March of the Machine Set Review - Red
Urabrask // The Great Work | Campbell White
White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts/Lands | Gold I | Gold II | Reprints | cEDH | Battles | Pauper
This set looks nuts! There are a ton of new toys in it that really feel fresh and cool. Let's take a look at what red has to offer.
Chandra, Hope's Beacon
Starting off with a boom! The alternate art on this card is phenomenal. First off, it's a Double Vision on a planeswalker, and that's before its activation. Spellslinger decks will find a reason to include Chandra, Hope's Beacon for the copy ability alone, but that extra card selection on the +1 paired with the flexible mana production of the +2 make it a really big deal. Not to mention that that -X hitting two targets of your choice off a single activation can get rid of some pesky utility creatures or be a killing blow if Chandra's loyalty is high enough.
I have a Zaffai, Thunder Conductor deck that's looking forward to seeing Hope's Beacon in the 99. Anhelo, the Painter already copies spells, but the color fixing of her +2 means Chandra might be running with a dangerous crew when she comes out.
Invasion of Tarkir//Defiant Thundermaw
The red mythic battle card is a doozy for Dragon decks. The front side enters the battlefield and is a Shock that can be pseudo-Amplified (remember Legions?) by revealing Dragons from your hand. The battle only takes five damage to defeat, which in a Dragon deck will happen rather quickly. The back side of this card is absolutely bonkers to me. Up there with all the Dragonlord abilities that trigger when a Dragon attacks, Defiant Thundermaw tacks a Shock onto every time a Dragon you control attacks. Like a Dragon-centric Cavalcade of Calamity x2! It stands to reason that Dragon decks of all kinds will love this, with The Ur-Dragon coming to mind immediately. Lathliss, Dragon Queen is another Dragon commander that I would jam this in. One commander I don't quite see this working for, however, is Scion of the Ur-Dragon: you can't tutor this to your graveyard and become the Thundermaw.
Urabrask//The Great Work
Finally, Urabrask is maybe the best of the Praetors!
Part Birgi, God of Storytelling and part Guttersnipe, Urabrask is a tank. Spellslinger decks love the front side, leaving Storm decks salivating. Then, cast your third instant or sorcery and you can even use the mana he makes to transform him into The Great Work, which is just brutal.
Lightning Bolt an opponent's face, then hit them with a one-sided three-damage sweep. Second chapter makes you three Treasure tokens. Then, of course the most important part of this back side is a greedy Past In Flames where you get to cast instants and sorceries from all graveyards. Not just yours, all of them!
I think the heaviness of the instant and sorcery requirement will relegate this to Spellslinging decks, but I'm not mad at it. Kess, Dissident Mage, Kykar, Wind's Fury, Veyran, Voice of Duality... the list keeps going.
This isn't great, but we gotta talk about it. Seeing a Phoenix without haste outright always feels strange to me, but at least Bloodfeather Phoenix gains it when you get it back out from the graveyard. This will likely only see play in Phoenix-themed decks, like Syrix, Carrier of the Flame, or burn decks, like Torbran, Thane of Red Fell. This definitely seems like it'd be great in 60-card formats.
City on Fire
Fiery Emancipation was the first card to triple damage at 3RRR. For two more mana, City on Fire does the same thing, but this time you can cast it with Convoke. Jetmir, Nexus of Revels decks that want to go overkill will slap this baby in the 99. Goblin decks like Krenko, Mob Boss or Purphoros, God of the Forge decks are about to go more aggro than they already are. Saskia the Unyielding can outright kill the player they choose with just five power; five damage to the player being attacked becomes 15 damage and then that 15 damage hits the chosen player for 45. It's wild to be in an era of tripling anything, but to give it Convoke? Oh, wow, we're going to see this a lot more, aren't we?
