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Players Tour Phoenix Pioneer Match Up Data


Last weekend, we had two Pioneer Players Tour events - in on Nagoya and one in Brussels. This week, the Players Tour is back in action, this time in Phoenix. While having three Players Tour events in a row is sort of strange, it also gives us a unique window into see how the format is developing, almost in real time.

You can see last week's breakdown from Players Tour Brussels here for comparison, but the short version is that last week Dimir Inverter was the most played deck and one of the best performing, while Mono-Red Aggro and Mono-White Devotion were seen as potential foils to Dimir Inverter based on their strong win percentage (albeit with a small sample size of matches). Based on poor win percentage overall (and against Dimir Inverter), decks like Niv to Light and Ramp strategies seemed to be on the decline, while Bant Spirits, Lotus Breach Combo and Sultai Delirium were decks that performed well, but with relatively few players. What has changed in the past week? Take a look at the metagame data and then we'll talk about the decks.

Top Eight Decks

Matchup Data

Azorius Control 55%
(74)
n/a
(0)
71%
(7)
45%
(11)
30%
(10)
83%
(6)
50%
(2)
71%
(7)
67%
(3)
45%
(11)
33%
(6)
73%
(11)
Bant Spirits 48%
(265)
29%
(7)
50%
(36)
49%
(51)
48%
(31)
48%
(23)
13%
(8)
46%
(28)
56%
(9)
59%
(27)
57%
(7)
42%
(38)
Dimir Inverter 53%
(440)
55%
(11)
51%
(51)
50%
(92)
38%
(53)
52%
(27)
77%
(13)
60%
(42)
73%
(15)
55%
(42)
48%
(21)
60%
(73)
Lotus Breach 62%
(238)
70%
(10)
52%
(31)
62%
(53)
50%
(32)
94%
(16)
80%
(5)
41%
(17)
75%
(12)
53%
(30)
86%
(7)
76%
(25)
Mono-Black Aggro 44%
(159)
17%
(6)
52%
(23)
48%
(27)
6%
(16)
50%
(10)
40%
(5)
63%
(16)
58%
(12)
11%
(9)
60%
(10)
48%
(25)
Mono-Black Vampires 51%
(53)
50%
(2)
88%
(8)
23%
(13)
20%
(5)
60%
(5)
50%
(2)
100%
(4)
67%
(6)
25%
(4)
n/a
(0)
50%
(4)
Mono-Red Aggro 45%
(199)
29%
(7)
54%
(28)
40%
(42)
59%
(17)
38%
(16)
0%
(4)
50%
(16)
55%
(11)
22%
(18)
50%
(6)
56%
(34)
Mono-White Heliod 39%
(89)
33%
(3)
44%
(9)
27%
(15)
25%
(12)
42%
(12)
33%
(6)
45%
(11)
n/a
(0)
67%
(3)
50%
(4)
50%
(14)
Sultai Delirium 55%
(191)
55%
(11)
41%
(27)
45%
(42)
47%
(30)
89%
(9)
75%
(4)
78%
(18)
33%
(3)
50%
(12)
60%
(10)
72%
(25)
Sultai Inverter 48%
(80)
67%
(6)
43%
(7)
52%
(21)
14%
(7)
40%
(10)
n/a
(0)
50%
(6)
50%
(4)
40%
(10)
n/a
(0)
67%
(9)
Other 43%
(296)
27%
(11)
58%
(38)
40%
(73)
24%
(25)
52%
(25)
50%
(4)
44%
(34)
50%
(14)
28%
(25)
33%
(9)
50%
(38)

 

The Old Hotness

 
Overall
Dimir Inverter 53%
(440)
55%
(11)
51%
(51)
50%
(92)
38%
(53)
52%
(27)
77%
(13)
60%
(42)
73%
(15)
55%
(42)
48%
(21)
60%
(73)


Let's start with last week's breakout deck: Dimir Inverter. While its overall win percentage fell slightly from 54% last weekend in Brussels to 53% in Phoenix, there are two big reasons to view this weekends performance as even more impressive. First, last weekend Dimir Inverter was a brand new deck that people weren't perpared for or ready to play against. This weekend it was the clear top deck in the format and the deck that everyone built to beat. Dimir Inverter performed almost as well. Second, changes to the deck actually allowed it to flip its worst matchups into its best matchups. Last week the two decks that actually seemed like they could beat Dimir Inverter were Mono-Red Aggro (which won 64% of the time in the matchup) and Mono-White Devotion (which won 62% of the time in the matchup). As you can see, the current builds of Dimir Inverter which focus more heavily on aggro in the sideboard have basically flipped the numbers, with Red Aggro winning just 40% of the time in Phoenix and Mono-White Heliod Devotion only winning 27% of the time. 

