The story reveal and previews for March of the Machine are just around the corner, so you know what that means: time for me to make some predictions that we’ll very quickly get to see how wrong I am about!
Elspeth’s Angelic Fate
There’s a lot of lore out there about Elspeth’s connections to Magic’s angels; just look at her original appearance on Bant and how closely she resembles the angels there. She hails from New Capenna and was captured and experimented on by Phyrexians after an attack there. The torture ignited her spark, but oddly she never succumbed to the Phyrexian influence before that point. There is some speculation that the reason she was the subject of the experiments in the first place is that she is half-angelic; something previously thought impossible in Magic.
Angels in Magic are artificially created beings; not like artifact creatures, exactly, but magically conjured by Planeswalkers and other powerful beings (look at Avacyn and the Innistrad angels for a good example) and are thought normally incapable of holding a spark. As we saw on New Capenna with Giada, Angels there work a little differently than we’re used to; and this difference may be what allows Elspeth to play a large part in the story of March of the Machine. We know she survives her trip to the blind eternities with the Filigree Sylex in one fashion or another, and that she has a choice to make. I think that choice will result in her Angelic nature emerging, allowing her to somehow be the key to the defeat of the Phyrexian forces. We know that Halo, the substance the New Capennan crime bosses used to fight back the Phyrexians before, is angelic in composition, and if Elspeth is indeed a New Capennan angel…well, there’s something there.
The Eldrazi Absence
Despite a lot of speculation in the community, I think the Eldrazi are going to sit this fight out. Some of the thinking was that Elspeth taking the Filigree Sylex to the Blind Eternities (which, remember, is where the Eldrazi originally come from) would somehow blast open some sort of portal; some simply thought that Emrakul would be woken somehow from her slumber within Innistrad’s silvery moon.
It’s a fun thought, the Eldrazi titans and swarms versus the overwhelming hordes of the Phyrexian machine…but I simply don’t think there’s room. Not story-wise, but simply logistically speaking. There’s already a lot that we know is going to be in the set (battles, the team-up legendary creatures, etc.), and I just don’t think that the Eldrazi could mechanically fit into everything else going on without feeling like a disappointment. Given the sheer number of planes, characters, and story elements we already know are involved, unless we’re returning to the 449-different-card sets of Fifth Edition era (for comparison, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is the largest single set in well over a decade at 302 cards), there’s just not enough cards to devote to the Eldrazi.
Besides, the Phyrexians are a big enough deal on their own – and having the Eldrazi come back just for the two forces to annihilate each would make or a cool one-shot climax, but might end up feeling like a waste of a good villain in the end. Given all that, I suppose I could see just Emrakul making an appearance, but that would probably mean something that segues nicely into my next prediction.
A Setting Sun on Some Settings
So. The invasion of the multiverse. Given storytelling conventions, and that Wizards wants to, you know, keep making the game, we can be certain this acts as more of the end of a chapter as opposed to the end of the story. I doubt we’re in for a full reset of the Magic story after Aftermath. So, the multiverse survives, battered and bruised, but not fully broken under the hell of the Phyrexians.
But that doesn’t mean that everywhere survives. While I’m certain there will be some last-minute heroics to save the day in one way or another, it might come past the last minute for some planes. We’ve been told over and over again that the culmination of this storyline will shake up Magic, and what better way than to blow some stuff up.
So which planes do I think will get the chop? Not counting Dominaria, as it was the main setting of Magic for years in the beginning, there are three planes that we’ve returned to on multiple occasions: Innistrad, Zendikar, and Ravnica. Let’s look at them one by one.
Innistrad has gone through a lot – from the original Helvault saga, to the Eldrazi encroachment, to…a wedding, much has gone down on the horror plane…but I’m not sure how much is left in the well of the flavor-forward haunted house of a world. Horror as a genre and a source of tropes usually does well when mixed with other genres and settings, meaning that losing this beloved plane doesn’t need to take the darkness out of future sets; if anything, it can give the horror more of a punch, as we might not always see it coming from somewhere else.
