March of the Machine is here. The big Avengers Endgame-style send-off for Magic: The Gathering’s current storyline sees the Phyrexians invading all sorts of planes across the multiverse - but while their victory may have seemed inevitable in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, it turns out that everyone else can accomplish a lot, especially if they work together.
The set is filled with what could easily be considered fan service for a lot of people, with cards from all sorts of planes and some truly titanic team-ups as legendary creatures from throughout MTG’s history appear together. There are some intensely entertaining March of the Machine cards as a result, bringing a smile to the face of, well, everyone. After all, how could we not love Thalia riding The Gitrog Monster into battle?
The whole dual-legends thing is an exceptional bit of design too, because Wizards of the Coast has smushed cards together in a really flavourful way that also makes sense when looking at older cards featuring the characters. Take Borborygmos and Fblthp, a five-mana Green, Blue and Red 6/5. Borborygmos is normally Red and Green and is about land cards and damage. Fblthp is normally Blue and draws a card.
The whole dual-legends thing is an exceptional bit of design.
This iteration of the two characters reads: “Whenever Borborygmos and Fblthp enters the battlefield or attacks, draw a card, then you may discard any number of land cards. When you discard one or more cards this way, Borborygmos and Fblthp deals twice that much damage to target creature.” You can also pay two mana to put the card back into your deck, third from the top. It’s a fun way of showing off what both of them do at once and could easily be the best thing Wizards has done in the last couple of years, at least in terms of sheer joyfulness.
Aside from the joining of many legendaries, which is almost a mechanic in itself, and some classic returning keywords like convoke, March of the Machine has four main mechanics.
First up are transforming double-faced cards, which aren’t strictly new, but here include cards like Jin-Gitaxias. This five-mana 5/5 helps you draw cards, before turning into a saga called The Great Synthesis that lets you draw even more cards, bounce enemy creatures and cast any number of spells from your hand for free, before turning back into Jin-Gitaxias. It’s a great way to put more card onto these Magic cards, and feels very fitting for the Phyrexian Praetors given how powerful they’re meant to be.
Next is backup, which allows a creature to put a +1/+1 counter on a target creature as it enters. You can use this to buff the creature you’ve just played, but if you give the counter to another creature it also bestows some abilities. Take Boon-Bringer Valkyrie, for example, which has flying, first strike and lifelink, and also backup 1. If you choose to put the +1/+1 counter on a different creature, it then gains flying, first strike and lifelink until the end of the turn.
Each mechanic feels as though it not only fits well, but also helps to tell the story.
Incubate is on a few Phyrexian cards, like Bloated Processor. Bloated Processor is a three-mana black 3/2 that allows you to sacrifice other Phyrexians to give it a +1/+1 counter. When it dies, you then get to incubate X, where X is its power. Incubate creates an incubator token, which comes in with +1/+1 counters on it, and you can then spend two mana to turn it into a creature. It’s a useful bonus for killing things, usually, and is a nifty way to remain strong after board wipes.
Finally, we have the big-name new card type: battles. Battles come into play under the control of an opponent, and have a life total of their own. They usually have beneficial effects for the caster when they’re cast too, but the power lies in what happens when they no longer have health. Once defeated, a battle transforms into something else.
Invasion of Ravnica is a five-mana colourless battle that has four health, and allows you to exile a target nonland permanent that isn’t exactly two colours. Once defeated, it comes back as Guildpact Paragon, a colourless 5/5 that reads: “Whenever you cast a spell that’s exactly two colours, look at the top six cards of your library. You may reveal a card that’s exactly two colours from among them and put it into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.” It’s a lovely bit of flavour, an intriguing new way to change up the flow of a standard MTG game and just feels like very good design.
The mechanics are on point. Each one feels as though it not only fits well, but also helps to tell the story of the two sides fighting against each other. March of the Machine is essentially the final clash of a years-long storyline starting after War of the Spark, and it’s exciting to have a new card type and some cool mechanics to help wrap all that in.
March of the Machine is a Magic: The Gathering set that should appeal to just about everyone.
The set also has a lot of different frames once again, but what’s interesting here is that a lot of the showcase pieces actually hark back to previous showcase cards from other Magic: The Gathering releases in their own style. While we’re still not huge fans of the endless variations of each card - if only for how hard it is to recognise cards when sitting across the table - there’s no denying that this is a very nice move that plays to the game’s strengths and a rare win for otherwise confusing card art.
March of the Machine is also just a generally solid set when it comes to power level. While battles are very hard to evaluate, due to how unique they are, everything else feels like it’s on the level, being powerful enough to make an impact on a lot of formats without warping any of them beyond recognition. Although it does a feel a bit odd to know that we’re less than a month away from the next release in March of the Machine: The Aftermath.
Still, for now at least, March of the Machine is a Magic: The Gathering set that should appeal to just about everyone, and that can only be a good thing.