Hello friend, and welcome to yet another draft guide. March of the Machine looks like a really complex draft environment, so many players might have a hard time mastering it. Even for me, this March of the Machine Draft Guide was one of the hardest ones to write. However, on the plus side, this only means that we’re likely in for a fabulous draft experience.
If you’ve read our draft guides before (Welcome back!), you know what to expect. On the other hand, if you’re a first timer, here’s a quick overview. First, we’ll take a look at the mechanics and examine how they affect the draft format. Next we’ll take an overview of the best commons for each color. Afterward, we take explore all the different decks in the archetype overview, and rank them. Finally, we wrap things up with some final tips.
As you can see, there’s quite a lot to talk about, so let’s get right to it.
UPDATE: If you’re looking for the newest draft guide, you can find Wilds of Eldraine Draft Guide here.
March of the Machine Draft Mechanics
In the March of the Machine draft, you’ll encounter multiple mechanics, but the five most common are:
- Battles / Sieges (new)
- Backup (new)
- Incubate (new)
- Convoke (returning)
- Transform (returning)
We’ll examine each one in more detail, and include an example, so you’ll be able to quickly grasp how they work.
Battles / Sieges
Battle is a new card type. (Some other card types are: land, creature, instant, sorcery, artifact, enchantment, etc.) Siege is one of the subtypes that a battle can have. All the battles in March of the Machine draft are sieges. This is perhaps the most complex mechanic that we had in recent years, so bear with me, while I try to explain it.
How Does a Siege Work?
Sieges are transforming double faced-cards. You can cast them at any time you could cast a sorcery. The siege comes into play with a number of defense counters, which is noted in the bottom right corner of the card. As siege enters the battlefield, you choose an opponent to protect it, and you typically get an enter-the-battlefield effect.
The opponent can protect it similarly as they would protect a planeswalker. You can attack a siege, and your opponent can block your creatures that are attacking it. If any of your creatures deal damage to a siege, you remove that many counters from it. You can also damage it with damage spells that can target anything, or specifically sieges.
If you manage to remove all defense counters from a siege, you have defeated it, and you get a reward. The reward is a transformed siege, which is typically a creature or an enchantment. In some rare cases, it can be a sorcery, an artifact, or even a planeswalker.
As an example, here’s Invasion of Belenon. You pay three mana, and let’s say it resolves. You get a 2/2 Knight token with vigilance, and you choose your opponent to protect it. (In a draft, this won’t be much of a choice, as you only have one opponent.) Invasion of Belenon comes into play with five defense counters.
If you manage to remove all of them (either by attacking it or with burn spells) it is defeated, and you exile it and return it to the battlefield transformed. On the backside, there’s an enchantment Belenon War Anthem, which buffs your creatures with +1/+1.
Sieges appear in all five colors.
How to Play With Sieges in Draft?
The game play with sieges will be really skill challenging. They’ll add another element, like a mini-game, to a game of Magic. First, you’ll have to decide if is it even worth it to put a battle into your deck. Secondly, during the gameplay, you’ll have to decide whether it is worth it to destroy the battle, or would it be better to just attack the opponent and try to win that way.
The decisions will depend on many things, but I still tried to find at least somewhat general shortcut to help you with your decisions.
When to Include a Siege?
When you’re deciding whether to include a specific siege in your deck, consider how good it would be if you won’t be able to transform it. Because, let’s face it – in some games, you won’t be able to do that. So, if the enter-the-battlefield effect is all you get, how good is the card for its mana cost? If it’s at least playable, then you should include the card in your deck.
Sieges are the major mechanic of the set, so Wizards really want this to succeed. You can be sure that they did a lot of play testing in order to for sieges to play well in Limited. So when you’re deciding whether to include a siege in your deck, and it’s really close, you should probably be more inclined to include it.
When to Attack a Siege?
You put the siege in your deck, you played it and got the enter-the-battlefield effect. Now what, should you attack the siege or your opponent? Of course, if you don’t have beneficial attacks, you’ll attack neither, but let’s say you can make at least a reasonable attack.
You should try to figure out if you’ll be able to realistically win in a turn or two by simply attacking the opponent. If that’s the case, it’s likely better to just ignore the siege and go attack the opponent. However, if that’s not the case, you should instead attack the siege. Even though you missed on some damage this turn, you’ll likely have a more powerful attack next turn, thanks to the transformed siege.
Your decision should also depend on how good the backside of the siege is. If it’s something that won’t be very impactful, you should attack your opponent and vice versa.
Defending a Siege
Blocking also be important, as you’ll often have to make a decision on whether to attack your opponent or leave creatures back and protect the siege. There are cards that punish blocking, such as Bola Slinger and various combat tricks, but you still probably shouldn’t let your opponent transform a siege with a free attack.
If you allow your opponent to do that, they’ll be able to quickly outvalue you. That’s why you’ll have to affect the board quickly. The presence of sieges also makes tempo plays (such as bounce spells) better. Typically, with such spells you can get a good attack in, but you’re losing some value. When you get to transform a siege on a turn when you bounced a creature, you’re actually recouping a lot of that “lost value”.
