A final stand against the Phyrexian armies is taking place in the latest Magic: The Gathering expansion, March of the Machine. This set is the most ambitious Wizards of the Coast has ever been when it’s come to large-scale storytelling in the MtG universe. The table has been set in the last few sets, and now heroes from across the multiverse are standing against the villains of New Phyrexia.
Sure, there are new cards in March of the Machine, and some of those are creatures and people unique to this set — but most players will be chasing the returning names they know best. This makes sense when it’s a culminating set, with each booster showcasing some of the most prominent heroes and villains in the MtG universe. Elesh Norn is here again, leading the armies of New Phyrexia with a card that beckons back to her roots in the 2011 set, but this time flipping into a saga that can destroy all permanents except artifacts, lands and Phyrexians (handy). Fortunately, heroes like Thalia, Elspeth, Aurelia and more are here to defeat Elesh Norn before it’s too late for the multiverse. And you get to have all the fun by playing with these brand new cards IRL/digitally or just collecting and admiring the art.
Let’s take a look at the new mechanics of March of the Machine.
As a set focused on big-scale battles, it makes sense the new mechanic introduced in March of the Machine is simply called ‘battles.’ These cards enter as permanents that can be cast at the same time you could cast a sorcery, and they’ll usually trigger one or more effects as they enter the field. Here’s the exciting part: as these cards enter the battlefield, you’ll choose an opponent to be its protector, and that opponent will be able to select blockers to defend it when YOU attack the card. Yes, you’ll be attacking your own card and want to, as destroying the Battle card will cause it to flip into a powerful creature or sorcery to be cast for free — something your opponent will usually want to stop you from doing.
Battle is easily the most exciting mechanical addition to MtG from the March of Machines set. Attacking your own cards feels weird at first, and having an opponent select blockers is even weirder. Still, between the stunning landscape art on the cards and flipping a Battle into a powerful ally, it’s usually a turning point and highlight (or low point if you’re losing) of any game.
On a smaller scale and more simple addition, the new Backup triggered ability on creatures allows them to join the battle and help a friend.
When a card with “Backup X” enters the battlefield, you put a +1 +1 counter on a target creature (where X is the number on that card), and if the creature chosen isn’t the same card, it’ll also gain all abilities of that card until the end of the turn. So if a card has “Backup 1 and lifelink,” you can give another creature +1 +1 permanently and lifelink until the end of the turn.
This is a straightforward mechanic, but it makes some interesting decisions when deciding where and how to use the +1 +1 counters and if they’re better suited on the big creature you just cast or helping out a friend.
On the side of Elesh Norn, the Incubate keyword has been introduced. Certain cards will tell you to incubate X, and this will let you put one of three new Incubator tokens onto the battlefield with +1 +1 counters on it equal to X. You can then pay (2) to transform the Incubator into a 0/) Phyrexian which will be thankful for however many +1 +1 tokens you managed to place onto it.
I have yet to have a chance to play with any of the new Planechase cards, but the Commander staple is back in March of the Machine, and with it, a re-wording of the Choas wording. Instead of reading “whenever you roll Chaos, ” the wording reads “whenever Chaos ensues.” This slight change will mean that any effects of triggering Chaos on Planechase cards can be triggered by rolling the Planar Die and other cards.
The art in March of the Machine is some of my favourites in recent memory. Everyone has gone all-out for this set’s storyline and scale. There’s a freaking Ape Dinosaur Turtle! Not to mention that because this is THE BATTLE FOR THE MULTIVERSE, this set features every creature type from Dinosaur to Merfolk.
For folks more interested in the $$$ side of MtG, given the return of some big name cards and characters, and in particular the strength of the Elesh Norn card and the addition of Sword of Once and Future here, I’m sure it’s a set worth investing some money into. I’ve opened a bunch of packs thanks to Wizards of the Coast who sent some over, but I need to invest in a few more Collector’s Boosters, that’s for sure.
March of the Machine: The Aftermath
Like all good epics, March of the Machine will have an aftermath chapter to wrap things up. This set will release on May 12th with 50 new cards, available in 5-card “epilogue boosters” and 6-card “epilogue collectors boosters.” Another first, which is exciting.
For now, though, be sure to check out March of the Machine and play some games either at your local game store or by jumping into MTG: Arena. The set is fun to draft, and I hope to give the new Plane Chase cards a go sometime soon.