The God of Pioneer 8 – Live Updates

The God of Pioneer 8 is taking place on July 17th in Tokyo, Japan. It is the largest Pioneer event of each season, drawing in players from all over Japan to compete at the Hareruya Tokyo Tournament Center. I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few while I’ve been living in the area, and I was able to do live updates during the last one in between rounds. I’m hoping to do the same thing for this weekend’s event. While I might not have time during every round to update this article, I will be live tweeting from my Twitter account whenever I can. Be sure to give me a follow to keep up to date with what’s happening at the event! Otherwise, bookmark this article and check back from time to time to see if I’ve updated it. The event will be going from 10 am to about 8pm Japan time. If you’re in North America, that’s about 9pm EST to 7am. If you’re in Europe, you can probably catch the last few rounds when you wake up and around lunch time. Hareruya Tokyo will also be streaming this event, but whether or not it will only be the Top 8 or from the 3rd round onwards is yet to be seen. Be sure to check their Youtube Channel to see if the event is live tomorrow afternoon. I’ll try to tweet it out to let everybody know once I find out what their plan is.

Why should I care about the God of Pioneer?

The God of Pioneer has always been a great barometer for the format as a whole. In the past we’ve seen decks break out at the event and later on find their way into the upper echelons of the format. This God of Pioneer is especially important because it’s happening right at the beginning of Organized Play. Nobody can really say what the Pioneer metagame will be like at large upcoming Pro Tour Qualifiers or other large events, but this high level event gives us a window into what it will be like for the next two months before the next new set is due to drop. You can expect a large amount of pro players and grinders to show up at the God events in Tokyo, and the last few events have had more than 200 players! This God of Pioneer will give us some great data going forward!

What would you play this weekend?

Between MTG Arena, Paper events, and other online testing, I’ve been practicing with a large number of strategies. Let’s start with what I’m NOT using. A few weeks back I really got into playing with Atarka Ramp and while the deck was fun, it ran into some of the same problems that the Mono Green devotion has been having. Fast decks and tempo strategies like Mono blue spirits preyed on Mono green and has pushed it out of most paper events. While a few lists will probably make it into the top 16 of this event, I wouldn’t expect it to show up in large numbers this weekend.

Another archetype I’ve been playing with a lot is the Greasefang Parhelion deck. Karn, the Great Creator and various graveyard hate has hobbled the strategy though, especially the all in Esper Version and the slower Mardu midrange version. There is a new challenger so to speak in Abzan Parhelion because it’s able to main board cards like Witherbloom Command that further its lines of play while also dealing with graveyard hate.

While the deck has been a lot of fun to play, and it is CLOSER to being optimized, I still think it might struggle against a few of the meta decks. The versions I’ve seen can fill their graveyards extremely fast but they lack interaction. While cards like the command can deal with a turn 1 mana creature or gain you life against mono red, not having enough removal to deal with a gigantic Boros Heroic threat will end games quickly, and not in your favor. If we return to a midrange or control dominated meta, I think this deck could be great, but it’s hard to say if Abzan Parhelion’s time is now.

Speaking of Boros Heroic, I’ve been dabbling in that strategy as well and I really like how it’s gotten better with the addition of Illuminator Virtuoso. However, I think it takes a lot of practice to master, as does the Parhelion decks. Aggressive mulliganing is necessary to set yourself up for a big turn to win the game in both strategies, and I simply haven’t reached the number of repetitions to get me there for a large tournament. This leads me back to the deck I used in the last God of Pioneer: Rakdos Midrange.

You can follow this link to see the list I’ll be playing. My reasoning behind going with Rakdos midrange for this event again is that I believe there will be a number of low to the ground, fast decks trying to take advantage of slower decks such as Azorious Control, UR Phoenix, and Mono Green devotion. I expect there to be a lot of Spirits, Mono red, Boros Heroic, and possibly even Humans, and Rakdos has everything I want for those match ups. It has ample removal, life gain (Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet), graveyard hate (Graveyard Trespasser), hand disruption, and a variety of ways to finish off a game (Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Kroxa). Also the play style is much more my speed. It’s easier to see the lines as a Rakdos player than trying to get lucky with draws and having to mulligan over and over again. Hopefully my choice will correct come Sunday.

Live Updates from the God of Pioneer 8

The atmosphere here today in Tokyo is lively as 210 Pioneer players descend on the Hareruya Tournament center. I would say one of the reasons for this is because there’s something that can be earned here. With organized play now in full swing, skills and knowledge forged in large events like this can give you the upper edge in qualifiers and help you to get to the pro tour.

Spirits had dominated the last God of Pioneer, but since then the metagame has shifted it seems like Green devotion decks have returned but their presence is more subdued than previously. The break out deck of this tournament seems to be humans. Gone is the phantom menace and in their place we’re seeing more of the corporeal variety. Green White, mono white, black white, and even Bant humans showed up in large numbers this weekend. Other decks composing the metagame are Rakdos Midrange, UR Phoenix, Mono red, and a smattering of UW/x control decks. Will somebody break open the meta this weekend? Stayed tuned and find out!

