Skip to main content Download External Link Facebook Facebook Twitter Instagram Twitch Youtube Youtube Discord Left Arrow Right Arrow Search Lock Wreath icon-no-eye caret-down Add to Calendar download Arena copyText Info Close

Metagame Mentor: The Highest Standard Win Rates at Pro Tour March of the Machine

May 11, 2023
Frank Karsten

Magic: The Gathering is nearly 30 years old, with a Pro Tour history dating back nearly as long. In that time, no players have ever finished in the Top 8 of three consecutive Pro Tour or World Championship events while winning at least two of them. Yet that is exactly what Nathan Steuer accomplished last weekend in Minneapolis, writing history in the process. After winning Magic World Championship XXVIII and making the Top 8 of Pro Tour Phyrexia, he claimed another trophy at Pro Tour March of the Machine.

Prior to last weekend, three players had finished in the top eight of three consecutive Pro Tour or World Championship events: Scott Johns (Pro Tour Los Angeles 1996, Pro Tour Columbus 1996, Worlds 1996), Jon Finkel (Pro Tour New York 1998, Worlds 1998, Pro Tour Chicago 1998), and Luis Scott-Vargas (Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, all held in 2016). However, none of them won at least two of those three events.

In addition, Kai Budde may have won Pro Tour Barcelona 2001, Pro Tour New York 2001, and Pro Tour New Orleans 2001, in a string of wins so preposterous that it literally made Eric Taylor eat his hat, but Budde failed to make Top 8 at Worlds 2001 in the middle of that year, breaking the streak of consecutive Top Finishes. Taking into account these historical facts, Nathan Steuer's current run truly is in a league of its own.

Steuer reached his well-deserved victory by excelling in both Limited and Standard. In today's article, however, I'll be taking a broader look at the win rates and standout decks from the Standard rounds only. By removing the draft portion and looking beyond the Top 8, we'll get a better sense of the biggest Standard lessons from the event overall. Let's run the numbers!

Standard Win Rates

The most popular Standard deck archetypes as per the Pro Tour metagame breakdown were Rakdos Midrange, Grixis Midrange, Esper Legends, and Rakdos Reanimator. In today's article, to highlight the performance of specific versions, I've changed the archetype of Team Handshake's Rakdos Midrange decks with Light Up the Night to Rakdos "Burn" Midrange, and I've changed the archetype of Team Sewer Rats' Rakdos decks with The Cruelty of Gix and Invoke Despair to Rakdos "Invoke" Reanimator. Remaining lists were changed to Rakdos "Stock" Midrange and Rakdos "Stock" Reanimator for clarity.

I then determined the non-mirror, non-draw, non-bye match record and win rate of every archetype at Pro Tour March of the Machine, using data from Standard Swiss rounds only. The results are provided in the following table, where each archetype name hyperlinks to a representative decklist.

Archetype Number of Players Record and Win Rate
Orzhov Midrange 1 7-3 (70.0%)
Rakdos "Burn" Midrange 15 72-35 (67.3%)
Azorius Soldiers 5 33-17 (66.0%)
Boros Midrange 1 5-3 (62.5%)
Selesnya Enchantments 2 11-7 (61.1%)
Orzhov Toxic 1 3-2 (60.0%)
Rakdos "Invoke" Reanimator 8 35-25 (58.3%)
Mardu Reanimator 3 13-10 (56.5%)
Rakdos "Stock" Midrange 31 109-91 (54.5%)
Grixis Midrange 39 144-126 (53.3%)
Rakdos Breach 7 28-25 (52.8%)
Mono-Red Aggro 6 21-19 (52.5%)
Domain Control 12 51-47 (52.0%)
Five-color Ramp 9 32-31 (50.8%)
Grixis Singularity 6 22-22 (50.0%)
Abzan Toxic 1 5-5 (50.0%)
Grixis Reanimator 18 65-76 (46.1%)
Mono-White Midrange 9 26-31 (45.6%)
Esper Legends 30 80-109 (42.3%)
Four-Color Legends 2 8-11 (42.1%)
Jeskai Control 8 25-35 (41.7%)
Rakdos "Stock" Reanimator 16 46-65 (41.4%)
Rakdos Aggro 1 2-3 (40.0%)
RataBlade Combo 1 4-6 (40.0%)
Selesnya Toxic 3 8-13 (38.1%)
Azorius Control 4 9-15 (37.5%)
Grixis Incubate 3 6-11 (35.3%)
Mono-Blue Tempo 3 8-17 (32.0%)
Abzan Legends 1 1-3 (25.0%)
Mono-Black Midrange 1 1-3 (25.0%)
Naya Counters 1 1-3 (25.0%)
Orzhov Phyrexians 1 1-4 (20.0%)
Dimir Midrange 1 1-4 (20.0%)
Selesnya Counters 1 1-4 (20.0%)
Dimir Toxic 1 0-3 (0.0%)

