March of the Machine is shaping up to be one of, if not, the highest powered Limited format of all time. That’s a pretty hefty statement to take in. Why is it so powerful you might ask? March of the Machine has multiple components that make it have one of the higher ceilings of a Standard Limited format that we’ve seen in recent years. From the Multiversal Legends card slot, a new card type in Battles, double-faced cards, and extremely powerful rare and mythic rares, there’s a lot to explore. I think this set is daunting, but hopefully this prerelease guide will help you fend off the Machine Legion so you can claim your victory as a prerelease champion!
The first major component of March of the Machine are Battles. Battles are a new kind of double-faced card. Battles come into play with a certain amount of counters and are “defended” by your opponent. You can remove Battles’ counters by attacking them with creatures, dealing them non-combat damage, and using other sorts of spells and abilities to remove the counters. When the last counter is removed the Battle is exiled and you get to cast the other side of the card.
Battles essentially act as a sort of new planeswalker-type card. They create minigames where you’ll have to focus your resources on flipping the battle in order to gain value to win the long-game. Overall I think battles are extremely powerful as a card type, especially if the front side of the card is worth the initial mana investment. Take Invasion of Dominaria for example:
Gaining four life and drawing a card for three mana isn’t the best deal in the world, but if you can sensibly put this Battle to 0 counters you get a pretty good deal in a 4/4 flying, vigilance angel. I think Battles will make the format slower overall, with games revolving around important combat steps. On the flip side, I can see a format where if an aggro player wins the die roll and plays an early battle, they an snowball an advantage by defeating it.
It’s worth noting also that the flip side of Battles can be countered, and if you “flicker” a Battle it’ll come back into play on the first side of the card. I’m not sure how good of a card Scrollshift will be in this set, but it reminds me a lot of shenaigans I pulled in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty with cards like Behold the Unspeakable and Planar Incision. You can gain some serious value off of Scrollshifting your flipped Battle to protect it from a removal spell.
Incubate is a new mechanic that features making a token that you can pay two mana to transform. Essentially Incubate tokens enter with a predetermined number of +1/+1 counters, and paying two mana will flip it into a creature who’s power and toughness are equal to the number of +1/+1 counters on it.
This is definitely a slower mechanic, but you can set up some turns where you can make some big Incubator tokens. There are also multiple cards in the set that make use out of tokens for sacrifice abilities and also cards that can flip Incubator tokens right away. Incubator tokens can also be used for a returning mechanic to this set, which brings me to…
Convoke is a returning mechanic that lets you tap creatures to pay for a card’s mana cost. When you tap a creature this way it pays for 1 colorless mana of that spell’s cost OR a colored mana that’s shared by that creature’s color identity. Convoke cards are usually strongest in token strategies, giving you more bodies that act as mana sources.
Backup is a new mechanic. When a creature with Backup “X” enters the battlefield you put that many counters on target creature. If you choose another target creature to receive the +1/+1 counter(s) it also receives every ability from the Backup creature until end of turn.
If you target another creature you control with Bola Slinger’s Backup ability, that creatures get a +1/+1 counter and can tap a target creature or artifact an opponent controls when it attacks this turn. Backup definitely feels like a more aggressive ability. It’s a way you can get some burst damage in and turn combat steps in your favor, giving a creature you control that can attack an extra point of power and toughness and some other abilities to boot. I think Backup will be a good way to gain advantage in board stalls and help break through combats where you need to finish off a Battle.
It’s worth noting that this set has no rare land cycle, but it does have the ten “gainlands.” Historically, gainlands have made formats a bit slower due to better mana fixing and the incremental life gain, and I hope the same can be said for March of the Machine. Gainlands will help you splash your pool’s more powerful cards and will give you slight fixing for your Phyrexian double-faced cards.
Skittering Surveyor is another prime piece of fixing in colorless. Urn of Godfire and Flywheel Racer seem like too much work just to fix mana, so I’ll pass on those for fixing. Green gives you Blighted Burgeoning, Kami of Whispered Hopes, Fertilid’s Favor, Overgrown Pest, and Portent Tracker. I’m a big fan of Tracker allowing you to untap your gainlands while also having later-game value by protecting or weakening Battles.
Did you know you can open Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer in March of the Machine draft boosters? Now you know!
Similar to Strixhaven’s Mystical Archive and The Brothers’ War’s Retro Artifacts, March of the Machine gives us a card slot for a variety of legendary creatures from across Magic’s history. Here’s my rule of thumb when playing cards like these: the good cards will be pretty obvious and the ones that make you scratch your head are probably not worth the inclusion. I’m going to slam a pack one pick one Kenrith or Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, but I’ll probably pass on cards like Emry, Lurker of the Loch or Ayara, First of Lochthwain. There are times where you will draft one of the lesser Multiverse Legends cards, but on average stick to playing the ones that have relevant text.
Commons are the base of Limited, and here are what I believe to be the top five commons in each color:
Sealed Prerelease Tips
This is a quick little speech I like to include in all of my prerelease primer articles. In Sealed, you can play slower decks. In a format like March of the Machine with Battles, gainlands, and lots of ways to effectively use your mana, the games will on average go longer. In Draft you have more room to draft aggressive decks, but in Sealed you have to rely on power level more than anything else. Keep this in mind when building your decks. Sometimes it’s right to play three or four colors, especially if you’re Green-based and have good fixing. Some of the Battles are powerful enough that they’re worth splashing for.
Here are a couple quick tips for Prerelease:
- The Sealed format is slower, you should splash for your bombs and better cards with the abundance of Green, colorless, and land mana fixing
- Battles seem incredibly strong and I would try out as many as you can afford to play
- Double-faced cards are as powerful as ever and would play as many as I can since games will go longer and you’ll have more to do with your mana
At the end of the day, Prerelease is about having fun and exploring the endless possibilities that a new set has to offer. March of the Machine is a wild set, probably the most pushed Limited set in Magic’s history. The power level of cards ranging from common to mythic is just through the roof. Go out, make some friends, and battle your way through your events. I hope you get to pull off some crazy combos!
Thanks for reading!