against Rakdos Vampires, with Ryan Condon finishing in second place. Gyruda, Doom of Depths can hit Spark Double, Trumpeting Carnosaur, or even an opposing Vein Ripper. So, it's a potent addition. The larger quantity of six-mana spells also adds resiliency against Thoughtseize, which resulted in a favorable matchup against Rakdos Vampires. This breakout Explorer decklist can be directly ported to Pioneer.

Spelunking Scapeshift Secretly Sparkles

Before Rei "cftsoc" Zhang unveiled the power of Aftermath Analyst in Standard, they were already casting Splendid Reclamation in Pioneer. Although their 7-4 record at the U.S. Regional Championship this past December was not good enough to make it to the elimination rounds, their list is a sweet combo brew that is worth considering if you want to surprise your opponents.

For the combo, you need Spelunking and five lands on the battlefield and then play Bring to Light for Scapeshift. When Scapeshift resolves, you sacrifice all of your lands and put Lotus Field, Lotus Field, Mystic Sanctuary, The Dross Pits, and Gingerbread Cabin on the battlefield. All these lands enter the battlefield untapped due to Spelunking, allowing Mystic Sanctuary to put Bring to Light back on top. Before you sacrifice all lands to the Lotus Field triggers, add eight mana and use two to draw a card with The Dross Pits. The card you draw is Bring to Light, which you cast to tutor for Splendid Reclamation. From that point onward, you can loop Splendid Reclamation as often as you like. This generates infinite mana, infinite Food tokens, and certain victory.

Outlaws of Thunder Junction could supercharge this sort of combo strategy with several new tools. For example, Pillage the Bog could increase the consistency of the deck, and Kellan Joins Up could plot Valki, God of Lies on turn three, allowing you to cast it as Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor on turn four. Additionally, Arid Archway has synergy with Spelunking if you want to be ramping, and Lush Oasis could act as a win condition when you're looping. These additions might require a full rebuild of the deck from the ground up, but is certainly some potential here.

Rakdos Transmogrify Creeping Up

Continuing with the combo strategies, Rakdos Transmogrify had quietly been increasing in popularity over the past month, rising to 1.9% of the winner's metagame in March. The core tenet of the deck is to target a token with Transmogrify, allowing you to put Atraxa, Grand Unifier onto the battlefield for free. This is all wrapped in a Rakdos Midrange shell, featuring the ubiquitous trio of Fatal Push, Thoughtseize, and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.

Before Murders at Karlov Manor, Rakdos Transmogrify had to use Tribute to Horobi to facilitate Transmogrify, but Case of the Stashed Skeleton was a substantial upgrade. The token packs more of a punch if you have to play a fair game, and its death unlocks the Case's ability to tutor for Transmogrify. This increases the deck's consistency. Since Atraxa, Grand Unifier goes over the top of Vein Ripper, Rakdos Transmogrify might be well-positioned in the current Pioneer metagame, and Txepi recently took it to a third-place finish at a Magic Online Challenge.

Mono-Green Devotion's Triumphant Return

Many players had written off Mono-Green Devotion after the ban of Karn, the Great Creator this past December, but Leyline of the Guildpact from Murders at Karlov Manor has supported a glorious comeback. Across tournaments in March, Mono-Green Devotion was 1.8% of the winner's metagame, and Dictator_4_Life recently piloted the deck to a third-place finish at a Magic Online Challenge.

When you start the game with Leyline of the Guildpact in your opening hand, then you get to start with four devotion to green. So with an Elf on turn one, a turn-two Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx can already produce five mana. It's hard to lose if you cast Nissa, Who Shakes the World or Cavalier of Thorns as early as turn two. What's more, Cavalier of Thorns is a decent answer to Vein Ripper—the premier threat in Pioneer right now.

Mono-Green Devotion is not dead yet, and there are various versions going around. For example, Bduggs made Top 8 in a Magic Online Challenge this past weekend with an Archdruid's Charm version, which could tutor Wakeroot Elemental to produce infinite mana with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. From Outlaws of Thunder Junction, Goldveil Hydra might be another suitable payoff as well. Options aplenty.

The Eldrazi Are Coming

You know what's an even better blocker for the blood-sucking 6/5 flier? World Breaker!

This awesome brew, which Kenta Shimizu recently took to the Top 8 of a 62-player tournament at Hareruya Nagoya, might be well-positioned in a metagame dominated by Rakdos Vampires. With Archdruid's Charm, you can consistently ramp into Castle Garenbrig and Sunken Citadel, allowing you to cast World Breaker as early as turn four. It disrupts the opponent with its enters-the-battlefield ability, towers over the battlefield, and even triggers Kozilek's Return to sweep the board. This list is wild, but I'm impressed by the design.

