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Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor Pioneer Metagame Breakdown

February 22, 2024
Frank Karsten

The decklists are in, the data is ready, and the first Pro Tour of 2024 begins tomorrow! It's time for Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor, where 258 of the world's best Magic: the Gathering players will compete for $500,000 in prizes, numerous Magic World Championship invites, and a prestigious trophy. The event takes place at MagicCon: Chicago.

While most competitors earned their invitation via Regional Championship performance, the field also includes Magic Hall of Famers, top online players, and high finishers from preceding Pro Tours, Pro Tour Qualifiers, and the World Championship. With World Champion Jean-Emmanuel Depraz and Player of the Year Simon Nielsen in attendance, the Pro Tour is truly one of the highest levels of tabletop Magic competition at a global level.

The formats are Murders at Karlov Manor Booster Draft in the morning of Friday and Saturday, followed by Pioneer for five rounds afterward each of those days. Pioneer is also the Top 8 format on Sunday. To follow all the action, catch the stream at, which begins at 11 a.m. Central Time on Friday and Saturday and at 10 a.m. Central Time on Sunday. Take a look at the viewer's guide for more information.

Pioneer Metagame Breakdown

Pioneer is a non-rotating format based on expansion sets and core sets from Return to Ravnica onward, with the most notable cards on the ban list being the fetch lands. Pioneer will be the designated Constructed format for the next RCQ cycle, heightening its importance for competitive players. With over 10,000 cards to choose from, including the newly added cards from Murders at Karlov Manor, the format features a variety of aggro, midrange, control, and combo strategies. The metagame at the Pro Tour breaks downs as follows.

Deck Archetype Number of Players Percentage of Field
1. Izzet Phoenix 46 17.8%
2. Azorius Control 36 14.0%
3. Rakdos Midrange 36 14.0%
4. Lotus Field Combo 23 8.9%
5. Amalia Combo 17 6.6%
6. Boros Heroic 12 4.7%
7. Izzet Ensoul 11 4.3%
8. Boros Convoke 11 4.3%
9. Rakdos Vampires 11 4.3%
10. Jeskai Creativity 8 3.1%
11. Niv to Light 7 2.7%
12. Rakdos Sacrifice 5 1.9%
13. Abzan Greasefang 4 1.6%
14. Omnath to Light 4 1.6%
15. Enigmatic Fires 4 1.6%
16. Izzet Creativity 3 1.2%
17. Waste Not 2 0.8%
18. Orzhov Humans 2 0.8%
19. Grixis Phoenix 2 0.8%
20. Quintorius Combo 2 0.8%
21. Vannifar Combo 1 0.4%
22. Mono-Black Midrange 1 0.4%
23. Temur Vehicles 1 0.4%
24. Mono-Red Aggro 1 0.4%
25. Azorius Spirits 1 0.4%
26. Azorius Improvise 1 0.4%
27. Mono-White Humans 1 0.4%
28. Jeskai Control 1 0.4%
29. Rona Lukka Combo 1 0.4%
30. Mono-Black Vampires 1 0.4%
31. Dimir Control 1 0.4%
32. Boros Burn 1 0.4%

All Pioneer Constructed decklists for the tournament will be published on the Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor event page on Friday February 23 at the beginning of Round 4 gameplay, approximately at 2 p.m. Central Time.

The Pro Tour metagame bears many similarities to the online metagame in January that I analyzed in my format primer, but there are various notable differences. First and foremost, Rakdos Midrange—the most prominent Pioneer deck throughout 2023—has been dethroned. Even though the most-played nonland cards across all Pro Tour decks are still Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Thoughtseize, and Fatal Push, we now have a new number one deck: Izzet Phoenix!

