Pro Tour March of the Machine
Tournament Report

MTG Pro Tour Minneapolis

Tournament Report

Author: Zen Takahashi

Hello everyone!

Last month, I had the privilege of competing in Pro Tour March of Machine, which was held in Minneapolis, USA. This was my first Pro Tour in four years, since Mythic Championship I in 2019! The article will be light on Magic strategy, but instead, I will cover my preparation, the weekend itself, and the stories along the way.

Getting the team together

Due to just starting a new job, as well as qualifying for the World Championships in September and my partner’s sister’s wedding in December, I was hesitant to take too much time off work. In addition, Minneapolis didn’t seem like an overly exciting city, and so I decided to minimize the length of my trip by arriving on Wednesday night and flying out on Monday. 

Zen Pro Tour Tweet

This meant that I wasn’t able to participate in a testing house leading up to the Pro Tour. Most people I had worked with in the past were part of teams that required everyone to be present at the testing house, so I had to look elsewhere. I didn’t have any real leads, so I decided to just ask on Twitter if anyone was qualified and was interested in joining an online-based team.

I ended up having nearly forty people message me, which I was pretty surprised about, and we ended up putting together a strong roster. 

The Team

We had a very diverse team, with thirteen nationalities represented across twenty-three players. Because of our vast background, we came up with the team name, Worldly Counsel, which was named after the Magic card, and it seemed like it fit us well. We also organized a testing house for the week leading up to the Pro Tour for those who wanted to participate, which about a third of our team did. 

Alberto Manchado (Spain)

Alex Rohan (United Kingdom)

Brandon Nelson (USA)

Chris Miller (New Zealand)

Chye Hwee Heng (Singapore)

Connor McGillivray (Australia)

Dom Harvey (Canada)

Guillermo Sulimovich (Uruguay)

Jason Loh (Singapore)

Joseph Karani (Canada)

Kelvin Chew (Singapore)

Marco Del Pivo (Italy)

Miguel Castro (Spain)

Mohamad Qadi (Canada)

Raoul Zimmermann (United Kingdom)

Sean Goddard (United Kingdom)

Yung-Ming Huang (Taiwan)

Zen Takahashi (New Zealand)

Eduardo Sajgalick (Canada) – Not qualified, but helping us

Luis Salvatto (Argentina) – Not qualified, but helping us

Muhan Yu (China) – Had to defer invite, but helping us

Nick Price (Philippines) – Had to defer invite, but helping us

William Poor (New Zealand) – Not qualified, but helping us

I wasn’t sure what the preparation would be like because I hadn’t worked (or even met) most of these people before. Furthermore, I chose them solely on results and/or references from people I knew, but I thoroughly enjoyed the testing process.

Everyone was nice and engaging, and because we were so geographically spread out, our Discord was active at all hours of the day and people could pick up on testing from those who had just gone to bed.

Preparation for Standard

I have recently written about my Standard preparation, and the Rakdos Reanimator deck that I ultimately played, which can be found here.

To summarize, I tried a number of decks in the format, and we quickly identified that Mono White Control seemed like the best deck in the format. However, I was too scared to play the deck because I was conscious of finishing my matches on time. Which would be a further issue if the deck was popular, which I expected it to be, as the mirror match seldom finished in a timely manner.

This led me to focus on the Rakdos-based midrange decks, primarily Rakdos Midrange and Grixis Midrange. I really liked Rakdos Midrange, but it had an abysmal Mono White Control matchup, while I gave up on Grixis Midrange as the taplands were problematic and the deck was too weak to Razorlash Transmogrant.

Razorlash Transmogrant BRO

Until about a week before the Pro Tour, I was planning to submit stock Rakdos Midrange.

At this point, much of the team was on Rakdos Reanimator, but I was hesitant as I hadn’t played any games with the deck, and I was prioritising my limited preparation. However, this changed when Joseph discovered Phyrexian Fleshgorger.

This was what we felt was missing from Reanimator all this time – an early creature that could pressure and block well, crew Reckoner Bankbuster, and be a decent reanimation target later in the game. The card was a bit of a Swiss army knife, if you will.

