Battle of Wits
8, Feb, 23

Upcoming MTG Commander Decks Tease Bizarre Battle Mechanic

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Boasting huge story reveals, Compleated Planeswalkers, and awesome mechanics, Phyrexia: All Will Be One is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated MTG sets in years. This has caused prices for some of the set’s most desirable cards and products to go absolutely mad. Despite being a sales success, another set is already threatening to steal its limelight just days after its release. Due to release in mid-April, March of the Machine is the actual star set of 2023. Promising devastating changes that will affect both Magic’s story and its gameplay, March of the Machine is unquestionably important. So much so that the set’s barely announced Commander products are already causing rampant speculation amongst MTG players. Surprisingly, this speculation might be onto something, as Battle cards may have already been revealed!

March of the Machine Commander Decks

March of the Machine Commander Deck

Since they’re over two months away from releasing, unsurprisingly, we know very little about March of the Machine’s Commander decks. The few official details that we do know are thanks to the ever-insightful WPN website. That being said, even this website is still shrouded in mystery. Box art for the commander decks, for instance, is still obscured so as not to spoil too much too early. Nevertheless, despite Wizards’ caution with box art, the WPN website still reveals a plethora of interesting tidbits. For instance, through the WPN website, we know each of March of the Machine’s Commander decks features “1 special die.” 

Prior to the latest round of speculation, this unique special die already caught the interest of curious MTG players. Reddit users such as u/newfiepro, for instance, suggested this die could be similar to those used for 2009’s Planechase. In turn, this inspired other players to suggest the upcoming Battle cards are “just a reworking of the Planechase mechanic.” For better or worse, we don’t expect this to be entirely true, as Wizards doesn’t appear to be going dice-mad. March of the Machine Prerelease Packs, for instance, do not mention the inclusion of any additional special die. This is despite the fact that each Prerelease Pack will include “1 new Mythic Rare card,” which is presumably a Battle card

Alongside the mysterious special MTG die, the March of the Machine Commander decks have even more unexpected additions. Listed alongside the Foil-Etched Display Commander, March of the Machine decks include “10 specialty cards.” As you might expect, since there’s no telling what these cards are, MTG players have been quick to fervently speculate. Once again, due to the plane-merging story of March of the Machine, it wasn’t long before Planechase reared its head once again. 

Planechase or Bust

Bloodbraid Elf
Bloodbraid Elf | Planechase 2012

Beyond the obvious story connection to March of the Machine’s plane-merging antics, Planechase Commander decks seem like a real possibility, thanks to mechanical similarities. After all, the Planechase format required an additional special deck comprised of ten plane or phenomenon cards. The effects of these cards activated upon rolling the format’s unique special six-sided die. Thanks to both of these factors, it seems like Planechase-infused Commander MTG decks are a near certainty for March of the Machine. Curiously, at the moment, Planechase cards are not automatically legal in Commander without the intervention of Rule 0. Subsequently, it seems we’re only a few months away from a major MTG Commander rules change. 

While MTG players have only recently discovered the WPN website’s latest reveals, Wizards has been quietly teasing Planechase’s return for some time. As u/idbachli pointed out on Reddit, for instance, it wasn’t long ago that Wizards was polling for opinions about the niche format. “A previous survey questionnaire given out by WotC last year included questions about how the public felt about Planechase as a whole.” Following this, MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, has stated that Planechase is the likeliest of MTG’s novelty formats to return. “My order of most likely to come back to least to come back is: Planechase, Archenemy, Conspiracy, Battlebond.”

With all these details now lining up, it seems that Planechase’s return and formal introduction to Commander is almost certain. MTG players on Reddit, such as u/MisterEdJS, were keen to stress this point as it now seems painfully obvious. “Well, that seems sure to make the notion that this is Planescape awfully convincing. The exact number of extra cards included in a Planar Deck, plus a special die? Anybody that’s SURE it isn’t Planescape either has some kind of inside info to the contrary or is just ignoring the evidence. Could it be something else, something entirely new? Sure, but absent any evidence to that effect, the only EXISTING thing this points to is Planechase.”

What’s the Deal With Battle Cards?

Atraxa, Grand Unifier
Atraxa, Grand Unifier | Phyrexia: All Will Be One

From the information on the WPN store, it seems the return of Planechase is all but guaranteed. As we highlighted earlier, however, this doesn’t mean we know exactly what March of the Machine’s Battle cards is. Players have suggested in the past, for instance, that Battle could be a reworked version of the scrapped Skirmish mechanic. Initially intended for War of the Spark, this mechanic depicted the tug-of-war of combat on a grander scale. Since March of the Machine has similar Multiversal stakes to War of the Spark, the return of Skirmish would certainly be apt. 

While I’ve at least managed to convince myself that Battle cards aren’t just Planechase 2.0 due to the Prerelease Packs’ lack of special die, I’m open to being proven wrong. Thankfully, it might not be long before that happens, as March of the Machine is being revealed surprisingly soon. At the end of a recent Weekly MTG Livestream, Blake Rasmussen revealed March of the Machine’s First Look will take place on the 19th of February. Putting it live in Livestream, this event will be hosted at the end of MagicCon: Philadelphia. For those unable to attend the event, the First Look will also be streamed via MTG’s usual Twitch and YouTube channels. 

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