Pioneer at Cardmarket Series Prague
- Tobi Henke
Pioneer wasn't one of the big headliners in Prague, and the event's turnout wasn't big either. The format also experienced another round of bannings since. Nevertheless, the results call into question some previous assumptions. In particular, control fared much better than expected.
44 pioneers gathered for the first ever Pioneer tournament at the Cardmarket Series, fought through six rounds of Swiss, followed by quarterfinals and a split among the Top 4. The following data includes: all decklists except for a bunch of one-ofs, as well as results from all completed matches, meaning no byes or draws.
One notable finding concerns Izzet Phoenix and aggressive red decks. Both had—more or less, respectively—disappointing finishes, all the more relevant because their popularity translated into halfway decent sample sizes. Arclight Phoenix players, for example, only won seven of 21 matches.
Monoblack, Monogreen, and Field of the Dead weren't the most popular, but they did end up among the four most successful archetypes. In the meantime, Wizards have nerfed the monocolored decks with bans of Smuggler's Copter and Once Upon a Time, and removed Field from the format entirely. These cards had to go, because, apparently, they dominated the online charts.
However, in Prague, something else dominated: control strategies based in white and blue won almost four out of every five matches. 79.2% is an enviable win rate that we don't see often. In fact, we never see suchlike at larger tournaments because things tend to even out across bigger samples. So this win rate may not be a fluke, but it is, by definition, a spike. One shouldn't disregard it, but one should regard it with all due skepticism, especially as these results don't quite match the findings of a world wide web of pioneers.
Regardless, Prague's control players must have gotten something right, and their decklists can certainly serve as inspiration for future endeavors of the kind. Let's take a look!
The Top 8 Decklists
|Jedrek Szmyd: Jeskai Control (Top 4)|
Jedrek Szmyd went 6-0-1 with a white-blue deck splashing red purely for a sideboard card that, by its own insistence, "has no color." In a world without Field of the Dead, such should no longer be necessary. The bans also cast doubt on the future of main-deck Pithing Needle: the card used to find a worthwhile target in way more opposing strategies when Smuggler's Copter was still around.
|Ales Kovarik: Esper Control (Top 4)|
Ales Kovarik went deep into three colors and deep into all kinds of one-ofs. This is one of these supremely frustrating decks to play against, where you, as an opponent, will constantly go, "Oh, come on, you found space for this as well?"—and then they cast Elixir of Immorality.
|Vitus Willeke: White-Blue Control (Top 8)|
Vitus Willeke's straight white-blue concludes the trifecta of control decks that made the Top 8 in Prague. The similarities between his list and Szmyd's are bigger than their differences, suggesting their overlap to be the go-to stock going forward.
|Friedemann Walzer: Monoblack (Top 4)|
Finally, here's a deck with some actual banned cards in it. Whether it will survive its "Black Hawk Down" moment, remains to be seen. The attack helicopter's ability to replace either Push or Seize or excess lands with something useful used to be a big deal.
|Dominik Krawiecki: Monogreen (Top 4)|
|Peter Wesolowski: Monogreen (Top 8)|
The second Monogreen followed the more expected devotion script. It already survived the loss of Leyline of Abundance and Oath of Nissa, and it surely will be able to make do without Once Upon a Time, but at some point it probably won't be worth all the trouble anymore.
|Fabian Ghafouri: Bant Field (Top 8)|
Like in the virtual world, black-green versions were more popular, but this Bant build proved most successful in Prague. Of course, the longest decklists contain the least bit of actionable information now that Field of the Dead is dead itself.
|Witold Zygarlowski: Red Deck Wins (Top 8)|
No Top 8 would be complete without the obligatory red deck. The previous seven lists already covered all the archetypes that posted winning records, except for one …
|Sascha Porstner: White-Blue Skies (11th)|
I guess you might as well call this "Spirits" because 12 cards do feature tribal interaction. Personally, I prefer to take my cue from Empyrean Eagle and Favorable Winds, which care about ability rather than type. Back when Rishadan Airship was in Standard, tournament players already had a name for a tempo deck that exclusively relied on fliers: "Blue Skies" then or "White-Blue Skies" now. Other players in Prague also took to the skies over Bant for Collected Company, but between all of them this version soared the highest.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.