On the other hand, it does seem like some other decks have adjusted to fight the Dimir Inverter menace. While Dimir Inverter still managed to have an even or better matchup against everything in the format outside of Sultai Inverter (which was still close to a coin flip at 48%) and a new breakout deck we'll talk about momentarily, in some matchups the non-Inverter decks managed to close the gap in terms of win percentage, even though they still lose more than they win. For example, last weekend in Brussels former top deck in the format Mono-Black Aggro only beat Dimir Inverter 39% of the time, this week it managed to win 48%.

In the end, it's hard to think of this weekend as anything but a huge win for Dimir Inverter and a testament to the power of the deck's namesake combo. With a huge target on its back, it managed to win almost as often as it did last weekend when it was essentially unknown while also flipping its bad matchups into two of its best matchups.

The New Hotness

 
Overall
Lotus Breach 62%
(238)
70%
(10)
52%
(31)
62%
(53)
50%
(32)
94%
(16)
80%
(5)
41%
(17)
75%
(12)
53%
(30)
86%
(7)
76%
(25)

This week, the new hot deck was Lotus Breach. While the combo deck did seem to perform well last weekend, it wasn't among the most played deck in the format. Well, Players Tour Phoenix was the decks coming out party, and the numbers on the deck are absolutely absurd, especially considering it was one of the most heavily played decks in the field. Overall, it won 62% of the time, which stunning, especially when combined with the fact that (outside of Mono-Red Aggro) the deck didn't have a bad matchup in the field and absolutly crushed some of the former top decks in the format. 

Based on these numbers, Lotus Breach is the new best deck in Pioneer, and it isn't especially close. It beats Dimir Inverter and everything else, in some cases by laughably by margins (see: Mono-Black Aggro that won 6% of the time across 16 matches). While it might be possible that the metagame can adjust, at this point, the question isn't whether Lotus Breach is good in Pioneer, it's whether Lotus Breach is too good in Pioneer, which could potentially lead to a quick banning. 

Other Good Decks

 
Overall
Azorius Control 55%
(74)
n/a
(0)
71%
(7)
45%
(11)
30%
(10)
83%
(6)
50%
(2)
71%
(7)
67%
(3)
45%
(11)
33%
(6)
73%
(11)

Outside of Dimir Inverter and Lotus Breach, there are three other decks that performed reasonably well at Players Tour Phoenix, although nowhere near as good as Lotus Breach. the most surprising of the bunch is Azorius Control. Last weekend, Azorius Control was pretty bad overall, but thanks to the shift in the metagame that brought about the Inverter and Breach decks (pushing some of Azorius Control's worse matchups like Izzet Ensoul and Green Ramp out of the meta) Azorius Control actually was tied for the second highest overall win percentage with Sultai Delirium at 55%. On its face, this seems like good news, and in some ways it is, but if you dig into the numbers, the performance is a bit less exciting. 

How did Azorius Control win 55% of the time? Primarily by beating up on some of the worst performing decks in the field, especially Mono-Red Aggro, Mono-White Heloid, and the "others". The problem is that based on the Players Tour Phoenix results, these decks should be on the decline. Meanwhile, the decks that performed well this weekend - Dimir Inverter, Lotus Breach and Sultai Delirium - all beat up on Azorius Control. 

As such, this weekend's performance seems like the peak for Azorius Control. Dimir Inverter and Lotus Breach pushed some of its worst matchups out of the field, while some of Azorius Control's best matchups were the decks that beat Dimir Inverter last weekend (Mono-Red and Mono-White), causing them to increase in play. Basically, the stars aligned for Azorius Control at Players Tour Phoenix, making it a good metagame call for the weekend, but can't really compete with the deck's that will likely be at the top of the format moving forward. 

 
Overall
Sultai Delirium 55%
(191)
55%
(11)
41%
(27)
45%
(42)
47%
(30)
89%
(9)
75%
(4)
78%
(18)
33%
(3)
50%
(12)
60%
(10)
72%
(25)

Last week Sultai Deliirum was the rouge deck that took Joel Larsson to a win at Players Tour Brussels. This week, it is a legitimate top tier deck in the format. While the graveyard-centric midrange deck does technically lose to both Dimir Inverter and Lotus Breach, the matchups are close enough (45% and 47% respectively) that with careful play and lots of practice the deck can win against the the top of the format, while it absolutely crushes aggro of all types (perhaps outside of Mono-White Heliod, although a three match sample isn't really enough to learn much from). If you're looking for a fair deck that is actually competitive in the current, combo-focused meta of Pioneer, this seems like the right choice.

