March of the Machine Growing Threat Precon Upgrade Guide

March of the Machine: Growing Threat Precon Upgrade Guide

Tom AndersonCommander

Growing Threat is an Orzhov, Phyrexian-focused Commander precon that players can upgrade to be even more fearsome than it already is. In the process of guiding those budget friendly tweaks, Tom takes a look at the new cards and deck overall. 

Have I ever mentioned how I love white-black decks? I got into Magic through Ravnica’s Orzhov guild, and ever since then, the grindy, battlefield-focused playstyle of those colors has held endless appeal for me. 

WBx creature decks are especially unique, since you’re usually not working with an army that’s as fast, powerful or evasive as other colors. Instead, these decks win through a lot of creature-focused resource exchanges: sacrificing weaker and cheaper bodies either for value or in combat trades to achieve greater ends.

It’s a ruthless approach to battle which aligns very well with the philosophy of Phyrexia, so I’m not surprised to see those metal monsters take over the Growing Threat Commander precon for March of the Machine. Someone’s got to do the dirty work of conquering an infinite multiverse, and our newest WB commander option is just the right cat for the job.


This deck offers a bittersweet moment for fans of the majestic King of Oreskos, as he finally reappears on a new card… but as a Phyrexian catspaw with little relation to his original design. This Brimaz doesn’t need to personally go to combat to help you go wide, instead gestating a guaranteed second wave of monsters to crash in behind your initial Phyrexian assault.

There’s also the expected nod to creature-sacrifice shenanigans we expect from a white/black deck. Bleeding your own forces a little on each player’s turn will very quickly add up to a lot of counters on your Incubators — or on anything else, be that +1/+1 counters on your own creatures, -1/-1 counters on opposing ones, loyalty counters on your planeswalkers or even poison counters on your opponents.

In terms of playstyle, Bad Brimaz is one of the most open-ended and versatile precon commanders we’ve seen recently. Other than including Phyrexian and artifact creatures, it’s not immediately obvious how to build around him. But he does offer one more important tool to this color combo: his Incubator tokens provide a fairly reliable, instant-speed mana sink!

Whenever your aggro deck can hold up mana on crucial turns to threaten interaction or scout your opponent’s plays, yet still have the chance to develop your board before you untap, it’s a massive upside. Having this ability doesn’t just change how you play, it changes how you should build. I would definitely be valuing other instant-speed effects more highly in this deck, making it even easier to hold up mana for opposing turns.


A highlight of every new precon release is the accompanying slew of made-for-Commander cards, and for veteran players these fresh printings are often the deciding factor in which decks to buy. Here’s my assessment of the ones you’ll find in Growing Threat:

Damn, Moira didn’t get a lot of time to enjoy her natural unlife, did she? Here she is all compleat alongside fellow Dominarian reanimator, Teshar. Their power combined lets you temporarily reanimate stuff (like Moira) when you cast Historic spells (like Teshar). Flavor win!

Anyway, this is the most broken thing I’ve seen in my whole life. Cast a 0-mana artifact, reanimate ANYTHING? Having the things go away at the end of turn is laughable; you’ll be winning the game before that ever comes up. 

If you can cast your Historic spells at instant speed (not hard) then it’s even harder to stop. Players in high-powered environments will be swapping these two in as Commander in a heartbeat.

The jury’s still out on whether doing compleated versions of beloved cards counts as fanservice, but this is a neat little nod to Grave Titan while playing into Bad Brimaz’s creature-type preference. Self-mill enablers are something Wizards of the Coast has really taken to in precons like this one or the Warhammer 40K Necron deck, and it’s a good thing — especially if you end up swapping in Moira and Teshar.

Next in the compleated/ruined favorites list, we have Sword of the Animist… now with legs! The equip cost to move it off the Germ is a little too high to see it replacing that beloved staple, but most non-green decks wouldn’t say no to a B+ version of their best land-ramp card. Remember that the Germ is a Phyrexian, too, and you can “sacrifice” it just by moving the equipment to trigger Brimaz!

This one actually IS a great bit of fanservice. The Splicer megacycle has its own cadre of devoted fans, and this is a lovely haymaker for decks built around crafting the ultimate Golem tokens. Even the art has something special for the fans. We can see that this Splicer’s ultimate project is the nastiest Golem of all.