Dance with Calamity
Our first Commander precon card jokes about life on Innistrad. A fun random card that rewards you for a low curve. They made the game of Blackjack into a Magic card. Flip cards until you're comfortable and as long as total mana value is 13 or less, you can cast all those spells for free. It is an eight-mana spell, and there's a chance that you'll get nothing out of it, but the upsides can be huge, especially in decks like Prosper, Tome-Bound or Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald, where casting things from exile is rewarded, and more competitive builds tend to have zero-mana artifacts, like Mox Amber or Jeweled Lotus, in the 99. You'll end up mana-positive or -negative or you'll bust, but you'll see more of your deck and embrace a little chaos. This kind of card is what makes stories!
Also from the Commander precons, Death-Greeter's Champion shows us what Back-up can do when combined with Dash. This is a very interesting design! This is the kind of card that makes me feel like I'm listening to jazz and hearing things the average listener doesn't pick up. It's subtle and cool!
I think it'll find a home in the same decks that like Mirror March, or in ETB-heavy decks that want to attack. Give this flash and you'll have two surprise double strike blockers to swing with. Animar, Soul of Elements is scary enough! Now you can give them +2/+2 and double strike every time you cast this, and if you Dash DGC, you get to do it next time, too? Ouch!
I also want to draw attention to the art and its story with Alesha, Who Smiles at Death in the background and DGC seemingly being the warrior in the Secret Lair art of Alesha. Very nice!
One day, they will print another handful of "cast from exile" commanders and we'll stop going "Prosper, Tome-Bound loves this" but for now, man, Prosper, Tome-Bound loves this. This is the Blood Artist to the Reckless Fireweaver, but it also comes with a way to keep train running. Artifact decks, like Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer or Daretti, Scrap Savant, will find space to make use of this, I'm certain.
Into the Fire
Modal spells always deserve a second look. A deck I really love playing is my Brash Taunter-themed Sevinne, the Chronoclasm deck. The moment there's a new damage board sweeper, I consider it for the deck. Having the upside of being able to wheel your hand to the bottom of your deck on the same card is fantastic. Is there an Izzet or Grixis deck that wants to pair this with Psychic Corrosion or Psychosis Crawler? I know Nekusar, the Mindrazer wants everybody to draw cards, but if there's a token swarm deck in your meta, this might be some good tech for you to hold off the onslaught or dig further into your deck. I will say, if you don't need the sweeper element of this card, Valakut Awakening is the better card for your deck, but...why not both?
Invasion of Kaldheim//Pyre of the World Tree
This card is suh-weet! Invasion of Kaldheim really rewards you for having a gameplan set for your next turn with the cards you exile or for knowing when to ditch a hand for the rest of the game. Either way, wheeling away your hand for a grip of the same size is a solid effect for four mana, and getting to play those cards until the end of your next turn is beautiful gravy. We've reached another compulsory Prosper, Tome-Bound mention of the article, and we haven't even gotten to the back side.
Pyre of the World Tree is Seismic Assault that lets you bottle when you discard a land. In the late game in Prosper, for example, get rid of a land, Shock an opponent, exile the top card, oh, look, a Disciple of the Vault, cast it, Treasure, time to ping some opponents. I believe land decks with Splendid Reclamation or World Shaper are going to make great use of this card. Lord Windgrace, Soul of Windgrace, or Omnath, Locus of the Roil decks, get a slot open to test this out, this might enable some solid game endings!
Invasion of Karsus//Refraction Elemental
I really like Invasion of Karsus//Refraction Elemental for my Sevinne, the Chronoclasm Brash Taunter deck. I'm always on the look out for cards that do more than just send damage to all the creatures in play. Refraction Elemental seems like a solid reward for going off with more spells. In my Brash Taunter-themed deck, this might not last a long time, but I have ways to redirect damage from it that I'm willing to try so I can keep it around. Adding a two-damage swing for each opponent onto every spell you cast is pretty bonkers. Spellslinger decks will be happy to see this, specifically Neera, Wild Mage because whenever you bottom that first spell you cast, you trigger Refraction Elemental twice.