Of course, sample sizes were small: For example, the 95% confidence interval for Grixis Midrange's win rate ranged from 47.2% to 59.4%. This means that it's hard to draw strong conclusions, even for the most-played decks. Yet several facts are clear: Fable of the Mirror-Breaker was a four-of in 65% of the Standard main decks at the Pro Tour, Bloodtithe Harvester was a four-of in 58% of these Standard decks, and these decks performed well overall.

As a group, decks with Bloodtithe Harvester and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker won 56.1% of their matches against decks without this black-red core. In particular, Esper Legends had a disappointing non-mirror, non-draw, non-bye win rate of 42.3%, as Lithomantic Barrage answered their threats too efficiently after sideboard.

All decks with this black-red core included Go for the Throat and Cut Down main deck or sideboard. Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and Reckoner Bankbuster were also popular, but they were not universally included in all of these decks. So, the black-red core is comprised of Bloodtithe Harvester, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Go for the Throat, and Cut Down. Starting from this, there are several options for the mid-to-late approaches, which is where versions differed. Based on the win rates, Rakdos "Burn" Midrange and Rakdos "Invoke" Reanimator performed the best.

To provide another useful reference, here are all decks with at least 7 Standard non-bye wins at Pro Tour March of the Machine, along with their combined non-bye Swiss and Top 8 record, in descending order of their win rate. Decks without the black-red core are shown in bold:

This list contains the decks that had the best Standard results at the Pro Tour. Let's take a closer look at the four decks that made it to the semifinals, followed by two standout decks that used neither black nor red.

The Standard Decks from the Four Semifinalists

This is the deck that clinched the trophy. Reigning World Champion Nathan Steuer has been on a historical run this season, and his record at Pro Tour March of the Machine was 4-1-1 in the draft rounds and 11-2 in the Standard rounds, including the Top 8.

In a nutshell, his deck is a well-tuned version of Rakdos Midrange. Compared to the typical stock version, Steuer has fewer Graveyard Trespasser and no Archfiend of the Dross or Mirrex. Instead, he has main deck Duress, a second Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance, and Light Up the Night. In the sideboard, standout cards include Liliana of the Veil and Rotten Reunion, providing additional options against control decks and reanimator decks.

While main deck Duress is perhaps the most important choice for the current metagame, Light Up the Night is the sweetest inclusion. The card has awesome synergy with Chandra, Hope's Beacon and provides the capability for a fiery burn-like finish in the late game. You don't even need to untap with Chandra to reap the benefits—with eight lands, you can cast Chandra, tick up, and flashback Light Up the Night from your graveyard for X=6, which doubles into 12 damage to your opponent.

All fifteen members of Team Handshake (Karl Sarap, Simon Nielsen, Javier Dominguez, Austin Bursavich, Jonny Guttman, Daniel Brodie, Matti Kuisma, Abe Corrigan, Eli Loveman, Joonas Eloranta, David Inglis, Stefan Schütz, Tristan Wylde-LaRue, Anthony Lee, and Nathan Steuer himself) registered such a Rakdos "Burn" Midrange deck with one or two copies of Light Up the Night, and they were the only Rakdos players to use the sorcery.