Zendikar is best known for being the main battleground against the Eldrazi, and we’ve only ever seen it as a plane in great turmoil. While it might be interesting to see what else can be done with the plane now that it’s finally beginning to become a little less fraught, there’s one major thing that’s going against its survival: Both of the plane’s main remaining protectors have been completed, and with the combined forces of Nissa and Nahiri looking to bring the plane into the machine fold, I don’t like its chances. The only sliver of hope I might see on that front is that perhaps the two corrupted planeswalkers have more pressing issues – Nissa with Chandra, and Nahiri perhaps wanting to finish her revenge against Sorin (although that’s another point against Innistrad).
Similarly for Ravnica, both Jace and Vraska have been turned, which does not bode well for that plane. Especially given the contentious nature of the guilds, there’s a good chance that while together they would be able to put up a real fight against the Phyrexians, they will fracture, split apart, and fall to infighting. Basically, if Niv-Mizzet Reborn, the new living Guildpact falls, I put Ravnica’s chances at slim to none. Fblthp will be fine though. Or at least he better be.
But even though most places will be worse for wear with the invasion, there is one long-lost location I think will be making a triumphant comeback.
This is barely a prediction, as most of this is directly taken from the Phyrexia: All Will Be One story, but yeah, Zhalfir is back. Kinda. Quick recap: way back in the original Phyrexian invasion, Teferi phased Zhalfir out to protect his homeland. Unfortunately, he did a little too good of a job, and Zhalfir has remained phased out ever since. Fast forward to All Will Be One, and when Teferi’s time traveling with the Temporal Anchor went sideways, he found himself in Zhalfir. From the Zhalfirians perspective only ten years has passed since their phasing, and they had spent that time preparing for the original Phyrexian invasion. The Wanderer showed up suddenly, meaning that since she could planeswalk there, Zhalfir effectively functions as a pocket plane (a small, artificially created plane the pre-Mending planeswalkers could create).
So, the stage is set, and I am all prepared for Zhalfir to become Magic’s Rohan, riding over the hill to turn the tide of the battle just as all hope seems to be lost. They might not stop the Phyrexians throghout the multiverse, as that’s a bit of a tall order (and as I predicted above, Elspeth’s job), but Zhalfir will be responsible for ridding Dominaria of the Phyrexians, and bringing back a bunch of old-school legendary characters at the same time.
And finally, no prediction article for a set like this would be complete without predicting which characters are going to make it out alive. I’m going to limit myself to planeswalkers here, and only the ones that occur to me – this set covers the entire multiverse, so if I had to go down the list of every living character, I think we’d run out of server space.
First, the folks who aren’t going to make it. Nissa will be taken down by Chandra in a scene that will forever alter the fiery pyromancer. Ajani will return to his right mind just before succumbing to his wounds, and get a sad goodbye with Elspeth, Jace will somehow be uncompleated, but will do down alongside Vraska as the two fight to their mutual death on Ravnica. Lukka doesn’t deserve much detail here, but he ain’t getting another card after this. Teferi will bring Zhalfir back, bringing his story full circle, but the effort will be too much, and he’ll fade out watching the people of his home sweep the Phyrexians off the plane.
Tamiyo and Nahiri will survive, although I’m undecided if they somehow get uncompleated and remain forever haunted by their time under the Phyrexian influence, or if they flee the war still Phyrexianized to become recurring villains on their own.
As for Elspeth…I think what I want, what I’m hoping for her, is that whatever she does that unleashes her angelic power and defeats the Phyrexians also burns up her spark. I hope she wakes up on Bant, no longer a Planeswalker, no longer haunted by her past, and we get a new printing of Swords to Plowshares in some Aftermath product that shows her living out her days in a quiet, happy life on her adopted home.
We know that March of the Machine and Aftermath are going to have plenty of tragedy to go around. I think this is the one small, happy ending I want to see the most.
For the full rundown on what we know about March of the Machine, you can check out our Early Look article. And be sure to come back on March 24th, when presale begins!
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.