15, May, 23

MTG's Newest Set is Way More Powerful Than Expected!

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Article at a Glance

March of the Machine: The Aftermath is out everywhere, but players aren’t sure what to make of it. It’s obvious to many that this set, financially, presents some rather questionable value, but the cards that the set has to offer are good enough to impact powerful Modern archetypes. This means that, regardless of the financial standing of the product (which does not appear too great), the cards being offered can seriously impact Commander and competitive MTG. Let’s look at what cards made some impacts over the weekend from March of the Machine: The Aftermath!

Nissa, Resurgent Animist

For those unaware, Nissa lost her spark thanks to the events of March of the Machine. She has successfully reversed her Compleation, but she did lose her spark as a consequence. Interestingly, even though Nissa has lost her spark, this may be one of the most powerful iterations of her character the game has ever seen.

Some thought I was overhyping Nissa, Resurgent Animist when we pointed her out as a potential Modern competitor in the 4C Elementals archetype. After just one weekend of the set being legal for tournament play, Nissa, Resurgent Animist, topped a Modern challenge in that very archetype. Three mana for a 2/2 is a bit overpriced, but, alongside Fetch Lands, Nissa is capable of functioning as both an overpriced Lotus Cobra and a value engine. Whenever you trigger Nissa’s Landfall ability the second time, you get to reveal cards from the top of your Library until you find an Elf or Elemental. We were unsure whether Nissa finding copies of herself would end up becoming a risk, so we recommended 1-2 to start with. It looks like Nissa is good enough to find copies of herself, since we’ve seen three copies of Nissa in the deck’s first successful iteration.

Four-color Elementals is, traditionally, a slower control strategy that wants to win by keeping up with your opponent and slowly outvaluing them. Nissa is fantastic in this shell since it can both accelerate the deck to its lategame plays and provide a threat each time you play a Fetch Land. Wrenn and Six can help recur them, creating an insane value machine. MTG streamer Yungdingo topped a Modern Challenge with the above list.

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Reckless Handling

Reckless Handling looked like a card with some Commander promise. Offering a mediocre Gamble impression that can only find artifacts, Reckless Handling could definitely find a home in the tutor-obsessed Commander format in the right deck, but it turns out there is a niche deck that wants this card in Modern! Honestly, for anyone who plays both Modern and Legacy, this may have been more obvious than expected.

MTGO player Bob49 topped a Modern Challenge with Goblin Charbelcher, a traditional Modern strategy that has also appeared in Historic thanks to its reprinting in The Brothers’ War. This is an all-in combo deck that uses Goblin Charbelcher as a one-card win condition. Basically, because all of the lands in your deck are MDFC cards from Zendikar Rising, Goblin Charbelcher, upon activation, will see your entire deck and deal damage equal to the cards left in your library. This is generally enough to win the game on the spot.

For reference, since the release of Zendikar Rising, Belcher has always been a fringe Modern deck at worst, but it is not considered a serious meta contender at the moment. Reckless Handling may change this, since it essentially gives the deck two extra copies of the win condition. This is an incredible upside for the archetype since, to ensure that you can execute your gameplan, you may be unable to keep hands that cannot directly route to a Goblin Charbelcher in some way, shape, or form.


For reference, Belcher decks in Legacy already run Gamble, which is a better version of Reckless Handling that is not legal in Modern. Therefore, anyone who is aware of this fact may have identified Reckless Handing as an obvious upgrade to the Modern archetype. That said, Belcher is also not a very powerful strategy in the Legacy format, thanks to the prevalence of Force of Will.

Either way, it’s always promising to see unorthodox archetypes make powerful runs in any format. If you want to read more about Reckless Handling, like Nissa, we outlined it in a different article because it looked good!

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Invasion of Ikoria

So, this is not a March of the Machine: The Aftermath card, but the innovation here is so cool that it had to be mentioned. MTGO player Xfile utilized the combo that everyone noted when Invasion of Ikoria was first spoiled. For four mana, the card can search Vampire Hexmage, known for its utilization in Turbo Depths in Legacy, which can, essentially, sacrifice itself to remove all of the Battle’s Defense Counters. This will cause the Battle to trigger, exile itself and allow the owner to re-cast Zilortha, Apex of Ikoria, for free! A four-mana 8/8 is indeed a creature at a great rate, but, surprisingly, that may not actually be very good in Modern.

XFile made it work by making Invasion of Ikoria as flexible as possible. The card can search up three different haymakers in the forms of Tarmogoyf, the Hexmage, and Death’s Shadow. In other words, this is a Sultai Death’s Shadow midrange deck!

Invasion of Ikoria, in this way, can also function as a way for Death’s Shadow to assign its damage through blockers. This plays a similar role to what Temur Battle Rage does in traditional Grixis lists of the archetype.

Also, because Battle cards are a completely new card type, Delirium from Traverse the Ulvenwald becomes easier to activate. Tarmogoyf can also gain an additional buff. Finally, Invasion of Ikoria can search for Grist, the Hunger Tide, since it has the weird text of being a 1/1 Insect creature when it is not in play. There’s another bizarre target in the form of Dryad Arbor, making the Invasion a bizarre ramp tool for two mana.

Death’s Shadow strategies have been on the decline, as well as fair sort of Jund strategies that want to utilize threats like Tarmogoyf, so it’s a bit tough to know whether this deck is a real contender in the larger Modern metagame. Strategies like these definitely have a nostalgic feel to them, even if the twist is an entirely new card type. Expect more experimentation like this in the near future.

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