After gaining Picklock Prankster and Sleight of Hand from Wilds of Eldraine, Izzet Phoenix maintained an upward trajectory throughout the preceding cycle of Regional Championships, and now 17.8% of the Pro Tour field will try to chain Consider, Treasure Cruise, and Lightning Axe in a single turn, aiming to bring back multiple copies of Arclight Phoenix from the graveyard. There's also some innovation, as seven Izzet Phoenix players added main deck Ashiok, Dream Render to fill their graveyard, exile their opponent's, and prevent search effects like Emergent Ultimatum or Chord of Calling.

New Developments and Surprises

Most Izzet Phoenix lists use zero new cards from Murders of Karlov Manor, but the latest set has introduced powerful options for various other archetypes, shaking up the metagame as a result. The most-played new card by far is No More Lies, which is a noticeable upgrade to Make Disappear with additional utility against Arclight Phoenix and Memory Deluge. Let's take a closer look at the importance of No More Lies and other developments.

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The Adoption of No More Lies: No More Lies has cemented Azorius Control as a major contender, nearly evenly split between 80-card and 60-card versions. No More Lies also played a major role in the emergence of Jeskai Creativity and Niv to Light, both of which are control decks with a combo finish. The novel Jeskai Creativity builds are reminiscent of the Izzet Creativity deck that Reid Duke used to win last year's Pioneer Pro Tour, with the addition of white for cards like No More Lies and The Wandering Emperor. We might see 2/2 Samurai tokens creatively turning into Atraxa, Grand Unifier. Niv to Light decks are similar to Omnath to Light, but they use at least one copy of Niv-Mizzet Reborn as a tutor target for Bring to Light, usually along with No More Lies to reveal.

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The Revamp of Lotus Field Combo: Lotus Field Combo traditionally has a good matchup against Izzet Phoenix, and 23 players—a sizable 8.9% of the field—registered it for the Pro Tour. Out of those 23, an almost-unanimous 22 incorporated Archdruid's Charm, and 16 run the full four copies. The triple-green spell is the first-ever unconditional three-mana effect that can put Lotus Field or Thespian's Stage from your library directly onto the battlefield. Besides increasing the deck's consistency, Archdruid's Charm also answers Damping Sphere after sideboard and can fetch silver-bullet creatures like Dragonlord Dromoka, Fae of Wishes, or even Realm-Cloaked Giant. But the rest of the field came prepared: Lotus Field Combo players will have to contend with Krenko's Buzzcrusher (which gets around hexproof) and Ashiok, Dream Render (which stops Archdruid's Charm). All of these new changes will refresh the way Lotus Field Combo matches will play out.

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The Surprise of Boros Heroic: At 4.7% of the metagame, Boros Heroic is the most-played aggro deck, which is a bit of a surprise. At the preceding cycle of Regional Championships, after Wilds of Eldraine introduced Monstrous Rage, the deck put up solid results, but it lived in the shadow of Boros Convoke. However, Boros Heroic is generally faster, allowing it to race combo decks like Amalia Combo or Lotus Field Combo. Moreover, ten out of twelve Boros Heroic players embraced Fugitive Codebreaker as a new turn-two prowess creature that can be disguised—albeit predictably—to provide staying power in the late game. Supported by an abundance of instants and sorceries, Fugitive Codebreaker shores up the otherwise tough matchup against Rakdos Midrange.

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The Verve of Vampires: Cavern of Souls became more valuable after No More Lies was added to the format, and twelve players—4.7% of the field, split between eleven Rakdos and one Mono-Black deck—decided that Vampires was the way to go. Although Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord has been legal in Pioneer for years, the supporting cast of Vampires was always a bit lackluster, but recent sets have changed that. The Lost Caverns of Ixalan added Preacher of the Schism, and Murders at Karlov Manor introduced Vein Ripper. Vein Ripper is difficult to remove, wins damage races, and provides a fast clock when put onto the battlefield on turn three by Sorin. These new Vampire decks pack a punch.

