If you read my previous article about my thoughts going into the March of the Machine prerelease weekend, you’d know how I mentioned that I think this set is the most powerful Limited format of all time. Turns out, I was right. March of the Machine is proving to be a uniquely powerful, yet complex Limited environment. After playing five prerelease events I walked away from the weekend only losing one single match. Here’s what I learned!
Prerelease Deck #1 – Esper Control
I tragically did not take a picture of this deck, but essentially it was a Dimir spells deck where I splashed for Invasion of New Phyrexia and double Invasion of Xerex. My loss was to some mana screw against an incredibly powerful Selesnya counters deck, having the nut draw of Kami of Whispered Hopes and Botanical Brawler in combination with some Incubate cards. I won my other two rounds against a knights deck and a Temur ramp deck.
Lessons Learned: I like the abundance of removal in Dimir colors and how battles play in Sealed
Prerelease Deck #2 – 5-Color Yorion
When I opened Yorion, the Sky Nomad I knew that I had to try 60 cards in Limited. Yorion is a card I had never played with in Limited before, besides maybe one Arena cube draft. I built both a 40-card and 60-card version of my deck, but started on 40 against my round 1 opponent. I got out-valued in game one, and then decided to go for 60 cards in games two and three, to just see what would happen. I ended up out-valuing my opponent’s Golgari deck and immediately understood the power of Yorion in this sealed format.
I’ve played a lot of Yorion control in Pioneer and have watched the card also do a lot of work in Modern builds of 4-color control and Elementals. I think why Yorion is so powerful in these types of decks is that it’s the difference between you out-valuing your opponent in the long game. Yorion decks have the weakness of getting run over, or not drawing certain cards when you need them due to the extra 20 cards in your deck. However, in formats where your cards are all just value-based, you can rely more on Yorion to close out late games. This was my thought process for initially trying out Yorion as my companion in my Sealed deck. Since Sealed is a lot about out-valuing your opponent, the biggest thing I could do is play 60-cards and always have access to this value engine.
In round two I played against another Golgari-based midrange deck, this time one with Invasion of Fiora, Glissa, and Pile On. I had a pretty incredible sequence of events happen where I want to highlight the power level of a certain card: Invasion of Kaldheim. The board state is this: opponent has flipped Invasion of Fiora, Glissa, and two Incubate tokens in play. I have a Pyre of the World Tree with three lands in my hand. I activate Pyre three times, throwing all my lands at Glissa. I flip over, land, Overgrown Pest, and Seal from Existence. I Seal from Existence Marchesa, play Pest (which blocks the 2 counter Incubate tokens well) and Pest reveals me and Etali, Primal Conquerer. I proceed to win the game by casting Etali and flipping it, my opponent forced to block it every turn. Talk about a sequence of events!
I split round three and started going over my deck again. All in all I was happy to have experimented with Yorion. I think there might’ve been a good 45-card version of my deck, but I ended up choosing 60 just because that’s what I knew how to build my mana base correctly with. Building past 40 cards is uncharted territory for me besides the additional land or spell here in chaos draft here and there. I honestly just wanted to play all my rares, and I think my dual lands, fixing cards, and Yorion pushed me to do so. It’s almost like my pool wanted me to play 60 cards.
Lessons Learned: I really felt the power level of battles in this pool, they helped me get out of some tight spots. Also felt that with Yorion and enough fixing I could play all of my bombs and have a reasonable 60-card deck. I made sure to play all of my removal and cards that would help me smooth out my draws (double Moment of Truth).
Prerelease Deck #3 – Dimir Control
There’s nothing too special to say about this deck other than the fact that Chrome Host Seedshark is an absolute powerhouse in Limited. I won most of my games by stabilizing with removal spells and casting Shark with Negate open on turn five. Shark also plays super well with battles, making incubate tokens that can usually kill a battle in one attack phase. Zephyr Singer played nicely with flipped Aetherblade Agent. I actually didn’t end up rebounding any spells of Taigam, and I mostly boarded him out.
Lessons Learned: Chrome Host Seedshark plays very well with battles, Dimir still has a lot of efficient removal, Zephyr Singer plays well with creatures that have abilities when they deal combat damage, and Taigam, Ojutai Master feels overrated.
Prerelease Deck #4 – 5-Color 60 Card Special
This deck is my magnum opus of Limited decks. No, really. You must be thinking I’m crazy for running a 60-card deck without Yorion, but I have a few reasons why I constructed my deck this way.