This is like a super Flamerush Rider who loves a Modified creature. Modified-centred decks in red are going to go bananas for this card if they go wide. Rhythm of the Wild or Cathars' Crusade in the deck? If red's involved, get this in there and enjoy an onslaught. Giving another creature that ability with its ETB is awesome, and if you've got Anger in the graveyard, you get to make two copies of everything. That's not even the best part of it:
Extra combat steps means getting to untap creatures and swing with them again. Follow me on this: give Mirror-Style Master a counter or Swiftfoot Boots on ETB, give a counter to Bloodthirster. Swing with both, make a copy of the Master and the Bloodthirster twice, put another counter on the Master with Backup and give another creature Backup and swing, you'll have 12 creatures attacking. It gets out of hand quickly.
Chishiro, the Shattered Blade feels like the obvious spot to play this, but truly anywhere that wants to copy the Master a ton and swing is going to want this. I have Jaxis, the Troublemaker ready to make my math brain hurt.
This one is hard to evaluate. A burn spell at sorcery speed that only hits creatures, planeswalkers, and battles. Hmm. It hits for five, and excess damage lets you dig for an extra card to play from exile. Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald decks can hit a Wolf of theirs to peek at three cards and play one, getting you back a Wolf. We'll see this go in battle-themed decks for sure. Will this see play in Prosper, Tome-Bound decks? Do burn decks want this? Is this a 60-card format all-star? Time will tell.
Orthion, Hero of Lavabrink
We have so many legends that make token copies of your creatures in mono-red. Jaxis, the Troublemaker and Rionya, Fire Dancer are very popular, while Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is the OG beast of this type of deal. Enter Orthion, a new addition to this list of red legends who want to copy your creatures; he friggin' rules.
Sorcery speed is definitely a restriction, but having the ability to copy a target five times when you've got the mana even if the discount is only one mana, saving on having to untap Orthion four times is a great. Dockside Extortionist is finally broken, y'all. Buy up your copies!
(Editor's Note: That's the last time anybody is allowed to do that joke on this site. Mike, this is your last warning.)
More Treasure support and Treasure hate at the same time! Vazi, Keen Negotiator will be happy to see this little guy join the fray. Your opponents get penalized for using their Treasures, while anybody who casts a spell once a turn gets a Lotus Petal, including you, the player building around it. I would say keep this in your Sardian Avenger pocket. Both should see play in Gruul decks and/or aggro strategies. Grand Warlord Radha is a deck of mine I'm squeezing both of these guys in. Decks that have a lot of instant-speed plays could really make this card a solid ramp engine, but ultimately, players are going to see that second ability and jam it. I love this lil bugger.
Path of the Pyromancer
The second part of this card is only relevant if you're playing with Planechase, which comes in the Commander precons this time around. I personally love Planechase, but I understand foregoing it for most games. That said, the second half is fine for that.
The first part, the meat of this spell, is intense. Wheeling your hand away for a fresh batch plus red mana equal to the amount ditched? Incredible in the right deck. The Locust God decks usually end up with like 15 cards in hand in my experience. Play Path of the Pyromancer and get 15 new cards, 15 Insect tokens, and 14 red mana to play whatever you just drew. Past in Flames? Let's do it all again! Copy this spell and get through your library with a Laboratory Maniac or Thassa's Oracle win. This is a wild card that I suspect will see play in spells decks, Storm decks, big red, X-spell decks, wheel decks, etc. I hope folks are ready to just try it out and tell us about all the craziness it enabled.
This card is being called the red Questing Beast because of its "combat damage to a player" trigger sending damage to a planeswalker as well, but the Raptor also hits battles they're protecting, which, as a new card type, will be quite popular in the coming months. We will likely be seeing battles a lot more than planeswalkers as they require your opponents to defend them instead of you to defend your planeswalkers.
Big mana decks and of course Dinosaur decks will love this. I definitely think that Zacama, Primal Calamity decks might be be same decks that want something like this. A mana sink that packs a bunch and has added utility? Fits right in.
