Pro Tour weekend has always been one of the most exciting times in competitive Magic. In it, several high-level players compete for a cash prize, and the games in this event are exciting to watch due to the quality of the plays and strategies of the competitors.
Another highlight of Pro Tour since early times is that this event is the "test by fire" of the latest set's cards in the competitive Metagame. Several cards gain notoriety from their results at the event and appearances on broadcast cameras.
In today's article, we're going to analyze which cards from March of the Machine stood out on Pro Tour, where they came from, and how their entry affects the Standard Metagame!
Cards that stood out in the Pro Tour March of the Machine
Etali, Primal Conqueror
Since the first days of the new season, Standard has been defined by proposals that seek to accumulate resources to cast bombs in the late-game: Invoke Despair, Invoke Justice, Herd Migration, Sanctuary Warden, Titan of Industry, among others.
When Phyrexia: All Will be One was released, it was established that the "ultimate bomb" of the format was Atraxa, Grand Unifier. Despite its tricky mana cost, there were a variety of ways to reanimate it in the format, which increased the popularity of cards like The Cruelty of Gix. After all, Atraxa clocked fast, stabilized the game on its own, and offered an insane amount of card advantage.
March of the Machine brought a new competitor to the "supreme late-game" slot, and one much easier to cast than the Phyrexian angel: Etali, Primal Conqueror. While it doesn't offer the same card advantage as Atraxa, Etali offers immediate value when it comes into play, and functions as at least a three-for-one.
Furthermore, Etali's body is evasive, and if the game goes on too long, transforming it virtually means winning the game in a turn or two, and has pushed the format into a position where not missing land drops and ramping with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is essential.
Etali's another advantage has to do with the Metagame's trends: when the format is dictated by traditional-style Midranges, with an increasing curve of impactful threats, the odds of it hitting some relevant spell, such as Invoke Despair, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, or even Atraxa, Grand Unifier are high, and can turn the tables on their own with a single card.
Etali was present in several archetypes that we will discuss below, such as Rakdos Reanimator, Rakdos Breach and Five-Color Ramp, as well as in other less popular archetypes, such as Boros Midrange.
Chandra, Hope's Beacon
Despite being somewhat overshadowed during preview season, Chandra, Hope's Beacon has become a great addition to Midranges in colors, which are the main decks in the Metagame today.
Chandra's great highlight in the format is due to a variety of elements: the fact that Fable of the Mirror-Breaker speeds up her cast, she speeds up mana for heavier cards, or to cast two spells per turn, her abilities serve as efficient removal and a value source, and the Planeswalker is lethal alongside high-impact spells like Invoke Despair or Breach the Multiverse.
Also, Chandra, Hope's Beacon has a "combo" alongside Light up the Night, where you can remove counters from her to cast the spell with Flashback until only one remains, and Chandra will copy the spell, dealing an average of 12 to 14 damage in a single turn.
Breach the Multiverse
Breach the Multiverse brought another variant to the format's Rakdos decks, Rakdos Breach, in addition to becoming one of the main reasons for the splash to black in the Orzhov Midrange played by Autumn Burchett in the Top 8.
Like Etali, Primal Conqueror, Breach the Multiverse is another card that benefits from a Metagame where many decks seek to play with bombs that win the game on their own, as it allows its controller to reanimate winconditions from both sides of the battlefield, generating an immeasurable amount of value.
Its benefits compared to Etali mostly refer to the autonomy the card gives to choose which creatures or Planeswalkers to reanimate, rather than relying on what's on top of each player. Also, Breach the Multiverse is another card whose interaction with Chandra, Hope's Beacon is absurd.
For example, consider the impact of casting Breach the Multiverse in the list above. Anything you reanimate is a high-impact threat.
Worst-case scenario, you have two creatures with strong ETB effects that will give you some extra value. At best, you revive Chandra, Hope's Beacon and/or Etali, Primal Conqueror while placing an opponent's Atraxa, Grand Unifier under your control.
Invasion of Zendikar
Five-color decks have found ways to work before in Standard, thanks to the Treasure tokens and Courier's Briefcase. However, it was thanks to the Invasion of Zendikar - which functions as an Explosive Vegetation with a bonus creature - that this archetype rose to prominence during the Pro Tour, with a highlight of David Olsen's Five Color Ramp.
By allowing you to find the necessary colors while accelerating two turns in a format focused on playing bombs, Invasion of Zendikar has what it takes to become a staple of these strategies in the coming weeks, as well as working should we have other Ramp decks on Standard with upcoming releases.
Lithomantic Barrage was one of the most played cards on the sideboards of red decks during the Pro Tour. Its ability to deal with small creatures, while also being an efficient answer against almost all creatures from Esper Legends, Mono White Midrange and Azorius Soldiers grants it the perfect space for games 2 and 3.
Sunfall has stood out since the first week of March of the Machine as a solid sweeper choice, as it leaves a body in play that serves as a finisher if the opponent doesn't recover the next turn.
Despite appearing on various Control lists, Sunfall was one of the cards that propelled David Olsen into the Top 8 with Five Color Ramp, and also appeared on the sideboard of Autumn Burchett's Orzhov Midrange, and in another variant of Domain Control, in Bant colors and with Chrome-Host Seedshark, by Nico Bohny.
Surge of Salvation
Surge of Salvation was another card that appeared quite frequently in Sideboards as a protection against Invoke Despair, in addition to having other uses in decks like Azorius Soldiers, where you can protect creatures in play from a Brotherhood's End, or red or black damage-based removals.
Invasion of Gobakhan
And speaking of white decks, Invasion of Gobakhan made a few appearances during the Pro Tour as a viable disruptive effect for the current Metagame. The main archetype where it stood out was in Azorius Soldiers, which Yiwen Chen played to reach the Top 8.
Another honorable mention on this list is the inclusion of Faerie Mastermind in the maindeck, which allows its controller to take advantage of the opponent's draw effects, or maintain the gas in longer games.
It appeared mainly in Mono Red Aggro lists, and also in some Rakdos/Grixis Midrange variants, but its use can be amplified for other archetypes that don't have access to other efficient removals against one of the biggest threats in the current Metagame.
Invasion of Amonkhet
Finally, one of the main highlights of the first day of the Pro Tour March of the Machine was the Grixis Reanimator by Luis Scott-Vargas, with three copies of Invasion of Amonkhet.
The card is very interesting alongside effects that want to bring creatures back from the graveyard, such as The Cruelty of Gix, in addition to generating immediate value against the opponent.
If transformed, the new Battle can turn into the copy of any creature in a graveyard. This effect, like Etali, Primal Conqueror and Breach the Multiverse, feeds off a Metagame geared towards strong late-game plays, where turning it into the copy of any creature with a powerful ETB, such as Atraxa, Grand Unifier, or with a very impactful ability like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, offsets the damage needed to defeat it.
The Pro Tour March of the Machine showed several possibilities for cards in the new set, and some of them have already gained more space in ranked events in Magic Arena.
March of the Machine: The Aftermath has already arrived at the digital platform, and with the latest changes on the rotation, we can expect some instability in the Maindeck and/or Sideboard on decks until the Metagame adapts to the new releases.
Thanks for reading!