Mono-Red Searing the Competition

When I looked over the Magic Online decks that made a Pioneer Challenge Top 8 this past weekend, one list stood out to me: Carlosz' Mono-Red Aggro. The archetype was only 0.8% of the winner's metagame in March, but this version had good results and looks well-crafted. It's fast, aggressive, and will take your opponent down to zero life as quickly as possible. For players who are new to Pioneer and would like to get their footing with an easily understood strategy, this Mono-Red deck might be a good option.

Searing Blood is far from a universal inclusion, but it seems great in the current metagame. It takes out Bloodtithe Harvester, a Fable of the Mirror-Breaker token, Arclight Phoenix, or Amalia Benavides Aguirre while dealing additional damage to the opponent and triggering your prowess creatures. It does everything you want to be doing.

Moreover, a prowess-based Mono-Red Aggro deck like this one could benefit from adopting Slickshot Show-Off. This new two-drop is one of the most enticing cards in Outlaws of Thunder Junction, and I'm excited about adding it to Mono-Red Aggro, perhaps in a slightly different version with Wizard's Lightning.

Stick With What You Know!

Tulio Jaudy recently won a Magic Online Challenge with a Selesnya Company deck that I can't even begin to explain. There are hatebears, toolbox creatures, aggressive options, controlling capabilities, and ways to protect the key creatures in every matchup. In theory, it could play well against Rakdos Vampires and Izzet Phoenix by overloading their removal spells, but it's hard to analyze with so many one-ofs and two-ofs. This truly is a Tulio special.

The main reason for showing this deck is not so much to recommend this exact list but to emphasize the value of experience. Jaudy has been playing this sort of deck for over a year: He made the Top 8 at the Brazil Regional Championship in 2022 with a first build of Selesnya Company, then brought the same archetype to Pro Tour Phyrexia in 2023, and finally used it to win a Magic Online Challenge last month.

For many players, it's better to take a deck you know inside out and to master its sideboard strategies than to spend a lot of time deciding which deck you want to choose. Even if your favorite Pioneer deck has low metagame numbers right now, don't be afraid to stick to your heart and take it to your local RCQ. Your experience will contribute to your chances significantly. Like Tulio Jaudy, you might surprise everyone.

The Road to Magic World Championship 30

While the upcoming Pioneer RCQs are a perfect first step in your competitive Magic journey, the World Championship has always been the crown jewel of organized play. Given Magic's long and rich history, the upcoming 30th edition will be one to celebrate. As I count down the weeks leading up to World Championship 30 in late October, each week I'm taking a look at a great deck from a past Magic World Championship. In past installments, I reviewed the World Championships from 1994, 1995, and 1996. Now, let's go back in time to 1997.

According to the 20th issue of the Duelist magazine, a total of 153 competitors from 35 different countries came to Seattle to compete at the 1997 World Championship for a $200,000 prize pool. Most of them also played in the team competition for national pride and additional prizes. In the end, Czech superstar Jakub Slemr claimed the individual trophy with a "Five-Color Black" deck, which used Undiscovered Paradise, City of Brass, and Gemstone Mine to cast the rainbow assortment of Disenchant, Man-o'-War, Black Knight, Incinerate, and Uktabi Orangutan. However, the deck used by the second-place finisher stands out with more time-honored spells.

598924 650182 Wildfire Emissary

Janosch Kühn used countermagic and spot removal spells to answer his opponent's creatures, while using Thawing Glaciers to build up a large mana supply. (Note that Thawing Glaciers' original "end of turn" wording worked under 1997 rules, as the stack and today's end-of-turn tricks hadn't been introduced yet, and Abeyance had received errata to exclude mana abilities, so it could not be used as a white Time Walk.) At the 1997 World Championship, control players had access to Force of Will and Counterspell to neutralize opposing spells, so it was an incredible time for players who wanted to say "no". Nowadays, Force of Will is the most-played card in Legacy and Counterspell is a staple in Modern, but the tradition was set in 1997.

The standout threat in Kühn's second-place deck is Wildfire Emissary. As a 2/4 for four mana, it might look underpowered by today's standards, but the noncreature spells were far better than the creature spells at the time. Moreover, it's a brilliant feat of metagaming. Kühn knew that Incinerate and Swords to Plowshares were the most-played spot removal spells at the time, and Wildfire Emissary survives both! His other creature, Frenetic Efreet, could also evade those removal spells with a lucky flip.

So, when selecting creatures for your deck, consider which answers you expect from your opponents, and then try to select the ones that dodge them. This lesson still applies today. For example, Fatal Push and Fiery Impulse are the most popular removal spells in Pioneer, so five-mana creatures with at least 4 toughness, such as Aclazotz, Deepest Betrayal, are well-positioned. And in Standard, the Constructed format for World Championship 30, perhaps a creature base that is immune to both Cut Down and Go for the Throat might take the field by surprise!

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