Most-Played Cards from Murders at Karlov Manor

Despite the high bar set by the existing Pioneer card pool, Murders at Karlov Manor had a considerable impact on the format. I've already mentioned standouts like No More Lies and Archdruid's Charm, but the following table provides a complete overview of all new-to-Pioneer cards among decklists submitted for the Pro Tour.

Card Name Total Number of Copies Main Deck Sideboard
No More Lies 181 181 0
Meticulous Archive 81 81 0
Archdruid's Charm 81 81 0
Deduce 58 58 0
Lightning Helix 55 54 1
Novice Inspector 48 48 0
Vein Ripper 48 48 0
Krenko's Buzzcrusher 42 11 31
Fugitive Codebreaker 27 27 0
Hedge Maze 16 16 0
Cryptic Coat 16 2 14
Deadly Cover-Up 12 12 0
Gleaming Geardrake 12 12 0
Case of the Filched Falcon 11 11 0
Case of the Gateway Express 10 9 1
Elegant Parlor 9 9 0
Unauthorized Exit 6 0 6
Case of the Crimson Pulse 5 0 5
Intrude on the Mind 4 4 0
Analyze the Pollen 4 4 0
Thundering Falls 4 4 0
Case of the Uneaten Feast 4 4 0
Proft's Eidetic Memory 3 2 1
Soul Search 3 3 0
Undercity Sewers 3 3 0
Kaya, Spirits' Justice 2 1 1
Underground Mortuary 2 2 0
Warleader's Call 2 0 2
Lush Portico 2 2 0
Reenact the Crime 2 2 0
Ill-Timed Explosion 2 2 0
Pick Your Poison 1 0 1
Galvanize 1 0 1
Raucous Theater 1 1 0
Commercial District 1 1 0
Urgent Necropsy 1 0 1

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Besides No More Lies, most Azorius Control players also embraced Meticulous Archive and/or Deduce. Meticulous Archive improves the consistency of the mana base, can surveil Memory Deluge into the graveyard for value, and provides a free surveil when your Temporary Lockdown is hit by Boseiju, Who Endures. Deduce is an improved Think Twice; it was included by slightly less than half of Azorius Control players, and a small number of Creativity players exploit the Clue as a target for Indomitable Creativity as well.

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Murders at Karlov Manor was a gold mine for Niv to Light and Omnath to Light. Deadly Cover-Up is a sweet Bring to Light target, as sweeping the board while exiling all opposing copies of Arclight Phoenix or Amalia Benavides Aguirre can provide a big edge in certain matchups. Lightning Helix was an even bigger get, as it's a early-game removal spell for Ledger Shredder, Smuggler's Copter, and Wildgrowth Walker that bridges to your powerful end-game. The iconic burn spell is also found in Jeskai Creativity, Jeskai Control, and Boros Burn.

Novice Inspector Case of the Gateway Express

All Boros Convoke players (and one Azorius Improve player) embraced four copies of Novice Inspector. It's the best one-drop for decks built around Gleeful Demolition and Venerated Loxodon, so the ability to run effectively eight copies of Thraben Inspector adds redundancy and consistency. Boros Convoke players usually shaved Ornithopter to make room. In addition, most Boros Convoke players use a singleton Case of the Gateway Express to bolster their go-wide strategy.

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Only four of the eleven Izzet Ensoul players incorporated Gleaming Geardrake and/or Case of the Filched Falcon into their list, shaving Gleeful Demolition and Reckless Bushwhacker, but they are promising options. Both new cards bring along an artifact token, which the deck can suit up with Ensoul Artifact or sacrifice to Shrapnel Blast. And when Darksteel Citadel is animated by Case of the Filched Falcon, an opposing Temporary Lockdown or Get Lost can't even answer it, unlike Ensoul Artifact.

All in all, Murders at Karlov Manor has introduced many novel cards for archetypes both old and new. If you're eager to find out which cards and strategies will come out on top and who will carve their name into competitive Magic history, then don't miss all the live action. Coverage begins Friday, February 23 at!

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