March of the Machine Draft Guide

March of the Machine: Draft Guide

Tom AndersonLimited

The final war against Phyrexia is here, and we’re all getting Drafted to help defend the Magic multiverse! The frontline of this fight can be confusing at first, with new mechanics and even a new card type to contend with. Never fear though — the Card Kingdom draft guide is here to help you prepare for the battles (and Battle cards) ahead in March of the Machine.

Invasion of New Phyrexia
Invasion of New Phyrexia


A few key design choices give March of the Machine a different feel to other draft environments. The most obvious one is probably the huge number of high-powered bomb creatures available in every single draft.

Most other sets will have some number of “dud” rares that fill up packs without heavily impacting Limited play — rare land cycles, narrow sideboard-hate cards, highly specific build-arounds without support in-set and so on. 

But in MOM, there are really only two or three rares in the whole pool that can be seen as such draft liabilities. On top of that, every booster adds a Draft-legal Multiverse Legends card, which will at minimum be a high-impact uncommon creature.

With the top-end being Ikoria companions and game-warping Mythic rares, it is not uncommon to double-up the number of bomb rares you could expect in an average set.

In order to offset the high power-level of these creatures, Wizards of the Coast has made sure to include cheap, unconditional removal at common in every single color. Multiple such spells, even. White and black, especially, are just about overflowing with what would be precious, first-pick, kill spells in a less EPIC format.

It’s a delicate balancing act to pull off, trying to let these legendary bombs have an impact on games while still giving the other player a hope of fighting back. But after my first 70 games or so, I have to say Wizards’ design team has done an impressively good job. 

The powerful, transforming two-drops and tribal bonuses can snowball into immense, early pressure if your opponent isn’t ready with their first removal spell. But MOM manages to avoid the ultra-volatile “no comebacks” feeling of Streets of New Capenna or Adventures in the Forgotten Realms thanks to a much stronger roster of cheap blockers, and set mechanics that tend to not front load value on the earliest turns.

This slightly slower pace is both encouraged and rewarded by the new Battle cards. You may not be able to completely close out a game off a turn-three edge — but you CAN capitalize on your tempo advantage to flip a few battles into free heavyweight threats! 

I would advise against playing more than one or two battles per deck until you get a feeling for how they affect play, but they are hands-down the most interesting wrinkle for creature combat since Vehicles were added.

Invasion of Eldraine
Invasion of Eldraine

For experienced drafters, I would compare the overall gameplay to sets like Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty or Crimson Vow — but only in this broader sense of pacing and potency. For the rest, we’re going to have to get deeper into the actual mechanics and archetypes March of the Machine Draft offers.


In terms of draft archetypes, MOM keeps it traditional with well-defined gameplans for each color-pair, albeit with enough overlapping synergies that three-color decks also feel quite natural. The designers have also managed to make said gameplans feel distinct from the actual keyworded mechanics of the set, so there’s never a feeling of being “on rails” in packs two and three as you hunt for whatever cards fit your narrow niche.

Every deck will utilize incubate, backup, battles and transforming creatures to some degree regardless of color. And yet the design of those mechanics is innovative and impactful enough that they never “blend into the background.” They really are one of the greatest strengths of a generally excellent Limited set.

What might not be seen as a positive is the greater-than-expected disparity between the colors. Green, blue and black seem like much deeper and safer card pools to anchor your draft compared to the less-reliable white and red. Luckily this tends to not be felt as much in game, as it is very easy to get yourself into at least one of the Sultai colors even when building a more aggressive creature strategy.


One of the two major tribal archetypes, Teferi’s long-lost countrymen have returned to reality with the nastiest tempo deck of the format. Between blue’s many tap-down effects, white’s combat tricks and a healthy dose of flying and first strike, the stronger knight decks can render blocking completely irrelevant. These are by far the least-fun games MOM has to offer (at least for the opposing player), but they seem to be the exception rather than the norm.

Outside of those high-roll scenarios, the white/blue deck must sometimes play a more patient game. Your first strike and tapping effects are even better for maintaining board-stalls than for breaking through them, and convoke spells let you leverage your knights without risking them in combat. Eventually you’ll build enough resources to mount a single overwhelming charge.

