March of the Machine's Limited Thought
Magic players, it’s prerelease time, which means it’s time to review the newest set of Magic cards. I have some thoughts about these new cards and so I thought I’d share them with you all just in time for prerelease. This set seems incredibly fun and I’m super excited to get to cracking packs with all of you and start exploring a set of brand new mechanics.
On that note, let’s talk about one of those new mechanics, and it’s the one
that everyone is most excited about. Battles! I’m not 100% sure how battles are going to play out. Am I supposed to take two or three turns off from killing my opponent to flip this card into something better? I just don’t know and that is what I am most looking forward to in this set is figuring out which of these are worth wasting combats on and which are not. I feel like Invasion of Belenon is one that I will want to be playing, since UW is Tribal Knights and a 3 mana 2/2 with vigilance isn’t too far below the curve.
The second of three new abilities in this set is Incubate. When you Incubate you put a non-creature artifact token into play with X +1/+1 counters on it. Then whenever you have priority you can pay 2 generic mana to transform it into a 0/0 Phyrexian creature. I think all of these cards are neat for limited because they all effectively say draw an X/X creature when you play this spell that costs 2 mana. Compleated Huntmaster is the premier uncommon for this ability in my opinion. It is a magnet for removal because your opponent will not be able to have attacks that accomplish anything until it is off the board. My intuition is every card with Incubate is better than it looks on first blush.
The third, and last, new ability from March of Machines is Backup. If this format turns into a "curve out, kill you dead" format, it will be because of this ability. When a creature with Backup enters the battlefield, put a +1/+1 counter on a creature, it can be the creature with Backup itself, if it’s a different creature then that creature gets the rules text from the creature with Backup. It sounds super complicated but I think it will play very simply and intuitively. For my money the most dangerous not-rare for this ability is Bola Slinger. If you curve 2 drop into 3 drop into this thing, put the counter on the 2 drop and attack, your opponent is hurting badly. Especially if you follow this guy up with the 5 drop that Backups a creature with flying. Flying Bola Slinger seems like it would end the game very quickly. Pairing any of these cards up with any of the several cards in this set that care about counters being placed, or put more counters on, and you have a solid beating to deliver to your opponent.
Now that we have some of the basics out of the way, we can talk about the bugbear of limited for the last couple of sets: the speed of the format. Brother’s War and Phyrexia: All Will be One were both blisteringly fast sets, where the aggressive decks pushed out a lot of the interesting things you could do with the different archetypes. Compare them to Dominaria United, which is one of the slowest sets in recent memory, and all of the goofy stuff you could get up to with Domain and Spells Matter and Defender. None of those decks would fare particularly well in either BRO or ONE because you’d be dead long before you could get any of the pieces together.
For the returning abilities that some of you might not have had the pleasure to play with: Land Cycling is incredible and you want at least two in every limited deck. Good early and good late is everything you want in a card. Convoke is certainly just as powerful here as it has been in every Ravnica set, granted it’s Blue/White instead of Green but all of the Convoke cards are much better than they look just on the Vanilla Test.
Just looking at the cards I feel like this set will be on the slower, grindier, side of things. Between Battles and Incubate and the removal being both very good, and on the expensive side, this set seems like it will be whoever can generate the most advantage will end up winning. That’s not to say you can just durdle around and not do anything until turn three, there will still be assertive decks (think BW Knights, GW Backup, and the GR Battles decks) but if you can get your defensive speed up and running you should be able to make some pretty spectacular limited decks.
The last thing I want to talk about are some cards I think are traps. Cards that seem like they could or should be decent, but are probably not worth putting in your limited deck.
Scroll Shift: I’m not 100% sure this card is a trap, but it seems like spending three mana on this effect is not where you want to be. There’s spinning your wheels and then there's actually doing nothing.
Invasion of Vrynn: Same as with Scroll Shift. I don’t know the exact speed of the format, but if this card is actually good in MOM limited this will be one of the slowest formats ever.
Etched Host Doombringer: From a couple cards I don’t know if they will be traps or not to a card I KNOW will be a trap. A 5 mana 3/5 is too far below rate anymore and Black isn’t a Battle color. If this card was Red I’d be a lot more likely to play it.
Corrupted Conviction: This card, if you know what you’re doing and have a deck built to play it, rocks. If you don’t have those aforementioned things then you should probably leave this in your sideboard.
Akki Scrapchomper: One drops are good in limited now, but this one isn’t. If you draw this on turn 7 it is a dead draw. The good one drops are the ones that are good at basically every part of the game or are super busted on turn one. This card is neither.
Mirran Banesplitter: If you are ok playing a combat trick that is R:target creature gets +2/+0 then play this, my hunch is that you will almost never want this card.
Crystal Carapace: Everyone loves putting expensive auras in their limited decks. Maybe don’t put this one in yours.
Placid Rottentail: You have to really, really, really want a cheap dork to sacrifice for this card to be good. If you have three of the GW uncommon that gives extra counters to things have fun with your Fungus.
Seed of Hope: This is a constructed card. Leave it in your sideboard.
I’m super excited to play this set. The prerelease should be outstanding! Game Grid is hosting them all weekend. The events are at 4 PM and 9 PM on Friday the 14th, 1 PM and 6 PM on Saturday and 2 PM on Sunday. I’ll be playing in all 5 and if you defeat me in a round anytime this weekend I’ll give you a pack of March of the Machine. We will see you this weekend!