Reckoner Bankbuster NEO

After the discovery, I played a set of games in the Reanimator mirror match with my teammate Chris, and the deck felt powerful. Since most of the team seemed convinced on the deck, and there seemed to be a consensus that Invoke Despair was going to be poorly positioned, with Mono White Control and Esper Legends expected to be popular. However, I decided to trust my teammates and swapped from Rakdos Midrange to Rakdos Reanimator a few days before the Pro Tour.

This was the list that I ultimately submitted:

Preparation for Limited

My plan was to focus on Standard until March of Machine was released on Magic Online, and then focus on draft. This is basically what I did, and I managed to fit in twelve drafts before the Pro Tour. While I know that does not sound like many, and I’m sure it was much less than most people at the Pro Tour, I’ve always opted for my limited preparation to be a combination of doing some drafts myself but also studying my teammates’ drafts and learning from their decks and gameplay.

I spent a lot of time going through my teammates’ draft logs and asking them questions, and creating archetype maps for myself, so I could better understand the format instead of just endlessly jamming games.

Unfortunately, though, my draft preparation started extremely poorly. In my first eight drafts, I had a combined record of 6-16 (27% win rate). I’d drafted a number of different archetypes, I was studying my teammates’ drafts, and I was still getting demolished.

Zen Pro Tour Tweet 2

I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so I reached out to William Poor, one of my closest friends and long-time limited mentor, and asked him what I should do.

He told me that he had found Dimir to be the best archetype by quite a large margin. The nature of the deck meant that you could put it together with almost just commons and the cards were highly replaceable with one another, so it was an archetype you could reliably force. This was also when another teammate, Muhan, told us that his friend was the trophy leader on Magic Online, and his strategy was to force Dimir as well.

Between William and Muhan, they shared with me a lot of information about how to draft Dimir, and they kept sending me draft logs and deck photos of their successful Dimir decks, which I religiously studied.

Halo Forager MOM

It was at this point, my fortunes started to change.

In my last four drafts before the Pro Tour, I forced Dimir all four times, and had a combined record of 10-2. Although my preparation started in disaster, by the time I had to head to the airport for my flight to Minneapolis, I felt quietly confident about the draft format.

If you would like to read a full guide on how to draft Dimir, I have put together a detailed thread on Twitter about it, which can be found here. I was quite surprised by the overwhelming response this thread got, and I was happy to read that multiple people were able to succeed at the Arena Open that happened a few days after I had posted it! 

I departed New Zealand on Wednesday evening, and after twenty hours of travel, I arrived in Minneapolis around midnight on Wednesday (it’s funny how time zones work!). In the past, decklists were due at midnight local time on Wednesday, but this time around they moved it forward to 12pm. This meant that I had to submit my decklist about ten hours before the deadline. Which was a bit awkward as our team was still debating the last few slots of the deck when I had to submit, but thankfully when I landed, it looked like no one had made any significant changes.

Since we were minimizing the travel time, we opted to stay at a nicer hotel close to the venue, so that we could get the best sleep possible. I was staying with my teammates Connor and Marco, as well as Andrea Mengucci. He wasn’t testing with us but is a very close friend of both me and Marco, so we made the effort to make sure we were all staying together.

Day Zero Team

One of the main reasons I felt confident about doing a short trip was that I had never had issues with jet lag in the past when travelling to the US. However, this time around, it was awful. I didn’t get to bed until about 5am, and then I had to wake up four hours later for our team’s limited meeting.

Traditionally, most testing teams will host a limited meeting on Thursday – the day before the Pro Tour. As most of us were staying at different hotels across the city, we rented a meeting room at an office complex to hold our limited meeting and team lunch.

This was the first time that our team properly all got together in person, and it was great to meet everyone.

We also had a productive meeting where we went over pick orders and discussed archetypes, as well as watched an excellent video that Eduardo had put together for us, which he has since uploaded publicly. I also got to try deep dish pizza for the first time, which was tasty but difficult to eat as our meeting room had no cutlery!

Pro Tour Zen Prep

After the meeting, we headed to players’ registration. Historically, this was held at the tournament site, and you just turned up to register and get some free merchandise.

However, this time around, they held it at a ballroom at a hotel near the venue, and there was full catering with an open bar. I really appreciated them putting this together, as I got to meet so many friends I hadn’t seen in years as we chatted over food and drinks.