As you can see, there are plenty of decisions to make regarding sieges. We’ll get a better understanding on how to make those in the upcoming days when we will play more games of this draft format. So make sure to check back in a week or so, when this article gets an update.
Backup is another new mechanic. Thankfully, it’s much less complex than battles, so we won’t need to go as deep.
Backup only appears on creatures, and it always comes with a number. When a creature with backup comes into play, you put that many +1/+1 counters on one of your creatures. So your creature has backup 1, you’ll get to put a single +1/+1 counter on one of your creatures, if it has backup 2 you get two counters, and so on.
That’s pretty straightforward, but there is an additional twist. If you put the counters on another creature, it’ll get the abilities of the creature with backup until the end of turn. Let’s take a look at an example, so it’ll be easier to grasp.
When Chomping Kavu comes into play, you can put a +1/+1 counter on any one of your creatures. If you put it on Kavu itself, then that’s it. However, you can put the counter somewhere else. In that case, that creature also gets the ability “can’t be blocked by creatures with power 2 or less.”
Backup cards appear in all five colors, although blue only gets Saiba Cryptomancer, while the other colors get multiple backup creatures.
This mechanic affects the format in two ways. First, it incentivizes you to have creatures in play. This way you’ll be able to take advantage of the backup ability and the counter will have pseudo haste. Secondly, this works best if you’re actually attacking with your creature, as it’ll lose the abilities after that turn. So, you’re incentivized to attack.
Now we already have two mechanics which want you to affect the board early. It’s looking like you’ll really want a low curve in the March of the Machine draft. If you miss your early plays, your opponent might just roll over you.
Before we move to the next mechanic, let’s mention another thing about backup. It makes creatures with keywords better. For example, if you have a creature with lifelink the added +1/+1 counter will be much more impactful, then on a random creature. Similar is true for abilities like flying, first strike, double strike, and so on.
Some cards can instruct you to incubate X. You do so by creating an incubator token and putting X +1/+1 counters on it. For example, When Converter Beast comes into play, you’ll create an Incubator token with five +1/+1 counters on it, as it has incubate 5.
Incubator token has an activated ability which allows you to pay two mana in order to transform it into a 0/0 Phyrexian, which will keep all the counters it previously had.
So, you’re essentially getting a delayed creature. One overly simplified way of evaluating incubate cards is to add two mana to their mana cost, and presume they came with an already transformed Incubator. Obviously, the cards are a quite a bit better, as you get to decide when to pay the two mana. You don’t have to pay right away, and there are some ways to transform Incubators without paying (example Attentive Skywarden).
Cards with incubate appear in all five colors. You can find more about Incubate rules here.
The incubate mechanic is slower than the previous two, as you aren’t getting the creature immediately. It’ll be interesting to see how the contrast between the speed of these mechanics will play out.
Another not-so-intuitive thing with incubate is that it plays well with instants. Imagine if you have an Incubator token with five counters on it, and you pass the turn with all of your lands untapped. Even if your opponent has two 4/4s in play, they can’t really attack, as you’re threatening to transform your Incubator. When they don’t attack, you can then spend mana on an instant instead, if that’s beneficial for you.
Convoke is a returning mechanic that can appear on cards of any type. When you cast a spell with convoke you can tap any number of untapped creatures you control. For each creature you tap this way, the spell’s cost is reduced by one generic manner or by one mana of the creature’s colors.
You put Cut Short on the stack, and you tap two creatures. Now you only have to pay a single mana for the spell. You can find out more about convoke rules here.
What convoke does to a format is that it makes cheap creatures better, especially if you have many convoke cards in your deck. If you have a way to make multiple creatures with a single card, that’s also a big plus.
Cards with convoke can be found in all colors, but they are mostly centered in blue and red. The blue-red archetype is the one that uses convoke as its signature mechanics, with some additional payoffs – but more about that in the Archetype Breakdown.
As you already saw with the battles and Incubator tokens, transform cards are back. There are other cards that transform with activated abilities, some of them are even at common.
This mechanic affects the format in two ways. First, there are some cards that get better if you control a transformed permanent. (For example, Oculus Whelp.) Most of them are in green and blue, and green-blue is also the archetype that cares about transform cards.
Besides that, the transform cards with activated abilities act like mana sink. If you end up with a lot of them, you might want to include an extra land in your deck.
And with that, we have finished the mechanics overview, and it’s time to take a look at the…
Best Commons for March of the Machine Draft
Commons are the cards that you’ll see the most of in a draft. That’s why it’s important to recognize the best ones. For each color, I’ll rank the best three commons, followed by some honorable mentions – cards that are good, but missed the Top 3.
1. Realmbreaker’s Grasp
We’re starting with yet another Pacifism variant. This one has two major things going for it. First, it’s cheap, as it costs only two mana. Second, it also shuts down the activated abilities, which is often relevant. On top of that, you can also shut down an artifact. While this won’t come up that often, it’s still nice to be able to shut down stuff like Sword of Once and Future.
