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Stoke the Flames

March of the Machine Limited Set Review: Red

J2SJosh reviews and rates every Red March of the Machine card for limited!

Hey everyone! The full March of the Machine card list has dropped and that means it’s time to see what MOM has been cooking up. I was going to try to twist MOM and Maro together there, but even I thought better of stooping that low. Wait, you actually want a terrible joke? Then who am I to deny such a request. This set is ready to battle more than a teenager whose MOM just grounded them. Even DAD would be embarrassed of that one.

Seriously though, it looks like a really fun set with lots of flashbacks to fan favorite scenarios. Plus, you can smash someone in the face with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and when has that ever gone wrong.

Here’s the usual grading scale:

Akki Scrapchomper

Rating: 1.5/5

I won’t be too upset about playing one of these to recycle some lands into actual cards later in the game. You’re much less likely to be scrapping artifacts, but it’s never bad to have a backup plan.

Beamtown Beatstick

Rating: 2.5/5

I’ve already had to prove to multiple people that this is the actual name of a card. They’ve all assumed I gave it a weird nickname or was outright screwing with them. Which is to say that this receives a 5 out of 5 when it comes to the name.

It’s not quite Goldvein Pick because of that second mana in the equip cost. That’s to prevent it from being basically free when it replaces itself with the treasure. Menace makes up for that though by making it easier to pressure battles (or opponents if that’s what you’re into).

Bloodfeather Phoenix

Rating: 2.5/5

Not being able to block is a pretty huge drawback when you’re not the beatdown. It’s still a two drop that’s a two-power evasive creature so it can’t be that bad.

This phoenix is also going to be rising from the ashes a lot less in limited than constructed. Only triggering off instants and sorceries takes away a lot of options.

You’re not going to be casting a damage spell at your opponent’s dome unless it adds up to lethal or you REALLY need a way to get a 2/2 back. That means you usually have to both play a battle and cast a spell that damages the battle to get Flappy McGee here back on the battlefield.

Burning Sun’s Fury

Rating: 1.5/5

A weird card to stick convoke on since it is a mostly offensive card, but still a nice option to have if you don’t mind going down a card to trade up on a couple of combats. Another way the convoke can come up is if you play two evasive threats and tap your currently bricked attackers to hastily slam in with your newly summoned monsters.

Chandra, Hope’s Beacon

Rating: 4.5/5

Breaking news here everyone! Six mana Planeswalker is really good in limited! I don’t know how we will ever survive in this brave new world…

The static ability is great if you have any removal spells you’d like to double up on and you’re bound to find those when digging five cards deep every turn. You might worry about decking, but I’m sure you can find a way to win long before that actually comes up.

You can +2 this the turn it comes in and use that mana to cast a double Volcanic Spite to clear two threats while sitting at a massive 7 Loyalty.

I almost forgot to mention the last ability that can act as a ticking time bomb until it blasts your opponent out of the game. It could also casually come down and wipe out two of their biggest threats while still having this on board.

One might even say that this will be one of the hottest limited cards of the set. Ba-Dum-Tss

City on Fire

Rating: 2.5/5

This city is on fire…As you can imagine, my Alicia Keys impression is quite lacking, but I’m sure you get the point here.

This is a hard one to grade. If you get to untap with it and have any board presence, you’re in a really good spot. Even with convoke, it’s still really expensive and most likely leaves you vulnerable for a turn.

There are just so many things to do with it though. Stoke the Flames for twelve to the face or Into the Fire wiping the board both come to mind.  It also makes all of your creatures hit harder than prime Tyson.  

I think it will be one of those cards where people remember the times that they got obliterated by this, but don’t realize all the times it just sat in their opponent’s hand.

Coming In Hot

Rating: 1.5/5

Not a great trick, but the price will be right sometimes. I’m sad they used such a great name on such a medium card.