Their combined Standard win rate in the Swiss was an astounding 67.3%. When analyzing this number, it's impossible to disentangle excellence of the players and their decks, but Team Handshake dominated the event in historical fashion. After the Swiss rounds, Dominguez, Sarap, Nielsen, and Steuer had made Top 8 as first, second, third, and fourth seed respectively, and Steuer's tight technical play rewarded him with a well-deserved trophy.

Cain Rianhard, who qualified through the 2022 Magic Online Champions Showcase 3, took second place with Rakdos "Invoke" Reanimator. They went 4-2 in the draft rounds and 10-3 in the Standard rounds, including the Top 8.

Their build of Rakdos Reanimator eschews Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, who dies easily to Go for the Throat. Instead, the list marries the best of midrange and reanimator, using both The Cruelty of Gix and Invoke Despair. Phyrexian Fleshgorger is an important card for this strategy, as it provides a solid reanimation target while ensuring a reasonable mana curve. It's a reasonable threat on turn three because it's immune to Go for the Throat or Cut Down. All in all, the deck has pretty much the same early game as other Rakdos decks, but it is better at grinding in the late game. In matchups that involve similar decks, the one going slightly bigger usually tends to emerge victorious.

In total, eight players (Piotr Głogowski, Alan Andrzejewski, Tomasz Sodomirski, Matias Leveratto, Damian Buckley, Tristan Leenders, Socrates Rozakeas, and Cain Rianhard) used such a Rakdos "Invoke" Reanimator deck at the Pro Tour, all from Team Sewer Rats. Their combined Standard win rate in the Swiss was a solid 58.3%.

Autumn Burchett, who qualified through a PTQ at MagicCon: Philadelphia, took third place with Orzhov Midrange. She went 5-1 in the draft rounds and 8-4 in the Standard rounds, including the Top 8.

Burchett was the only player at the Pro Tour to use Obscura Storefront, but it worked perfectly for her. The land not only allowed her to splash Breach the Multiverse in a Lay Down Arms deck but also provided a lot of free value with Serra Paragon. The black splash also unlocked additional sideboard options, including Duress, Cut Down, and Archangel of Wrath.

While Mono-White Midrange faltered at the Pro Tour, Burchett's innovative black splash might revitalize the archetype. It's a breath of fresh air, and with a 6-3 record against Bloodtithe Harvester/Fable of the Mirror-Breaker decks at the Pro Tour, it may hold the right combination of cards to attack the current metagame.

David Olsen, who qualified through the East Canada Regional Championship, took fourth place with Five-Color Ramp. He went 4-2 in the draft rounds and 9-3 in the Standard rounds, including the Top 8.

The key ramp cards in the deck are Topiary Stomper and Invasion of Zendikar, which allow you to cast Atraxa, Grand Unifier ahead of time. Although there are no instants or planeswalkers, the presence of battles makes Atraxa more powerful. Given the distribution of card types in the deck, Atraxa will grant 4.3 cards in expectation, which is excellent value. Other top-end cards, such as Etali, Primal Conqueror and Archangel of Wrath, also overperformed in the games I watched, going over the top of the base black-red decks.

Olsen and a Canadian squad of teammates (William la Hay, Philippe Gareau, Markus Thibeau, Cameron Sweetnam, and Adham Momen) had streamlined the list, with Christian Trudel playing a similar build. Their combined Standard win rate in the Swiss, excluding the different Five-Color Ramp versions played by Federico del Basso and Christoph Schlom that did not perform as well, was 54.7%. In particular, the Canadians went 20-17 against decks with Bloodtithe Harvester and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, showing that their list may be well-positioned for the current Standard metagame. However, they did not do as well in the Second Chance Pro Tour Qualifier for Pro Tour competitors, where many Rakdos player adopted as many as four copies of Duress in their main deck.

