Invasion of Ixalan
10, Apr, 23

What Is a Battle Card in MTG?

Article at a Glance

As near enough the capstone of the Phyrexian Arc, it’s safe to say that March of the Machine is a big deal. This can be seen in pretty much every aspect of the set, from its story to its supplemental bonus sheet. Going above and beyond what players typically expect, even March of the Machine’s mechanics are a step above the rest. As, for the first time since 2007’s Lorwyn, Magic: the Gathering is getting a new card type. As the title gives away, this brand new MTG card type is called Battle, and it’s a whole lot to take in. So, without any more waffling, let’s get right into everything you need to know about Battle cards in MTG! 

What Are Battle Cards in Magic: The Gathering?

A Brief History

Invasion of Tarkir
Invasion of Tarkir | March of the Machine

Built upon the groundwork laid by MTG’s original creator, Richard Garfield, Battle cards are an evolution of the scrapped Structures mechanic. First pioneered for the original Ravnica Block, Structures was also a brand new card type that represented buildings on the battlefield. These buildings would have a variety of effects that could be removed in a rather unusual way. Rather than needing dedicated removal, such as a Naturalize, Structures had a toughness that could be depleted. Due to this unique quirk, MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, explained that “[Structures] were sort of like attackable enchantments.”

Despite seeming like an incredibly engaging mechanic, ultimately, it wasn’t meant to be for Structures. The Ravnica Block simply had too much going on with Hybrid Mana and different factions, so ultimately the idea was scrapped. That was until Wizards of the Coast set about designing Future Sight. Within this set, the Planeswalker card type was envisioned, utilizing the basis of the attackable Structures mechanic. Fast forward fifteen more years and Richard Garfield’s scrapped idea has been utilized as inspiration once again. Reappearing as Battle cards, this time around they harkened back to Garfield’s original idea a whole lot more.

The Cards Themselves

Now that the history lesson is out of the way, it’s time to talk about the cards themselves: Battles. In their simplest interpretation, somewhat similarly to Structures, Battle cards act as Enchantments that can be attacked by their controller (but they are not Enchantments, they are Battles). After being cast, each Battle card will enter the battlefield with a number of “Defense Counters” on it. This number is decided by the number in the bottom right of the card (when viewed in landscape orientation.) 

Alongside this step of entering the battlefield, the Battle’s controller/caster will then decide on an opponent to become the Battle’s protector. Keep in mind, you can’t be the protector of your own Battles, an opponent must be selected. Once chosen, this player is then responsible for defending the Battle, with their blockers, from all other players. These attacking players will work to deplete the Battle’s Defense Counters via attacking, or via spells that damage any target. Once all the Defense Counters on a Battle have been depleted, the card will be exiled. From here, the card’s controller will be able to cast it from exile transformed, without paying its mana cost. 

The Little Details

Invasion of New Phyrexia
Invasion of New Phyrexia | March of the Machine

Given that they’re a brand new MTG card type, it should come as no surprise to learn that Battle cards have plenty of odd interactions. In fact, there are so many of them, that putting them into neat paragraphs is next to impossible. Subsequently, if you want the complete rundown on what’s new, check out WotC’s comprehensive release notes article. With that being said, to make sure you’re prepared for this fast-approaching Prerelease weekend, here are all the quirks, features, and tidbits worth knowing. 

First things first, it’s worth noting again that Battle cards can be damaged by more than just combat damage from creatures. Spells that specify “Any Target” such as Stoke the Flames are able to damage Battle cards. Additionally, Defense Counters can be removed by spells and abilities that remove counters, as seen on Vampire Hexmage. Keep in mind, however, that cards such as Atraxa’s Fall that “Destroy” Battle cards will not cause them to transform. 

Within multiplayer games, it is possible for a Battle’s protector to lose prior to the Battle being destroyed. Should this happen, the Battle’s controller must select a new Protector. As with the original protector, this newly selected opponent is now responsible for defending the Battle from harm.

Additionally, within multiplayer games, any player who is not the Battle’s protector may attack the card. Keep in mind, however, the reasons for doing this are purely tactical and political. As, even if an opponent deals the killing blow to a Battle, the controller/caster is the only one able to re-cast the card from Exile. 

Lastly, just to make sure it’s clear, Battles can only be cast during the main phase of your turn. This is the same for creatures, sorceries, and other non-instant spells. 

The Future 

Invasion of Fiora
Invasion of Fiora | March of the Machine

At the time of writing, only 36 Battles have been released/spoiled. All released during March of the Machine, each of these cards also features a new supertype: Siege. This supertype dictates how the Battle card can be attacked, and the reward for winning the battle. While every Battle card currently has the Siege supertype, it’s believed that won’t be the case for long. As, in responding to a question, MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, seemed to reveal other supertypes are in the works. In the least, Wizards of the Coast definitely left their options open on purpose. 

Currently, there’s no telling when a new Battle supertype will be released, or even when the next Battle card will be released. Thankfully for excited players, however, we do know that Battles are a deciduous mechanic. This means that, while not a part of every MTG set, MTG’s designers are free to use them as they please. Subsequently, it may not be long before another Battle card or two pops up in a future premier or supplemental MTG set. 

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