Welcome to Metagame Mentor, your weekly guide to the top decks and latest Constructed developments on the path to the Pro Tour. The main way to qualify for the Pro Tour is by placing highly at a Regional Championship, and the third cycle of Regional Championships kicks off this weekend, featuring the Pioneer format!
In today's article I'll summarize key details of these events all around the world, followed by an overview of the decks to beat in Pioneer and a discussion of the hottest new deck: Boros Convoke.
Regional Championship Guide
Regional Championships are major Magic events—a focal point for play in each geographic region. They happen three times per year and are scheduled approximately one to three months before their corresponding Pro Tour. Previous cycles showed the joy of high-level paper Magic, with all the big names playing at the top tables and the excitement of win-and-ins for Pro Tours, and the upcoming third cycle should be equally exciting.
The schedule for the third cycle of Regional Championships (RCs) for the 2022–23 season is as follows:
- June 3–4: U.S., Mexico/Central America/Caribbean, South East Asia, China, and East Canada. The U.S. Regional Championship will be streamed live on the DreamHackMagic channel, with commentary by Corey Baumeister, Mani Davoudi, Riley Knight, and Martin Juza. Coverage starts at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. CET on Saturday and at 8:30 a.m. PT / 11:30 a.m. ET / 5:30 CET on Sunday.
- June 10–11: Europe/Middle East/Africa and Chinese Taipei. The Europe/Middle East/Africa RC will be streamed live on the LegacyEuropeanTour channel, with commentary by Filipa Carola, Matej Zatlkaj, Filip "Skura" Skórnicki, and Will Hall. Coverage starts at 2 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. CET / 3 p.m. JST both days.
- June 17–18: West Canada. There will be live coverage on the FaceToFaceGames channel on Sunday only, starting at 11 a.m. PT / 2 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. CET.
- June 24-25: Japan/South Korea and Australia/New Zealand. The Japan/South Korea RC will be streamed live, with commentary in Japanese, on the MTGJP channel.
- July 1-2: Brazil and South America.
Format: For all of these third-cycle Regional Championships, the format is Pioneer. No new sets will be added to Pioneer during this Regional Championship cycle. The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™, which releases in the middle of June, will be legal in Modern but not in Pioneer.
Decklists: Regional Championships will use open decklists, to be submitted by competitors on MTG Melee on the day before the event starts. Exact details and timing are provided by the local organizer. Once the event gets underway, decklists will become publicly available and you can follow the standings live. To do so, check out the MTG Melee pages for each event that are linked in the schedule above. Our @PlayMTG Twitter account will also provide event updates.
Invites: Regional Championships are invitation-only events. Most of the invites stem from Regional Championship Qualifiers (RCQs) held at local stores or larger conventions in January, February, and March. On the Friday before each Regional Championship, the event hall may also hold Last Chance Qualifiers. Additional invitees include players who qualified through Magic Online or MTG Arena, top players from the 2021–22 season, members of the Hall of Fame who use their "once-per-year" invite, and players otherwise qualified for Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings. More precise details can be found here. All in all, the level of competition will be fierce, and many of the best players in each region will be in attendance.
Prizes: Besides promo cards and monetary prizes—for example, $100,000 in Europe and $130,000 in the U.S.A.—top players from each Regional Championship will qualify for Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings, to be held at MagicCon: Barcelona on July 28–30. The exact number of Pro Tour invites differs per region. For example, in this transitional season it's 36 in Europe and 48 in U.S.A. This number includes bonus qualifications that are for the 2022–23 season only. Additionally, all Regional Championship winners, as well as the runners-up from U.S.A., Japan, and Europe, will be invited to Magic World Championship XXIX, to be held at MagicCon: Las Vegas on September 22–24, 2023. All in all, these are important events, with a lot on the line.
Qualification: If you're eager to start your own competitive Magic journey, then store-level RCQs are one of the best places to start. You can find tournaments on the Store & Event Locator or your regional organizer's website. Current RCQs through August 20, 2023 will feed into the next cycle of Regional Championships, which are held from September through December in the Pioneer format.
The Pioneer Metagame
Pioneer is based on expansion sets and core sets from Return to Ravnica forward, with the most notable cards on the ban list being the fetch lands. To grasp the latest Pioneer developments, I analyzed over 500 successful decklists from competitive events over the past two weekends. Specifically, I used all published Magic Online decklists from scheduled Pioneer events held from May 19 through May 28, all MTG Melee decklists with net positive wins from the NRG Series $10K Minneapolis and the Grand Open Qualifier Valencia, and all Top 8 decklists from RCQs at Hareruya Nagoya, Hareruya Nipponbashi, Hareruya Osu, Hareruya Omiya, TC Osaka, Laughing Dragon, GriffoNest Games, and The Game Haven of Maryland. Essentially, this encompasses large Pioneer tournaments held since the emergence of Boros Convoke. The biggest one was the Grand Open Qualifier in Valencia, which drew 409 players.
