March of the Machine for Commander Cube

 At a glance, March of the Machine is looking to be an exciting set for commander cubes. The themes found within the set help flesh out themes that needed more support such as lands and bridge the gap between archetypes like artifacts and spells matter. It also introduces 18 new 3 color commanders to the game. Though it is speculation, the tricolor legendary creatures are shaping up to add a fresh and new take on existing strategies and  In addition, many of the cards  in the set have extra abilities attached to them, which makes them better suited for longer games.

Additionally, the introduction of Battles further cements this idea and they seem like a perfect fit into the commander format. In multiplayer formats, battles can be assigned to any opponent to protect. The cards encourage players to attack more and interact with each other more often. This creates dynamics where players are forced to interact with one another to prevent/ force transformations. I'm excited for the future of these cards.

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For this post, I'll be discussing the cards from March of the Machine that I plan to run in my commander cube.  Due to issues pertaining to last week's article, I am changing the format to a rankings chart. I will have two lists one ranking the all the cards from the set and one pertaining to just the commanders. I evaluate cards based on their role in my cube, which will vary from yours as this cube is more focused on synergies rather than raw power.

There may be overlap from the two lists and I do not cover reprints in these lists.

Top 10 for Commander Cube

  1. Faerie Mastermind
  2. Chromehost Seedshark
  3. See Double
  4. Chivalric Alliance
  5. Invasion of Ravnica
  6. Halo Forager
  7. Bitterthorn Nissa, Animist
  8. Elesh Norn
  9. Invasion of Tolvada
  10. Wildfire Awakener
Top 5 Cards to use as Commander
  1. Elenda and Azor
  2. Thalia and Gitrog
  3. Kroxa and Kunoros
  4. Drana and Linvala
  5. Borborygmos and Fblthp
Top 10 for Commander Cube

10) Wildfire Awakener

If I ever wanted a scaling threat for tokens, I have it in the form of Wildfire Awakeners. This is a card that excels in token decks, while remaining potent outside of dedicated decks. The main feature of the card is the token it creates. These are 1/1 elementals that do direct damage to any player for just tapping. You always have the option of just swinging the tokens to tap them and you do not have to aim the damage at the player you are swinging at. You can also get a little creative with this as well. If you did not know, the card was designed to be played with convoke since tapping the tokens to pay for convoke would trigger them. An even better option would be vehicles since they allow any number of creatures to attempt to crew it. This card aims to be ending games quickly after it comes out, which is never a bad thing. This main concern about this card is that the baseline is really bad and the card needs the tokens to be successful.

9) Invasion of Tolvada

Invasion of Tolvada, a universal reanimation spell with upside that overlaps with almost every archetypes within the Black White color combination. As a reanimation spell, this is on the slower end as the more powerful options are cost 1-3 or if they do cost 5 they are bringing back more than one thing. Once the card is flipped, you will have a constant stream of 2/1 flying lifelink tokens, which will stabilize your life and ward off any attackers. The anthem effect not only buffs the token, but also any token you already have on the field. Overall, the card is not a game changer for Orzhov, but it strengthens the strategies already in Orzhov. This solves the problem of Orzhov decks being too grindy, but not fast enough to win.

8) Elesh Norn

Elesh Norn has my interest as a support piece that fits into multiple decks and archetypes, while creating interesting scenarios that can end games. She is great on defense as her body can block almost anything on the ground and her passive punishes your opponent for swinging at you. You are able to transform her to her back side with the sacrifice of three creatures. When the card transforms into the saga, someone is about to be removed from the game. The card creates 5 tokens and pumps them and the rest of your board with double strike and +1/+1. Without other creatures, this alone is 30 damage. After an attempt was made to kill a player, everyone's board is wiped of Phyrexians and artifacts. After triggering the saga side once, she becomes self sustaining and is able to transform again with the tokens made from transformation. Beyond herself, she overlaps into a ton of other decks such as artifacts, pillowfort, tokens, etc. This convinces me that no matter where she is included, she will be more than just goodcard.jpg.

7) Bitterthorn, Nissa's Animist 

More universal ramp is amazing and Bitterthorn, Nissa's Animist is quite the card to do so. The card is heavily reminiscent of Sword of the Animist with the exact same ability and stat line of giving a creature +1/+1 and fetching a land into play tapped from the library. The card comes as a living weapon, offsetting the need to have a creature ready to equip it.  To offset this, it does come at the card costing one more mana to cast and re-equip.This makes the card more suited to creature light decks. Regardless of the situation, your drafters will pick this card as colorless ramp in invaluable in situations where you do not know if ramp will even get to you. As mana ramp is concerned, mana rocks do exist and are generally better if you want mana, but they can be destroyed more easily than lands. Thus if you want land ramp, this is definitely a better option than some of the other colorless land ramp options like Burnished Hart. 