What often happens with such cards is that they move down in our rankings, as we learn more about the draft format. However, they are rarely mediocre, so we like to start with them highly, as you really can’t go wrong by picking them up, even in multiples.
2. Alabaster Host Sanctifier
Two mana 2/2 lifelinker doesn’t seem like much. Sure, it’s a fine card, but is it really among the best white commons? As it turns out, this kind of card typically overperforms.
When you think about it, that does make a lot of sense. As we talked about, you need to affect the board early, and a cheap 2/2 does that. Even if you trade it soon, you probably gained 2-4 life, which in some games can be enough to swing a race in your favor.
On top of that, there is also the best case scenario. You can augment its stats. In this set that isn’t too hard thanks to the backup mechanic. Once you put even a single counter on this creature, it becomes a 3/3 lifelinker, at which point one it is one of the key creatures on the battlefield. Your opponents won’t be able to race it, and they’ll usually have to deal with it at some point.
As you can see, this card can be really impactful for a low investment of two mana. That’s why it deserves to be picked relatively highly.
3. Sunder the Gateway
Modal cards are always much more powerful than either of the two halves would be on their own. If we simplify the card, we would essentially get two options:
- Two mana 2/2;
- Four mana 2/2 that destroys an enchantment or artifact.
The first option is fine, as it affects the board early, and the second option can be very powerful in certain scenarios. So you have a serviceable two drop, which will sometimes overperform. In an affect-the-board draft environment such as this one, such cards are great.
Attentive Skywarden looks really well positioned, as it will play well with three mechanics in the set. Thanks to flying, it’s a great option for backup, as it wears +1/+1 counters nicely. You’ll often be able to attack Sieges with it, without risking getting combat. And finally, it can save you two mana by transforming Incubator tokens.
Alabaster Host Intercessor is an interesting card. For six mana you get a 3/4 creature that can remove one of the opposing creatures. (At least until it leaves the battlefield.) The card is certainly powerful, but six mana is a lot. Thankfully, it has plainscycling which means that you can replace it for a Plains if necessary. This upgrades the card from one that you’d only play sometimes include into one that’s actually quite good.
Bola Slinger can be backbreaking when you’re having an aggressive start. However, once you’re on the defense, it’s not that exciting.
Kithkin Billyrider is it fine tree drop, especially if you can augment it in any way. Once you do so, it can really pack a punch. (Random fact about the card – my autocorrect changed its name to Kitten Billy Rider – now that would be a card with a fun art.)
Sigiled Sentinel seems quite good. You can play it as a 3/3 vigilance, which is good, or you can use its backup ability to make another creature bigger. In certain scenarios, this allows you to make an attack that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to execute profitably.
1. Preening Champion
At three mana 2/2 flyer is just a bit below of what you want from your tree drop these days. However, this Bird comes with a 1/1 Elemental token. While this might not seem like much, it improves the card significantly.
Sure, a 1/1 doesn’t give you a full card’s worth of value. It’s worth around a half of a card. But you’re also getting a 2/2 flyer, which is just slightly below rate. When you combine both of those into a single card, which is competitively costed, you’re actually getting an absurdly good deal.
On top of that, the card plays well with two major mechanics in the set. It plays well with convoke as it gives you two creatures. Furthermore, it plays well with backup. Put a +1/+1 counter on a 2/2 flyer, and it becomes a significant threat.
As such, Preening Champion will always be a welcome addition to any blue deck, and you’ll happily play it in multiples.
2. Eyes of Gitaxian
This is perhaps my hot take of the format, and I suspect that this one might get downgraded quickly. A 5 mana 3/3 creature, that draws you a card, is a bit below rate. You might play it occasionally, and it wouldn’t be too bad, but you really wouldn’t be excited about it.
However, the fact that you can split your investment into two payments significantly improves the card. You do get your card back, and you eventually get your 3/3 creature too. If you have any additional synergies with Incubator tokens, it obviously becomes even better.
3. Saiba Cryptomancer
This card is weird. Nevertheless, it also seems quite good. In a sense, it’s kind of a combat trick / slash protection spell mashup that leaves behind a 0/1. You won’t just jam this in play on turn two, unless you want to surprise a one-toughness attacker.
In more common scenarios, you’ll use it to counter a removal spell, or win a combat. You’ll still have the 0/1 leftover, which can be used for sacrifices synergies or just for a good ol’ chump block.
Newer players often compare cards like Temporal Cleansing to bounce spells. However, this card is much more powerful. You can get rid of any problematic nonland permanent and even if the four mana seems a bit clunky, that’s offset by the fact that the card has convoke. The only reason this card isn’t higher on the list is that it’s a sorcery, and not an instant.
On the other hand, you also have access to Ephara’s Dispersal, which is an instant speed bounce spell. Surveil 2 is quite close to drawing a card, especially in the late game. On top of that, this also destroys any flipped Incubator tokens, which will often come up.
Meeting of Minds is one of the better draw two cards that we’ve gotten in recent draft environments. Another good common convoke card is Thunderhead Squadron, although it does require you build around it a bit more.