To provide a metagame snapshot that combines popularity and performance, I assigned an archetype label to each deck, correcting any mislabeling on Melee, and I awarded a number of points equal to the deck's net wins, i.e., its number of match wins minus losses. For example, a deck that went 5–1 in the Swiss followed by a loss in the quarterfinals was assigned three points. The sum of these numbers for every archetype yields its record-weighted metagame share, which represents its share of total net wins. It may be interpreted as a winner's metagame that you can expect to see at the top tables.
|Archetype||Record-Weighted Metagame Share|
|1. Rakdos Midrange||19.7%|
|2. Mono-Green Devotion||11.8%|
|3. Azorius Control||7.6%|
|4. Abzan Greasefang||6.6%|
|5. Boros Convoke||6.3% ↑↑|
|6. Lotus Field Combo||5.9%|
|7. Izzet Creativity||5.8%|
|8. Mono-White Humans||5.6%|
|9. Rakdos Sacrifice||4.7%|
|10. Azorius Spirits||4.2%|
|11. Enigmatic Fires||2.4%|
|12. Omnath to Light||1.9%|
|13. Gruul Vehicles||1.8%|
|14. Dimir Control||1.7%|
|15. Izzet Phoenix||1.4%|
|16. Neoform Atraxa||1.2%|
|17. Mono-Blue Spirits||1.1%|
|18. Rona Combo||1.1%|
|19. Niv to Light||1.0%|
|20. Transmogrify Fires||0.8%|
|21. Chandra Turns||0.7%|
|24. Orzhov Humans||0.6%|
|25. Mono-Black Midrange||0.5%|
|26. Bant Spirits||0.5%|
|27. Dimir Rogues||0.4% ↓↓|
|28. Grixis Midrange||0.4%|
|29. Selesnya Angels||0.4%|
|29. Mono-Black Discard||0.4%|
In this table, each archetype name hyperlinks to a well-performing, representative decklist, and the arrows represent the biggest changes compared to my metagame roundup from two weeks ago. In particular, Dimir Rogues faltered and failed to put up good results despite initial excitement over Faerie Mastermind. The "Other" category includes Atarka Red, Mono-Red Aggro, Esper Control, Jund Transmogrify, Path of Mettle, Rakdos Creativity, Bant Auras, Five-Color Transmogrify, Jeskai Spirits, Boros Heroic, Mono-White Angels, Mardu Midrange, and Grixis Transmogrify. There are plenty of brews to go around.
With over 10,000 cards to choose from, Pioneer features a variety of powerful strategies, and anything can win in the hands of a skilled and experienced pilot. It's mostly a matter of finding a deck you enjoy, building familiarity with its play patterns, and knowing the matchups inside out. Like an artist who paints with a familiar brush, your mastery over your chosen deck can become a cornerstone of your success in Pioneer. Yet while familiarity breeds triumph, it is equally vital to learn the secrets of your adversaries. The second part of this article provides decklists for the top ten archetypes that currently dominate the Pioneer landscape.
Is Boros Convoke Busted?
The new hotness in Pioneer is Boros Convoke, which won a Pioneer Challenge and surged to a 6.3% share of the record-weighted metagame over the past two weeks. After basically coming out of nowhere, it attracted a lot of attention due to its explosive starts. For example, the opening hand shown above can lead to a turn-three kill. Assuming no interaction from your opponent, do you see how to guarantee it?
The key to solving this puzzle is to hold
The ability to convoke on turn two is similar to what the old Hogaak decks used to do in Modern. Its combination of explosiveness and consistency ultimately resulted in
Many opponents were ready for Boros Convoke last weekend; the best answers are sweepers that exploit the deck's reliance on
The Decks to Beat
As a refresher, let's review the ten Pioneer decks that you may see in the largest numbers at the upcoming Regional Championships. Due to their popularity, you need to keep them at the forefront of your mind when building your deck and sideboard plans. To pinpoint typical builds, I've used a decklist aggregation algorithm that takes into account the popularity and performance of individual card choices over the past two weeks.
Nevertheless, Pioneer offers the tools to counter any strategy, and Rakdos Midrange can struggle against Gruul Vehicles, Rakdos Sacrifice, and Enigmatic Fires. Moreover, Rakdos Midrange hasn't gained any noteworthy new cards in 2023, whereas decks like Mono-Green Devotion and
Mono-Green Devotion, with an 11.8% share of the winner's metagame, is another deck to beat in Pioneer. It can use mana elves and
Azorius Control is the premier control deck in Pioneer, combining spot removal, countermagic, card draw, sweepers, and planeswalkers. There are various builds of the deck, for example using companions or
Abzan Greasefang is the premier combo deck in Pioneer. Its goal is to put
Boros Convoke, a synergy-driven aggro deck that can overwhelm opponents with enormous battlefields as early as turn two, reminded me of the Modern Affinity decks that I loved playing back in the days. Last weekend, I dusted off my
As the archetype is relatively new, there is no consensus yet on the flex slots. Personally, I like
Lotus Field Combo plans to find Lotus Field, get another copy via
Essentially, Izzet Creativity is a control deck first and a combo deck second. Featuring a lot of cheap interactive spells, it can keep the opponent at bay in the early game before achieving victory with
Mono-White Humans is an aggro deck that focuses on curving out with powerful Humans, using
Rakdos Sacrifice is centered around
Azorius Spirits is the most popular home for
The Battles Ahead
Pioneer offers a diverse range of viable archetypes, and anything is possible. Boros Convoke, based on my own experiences, is a viable competitive option that rewards sequencing skill and combat math, but it's beatable with sweepers. I can't wait to see what decks the Regional Championship competitors will bring and how the metagame will develop in the coming weeks.
As previously mentioned, the cycle starts this weekend with Regional Championships in five different regions, and the U.S. Regional Championship will be streamed live on the DreamHackMagic channel, with commentary by Corey Baumeister, Mani Davoudi, Riley Knight, and Martin Juza. Coverage starts at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. CET on Saturday and at 8:30 a.m. PT / 11:30 a.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. CET on Sunday!