The new MTG Battle card type is one of the most anticipated things coming with MTG’s release of March of the Machine. This card type was teased similarly to the Planeswalker card type back in Future Sight, as both card types were spoiled on a card from a previous set that cared about card types. These cards were Atraxa, Grand Unifier in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, and Tarmogoyf in Future Sight. Interestingly, both these cards have come to be competitive powerhouses in their times. Even more remarkable is that these two mechanics seem to be born from the same scrapped mechanic that appeared almost twenty years ago.
MTG designer Mark Rosewater promised a set that would change MTG forever. It’s the day before March of the Machine spoiler season officially kicks off, and now that we finally have seen what the new MTG Battle cards look like, we can confirm that this may be the case. Combat and tempo will get a lot more complicated depending on how powerful these Battle card payoffs become.
Invasion of Zendikar: The First MTG Battle Card!
Invasion of Zendikar, spoiled on Press Start, is the first MTG Battle card that has been spoiled to the world. However, very little is currently known about this new card type. While technically spoiled by Press Start, it appears this reveal was somewhat premature, as this spoiler did not include a thorough explanation of the MTG Battle card type. Subsequently, there’s no definitive answer on just how the new Battle cards work. Not until tomorrow, at least. Until then, here’s our interpretation of how they work ahead of Wizards’ grand reveal.
What Might it Do?
This new novel card type, in its Siege form, gives an opponent an additional item that they need to protect (presumably) in combat. Should you deplete the health(?) on the MTG Battle card (which looks to be three), you can re-cast the transformed card – Awakened Skyclave. This allows Invasion of Zendikar to, technically, ramp you for three mana once it’s defeated. This could be a crucial ramp piece that Standard has been asking for.
While the three on the bottom right side of the card appears to be health, it could also be the amount of hits from sources that the card needs to flip. Players do not yet know if they can damage the ‘toughness’ of an MTG Battle card with card non-creature damage or if they need to attack with creatures to do so. All we know is that once you defeat the Siege Battle that one opponent is protecting, you can recast its transformed counterpart. We will be sure to update this article once we know how MTG Battle cards work.
As far as the card goes, Invasion of Zendikar is likely to become a budget staple in Commander. Explosive Vegetation has remained a decent card for cheaper decks in the format, and this card is better in every way. Siege cards may be better in Commander than in constructed as well since multiple players are capable of attacking a Siege. Only one target opponent is able to defend it.
MTG Battle Cards Aren’t a New Idea
Many speculated that the new MTG Battle card type would be a reworked version of an old mechanic that ended up getting scrapped before it hit a main MTG set. While players were right about this, it was not a callback to a mechanic that many were expecting. The most common mechanic players expected to see here was a reshaping of the scrapped Skirmish mechanic that would have appeared in War of the Spark. The theory behind this mechanic, in fact, comes from an MTG mechanic that was scrapped long before Skirmish was even brought to the drawing board.
Instead, this seems to be a repurposed version of the Structures mechanic posed by MTG’s creator Richard Garfield back in Ravnica: City of Guilds. This 2005 set was, at some point in its design, supposed to include defendable structures represented as artifacts and enchantments. This actually, as quoted below, ended up inspiring part of the design for the Planeswalker mechanic. This quote is taken from a Wizards of the Coast design article published back in 2013 regarding Richard Garfield:
“Because we were in a city, Richard came up with a new card type he called structures. The idea was that they represented buildings. Structures functioned a lot like enchantments or global artifacts, in that they had a static effect, but they had one difference—a toughness that the opponent could attack and whittle down. I didn’t end up using it in the set because Ravnica was already stuffed to the gills, but I loved the idea.
I loved it so much that a few years later, while trying to create a different new card type, the Planeswalkers, I borrowed what I thought was the most interesting component of structures—the ability to destroy it by attacking it. It had a great flavor and fit the Planeswalkers perfectly.”Garfield of Play
Look Forward to Tomorrow!
Since we don’t really know what MTG Battle cards do yet, figuring out all the nitty gritty interactions will have to wait until (likely) tomorrow. Wizards of the Coast has been promoting the kickoff to the March of the Machine spoiler season, which will be happening on March 29 over on their Twitch and YouTube channels at 9am PST. Hopefully, MTG Battle cards will get a bit more explanation there and answer the many burning questions that MTG community members now possess.