Where do you even start with this card! Unlike the others in the cycle, the loyalty ability granted by Rowan's Talent is kind of whatever. It's useful and fine, but chances are if you're running an "enchant planeswalker" card, you're going to be playing a planeswalker deck of some kind, maybe even as the commander. Saheeli, the Gifted can double any of its abilities, and that'd be huge. Dihada, Binder of Wills getting to copy either of its non-ultimate abilities is pretty solid for three mana; that deck knows how to protect its commander! What's my dream with this card? Kaya, Intangible Slayer's abilities are all very solid, but the -3 is where it's at.
This cycle feels like an Oathbreaker cycle more than Commander, if I'm being honest. Unless you're playing a planeswalker-focused deck, these Auras aren't likely to have a target. Pair these Auras with planeswalkers that can't tick up and you've got another use for them!
Five-mana Rhythm of the Wild with a damage-doubler for creatures with +1/+1 counters? Yowza! Shout out to Magus, Lucea Kane who just got deadlier. Hydras feel like a natural fit for this card. You can have the best of both worlds with Riot and a haste-enabler, like Anger or Ogre Battledriver, and just go to town. Games have got to end, and this will get there quicker.
With cards like All Will Be One and the newly released Shalai and Hallar, we're going to see more +1/+1 counters with red in decks, and Uncivil Unrest is going to be an enabler and a payoff.
I think this card is a lot of fun. What a crazy goofball! I have an Omnath, Locus of the Roil deck that loves a big boy commander. Throwing down a Voldaren Thrillseeker to give a big creature two +1/+1 counters and the ability to Fling it for the turn for one mana could spell the end of a game for one of your opponents. Will this go in Edgar Markov decks? I would guess so. How about Jared Carthalion, True Heir decks that love a swole commander to toss at players or a deck that runs Vigor? I would love to see this in a weird blink deck. I think this card is very fun and it gets my gears turning.
Uncommons & Commons
I like to think this is a nod to Dockside Chef. It's even from Kamigawa! While this requires that you tap it to activate, it still allows you to trade an artifact or land for a new card. At one mana, that's all pretty noteworthy!
If you can get +1/+1 counters at instant speed, this could be an extra four Treasures a turn cycle. With Heliod, Sun-Crowned and a level two Cleric Class, you'll likely just need a Soul's Attendant or Soul Warden to get a big Artisan and a bunch of mana. Bhaal, Lord of Murder with a hefty board of nontoken creatures to sacrifice could turn those into Treasures.
A red Prying Blade that triggers off of hitting battles, too. And a really fun, cool name.
Another Threaten/Act of Treason effect that outclasses them. Sure, it's only one Treasure, but it's still worth noting when this happens.
Invasion of Mercadia//Kyren Flamewright
I wouldn't run this outside of a battle-themed or Elemental-themed deck, personally. Bitter Reunion was just printed in The Brothers' War and it's fantastic. But hey, new card type might matter down the line!
Wait a minute...Spellshaper?! Okay, that's fun. Love that for us.
Invasion of Regatha//Disciples of the Inferno
This is sort of like a color-agnostic build-your-own Torbran, Thane of Red Fell for noncreature sources. Burn decks are getting a lot of stuff this set. I'd keep an eye on this for mono-red burn in 60-card formats, but for Commander, I'm not sold on anywhere but Burn decks.
A one-mana flash Equipment that auto-attaches itself on ETB; you gotta perk up at the sound of that. Equipment decks, like Akiri, Fearless Voyager or Koll, the Forgemaster, can make use of its surprise factor, while Wyleth, Soul of Steel and Jor Kadeen, First Goldwarden appreciate its efficiency!
*Scooby-Doo meme of guy with mask but the mask is Wrenn's Resolve and they remove the mask and it's Reckless Impulse*
Is it a reprint? No! Is it a functional reprint of an already pretty great card? Yeah! As a Prosper, Tome-Bound player, I'm thrilled! There are some 60-card formats equally excited by this as they play four Reckless Impulses, too!
Overall, I think this is one of the coolest sets we have had in a little while. The new battle cards, the team-up cards, the flip-Praetors, the extreme power of it all while expanding in directions that don't feel stale... just all of it.