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Metagame Mentor: Pioneer at the South America and Chinese Taipei Regional Championships

December 08, 2022
Frank Karsten

Hello and welcome back to Metagame Mentor, the weekly column in which I highlight the decks to beat and the latest Constructed format developments on the path to the Pro Tour. Today, I'll cover the third Regional Championship weekend, which featured tournaments for the South America and Chinese Taipei regions in the Pioneer format.

Top eligible players from these Regional Championships earned an invitation to the first Pro Tour in 2023, held during MagicCon: Philadelphia on February 17-19. But you don't have to be qualified for the Pro Tour to enjoy this festival. MagicCon: Philadelphia offers something for everyone—immersive experiences, exclusive play opportunities, cosplay, special guests, artists, panels, a party, incredible products, and more. The event celebrates all things Magic: The Gathering, and tickets are on sale right now.

Congratulations to the Two Regional Champions!

Alejandro Sepúlveda won the South America Regional Championship with Mono-Red Aggro. His victory comes with an invitation for the first Pro Tour in 2023, as well as next year's World Championship!

You can find the Top 8 bracket, photos, and more on the South American Regional Championship coverage page.

Competition was fierce, with 203 players in attendance to vie for four total invitations to the Pro Tour. The region-dependent number of Pro Tour invites was determined by Wizards of the Coast in early 2022; the specific structure and number of Regional Championship Qualifiers is set by Magicsur Chile. It's great to see the passion of the South American Magic community as many players enthusiastically traveled to compete against the best players in their region.

Mono-Red Aggro hadn't put up notable results in recent weeks. But with his victory, Alejandro Sepúlveda put it back on the map. "I have a lot of experience with the deck so I was locked on [Red Deck Wins]," he said when asked about his reasons for choosing the deck. "I think that experience can give me a greater edge than playing a better deck I don't know how to play."

Sepúlveda's list offers both board presence and burn. Hazoret the Fervent is excellent against Rakdos Midrange, as it's hard to answer and helps push through Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. The constant fear of Embercleave is also very real, yet Sepúlveda doesn't go all-in on the legendary equipment with cards like Burning-Tree Emissary and Anax, Hardened in the Forge. Rather, he retains a healthy dose of burn spells, supported by Eidolon of the Great Revel and Rampaging Ferocidon to put additional pressure on the opponent's life total.

"During testing I noticed that Rampaging Ferocidon lines up really well vs most of the meta," he said. "The dino dodges Fatal Push, Bloodtithe Harvester, and Bonecrusher Giant and forces your opponent to follow tricky lines where they stop attacking to leave up blockers that usually end up getting bolted."

His sideboard has some spice as well. As he explained, Leyline of Combustion is "your best card" against Rakdos Midrange and Izzet Phoenix. "They can't interact with it; see it as some sort of one-sided Eidolon of the Great Revel." Sepúlveda's experience with the deck allowed him to pick the right cards for the metagame, and it paid off!

Jim Tim Lee, one of the more experienced competitive players from his region, won the MIT Championship with Rakdos Midrange. His victory comes with an invitation for the first Pro Tour in 2023, as well as next year's World Championship!

You can find the Top 8 bracket, photos, and more on the Chinese Taipei Regional Championship coverage page. In total, 55 players were in attendance to vie for two Pro Tour slots.

"If you can't beat them, join them!" Jim Tim Lee explained. Indeed, Rakdos Midrange had been the most popular deck archetype in the preceding Regional Championships weekend, and that trend continued globally.

His build, which went undefeated throughout the tournament, is a near-exact copy of Rei Hirayama's list that won the Japan/Korea Regional Championship. Go Blank in the main deck surely helped in beating Izzet Phoenix. The only difference was Jim Tim Lee's use of Canyon Slough instead of the second Swamp. This increases the likelihood of drawing a perfect mix of lands and spells.

The Metagame and Win Rates

Based on all decklists from both Regional Championships held last weekend, I determined the combined metagame share of every archetype. I also calculated their non-mirror, non-bye, non-draw match win rates. I used my own algorithms and definitions to assign archetype labels, thereby sidestepping any potential mislabeling on MTG Melee. Let's take a look!

Archetype Percentage of Field Match Win Rate
1. Rakdos Midrange 19.9% 51.9%
2. Mono-Green Devotion 12.1% 36.3%
3. Mono-White Humans 11.3% 50.7%
4. Azorius Control 10.5% 56.1%
5. Izzet Phoenix 9.0% 38.8%
6. Lotus Field combo 4.3% 32.7%
7. Gruul Vehicles 3.5% 68.5%
8. Keruga Fires 3.1% 59.1%
9. Abzan Greasefang 3.1% 54.5%
10. Mono-Blue Spirits 2.7% 52.8%
11. Mono-Red Aggro 2.3% 54.3%
12. Bant Spirits 2.3% 50.0%
13. Enigmatic Fires 2.0% 57.7%
14. Esper Control 2.0% 55.2%
15. Rakdos Sacrifice 1.6% 71.4%
16. Dimir Control 1.6% 69.6%
17. Boros Heroic 0.8% 64.3%
18. Selesnya Angels 0.8% 60.0%
19. Grinning Ignus combo 0.8% 50.0%
20. Niv to Light 0.8% 50.0%
21. Other 5.5% 42.1%

In this table, each archetype name hyperlinks to a well-performing decklist close to the aggregate of that archetype. The "Other" category included such deck archetypes as Bant Humans, Rakdos Creativity, Mono-Red Wizards, Mono-Blue Control, Izzet Dragons, Jund Sacrifice, Orzhov Midrange, Bard Class, Elves, Abzan Deathtouch, and Selesnya Auras.

