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Pro Tour March of the Machine Standard Metagame Breakdown

May 04, 2023
Frank Karsten

The Pro Tour is back! At Pro Tour March of the Machine, taking place May 5–7 at MagicCon: Minneapolis, 252 of the world's best Magic: The Gathering players will compete for $500,000 in prizes, several Magic World Championship invites, and a prestigious trophy. While most competitors earned their invitation via Regional Championship performance, the field also includes Magic Hall of Famers, top online players, and the fiercest competitor of them all: reigning World Champion Nathan Steuer. The Pro Tour is truly one of the highest levels of tabletop Magic competition at a global level.

The formats are March of the Machine Booster Draft in the morning of Friday and Saturday, followed by Standard for five rounds afterward each of those days. Standard is also the Top 8 format on Sunday. To follow all the action, catch the stream at, which begins at noon ET on Friday and Saturday and at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday. See the viewer's guide for more information.

Standard Metagame Breakdown

Standard is a 60-card format that rotates every fall. Currently, it allows expansion sets from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt forward. Standard is often dominated by midrange decks, and it's no different this time around, but the newly added cards from March of the Machine have shaken things up. The metagame at the Pro Tour breaks down as follows.

Deck Archetype Percentage of Field Number of Players
1. Rakdos Midrange 18.7% 47
2. Grixis Midrange 15.5% 39
3. Esper Legends 11.9% 30
4. Rakdos Reanimator 9.1% 23
5. Grixis Reanimator 7.1% 18
6. Domain Control 4.8% 12
7. Mono-White Midrange 3.6% 9
8. Five-color Ramp 3.6% 9
9. Jeskai Control 3.2% 8
10. Rakdos Breach 2.8% 7
11. Mono-Red Aggro 2.4% 6
12. Grixis Singularity 2.4% 6
13. Azorius Soldiers 2.0% 5
14. Azorius Control 1.6% 4
15. Grixis Incubate 1.2% 3
16. Mono-Blue Tempo 1.2% 3
17. Selesnya Toxic 1.2% 3
18. Mardu Reanimator 1.2% 3
19. Four-Color Legends 0.8% 2
20. Selesnya Enchantments 0.8% 2
21. Orzhov Toxic 0.4% 1
22. Abzan Legends 0.4% 1
23. Rakdos Aggro 0.4% 1
24. Orzhov Phyrexians 0.4% 1
25. Orzhov Midrange 0.4% 1
26. Dimir Midrange 0.4% 1
27. Mono-Black Midrange 0.4% 1
28. Selesnya Counters 0.4% 1
29. Abzan Toxic 0.4% 1
30. Boros Midrange 0.4% 1
31. Naya Counters 0.4% 1
32. RataBlade Combo 0.4% 1
33. Dimir Toxic 0.4% 1

The metagame features dozens of different archetypes, including aggro, midrange, control, ramp, combo, and plenty of spice. All Standard Constructed decklists for the tournament will be published on the Pro Tour March of the Machine event page on Friday March 5 at the beginning of Round 4 gameplay, approximately at 3 p.m. ET.

Although the metagame bears many similarities to the one from the Regional Championships, which I covered in last week's Standard primer, it has not been static. Let's take a closer look at five of the most important takeaways, developments, and surprises from Pro Tour March of the Machine.

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The dominance of base red-black decks: The most-played nonland cards across all main decks were Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Go for the Throat, and Bloodtithe Harvester, which were unanimously included in Rakdos Midrange, Grixis Midrange, Rakdos Reanimator, Grixis Reanimator, Rakdos Breach, Grixis Singularity, Grixis Incubate, and Mardu Reanimator. The next-most-played cards across all main decks were Reckoner Bankbuster; Sheoldred, the Apocalypse; and Cut Down, which tell a similar story—the black-red core remains amazing in Standard, and well over half the field is using it. In terms of raw efficiency and card quality, it's simply the best available. Expect many games at the Pro Tour to start with Bloodtithe Harvester and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.

