March of the Machine Call for Backup Precon Upgrade Guide

March of the Machine: Call for Backup Precon Upgrade Guide

Jacob LacknerCommander

With +1/+1 counters as one of the most popular themes in Commander, there is no shortage of good legendary creatures who are good at abusing them. However, March of the Machines’s Call for Backup precon features a great, new +1/+1 counter-focused Commander, as well as several powerful new cards that play well in a deck with this theme. In this article I’ll look at the deck and provide some budget, upgrade options to make it even better.

Call for Backup: New Cards

Let’s start with the Commander. Bright-Palm, Soul Awakener is one of the best +1/+1 counter Commanders we’ve ever seen. He has the new “Backup” mechanic, which means he puts a +1/+1 counter on a creature when he enters the battlefield and grants that creature the rest of his abilities. 

His remaining abilities allow Bright-Palm to double +1/+1 counters on a creature when it attacks and makes that creature unblockable by creatures with 2 power or less. At the very worst, this means the creature Bright-Palm targets can give itself a second counter when it attacks. 

Beyond that, Bright-Palm gets even sillier the more counters you pile on your creatures.

The deck’s other, new legendary creature is Shalai and Hallar. They can do significant, incidental damage to your opponent, and combo especially well with Bright-Palm’s ability to double +1/+1 counters. I think Bright-Palm is certainly the better Commander, but Shalai and Hallar is great in your 99.

The list of impressive new cards doesn’t stop with the legendary creatures, though, as the deck provides many other toys that allow you to get the most out of your +1/+1 counters.

These two, massive, green creatures are going to significantly shake up the board every time you cast them. Conclave-Sledge Captain comes with three instances of Backup, allowing you to spread the +1/+1 counter love around. This also means you can give all of those creatures Trample and the ability to gain even more counters.

Emergent Woodwurm can only Backup a single creature, but it does so with three counters. This is important because its second ability allows you to cheat a card into play from your library with a mana value equal to the attacker’s power. This can leapfrog you ahead on board with the right target.

The deck’s two, new, red creatures are also quite impressive. Death-Greeter’s Champion allows you to buff other creatures and give them double strike until end of turn. It also has dash, so you can elect to put this into play every turn while augmenting your creatures, which will be a real pain for your opponent.

Mirror-Style Master also has some unimpressive stats, but the fact it can spit out temporary, token copies of your modified attacking creatures is great — especially when those creatures have enter the battlefield abilities. 

This includes all your cards with backup. You will be able to consistently take advantage of this trigger the turn it comes down, and you can probably get it going a second time by attacking with the Master herself. While it is unlikely to survive as a 3/3, getting all of those extra attackers is likely to have a big impact on the game.

Uncivil Unrest gives you an Enchantment that makes your +1/+1 counters even more impressive. I think it is safe to say your deck will feature many creatures with +1/+1 counters, so you can count on this doubling the damage most of your creatures can do. 

While paying five for this might seem a little rough, it does upgrade most boards immediately. Granting riot to your creatures also makes it more likely you’ll be able to double the damage your creatures do.

Call for Backup only features one new White card, but it is my pick for the strongest card of the bunch. While Guardian Scalelord isn’t a +1/+1 counter payoff the same way the other cards are, it is a smaller Sun Titan that trades in Vigilance for Flying and some additional upside. 

Thanks to Backup, you have a good chance to bring something back the turn you play it, and you can get something back every turn once it can enter the fray itself. Because it has Flying, it is even more likely to keep attacking and generating value than Sun Titan!


The March of the Machine precons feature the return of Planechase, and the deck’s remaining new cards all deal with this mechanic. With Planechase, there is always a “Plane” card in play that grants some sort of effect to the entire board. This deck features ten of these planes that are placed in a separate planar deck. 

  • Jund
  • Kharasha Foothills
  • Grove of the Dreampods
  • Chaotic Aether
  • Bloodhill Bastion
  • Towashi
  • The Great Aerie
  • The Golden City of Orazca 
  • Megaflora Jungle
  • Riptide Island

During each player’s turn, they can elect to roll a planar die. If it lands on a planeswalk symbol, a new plane is put into play from the planar deck to replace the old one. If you land on the chaos symbol, you get an effect depending on which plane is in play. 