Disturbing Conversion is a nice option, if you’re playing a lot of evasiove creatures, such as flyers.
1. Final Flourish
This is one of the cheapest removal spells in the set. For two mana, at instant speed, you get to cleanly deal with 61 out of 121 common and uncommon creatures in the format. This means that you can get rid of around of half of the creatures without doing any additional work.
You can also use it in combat to get rid of a bigger creature. On top of that you also have the kicker option. The cost isn’t negligible, but the only creature (outside of four rares) that -6/-6 doesn’t kill is Copper Host Crusher.
Given that it looks like you’ll have to affect the board early in March of the Machine draft, this cheap removal spell seems better than the next one, albeit that one is more unconditional. Let’s take a look.
2. Vanquish the Weak
Here’s another great removal spell. It deals with 99 common or uncommon creatures, or 81.2% of all of them. This one does cost a mana more, and you’ll have to be careful about its timing. You don’t want to get blow out by a removal spell.
However, if you time this one correctly, you can really get ahead with it, and you can even get a two-for-one, when you’re the one that’s responding to a removal spell or a backup trigger. Remember that if your opponent plays, let’s say a Chomping Kavu, putting a counter on itself, you can respond to that trigger and kill it before it grows.
3. Ichor Drinker
A single mana 1/1 with lifelink is usually a card that new players like, but is secretly just bad. This one has some relevant text, though, which will make it match the new players’ expectations. You can essentially pay three mana to get a 2/2 from your graveyard. So now, you’re essentially getting two creatures from one card.
This card will work nicely with many mechanics, and it supports a lot of synergies. It’s great in a sacrifice deck, and in a self-mill deck. If you’re playing backup, this card wears +1/+1 counters nicely.
So, for the low investment of a single mana, you’re getting a perfectly playable card, and such cards you can’t have too many of. We mentioned multiple times how it’s important to impact the board early, and this card guarantees you’ll be able to do that.
The fact that Deadly Derision is not in the Top 3 might be another hot take. The reason for this is that the two other black common removal spells are simply less clunky. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a good card, but four mana, two of which has to be black is a real cost in such an assertive format. Neverhtless, getting a Treasure token is a meaningful reward, and perhaps this card will move up in our power rankings.
Etched Familiar has a fine stats for a three drop, and has a built-in four point life swing. Such cards are often better than they look.
Etched Host Doombringer is another card with a similar effect. If you pack your deck full of the two Etched creatures, you might just win by draining your opponent. The other effect of this card is also strong, even if you aren’t playing Sieges, maybe your opponent is, and it’ll also prove useful. In any way, it’s always nice to have a choice.
At its worst, Consuming Aetherborn is a 3/3 lifelinker for four mana. At its best you’ll get to put a +1/+1 counter on one of your bigger creatures, which will enable you a profitable attack, and you’ll get a bunch of life. You’re also still keeping a 2/2 lifelinker in play. The card can swing a race in your favor, and it can get you out of a scenario where not many other cards could.
Bladed Battle-Fan shouldn’t be written off as a bad equipment, it’s actually quite a solid combat trick / protection spell, which leaves something useful behind.
1. Volcanic Spite
This card is so good, that it’s ridiculous. Two mana for three damage at an instant speed to almost anything is great. You would play such a card in basically any draft environment all the time. Typically, this would be one of the best commons in the set.
That’s why it’s fascinating that this card is even better than that. It allows you to exchange one of the cards in your hand for a brand new one. So not only are you getting a premium removal spell, you’re also getting card selection on top of it.
Does this perhaps mean that there aren’t as many creatures with three or less toughness than in a regular set? Let’s find out.
At common and uncommon, you have 121 creatures total. Out of those, 91 have three or less toughness. This means that volcanic spite straight up kills 75.2% of commonly seen creatures in the format. As such, this card will probably not be just the best red common, but the best common overall in the March of the Machine draft format.
2. Ral’s Reinforcements
This card is rated so highly, because it looks like it will be better here, than in many other draft formats. Getting two tokens for two mana is always at least useful, as you can use them in double or triple blocks, or for simple chump blocks.
But in March of the Machine draft, you have both sacrifice and convoke decks that play red. For such decks, getting multiple bodies into play for cheap is amazing. The fact that they are both red and blue is suprisingly relevant, as they can act as color fixers in your red-blue convoke decks.
3. Marauding Dreadship
It’s been a while since we’ve gotten a common vehicle that was actually quite good. It looks like this Dreadship might be here to change this. Essentially, you’re getting two creatures in one card, though neither of those is a real creature immediately.
Whenever a 4/1 can attack profitably, it’s going to be amazing. When it can’t, you can still put it on blocking duty. The fact that you get a creature (albeit a delayed one) alongside it, reduces the downside of vehicles, which is that you might not have creatures to crew it.
Hangar Scrounger can improve your creatures and the quality of cards in your hand. It seems like this will be another solid red three drop.
Shatter the Source can be a bit clunky, but it can still get the job done, and convoke makes it much better.
War-Trained Slasher will be pretty hard to block successfully, especially if it’s backed up by combat tricks.