Etali, Primal Conqueror // Etali, Primal Sickness

Rating: 3.5/5

Spinosaurus here somehow managed to be the only elder dinosaur to get turned into a Phyrexian. The big difference between this expensive card and one like City on Fire is that you don’t leave yourself open when you drop this. Besides this monster you’ll get some combination of two more spells with it to wreak havoc with. It’s still really, really expensive so it will spend a lot of time impatiently staring at you while waiting to go out and play.

Flipping it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility and if that goes down things are going to get real nasty for your opponent. They will have to line up the chump blocking brigade every turn since one clean hit ends the game.

Fearless Skald

Rating: 2.5/5

This drops a sorcery speed Uncaged Fury when it hits the battlefield while leaving behind a three-power double striker. If you’re fearless you could even go all in with a Ramosian Greatsword for some Embercleave action.

Furnace Gremlin

Rating: 2.0/5

I love the concept of this card, but I don’t love the required mana investment. Unless it’s the late game, it’s just so hard to pump this high enough to be relevant.  

Furnace Host Charger

Rating: 2.5/5

It’s another slightly too expensive creature that can land cycle. Does that mean I like it? You can bet your butt (I just saved my editor the trouble of changing the obvious word there, you’re welcome) I do.

Furnace Reins

Rating: 2.5/5

There is a good shot this is too low because there are a bunch of cheap sacrifice outlets out there and this is one of the best ways to take advantage of them. If this was a common, it would be a huge difference in the format.

Hangar Scrounger

Rating: 2.0/5

I prefer my smoothers to cost two mana instead of three. On top of that, having to attack to rummage can be much worse than tapping or ETB. You can activate it every turn by crewing Marauding Dreadship though.

Harried Artisan // Phyrexian Skyflayer

Rating: 2.0/5

I’m down on this compared to the other cheap creatures that you can transform. Three mana isn’t a deal breaker, but a 2/3 haste is very meh.  At least the backside having haste is a nice touch so that it’s still a live card when you draw it later in the game.

Into the Fire

Rating: 3.0/5

According to Sierkovitz (who also puts out tons of quality limited content right here on, this kills 55.2% of commons which most likely includes the ones that will be out early in the game. You should be able to sweep up a nice two or three for one while maybe even taking a couple points off a battle.

It might not be as effective later in the game, but you can still use it to “cycle” away all of your extra lands.

Invasion of Kaldheim // Pyre of the World Tree

Rating: 3.5/5

You probably don’t want to drop this until you know you can maximize value off of the cards you’re exiling or have a clear way to flip it.

The backside of this is an absurd limited card though. Every land that you draw basically turns into a Shock that cantrips. It’s going to be really hard for them to grind through that.

Invasion of Karsus // Refraction Elemental

Rating: 4.0/5

Three damage can sweep up a whole lot, but it does make it a lot harder to flip this the turn it comes into play unless you already have a chonker out.

There is a huge difference between one and two damage (before you make the joke…yes, the difference is exactly one) on these pinging effects. Combine that with a decent body with ward attached and you have a really nice package.

Invasion of Mercadia // Kyren Flamewright

Rating: 2.5/5

I’m a big fan of battles that the front half is a playable card on its own. In this case, Tormenting Voice has been a fine filler card in many formats so it having potential upside beyond that is just gravy.

The backside can actually pump out a bunch of damage since it gives your entire side the buff including anything else you already played that turn.

Invasion of Regatha // Disciples of the Inferno

Rating: 2.0/5

While the backside is obviously really good, you really don’t get much off of the front part unless you have another battle out, they are about to die to it, or they have a one toughness creature. It also has five defense so it will take some actual work to flip it.

Invasion of Tarkir // Defiant Thundermaw

Rating: 4.0/5

There aren’t a ton of dragons in the set (Oculus Whelp is the only common and Shivan Branch-Burner is the only uncommon) to pump this up so you’ll have to settle for a two mana Shock on the front end.

