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

The Finals Match of Pro Tour March of the Machine

May 08, 2023
Corbin Hosler

Magic: The Gathering is nearly 30 years old, with a Pro Tour history dating back nearly as long. In that time, few players have ever accomplished what Nathan Steuer did in just making it to the finals of Pro Tour March of the Machine this weekend in Minneapolis.

Only three other players in Magic's history have finished in the Sunday playoff of three consecutive premier 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 (Oath of the Gatewatch, Shadows over Innistrad, Eldritch Moon) in 2016. And now Steuer was one too, looking to not just be on that prestigious list but write history all his own: winning two of those three events in the process.

Nathan Steuer

It was an incredible story with one problem in the way: an incredible challenger for his opponent. Cain Rianhard was on a breakthrough run of their own, realizing their Pro Tour dream 10 years in the making. Rianhard qualified for the Pro Tour thanks to a strong performance at the Magic Online Champions Showcase last year, and came with the tournament experience (a Top 8 at Grand Prix Providence in 2018 plus years of work across the SCG Tour and beyond) that proved they were more than ready for a Pro Tour finals.

Cain Rianhard

A tense Top 8 filled with drama and memorable moments led to this: the Pro Tour March of the Machine field whittled down from more than 250 players to just these two, only one of whom could walk away a Pro Tour champion.

The Match

In a match that was sure to send each player digging deep into their deck, the basic dynamic of the matchup between the Rakdos Midrange and Rakdos Reanimator deck was this: Both players had plenty of removal, with Steuer having more value in his creature suite opposed Rianhard having top-end reanimation targets in theirs. With both players looking to eke out a long-term advantage, the first few turns of every game were about setting up for a big midgame turn to take over.

That's exactly how the first game played out. After a handful of turns setting up with Reckoner Bankbusters and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Rianhard was able to run a string of big creatures into play. That exhausted Steuer's grip of removal, but it left a clear board for Steuer to transform his Fable and knock Rianhard to 10.

Rianhard's hand was equipped to deal with Steuer's pokes, but with most of their resources spent deploying the now-removed creatures the game tilted Steuer's way. When a key draw step failed to yield an answer to the handful of cards Steuer was still packing, he was able to swarm out enough creatures to finish off Rianhard's life total and take the first game of the finals.

The second game played out similarly, and eventually the boards featured dueling legends: Sheoldred, the Apocalypse for Steuer and Etali, Primal Conqueror on Rianhard's side. With both players down about half their life, the small advantages earned by Sheoldred tried to keep up with the bomby plays made by Rianhard, all the while cleverly protecting their board by keeping extra permanents like Treasures in play against the three Invoke Despair in Steur's hand.

That left Steuer in a difficult spot, trying to find a way to push through 8 damage to Rianhard's life total. After a long pause he found a line to aim for victory: fill out his board with blocking filler, draw a land, and then play Chandra, Hope's Beacon in hand.


That's exactly what happened: an attack step put Rianhard into range, then Chandra hit the board and finished things off. Just like that, the World Champion was on the verge of adding yet another title to a career that's approaching the best anyone has put together in such a short time.

But things wouldn't come easily. Rianhard had a perfect Invoke Despair in the next game to wipe away Steuer's early board (including a Fable of the Mirror-Breaker), and used that opening to take over the game. When The Cruelty of Gix followed up to reanimate a creature, Steuer found himself simply too far behind to catch up and conceded a few short turns later.

Rianhard was on the board, but that would be as far as their rally went.

It was Steuer's turn for the perfect opening sequence. He Duressed Rianhard on the first turn to snipe an Invoke Despair, and he had the best two-drop follow-up in Reckoner Bankbuster against Rianhard's Bloodtithe Harvester. It was the kind of opening that could lead to unbeatable starts, but the Reanimator deck was on a curve of its own–a removal spell and Atsushi, the Blazing Sky meant that Rianhard curved out just as smoothly.

With that the removal frenzy was in full swing, each keeping the other's board clean. After the dust settled Steuer was left with one card in hand.

Invoke Despair.

It's been the backbone of the Rakdos decks since its release, and the starting point for another dominant Pro Tour from Team Handshake. Now it was the card that won Nathan Steuer the Pro Tour.

Steuer played in three premier events in the last nine months: the World Championship and Pro Tours Phyrexia and March of the Machine. His results in those events? First place. Second place. And now first place again.

Nathan Steuer is the best Magic player in the world, and the champion of Pro Tour March of the Machine!

Share Article