The MTG March of the Machine spoiler season has finally ended, but a ton of content is still getting consumed by the community. Not all of the cards are new, but we have over 800 cards that are getting spoiled for the first time, reprinted or are otherwise being released as a part of March of the Machine. One of the cards in this cycle looks like an absolutely incredible addition to Standard, Pioneer, Commander, and even Modern! Surge of Salvation has many MTG players excited for the potential changes the card may bring to various formats!
An Incredibly Impactful Hate Card
While some of the new color-hate cards coming out in March of the Machine look subpar, ironically, the white card may be the best card in the entire set. Many of the MTG community are immensely excited about Surge of Salvation’s Standard applications, but the card could also be a viable pick in Pioneer and Modern. While a lot of Standard’s life cycle as a Regional Championship format was finding cleaner answers to the card Invoke Despair, Surge of Salvation is a one-mana answer that completely turns the card off. This is due to the card’s ability to give you Hexproof – which, in response to an Invoke Despair, simply causes the card to miss its target. As pointed out in some of the above tweets, Surge of Salvation can also deal with the popular Brotherhood’s End and other damage-based board wipes.
Surge of Salvation can also protect your hand from discard, exchange itself for a burn spell to you or any of your creatures, and can come down as protection against a removal spell, regardless of the color. While the card may be meant as sideboard tech against black and red decks, it may simply be a strong card in any format with heavy amounts of discard and removal. Rakdos-heavy strategies with tons of removal and discard are prevalent in both Standard and Pioneer, making this incredibly impactful at first glance. This could do wonders for decks like Boros Heroic and any sort of Auras deck in Pioneer.
This card may, however, be the most impactful in the Modern format because it seems to be a one-mana answer crafted to deal with the powerful and incredibly irritating Rakdos Scam archetype.
Surge of Salvation in Modern
For those unaware, Rakdos Scam is a somewhat controversial Modern archetype that is capable of creating absurdly powerful turn-one combo plays that give the deck a huge advantage. This is accomplished by using effects of cards like Undying Malice and Feign Death in combination with the red and black Evoke elemental cards from Modern Horizons Two – Fury and Grief. This combination allows the Scam player to obtain a body with two enter-the-battlefield triggers of these creatures for just one mana and three cards. Basically, the Evoked elemental will be cast for free before its ETB ability triggers. Before the Evoke trigger resolves, you can target the elemental with your one-mana spell, which will cause it to resurrect after it dies to the Evoke trigger.
The most powerful iteration of this combo involves getting two Grief triggers on turn one when the Scam player is on the play. This is the one iteration of Scam’s powerful starts that Surge of Salvation cannot help. Grief will take the card out of your hand before you get the chance to play it – since you will have no mana. That all changes if you go first. You can simply play your Surge of Salvation before the Grief player peaks at your hand to stop them from ripping your hand apart. They can still get a 4/3 Menace creature on turn one if they so choose, but using three cards for such a mediocre result is quite punishing. This script changes a little bit if they have an Ephemerate instead of the Feign Death card, but these are incredibly rare iterations for now.
This effect gets even better when interacting with the Fury-half of the combos. Not only does Surge of Salvation give Hexproof to all of your creatures, but it even allows your creatures to block an early Fury without taking any damage, potentially even killing the double-striking menace. Dealing with an eight-damage creature that comes down as early as turn one can be a difficult ordeal (due to the buff that the one-mana spells grant), but having a card that is incredible against the Scam deck in almost every position could do a lot for many Modern MTG decks.
Is This Card Better Than Blacksmith’s Skill?
Surge of Salvation is so powerful that some Modern players think that the card may become a staple in one of the format’s biggest decks. Hammertime, a combo deck focused on cheating the equip cost of Colossus Hammer onto small creatures, uses the card Blacksmith’s Skill as a protection spell for their potential game-ending threats – whether that be a creature or another permanent. Some players are considering Surge of Salvation as a replacement for the card, but they offer different benefits. Both effects are capable of blanking a targeted removal spell on a permanent, which is the level one function of these cards in the deck. I am not a Hammertime player, but I have played against the deck a fair bit and understand the rudimentary interactions. Here are some observations I noticed when considering both options:
Pros for Surge of Salvation:
- Protects against discard spells
- Much stronger against Fury, a menace for Hammertime
- Stronger against Grief
- Stronger against Rakdos Scam overall
- Better against damage-based boardwipes
- Can be used as a combat trick involving Red and Black creatures
Pros for Blacksmith’s Skill:
- Can be used as a combat trick when the small stat buff matters
- Can protect a permanent from Engineered Explosives, a very common piece of hate for the Hammertime deck. Surge of Salvation does nothing against this card.
- Can interact with Creativity combo by making one of their Indomitable Creativity targets Indestructible. This means the target cannot be destroyed, which means Indomitable Creativity cannot find a target from your library.
Ultimately, I have little to no experience with the archetype, but I think both of these cards could continue to see play in the archetype depending on the metagame you’re expecting to see. If you’re expecting a lot of Rakdos Scam and Fury, Surge of Salvation seems like the better card. Blacksmith’s Skill may perform better against Creativity decks and decks that are interested in running Engineered Explosives. Explosives are also, notably, a great answer to the Crashing Footfalls archetype that is gaining popularity, making it an even better sideboard option for many decks.
There’s More to See!
Interestingly, as we have seen before in previous sets, March of the Machine has introduced some potent color-based hate spells in an uncommon cycle. While Surge of Salvation got the most interest amongst the cycle, the other cards look very powerful as well. Admittedly, the Black spell may not end up doing very much, but the other three cards look to have some applications… at first glance.
I’m not sure how Change the Equation will stack up to Aether Gust in older formats, especially with the presence of Counterspell as an alternative in the Modern format. This seems like a decent sideboard answer to decks like Amulet Titan in Modern since it can counter most of the deck’s threats, but Cavern of Souls may make the card a worse pick than the Gust. The card could also shake things up in the Pioneer format but will likely make an impact in Standard.
Lithomatic Barrage has a similar issue to Change the Equation. The card seems quite powerful but has to compete with cards like Fry and Rending Volley in older formats. The card of choice will depend on what particular situations you want to answer, but due to Greasefang, Okiba Boss‘s prevalence in the Pioneer format, Lithomatic Barrage’s Sorcery speed setback in comparison to its competitors makes it quite a hard sell. Once again, Lithomatic barrage could become a good Standard option.
Sandstalker Moloch is a really interesting MTG card that is difficult to assess. The card can come in at instant speed and is a decent threat against a controlling strategy that can replace itself, making it a good follow-up to a board wipe (if you can’t just counter the wipe itself). Its interaction with counterspells is a bit awkward since Dimir control players could simply let the Moloch resolve instead of countering it, which, in a lot of cases, would prevent its ability from triggering. Otherwise, the card could bait a counterspell, creating an opportunity to resolve something on the next turn. This would need to be mitigated by a more aggressive plan that forces the control player to make some awkward decisions. This could see play in Collected Company decks if it sees play outside of Standard at all.
I, personally, have no idea whether this card will see play or not, but I am leaning toward the opinion that outside of Standard and maybe Commander, it’s not quite good enough.