The second Magic: The Gathering Standard set for the year March of the Machine is set for release on 21 April.
This is the final arc of the four-part Phyrexian storyline, as the Praetors finally learnt that Multiverse invasion may not have been such a good thing, as the combined forces from the various planes such as Ixalan and Theros stand against them.
March of the Machine, as any Standard set, introduces a few mechanics, but most importantly has a brand new permanent card type named Battle.
How Battle cards work
Battle cards (for now) are dual-faced cards that can transform. They enter the battlefield with their front face, a unique horizontal card frame.
The front face of all 36 new Battle cards (for all 36 planes invaded by the Phyrexians) also have a Siege subtype.
When a Battle enters the battlefield, it will also come with a number of defense counters equal to the number on the bottom right of the card.
These defense counters are similar to that of loyalty counters on Planeswalkers: players can attack Battles to damage them and eventually take them out.
A Battle’s subtype determines how the Battle can be attacked. In the case of the Battle cards in March of the Machine with the subtype Siege, whenever a player casts a Battle, the player will choose an opponent to be the Battle’s protector.
For example, when a player casts Invasion of Innistrad, it will enter the battlefield with five defense counters.
The player who casts it then targets an opponent’s creature to give it -13/-13 until end of turn (all 36 Battle cards in this set have enter the battlefield effects which provides some benefits to the player who cast them), and chooses an opponent to protect the Battle.
In a Commander game with more than one opponent, you can choose any of them. Otherwise in a 1 versus 1, it goes to your opponent.
To defeat the Battle, any player besides the chosen opponent (or protector) has to attack the Battle (similar to attacking a Planeswalker).
Invasion of Innistrad comes with five defense counters, and when a creature deals 1 combat damage to it, your chosen opponent and its protector will remove 1 defense counter from Invasion of Innistrad.
To defeat Invasion of Innistrad, all five defense counters have to be removed by either combat damage or spells that can deal damage to any target, or specifically Battle cards.
Your chosen opponent can choose to defend Invasion of Innistrad by blocking attacking creatures with their own creatures, or preventing damage spells from going through.
Defeating the Battle will result in its controller exiling it, then casting it transformed (without paying any mana cost). This is important, because a transforming Battle can still be countered.
In the example of Invasion of Innistrad, it transforms into Deluge of the Dead, an enchantment which creates two 2/2 black Zombie creature tokens.
It also has an activated ability which allows its controller to exile any card from any graveyard, so say goodbye to pesky Atraxas in graveyards waiting to be reanimated!
Most of the back faces of the 36 Battle cards in this set are permanents (barring some sorceries), and they are generally decent rewards for defeating Battles, which means your opponents might be tempted to defend them to deny you said benefits!
Future Battle cards with different subtypes are expected to work a little differently than this, but this is an intriguing addition to the game, with its already complicated mechanics.
New mechanics: Backup and Incubate
Besides the new card type Battle, March of the Machine also introduces two new mechanics: Backup and Incubate.
Backup is a new keyword found on some creatures in this set, and it is an enter the battlefield triggered ability.
Each Backup comes with a number. Whenever a creature with Backup enters the battlefield, its controller puts that many +1/+1 counters on any target creature equal to the Backup number.
When these +1/+1 counters are placed on another creature, that creature will gain every ability of the original creature that is printed below the keyword Backup until the end of turn.
Do note that creatures that are the target of Backup will not gain any abilities printed above the keyword Backup.
For example, when a player casts Archpriest of Shadows, the player can choose to put a +1/+1 counter on another creature the player controls.
When that happens, that creature will now also have Deathtouch, as well as the triggered ability to return any target creature from that player’s graveyard to the battlefield whenever it successfully deals combat damage to a player or Battle until end of turn.
The player can also choose to put a +1/+1 counter on Archpriest of Shadows, but nothing else will happen to Archpriest of Shadows.
Essentially, another creature can temporarily gain abilities of creatures with Backup, and this is especially useful if the creatures with Backup have decent abilities, like Archpriest of Shadows.
The next new keyword is Incubate.
Incubate allows players to create Incubator tokens, which are a new type of artifact tokens similar to that of Treasure, Food, and Clue tokens.
Each Incubate also comes with a number, and it represents the amount of +1/+1 counters to be placed on an Incubator token after creating one.
For example, when a player casts Eyes of Gitaxias, the player will draw a card, and create an Incubator token with three +1/+1 counters since Eyes of Gitaxias has Incubate 3.
An Incubator token can be transformed into a 0/0 Phyrexian artifact creature at instant speed with 2 generic mana, and all the +1/+1 counters on it will still remain on the new transformed artifact creature. An Incubator token generated with Incubate 3 will thus (eventually) transform into a 3/3 Phyrexian artifact creature.
Returning mechanics in March of the Machine
Besides these new mechanics, Convoke, Cycling and Landcycling are making a return to Standard.
Convoke allows a player to use their creatures to help cast a spell. For each creature tapped while casting a spell with Convoke, it pays for one generic mana or one mana of that creature’s colour.
This is especially useful if you have the ability to generate multiple creatures (or creature tokens), and it looks like it is easier to do so with cards like Monastery Mentor and Third Path Iconoclast in Standard.
Cycling and Landcycling, meanwhile, help players to filter cards from their hand into something else when they do not need those cards.
In the case of Cycling, a player can pay two generic mana to discard the card, before drawing a new card.
Landcycling, however, allows the player to search their library for a corresponding land type. For example, a player can discard Alabaster Host Intercessor (after paying two generic mana) to search for a Plains card in their library.
Do note this is any land with the basic land type Plains, so a player can feasibly use this to search for a dual lands such as Plateau (in the right format, that is)!
March of the Machine will also feature 65 non-Standard legal cards in a collection called Multiverse Legends.
These Multiverse Legends consist of reprints, and can be found in every March of the Machine booster.
They are also all printed in a unique showcase treatment featuring each character’s respective plane (Eldraine in the case of Kenrith, the Returned King, and Kaladesh in the case of Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer). There will be 16 different unique treatments corresponding to 16 different planes.
Each Multiverse Legends can also be found in a new Halo foil treatment, but they are only available in Collector Boosters.
March of the Machine will be available as Draft Boosters, Set Boosters, Collector Boosters, Jumpstart Boosters, Welcome Boosters, Commander decks, Bundles and a Secret Lair.
Jay is a content creator who likes to hoard vintage photographic lenses, and loses too often in Dota 2 and Magic: The Gathering after work.