Pyretic Prankster is an okay two mana play, that can actually be meaningful in the later game.
Wrenn’s Resolve is a nice way to get some card advantage into aggressive decks with low mana curve.
1. Overgrown Pest
In the previous set, we’ve seen Contagious Vorrac be insanely good. Overgrown Pest isn’t quite as broken, but it is very close. While it loses a point of power and toughness, it makes up for it with having a way of drawing you a real card. There are quite some transform cards in the set, so it wouldn’t be a rare occurrence to get one in your top five cards of the deck.
As such, this card will be an important card in many green decks, making sure that you don’t miss your land drops and sometimes even gaining you card advantage.
2. Cosmic Hunger
Fight spells are almost always among the best green commons. How good they are depends on their mana cost, speed, and whether they provide a buff of some sorts.
Cosmic Hunger is an instant and costs only two mana which is a significant plus. It can target a creature, planeswalker, or a battle. All options are useful, although you’ll mostly be using it to kill creatures. It sadly doesn’t provide any boost to your creature, but it’s a punch and not a fight. This means that your creature won’t take damage in the process.
To enable this card, you should have enough creatures in your deck with relatively large power. That shouldn’t be too hard since you are obviously playing green, which excels with big efficient creatures.
3. Wildwood Escort
If this was a five mana 3/3 that would draw you a card, it would be a bit below rate. However, this one will draw you a nonland card, and given you some selection, which dramatically improves the card.
The issue with this card might be that you won’t have anything in your graveyard, but that will rarely happen in a regular game of Magic.
Single mana 1/1s are typically bad, but Placid Rottentail can be useful from your graveyard. You’re essentially getting two mediocre cards in one, but that’s still two cards. I suspect this one will play out better than it looks.
How good of a card will Converter Beast be? It makes one of the biggest incubate tokens in the set, so if incubate is going to be good, so will this four drop. In order to get the most value out of it, you probably need to have a use for the 0/1 that gets left behind. Either with sacrifice synergies or with something like blink.
Portent Tracker is a nice option if you’re looking for ramp. The added benefit that affects battles is nothing groundbreaking, but it’s certainly an upside.
March of the Machine Draft Archetypes
Okay, so we’ve examined all the best commons, and now, we’ll take a look at all the archetypes appearing in the March of the Machine draft. In general, there will be 10 archetypes, one for each 2-color pair.
Not all the archetypes are very focused. Some of them are very narrow, but for the most part, you don’t really need to force a certain theme. Anyway, let’s get right to it, and see how this pans out in practice.
Blue-White: Knight Tribal
We’re starting with an interesting one. This time around, white-blue archetype is centered around Knights and the tribal synergies. It also uses various tempo elements to prevent the opponent from blocking.
However, there really aren’t that many amazing Knight payoffs. So how hard you want to go really depends on how many of the best payoffs you’ve got. With that in mind, let’s explore the payoffs first.
Your best playoff is, without a doubt, Marshal of Zhalfir, which is your typical lord. It becomes really absurd if you manage to get it in multiples. Then you’ll really want to pick up as many Knights as you can.
Another quite good payoff is Zhalfirin Lancer. A three mana 3/3 is already playable, but once you follow it up with other Knights, it becomes hard to block. Another payoff of a similar power level is Protocol Knight, which can really mess up with opponent’s board.
Then, the Knight payoffs dry out. There’s just a Swordsworn Cavalier, but that’s about it.
Going All In?
There are plenty of Knights in both white and blue, so you don’t have to go out of your way to get them. You’ll naturally end up with enough of them if you’re drafting those two colors. So you can play a regular deck, with some incidental Knight synergies, and do fine.
You can also include some tempo components with blue bounce spells, and play some Sieges to take advantage of that. Perhaps you can do a bit of a token subtheme with cards like Knight of the New Coalition and Inspired Charge.
Of course, sometimes you might get lucky with multiple copies of Marshal of Zhalfir early on in the draft. In that case, you really want to go all-in and build heavily around Knights.
Black-White: Phyrexian Tribal & Incubate
The tribal synergies here are similarly incidental, like the Knights. The tribe here are Phyrexians, and the archetype will naturally work well with Incubator tokens. The reason for this is that when you flip an incubator token, you get a Phyrexian artifact creature.
For the most part, the deck will play like a regular midrange deck with some small tribal synergies sprinkled in. You don’t really have to go out of your way to enable them, as the payoffs don’t require you to play all Phyrexian. So if you just pick up good cards in white and black and have a good curve, you’ll end up with a good deck.
Nevertheless, let’s still quickly take a look at some non-rare payoffs, before we move to the next archetype:
All of these cards are fine, and quite self-contained, with the Sculpted Perfection probably being the best of the bunch. There are a lot of Phyrexians in these two colors, plus you get the Incubators, and you will be able to take advantage of these payoffs, without really building around them.
Green-White: +1/+1 Counters & Backup
The green-white archetype utilizes not only the backup mechanic, but also focuses on +1/+1 counters. There actually aren’t many traditional payoffs for this archetype, but that’s quite understandable. Making your creatures bigger is a good bonus all by itself.