Of course, your choice of rares always impacts how things play out. Here I can just stall forever and mill with Realmbreaker


If white/blue is sneakily a control archetype, then blue/black is one unabashedly. By milling both players, its spells create a stockpile of resources while also removing the hardest part about playing hard control — finding an actual win condition. So long as you save your last mill effect to empty both libraries on your own turn, you can essentially guarantee a kill (there is almost no way to force your opponent to draw in this format).

If you need a little card advantage, try 2-for-1 creatures like Nezumi Informant and Skittering Surveyor. Maximize their value with sacrifice costs like Final Flourish and Corrupted Conviction, or recursion like Unseal the Necropolis and Nezumi Freewheeler. 

The other major engine I’ve been impressed by is Corruption of Towashi. Blue/black has probably the best set of “incidental” incubate effects in Merciless Repurposing, Traumatic Revelation, Eyes of Gitaxias and Assimilate Essence, so you can get a lot of easy transform triggers without taking away from the main plan.


This is an amazing set to be a fan of sacrifice-based aggro decks (a.k.a. “Aristocrats”). Not only do we have the traditional red/black sacrifice theme coming up, but this ruthless white/black Phyrexian tribal deck does more than a little dabbling in those waters. 

You can run a lot more one-drops than usual in Draft, knowing they will offer later value either on their own, or by fueling cards like Compleated Huntmaster, Corrupted Conviction, Final Flourish or Invasion of New Capenna. The hyper efficient Kor Halberd can also amplify the impact of each individual creature – especially stacking multiple at a time.

If your opponent is able to stabilize with bigger blockers you can’t remove, the Frazzle-Cannon from said Invasion (along with other tribal effects like Sculpted Perfection) will help get you over the top. But given the sheer amount of removal WB has to offer, you shouldn’t need to rely on them too often.


In terms of power level, I’m not really sure this deck can measure up to the solid tribal synergies offered by the white/black deck. Wizards of the Coast has moved the only “steal your creature” effect up to uncommon, so you can’t expect to win too many games by feeding opposing creatures into your sac engines. There’s also some unfortunate anti-synergy between the gameplan of “sac your small creatures” and the other things red does well this set — battles and convoke.

Instead, you’ll want to lean on traditionally strong aggro creatures and red’s extremely potent burn to force trades and keep the board as empty as possible. That way forced sac effects like Pyretic Prankster and Invasion of Azgol will be harder for opponents to play around. 

Small boards also favor your various menace and first strike creatures, letting them swing in without fear of multi-blocks and chip away all your opponent’s life. Trade aggressively to keep them from stabilizing as long as you can, and then hope you can deal any remaining damage with Onnake Javelineer or Stoke the Flames.


Let me immediately say the “control” label here is very loose; every archetype this set outside of blue/black and black/red are relatively flexible in how fast they can play, and blue/red might be the most flexible of all.

You can have unbelievably fast games thanks to the overwhelming power of on-curve Khenra Spellspear and the snowballing effect from clearing cheap battles. Or you can drag games out for an age, holding up triple the effective mana of your opponent thanks to an army of tokens and convoking out Meeting of the Minds over and over.

Going fast is probably more difficult to pull off since you rely on some of the most hotly contested cards in the set — the Khenra, Volcanic Spite and Stoke the Flames. But even without those, you can still flip a lot of battles with the excellent War-Trained Slasher — or simply outflank your opponent with extra bodies from Preening Champion, Xerex Strobe-Knight and Joyful Stormscupltor.

Red/white: BACKUP (AGGRO)

As I hinted at earlier, this might be the weakest of all archetypes this set — although the better critique is “least consistent.” Draws with Mirror-Shield Hoplite and an ascending curve of backup creatures will absolutely ruin someone’s day. And even drawn in the late game, the doubled-up value and strong keywords can spark a comeback.

I love backup as a mechanic, and there are some really cool sequencing opportunities with these cards that go beyond the obvious lines of your average aggro archetype. However, the sheer amount of nasty removal floating around in this set does make it less likely that you will get to make the most of your buffed-up, backed-up creatures.

Playing some three-color balance with green is most likely the best way to make this into a winning archetype. As we’re about to see, there are a huge number of beneficial interactions between those three colors; even enough to justify the significant risks of color screw.

Green/white: +1/+1 COUNTERS (AGGRO)