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Pioneer Gets Inverted (and My Mountainous Move)


What's going on, everybody! You may have noticed that I was absent last week. Truth be told, I usually write my articles on Monday, and they get published on Wednesday, but last week I was in the midst of driving across the country, from Florida to Utah. Monday night, I actually had a stop in Denver, and moving in general can be so stressful, that I literally forgot that I write weekly articles. It didn't even occur to me until Wednesday or Thursday of last week that I didn't write anything.

Completely forgetting to write something was surreal, and I felt bad about it, but I also tried to go easy on myself considering how long the days were, what with loading everything I own into a truck, driving 8-10 hours a day, finding hotels, bringing pets to and from cars at night. They say moving can be one of the most stressful things you do in life, and this has held true every single time I have done it. We're going to talk about Magic down below, but I want to give you an idea of how things went this past week!

Crossing the Country

Expedition Map
We were supposed to leave Friday morning after the walk through of my rental home, drive eight to ten hours Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, on which we would arrive. Instead, we didn't leave Florida until around three pm on Friday due to grossly underestimating the amount of material possessions I would have to pack and load into the truck. This caused us to be prematurely exhausted, and only drive around four hours that day. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday we drove the requisite number of hours, but on Monday, as we approached Denver, the weather started deteriorating, and the snow was really coming down. We decided to stay in Denver for another day. We could all use a day off from the driving, and the packing, and the moving. It snowed some more on Tuesday, but on Wednesday, we had to go. This was going to be the worst day yet.

Halfway through our day, as we were cruising through Oklahoma, the sun shining, there was a stretch of I-80 that had icy roads. A car hit their brakes, then a semi hit their brakes, and in an attempt not to crash into them, my friend Jake, who was driving our Budget truck, slammed on his brakes, swerved, and crashed into the embankment of ice in the median. He was fine, and the truck was fine, but we were unable to get it out of the snow. I went to check on Jake and make sure he was okay, and after emerging from the truck, we both ran across the street, back to where the cars were parked. Unfortunately, this is where we both slipped on the ice, the same way the truck did, propelling us into the air and onto our backs like the Three Stooges hitting a banana peel. With the wind knocked out of us, we began crawling out of the road as best we could to make sure we got to safety before being crushed.

We waited in my car, with our friend Mike in front of us, pulled over on the shoulder as semi-truck after semi-trick wooshed past us. One of them came two inches away from Mike's car, many of their tails swaying back and forth from the ice they weren't expecting, a few of which even crashed right before our eyes. We were terrified, decided to call a tow truck for the truck, and get to a safer area. After we found an opening in traffic, we started driving at a safe 30 miles per hour. We noticed that there wasn't a single car behind us for quite some time. Turns out there was a huge pile up in the area we fled from, and the road was eventually closed; we seemed to have left just in time. We got off at an exit about 20 miles away, with a gas station and a hotel, calmed our nerves, and tried to figure out how to get the truck back without having to go back and traverse that deadly area of interstate once more.

The tow truck we called at two pm was finally able to reach our truck at around seven pm due to the ridiculous traffic in that area. Unfortunately, in our panic, we forgot to leave the keys in the truck so they had no way to put it into neutral. Jake and Mike decided to head back out there, going as slowly as possible, to hand off the keys to the tow truck driver. After doing so, the driver said "you guys are good, we've got it from here," and Mike and Jake returned, assuming the driver would eventually arrive. They did not. It turns out, they took our truck to their yard, some 30 minutes in the other direction, instead of to the hotel we informed them we were staying at.

Without a resolution and unsure how we would get the truck back, or how much time it would cost us the next day, we went to bed. Thankfully, we heard from the towing company in the morning, telling us that they could bring the truck to our hotel by 10 am. Eventually, we got back on the road Thursday morning for the final five hours of driving. Comparatively, these were some of the easiest we could ask for, and Thursday evening, after a three-day delay, we were finally through. The journey had ended. So if you were wondering where I was last week, or why I hadn't been streaming, let's just say it has been a week.

