August Meta Snapshot

Ruckman covers the changes over the last month of Tier Lists in August's Meta Snapshot.

Happy Friday PlayingPioneer readers! It’s time for our first Monthly Averaged Tier List. To get things started, let’s take a quick peek behind the curtain of my process to end up with this list. Quite simply, I’ve thrown every deck ranking from each of August’s individual tier lists into a spreadsheet and assigned a numerical value based on their tier. From there I averaged their total score and applied a score range to end up with a final average for the month of August. So, without further adieu let’s get to the chart and take a look at some of the storylines throughout August’s tier lists.

The A-Team

August was a very competitive month for the top decks in the Pioneer Format. Three decks managed to secure an S Tier ranking at least once over the course of the month, with the Green Devotion variants securing that top ranking twice at the end of August. Meanwhile, the S Tier outlier Izzet Phoenix squeezed into the A rankings thanks to being rounded in.

Izzet Phoenix continues to be ol’ reliable in the format, always putting up results but never being an overwhelming player in the weekly meta. Thanks to a consistent, yet potentially explosive, game plan that leverages some of the most powerful spells the format has to offer, players should expect to always see Phoenix in the conversation of upper tier pioneer decks.

Rakdos Midrange wins the popularity contest as the most played deck in the format, and with Dominaria United’s printing of Liliana of the Veil into the format don’t expect that to change. This popularity is of course well earned thanks to the utilization of some of the best above-rate creatures in Pioneer, a suite of top tier removal, and most importantly Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. The deck also features enough flex slots to allow players to better mold and craft their decks to fit their local meta allowing for even more utility. The deck’s biggest weakness at the moment comes in the form of Green Devotion and it’s Rakdos counterpart Sacrifice

Speaking of Green Devotion, get a look at the glow up. Devotion returned to the spotlight following the banning of Winota, Joiner of Forces, but was quickly beaten back by hyper aggressive strategies and Mono-Blue Spirits. As the month went on these strategies were pushed out by the tide of Rakdos Midrange which allowed Devotion a little more breathing room, from there the deck started experimenting with copies of Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God as an emergency copy of any of its Planeswalkers which proved effective in helping the deck’s combo potential. As the month went on it would dip into a heavier black splash for Vraska, Golgari Queen and Ugin's Nexus to give the deck an all important extra turn to combo off, but the real improvement came in the inclusion of Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset by our very own Bailey. Teferi pushed the deck into overdrive, no longer was it a big creature deck with a combo in its toolbox sideboard; now, it was a combo deck that could still win on the ground if need be. While in our eyes this update has definitely pushed the deck into dangerous territory, the format has started to over compensate for this matchup as fewer players are treating this matchup as an “acceptable” loss.

Finally we come to the secret work horse of the format in Azorius Control. Nothing splashy, nothing fancy, just control players with a good head on their shoulders tuning their decks for those important matchups. Of course, having powerful Planeswalker finishers and answers to just about everything under the sun tend to help out as well. Whether sleeving up 75 or 90 cards, the patient control player will always find their way into the top tables, and even manage to score the occasional upset victory. Don’t sell these decks too short however, the printing of Temporary Lockdown is going to go a long way to help shore up some of the deck’s early game issues against Devotion and Rakdos Sacrifice, as well as put the screws to the Mono-Red matchup.

B For Best

Three decks are vying for the top of our averaged B Tier between Mono-White Humans, Rakdos Sacrifice, and Boros Heroic. What do these decks have in common? A great matchup with at least one of our A Tier decks.

Mono-White Humans has made a name for itself in recent weeks as the perfect way to combat the various Green Devotion strategies. A quick clock, tons of board pressure, and then Brave the Elements to push the last points of damage past blockers. Of course, it does run into issues with some of the control strategies and otherwise interactive decks on the format, but when your best matchup is potentially the best deck in the whole format, who’s to complain?

On the other hand, Rakdos Sacrifice has a worse time against Devotion. To combat this deficiency the deck has recently switched gears to feature Claim the Firstborn to help steal some high devotion creatures like Old-Growth Troll and then sac them away for a big momentum shift. Where Sacrifice does tend to shine though is in the Rakdos head to head. Cats can help gum up the board while slowly draining away the opponent’s life total, meanwhile those Claims put in work stealing one of the bevy of three drops the deck plays. Heading in September, be in the lookout for decks now splashing green to once again include Korvold, Fae-Cursed King.

Finishing off the upper B Tier triumvirate is Boros Heroic. Heroic continues to be a mainstay as Pioneer’s premier hyper aggressive strategy. Leveraging its bevy of cheap heroic/prowess creatures with a ton of cheap spells like the ever powerful Reckless Rage is enough to finish up a lot of opponent’s before they get going. This makes for a great choice for players looking for an aggressive strategy that doesn’t rely on tribal synergies like Mono-White Humans, and features roughly the same matchup spread.

Rounding off B Tier is Abzan Greasefang and Bant Spirits. Bant Spirits has by now firmly supplanted Mono-Blue as the Spirits deck of choice for the format, giving players more interaction and a better chance against non-Devotion strategies that Mono-Blue tends to prey on. Meanwhile, Abzan Greasefang is setting up to be a deck to watch as we head into Dominaria United. The deck was already very powerful with the chance to pull off a turn three Greasefang, Okiba Boss / Parhelion II combo, and a solid midrange backup strategy with Esika's Chariot, but by now adding Liliana of the Veil it’s one of the few decks currently in the format that can truly leverage her plus one ability.

Can’t Catch a Break

Don’t be fooled, the decks in C tier still put in plenty of work in the format. There’s just something holding them back from their former glory. Mono-Red Aggro, Mono-Blue Spirits, and Jund Food all had their time in the sun at some point or another only to have been left behind. The biggest problem these decks face is there are other strategies that took their best pieces or gameplay lines and do it better against the field at large. Mono-Red being supplanted by Boros Heroic, Mono-Blue Spirits being upstaged by Bant Spirits, and Korvold being heisted to Rakdos Sacrifice from Jund Food. Going forward Mono-Red seems to have the best chance of breaking out of this C Tier lull following the printing of Dominaria United thanks to the printing of Phoenix Chick. Several pilots are already finding success with this flaming fledgling alongside Obosh, the Preypiercer, the odd couple if you will. 

Don’t Stop Believing

The once vaunted boogeyman of the format, Lotus Field, just can’t seem to find success. The mix of hand hate and hyper aggro has really made a rough environment for Lotus Field’s success, and that doesn’t seem like it’ll change any time soon. As for the rest of D Tier, I think we can all just agree that Niv to Light is held up solely by Claudioh at this point with an occasional brave soul attempting to replicate his success. And in regards to Bant Humans, just as it had supplanted Pyre Humans, it too was replaced by Mono-White Humans.

  • Editor-In-Chief

    Having started playing Magic shortly before the release of Return to Ravnica, Ruckman’s Magic lifespan covers the breadth of the Pioneer format. Despite not being a stranger to the Top 8 tables of the old IQ and PTQ systems, most of his competitive experience comes from the other side of the event space, where he served more than five years as a level-two judge, only hanging up the black shirt for good at the beginning of 2022. Currently, you can find him making Pioneer content for Crew3 on your favorite podcasting platform or on Twitch/YouTube.

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