Ever since Atraxa, Grand Unifier teased the existence of Magic's first new card type in over fifteen years, everyone has been waiting to find out what Battle cards would actually be. Today with the beginning of March of the Machine previews, we finally get a look at them, an understanding of how they work, and a sight of some of the other cards and mechanics in the set.
What are Battle Cards in Magic The Gathering?
Battle cards showcase the large interplanar war going on throughout March of the Machine as everyone attempts to resist the Phyrexian forces. They function a bit like Planeswalker cards - you cast them on your turn, and they come into play with a number of defense counters equal to the defense score in the bottom right corner, just like loyalty counters. Battles in March of the Machine are all sieges, so they function the same way - you choose an opponent as its protector - and they are able to block for it, and generally work to protect it (other Battle subtypes may be attacked in other ways). Defense counters are reduced by doing damage to the Battle like a Planeswalker loses loyalty, from attacks, spells that can target Battles, and spells that can target anything (so yes, you can Lightning Bolt the Battle)
When the number of defense counters is reduced to zero, the owner of the battle exiles it, and then casts the back side of the card for free. For example, defeating Invasion of Fiora will bring out Marchesa, Resolute Monarch, and defeating Invasion of New Phyrexia will bring Teferi Akosa of Zhalfir to the fight.
We see from some of the other Battle cards that we're going to see sizable creatures on the back of some of them - Ikoria's says it has an 8/8 on its back which should be interesting if you play the battle early. One combo that comes to mind is playing Invasion of Ikoria on x=2 and searching for a Vampire Hexmage to remove all the counters from it and summoning whatever 8/8 there is on the back. There will be a Battle in each booster pack of March of the Machine, so you'll be running into it a fair number of them.
Of course, Battle is far from the only thing premiering in March of the Machine...
What is Backup in March of the Machine
One of the new mechanics in March of the Machine is Backup, which appears on creatures working to help bring down the opponent together. It seems to be a sort of easier to comprehend Soulbond, as that mechanic ran into memory and understanding issues. When a creature with Backup enters the battlefield, it puts X +1/+1 counters on a creature (X being whatever the backup number is). If that creature is not the one with the Backup ability, it gains the Backup creature's other abilities until the end of the turn.
What else is new in March of the Machine?
There are a lot of things going on in March of the Machine and we can cover a few more of them here today. Another new mechanic in the set is the keyword action Incubate, which creates the first-ever transforming token. Here are three cards the mechanic appears on:
The incubation mechanic takes a bit of an idea from the Amass keyword that was used for Army tokens, and goes its own way with it to make a neat, and unique take on a token.
It's worth remembering that even in incubator form, it still has the +1/+1 counters, it just isn't a creature able to make use of them. If you were to turn it into a creature some other way, you wouldn't need to transform the artifact, it would just take advantage of the counters already there.
Old favorites return in the set, as they take advantage of the multiplane war to visit old friends to see how they handle things... or what happened when they were corrupted by Phyrexia. Some of those corrupted are showcased by being transforming dual-faced cards showing the pre-transformed versions, and then what happened to them.
Not all visits are so bittersweet though, as we also see friends teaming up or coming into their own to fight back against the threat. In fact, this may be the last time we see Quintorius as a creature as the story for Strixhaven had some new developments for him.
At the heart of the Phrexian efforts is Elesh Norn with her teachings of the Argent Etchings, and her use of Realmbreaker the Invasion Tree. We get our first sight of them in this set as well so let's take a glance at our villainous leads here.
To beat the Phyrexian threat, story spotlight cards show key moments of the fight, like how Elspeth struck Elesh Norn, how Karn killed her, and how Zhalfir was summoned to bring Teferi and more support to fight on New Phyrexian... and then how Wrenn sealed away the Phyrexians into the temporal pocket that Zhalfir used to be in.
Even reprints got into the Story Spotlight game, as three reprints were showcased, and one of them has a moment from the very end of the story showcased.
Negate is such a staple card that seeing it pictured in this way, especially with all the odd magics being used is quite odd instead of a unique card being created to showcase it.
The final Sword of X and Y was promised to players, as this will be the 10th and final card in the Sword of X and Y super cycle, Now at last, I present to you the Sword of Once and Future.
March of the Machine Promo Pack Cards
One set of five cards we were sent are from promo packs for March of the Machine, and they give us a look at some of the special versions for cards and what you might get in some of those nice promo packs you win over the next few months.
March of the Machine Commander Cards Revealed
The five Face Commanders for the March of the Machine Commander decks were also revealed to us, and let's take a look at them:
Lastly, there are four Planechase cards that are tied into this set's Commander release. If you want to learn more about Planeschase, and why it's in these Commander releases, you should read Gavin Verhey's article on the Wizard's site.
There's a lot going on in March of the Machine, and I've been happy to share some of the new cards with you today.