The Finals of Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 (2024)

Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 brought nearly 250 players to Amsterdam as part of the sold out MagicCon experience, and after three days of fierce competition, intense storming, and Top 8 at five of the last six high level events–and streak of success worth its own note in history.

Team Handshake proved itself at the top of the field for years, and Nielsen led the way for much of it. His incredible run of Top Finishes since Pro Tour March of the Machine last May has resulted in an incredible five Top 8s out of six events. It's the kind of run that's utterly unheard of in modern Magic, with all of its parity and shared data, but it's one that the affable Nielsen is making look easy and fun.

The one thing still missing? A trophy. Under the smiles and the jokes–and there were plenty, especially in a quarterfinals match with friend and teammate Javier Dominguez–Nielsen showed up on Day Three with some unfinished business on the Sunday stage.

A trophy was something Sam Pardee already had; the Strixhaven Championship winner has now turned in two Top Finishes in the last three Pro Tours following a Top 8 at Pro Tour Murders at Karlov's Manor, and was making at least his twelfth finals appearance at premier-level events. Needless to say, Pardee was comfortable in this spot, and both players were friendly as they settled in for the mirror.

The Finals of Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 (1)


The Nadu, Winged Wisdom mirror, that is. The complicated combo deck took the Pro Tour by storm, taking up all four semifinal spots, and Nielsen and Pardee were masters of the archetype after identifying it early on in testing and perfecting it in the days leading up to Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3.

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As the higher seed, Nielsen had the choice to start on the play, a distinction that had proven key to the Nadu mirrors thus far. And true to form he had Shuko plus Nadu on the third turn, while Pardee's Wall of Roots threatened to accelerate a Chord of Calling into his own.

That forced Nielsen to go for it, not a guaranteed win from his position. The Player of the Year went deep into thought, but emerged on the other side with a Summoner's Pact and the path forwarded decided. As he worked through the top of his deck it cooperated, and shortly after Nielsen was up a game in the finals of the Pro Tour.

Sideboards wouldn't come in until the third game, so Pardee was advantaged on the play for Game 2. But unlike the turbo-fast combo of the first game, both players navigated the early turns much less explosively, with Springheart Nantukos staring each other down by the fourth turn.

That was when Nielsen pulled the trigger, tapping some tokens and the Nantuko to convoke Chord of Calling. Pardee was holding onto Boseiju, Who Endures to disrupt a Shuko, but instead the Chord went for Outrider en-Kor, the second way to trigger Nadu and the one that doesn't worry at all about a Boseiju. There's not that many ways to take a pre-sideboard Nadu mirror on the draw, but the best player of the past year had found a way and now found himself just one win away from completing his quest for a trophy at last.

Sylvan Safekeeper led the way for Pardee, who now had access to his sideboard and the several pieces of interaction that waited there–but he now needed to run off three straight victories. Urza's Saga and Haywire Mite for Nielsen set up both offense and defense for future turns, and it would be needed as Pardee untapped and went for the combo.

As Pardee started things, Nielsen fired off the Mite. That removed Shuko before too much damage could be done, but Pardee was ready to fire another salvo in his friendly rivalry with Matt Nass for the best combo player around.

Remember, Nadu triggers when things are targeted–and it's easy to target with Shuko. But what happens when Haywire Mite removes the equipment? You get creative... and it turns out that Sylvan Safekeeper also targets creatures. Annihilating lands may be flavorful for Modern Horizons 3, but doing it to your own lands isn't recommended.

Unless you're combo master Pardee, anyway. He was able to navigate a few stressful triggers to power through the removal spell, eventually making enough tokens to power Chord of Calling for the en-Kor and work his way to victory.

The fireworks were back on in the fourth game: Nielsen went for the combo on the third turn, with a Dismember from Pardee in hand. It was a pivotal moment, as Pardee was forced to give up mana and value to remove the Bird Wizard. Still, it kept the game, and Pardee's tournament, going. He tapped out for his own Nadu with Summoner's Pact in hand and passed the turn, setting up his own win for the next turn. But it also meant that the shields were down. And if Nielsen could rebuild the combo, the window was clear.

What else would you expect the best player in the world to do?

With that, Simon Nielsen's quest was complete. The reigning Player of the Year, the man who is in the midst of an unprecedented streak of success, now has a Pro Tour title to go along with it–and on his birthday, no less.

Congratulations to Simon Nielsen, the champion of Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3!

I WON PRO TOUR AMSTERDAM!! https://t.co/keObqZA2XK

— Simon Nielsen (@MrChecklistcard) June 30, 2024
The Finals of Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 (2024)

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