I wanted to play all of my good cards – Similar to my Yorion deck, I think you can out-value regular 40-card opponents in this format by playing more cards. Now you don’t have to play 60, but there are a lot of self-mill effects in the format that can put you in danger at 40 cards. When building my pools I usually put all of the cards I like in one pile and the less-powerful, more synergistic cards in a separate pile. This deck essentially plays all of my fixing, removal, value cards, and battles. It may have been incorrect to play the white cards, but I definitely like the power of Thalia and the Gitrog Monster, and I wanted to try Drana and Linvala. The final main reason I played so many cards was to maximize all of the enter the battlefield effects for my Yarok, the Desecrated.
I ended up defeating another Marchesa/Glissa deck in which I pulled off the same trick with Invasion of Kaldheim to “draw” three cards after throwing three lands away at a Marchesa. I then beat a midrange Orzhov deck with a lot of my value cards, and then finally beat a Gruul deck by pulling ahead with Invasion of Kaldheim and Invasion of Tolvada.
Lessons Learned: Experimentation pays off. I wanted to try something similar to a five-color cube deck and I think I was able to maximize my pool by doing so. This format has endless playable cards. There’s abundant removal, powerful bombs, fixing, and battles. This has some implications for draft which I’ll talk about later, but I’m curious if you want to play more cards on average in your sealed decks so you don’t mill out, have more tools at your disposal, and maximize your rares and battles.
Prerelease Deck #5 (2HG) – 4-Color 60 Card Special
Bonus: Draft Trophy #1 – 5c Bombs
Lastly here’s my first 7-win Premier Draft deck of the format, 5-color bombs. I wanted to initially build this as 60 cards, but I chose to take more dual lands in the draft than other spells. One lesson that I’ve learned so far in this draft format, is that you should prioritize taking dual lands over spells since there is an abundance of playable spells in the format. You’ll obviously take premium removal or a bomb over a land, but there are a lot of cases where you’ll take a land instead of a spell. Lands help you stem the bleeding against aggro, fix colors for your bomb, and make it less costly to flip your phyrexian transforming creatures.
While this deck looks a little unreal, I actually got passed a lot of the rares, like Niv-Mizzet and Invasion of Alara. Now I know it’s difficult to cast five-color cards in Limited, but it’s so much easier in this format than in regular standard draft formats. Mutagen Connoisseur is a great blocker that attacks battles well. I was a little unsure about this card, but it was a Simic card to find off Niv, a great blocker and defender, and most importantly, pressures battles well.
Bonus Bonus: Two 3-0 Paper Draft Decks
Two last lessons I’ll hit you with are how deep Dimir is and the power level of Blighted Burgeoning in Green-based decks. While my Dimir deck did have some powerful rares, cards like Invasion of Amonkhet at uncommon are incredibly busted in this format. Invasion of Amonkhet is a rare in its own right, feeling like a 4-for-one in any given game. I also loved how Thallid acted as a great convoke outlet for my spells.
While my mana in my Elspeth deck looks atrocious, I won the majority of my games utilizing Portent Tracker and Blighted Burgeoning. I had a really sweet game in which I played a turn three Elspeth off a Portent Tracker and then was able to use Elspeth’s -2 ability to put counters on my Kami of Whispered Hopes. Then my Kami had enough power to cast Kogla and Yidaro, even with zero Red lands in play!
I learned a lot of lessons playing multiple prerelease and draft events of this format. I know playing 60 cards is not the norm, nor is it rarely correct. I think in my case I just wanted to experiment and play every card in my pool that I thought was powerful, mana-fixing, a two-for-one, or removal spell. With the format being as powerful as it is I think you’ll have issues at times cutting cards from your deck, especially in Sealed when you want to play all of your bombs. You’ll have to be smart about how to construct the accurate build, especially when cards do so much these days.
I think this set in particular is wide open in terms of deck diversity and strategy, but the big takeaways are how to build an efficient tempo deck or ways to capitalize on the powerful rares or mythics you open. Nothing can prepare you for the variety of decks you’ll face in this format because there are just so many ways to build a deck compared to recent Standard Limited formats (Brother’s War is a close second with the retro artifacts).
I think draft in particular will revolve around ways to out-tempo your opponent, not to out-aggro them necessarily. Convoke being in the format means you want to find ways to put multiple bodies in play early, so cards like Preening Champion and Ral’s Reincforcements are better than previous similar counterparts. However, with gainlands and other ways to slow down your opponent, I do think that multicolored decks are entirely viable, you just have to find ways to stem the bleeding if you lose the roll and are up against an aggro deck. But you can draft some nasty combos that can remove you from dire situations.
This is just one player’s opinion. Take it in stride.
As always, thanks for reading!