It’s a small act, but things like this makes the Pro Tour feel exclusive and special. I also did an interview with Cedric Phillips for coverage about the Rakdos Reanimator deck we were playing, which was pretty cool! 

We ended up having to leave the party early though, as we had to head back to the hotel and put together a sideboard guide. Since I had so little sleep the night before, I was exhausted by the time we finished, and went to bed at 9pm.

Day 1 – Friday

I was hoping to get ten hours of sleep to make up for the previous night, but alas, this didn’t come to fruition as my jet lag woes continued and I didn’t get to sleep until 4am. Except this time, we had to wake up at 7am, so I only got three hours of sleep. I hadn’t woken up feeling that tired in quite some time, as I slept just seven hours over the previous two nights, and the night before that was spent on the plane, where I slept horribly. 

As we walked to the venue, I tried my best to keep myself awake and focused by eating some nut bars and picking up a hot chocolate on the way (unfortunately, I don’t drink coffee!). However, once we got to the venue, my excitement skyrocketed and I felt ready to go.

The tournament site looked fantastic, and it was fun to walk around with my roommate Connor, who was competing in his first Pro Tour, as I got to see him soak in both the nerves and the excitement before the first draft started.


We started the day with a draft, and my plan to force Dimir went exactly as planned, as I finished 3-0. I thought my deck was fine – I had good, evasive creatures, but I was lacking quality two-drops and disruption for bigger creatures. Luckily though, it didn’t matter, as I didn’t drop a game across the three rounds

I was excited about my great start, as it was also the first time I had gone 3-0 at a Pro Tour draft. It was now time for Standard though, and I felt quite nervous, as I hadn’t played with the Reanimator deck at all except those games playing the mirror a few days back. 

My first round was against Esper Legends, which is what we considered to be our deck’s best matchup. I lost the first game convincingly, but managed to win the two post-board games. Although it was great to get the win, I couldn’t help but feel a bit worried after the match, as this was supposed to be our best matchup, but I felt I got quite lucky to win.

The following round, I was paired against Shota Yasooka, a Hall of Famer and one of the best players to have ever played the game. This was my fourth time playing in a Pro Tour feature match, but my first time playing on the main table.

Before the Pro Tour, they sent all the competitors a survey asking who they would like to play against the most, and I said Shota because he looked like my dad. The commentators got in on the joke during our match, which I found quite amusing.

I felt like I got thoroughly outplayed by Shota. I won the first game, but in the two post-board games, he approached the matchup completely differently to what I expected. We had discussed as a team that Esper needs to be aggressive in this matchup as our late game outclasses theirs, but that approach actually plays into our hands because our removal lines up efficiently against their early creatures.

However, Shota took the opposite approach, as he opted to barely commit to the board in the early turns, and instead held up disruption spells. On turn five, he then started double casting creatures or cast a creature while still holding disruption up. Which was difficult for me to keep up with, as it strangled my mana and the clunky nature of my expensive cards meant I had to choose between killing his creature or presenting a threat.

Ultimately, this mana advantage let him tempo me out, but he started doing so late in the game, as opposed to the conventional wisdom around trying to tempo your opponent out early. 

This loss to Shota was the start to a series of tough matches, as I got paired against Alexander Hayne on Grixis Midrange, Andre Judd on Esper Legends, and Yuuki Ichikawa on 4c Reanimator. I found that this deck is weak to counterspells, as unlike Rakdos Midrange, you don’t apply nearly as much pressure on your opponent. Hence you rely heavily on The Cruelty of Gix or Etali, Primal Conqueror to resolve. Both Alex and Yuuki dispatched me easily, as their counterspells stopped me in my tracks.

The match against Andre was tight, but he ultimately came out victorious. Andre impressed me with how he played. He mentioned it was his first Pro Tour, but it was clear he knew what he was doing, as he took a similar approach to Shota of not playing aggressively and trying to bottleneck my mana in the mid-game. He ended up going on to finish in the Top 16, which is a remarkable result, especially at your first Pro Tour. 

