Welcome to March of the Machine Madness, where we’re taking the next week to ask you which Magic characters would win in a fight. Considering March of the Machine is taking us all over the multiverse, pitting characters against each other in mortal combat, we thought the timing was perfect.
However, we would never just pit two characters against each other, head-to-head, and ask you to pick based on personal preference. No, we’re sure you’ll be using the most strict, canon-driven reasoning when you vote on our Twitter.
But just in case you’re not up-to-date on Magic’s lore, we decided to do a power ranking that breaks down each contender’s strengths, weaknesses and feats. We’ll also mention their cards, too, since it’s hard to separate story from gameplay sometimes.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at who is competing on behalf of Elesh Norn’s unified future!
No. 8: Lukka
Lukka hails from Ikoria, and… look. Lukka has his fans, I’m sure, but there’s a reason he’s the eighth seed here, and that’s because he is one of the most universally disliked characters to come about in the Magic story for a while. He had the ability to bond with and control animals, although he often saw them more as a means to an end rather than as companions.
Convinced by Jace to help against the Phyrexian threat, Lukka journeyed to the plane in the ill-fated Filigree Sylex mission. He quickly proved his competence by bonding with a Phyrexian beast, getting compleated and joining the enemy army.
He was then sent to Ikoria at the start of the invasion, briefly wreaking havoc/destroying the human city of Drannith before Vivien Reid and the apex beast Vadrok killed him. Not the highest marks, to be honest.
Lukka has been represented on three cards in Magic. While his most recent iteration, Lukka, Bound to Ruin, has made some small ripples in Standard, no version of Lukka has really ever caught on as a mainstay of anything other than fringe decks in any format.
No. 7: Tamiyo
Tamiyo was a moonfolk from Kamigawa. She was primarily a scholar and scientist, collecting stories and histories from throughout the multiverse. Her moonfolk heritage granted her the ability of flight and, in addition to telekinetic and telepathic powers, she could temporarily gain other abilities through the scrolls she used to record her research.
Tamiyo had popped up periodically throughout Magic’s story, and had been quite well-liked. But upon Magic returning to her home plane, her tale took a tragic turn.
After discovering a plot that served as a prelude to the New Phyrexia invasion, she helped Kaito and The Wandering Emperor track down Tezzeret and Jin-Gitaxias only for things to go awry. This resulted in her capture and status as the first compleated planeswalker.
She was then sent back to her home plane during the New Phyrexian invasion, but a part of Tamiyo still resisted. After a causing a fair bit of chaos, she purposefully lost her fight against the Wandering Emperor, dying in the process.
Tamiyo appeared on four cards during her time in the Magic story, and all of them saw some level of play in their Standard era. Her first card, Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, was a key part of several control and counter-burn decks of the time, and was arguably the most successful. Subsequent iterations were more role-players in in various control and ramp schemes in several formats.
No 6. Vraska
Vraska is a Ravnican-born gorgon, and became the head of the Golgari guild there for a time. She also had a brief stint as a pirate caption on Ixalan.
A lethal assassin with the ability to turn her foes to stone, she started off as a creature of shadow — slow to trust and largely out for herself. But she grew close with Jace, eventually entering a romantic relationship with him, which lowered her guard. A little.
If you haven’t gathered by now, ongoing redemptions arcs don’t tend to end well for folks on this list. Following Jace and the Gatewatch to New Phyrexia, she was separated and captured by the Phyrexians and forced to fight in an arena. By the time her comrades found her, she was already heavily wounded and infected.
Infecting Jace in turn and becoming fully compleated, she led the Phyrexian invasion of Ravnica, destroying and killing many. With part of her mind partitioned off due to previous adventures with Jace, and ultimately getting the Phyrexian oil in her body neutralized by Ral Zarek and the Izzet, her current fate and whereabouts remain ambiguous.
Vraska has appeared on seven different planeswalker cards, with Vraska the Unseen and Vraska, Golgari Queen being the standouts — both in terms of utility and impact on various formats. Her current iteration, Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting, has a lot of potential, but has yet to find a home in a truly successful Standard deck.
No. 5: Ajani Goldmane
Ajani is a leonin planeswalker from Naya (one of the shards of Alara, which I would think we’re due for some kind of return to soon). In addition to being a very large and muscular cat-like being, his innate planeswalker magic allows him to heal, restore and bolster himself and his allies.
As such, he usually ends up acting as a leader or mentor for those he fights alongside. This has also put him right in the middle of many major conflicts throughout Magic’s timeline. He is one of the most martially adept members of the Gatewatch and certainly not someone any other planeswalkers wanted to tango with.
Sidetracked on a mission to rescue Karn early on in the New Phyrexian evasion storyline, Ajani was secretly compleated and converted into a sleeper agent, eventually killing Jaya Ballard and destroying the original Golgothian Sylex while helping to capture Karn and take him back to New Phyrexia.
He fought against the Gatewatch in their attempt to use the Filigree Sylex, led Phyrexian forces on Theros during March of the Machine, and was eventually defeated in the final battle between Zhalfir and New Phyrexia. He was then restored to his pre-compleated self, though we have yet to see how his time with enemy has affected him.