Some design assignments are easier than others. Magic introduces a new noncreature token type? White gets a new removal spell that replaces the removed thing with one of that token

Three mana to exile any permanent is an acceptable rate for most Commander games. Oh, and of course you can exile your own stuff if you’re desperate to get more Phyrexians. If you exile a token, you get an Incubator with zero counters, which effectively lets you pay two at any time to have a Phyrexian creature die and trigger Brimaz.

Filigree Vector is a pretty potent tool for any artifact-focused deck, although my mind turns first to the charge counter applications since that part of the effect is much more rare. White can get ongoing value both from activating the effect and from flickering the Vector to recur its initial trigger. 

I am a little concerned that this twist on Steel Overseer is twice the mana for identical stats, but it will at least buff itself up relatively quickly.

Attention: sweet art ahead! The rest of this card is unapologetically designed for the casual, Planechase-loving crowd. And while that may not be my demographic, I’m totally fine to see them get a new toy. 

This cleverly repurposes the voting mechanic from Conspiracy, allowing the table to either get away from a dodgy Plane or trigger the chaos effect of a fun one. It might seem odd that this only makes the reanimated creature an artifact and not a Phyrexian, but that’s for lore reasons. 

Tezzeret never actually submitted to Phyrexia, and now that the Praetors have provided him with an indestructible darksteel body, he’s off to become Magic’s next long-term supervillain… say, is that Kaladesh in the background or the City of Brass?

Another potentially very strong reanimation effect on a cute(?) little critter. This obviously plays well with Incubator and Mite tokens as well as all your non-token Phyrexian creatures. It’s also nice that it can reanimate non-creature artifacts, since that effect is far less common at this power level.

The second new card to directly reference Planechase mechanics, this one is actually in all the new precons. Being able to exert more control over the planar dice lets you engage with the special mechanics of that format more often, which sounds like exactly what you want if you’re playing it. 

Sad that it’s not really as playable a mana rock outside of Planechase, but we’ve got plenty of those to go around already.


The March of the Machine is truly multiversal, and Wizards has emphasized that by adding a bunch of new Plane cards for Bad Brimaz and his minions to battle across. I can’t really give an objective evaluation of how good they are, since the main purpose of Planes is “be fun,” but we can take a quick look at them:


Tezzeret’s home shard on the plane of Alara, and the most metal place in the multiverse outside of New Phyrexia itself. Esper passively discounts artifact spells, buffs artifact creatures as its chaos ability and also transforms creatures from its associated colors of mana into artifacts. 

Bad Brimaz triggers incubate off artifact creature spells as well as Phyrexian ones, and we are a creature deck in Esper colors — so this plane will feel like home turf when it comes up.


Interesting that this precon gets the triome of Ikoria that’s Temur-aligned instead of either of the ones associated with white/black. The effects are also kind of neutral, in that they’re good for us but probably better for other players with larger, more monstrous creatures. 

Sure, you can proliferate trample counters with Brimaz, but it takes a lot to make that party trick worth anything.


Another so-so planar effect here. As a creature deck it’s nice to be able to get our army a second lease on life, but we already have a bunch of reanimation effects. 

And if we just wanted to pay mana to quickly rebuild our battlefield, that’s exactly what we have Incubator tokens for. I’d advise steering the battle away from Amonkhet’s great city as soon as possible.


Piotr Dura is a newer Magic artist who seems to really love playing with lighting. To me, this is by far the most brilliant application of that speciality to the game so far, and I would REALLY love to get the art on a playmat! 

As for the plane itself, there’s a little to work with in Orzhov both for enchantment and lifegain synergies, although neither are naturally prominent in this precon. The chaos ability is the most interesting, as it stands to net you a lot more mana than you can usually access in these colors.

The Pit
The Pit

An interesting hint at a canonical crossover between Magic’s multiverse and that of Dungeons & Dragons, the Abyss is the home plane of Chaotic Evil and of demons, which is well represented here. 

This plane is the other new one to really suit our actual deck list. We’re quite happy to feed creatures to either sacrifice effect, and a 6/6 “flample” is an excellent bonus prize when you’re threatening a combat win-con.


So, now that we know what we’re working with as a baseline for the Growing Threat precon, how do we upgrade it? Assuming you want to keep Bad Brimaz as the commander and run his natural Phyrexian aggro gameplan, we can also probably keep the majority of the deck intact — which is great if you’re looking for a quick and cheap tune-up before you play. 