Etali Primal Conqueror MOMEtali Primal Sickness MOM

These series of losses meant that I finished the day at 4-4, just scraping into Day Two. After starting 4-0, this was as bad as it could get, but I felt like the result was somewhat deserved.

It was clear that our deck wasn’t well positioned for the tournament, and my lack of practice with it and the exhaustion from the lack of sleep was impacting me significantly.

I was just happy to make the second day of the competition. As I was so tired, I ended up skipping dinner and headed straight back to the hotel, where I ordered some food and went straight to bed.

Day 2 – Saturday

Thankfully, I managed to get to bed straight away and finally slept about nine hours. I still woke up feeling fatigued, but much less so than the previous two days. 

Going into my second draft, I felt good about my chances. I was going to be passing to Arne Huschenbeth, while Steven Hitchcock was also in my pod. Steven is a Kiwi who now lives in Sydney, and when I was about twelve years old and getting into competitive Magic, he was considered to be one of the strongest players in our area.

I used to message him constantly asking for help on how to get better, and he was always extremely responsive and supportive towards me. He definitely contributed a lot to my development, and it was great to be here alongside him as he competed in his first Pro Tour (and absolutely crushing it too!).

Archpriest of Shadows MOM

The draft started well, as I took an Archpriest of Shadows as my first pick, and firmly moved into Dimir. In my second pack, I opened a Sheoldred, Whispering One (I heavily debated whether to take that or the Preening Champion in the pack.  And I am still not sure which was the correct pick), before being passed a Boon-Bringer Valkyrie from Arne, which I then passed on to my right.

In pack three, I opened a Valkyrie myself and had to pass it to Arne, who then started chuckling pretty hard. As it turns out, he’d actually opened one in his first pack as well, but took Breach the Multiverse over it (I would have done the same). However, with the way the packs lined up, he could have had three copies of the Valkyrie in his deck!

I started 2-0 in the draft, beating the two players who ended up with Valkyries in their deck. I was now sitting at 5-0 in the draft portion, and I really wanted to go 6-0. Limited has always been a stronger part of my game than constructed (I have four limited Grand Prix Top 8s and, according to MTG Elo Project, the sixth highest Grand Prix draft win rate in the world!). So going undefeated at the Pro Tour would have been a career highlight for me. 

In the final round of draft, I was paired against Steven, who had a great Sultai deck with both Sheoldred and Sheoldred, Whispering One.

In the first game, I unnecessarily cast a Merciless Repurposing on his Archpriest of Shadows when he had no creatures in the graveyard. I could double block it, and was then immediately punished as he cast a Sheoldred, Whispering One and I didn’t have another removal spell in hand.

In the second game, we both had Sheoldred, Whispering One in play, but I had an Inga-Eye Runes that I could sacrifice to his Sheoldred, Whispering One. Then return with mine every turn to scry three cards to find an answer to his. Unfortunately, I failed to find one, and he eventually started looping the five mana Sheoldred with Sheoldred, Whispering One. It was pretty heartbreaking to come so close to a perfect record, but I was also stoked for Steven to 3-0 a pod at his first Pro Tour!


Heading into the second set of constructed rounds, I was now sitting at 6-5, so I needed to win three of the five rounds to get an invite to the next Pro Tour. I wasn’t hopeful based on my experiences from the previous day, but I started off well, beating Mono White Control and Esper Legends, while losing to Azorius Soldiers.

In my final two matches, I just needed to win one to get the invite. However, it wasn’t meant to be, as I got paired against my worst matchup, Grixis Midrange, two times in a row, and lost in two fairly unexciting matches. 

In the aftermath, I honestly didn’t feel too bad about it. I was more upset about not going 6-0 in draft than I was about missing out on the re-qualification. Truthfully, after going 3-7 in the constructed portion, it just didn’t feel like I deserved a strong finish.

While people do say that your limited record is what makes or breaks your chances at the Pro Tour, only winning 30% of your matches in Constructed is just simply unacceptable.

I was also absolutely buzzing about my two close friends, Simon Nielsen and Javier Dominguez, making the Top 8 of the Pro Tour. I was especially happy for Simon to get his first Pro Tour Top 8. He’s been one of my closest friends for the past few years, and I know just how hard he works and how passionate he is about the game, so I was stoked to see him finally cross this hurdle!