The overall metagame was quite similar to the one from the preceding weekend. The most notable difference is an uptick in both Mono-White Humans and Azorius Control. While these decks look to be on an upward trend, sample sizes for the number of players and number of matches were relatively small. So it's hard to draw significant conclusions about either popularity or performance. Indeed, most of the winrates were not different from 50-50 in a statistically significant sense.

Except for Mono-Green Devotion, which fell flat despite being heavily played. One reason for this, based on comparing aggregate decklists from last weekend to the ones from the weekend before, is that many players are making small tweaks to improve their deck against Mono-Green Devotion. For example, many Rakdos Midrange players have added Pithing Needle to their sideboards to stop planeswalkers. Combined with pressure from Misery's Shadow, the right build of Rakdos Midrange may now actually be favored against Mono-Green Devotion.

Likewise, many Mono-White Humans players added main deck Tomik, Distinguished Advokist to stop Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner, and many Azorius Control players increased their Field of Ruin count to destroy Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Tomik, Field of Ruin, and Pithing Needle all answer Thespian's Stage as well, thereby providing splash damage against the Lotus Field combo decks. Even though Lotus Field combo won the Showcase Qualifier on Magic Online, it didn't have a good weekend at the Regional Championships.

Rise and Success of Anti-Rakdos Decks

Rakdos Midrange remains the most popular archetype, but like any archetype in Pioneer, it's beatable. More and more players are flocking towards cards or strategies that line up well against Rakdos Midrange, and many found success last weekend.

One of the biggest new developments to come out of the Regional Championship in Santiago de Chile was that two players with nearly the same Dimir Control deck did exceedingly well. Andrés Camargo narrowly missed Top 8 at 6-2, while Julian Prado made the finals and earned a Pro Tour invite.

The unique element in their list is four copies of Day's Undoing. When you control Narset, Parter of Veils or Notion Thief, the symmetry is broken—you get a fresh hand of seven new cards while your opponent receives only one or zero cards. You can be the ultimate villain by first bouncing one of their creatures with Rona's Vortex, then forcing your opponent to draw a card via the alternate cost on Baleful Mastery, and finally casting Day's Undoing. This leaves them with nothing. Then, immediately after they draw a card in their draw step, you activate Geier Reach Sanitarium, effectively locking the opponent out of the game.

The two players on this version of Dimir Midrange went 5-0 against Rakdos Midrange in the Swiss, which is certainly promising. Their lists were extremely similar, with only a few small differences: Andrés Camargo had a third Island and an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth instead of a second Fetid Pools and a second Swamp in the main deck, as well as Sheoldred, the Apocalypse instead of Kaervek, the Spiteful in the sideboard. I'm interested to see if this brew from South America will catch on globally.

Another major story to come out of the Regional Championship in Santiago de Chile was that there were two copies of Enigmatic Fires in the Top 8. Luis Mesa lost the quarterfinals, whereas Joaquin Maletti made it to the semifinals. The archetype preys on Rakdos Midrange because effects like Back to Nature or Erase are not available in red or black, so Rakdos decks are traditionally weak to enchantments.

In Pioneer, Enigmatic Incarnation and Fires of Invention are some of the most powerful enchantments available, and they can overpower Rakdos Midrange opponents with ease. Whether it's fetching Titan of Industry on turn four or casting a free Kenrith, the Returned King with activation mana up, Enigmatic Fires will be well-positioned as long as Rakdos Midrange remains the most popular deck in Pioneer.

Joaquin Maletti's version features Oath of Chandra instead of Trial of Ambition. This is superior for mana base reasons, as black is basically a splash and it's easier to cast Oath of Chandra on turn two.

Rakdos Sacrifice is another archetype that lines up well against Rakdos Midrange. The Mayhem Devil + Witch's Oven + Cauldron Familiar engine will often bury them in the late game, and if they try to generate early-game card advantage by Stomping one of your creatures, you'll just sacrifice it to Deadly Dispute. Claim the Firstborn and Kari Zev's Expertise also cleanly answer Misery's Shadow and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, provided you have a sacrifice outlet.

2019 Mythic Championship winner Matias Leveratto put his faith in Rakdos Sacrifice, and his Top 4 finish at the South America Regional Championship earned him a Pro Tour invite.

Finally, a section on ways to beat Rakdos Midrange wouldn't be complete without mentioning the best Skysovereign, Consul Flagship deck: Gruul Vehicles. It had the highest win rate against the field out of all the top-tier archetypes, and it's one of the most reliable ways to crush Rakdos Midrange.

Manuel Sinforoso made the Top 8 at the South America Regional Championship with his version of Gruul Vehicles. His main deck features a few copies of Lightning Strike and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, which provide a lower curve compared to the stock version that maxes out on The Akroan War. Sinforoso's sideboard features a little bit of everything; Cindervines is rising in popularity, and Glorybringer is great against midrange decks.

As long as Rakdos Midrange remains on top, Gruul Vehicles will be a solid choice, and Sinforoso's list is a good place to start.

Looking Ahead

The schedule for the remaining Regional Championships in this first round is as follows:

To follow along the coming two weekend, bookmark the MTG Melee pages of the Regional Championship for West Canada and the Regional Championship for Mexico/Central America/Caribbean.

Looking ahead even further, in about ten months from now, Magic World Championship XXIX will be held on September 22-24, 2023 at MagicCon: Las Vegas. The field of competitors, who will vie for the total prize pool of $1,000,000, currently features:

With every subsequent event, the field for next year's World Championship is firming up with more and more great talent. The field will be extended to around 128 players based on the results from subsequent championships and Pro Tours in the 2022-23 season. Detailed invite criteria can be found here. But no matter where you're from, you'll have your regional champions to cheer for.

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