March of the Machine: Standard Highlights

March of the Machine: Standard Highlights

Tom AndersonStandard

This set is the culmination of at least four years of storytelling, design, marketing and innovation. And like the multiverse itself, it’s clear Standard will not escape unscathed. There are tons of high-powered cards to highlight in March of the Machine that could supercharge archetypes both current and dormant, leading this Standard season to a suitably epic finale.

Everything since War of the Spark factors into this set, at least — but some of the roots and worldbuilding can be traced back to 2011… or 2003… or 1994. All of that is coming to an end, as part of Magic’s most cinematic, planes-shaking set ever. 

However, MOM is poised to massively impact every aspect of Magic with a new beginning, too. This set adds a new card type in Battles, rewriting the ground rules of Magic’s multiverse (all while injecting another huge wave of splashy, powerful and familiar legendary creatures into Commander). But without any further delay, let’s look at some Standard contenders.


More than any single card, the juiciest spoiler by far for this set has been a new card type. Battles seem to be designed on similar principles to the original Planeswalkers — mid-game “objectives” that add a strong sense of narrative to gameplay while also giving deck builders another reason to prioritize creature combat and board control.

We’ve already seen the impact of the latter principle on eternal formats, with Legacy decks of all stripes working in more creature cards to contest the Initiative mechanic. Most Standard decks already run a decent creature count, but the desire to protect opposing Battles (or should I say Sieges) will potentially raise the average — and that’s before you consider how many decks might want to run Battles of their own.

Refraction Elemental
Refraction Elemental

Given how unforgiving the tempo of Constructed can be, my first recommendations will be those battles that front load their value with strong ETB effects — with an extra nod if it seems plausible to defeat it and get the backside. 

Invasion of Karsus will mop up opposing chump blockers and half-used planeswalkers (like a post-removal Wandering Emperor). That’s already an effect a red deck might want in the 75, and it makes it easier to snowball your battlefield control into the powerful threat on its back side.

The Broken Sky
The Broken Sky

Invasion of Tolvada has a ton of excellent targets in current WB midrange lists that synergize with its token-centric backside. Of course, you can just use it to reanimate Atraxa, Sheoldred or The Kami War. Its ability to hit noncreature permanents might also help out deck builders who needed a bit of redundancy to really build around Invoke Justice.

Guildpact Paragon
Guildpact Paragon

Invasion of Ravnica is a pricey option to remove things your colors couldn’t otherwise, but the chain-drawing back side (accessible thanks to its relatively low defense) should be more than enough upside to justify it. Invasion of Amonkhet is powerful on both its sides, with the payoff for defeating it most likely being an Atraxa, Grand Unifier ETB.

Lazotep Convert
Lazotep Convert

There are also a few Battles that are strong outside of the ETB-centric mold. Invasion of Kaldheim and Invasion of Shandalar combine an initial late-game reload with a powerful win condition — IF you can defeat those Battles consistently. 

How reliably your deck can do that is absolutely a key factor when evaluating these cards. To justify their inclusion, you really want your color or archetype to already be good at maintaining board control or forcing through burst damage.

Leyline Surge
Leyline Surge

Red is the obvious frontrunner here, as direct damage spells and haste creatures will let you consistently defeat battles through opposing sweepers and spot removal. Green also has decent tools to actually defeat battles, although we haven’t yet had a prominent mono-green aggro deck this season.

If one fails to arise, I would pick Black as the candidate most likely to adopt Battles as main deck staples. Invasion of Fiora and Invasion of Innistrad aren’t exactly the cheapest options for removal, but they fill important roles (Plague Wind and Sheoldred-killing respectively) and have a ton of upside. 

Marchesa, Resolute Monarch
Marchesa, Resolute Monarch

Plus, black Midrange decks have the right combination of grindy gameplay and beefy creatures to make fighting over and defeating Battles seem realistic. There’s also specific tech like Render Inert or Ayara, Widow of the Realm if you really want to go deep on flipping battles as a game plan.