Oracles and Inverters

Inverter of Truth
But Magic doesn't care about my journey; it presses on, week after week, and missing even one can feel like an eternity with the speed the metagame moves.

I was keeping an eye on the Pioneer format, as it's one of the most interesting to me right now, and boy... it sure is something.

This past weekend there were at least two Pioneer events in the form of Grand Prix Phoenix (thank goodness for these being called Grand Prix again!) and the Players Tour Phoenix. Both of these events showcased Magic's latest non-rotating format, and both of which displayed the power of Thassa's Oracle and Inverter of Truth.

I remember when I first played against this combo on Magic Online, and I asked what was going on. Cha said to me, and I quote, "oh, it's Splinter Twin." And it kind of is, only I feel like you can actually interact with Splinter Twin more. You can kill the creature when playing against Splinter Twin. Killing neither Thassa's Oracle or Inverter of Truth actually does anything. The combo doesn't need these creatures to survive, and they mostly just act like spells thanks to their triggered abilities.

If you needed proof that the Dimir Inverter deck was the real deal, these are the top cards from both events:

Grand Prix Top 8

  1. Mystical Dispute: 26 copies (87.50%)
  2. Inverter of Truth: 20 copies (62.50%)
  3. Fatal Push: 20 copies (62.50%)
  4. Thoughtseize: 20 copies (62.50%)
  5. Opt: 20 copies (62.50%)
  6. Dig Through Time: 19 copies (62.50%)
  7. Thassa's Oracle: 18 copies (62.50%)
  8. Jace, Wielder of Mysteries: 17 copies (62.50%)

Five of the Top 8 players were playing Inverter decks, and there were an insane 26 copies of Mystical Dispute - one of the best cards to deal with both Thassa's Oracle and opposing Mystical Disputes - out of the possible 32.

Players Tour Phoenix

  1. Thoughtseize: 663 copies (49.01%)
  2. Fatal Push: 642 copies (46.76%)
  3. Dig Through Time: 393 copies (35.49%)
  4. Thassa's Oracle: 372 copies (32.11%)
  5. Inverter of Truth: 352 copies (24.79%)
  6. Opt: 343 copies (24.23%)
  7. Jace, Wielder of Mysteries: 295 copies (34.08%)
  8. Mystical Dispute: 272 copies (63.66%)

If you look at the numbers here, you'll notice that this is throughout the entire event, not just the top decks. The Inverter deck was the highest played in the entire event. In fact, these two lists are exactly the same outside of their order.

Underworld Breach
I'm definitely at a point where I'm beginning to wonder when Eldrazi aren't going to be causing problems. Even the most innocuous ones, the one's with humongous drawbacks, end up ruining the fun for everyone. If you look at the most recent Pioneer League, however, the format still seems to be pretty diverse. The problem is that you don't want the Inverter deck pervading that diversity like an infection. When you have a deck like this, that does as well as it did at the highest level of competition, warping the format around it, that's usually when you want to take action. I know, I know, the last thing we want is more bannings, but when I was picking up Theros Beyond Death cards today, I actively avoided picking up the Oracle, simply because it did not feel safe to do so.

I think the Lotus Breach deck is also something to look out for, but to a lesser extent. This is a deck that came in second place at the Players Tour, had a 9 win finish, two 8 win finishes, and seven 7 win finishes. That's a lot of impressive numbers.

Both of these combo decks have seemed to slowly take over the format, and while there's still a ton of room to play midrange or aggro decks, these are the decks that people seem to gravitate toward when it's time for a big event, like a Players Tour or a Grand Prix, and often, when enough people gravitate, it's the sign of an unhealthy format. Like I said, I wouldn't be surprised to see some number of cards from these decks banned in the coming weeks.

But what do you guys think? Are these combos beatable? Are they fun to play against? Are they manageable? Let me know what you think in the comments below. Thank you so much for reading, and it's good to be back! Remember to use promo code FRANK5 for 5% off, and I'll catch you all next week!

Frank Lepore

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