6) Halo Forager

Halo Forager fits a gap that I think might be missing in Dimir, which is just a value creature beyond Baleful Strix. The main selling point of the card is its ability to recur instants/sorceries from anyone's graveyard and replay them for X mana. The utility of this ability gives Dimir access to tools they normally won't be able to do such as Ramp and you can never downplay the card advantage generated by being able to play from anyone's graveyard. The effect is an ETB effect so it has all those interactions as well. The creature portion of the card is respectable as well since as a 3/1 flier, it does decent damage and it's harder to block, a solid card for taking out planeswalkers. Lastly, the card is a scaling threat since it gets better as graveyards get deeper and as you have access to more mana. This can lead it to making devastating plays. All this without regards to its synergies either as the card overlaps with several prominent archetypes such as mill and spells matter, while also being a faerie rogue. The card fills a ton of niches.

5) Invasion of Ravnica

Invasion of Ravnica is the cheapest universal removal currently available. The playability in all decks is the biggest reason to run the card. Not every color can solve every card type especially the new battle cards and thus it is important to run cards like this. The 5 mana may seem excessive, but remember that unlike your other kill spells you can cast this card off just colorless mana. There is a little caveat with what you can remove as it can't be a two color, but 2 color spots are already a small portion and not all of them create permanents. Lastly, there is a the fact that the card transforms. The number of defense counters seems easily achievable, though it will vary with creature quality. Once transformed, the flipside is similar to 5 color Niv Mizzet in that it is card advantage if you play a high density of 2 color cards. The baseline of the card is easily the biggest reason to play and as time progresses, the interaction with battles will get deeper, which will more than likely increase the card's stock.

4) Chivalric Alliance

Chivalric Alliance looks innocuous for all the utility it provides and is situated to be a powerful card for white decks. It is a card draw engine, a discard outlet, and a token generator with each of these abilities working hand in hand to create a self sustaining value engine. The card is powerful at any point of the game with early game possibly turning into a Pack Rat situation and later being a card advantage engine.Card draw has become more plentiful in white within the past couple years with each card having its ups and downs because white is not allowed to straight draw cards. Chivalric Alliance is shaping up to be the best version among these as it falls into an already existing game plan with white: attacking with creatures. Even if you do not have creatures on board, the token ability turns every card you draw into an instant speed knight tokens that can swing and draw you cards. This is just the card in a vacuum. In the long run, this is the Looter il Kor for white decks and I might need to reexamine it for traditional 1v1 cubes.

3) See Double

See Double hits all the interesting points of being a copy spell, in fact this might be the epitome of copy spells. The power level of this card is great as it is reflective of how your cube is structured. It will be as broken/ powerful as what is currently available. When viewing the functions of the card it can be used as a Stunt double or as a Reiterate, allowing the card to fit into any deck from Storm to Stompy to even Artifacts. The only downside of the card is that it is not able to copy noncreature permanents already on the board. Otherwise, this will probably be the best copy spell we will have in a long while.

2) Chrome Host Seedshark

Chrome Host Seedshark is a card that plays better into what blue decks already doing now. Noncreatures have become a larger part of blue's color identity over the years, but the old favorites such as Talrand and Murmuring Mystic only care about instants and sorcery. Even before the release of Kamigawa, there was an issue with how to overlap the artifact decks with the spells matter decks. Metallurgic Summoning and Shark Typhoon were a step in that direction, but they were voercosted and would come later than you wanted them too. The shark is the cheapest monoblue option that encompasses modern design. This was desperately needed for blue enchantress and artifacts. Artifact decks especially benefit from this card as it produces more artifacts. Even at a baseline, the body is solid for defending the player against other creatures and the surviving red board wipes. This card fills a design space that will age well and get better with the introduction of battles.

1) Faerie Mastermind

Faerie Mastermind is looking to become one of the most absurd cards from the set for all of Magic especially in any multiplayer format. It rewards its controller as punishment for opponents playing with one of the key aspects of strong commander gameplay: card draw. In most scenarios, I can easily see this card drawing 3-4 cards per turn cycle since the card's potency scales up with each opponent. Holding up counter magic and protection spells in between your turns and you are easily in the pilot seat for the rest of the game. The card is low costing with flash allowing you to hold up counters until you're comfortable with playing it. The activated ability, forces everyone to draw a card, drawing more cards for each opponent who already drew a card. This means your mana is never going to waste and your hand is always filled. From a different perspective, the card adds another option to group hug decks as well since you bolster other player's hands. This will keep the game moving as the turns keep passing, which is usually a better playing experience. I can also see this card becoming overwhelming as it more cards draw usually leads to someone winning a game. At minimum, I would test it in your environment to see how well it does and the play experience with it.

