March of the Machine for Traditional Cube

 March of the Machine is right around the corner and it brings with it a ton of awesome cards for cube. Originally, I was planning on skipping the set as it lacked a cool factor when it was announced. This was before the story was spoiled and people began complaining. My opinion has definitely changed with the reveals and spoilers. Though I do not talk about them with this article, the "partner" cards are some of the most impactful cards as they are decently powerful 3 color cards that challenge the current orthodoxy and their design stands out. This could be one of the coolest set for cube since at least Dominaria United or Baldur's Gate.

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The set also introduces a new card type, battles, which many players are skeptical about. The verdict on how battles will play can only be truly speculative as we don't have any real experience with them yet. From what I see, I'm planning to treat them as permanents with ETB abilities and comparing them mostly at their equivalent sorcery.

This set review will be significantly different from my other articles as I accidentally deleted my entire article the day before I was planning to upload it and there was nothing I could do to recover it. I decided to do a top 10 instead as it is overwhelming to have too many choices thrown at designers, many of which would get replaced easily. I based the rankings on the expected performance of the card, the utility the card provides, and the niche the card fills based on my cube. This is going to be different from your cube, so use your judgment when adjusting for you.

  1. Invasion of Gobakhan

  2. Faerie Mastermind

  3. Sword of Once and Future

  4. Khenra Spellspear

  5. Archangel Elspeth

  6. Death-Greeter’s Champion

  7. Halo Forager

  8. Seal From Existence

  9. Pile On

  10. Deeproot Wayfinder

The List

10. Deeproot Wayfinder is a card that isn't too impressive, but it fills a niche that I've been looking for. The card is well costed and statted to be an okay attacker. The higher toughness makes it pretty safe to try and swing. When the ability triggers, you put a land into play from your grave. The card increases its chance of grabbing a land by having surveil as well. This has immediate synergies with fetch lands and other lands that sacrifice themselves, thus it fits naturally into graveyard and land decks. Main issue with the card is that it is easily chump blocked.

The card sits at the crossroad of the various types of green decks. If you are looking to support lands and aggro in green, this card is the perfect fit.

9. Pile On is a toned down Lethal Schemes and is a solid option for those not yet or not wanting to run it. Pile On has 2 qualities that make it special: convoke and surveil. This combination helps make it desirable in every archetype giving them flavor without the loss of function. At 4MV, the cost is higher than Hero's Downfall, but its convoke makes this negligible as you are rarely ever going to pay the full cost. The surveil is multifunctional as at a baseline, it can be used to filter your draws. Taking it a step further, it is a graveyard filler for strategies that want it. 

I would find room for this if you aren't playing Lethal Schemes. If you are, Pile On can coexist, but I doubt it will ever play better than scheme.

8. Seal From Existence is the best version of modern Oblivion Ring once it is printed. The card has the same mana cost, though it is more intensive on the white. This makes it less flexible to play, however it is a tradeoff for ward , detering your opponent from answering the card.

If you play Oblivion Ring, this should slot in easily as a replacement. 

7. Halo Forager has my attention with its ETB. The card is reminiscent of Snapcaster Mage as it is able to let you recast cards from a graveyard including your opponent's graveyard. This gives the card a ton of utility late game and lets it scale in power as the game progresses. The ability is able to cast the 0 cost suspend cards for free. The card still has its problem as an uncommon. At the baseline, it is a 3 mana 3/1 flier, which isn't that impressive when you compare it to the other similar 3 drops. The ability is limited as you are unable to cast counter spells since it doesn't have flash. It is also in a stacked spot as Dimir already has a ton of powerful cards available. 

This card is honestly a flash away from being absurdly powerful, but as is I've been wanting more tempo options and this fits the bill.

6. Death-greeter's Champion is deceptively more powerful after several looks. At the baseline, the card is actually the strongest 3MV double striker in a vaccuum. It's power comes through with the flexibility it has with both dash and the new back up mechanic. For those who have little experience with dash, it enables you to add in a hasted attacker. It is great for avoiding board wipes and surprising the defender with an additional attacker. With back up, the card becomes an Uncaged Fury at sorcery speed and will often lead to massive damage if the turn lines up. This makes resolving the card a huge threat. Add in the factor that you can dash the card and now you have a repeating combat trick that permanently grows your creature. 

The versatility and explosiveness of the card is why I rate this card so highly. I am convinced that all aggressive decks will want to play this card if it is in their colors. 

5. Archangel Elspeth strongly resembles Elspeth Knight Errant and competes against her for slots. It is very likely that the card will replace her predecessor if The Wandering Emperor hasn't already, but my boomer mentality remains stubborn. Though the card may seem similar enough, she does play different from her Knight-Errant variant. Her +1 ability generates a 1/1 token with lifelink, which makes for both a solid attacker and blocker as either direction you choose to go with it, it will begin to stabilize your life. This ability is stellar and probably one of the best on planeswalkers as it feeds into why people hate planeswalkers: bulky value engines that buy you time. The -2 ability grows your creatures and gives them flying permanently. This ability if used multiple times in a single game can warp it towards your favor, though this is limited by her loyalty counters since this isn't a +x ability. Lastly, her ultimate just brings back anything in your graveyard that's small, which does not guarantee a clear win. 