 
Overall
Mono-Black Vampires 51%
(53)
50%
(2)
88%
(8)
23%
(13)
20%
(5)
60%
(5)
50%
(2)
100%
(4)
67%
(6)
25%
(4)
n/a
(0)
50%
(4)

Based purely on overall win percentage Mono-Black Vampires deserves to be mentioned among the "good decks" at Players Tour Phoenix, considering that it won 51% of the time. This said, it has the smallest sample size of any of the ten most played decks at the event, with only 53 total matches, which complicates matters. More problematic, however, is how the deck seems to match up against Dimir Inverter, Lotus Breach and Sultai Delirium, all of which seems to be about as close to auto-losses as you can get with Mono-Black Vampires having just a 25% match win percentage against Sultai Delirium, 23% match win percentage against Dimir Inverter and 20% against Lotus Breach, although here again the small sample size makes it hard to state anything with too much certainty.

Basically, Mono-Black Vampires looks a lot like Azorius Control. It seems to have been a reasonable choice for Players Tour Phoenix because it manages to beat up on some of the decks players were playing to try to take down the top decks in the format like Mono-White and Mono-Red, but it's probably a much worse choice moving forward, because Mono-White and Mono-Red weren't good at Players Tour Phoenix, and the decks that will likely make up the top tier of the format heading out of the event - Lotus Breach, Dimir Inverter and Sultai Delirium - crush Vampires.

Not Great, But With Potential

 
Overall
Bant Spirits 48%
(265)
29%
(7)
50%
(36)
49%
(51)
48%
(31)
48%
(23)
13%
(8)
46%
(28)
56%
(9)
59%
(27)
57%
(7)
42%
(38)

Bant Spirits is basically the opposite of decks like Mono-Black Vampires and Azorius Control - it wasn't a great choice this weekend, with just a 48% match win percentage, but it might be a very good second-tier deck moving forward in the format, because it's one of the few decks that can actually compete with the top tier of the meta, having very close to coin flip matchups against Dimir Inverter and Lotus Breach (at 49% and 48% respectively) while winning 59% of the time against Sultai Delirium. The bad news for Bant Spirits at Players Tour Phoenix was that it gets beaten up by Azorius Control and Mono-Black Vampires, although this might not be a huge concern moving forward since those are decks that seems poised to decline based on their inability to beat the big three of Dimir Inverter, Lotus Breach and Sultai Delirium, which could position Bant Spirits to be the tier 2 deck of choice for players that are looking for an alternative that actually has a chance to beat the top decks in the meta.

The Bad Decks

 
Overall
Sultai Inverter 48%
(80)
67%
(6)
43%
(7)
52%
(21)
14%
(7)
40%
(10)
n/a
(0)
50%
(6)
50%
(4)
40%
(10)
n/a
(0)
67%
(9)

The good news for Sultai Inverter is that it has a slightly favorable matchup against Dimir Inverter. The bad news for Sultai Inverter is that it isn't great against Sultai Delirium and that it's downright pitiful against Lotus Breach, winning just 14% of the time across seven matches. Perhaps the most awkward part for Sultai Inverter is that it's basically a hybrid of Sultai Delirium and Dimir Inverter, but it seems like mashing two of the best decks together actually makes the end product worse rather than better. While a 48% overall match win percentage is reasonable enough that we shouldn't write off the archetype all together, it's really difficult to figure out the upside of Sultai Inverter compared to either Dimir Inverter or Sultai Delirium outside of slightly improving your Dimir Inverter matchup at the cost of making your deck worse (and in some cases significantly worse) in almost every other important matchup.

 
Overall
Mono-Black Aggro 44%
(159)
17%
(6)
52%
(23)
48%
(27)
6%
(16)
50%
(10)
40%
(5)
63%
(16)
58%
(12)
11%
(9)
60%
(10)
48%
(25)

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. A couple of months ago Mono-Black Aggro was the undisputed best deck in Pioneer, and even last week at Players Tour Brussels the archetype managed a respective 50% match win percentage across a large sample of matches, but it seems like the archetype gets worse week by week as the metagame shifts. The problem for Mono-Black Aggro? It gets absolutely stomped by two of the new best deck in the format, winning a laughable 6% of the time against Lotus Breach (apparently Thoughtseize and a relatively fast clock isn't enough in the matchup) and an almost as bad against Sultai Delirium. Considering that Sultai Delirium, Lotus Breach and Dimir Inverter (which is closer to a 50/50 matchup, but still slightly unfavorable for Mono-Black Aggro) are likely the new top tier of the Pioneer meta, Mono-Black Aggro is likely unplayable until something changes in the format.