Top 5 Commanders for Cube

5) Borborygmos and Fblthp

The lands matter option in Temur that alone is enough to consider Borborygmos and Fblthp. This card is a departure in terms of color combination for a lands matter deck, however it ties together the land decks in Simic to the land decks in Gruul. This overall feeds into a 5 color lands deck if you have one proliferating the strategy across all 5 colors. As a card, it's a draw engine, removal, and a discard outlet for lands wrapped up into one card. The card can kill creatures when it enters or attacks, an important function as Temur is not known for its removal. Even if you opt not to kill a creature each trigger, the ability also draws you a card, so at minimum this card will replace itself with the goal of generating card value. The card can also tuck itself back into your deck should removal slip under. Although it doesn't have keywords the stat line on the card is huge and makes for a great attacker. The triggered ability sets this card up to be able to clear out potential blockers. 

4) Drana and Linvala

If you're looking for another piece of hate bears in cube, look no further than Drana and Linvala. The card has a rare ability that can make or break cubes. Creatures with activated abilities make up a fair amount of the creatures found in cubes. Example of this include every mana dork and cards like Mother of Runes. In my own commander cube, about 1/3 of all my creatures have an activated ability. What's more the card is able to use these abilities that it turned off. Much like Halo Forager, this gives Orzhov decks tools they don't have normally. The card is a decent creature as well with its stats being solid for combat and voltron strategies. From a different perspective, this function of the card can also be seen as anti fun and this factor will vary based on your preferences. I currently run Liesa, Shroud of Darkness and that plays along similar lines as Drana and Linvala, but punishes plays rather than shuts them down. If you're looking for something more power, then Drana and Linvala is your card.

3) Kroxa and Kunoros 

Kroxa and Kunoros might be the most powerful reanimation commander in a color combination that wants it. Mardu already has Alesha and Tariel, but those are gimmicky and needed to be built around to achieve a smooth playing experience. Kroxa and Kunoros only cares that the graveyard is filled, which is something reanimator decks are already doing. The ability is triggered when the card enters or attacks, gameplay styles that are already supported. Focusing away from the ability, the baseline forthe creature is overwhelming. It has an on cost body, but it has the keywords Vigilance, Menace, and lifelink. Makes the card amazing at stabilizing the game and becoming a total nuisance as it is hard to block and will always trade favorably during combat. The menace is especially notable as it allows the card safe passage to swing to trigger itself. The total package opens the card to have a variety of build routes, a perfect situation for a commander to be in as drafting can force players down different routes. The card is a little slow since it cost 6 mana, but being able to cast it will shift game states and eventually win you the game. As a 3 color card, I can only suggest running this card if you're looking for a Mardu commander.

2) Thalia and the Gitrog Monster

Thalia and the Gitrog Monster was probably the most exciting card for me initially as it has fan favorite Thalia riding a monstrous frog. Beyond the ridiculous art, the card feels like it does way too much for such an efficient rate. Its abilities are insane and fills a niche that will take forever if at all to do again. For context, the card plays well with tokens, lands matter, and hate bears. From early impressions, it does a solid job at bringing them together. This matters most to white as it has always had powerful landfall cards that did not have a commander that was receptive to them until the printing of this one. The card has multiple build routes available as well, which can be surprising as the seems narrow until you remember that every deck will run land and creatures. In the larger context of commander, Abzan doesn't have the most interesting commanders either. A lot of the builds tend to be goodstuff.dek because the colors allow for it and though this deck can excel with that build, you always have the option to make it a bit more spicy and not lose that power.

1) Elenda and Azor

It may seem like an odd choice for a top pick, but given the larger history of esper commanders Elenda and Azor is the stand out among all esper commanders. The reasoning is similar to the one given for Krox and Kunoros in that this commander is not a gimmick. A majority of the other Esper commanders are too weird or dependent on being built around. If you take a look at the card as a whole, it enables and feeds into itself. This card is does not require anything special to perform well. It functions as a card draw engine, token generator, and can gain you life.  Each function can be built around, but none of it needs to for this card to function at its peak. This flexibility is great in a commander as again, sometimes your draft starts going awry and you need a different route. Since it fits into already existing strategies, the card helps marry these strategies together or further strengthens them. The biggest concern about the card is that it is pretty slow, but it is within a color combination that can make the time needed for this card to take off. This is the card you're looking for if you feel your esper section is gimmicky and want a powerful card.

The End Step

Thanks again for reading my article and I hope it helps for those of us who are running commander cubes. March of the Machine is shaping up to be a strong commander set. There was initially a ton of cards that I wanted to cover, but when changing to a top 10, these cards wouldn't make it there, even if they will see play. The bigger excitement for me is the commander choices this time around. I recently noticed how narrow some of my 3 color options were. This has yet to happen, but I am concerned that there can be situations where the deck will not match the commander or that the commanders encourage an on rails draft experience. The openness in these newer commanders allow for drafters to get off the rails or reroute themselves. This should be it for March of the Machine content other than an upcoming discussion on battles, which will come when the community has more experience with them.

Outside of blog writing, I've been also working on my YouTube channel running a general magic podcast with my friends and making YouTube shorts about cube. It's been an interesting endeavor and I plan on continue working on it, but I don't find it as enjoyable as writing these articles for a variety of reasons. If you want to take a look, just click this link here.

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