There are plenty of ways to get counters on your creatures with cards like Angelic Intervention, Fertilid’s Favor, and Invasion of Moag. Of course, all the backup creatures count as well. Incubate tokens also come into play with +1/+1 counters, and your payoffs can take advantage of that.
Speaking of the payoffs, they include, Kami of Whispered Hopes, and Botanical Brawler. That’s about it outside some rares, but these cards are plenty good. They reward you for the things that you want to be doing anyway.
For this deck you’ll want to include plenty of creatures, and a good curve, so you’ll always have something to put your +1/+1 counters onto. You’ll also want to include creatures with good keywords, such as double strike, lifelink, flying, and so on. These creatures will make better use of the +1/+1 counters.
Red-White: Backup Aggro
Red-white is usually an aggressive deck, and that’s also the case in the March of the Machine draft. This time, the twist is that the archetype is paired with the backup mechanic. As I mentioned in the mechanic section, the backup mechanic lends itself to be quite aggressive, so it’s a natural fit.
You’ll want to have a deck with a very low mana curve. You’ll want to commit to the board early, and mainly with creatures, because only this way you can take the most advantage of the backup cards. Just imagine a start of a one drop, two drop, and then following with various backup creatures. If your opponent isn’t prepared for something like that, they’re going to be in a big trouble.
This archetype can also take advantage of various convoke cards, and is the best home for combat tricks. Afterall, you are attacking, and your opponent is incentivized to block. That’s when you can really blow them out with a well-timed combat history.
Backup is already a very strong mechanic, so there aren’t many additional payoffs for it. The only such card is the gold uncommon, Mirror-Shield Hoplite. This card will obviously shine in this archetype.
Blue-Black: Everybody Mills & Graveyard
Blue-black has an interesting theme this time around. It often has something to do with graveyards. Sometimes you’re milling yourself, and sometimes you’re milling your opponent. This time around, you mill both players and can get value from both graveyards. However, this won’t be your win condition, you’re not planning on milling your opponent out.
It’s best to take a look at the non-rare cards that mill and see what they do:
- Disturbing Conversion – a pseudo removal spell
- Halo-Charged Skaab – a relatively big body, which can provide some value
- Flitting Guerrilla – a flyer, with a useful on-death trigger
- Nezumi Freewheeler – a useful mana sink
- Tenured Oilcaster – a big threat if you can enable it
- Unseal the Necropolis – card advantage from your graveyard
- Invasion of Amonkhet – an interesting Siege
Most of these are pretty self-contained. They both mill, and give you some value for doing so. There’s also Halo Forager which is a rare occurrence – a card that gets a payoff from milling an opponent, but doesn’t do so itself.
Sadly, all the cards look fine, but nothing is really exciting. As such, this deck doesn’t seem like it will perform all that well. Perhaps in order to have a good blue-black deck, you’ll either have to ignore the mill synergies, and just pickup good cards in these two colors, or you’ll need a powerful payoff of a higher rarity, such as the new Sheoldred.
Blue red archetype typically gets the spells matter team. Surprisingly, this time around that’s not the case. Instead, the archetype focuses on the convoke mechanic.
In order to take the most advantage out of this mechanic you want to have either cheap creatures or cards that make multiple bodies. Two great cards that fit this category are Ral’s Reinforcements and Preening Champion.
What are your payoffs for getting multiple cheap creatures? Practically, every card with convoke, as you’ll manage to cast it ahead of schedule. Some of the best non-rare ones include Shivan Branch-Burner, Stoke the Flames, and Astral Wingspan.
Then you also get the cards that reward you in different ways. For example, there’s Zephyr Singer, which will put a flying counter on all creatures that convoked it. From lower rarities, your best payoff is Joyful Stormsculptor, which is particularly strong in this shell. It provides three bodies and whenever you cast a spell with convoke, it will ping your opponent and each siege they protect.
Mono Red Convoke?
While you probably won’t draft a mono red convoke deck, there is a possibility of having a very broken curve consisting of only red cards. Just Imagine the following start:
- Turn 1: Mountain, Akki Scrapchomper.
- Turn 2: Mountain, Ral’s Reinforcements, tap all three creatures to convoke Halo Hopper.
- Turn 3: Mountain, tap all lands and four creatures for Shivan Branch-Burner, and attack with it.
That’s an absurdly explosive start. Sure, it’s hard for everything work out so perfectly, but it won’t be unusual to get these cards in your deck. After all, except for the uncommon dragon, these cards are all commons. Even if you delay everything by a turn, that’s still a very potent start.
Given that that you only need cards in one color, you can easily slot them in any red deck, not matter which colors you pair them with. Naturally, it’ll probably work best with blue as the support color.
All things considered, the blue-red archetype as a whole looks quite good. It rewards you for doing things that you already should be doing. Playing cheap and efficient creatures on curve.
