The crescendo of the Phyrexian invasion of the multiverse, March of the Machine, is upon us. With it comes the culmination of many story arcs, heroic team-ups, a brand new card type, and more playables than you would believe. Today, we’re covering only half of the noteworthy cards Magic: The Gathering’s latest set, which eclipses and doubles the size of the Phyrexia: All Will Be One set review hosted in the Commander Corner in early February. So strap in for what is arguably the biggest set for Commander since Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate. I’m Luka “Robot” Sharaska, and welcome back to the Commander Corner.

Battles, Sieges, and You

Before we discuss cards, if you aren’t familiar with Battles or Sieges, read on. If you are familiar with them, feel free to skip ahead. March of the Machine, or MoM, has introduced a brand new card type to the game: Battle. These specific Battle cards have the subtype Siege. To simplify, a Siege is a permanent with a back side you must transform it into by reducing counters on the Siege to zero, usually by attacking. Once you do, the back side is generally quite powerful, and there’s a wide variety of them. For a full explanation of Battles and Sieges, you can refer to this mechanic breakdown by Ryan Hay 

A Multiverse-Sized Set Review

With dozens upon dozens of potential selections, there will be no honorable mentions. I tried whittling this list down to perhaps 30 or so, but it wasn’t doable. Between cycles, Battles, and the widely-beloved team-up cards, there’s already enough for a double-stuffed feast of playables. So, I decided I’d tackle almost everything. Without any further ado, let’s get right into the main attractions.

This faerie is the real deal. It’s like a twisted fever dream, and it plays exceedingly well in almost any situation. Flash helps you dodge removal and leave up mana for counter magic. Flying helps you take the initiative/monarchy and pressure planeswalkers. Finally, in the worst case, Faerie Mastermind enables itself with its activated ability.

I suppose it only makes sense how every iteration of Elesh Norn is potent in Commander. The front half heavily disincentivizes goblin decks, go-wide strategies, and Guttersnipe effects. The back side is a very powerful army in a can, and the selective boardwipe finale is pretty easy to build around.

I am always a fan of cards which do multiple things at once, and Archpriest of Shadows fits this description perfectly. Deathtouch creatures are pretty good at holding back creatures your opponents want to keep alive, and pretty good at avoiding blockers

“Babe, wake up, another 5-color goodstuff payoff dropped!”

Yes, yes, 5-color goodstuff piles, which were famously starved of great cards to play, now get Invasion of Alara too. The back side is pure value all the way down, as you’re rewarded with removal, card draw, mana discount, a clone effect, and some extra beef on your creatures.

If you’ve ever played Goldvein Pick or Prying Blade, you might have found it difficult to get through the occasional chump blocker. Beamtown Beatstick grants menace, which makes up for the equip cost being one higher than the Pick.

For a reasonable cost you get immediate board presence, an edict effect that specifies non-token and can even hit planeswalkers, and the promise that things only get worse for your opponents from there. Sheoldred is no joke.

Usually, I’m not a fan of expensive cards which are dependent on your opponents having a well-stocked graveyard. But in this case you get mill 10 for each player, and it goes a long way towards ensuring massive value. I’ve played Sepulchral Primordial in a lot of decks, but the Primordial never hit planeswalkers, and had a much higher setup cost.

Imagine a Body Double which fuels itself, replaces itself, and even deprives your opponents cards. Well, you don’t have to imagine, because Invasion of Amonkhet does all of that for three mana and a bit of work.

Spellslinger decks rejoice, as Chandra, Hope’s Beacon is a one-card engine for finding, casting, and copying powerful spells. Although by the time you can cast Chandra I expect the +2 might have outlived most of its usefulness, you might have a full grip of cards to make full use of it.

If you somehow combined Birgi, God of Storytelling, Mnemonic Betrayal, and Sweltering Suns, Urabrask would be pretty close to the result. Between this, Birgi, Storm-Kiln Artist, and others, I feel like storm enablers in mono-red are approaching critical mass.