There’s a lot of flashy cards competing for attention right now, and understandably the Praetors and battles have been the biggest focal points. But the Standard playables in MOM run way deeper than just that: 

These cards should easily find their way into white aggro decks and possibly white Midrange. Averaging one trigger per cast is going to be good enough for the Duelist; Generous Visitor, Siege Veteran and Wandering Emperor give it great enablers in all current, white archetypes. 

The GW enchantment list has shown the power of Disturbing Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr to generate a huge Flying/Lifelink attack out of nowhere, and the Valkyrie offers a similar level of instant impact without nearly as many hoops to jump through.

I’m a massive fan of Convoke in general, as it allows creature decks a flexibility in tempo you normally don’t see in formats without free spells. Fitting four-mana removal into your curve is normally awkward, but paying for Pile On partially (or entirely) by tapping creatures and tokens makes it incredibly flexible in the right builds. Maybe this can help revive mono-black Zombies or get a white/black tokens deck over the hump?

The other kind of convoke card that always works out is the kind that lets you tap a bunch of tokens for a strong body, ensuring your go-wide deck can also go “tall.” Zephyr Singer gives your army an instant power bump reminiscent of Venerated Loxodon. The others still tip the board state in your favor while also reloading you for a possible second wave.

Nothing revolutionary to say about these enemy-color hosers, but past experience shows they’ll all see heavy play for as long as they’re in Standard. With so many multi-color decks running around, they’ll cover a lot of matchups, and in some cases offer tools you can’t really get anywhere else. 

The Moloch seems weakest to me (if only because card advantage has become so cheap), but being able to flash it in and pick off an unguarded Planeswalker might give it enough utility.

There’s an overwhelming number of splashy bombs in this set from both sides of the war, but this Eldraine duo seems to have the most legs (metaphorically. In the literal sense, Caetus is a clear winner). Perhaps it’s just easy to predict success when the original Rankle was so similar, and red/black is at the top of the metagame. 

But the heavy presence of Planeswalkers and (presumably) Battles makes their mix of evasion and power even better. Plus, they still get triggers when hitting a Battle and seem to be in the two best Battle colors to start with. There’s a lot going right across the whole card.

Polukranos is another top contender among the new legendary creatures. As mentioned earlier, we’ve been in a dry spell for mono-green since its dominance in the last Standard season. But there’s definitely a lot of good tools in MOM to help it re-establish its prominence, and this big monster slots right in among the rest.

Considering how much mileage current builds of mono-red get from Phoenix Chick without ever really recurring it, adding this larger flier with a more reliable recursion clause can only be good for the deck. Bloodfeather Phoenix costing two mana might help bump the deck up to a slightly higher curve, but Squee, Dubious Monarch and Thundering Raiju were doing that already.


If that feels like only a fraction of the cards you were getting excited for, I apologize. The Phyrexian invasion front may stretch to infinity across the multiverse, but my word count cannot. I take small comfort knowing that while I didn’t find space to tell you how great the new Elesh Norn is, you probably had that one figured out for yourselves. 

As for a lot of the other weird and colorful bombs in MOM, I’m more skeptical. There’s only so many huge, luxury threats you can build around, even if you’re planning to cheat them in. The number is a lot smaller than what’s presented here. 

It’s slightly concerning how many of them seem to be designed as value generators, given that Atraxa, Grand Unifier is essentially untouchable in that role and will likely be their fiercest competition for deck slots. I fear that in this theater of war, Phyrexia may ultimately triumph.

More positively, Convoke and go-wide decks generally seem to be in a good place now. Even accounting for my own bias, these decks will inherently line up well against the current Midrange decks with their slew of all-purpose spot removal. 

What’s harder to predict is whether any of the potential Combo/Reanimator style decks will rise to consistently challenge the dominant Midrange and Aggro piles. I’m looking forward to seeing things shake out and establish the new pecking order in the wake of this interplanar show of force. Whoever wins, we… also win, I guess. Hooray!