 
Overall
Mono-Red Aggro 45%
(199)
29%
(7)
54%
(28)
40%
(42)
59%
(17)
38%
(16)
0%
(4)
50%
(16)
55%
(11)
22%
(18)
50%
(6)
56%
(34)

The upside of Mono-Red Aggro was supposed to be that it was one of the only decks that have a favorable matchup against Dimir Inverter, but thanks to updates to the Dimir Inverter deck to focus more on beating aggro decks, this didn't end up being true at Players Tour Phoenix, with Mono-Red Aggro only winning 40% of the time. On the other hand, Mono-Red Aggro was the only deck to have a favorable matchup against Lotus Breach, which is something hopeful for Mono-Red players to point to among the otherwise miserable numbers for the deck. While Azorius Control will likely fall back a bit thanks to its inability to handle Sultai Delirium and Lotus Breach, diminishing the importance of one of Mono-Red's worst matchups, the fact that the archetype is really, really bad against Sultai Deilirum and pretty bad against Dimir Inverter likely relegates it so second-tier status, despite the potentially good matchup against Lotus Breach. 

 
Overall
Mono-White Heliod 39%
(89)
33%
(3)
44%
(9)
27%
(15)
25%
(12)
42%
(12)
33%
(6)
45%
(11)
n/a
(0)
67%
(3)
50%
(4)
50%
(14)

After being a bit of a sleeper hit last weekend in Brussels thanks to its good matchup against Dimir Inverter, the wheels fell off Mono-White Heliod in the past week. Not only was it bad almost across the board (its only good matchup was Sultai Delirium, but with just a three-match sample it's hard to know really feel certain about anything), but it was actually horrible against Dimir Inverter as well (winning just 27% of the time) after posting a 63% win percentage against the deck last weekend. If Mono-White Heliod can't beat the current builds of Dimir Inverter (which is what the data suggests) and it can't beat much of anything else either, it's hard to see a reason to play the deck.

Discussion

Based on Players Tour Phoenix, here's my guess at what the Pioneer meta will look like moving forward.

  • Tier zero: Lotus Breach 
  • Tier one: Dimir Inverter and Sultai Delirium (we could lump the top three decks together into tier one, but Lotus Breach's performance is impressive enough that it should be thought of as the top deck in the format all by itself)
  • Tier two: Bant Spirits, Sultai Inverter, Mono-Red Aggro, Azorius Control (there's an argument that Azorius Control could be considered tier three thanks to poor matchups against all three-tier one decks, but the matchups aren't that unfavorable, which might mean Azorius Control can rebuild to fight the top of the meta)
  • Tier Three: Mono-Black Aggro, Mono-Black Vampires, Mono-White Heliod

Perhaps a bigger question is just how likely it is that the top decks in the format remain in the format at all. Looking back at the start of Modern, another round of bannings based on the Players Tour results seems likely. In fact, I'd be surprised if decks like Lotus Breach and Dimir Inverter aren't targeted by bannings in the near future. The question is what cards do Wizards hit?

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

For me, the easiest answer is Dig Through Time, I've been saying since Pioneer was announced that Dig Through Time (and to a lesser extent Treasure Cruise) are cards that will need to be banned in Pioneer eventually as the format continues to grow, and "eventually" might have came with Theros: Beyond Death releasing two extremely powerful, graveyard based combo decks into the format with the printing of Underworld Breach and Thassa's Oracle. As Pioneer continues to evolve and more sets (and combos) enter the format, this same process - using Dig Through Time as a tutor to find your game-winning combo piece - will continue to repeat itself. It seems wise to put an end to the issue now rather than a year from now after more players have bought into Dig Through Time decks. The performance of Inverter and Breach (although Breach doesn't play that many copies of Dig Through Time in its current form) over the past two weekends is more than enough of a justification to make the move now.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Beyond Dig Through Time, the question becomes whether we want decks like Inverter and Breach to exist as tier one decks in Pioneer. Losing Dig Through Time would reduce the decks's power (especially Inverter, but to a lesser extent Breach as well), but it's possible (and in the case of Lotus Beach likely) we end up in a Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis situation where Bridge from Below was banned and the deck remained a dominant force in the meta. Banning Thassa's Oracle would really hurt Dimir Inverter and at least somewhat hurt Lots Breach (although thanks to Fae of Wishes it is better equipped to survive a Thassa's Oracle banning, while targeting cards like Inverter of Truth, Lotus Field or Underworld Breach would essentially be the equivalent of headshots that kill the archetypes entirely. 

This isn't a call for bannings, rather a restatement of something I've been saying for months: based on the track record of what happens after the first Pro Tour event of a new format we're likely to get more bans after the Players Tour events. My guess is that we'll see Dig Through Time and probably sometime else targeting Lotus Breach (either Lotus Field or Underworld Beach) added to the banned list in the near future, with Inverter of Truth and Thassa's Oracle being possibilities as well. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. What did you make of Players Tour Phoenix? What decks can compete with Lotus Breach and Dimir Inverter? What are you looking to play in your next Pioneer event? Let us know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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