Round 1: My Round 1 opponent was UW control. Not a bad match up for Rakdos Midrange, but absolutely horrible when it comes to coverage. These types of games can drag on forever if you don’t remove their card advantage engines and in game 1 my strategy grounded to a halt. I sided out my creature based removal and sided in my planeswalkers and hard to kill creatures, and I managed to take game 2. I was especially satisfied with Angrath’s Rampage which I had in the sideboard, because it was great against a resolved Dream Trawler and had no problems getting rid of a Teferi.

I ended up having the advantage through most of game as well, but we went to time and I couldn’t finish my opponent even though I had a Chandra with 7 loyalty, a Hazoret, and a soon to flip Fable of the Mirror breaker. We tied 1-1.

Round 2: I was finally able to get some breathing room in round 2 after a quick victory against mono green devotion. My opponent kept a dangerous one land hand game one with elves and oaths and my Fatal Pushes assured he wouldn’t get the mana he needed to slow my attacks down. After a quick scoop we played game 2, and while my opponent was able to get down a few Cavalier of Thorns, I was able to remove one each turn to keep him off his devotion and then forced my way through with Graveyard Trespassers and Bonecrusher Giants.

Round 2 also saw the end of legendary Lotus player and MTGO grinder wkmidori‘s run at this seasons event. He went 0-2 drop, saying he wasn’t able to activate a Lotus Field even once. I’m guessing he ran into fast decks and also drew poorly.

Round 3: This round was incredibly rough as a ran up against my first Rakdos Midrange mirror match of the day. I took game 1 with my removal and Thoughtseizes, but my opponent responded in kind with some of their own in the next two grindy games and I was never able to gain an advantage of him. Mulligans and bad draws just put me at to much of a disadvantage. This left me at 1-1-1 and on the cusp of elimination.

Round 4: If the grind against Rakdos midrange wasn’t enough round 3, I was in for an even grindier game in round 4. I played against 5 Color Niv Mizzet and lost my first match after he played two early Sylvan Caryatids into a turn 4 Niv Mizzet. He was able to get too much card advantage that game and I had to give up. But siding out ineffective removal like Fatal Push games 2 and 3, I was able to play more planeswalkers, grind more advantage, and also played some sacrifice effects so I could more easily target his planeswalkers and large creatures. We went to time, but I was able to take the round 2-1 to increase my record to 2-1-1.

Round 5: An argument can be made that both Fight Rigging and Rakdos Midrange are fair decks compared to the rest of the field, but in this match up I’d disagree. Removal in Rakdos Mid matches up so well against this GB deck that it was almost too easy for me. I had all the answer when I needed them, and then was able to take over the board when he ran out of cards to play. After a quick 2-0, I was able to walk around a bit to see how everybody else was doing.

By round 5, UR Phoenix and Rakdos midrange seemed to be pulling away from the rest of the decks, but surprisingly enough so was Humans! There were a lot of flavors of humans, but the ones that seems to be doing the best were the green based ones with Collected Company. The rest of the meta was rather mixed. Some green devotion had survived, and some off tier decks like Bant Spirits and Ensoul were threatening, but by the end of the round it seemed like most of the meta would be settled.

Round 6: I gotta be honest, it didn’t feel like I was at a high round tournament until this round. The level of play was noticeably higher in round 6 against UR prowess. I struggled game one as my opponent played Ledger Shredders in the air and flooded the board with elemental tokens from their Young Pyromancer. It wasn’t until games 2 and 3 that I could fight back with more removal, gain life with Graveyard Trespassers, and attack his hand with Kroxa. Being able to copy my Trespassers with a flipped Kiki-Jiki was also very helpful in stemming the loss of life.

Round 7: I faced my first pro in round 7, Atsuki Kihara. Kihara has been around Magic the Gathering in Japan for a long time. He’s a huge part of the pro community and if you’ve watched MTG coverage in the past you’d probably notice him by his wild, coifed hair and piercings. He doesn’t look like your typical Japanese player, and doesn’t play like one either. I faced his BR Sacrifice deck and he was relentless in pinging me away with various triggers while keeping me off balance and on defense. I had quite a bit of removal, but he was able to get advantage by stealing my creatures with Claim the Firstborn and then saccing them for cards. I put up a good fight a think, but without Kalitas or Graveyard Trespassers in this match up, I fell quickly. Wish I had included a Hidetsugu Consumes All in my sideboard. Maybe next time. With this loss I was out of contention for the top 8 but still had my best record at a God event; 4-2-1.

For a mercy, Kihara finished me quickly which gave me a chance to check out the Metagame in round 7. There were quite a few control and Green devotion decks still alive at this point and in contention, but the Human and Phoenix decks had dropped off. I believe it was the concentration of Rakdos midrange and Sacrifice decks that did in the Human decks, and that the Phoenix players either ran into a lot of hate or cannibalized themselves in the earlier rounds by playing against each other.

