Pioneer Tier List Update August 16, 2022

An explanation of this week's Pioneer tier list movements and placements.

S Tier

Readers will notice that we’ve decided to forgo the inclusion of an S-tier on this week’s tier list. While we recognize the hierarchy of the top decks in the format, we feel as though the balance among them doesn’t allow for any deck to be placed in S tier above the rest of the field. Our competitive guides believe that starting this week’s tier list at A is more emblematic of the power level across the format as opposed to placing decks based purely on raw numbers thanks to deck popularity. With the format seemingly starting to settle into a more stable hierarchy, this can be expected to be the status quo going forward until deck performance shifts enough to warrant the return to S Tier level rankings.

A Tier

Azorius Control (Down from S Tier) – 

With only two Challenge finishes within the Top 16, Azorius had a rough weekend. It seemed as though people came prepared for the S Tier menace, and the deck gave a lackluster performance to the majority of its pilots. While the strategy may have drawn the short straw this week, its general popularity and sheer force of will over the lower tier decks in the format mean that Azorius will remain a Pioneer all-star until the format experiences a major shakeup. 

Rakdos Midrange (Stable) – 

Even through last week’s Karn-splosion, Rakdos continues to dominate and overperform. The best midrange deck in the format won’t be caught longing for play anytime soon as players continue to move in on their RCQs with it. With a Challenge win, it holds its placement steady. 

Green Devotion (All Versions, Stable) – 

The various iterations on the Devotion deck have continued what they started last week with their rise back to the top of the leaderboards. Between Mono-Green, Golgari, and the “4 Color” lists running Nicol Bolas God-Pharoah, there has been plenty of iterative brewing happening within the archetype, which is always good to see. The archetype as a whole continues to be one of the most polarizing decks in the format in terms of player perception, but we expect that until something else is capable of filling that role as the stop-gap between the midrange piles and the rest of the format, that Green Devotion will continue to shine. 

Izzet Phoenix (Stable) – 

Pioneer’s most popular deck continues to force its way into the top tables by way of sheer force of numbers. While the deck doesn’t have many particularly bad matchups, it also isn’t dominant enough to put that target on its back to signify that it’s a deck that needs heavy answering either. We expect this to remain the case until potentially a new deck pops up that Phoenix is either excellent against or terribly weak to.

B Tier

Boros Heroic (Down from A Tier) – 

Heroic seems to be finding its place within the metagame at large, being a mix of a generically fast and efficient aggro deck and the primary hunter of Devotion decks. The deck can be considered a meta call deck that favors times when Rakdos has a diminished presence, but the core game plan is also strong enough to steal wins and spike any given tournament. Until a big change such as a new set that drops another cohesive aggressive strategy, or a new flavor-of-the-month shows its face, we expect Heroic to hold its seat as one of the top answers to Pioneer’s premier threats. 

Rakdos Sacrifice (Stable) –

After last week’s spike in Devotion, people seemed more hesitant to bring out the cookware. Rakdos Sacrifice seems to be adjusting to be one of those decks that reliably performs on the local level but fails to draw in the crowd it needs to thrive in the highly competitive scene, which will likely set it up to spike tournaments unexpectedly in the future. The deck has a bit of a cult following that we’re certain will keep it in the format’s mind for a long time to come. 

Mono White Humans (Stable) – 

Along with the remainder of the aggressive strategies lies the best budget deck in the format, Mono White Humans. The deck thrives in meta games where control decks and wheel spinning decks are the majority, and between a solid Azorius and Green Devotion matchup we expect Humans to be a contender for quite a long time. 

C Tier

Bant Spirits (Down from B Tier) – 

With the top tables starting to even back out, Spirits didn’t have a lot to prey on this week, which made it a less than stellar choice for the major events of the weekend. The deck, like many of the other tribal decks in the format, has a large cult following that will continuously support it, and being the upgrade path of choice for one of last month’s most popular decks will surely make Bant Spirits a comfortable option for a good number of folks. 