In almost any deck that’s two or more colors, I consistently struggle to leave up double blue for cards like Counterspell or Narset’s Reversal. Being able to cast Change the Equation using any blue signet and a single blue mana puts this in a similar category as Arcane Denial and Disdainful Stroke, although it occupies a somewhat different niche than most of those.

Without considering the back side at all, this is a tutor akin to Solve the Equation. Five mana is more than I’m usually willing to pay for the effect, but thankfully there is more. If you can manage to flip it, you essentially get Double Vision as a reward.

If you’ve ever felt like Fiery Emancipation was a bit too much mana, City on Fire has convoke to make sure you can get it going. Of course, if you’re in the market for one, you’ll probably play the other. Once you start tripling up damage, life totals start moving pretty quickly.

Ward 2 goes a long way towards making this a pretty playable card, but the real meat is on the back side. You get to pay on an installment plan, which helps with the fact you’ll be dumping 9 mana into Jin-Gitaxias before you see the first chapter go off

The biggest downside of spell-copying effects is they usually require a hefty mana investment, and the best spells to copy often cost so much it’s difficult to play both in one turn. Complete the Circuit helps cover some of the cost with convoke

Invasion of Fiora is a boardwipe which will usually hit most things on the battlefield. The back side is a card draw engine which can destroy planeswalkers, reset sagas, and block very effectively. What’s not to love?

There’s more wild red/white legends than I care to count, and with extra combat steps things get even more out of hand. Of course, Djeru and Hazoret also go right into Jodah, the Unifier as well. Definitely the kind of value Voltron commander I can get behind.

I didn’t have red/white spellslinger starring Faithless Looting, Burning Inquiry, and Gamble on my 2023 bingo card, but here we are. I honestly can’t wait to build this deck and cast Parhelion II and Soulfire Eruption for next-to-nothing.

A powerful hatebear which fits into any black/white deck and also fits just fine at the helm, Drana and Linvala has a pretty good effect against some of the most popular commanders including Kenrith, the Returned King, Thrasios, Triton Hero, and many others.

The only thing holding this card back from being an absolute all-star is having green in its color identity. Otherwise, every non-green deck which could fit Etali, Primal Conqueror would be playing and blinking it as many times as possible. Free spells are good.

Dire Fleet Daredevil now has a blue/black counterpart in Halo Forager, and I like it. Sure, you could play Mnemonic Betrayal, but I like a bit of beef alongside my value. A 3/1 with flying does a lot. Besides, I can play both.

I’ve rarely seen Finale of Devastation get cast for X=10 or more, so Invasion of Ikoria is simply Finale but with an extra mode on the back side. Non-human is a tiny bit restrictive, but most of the best green creatures aren’t actually humans.

Heliod, the Radiant Dawn is a regrowth effect for enchantments which flips into Leyline of Anticipation with cost reduction on top. You can’t sign me up fast enough. I’ll gladly rebuy my Rhystic Study and sit back with a grip of reactive spells.

Having Brainstorm combo into casting a huge spell for free is pretty cool, and this is a neat reanimation target for decks looking to get sneaky. With a sacrifice outlet, you can even chain together multiple reanimation effects on Hidetsugu and Kairi, all while draining your opponents.

But Wait, There’s (Much) More!

This is only the first half of the cards I think are noteworthy from March of the Machine. There’s many more sweet spells and cool commanders to cover. I really feel like the design team took the limiters off this time, and the result is a set that’s absolutely bursting with flavor and fun. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed making it, but don’t forget to come back for Part 2! I’ve been Luka “Robot” Sharaska, and this has been the Commander Corner.

[Luka V. Sharaska (they/them) earned the nickname “Robot” by having a monotone voice, a talent for calculating odds, and a perfect poker face. Robot has been playing Magic for more than a decade, starting during the days of New Phyrexia in 2011.]

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