The blue-green archetype always features some of the more unusual themes. For the last few sets, this archetype has always performed a bit worse than expected. For sure, you could do some fun stuff, but you would often lose to a more efficient strategy. Anyway, let’s see what the deck is trying to do this time around.
Once again, it focuses on a weird theme. This time, that are the transformed cards. However, the theme isn’t very prominent, as there aren’t that many payoffs. The three major ones are:
- Corruption of Towashi, which can draw you lots of cards during the game, and comes with a delayed 4/4.
- Oculus Whelp, which gains a significant bonus.
- Mutagen Connoisseur, which gets better when you control more transformed permanents.
Even though there aren’t that many payoff cards, they are all at least playable, if not actively good. Additionally, it shouldn’t be too hard to get your hands on multiple transform cards. Besides the ones with activated abilities, like Gnottvold Hermit, you can also use Incubate tokens, and battles.
It’ll be interesting to see if this archetype has what is necessary to compete in this format. For now, I’m cautiously optimistic, as this seems like a fun deck to draft and play.
This archetype has its typical theme. You will be sacrificing your creatures and sometimes some other stuff for value.
In order to have a successful sacrifice deck, you typically need three main things: sacrifice fodder, sacrifice outlets, and perhaps some additional sacrifice payoffs. Let’s take a look at each of those three groups and see what we have available in March of the Machine draft.
These are cards that you typically don’t mind sacrificing. Ral’s Reinforcements give you two tokens, which you can sacrifice without much value lost. Ichor Drinker is also a fine option, for similar reasons.
A combo with Furnace Reins is particularly powerful, since you get to steal your opponent’s creature, smash them with it, and then sacrifice it for value.
Various smaller transformed Incubators can also be fine to sacrifice, as some cards will also allow you to sacrifice artifacts. For these, you don’t even need to transform your Incubators.
These are cards that actually allow you to sacrifice creatures. In a way, these are also your payoffs, as they typically come with a reward of some sorts. Some of your options include:
All of these cards are playable, but the ones that allow you to use them multiple times during the game are particularly good.
As we’ve said, the sacrifice outlets are already payoffs for sacrificing stuff. Sometimes we also get some additional payoffs. In this set, there’s only Ichor Shade. While this isn’t an obvious payoff, it will work well in this shell.
When you’re drafting a black-red deck, you’ll be facing an interesting challenge. You have to include a proper mix of both outlets and fodder. If you manage to do that, this deck can perform quite well.
Black-Green: Midrange Incubate
Black-green is your typical midrange deck, with a lot of cards that allow you to incubate. The deck can be quite mana hungry, so you can also include some ramp in your deck with cards like Blighted Burgeoning.
So, why is the archetype called midrange incubate and not just incubate? Well, the reason is that there aren’t many specific incubate payoffs. Sure, there are some useful ones with cards like Tangled Skyline and Phyrexian Awakening. But for the most part, your payoff is simply getting a creature.
That’s why you don’t necessarily need to have a ton of incubate cards in your deck. Instead, you’ll just draft a regular midrange deck with good cards (efficient creatures and removal spells) at all points of the curve and some incidental incubate payoffs.
Red-Green: Attack Battles
Red-green usually has the beefiest creatures. They will come in handy, as the plan of this archetype is to play battles and attack them.
The non-rare battles that you’ll be able to play in this archetype are:
Of course the rare ones, such as Invasion of Shandalar will be even better, but even the uncommon ones are perfectly playable. That’s particularly true, since some of your creature will have an easier time attacking sieges than opponents.
For example, you’ll have access to cards like Thrashing Frontliner, War Historian and Onakke Javelineer. Furthermore, some of your spells such as Atraxa’s Fall and Volcanic Spite will also be able to deal with sieges.
This is also an archetype that will present an interesting deck building challenge. You’ll need to find a right mix between creatures, battles, and other noncreature spells. My suggestion is to not get too low in the creature department, as then you’ll have a hard time defeating sieges. You probably shouldn’t play less than 15 creatures, if you’re planning on defeating battles.
March of the Machine Draft Guide: Power Rankings
Now it’s time for the next segment – the power rankings. As always, take these with a grain of salt, at least at the beginning of the format. Once we get more experience with the format, the article will be updated with more accurate information. The rankings are now mostly a description of how we currently perceive the format, and will likely change with the next update.
Best Archetypes in March of the Machine Draft
- Blue-Red: Convoke
- Black-Red: Sacrifice
- Red-White: Backup Aggro
- Green-White: +1/+1 Counters & Backup
- Black-White: Phyrexian Tribal & Incubate
- Black-Green: Midrange Incubate
- Blue-White: Knight Tribal
- Red-Green: Attack Battles
- Blue-Green: Transform
- Blue-Black: Everybody Mills & Graveyard
Additional Tips for March of the Machine Draft
Before we wrap up, here are some final tips for the March of the Machine draft.
One of the hardest things to predict when a new format comes out is the speed of the format. Before playing the games, this is mostly educated guesswork. You take an overview of the creatures’ sizes and mechanics, and you try to predict how the format will play out.