This card definitely seems worthy to compete against the other white 4 drops. A lifelink token and permanent flying is more than enough to take over games. The only downside is that she is easier to deal with than Knight Errant. Complete replacement? doubt. Strong Alternative? Yes. I'd play one or the other based on preference since they fill similar roles.

4. Khenra Spellspear/ Gitaxian Spellstalker is one of the cards I'm more excited to play. I'm a huge fan of prowess/ kiln fiend style aggro decks and this slots perfectly. These deck's prefers creatures with ways to pump themselves and the current options haven't been amazing, but they work. The Khenra goes beyond being okay as it has trample in addition to prowess. Being chump blocked has always been an issue for these creatures and trample overcomes this. I already would include this card based on just this, but WotC's design team pushed this even further with an activated transform ability. The transformation is a reasonably costed and  Transforming the card extends the efficacy of the card as the Khenra becomes bigger, more resilient, and has a more potent prowess. 

I see the card becoming a staple for years to come. It fits into multiple archetypes, is the best version of a niche, and is hard to replace. It's not overpowered that it becomes a concern either. 

3. Sword of Once and Future being one of the swords of X and Y finishes up the megacycle started in Mirrodin and guarantees it a slot at being an inclusion. As with all the swords, their templating makes it clunky to play with. The protection from black and blue is kind of a mix bag. The pro black is great because black decks will have creatures and kill spells. Meanwhile the pro-blue is lackluster because blue decks play the least amount of creatures and their main form of interaction is counterspells. The on hit effect is pretty sweet though as it allows you to recast instant and sorceries that are 2MV or less for free from your graveyard after surveiling 2 cards. It's not Sword of Fire and Ice, but this one comes the closest to replicating what that card does. As with all swords, this is value city, but it is not guaranteed to always work.

I like that this sword is not overbearing to deal with, but it also has enough power to occasionally pretend to be a Sword of Fire and Ice every now and then. Up to you which sword you want to be pick from, but this is definitely up there as a valid option.

2. Faerie Mastermind is looking to be a multiformat allstar. As a whole package, it already fills the baseline of being a 2 drop 2/1 flash flier, which is more than normal now at this point. What I think makes this card significantly better is the card draw. The card punishes your opponent for drawing more than 1 card a turn by rewarding you with a card draw. Even if they try to play around it, you are also able to force your opponent to draw cards by activating its card draw ability, which actually rewards you with two cards when done on other players' turns. This puts the  activated ability on par with other instant speed draw spells and you don't lose a card to activate it. But why does the card draw matter? In the context of tempo decks, you have a likelihood to run out of cards as the game progresses or losing out on interaction to advance your board. In long enough games, you will eventually give way to your opponent a chance to finally land their threats and overtake the game. This mitigates the problem by having an activated ability that can be used at instant speed and having flash itself. Meaning your mana will never go to waste.

I like the power behind the card as I still run Rattlechains and this is a strictly better card in most scenarios. My only concern is that it might be too overbearing in the long run.

1. Invasion of Gobakhan // Lightshield Array has my pick for the best card of the set, though it does play into my biases. It adds another hand hate card to white, which has become more prevalent within recent years with cards like Elite Spellbinder and Anointed Peacekeeper. These significantly help white decks with their game plan because they are usually fair decks that will lose out to uncontested combo decks. Gobakhan’s face side is easy to cast and you don’t need to play it on curve to maximize the effect. In fact, it is generally better to create a board state first and then use Gobakhan to delay any huge plays from your opponent like a board wipe or a large threat that can shift the game. As a permanent, you can blink the card, so huge synergies with Flickerwisp and similar cards. What's sells the card further is how realistic it is to actually transform this into Lightshield Array. The card has 3 Defense, which is the lowest we've seen for battles so far. This means a single Lightning Bolt or unblocked Flickerwisp can flip it easily. Outside of these scenarios, white tends to play a ton of evasive creatures and pump spells already. Once flipped, Lightshield Array grows your creatures with +1/+1 counters and can protect them from boardwipes. This should quickly consolidate the game.

High recommendation to include this card. It gives aggro decks all the tools they will need to dominate games and plays well with similar taxation effects. This effect does need a bit more redundancy for the singleton formats. Also remember that we are in the early phases of Battle cards and this will probably get better as time passes.

The End Step

I'm honestly hoping you guys enjoyed taking the time to read this article. This is a huge change from how I normally do these articles as I always felt that top x lists will miss out on all the cooler cards that are hard to evaluate. I also feel like I'm encroaching wtwlf123's space, but man does it feel good not to write a whole thesis every set. So I might keep this format depending on your guy's response. In regards to the actual set I am looking forward to attending prerelease and drafting as many of the set mechanics lend themselves to a smooth gameplay experience with all the cycling. 

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.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Please leave a comment or complaint below, I like the interaction. If you want to support me, please consider heading over to Patreon, ad money is kinda low, but it's currently the only way to maintain the upkeep for domain name. Thanks.


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