Two Standout Standard Decks Without Black or Red

At Pro Tour March of the Machine, Azorius Soldiers had one of the best win rates out of all major archetypes. All lists eschewed Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, allowing the use of powerful noncreature spells. Yiwen Chen made Top 8 with a version featuring new additions like Faerie Mastermind and Invasion of Gobakhan, and Rei Sato went 7-3 in Standard with a similar list. However, I decided to highlight Haruki Usui's version with Knight-Errant of Eos, good for a 7-3 record, because it looked even more innovative to me.

In Usui's list, all creatures other than Knight-Errant of Eos cost one or two mana. There is not even a single Skystrike Officer. The main benefit of such a build is that you can consistently curve a one-drop on turn one into a two-drop on turn two, allowing Knight-Errant of Eos to be convoked as early as turn three. At that point, you are about 86% to put two creatures into your hand. If one of them is Zephyr Sentinel, then you can bounce Knight-Errant of Eos and keep the card advantage train rolling. This results in an evasive aggro deck that has enough card advantage to play a long game. That staying power is essential against all the midrange decks.

Despite the introduction of Lithomantic Barrage, the results of the Pro Tour suggest that Azorius Soldiers is the best aggro deck for the current Standard metagame. The five Azorius Solders players at the Pro Tour posted a 15-12 record against decks with Bloodtithe Harvester and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, and their ability to play flashy game with countermagic worked well.

Only two players registered Selesnya Enchantments for Pro Tour March of the Machine, but it posted a solid win rate overall, with Daniel Kristoff going 7-3 and Sam Bogue going 5-5. Bogue then played the Second Chance Pro Tour Qualifier for Pro Tour competitors on Sunday, where he was the only non-Rakdos player in the Top 8.

At the Pro Tour, Selesnya Enchantments went 6-6 against decks with Bloodtithe Harvester and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, which doesn't tell us much, but the archetype performed extremely well against Rakdos Midrange at the recent Regional Championships, and it gained Surge of Salvation, Sunfall, and Seal from Existence from March of the Machine. Accordingly, it may be well-positioned to counter the dominant strategies in the metagame.

A novel inclusion in Kristoff's deck is Skrelv, Defector Mite. It provides a stronger early game than an alternative like Rite of Harmony, as protecting key creatures like Jukai Naturalist or Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr can make a huge difference. Looking ahead, March of the Machine: The Aftermath releases this week, and I'd have my eye on Calix, Guided by Fate as a possible addition. It's like a Generous Visitor on steroids that can copy Ossification and other enchantments. This could make for a good fit in this deck, and it's perfect with Skrelv.


After a cycle of Regional Championships that was dominated by Rakdos Midrange, Esper Legends, and Mono-White Midrange, the red-black core conquered Pro Tour March of the Machine. Decks with Bloodtithe Harvester, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Cut Down, and Go for the Throat had a great performance, while Esper Legends disappointed and Mono-White Midrange dropped in popularity. As the metagame evolves, I'd expect a surge in Rakdos "Burn" Midrange and Rakdos "Invoke" Reanimator in Standard tournaments.

However, despite their inherent strength, they are not unbeatable, especially now that they have a clear target on their back. As I explained in this article, decks like Orzhov Midrange, Five-Color Ramp, Azorius Soldiers, and Selesnya Enchantments may have what it takes, and they might be able to dethrone the heavily played black-red decks. If you're a Standard player who likes to attack the established metagame, then these could prove to be good options.

The next Pro Tour, called Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings, will be held at MagicCon: Barcelona on July 28–30 and will feature the Modern format. It will be fed by the third cycle of Regional Championships, which runs from June 3 through July 2 in the Pioneer format. MagicCon: Barcelona will also feature another Secret Lair Showdown, which is a really cool event that is open to anyone, with exclusive versions of Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Brainstorm as prizes. If you're a competitive player who plans to be at MagicCon: Barcelona, you should not miss it.

Although Richard was rightfully thrilled to win the coveted Brainstorm—currently there are only two of its kind in the world—the weekend ultimately belonged to Nathan Steuer and his Rakdos deck. Congratulations once again!

Share Article