However, there’s a thing that’s been common for a while in recent draft sets. You need to affect the board quickly. This is likely true in March of the Machine draft as well. One of the reasons for this are sieges. If you aren’t able to protect your siege and your opponent attacks it for essentially free, they can get a bunch of value out of it. So you really want to either play creatures or play removal spells in your early turns.
Then there’s the backup mechanic. It can somewhat work on defense, but to get the most out of it you really want to be attacking. This means that you can expect a lot of aggressive decks in the format, so you won’t have time to stumble in your early turns.
On the other hand, the presence of Incubator tokens suggests that and the format might not be that aggressive. These are delayed creatures, so perhaps the format won’t be all out aggro.
So be ready to play spells in the early game, but once you have that covered, you should also include some cards that will help you fare well in the late game too.
Nevertheless, if you want to get some early wins, we’d suggest that you go for an aggro deck. At least at the beginning of the format, the most aggressive decks usually have an edge.
How Many Lands to Play in March of the Machine Draft?
For now, your best bet is probably the regular 17 lands. If you have a ton of mana sinks, you might want to go up to 18, and if you have a really low mana curve you can afford to go to 16.
As we’ve become used to in the recent draft environments, there will be a cycle of 10 two-color lands. This set has lands that come into play tapped, provide two different colors of mana, and again you one life when they come into play. The presence of them tasks hurt aggressive decks a bit, because some decks will essentially be starting with 22 life points.
In a vacuum, I would only pick up those lands when I’m in both of those two colors. Once you know in which two colors you are, you should probably pick them relatively highly. (Around 6th pick or so.) Typically, the mana base in Limited is atrocious, so this lands really help.
3+ Color Decks
One interesting thing to see is if those lands will enable deck with 3+ colors. There is some ramp and fixing available in green, and combined with the dual lands, we might encounter decks that play more than just two colors. Right now, at the start of the format, I’ll advise against it. If you want to win games, just keep playing straight up to color decks with perhaps a tiny splash of a third color.
However, if you’re trying to try something fun and different, you can definitely try to draft a deck with lots of colors. This way you’ll be able to play many of the powerful rares you open, and the ones that get passed to you.
With every new draft environment, I like to check for wraths (mass removal spells). In certain scenarios you can afford to play around them, and sometimes you can notice that your opponent is trying to deploy one. They stop committing creatures to the board, or only played something irrelevant, although they have a bunch of cards in hand.
In such case, you might consider that they have a mass removal spell handy. You can decide to leave a creature or two in your hand and not deploy them. When they’ll finally play their wrath, you’ll at least be left with something.
The most typical one in the format is Sunfall, which is a really strong card. There’s also Invasion of Fiora, but that one works a bit differently. Red has access to Invasion of Karsus. The last kind-of-a-wrath card is Glistening Deluge, which is mostly relevant for best-of-three, after sideboarding.
If you have Incubator tokens, you can play around all of these without much trouble. Simply don’t transform your Incubators, until your opponent is forced to deploy their mass removal.
Each booster of March of the Machine comes with a special slot. On this slot, you get a Multiverse Legends card. This is an iconic legendary creature from Magic’s past, so these cards are all reprints.
If you remember Retro Frame Artifacts from The Brothers’ War or Mystical Archive cards from Strixhaven, these cards work in a similar vein, and we’ll significantly affect the raft environment. However, some of the most interesting cards among them are certainly the 10 companions.
Companions first debuted in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. These cards were so strong that they quickly received errata. However, they are still quite good for draft.
Each of them has a deckbuilding requirement. If you meet it, you reveal your companion at the beginning of the game from your sideboard. Then during the game, you can pay three mana of any color to put the companion in your hand.
So, you’re essentially starting with an extra card in your hand. Even though you had to make some deckbuilding sacrifices, that’s still an insanely powerful effect, as most companions are strong cards by themselves. The only two that I’d never use are Kaheera, the Orphanguard and Zirda, the Dawnwaker, as their requirements are just too high.
Currently, the only resources I have available on them are from the Ikoria set. However, most of the stuff there is still applicable in this format, and the articles will get an update in the near future. The ones we have available are:
- How to draft Jegantha, the Wellspring (already updated)
- How to draft Lurrus of the Dream-Den
- How to draft Yorion, Sky Nomad (already updated)
- How to draft Gyruda, Doom of Depths
- How to draft Lutri, the Spellchaser
- How to draft Umori, the Collector
- How to draft Keruga, the Macrosage
Of course, you can also just include the companion in your deck, and be done with it. That’s most likely to happen when you get the companion in your second or third pack, and it’s too late to start building around it.
And that’s the end of our March of the Machine Draft Guide. If you have any further questions or comments about the format, fell free to leave a comment below.
If you’re planning on doing a draft at home, you can get yourself a Draft Booster Box on Amazon.
Furthermore, if you’re an avid commander player, you probably already know that there are five commander decks releasing with this set. This is the big commander release of this year, and you can expect to find many interesting cards – both new and reprints in the decks. If you want to learn more about them, check our March of the Machine Commander Decks Guide.
Until next time, have fun and win many games of March of the Machine draft.