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The introduction of new top-end tools: Although many decks use the same black-red core, there is substantial variation in the mid-to-late approaches, and March of the Machine has increased the available options. It's not just Invoke Despair or The Cruelty of Gix anymore. For example, the novel Rakdos Breach deck can ramp into Chandra, Hope's Beacon, Breach the Multiverse, or Etali, Primal Conqueror, which makes for an exciting top-end. Furthermore, the addition of new reanimation tools like Invasion of Amonkhet; Etali, Primal Conqueror; and Kroxa and Kunoros provide new angle of attack, and most reanimator lists now use a split of Etali, Primal Conqueror and Atraxa, Grand Unifier to have more options. In some matchups, we might see absurd plays like Breach the Multiverse hitting both Etali and Atraxa, seemingly going over the top of the opponent…until they untap and combine Chandra, Hope's Beacon and Light Up the Night to clutch the game with a fiery, burn-like finish. That's the type of awesome Magic that the Pro Tour might have in store for us.

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The emergence of new combos: March of the Machine has also enabled powerful new combos that can slot into Grixis decks, most notably for an archetype that I've called Grixis Singularity. Six players hope to cast Hidetsugu and Kairi, have it die somehow, and reveal Explosive Singularity from the top of their deck. This deals 20 damage in total, winning the game on the spot. Although some Grixis Singularity lists run only one copy of the signature burn spell, one copy is all you need, and this combo shouldn't be underestimated. Another new combo can be found in the so-called Grixis Incubate decks, which combine Chrome Host Seedshark and Tezzeret. Tezzeret makes it free to transform Incubator tokens, and his -2 ability turns them into enormous threats (because the +1/+1 counters are added to the base power and toughness). This combo may not win the game right away, but a free 8/8 on turn four is not a bad start, and it adds to the diversity of mid-to-late-game approaches in Standard.

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The downtick of Esper Legends and Mono-White Midrange: Esper Legends had one of the better win rates at the Regional Championships, was rising in popularity throughout the entire cycle, and even gained Rona, Herald of Invasion from March of the Machine. However, it's "only" 11.9% of the Pro Tour metagame. Even more surprisingly, Mono-White Midrange, which won several Regional Championships and was one of the most popular archetypes throughout, is only 3.6% of the metagame this weekend. These developments can be attributed to the new cards from March of the Machine. Lithomantic Barrage, which kills Raffine, Scheming Seer for a single red mana, is the most-played card overall from the new set, and its presence has weakened Esper Legends. Meanwhile, Mono-White Midrange struggles with all the new six- or seven-mana cards that Rakdos and Grixis players can now use to go over the top. White decks don't have discard spells or countermagic to adequately answer them, and many players jumped ship.

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The allure of Five-Color Ramp: My favorite new deck is Five-Color Ramp, which exploits the synergy between Topiary Stomper and Invasion of Zendikar. A turn-four Invasion of Zendikar allows a turn-three Topiary Stomper to attack right away, which means that you can defeat the battle immediately. With this curve, you can have access to nine mana on turn five. At that point, the world is your oyster. How about Atraxa, Grand Unifier with mana available to cast Leyline Binding? This beautiful brew plays out similarly to Domain Control, but the formidable ramp element means that its key spells can be cast ahead of time. Nine players registered Five-Color Ramp.

The Most-Played Cards from March of the Machine

March of the Machine, which released roughly two weeks before decklists were due, had a considerable impact on Standard. The following table breaks down all new-to-Standard cards at Pro Tour March of the Machine.

