March of the Machine: The Aftermath could well be the most peculiar set Magic: The Gathering has had in recent years - and, yes, that includes all of the crossover stuff we’ve gotten via Universes Beyond.
First of all, it comes just a few short weeks after the last Standard release, March of the Machine. That’s unusual, to say the least, although not completely unheard of thanks to the last time we were on Innistrad with Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow.
However, Aftermath isn’t a full release. In fact, it’s not even close, as it only includes 50 cards in total. This new micro-set also comes with a new kind of booster pack too, one called an Epilogue Booster. Given that this has a special name, it seems highly likely we’ll be getting these boosters again - and that’s not necessarily a good thing for the game.
Epilogue Boosters are different because they’re “lore-filled”, apparently, and also only come with five cards in. These cards are a mix of one to three rare or mythic rare cards, plus two to four uncommon cards, because the set has no common cards in it. That’s not a bad thing because, let’s face it, most of us either give commons away, keep them in a box that should never be opened or turn them into clothes or something.
However, despite this objective reduction in the number of cards in the pack, these new boosters still cost the same as a normal Draft booster at around £3 depending on the retailer. Value is a tricky prospect when it comes to a pack of cards. Card packs generally cost the same amount, but you expect to get a certain number of cards for that price, even if some are commons and worth less on the secondary market. After all, it costs Wizards of the Coast no more money to print a common than a mythic rare, even if they have a different value to all of us.
With the number of cards in these packs being a third of a standard booster, and there still being a chance of just a single rare in a pack, having the price still be higher just feels off. In fact, this is made worse by what these packs can even be used for. A draft booster pack brings value not only in the cards within it, but the potential for gameplay it offers too.
When you buy a draft booster, you can potentially use it in a draft, in a Sealed event or even for more offshoot formats, like the wonderful Pack Wars. A pack of five cards doesn’t offer that same potential. All it can do is be opened. While everyone may love cracking packs of MTG cards willy-nilly sometimes, there’s no denying that you’ll get more bang for your buck by using them in a game while you’re doing so.
The pricing of Epilogue Boosters is especially aggravating as March of the Machine: Aftermath itself is a fascinating experiment otherwise.
The loss of not only ten whole cards per pack, but also the reduced potential for gameplay use, should lower the value of each Epilogue Booster substantially. Instead, what we have here is more confusing financing that suggests that the aim of Wizards remains one of making money above all else.
It’s a business, we get it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a business that many of us look up to in some way because of our fondness for its games. Decisions like this hurt the game in the long run and, while Wizards has made several missteps like this in recent years - just look at the 30th Anniversary packs - this one stings a bit more because it’s so low to the ground, which means more of us will feel the pinch of it more immediately than some monstrously expensive booster pack with no real cards inside of it.
It’s especially aggravating as the March of the Machine: Aftermath set itself is a fascinating experiment outside of this. The idea that we can get these 50-card top-up sets in Standard to keep things fresh, especially as Standard now rotates every three years for some unknowable reason, is a good one. The potential to have these micro-sets appear to freshen things up in-between larger sets is a fun one. We’re not sure the world actually needs more MTG sets every year, but if more of them were this size instead of full sets, maybe we’d all be a little less burned out on the game.
The cards are cool, and the number of cards is interesting, but the price point and the way it’s being sold just don’t feel good.
The cards themselves are good, too. Outside of those already highlighted in our list of the best March of the Machine: Aftermath cards, you’ve got new versions of planeswalkers who no longer have their spark, and so are now just normal creature cards. Seeing Nahiri, Forged in Fury not as a planeswalker but as a 5/4 creature that still stays on the equipment theme is great, and just excellent design in both lore and playspace. You can have a Nahiri commander deck now with her actually leading the charge, which is wonderful.
Plus, because March of the Machine, the normal set, took place on a multitude of planes, this set also has cards from all over the MTG multiverse. We’ve got representatives from loads of different planes, which makes the set feel immense, even with fewer cards in it. It’s still got a heavy focus on legendary creatures, which makes it feel more like a Commander set than a Standard one, but, to be fair, that’s in-keeping with the current storyline.
The result of all of this is a mismatched set. The cards are cool, and the number of cards is interesting, but the price point and the way it’s being sold just don’t feel good. The inability to draft this set feels like a wasted opportunity; a weird high-powered draft format with no common cards could be an intriguing change, but there’s literally no way it’s going to be worth buying nine packs - setting you back around £27 - for.
In short, March of the Machine: The Aftermath is a very cool idea, but it’s ruined by an expensive execution that just doesn’t respect Magic: The Gathering players at all.