Bant Humans (Stable) – 

Similar to Spirits, Bant Humans is the Collected Company upgrade path of choice for this month’s premium budget deck of choice. Between the Tribal fans in general and the Human devotees, Multicolor Humans will likely be the deck of choice for a good number of FNM End-bosses for quite a while. Bant being the color selection of choice over 4/5 color is interesting though, proving that the rainbow manabase doesn’t particularly make for the most optimal deck build. 

Mono Red Aggro (Stable) –

Mono-Red has been stuck in C Tier for a bit, after dropping off the tier list entirely for a week previously. Not quite fast enough to go under Mono-Green or Rakdos Midrange, infinitely blocked by overcooked Cauldron Familiars and even being out-aggroed by Boros Heroic, Pioneer’s burn deck is in a tough spot – only heavily favored against two of the more popular decks in Mono-Blue Spirits and Azorius Control.

Mono Blue Spirits (Stable) – 

Two of Mono-Blue Spirits’ best matchups are currently clawing their way through the slog of the top decks in the format, which makes for a promising future for the deck. We expect that this deck will regain at least a portion of its former glory as some of its better matchups become more prevalent, but for the time being there isn’t very much news in terms of the archetype’s general positioning. 

D Tier

Creativity (Back from Off-Meta) – 

One of the more interesting decks in the format, Creativity tows the line between a comboesque tempo style strategy and a grueling control list. Recently championed by noted pioneer participant AspiringSpike, this deck’s surge in popularity may or may not end up short lived as its general gameplan is roughly on-par with many of the other blue red decks in the format. We are interested to see where this deck ends up, as its many different available options for construction make for an extremely adaptable archetype. 

Niv to Light (Back from Off-Meta) – 

Niv is one of the odd-ball decks in the format, whose pilots have generally devoted themselves completely to the archetype. Once known as the “Midrange deck to end all midrange decks”, Niv is always waiting for its moment to shine. Highly customizable with a strong engine, the deck really rewards knowledgeable deck construction and meta game calls. 

Izzet Control (Back from Off-Meta) – 

Izzet control is an interesting option for those willing to remove their opponents spells from the stack by way of countering. Boasting good Azorius and solid Phoenix matchups along with a densely packed removal suite, Izzet Control vies for contention among the ranks of some of the top performing decks in the format. 

Abzan Greasefang (Down from B Tier) – 

Greasefang is proving to take the place as that deck in the format that everyone should be aware of, and choose to prepare themselves for or not; being heavily punished or rewarded for their choice on the matter. This week, it was not the Rat Pilot’s week with very few finishes anywhere within our metrics. As far as the different versions and iterations are concerned, Abzan is the lowest to the ground and most aggressive to assemble the combo, which puts it in a favorable position amongst unknown meta games. We’ll see how that shakes out as the format continues to grow and reshape as new sets are added. We don’t expect a week where Greasefang isn’t a viable strategy in some capacity though. 

Jund Food (Down from C Tier) – 

The sacrifice style deck that more heavily relies on artifacts wasn’t able to put up the numbers it needed to to stick around this week in the wake of the small resurgence in Green Devotion lists present. Between Devotion and Azorius, it just isn’t the time to be trying to out-grind a grindy deck. We expect Jund Food back in the ranks at some point, as the deck is a great performer under the right conditions. 

  • Publisher

    ServoToken has been playing competitive magic since 2011, spending a majority of that time living in the shoes of a player on a strict budget. After investing a lot of time learning how to make the best of a bad situation, his goals today are to spread those lessons to the often-ignored population of Magic players who can’t afford to drop a car payment on a new deck every couple of months. His mantra is that “You don’t need to play mono-red to do well on a budget”. These days, you can typically find him deep in the archives of Scryfall searching for new cards to brew around or making tweaks to the Pioneer Budget deck spreadsheet on his unending mission to bring his favorite format to the people on the cheap.

  • 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.

  • Competitive Team Lead

    KarnageKardsENT has been playing Magic since Scars of Mirrodin. During the Pandemic, he moved to playing MTGO. Today, you can find him playing Pioneer, Modern and sometimes Standard. A mainstay in the Pioneer Challenges, Karnage can be found at Most Eastern F2F stops in Canada.

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