Card Name Total Number of Copies Main Deck Sideboard
Lithomantic Barrage 364 0 364
Chandra, Hope's Beacon 146 125 21
Etali, Primal Conqueror 112 98 14
Surge of Salvation 102 2 100
Glistening Deluge 92 0 92
Rona, Herald of Invasion 71 71 0
Breach the Multiverse 70 19 51
Sunfall 65 48 17
Chrome Host Seedshark 61 51 10
Faerie Mastermind 40 21 19
Invasion of Zendikar 36 36 0
Hidetsugu and Kairi 31 31 0
Invasion of Gobakhan 28 14 14
Nahiri's Warcrafting 27 24 3
Invasion of Amonkhet 26 25 1
Halo Forager 17 5 12
Sheoldred 13 9 4
Invasion of Alara 12 12 0
See Double 12 4 8
Voldaren Thrillseeker 11 11 0
Knight-Errant of Eos 10 10 0
Archangel Elspeth 9 3 6
Botanical Brawler 8 8 0
Enduring Bondwarden 8 8 0
Ozolith, the Shattered Spire 8 8 0
Alabaster Host Intercessor 8 8 0
Thalia and The Gitrog Monster 7 7 0
Grafted Butcher 7 7 0
Guardian of Ghirapur 6 6 0
Kroxa and Kunoros 6 6 0
Sword of Once and Future 6 3 3
Invasion of New Phyrexia 5 5 0
Boon-Bringer Valkyrie 5 0 5
Bloodfeather Phoenix 4 4 0
Moment of Truth 4 4 0
Rampaging Raptor 4 4 0
Invasion of Regatha 4 4 0
Invasion of Innistrad 4 4 0
Bloated Processor 4 4 0
Progenitor Exarch 4 4 0
Doomskar Warrior 4 4 0
Change the Equation 4 4 0
Streetwise Negotiator 4 4 0
Invasion of Tarkir 4 4 0
Elspeth's Smite 4 0 4
Khenra Spellspear 3 3 0
Zurgo and Ojutai 3 3 0
Elesh Norn 3 3 0
Volcanic Spite 3 3 0
Dusk Legion Duelist 3 3 0
Assimilate Essence 3 3 0
Invasion of Karsus 3 1 2
Ephara's Dispersal 3 0 3
Pile On 2 2 0
Wrenn's Resolve 2 2 0
Realmbreaker, the Invasion Tree 2 1 1
Seal from Existence 2 0 2
Invasion of Segovia 1 1 0
Urabrask 1 1 0
Phyrexian Censor 1 0 1
Cut Short 1 0 1

The most important new additions are the color hosers. Even though it's a sideboard card only, Lithomantic Barrage is the most-played card from the new set by far. Its power derives from the fact that it's a hyper-efficient answer to cards like Raffine, Scheming Seer or Adeline, Resplendent Cathar. Since it cannot be countered, you don't even have to pay the ward cost when targeting Raffine. Accordingly, Lithomantic Barrage may be singlehandedly responsible for keeping Esper Legends in check. Another heavily played color hoser is Glistening Deluge—a potential one-sided sweeper against decks like Azorius Soldiers or Selesnya Toxic, which have dropped in popularity. Meanwhile, Surge of Salvation counters cards like Cut Down, Brotherhood's End, and even Invoke Despair, so it has become a staple in pretty much every white deck.

The breakout new main deck cards are Chandra, Hope's Beacon and Etali, Primal Conqueror, who provides new late-game possibilities. Chandra can come down on turn six and kill two creatures to stabilize the battlefield, and then you untap and lock up the game by copying powerful instant and sorcery spells. Etali will surely make for memorable coverage moments, whether it's casting thirteen mana worth of spells, winning the game with poison, or whiffing completely. Prepare your bingo sheets.

March of the Machine also introduced a brand new card type, and battles are seeing a decent amount of play. For example, Invasion of Zendikar is a centerpiece of the new Five-Color Ramp deck. Furthermore, Invasion of Gobakhan has found a home in various decks, and Naya Counters and Selesnya Counters can exploit the synergy between the battle's back face and Botanical Brawler. In addition, Invasion of Alara is making a splash, as players will try to defeat it with Cemetery Desecrator. Finally, Invasion of Amonkhet will surely show its power at this tournament. When it transforms into Lazotep Convert, it could enter the battlefield as a copy of Etali, Primal Conqueror or Atraxa, Grand Unifier (which doesn't target, so Dennick, Pious Apprentice will allow it) and grant the benefits of a powerful enters-the-battlefield trigger. Given the capability of this transformation, Invasion of Amonkhet effectively changes your opponent's life total to four, which is an amazing deal for a three-mana card.

Besides these standouts, March of the Machine added a plethora of new tools to a variety of decks. For example, Rona, Herald of Invasion has been a big boost for Esper Legends; Sunfall has propelled Jeskai Control into a popular choice; and former World Champion Yuta Takahashi will be happy to see that Faerie Mastermind is seeing a fair amount of play in Esper Legends, Azorius Soldiers, Mono-Blue Tempo, and other decks.

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, May 5 at!

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