Once you flip it, Defiant Thundermaw presents a “are we done here?” type threat. So yeah, it’s good.

Karsus Depthguard

Rating: 2.0/5

Not remotely in the same class as Drowsing Tyrannodon because that extra power doesn’t make it worth the extra mana. It should still be pretty easy to turn on as long as you are playing equipment or backup creatures.

Khenra Spellspear // Gitaxian Spellstalker

Rating: 4.0/5

This feels like a mythic uncommon to me and I’m sure it’s going to generate a whole bunch of bad beat stories about it being flipped on the play.

The backside is just insane for a creature that can come down this early. You can’t feasibly block it if they have mana open unless you have a deathtoucher because double prowess stacks so fast. You can’t even chump block it because of trample and it even has ward two to hold you off on removal until it’s too late.

Lithomantic Barrage

Rating: 1.5/5

A very good sideboard card, but one damage doesn’t kill enough things to be worth playing this in the main. There would at least be a discussion about it if it could hit battles because you could play white or blue ones to flip on the cheap as a fallback.

Marauding Dreadship

Rating: 2.0/5

Does haste and a bear on layaway really make up for dying to literally anything and needing a crew? The correct answer is sometimes.

Mirran Banesplitter

Rating: 2.0/5

This is a cool throw back to Bonesplitter from Mirrodin with the first equip thrown in to lure you in before hitting you with the inflation on the equip cost. At least it’s a little cheaper than Dueling Rapier.

Nahiri’s Warcrafting

Rating: 3.5/5

Removal that can draw a card is really good. You do have to play the card in the same turn so you shouldn’t just jam this on three unless it is necessary.

Onakke Javelineer

Rating: 2.0/5

A big old reach creature that can flip battles or slowly clock your opponent. It’s solid on either offence or defense so feel free to run this as a curve topper if you don’t have anything else.

Pyretic Prankster // Glistening Goremonger

Rating: 2.5/5

Looking at this devil’s story, it’s clear that when you play with fire, you get burned (or end up as a Phyrexian). They will be loath to trade with this once it’s flipped, but you can have plenty of sac outlets to force the issue if you want.

Ral’s Reinforcements

Rating: 2.0/5

This is a great enabler for convoke spells since it’s basically playing two mana dorks for two mana. It also gives you two bodies to slap some equipment on.

Ramosian Greatsword

Rating: 2.0/5

There is some debate about how great this sword really is. There are definitely times this is going to dictate the terms of the game by turning something into a real threat every turn. The two mana equip is actually pretty reasonable for three power and trample.

The only problem is the casting cost. Even with convoke, that’s a huge initial investment. Including the first equip that’s a total of seven mana and creatures to get the party started.

Rampaging Raptor

Rating: 4.0/5

This clever girl is about to rampage all over the battlefield. They will almost never be prepared for this the turn it comes down, but they will probably be able to setup a trade for it the next turn. This hits hard enough that it’s kind of a forced block so you should be able to blow them out with a trick or instant speed removal though.

The pump and trample can almost guarantee that you can flip a battle when it connects with the face. Maybe you’ll even get a free kill on a Planeswalker with it.

Redcap Heelslasher

Rating: 2.0/5

I’m not positive about the effectiveness of slashing Phyrexian heels, but it’s probably about the same as this card. Sometimes it’ll work, sometimes it won’t.

Scrappy Bruiser

Rating: 2.0/5

If you’re looking for a scrappy combo, how about a team up with Nezumi Informant. They either get a flashback to NEO where they lose another card or trade something real for the rat.

Unfortunately, this ability only triggers when this attacks so they can see it coming from a mile away.

Searing Barb

Rating: 2.0/5

While Searing Barb normally describes my comments towards Floridamun, this is the physically painful type. We’ve seen a similar effect in Improvised Weaponry which was decent, but a treasure token is much more valuable than a 1/1 that is stuck in an incubator.