In that case, our first step is to identify how many easy cuts we can make; cards from the precon that are either significantly underpowered or seem intended for a different style of deck. I’m also ignoring the mana base for this exercise, since the process of upgrading that is more or less the same for every deck and more a question of “how much do you want to spend on untapped multicolor lands.” At first glance, our cuttables are:

  • Bloodline Pretender
  • Compleated Huntmaster
  • Cataclysmic Gearhulk
  • Fractured Powerstone
  • Orzhov Locket
  • Ichor Elixir
  • Scytheclaw
  • Phrexian Scriptures
  • Path of the Schemer

I’m assuming we’re not tuning the deck for Planechase games. If you are, then feel free not to trim the format-specific cards. Otherwise, our cuts are mostly just for being too slow or incremental for our needs. 

Cataclysmic Gearhulk and Phyrexian Scriptures feel surprisingly ill-suited for this decklist. I’m a fan of board wipes in creature decks, but why would we choose Gearhulk when we have a bunch of noncreature Incubator tokens it will hit? Same for Scriptures when a lot of our creatures (commander included) aren’t actually artifacts. 

Needless to say, we can do better. Straight up Wrath of God is already an upgrade, but we can also play around with Harsh Mercy (to spare our Phyrexians), Organic Extinction (to spare our artifact creatures), Hour of Reckoning (to spare our tokens) or Austere Command (so we can decide what to spare in the moment). We might as well leave our own army some kind of backdoor out of these sweepers with this kind of game plan.

The creature and utility effect upgrades depend on how much cash you have to spend, and on which specific sub-themes you want to pursue with your deck. One path would be to lean heavier into artifact synergies, as the precon is already doing a little through Nettlecyst

Brimaz gets you a bonus artifact token per artifact creature you cast, and the nice part is that for artifact synergies it doesn’t matter whether you’ve invested the mana to transform the Incubators.

All That Glitters, Cranial Plating, Salvage Slasher, Nim Devourer, Digsite Engineer, Urza’s Saga, Karn, Scion of Urza, Runaway Trashbot, Bronze Guardian, Monumental Corruption, Darksteel Juggernaut, Armix, Filigree Thrasher, Shambling Suit, Battle at the Bridge, Herald of Anguish, Inspiring Statuary, Sly Requisitioner… all of these cards scale in a way that favors the Commander environment.

The graveyard is the other path the precon seems to be leaning towards. You could easily throw in some more staple reanimation effects to take advantage of all the massive artifact creatures we’re trying to play. Reanimate, Stitch Together, Strands of Night, Dread Return, Unburial Rites, Animate Dead, Moira, Urborg Haunt, Altar of Bhaal and Priest of Fell Rites are some of my go-to options.

Regardless of whether you’re boosting the reanimator package for these huge creatures, it would be nice to actually cast them reliably. That’s how we get the most value out of Brimaz, after all. Orzhov doesn’t have the best ramp in the color pie, but you can still find ways to generate mana which synergize with our themes. 

Priest of Yawgmoth is a standout — a Phyrexian creature itself that lets you effectively refund the casting cost of one giant artifact creature (even if you actually reanimated it) and use it to cast your next one, over and over again. Otherwise we have cards like Soldevi Adnate, Ruthless Technomancer, Blinkmoth Urn, Carnival of Souls, Pitiless Plunderer, Black Market, Semblance Anvil, Foundry Inspector, Urza’s Incubator, and Wand of the Worldsoul

Anything that generates Powerstone tokens is also at its best here — helping our artifact synergies and paying for not only our huge artifact creature spells, but also the transformation cost of our Incubators!


The Growing Threat precon may not be the most powerful Commander product Wizards has ever come out with, but it has a strong theme — and the mechanics of Brimaz/Incubate leaves a ton of room for exploration and expression. 

I’m also specifically glad we’ve gotten a Phyrexian precon that isn’t heavily focused on Infect. Poison is just not what most people like to see in their casual Commander games, and it made the players who like Phyrexian lore and aesthetics feel unfairly singled out by association. Now, the “fair Phyrexian players” can just pick up Bad Brimaz to build their decks in a less controversial direction.

There’s a ton of work that can be done to tune up the deck in different specific ways, to the point I just don’t have the room to cover them all here. Full Phyrexians-matter support, aristocrats, classic go-wide token aggro, artifact creature synergies like Tempered Steel, +1/+1 counter manipulation, Superfriends, charge counters… 

Like I said at the start, this is an incredibly open-ended decklist. So, take up the gauntlet Bad Brimaz throws down, pick your favorite line of synergy to expand on and get ready for the Growing Threat of Phyrexia!