March of the Machine: The Aftermath previews are officially out, and despite the smaller size of the set, there’s a lot here to consider for this Standard legal set. Some decks are going to get new toys, old decks may be revitalized and brand-new archetypes may arise!
With all that in mind, we’re going to look at some of the new cards that caught my eye and figure out how they may fit into this new Standard landscape quickly approaching.
This card slots directly into Mono-White builds, allowing the decks to be more proactive against cards like Invoke Despair and the burn half of Mono-Red decks than cards like Surge of Salvation. Given Surge is a card I have had a good amount of success with already, more options along those lines are never a terrible thing.
Giving yourself hexproof is often useful in a ton of small ways you wouldn’t expect, from making opponents’ discard blank, turning off sideboard cards like The Stone Brain and even stopping opposing Lorans from drawing cards. Creatures like Reformer are a pain to play around from the opposing side of the board.
That does make it a removal magnet, but even then, it can often buy you just enough time to put your opponent on the back foot.
The Kenriths’ Royal Funeral and Gold-Forged Thopteryx
These two cards feel tailor made to slot right into the currently waning Esper Legends deck. A heavily creature-based synergy deck (some builds used to run no creatures, some used to save a couple slots in the main deck for removal), these two cards do a lot to bolster the various builds.
The Kenriths’ Royal Funeral lets you reload your hand and buy time with lifegain after a board wipe or two (or just a lot of targeted removal or counterspells, and makes rebuilding your board state afterwards much cheaper. Casting an Ao for three mana sounds pretty bonkers to me, anyway.
The Thopteryx feels more like a sideboard card to me, but it also feels tailor-made for this specific deck’s sideboards.
Jirina, Dauntless General and Coppercoat Vanguard
Turns out, for all its fantasy trappings, humans are one of the most prolific creature types in Magic. Jirina and Coppercoat Vanguard open the door for a pretty streamlined human-themed creature deck in Standard.
Even just limiting the parameters to black and white, there will be more than 130 humans in those colors in Standard once these hit the format. There’s known heavy hitters like Thalia, Adeline, Intrepid Adversary, Loran, Tenacious Underdog, The Raven Man and plenty more.
Add in the premium removal and sideboard options in these colors and there’s a case to be made for a pretty scary aggro deck in the making.
If you really want to branch into a third color, I’d maybe take a look at green and the new Sigarda, Font of Blessings. Giving your army hexproof and letting you cast more creatures off the top of your library might make the splash totally worth the trickier mana base.
Sarkhan, Soul Aflame/Kolaghan Warmonger
While I’m not sure there’s a tier 1 deck here or anything, these two newcomers (combined with at least some of the legendary dragons from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty) are going to form the core of a pretty nasty deck.
Add Invasion of Tarkir for some very on theme interaction that can really accelerate an already scary clock once it flips, and there’s certainly enough here to get a stew going. The biggest question is how many and which colors to make the deck, as cards like Zurgo and Ojutai or Rith, Liberated Primeval are both offer interesting directions to take the deck.
There’s a few more cards I want to call out, although I don’t have a solid home for them at the moment. These cards just jump out to me as likely to see some kind of play in the new Standard — mostly just because they seem too useful to miss out.
These cuties are mostly here because they can fill the same grave-hate role as Graveyard Trespasser, which already sees a decent amount of play (and will be rotating out of Standard well before these do). They lack ward, don’t gain you life and they don’t have the ability to transform and become more efficient graveyard eaters… but I think they more than make up for it by growing over time and possibly gaining a slew of keyword abilities along the way.
They also get a +1/+1 counter even if the card they eat isn’t a creature. So, even if they aren’t gaining those abilities they are becoming a bigger threat, I’d fully expect to see this card slot right in as a replacement for the Trespassers. It may not happen in full, at first. But if they prove potent enough, they make for a pretty handy upgrade.
Speaking of grave hate, green gets a versatile new option with Tranquil Frillback. I don’t particularly think this is a fantastic creature, but the ability to do multiple things on a single card can’t be discounted.
This fights Fable/Bankbuster decks, Reanimator/graveyard value decks and hyper-aggro decks like mono-Red all at once. This probably doesn’t become a mainstay of the format or anything, but I can see it being a handy sideboard option along the lines of Outland Liberator.
Spark Rupture and Blot Out
I’m so sorry Superfriends players, but there’s another Elderspell in Standard now.
Blot Out will be a particularly tempting option if Kaya, Intangible Slayer finds a home in any truly competitive deck, while Spark Rupture will ascend fully as a killer sideboard option against any deck that runs and relies on multiple planeswalkers.
Mono-White Control is an especially good fit, as it has more than enough tools to clean up the creatures that the planeswalkers become.
March of the Machine: The Aftermath is definitely an oddity of a set, and I’m curious to see how it plays out in the real world. That said, there’s plenty in there for brewing across a ton of different formats, and Standard is no exception.
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.