One of the big problems with two damage for three mana is that unless you are picking off a Wind Drake, you are almost always trading down on mana.

Shatter the Source

Rating: 2.0/5

I know this looks like either a sideboard card or a really expensive removal spell. My reasoning for wanting to play one of these is that red doesn’t have a lot of ways to deal with bigger creatures and the convoke can bring it down to a reasonable number when you need it to.

Shivan Branch-Burner

Rating: 2.5/5

The value of this is heavily dependent on how well your deck convokes. I’m not trying to burn any bridges with the dragons of Shiv, but you’re overpaying if you’re paying full price. If you’re playing cards like Ral's Reinforcements and Saiba Cryptomancer, then you can talk it down to a reasonable cost.

Stoke the Flames

Rating: 3.5/5

Four damage to any target really stokes my flames and convoke means that you’ll rarely be paying full rate for it. Sometimes you draw this, look across the table and casually ask their life total. Most of the time it’s just a reasonably costed removal spell though.

Thrashing Frontliner

Rating: 2.5/5

I like this because its great at pressuring battles and the trample plays really well with tricks. The price is right for what it brings to the table.

Trailblazing Historian

Rating: 1.5/5

Calling this a trailblazer is really overrating its place in history. We’ve had many years and plenty of variations of cheap red creatures that tap to give another one haste. The times they have been good were Bloodlust Inciter because it only cost one mana in an extremely aggressive environment and Axgard Cavalrybecause it was a bear with upside.

This is neither of those. This is sticking an offensive ability on a defensive body.

Urabrask // The Great Work

Rating: 4.0/5

If you’re playing a decent concentration of spells then this is a lot more viable to flip than some people might think. Making Wrenn's Resolve functionally cost one mana is a good start towards hitting three spells in a turn.

If you do flip it, hold onto those treasure tokens from step two because step three doesn’t have that “you may pay any color mana” clause.

Even if you don’t manage to pull it off, then it’s still a 4/4 first strike that pings for four mana. Oh no, whatever will you do, what a disaster…

Volcanic Spite

Rating: 3.5/5

Fire Prophecy was the hotness back in Ikoria and this one is going volcanic. Being able to hit Planeswalkers and battles is a great little optional bonus even if this is aimed at a creature over ninety-five percent of the time.

It’s efficient enough that it can often trade up on mana. The bottom rummage is also great whether you’re digging to hit a land drop or cashing an extra one into a new card.

You want a hot take? How about a molten one. I predict that at the end of the format, this is better than Stoke the Flames.

Voldaren Thrillseeker

Rating: 3.5/5

Fantastic flavor text that according to my wife pretty much describes what life with me is like.

There will be some cool surprise lethals with this where you drop some counters on an evasive threat, smash in, and Fling it right at their face. A cool trick is to toss it on War-Trained Slasher, attack a battle to double up, and sac it to send twelve upstairs.

War-Trained Slasher

Rating: 2.5/5

Attacking a battle for a whopping eight damage is guaranteed to flip any of them (unless something like Etched Host Doombringer stuck extra counters on it). It also is very difficult to profitably block an 8/3 Menace creature so it could leave them open to getting blown out. Plus it’s a wolverine dinosaur so that’s another bonus point in my book.

Wrenn’s Resolve

Rating: 3.5/5

Reckless Impulse was one of the most commonly misplayed cards in VOW. I can’t tell you the number of times people would just fire it off on turn two and sit there with a shocked Pikachu face when it didn’t work out. That led to stats that didn’t line up with how the card really played.

It’s a very good card, you just need to consider the cards you can hit before you cast it.

Wrap Up

To the shock and amazement of everyone, red has a vast variety of burn spells to clear the way for its creatures. It is the best color for flipping battles between being able to point most of those burn spells at them and having creatures that pump themselves when attacking them.

Thanks for reading! I’ll be back tomorrow with my March of the Machine limited review of Green. Until then, stay classy people!

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

You can also find me at:

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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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