This deck can gain the greatest advantage from Towashi and The Great Aerie. Towashi gives a major bonus to modified creatures that can result in more damage and cards for you, since most of your creatures will be modified. Meanwhile, The Great Aerie bolsters every turn, giving you more +1/+1 counters to play with.

Call for Backup also has two cards that interact with these planes. Ichor Elixir is a fairly efficient mana rock that gives you a better chance of getting what you want when you roll the planar die. Path of the Pyromancer gives you a nice way to reload your hand and produce some significant mana, while also forcing players to vote between planeswalking and triggering the Chaos effect.

Call For Backup: Deck Review

This deck has impressive new cards in it. It also does a great job of pulling +1/+1 counter cards from throughout the game’s history to create a cohesive, focused deck that is heavy on synergy. As you’d expect, the deck contains many creatures. After all, that’s where you have to put your +1/+1 counters. 

The deck also has a fairly aggressive curve. As a result, The deck can quickly build an impressive board and overwhelm opponents. Outlast creatures like Abzan Falconer can quickly give your whole board evasion, and cheap creatures like Conclave Mentor and Managorger Hydra can quickly get out of hand.

But the deck also has an impressive late game where you can generate value from all the counters you’ve accumulated over time. For example, you can use Triskelion and Ion Storm to cash in your +1/+1 counters to do massive amounts of damage.

Bright-Palm $100 Upgrades

However, there are some underpowered cards in the deck that don’t offer anything in terms of +1/+1 counter synergy. The good news is there are lots of budget cards to replace them with that can give this deck a major upgrade. The total cost of purchasing the precon and upgrading the deck comes in at less than $100, so you’re getting a major bang for your buck.

These were the first three cards I thought of when considering how best to improve the deck. Hardened Scales gives you a very efficient Enchantment that will make all of your +1/+1 counter cards better, Cathars’ Crusade gives your whole board a +1/+1 counter on most turns and Damning Verdict gives you a Wrath that will often be one-sided.

While these cards make up the bulk of the upgrade budget, they are well worth it. Each of them can very easily decide the outcome of a game in your favor.

I also added in two creatures that offer you the ability to disrupt certain, popular strategies while still offering you all-important +1/+1 counters.

The Initiate can gain counters on its own with training, and it can allow you to cash in your counters to destroy problem Artifacts and Enchantments. Scavenging Ooze lets you go after graveyards while it bulks up on +1/+1 counters and gains you life.

These three creatures all improve your +1/+1 counter output. Evolution Sage lets you proliferate every time a land enters the battlefield, which will often result in a massive increase in Power and Toughness. 

Luminarch Aspirant starts putting +1/+1 counters on things very early, and Halana and Alena can buff a creature every turn. They even get more potent when they have lots of counters!

These final three additions all provide you with powerful +1/+1 counter payoffs. Sigardian Paladin will have trample and lifelink most turns, and it can also offer those keywords to your other creatures. 

Invigorating Hot Spring gives all of your creatures with +1/+1 counters on them haste, and it can even put counters on your creatures. 

Benevolent Hydra comes with the same effect as Hardened Scales, but also comes with a potentially massive body and the ability to move its counters to other creatures.

These are the cards that were removed to make room for this power up:

You can find the final decklist here.

If you’re not on a strict budget, there are a few other cards you’re going to want to prioritize. Doubling Season, The Great Henge and Sword of Truth and Justice should be at the top of your list. 

Doubling Season doubles your +1/+1 counters and creature tokens. This means it upgrades almost every non-land card in the deck, and it is particularly powerful alongside Bright-Palm. 

Since it ramps your mana, gains you life and draws you a ton of cards, The Great Henge is an auto-include in virtually any Green EDH deck and this deck can actually get even more value out of the +1/+1 counters it produces. 

Finally, Sword of Truth and Justice is an Equipment that comes with the ability to put +1/+1 counters on your creatures and Proliferates. It also grants protection from two colors, and it is especially nice that it saves your creatures from all the great white removal out there.

End Step

In the end, Call for Backup offers a great, new twist on the +1/+1 counter archetype with lots of room for new directions. Whether you’re playing it out of the box or looking to tune it up further, it should be a welcome addition to your collection of decks.