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March of the Machine Limited Mechanics Guide

Guide on the mechanics of March of the Machine and how they apply to limited.

Hey everyone! We’re inching ever closer to launch and MOM sent me to explain what is going on in this crazy multiversal invasion. Today we’re going to be explaining what the mechanics of March of the Machine do and how you can take advantage of them in limited.


After that tease on Atraxa, Grand Unifier we finally found out what battles are. We actually only know the rules for the battle subtype sieges for now. Since all current battles are sieges, we’ll only be discussing battles in those terms today.

You always play the front side of battles to get the listed effect. You then choose who will be protecting the battle, in a one-on-one game (so every game on Arena) that will automatically be your opponent. You are still the controller of the battle even though they are protecting it and it is on their side of the battlefield.

They enter the battlefield with the number of defense counters listed on the card. Once the battle is on the field you can attack it in the same manner you would a Planeswalker. You can also target it with spells that say any target or that specify that they can target battles.

To be able to flip a battle you have to remove all of the counters on it. There was a lot of confusion about this particular point, so for clarity using a card that says destroy a battle such as Atraxa's Fall does not let you flip the battle. A card that removes counters, such as Render Inert, does let you flip the battle as long as it removes all of the counters.

Once you remove all the defense counters, you exile the battle and cast the back side of the card. Since you are actually casting the back side, that leaves it open to being countered or even copied by See Double.

When it comes to battles, the main point of my evaluation focuses on what do I get on the front half. I’m happy playing a battle that is within one mana of what I would be willing to pay for a similar card as long as there is sufficient upside on the back. If you put too much emphasis on the back half, you will find yourself falling behind without the board presence required to flip them.

Even though battles tend to snowball games, they are not all inherently “win more” cards. They are value cards that can provide further value if you complete a task. Ones that don’t provide as much value on the front are “win more” cards because you have to be far enough ahead to play a card that does very little without that penalizing you enough to prevent you from flipping it.

Especially early in the game you usually want to prioritize attacking battles instead of your opponent. Flipping them provides additional board presence or value to help steamroll the game in your favor. Every situation is going to be different depending on what the back half does, the current board, life totals, how much defense is on each battle, how your deck stacks up against theirs in a long game, and many more. I’m very hesitant to give a rule (and this is a very loose one) because of all the variables, but unless you are killing them in the next two swings you should be attacking the battles instead of the face.


Convoke is a returning mechanic that allows you to tap your creatures to help pay for a spell. Each creature that you tap pays for either a colorless mana or a mana of that creature’s color. That means that you can reduce a spell’s casting cost all the way down to zero if you have enough creatures. Who doesn’t love free stuff?

It’s a very interesting mechanic that unfortunately loses a bit of its surprise factor because Arena will give you priority when tapped out. That does also give you the opportunity to play on full control to bluff it.

If you are thinking about your creatures as Llanowar Elves for this ability, then a card like Ral's Reinforcements is casting two of them for only two mana. It’s not that simple because not every card in your deck is going to have convoke. Another factor is that spells with convoke typically have a tax on their casting cost to prevent them from being too busted.

It’s nice because it allows you to add to your board while also still being able to cast a card draw spell like Meeting of Minds. One of the ways to take advantage of this is vigilance creatures since you can double dip by getting both an attack and a mana out of the same creature.

Transforming Double-Faced Cards

It seems like we have these in every set these days so I’ll keep it brief and focused on the ones you will run into here. In this set they have an activation cost to flip them to the back half. All of the creatures in this set have the clause that it can only be done as a sorcery and they have no way to flip themselves back without the assistance of another card.

If you blink one with Scrollshift or Yorion, Sky Nomad then it returns on its front side. You don’t have to worry about keeping track of any werewolf related shenanigans in this set.


Backup is a very simple, but very effective ability. When a creature with back up enters the battlefield you put the indicated number of +1+1 counters on a creature which can include itself if you so desire. If you choose another creature, it also gains all of the textbox below the backup text until the end of turn.

The reason they chose to add below the backup is to avoid adding abilities that wouldn’t make sense to give to an on-board creature such as flash or Islandcycling.

This is a fantastic way to sneak in some extra value off of an unexpected attack especially with Archpriest of Shadows. The possibility of an extra counter is something you should keep in mind when you’re planning to hold back a blocker.


When you incubate, you create a colorless artifact token that costs two colorless to transform it with +1+1 counters on it equal to the incubate number. The back half of the token is a 0/0 Phyrexian artifact creature so (unless something else interferes) it will have power and toughness equal to the number of +1+1 counters on it.

Don’t make the mistake of copying the creature because it will not pass go, nor collect $200 on its way to the graveyard. Also don’t choose them for Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer because it will kill all of the 2/1 Myrs you’ve been making.

There is a nice little cycle that incubates while providing additional value to your Phyrexians that can really add up over time. Whether it’s reach from Tangled Skylineor vigilance from Phyrexian Awakening, it can cause some serious issues for your opponent. There are even ways to help flip the incubators earlier such as Omen Hawker and Attentive Skywarden.

Wrap Up

The mechanics as a whole look great in this set. Even one that leads towards a game snow balling (I’m looking at you battle) involve strategic decisions when to deploy them and attack them. I’m always a fan of adding meaningful decisions into my limited games. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for my MOM archetype skeletons article. Until then, stay classy people!

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.

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Josh is a member of the elite limited team The Draft Lab as well as the host of The Draft Lab Podcast. He was qualifying for Pro Tours, Nationals, and Worlds literally before some of you were born. After a Magic hiatus to play poker and go to medical school, he has been dominating Arena with over an 80% win percentage in Bo3 as well as making #1 rank in Mythic.

Articles: 206

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