March of the Machine: The Afternath for Traditional and Commander Cube

Last week, all 50 cards from the March of the Machine: The Aftermath were shown off. Each card details the fate of our beloved characters and planes in the aftermath of the Phyrexian Invasion. At first, many of the cards seemed to be designed for constructed or commander as they are weird but interesting. Taking a deeper look, these cards add extra support to existing archetypes by filling in an unexplored space. The set definitely seems to benefit my commander cube more, but traditional cubes definitely got cool cards to play with. This set was also not designed for limited so there could be potentially powerful cards for the cube format.

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The squad suffering no consequences

Because of the size of this set, I'm condensing this to a top 5 list for both commander cube and traditional cube. The card's ranking will be based on their perceived performance in these environments, so if a card appears in both lists, the reasoning will be different. Just a reminder that the cards are based off my perception from my cube.

Traditional Cube Top 5
  1. Coppercoat Vanguard
  2. Urborg Scavengers
  3. Tranquil Frillback
  4. Ayara's Oathsworn
  5. Narset, Enlightened Exile

5) Narset, Enlightened Exile 

This card potentially fills the role of THE Jeskai card in my cube as I do run 1 card for each tricolor slot. Though it does need a bit of build around, the card is a recursion engine and a finisher as it can exponentially increase your damage output the turn it comes out. In fact the recursion and prowess affect feed really well into each other. The card sits at the crossroads of a bunch of different archetypes that I am already supporting like tokens, tempo, and spells matter. The recursion ability is better than it looks as the list of targets includes noncreature permanents like Battles and Planeswalkers. There's no casting cost and it plays around casting restrictions too, which leads to unintended plays like casting the suspend cards. As a three color card, it has a huge barrier to cross to even be considered. If I didn't have a dedicated slot, I can't see this card breaking the threshold in other cubes. It also sits at the 4 MV slot, which is a game changing slot. This card being able to swing once should achieve this same effect. If you do have dedicated slots, this card is one of the better choices for Jeskai. It unites a ton of archetypes together and generates game winning value.

4) Ayara's Oathsworn

Potentially a premier card for black aggro and possibly midrange. It is able to grow itself without any outside support and has evasion to push its damage making it a nuisance that needs to be dealt with. It also has solid creature types in the right colors. On its own it represents a 5 turn clock the moment it can swing and eventually will turn into a card advantage engine if the game goes on that long. Out of its vacuum, the card is a strong reward for counters strategies and makes for a strong beatstick to protect. The card does face problems as there is a window that it needs to come down in order for it to be played at max efficacy. Should it miss that window, its performance is looking to drop dramatically. Menace on its own is also a concern as your opponent can still commit to two blockers. The card is excellent as an aggro piece especially on curve, but struggles to thrive when played later much like any other aggro card. This can be mitigated if properly supported. 

3) Tranquil Frillback

Not the most exciting card at 3, but a solid inclusion thanks to its flexibility. It strongly reminds me of Titan of Industry with a much smaller but faster body. At its baseline, the card is acceptable when you compare it to its contemporary aside from Bloated Contaminator. Its body makes for solid stabilization with the ETB ability being a potential tempo swing. What's more the ability is an ETB vs a cast trigger, so you are able to flicker the card. The card is deceivingly Green heavy and you won't be able to maximize it, though you normally don't want to.  Another problem as although the body is acceptable, a 3 MV 3/3 with no abilities will easily get outclassed by its contemporaries. Thus this makes the card feel more like a 4MV card than a 3MV and should be treated as 2GG.

2) Urborg Scavenger

There's a lot to like about this card. It is a growing threat that also functions as grave hate. I find the card very similar to Graveyard Trespasser, which has been a card I've been considering for my own cube prior to the printing of Urborg Scavenger. Black's 3 drop creature have been a slot I'm not very satisfied with. There's a select few that are impactful to the game. This is more pronounced when compared to the other monocolored sections. The Scavengers solve this problem by being able to grow into a threat infinitely from either just entering or attacking, though there does need to be cards in either graveyard for the ability to resolve  . Reminder that the card still gets the counter regardless of whether or not, you actually exile a card. At minimum, it gains a +1/+1 counter and possibly keywords based on what cards were exiled. Depending on the cube composition, cards can start entering the graveyard as early as turn 1 with fetchlands. The card is playable in any black based decks. The density of removal and hand hate fill the graveyard creating an abudant resource for the scavengers to play with. Being based on the size of graveyards, the card easily scales into different points of the game. I don't think this card is making waves in cube, but I do see it adding to the play experience. If you are already running Graveyard Trespasser, this is a solid alternative if you want to avoid playing with the Day// Night Cycle.

UPDATE: Scavengers needs the ability to resolve in order to gain a counter. This does hurt the card since it needs more set up to grow and you do need to be mindful about playing this on curve.