After Day Two finished, we went out for a team dinner at a local American-style restaurant. It was a lot of fun as I got to properly chat with my teammates, most of whom I hadn’t met before Thursday. At dinner, we discussed what we would play for the Pro Tour Qualifier (PTQ) the next day. I decided on Rakdos Midrange, as that was my original choice for the Pro Tour, and it was the deck I felt the most comfortable with. 

Joseph Kurani, our resident Rakdos expert, suggested we cut Graveyard Trespassers for Razorlash Transmogrants in the main deck. Trespasser did always feel like the worst card, and after talking to some guys from Team Handshake (who absolutely crushed the Pro Tour!), they felt similarly too. Now that we were playing more one mana interaction spells in the main deck (Cut Down and Duress), we liked the idea of playing more two-drop creatures. We’d even prefer to play a two-drop creature and a one mana interaction spell on turn three than a Trespasser.


We got back to the hotel from the team dinner around midnight and were feeling pretty exhausted from the long day. I quickly put my deck together, discussed some final choices with Joseph over Discord, then submitted my decklist and called it a night.

Day 3 – Sunday

We had to wake up early to head to the venue for the PTQ. I hadn’t played any games with my deck, but I felt comfortable about playing it as I had so many reps with it leading up to the Pro Tour. When I got to the venue, Joseph kindly handed me a sideboard guide that he had printed out for me – an absolute gem <3 

The tournament was kind of a blur, but all I remember was that I ran hotter than the sun and found myself at 6-0 and drawing in the last round to lock up second seed going into the Top 8. Since there were four invites up for grabs, we were just going to play one elimination match for the invite. 

In the quarterfinals, I was paired against Austin Bursavich, who was the player I least wanted to play against, as I think he’s been one of the best players in the world over the past few years. He mentioned that he was 6-0 against the mirror so far in this event, which didn’t exactly boost my confidence. Ultimately though, after losing the first game and thinking I’d blown three chances at qualifying for Barcelona in one weekend, I managed to get lucky to win the next two games to clinch the invite.

Zen Pro Tour Tweet 2

By the time the PTQ was over, it was already evening, and so I headed to dinner with Team Handshake as there were a few people on the team who were close friends that I wanted to spend some time with and hadn’t had a chance up to then. It was honestly amazing getting to catch up with friends like Javier, Simon and Matti – while I do talk to them regularly, I hadn’t seen them in person for about four years, and you definitely spend more quality time with people when you’re all together. 

At the dinner, it was clear why their team succeeds so much – not only are they all incredible players, but they genuinely have good chemistry and have that combination of youthful energy and motivation. Massive shoutout to Nathan Steuer as well, who has been having a historical run with his World Championships victory into a Pro Tour Top 8, and now a Pro Tour win as well.

It’s crazy that he’s already got a Hall of Fame caliber resume while being so young.


Post-dinner, I headed back to the hotel, where I knew my roommates were doing a team draft.

After walking around the hotel trying to find them, I found a table full of Popeyes Fried Chicken, and I figured that must have been them and they would be close by.

Surely enough, right by the table was a conference room that they had managed to get into somehow and were using it to team draft.

After they finished the first draft, I hopped in and teamed with Connor and Arne, and we went on to defeat Andrea, Marco and Thoralf Severin in a tightly contested 5-4 set. These games reminded me exactly what the Pro Tour is all about – getting to meet new people from all around the world and just endlessly jamming games of Magic well into the night just for the love of it all! 

The Aftermath

It hadn’t sunk in that I was qualified for the next Pro Tour until I was on my flight home on Monday. I thought about how incredible of a weekend I had, and realized that I was going to get to do this all over again in two months’ time! In the past, I was lucky enough to qualify for multiple Pro Tours consecutively, but I didn’t really appreciate back then just how special of an experience it is.

However, after being out of the scene for four years due to the pandemic, coming back made me realise just how much I missed all the friendships I had developed over the years, but also the level of competition at the Pro Tour. 