Round 8: I knew I was no longer in contention for the top 8 at this point, but I wanted to play out my last round of the tournament to build my endurance for future events and to work on my concentration. I’ve too often let my guard down going into the later rounds of events and have missed chances. This was definitely true earlier in my MTG career when I missed converting day 2 qualification at Grand Prix/Magic Fests. I’m sure my opponent was doing this final round for the same reasons as I.

For the first time at the tournament I played against one of those Human decks, and this was one of the more colorful ones. It was 5 Color humans. I thought the amount of removal I had protect me but I found out how wrong I was in game 1 after multiple Collected Company’s and being on the receiving end of the Pyre of Heroes engine. The Extraction Specialist package was especially potent. They’d sac a creature to get a bigger one, then get it back right away with the Specialist. But adding in more removal and landing a Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet in the next two games let me more easily control the board state and stop his Pyre of Heroes engine or Specialist synergy from working. Thank god they weren’t playing a lot of removal.

The Top 8: When the smoke cleared after 8 grueling rounds of Magic, the top 8 was decided:

  • Rakdos Mid
  • Rakdos mid
  • UW Control
  • Mono green devotion
  • Mono green devotion
  • BR Sacrifice
  • Rakdos Mid
  • Jund Sacrifice

Rakdos Midrange had shown it’s ability to lock down various archetypes the entire day, even putting the upstart GW and Mono white human strategies in their place. It was no surprise that 3 would make the top 8, and that Sacrifice would find it’s way in as well since it has similar cards to Rakdos mid and also has a good match up against it. I was a little surprised that mono green devotion made it’s way back into the top 8 after a few weeks of being hated out, but I believe that can be attributed to the drop off of Spirits players at the event. When small flyers are away, big creatures and planeswalkers will play. Azorious Control rounded out the rest of the top 8, and you can find lists of each deck here.

You can also check out the Top 16 decklists here, which give you a slightly better look at what the top tables looked like at the end of the swiss rounds.

9th to 16th place was:

  • Rakdos Midrange
  • Mono Red aggro
  • Grixis Midrange
  • Green Devotion
  • Phoenix
  • Lotus Combo
  • UR Control
  • Azorious Control

The Semifinals: The Quarterfinals saw Rakdos Midrange, Mono green devotion, Azorious Control, and Rakdos Midrange survive the best of 8. None of the sacrifice decks were able to survive, and only one of the green devotion decks did. The match ups for the top 4 were:

  • Rakdos Midrange Vs. Azorious Control
  • Mono Green Devotion Vs. Rakdos Midrange

The control deck was the first to fall as soon as the Rakdos midrange was able to land a threat and keep chipping away at their life total. Invoke Despair and Chandra, Torch of Defiance did a lot of work in this match up. There were 3 Invoke Despair in their main deck which made it hard for the control deck to land a way to stabilize and get card advantage. Eventually the Chandra was able tick up a few times and without an answer to her ultimate, the Control player had to concede.

In the other game, mono green devotion’s speed ended up outpacing the other Rakdos Midrange’s removal and ran away with the game. I did want to point out some interesting tech from the 4th place deck though.

The 4th place finisher was using Evelyn, the Covetous to grind out advantage against other decks, especially in the mirrors. I expect that when you have Kalitas, Bloodtithe Harvesters, and the ability to make vampire copies with Fable of the Mirror Breaker, you can end up grinding out a lot more value than normally able. Very interesting way to play the deck!

The Finals: The finals pitted Mono Green Devotion against the more Rakdos Midrange in a battle of removal Vs. synergy. You can watch it all on Hareruya’s YouTube channel if you want, but otherwise I can give you a run down of the final match.

In game 1, the removal and Kalitas’ ability to make zombie tokens from the dead made many of mono green’s creatures a liability and completely negated Old Growth Trolls ability to return to the battlefield as an Aura. The Rakdos player was able to handle any play the green devotion player was threatening with, and ended the game with an overwhelming board presence.

In game 2, the Mono green devotion player was able to get an early Karn onto the battlefield and started to grab a lot of cards from their sideboard to deal with Rakdos’ problem cards like a flipped Fable of the Mirror breaker or Bonecrusher Giants. Not even Invoke Despair was able to save them in this game as cards like Skysovereign took over.

In game 3, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet pushed his advantage again and was threatening to run away with the game but the mono green player was able to find a Transmogrifying Wand from their sideboard to deal with him and almost make a comeback. Sadly, it ended up being those same 2/4 Oxen created by the wand that spelled the mono green player’s doom and Rakdos Midrange player Takahashi Tarou was declared winner of the God of Pioneer 8 tournament!

Until Next time …

I really enjoyed playing in this event and look forward to doing the next one after the next set is released. I also hope that you were able to get a lot of useful information from the event and that you’d like to see more content like this in the future! I hope to bring more Pioneer content from Japan in the future, and while I might not always have time to update my blog, you can always stop by my discord to see what Magic players like me who are living in Japan are talking about or you can follow me on my Twitter to see what cool or interesting things I’ve found about MTG. Thanks for reading and see you at the next big Magic event!


Twitter: @yojapanhobbyist