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Pro Tour March of the Machine Day Two Highlights

May 07, 2023
Corbin Hosler

The Top 8 is set!

Pro Tour March of the Machine Saturday began with three rounds of March of the Machine Draft; and as the afternoon became the evening through eight dazzling rounds of Standard, the coveted Top 8 berths were filled by those who had excelled in both the Limited and Constructed portions of the tournament.

Jim Davis

Day One ended with Jim Davis alone at the head of the field with a perfect 8-0 record, but the fan favorite fell short through Day Two of Draft. Then Karl Sarap and Nathan Steuer–teammates, each with a solid chance for a march into the Top 8–chose to draw, and the usual tournament math was thrown for a loop.

Every round from there was filled with excitement as come-from-behind clinches and the risky draw began to look even riskier. It took 12 wins to lock up a Top 8 slot at Pro Tour March of the Machine, and it all came down to five Standard rounds packed with win-and-in matches to close out Saturday.

The Top 8

In a Pro Tour where all the storylines seemed to come together, it was a pair of World Champions who met in Round 14 to fight for the first spot on the Sunday stage. In the end, Javier Dominguez defeated Nathan Steuer in a thrilling match to earn his first Top Finish since 2021 and kicked off a sprint for the remaining seven spots.

Here are the players who will be back Sunday for the Top 8 race to the Pro Tour title.

  • Javier Dominguez (Rakdos Midrange)
  • Karl Sarap (Rakdos Midrange)
  • Simon Nielsen (Rakdos Midrange)
  • Nathan Steuer (Rakdos Midrange)
  • Yiwen Chen (Azorius Soldiers)
  • Autumn Burchett (Orzhov Midrange)
  • Cain Rianhard (Rakdos Reanimator)
  • David Olsen (Five-Color Ramp)

You can learn more about each player and their decklist with our Pro Tour March of the Machine Top 8 players and decklists recap.

Marching Through the Draft

March of the Machine earned accolades from players for its textured Limited environment featuring a host of legendary creatures from Magic's past. The unique experience brought along a special set of challenges, as the decks that came out of the Pro Tour draft prep were unlike anything we've seen outside of perhaps Cube Draft. Want to play Yorion, the Sky Nomad even though it's rotated? Ready to race against Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer? Just draft March of the Machine.

At Pro Tour March of the Machine, we saw Simon Nielsen go 3-0 on Friday with a Zada, Hedron Grinder "combo" deck. We also saw André Judd's Sunfall-Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite build that analyst Paul Cheon called the best draft deck he's ever seen.

Teams came to Minnesota looking toward the one-of-a-kind March of the Machine Draft as a key place to gain an edge on the field; and while Team Handshake dominated the Magic world over the past year, their Limited performance at Pro Tour Phyrexia left something to be desired.

The superteam went back to the drawing board for Pro Tour March of the Machine and redoubled their efforts. It worked. The team posted an overall Draft win rate of about 60%: a huge improvement from Philadelphia and one that translated into multiple Top 8 appearances from Handshake members.

Standard Down the Stretch

With Draft laying the groundwork for the Top 8 runs that followed, it was Standard mastery that decided who would advance to Sunday. And once again Team Handshake lived up to their nickname of "Team 50%," a reference to the host of events over the past year where the team has made up half of the Top 8 or Top 16. This weekend it was their Rakdos "Burn" Midrange deck featuring Light Up the Night–which combos very well with Chandra, Hope's Beacon–that took the tournament by storm, posting a 65% win rate on Day One.

Hall of Famer Frank Karsten noted the "spicy" decks did poorly overall at Pro Tour March of the Machine, with even the Five-Color Ramp deck that carried David Olsen into the Top 8 posting below a 50% win rate on Friday. Out of all major archetypes, Azorius Soldiers did surprisingly well in Standard, winning well more than half its matches.

There was no consensus among card choices among top-performing lists, but all use some new March of the Machine cards. For example, one Azorius Soldiers list that went 4-1 in Standard has Knight-Errant of Eos main deck; another uses Invasion of Gobakhan and Faerie Mastermind. (You can find all the decklists here). While some members may spend hours down the rabbit hole of strategy sideboards after securing a Top 8 berth in their first Pro Tour, you can also take the approach Olsen has heading into his.

"My only plan is to get a good rest and trust my testing," he explained. "Then I'll show up tomorrow well-rested, and hopefully I'll win a trophy."

Overall, the field belonged to the suite of strong black cards in Standard that included Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, Bloodtithe Harvest and Invoke Despair or Breach the Multiverse, along with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. One key delineation among the flavors of base black-red decks came in how they approached their matchups: would they go over the top or try to be faster than the other midrange decks? In other words: who's the beatdown?

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It's a question that will be as important as it's ever been when Top 8 play kicks off Sunday morning and five Rakdos Midrange decks fight against the three very different challenges posed by Five-Color Ramp, Azorius Soldiers, and Orzhov Midrange.

Sights and Sounds of the Pro Tour

The Pro Tour is more than just a collection of Magic matches, winners and losers, and topdecks and travails. It's also the hundreds of people it takes to make those matches mean something–and that hard work leads to some incredible moments. And with MagicCon: Minneapolis right next door to the Pro Tour, there was plenty to see and hear through the first two days.

Hijinks aside, the Pro Tour is also all the players who play out their tournament off-camera, but still have some very meaningful goals.

Looking Ahead

With 16 rounds of a very memorable Pro Tour behind us, all eyes now turn to the Sunday stage and the Top 8. March of the Machine draft helped these players get here, but it's all Standard from here on out.

You can watch the Top 8 battle it out beginning at 11 a.m. ET (8 a.m. PT/5 p.m. CEST) Sunday, May 7 at!

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