Ultimately, the payout at the Pro Tour falls short of justifying the disproportionate amount of preparation we all put into it. However, we continue to dedicate ourselves to the game because of our genuine love for it. People often assume that top players are cut-throat and solely focused on winning, but the truth is, we are some of the most passionate hobbyists out there. The unbelievable amount of time and resources we sacrifice for the game is a true testament to our deep-rooted affection for it. The opportunity to give our best and compete against others who are equally committed is something I had dearly missed.

This level of dedication and competition is rarely encountered in day-to-day life.

I hadn’t expected to qualify for Barcelona though, so my schedule has become extremely busy over the coming months with the Regional Championships in June, the Pro Tour in July, the World Championships in September, and another Regional Championships in October. I am already waking up at 5am every day again to practice Modern, as I haven’t properly played the format since the Hogaak summer four years ago. It’s still taking me some adjustments to get used to all these Modern Horizons 2 cards – I feel like I just keep walking into Endurance and Fury!

One thing I am definitely going to change in my preparation for Barcelona and the World Championships is that I am going to arrive a week early to fight jet lag. This was a major problem for me at this Pro Tour, and my body is clearly not as young as it used to be!

I can’t wait for Barcelona though! By the time this is posted, it is just around the corner. We have booked a massive mansion for sixteen people about an hour out from Barcelona city, and I am excited to run it back with the Worldly Counsel team! 

Till next time!

Zen Takahashi

@mtgzen on Twitter 

About the Author

Zen Takahashi is a seasoned writer and mainstay on the Three for One Trading writing team. He is an avid Eternal player from Auckland, New Zealand and enjoys competing in local Legacy events and playing Old School over webcam with friends.

Previously, he was a Silver Pro for multiple years and his results included five Grand Prix Top 8s, a 27th place at Pro Tour Amonkhet, three consecutive online Regional PTQ wins, and he co-created the Modern Dredge deck.

Nowadays though, he primarily plays Legacy, his favorite format, but he also branches out into Pioneer and Modern.

Zen Takahashi

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Best Cards in Modern – Green [2022]

May 27th, 2022|Constructed, Highlights|

We asked our seasoned team of authors a tough question: What do they think are the best ten green cards in Magic the Gathering's Modern format. We then went a step further and created a Top 5. Learn what they think about the very best cards of one of the game's most popular formats.

Auckland Eternal Weekend Report

April 28th, 2022|Constructed, Events|

Our author, Zen Takahashi, spent an Eternal Weekend in Auckland where he played tournaments of Vintage, Old School and Legacy. Real Power Nine, no proxies allowed! You can read all about what decks he played and how it went right here on our blog!

Best Cards in Modern – Red [2022]

April 20th, 2022|Constructed|

We asked our seasoned team of authors a tough question: What do they think are the best ten red cards in Magic the Gathering's Modern format. We then went a step further and created a Top 5. Learn what they think about the very best cards of one of the game's most popular formats.

Top Ten Decks in Legacy 2022

April 1st, 2022|Constructed, Highlights|

In our latest article, Zen Takahashi analyses the best Legacy decks and comes up with his Top 10 Legacy decks of 2022. If you are curious to find out if your deck made the cut, or simply interested in what's going on in Legacy these days, keep on reading right here!

Best Cards in Modern – Black [2022]

February 28th, 2022|Constructed|

We asked our seasoned team of authors a tough question: What do they think are the best ten black cards in Magic the Gathering's Modern format. We then went a step further and created a top 5. Learn what they think about the very best cards of one of the game's most popular formats.

Rainbow Dredge in Modern

February 16th, 2022|Constructed|

Today’s article is all about Dredge in Magic: The Gathering, more specifically, Dredge in Modern. Zen Takahashi, one of the creators of Rainbow Dredge, took a look at the history of the deck and its current state in the meta. He’s also going over different iterations of the deck, as well as all the current sideboard options available.

Best Cards in Modern – Blue [2022]

February 4th, 2022|Constructed|

We asked our seasoned team of authors a tough question: What do they think are the best ten blue cards in Magic the Gathering's Modern format. We then went a step further and created a top 5. Learn what they think about the very best cards of one of the game's most popular formats.

Blue Zenith in Legacy

January 14th, 2022|Constructed|

Zen takes a look at a new deck that did surprisingly well in recent Legacy online events. Green Sun's Zenith and blue Counterspells are the engine in this midrange powerhouse.