1) Coppercoat Vanguard

This card is kind of absurd. For 2 mana, you are getting an anthem for humans that makes them more difficult to remove. At the baseline, the card is just a bear (2/2 Creature) with nothing special. This side of the card is underwhelming when compared to other two drops at that same slot and normally as a tribal focused card, this would have been unplayable in normal traditional cubes. With the anthem being centered around humans, this changes the impact of the card as humans are the most common creature type. Cards like Adeline and Mother of Runes are examples of commonly played humans with much more probably lying around in your cube, this card will play much better when viewed with synergies in mind. The card is looking to be a huge part of any incidental human strategies in cube.

Commander Cube Top 5

5)Spark Rupture
4) Tranquil Frillback
3) Filter Out
2) Rocco, Street Chef
1) Nissa, Resurgent Animist

5) Spark Rupture

Though the card does seem narrow, the card has interesting utility and gameplay interactions with specifically planeswalkers. It functions as both a hate piece and a wincon for planeswalkers. It turns off the ability of planeswalkers and turns them into a creature, opening them up to be Doom bladed. This affects all planeswalkers on the battlefield. Though, this is generally a hate bear style effect, you can use it as a wincon if you play super friends. Spark Rupture can be treated as a sort of Cyberdrive Awakener. Aside from planeswalker, this card is an enchantment that draws a card leading towards synergies with flicker decks and enchantment decks. The card is extremely shallow in a vacuum as it is a 3 mana draw but its synergies help it stand out

4) Tranquil Frillback

For the same reasons as mentioned already and I think the card is even better in this format because you have more time and more targets. It should be mentioned that you don't need to target the same player with everything either. The dinosaur creature type does have some mileage as more dinosaur cards get printed and all the relevant legendary dinosaurs are green.

3) Filter Out

The versatility and application of this card is kinda crazy and although it does seem limited in scope, it will have a place in general blue decks. The commander format encourages players to play more noncreature permanents such as mana rocks, enchantments, and planeswalkers. Filter Out is able to hit all of them to tempo back all of your opponents very similar to a Cyclonic Rift. This on the flipside heavily benefits creature decks and can create a Wildfires playstyle. What excites me more is the combo possibilities with this card as it can have a similar play pattern to Paradoxical Outcome in which you refill your hand so that you can cast more cards. The openness and utility of the card warrants inclusions.

2) Rocco, Street Chef

His previous iteration was something I considered for commander cube as it was a Chord of Calling on a creature, however outside of that utility the card played poorly. This version of Rocco is much more powerful and has more applications. First and foremost, the card is a legendary creature in a three color spot, so the only consideration is as a commander. When evaluated as a commander, I like what he brings to my cube. At minimum, this commander can stand on its own to act as just a value commander when needed. He makes for a solid group hug commander in the Naya colors, which didn't really have a choice before. His ability forces each player to impulse draw a card each turn and punishes them for doing so by granting you a +1/+1 counter and a food token. As a whole package, the versatility of his abilities opens him up to more build routes, which is always an important aspect of any commander choice for commander cube.  Thus if you are running a commander cube, this card warrants a consideration in lower power commander environments. I also just remembered he is an elf for elf tribal.

1) Nissa, Resurgent Animist

This is what I've been looking for in a Green creature for commander cube. My green section has strong themes of ramp, elves, and lands and Nissa fits into all three subthemes without being clunky. This makes it an easy slam dunk inclusion. She will always function as a 2nd Lotus Cobra being able to generate mana when land enters, which adds redundancy to this effect. This effect alone makes her playable in any green deck, so the overlap with the other archetypes is amazing for me. When you activate this ability again, she generates card advantage by digging you an elf or elemental (which aren't hard to come by as they generally are lands matter cards). This is solid since ramp decks will face the problem that they end up have a bunch of mana, but no cards to play it with. Definite include as she will enhance any green strategies you may have as well as be an okay versatile monogreen commander.

The End Step

Overall, this set feels way too much like a commander supplement set. The density of multicolored legendaries does little to benefit typical cubes with commanders cubes only wanting them because they allow for 3 color cards to thrive. There is some innovative cards but they're narrow in application aside from Nissa. So you're not missing out and this is an easy set to skip at least for cube. I would keep a watch on this set if you're unsure about it. While I was writing this article, the Arena team announced that Magic the Gathering Arena will create a draft format that includes the Aftermath cards. This will probably the only glimpse we get of these cards in a limited environment outside of cube and future masters set. I mentioned this at the beginning, these cards are not designed for limited and there could be busted plays involving these cards.

I do understand that some players will boycott the cards due to the multiple situations regarding these cards, so it helps that these cards are easy to skip. (or use the printer, it's cube no one needs to know)

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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