One of the original planeswalkers in the Lorwyn Five, Ajani has had numerous cards over the years. Dipping into red/white with an early iteration, Ajani Vengeant is where he found his initial niche: an inevitable finisher in a number of slower strategies. Eventually, he alternated between white/green and mono-white cards, finding most success in Standard with aggressive incarnations like Ajani, Caller of the Pride.
No. 4: Nahiri
Nahiri is a Kor lithomancer, meaning she has powers over stone and metals. She has been around for thousands of years and was originally a pre-Mending planeswalker with immense power (though she has since been knocked down a peg). Hailing from Zendikar, she was part of a group of planeswalkers that originally sealed away the Eldrazi titans. Her more recent dealings with other planeswalkers have been rather fraught, to say the least.
She put those differences aside to help fight the Phyrexians, although the Filigree Sylex mission didn’t go so well for her. Injured and infected, she attempted to sacrifice herself and save her allies — but she ended up compleated anyway. Elesh Norn sent her to Zendikar in the invasion, where she was eventually subdued. It’s not super clear what her ultimate fate was, but we’ll apparently find out during March of the Machine: Aftermath.
While Nahiri has appeared on five different Planeswalker cards (finding the most success with Nahiri, the Harbinger), she was widely believed to be depicted on the incredibly powerful Stoneforge Mystic. This assumption was later proven false, although her appearance did end up being directly modeled on that card.
No. 3: Nissa Revane
Nissa is an elven animist from Zendikar. A master archer and swordswoman, her magic allows her to connect deeply with the leylines of any plane, although her power is strongest at home. She is extremely protective of Zendikar, often to the detriment of other planes and goals. This has put her at odds with the Gatewatch, an awkward position given her romantic feelings toward Chandra Nalaar.
Despite a tense relationship with the Gatewatch, she agreed to help in the fight against New Phyrexia. Upon venturing to the plane, she was separated from her allies, caught and completed. She ended up being instrumental in Phyrexia’s plans, though, guiding Realmbreaker to open portals across the universe (this is also why she’s seeded above Nahiri).
She was a formidable foe against her former allies, although she was eventually subdued and cleansed of Phyrexian influence alongside Ajani, much to Chandra’s delight. Time will tell how the ordeal will leave her.
Nissa has appeared on numerous cards, and although it took her a few tries to find her niche, she eventually hit in a big way. Nissa, Vastwood Seer, was one of the more effective “flip-walkers” from Magic Origins, Nissa, Voice of Zendikar was key in go-wide token strategies and Nissa, Who Shakes the World was a format-defining powerhouse that almost single-handedly made green the most powerful color in Standard for a time.
No. 2: Atraxa
Atraxa was a Mirran Angel whose compleation marked the plane fully succumbing to New Phyrexia. Captured while covering a Mirran retreat, four of the five Phyrexian Praetors had a hand in her compleation, leading her to be known as the Grand Unifier among the Phyrexian forces.
As Elesh Norn’s general, she was in charge of rooting out the Mirran Resistance while Elesh and the other Praetors prepared for the multiversal invasion. Once that was underway, she led the invasion of New Capenna in an effort to destroy any remaining reserves of Halo (the Angelic substance that had proven effective against the Phyrexians). She obliterated much of the city in her rampage, and it took dropping the entire neighborhood of Park Heights onto her to defeat and kill her.
Atraxa has appeared on two cards, both of which have had major impacts. Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice is an enduringly powerful and popular commander, holding the top rank on EDHREC for a long time (and is still there at the time of this writing). Meanwhile Atraxa, Grand Unifier has proven extremely effective in ramp and reanimator strategies in several formats, often representing an insurmountable resource advantage the moment she hits the battlefield.
No. 1: Elesh Norn
Elesh Norn, the Grand Praetor, the Mother of Machines, is the leader of New Phyrexia and the Gatewatch’s main foe in the invasion of the multiverse. She appears to be made of porcelain and sinew and presents as impossibly tall and thin.
A fanatical proponent of the idea that all would be united as one under New Phyrexia, Elesh Norn put down dissent from both Sheoldred and Urabrask while bringing Vorinclex and Jin-Gitaxias to her cause, becoming the leader of New Phyrexia. That takes a lot of strength in and of itself.
She also masterminded the grand plan for the invasion of the multiverse, despite being ultimately defeated by the combined resistance of every planes she sought to conquer. Wounded and incapacitated, it was the peaceful golem Karn who finally killed her, taking responsibility for his part in inadvertently helping to create her.
Momm—I mean, Elesh Norn has appeared on two cards (with a third coming in March of the Machine). Her first appearance, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, was a powerful finisher in Standard and a counter against small, go-wide strategies in multiple formats. Her second iteration, Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines, has mostly been seeing play as a silver bullet to turn off certain strategies, although her longevity remains to be seen.
That’s it for the forces of New Phyrexia! And now that you know them all better, you can vote for the first round of battles on our Twitter right now. Don’t forget to read up on our other power rankings and check back throughout the week to make sure your pick makes it all the way to the end!
Chris is the Associate Media Producer at Card Kingdom. He would like to apologize to his son for not holding onto more cards from when he first started playing, as that likely would have paid for college. He enjoys pretty much all formats of Magic, but usually ends up playing decks that make other people dislike playing those formats with him.