The Impacts of March of the Machine on Pioneer
March of the Machine is the newest set for Magic: The Gathering and has introduced some incredibly powerful cards, a few of which are already making an impact in the Pioneer format. A couple cards are seeing some play in pre-existing archetypes but most excitingly, a whole new deck has emerged as well. Today we'll be going over each of the new cards seeing competitive play from this exciting new set!
First up, mono-green Nykthos Ramp gained Polukranos Reborn, a secondary 3-green pipped threat which provides a density of three drops that significantly improves the more stompy focused plan. Additionally, if the stompy plan is the direction the game is going you can trade your 3 devotion by flipping it for 6 mana + paying 2 life to get essentially a Hydra Wurmcoil Engine in Polukranos, Engine of Ruin. Polukranos Reborn also has reach which improves matchups against spirits and other decks as the deck now has 2 big beaters with reach which locks down combat pretty thoroughly. Polukranos is a card that I am very sure will be seeing play. Almost every single Mono-G challenge list since MoM came out has had Polukranos in it and I don’t believe that will be changing soon. Here is an example of a pretty stock list now with 4 Polukranos. The deck also got 2 Invasions, Invasions of Ikoria and Invasion of Ixalan. Honestly, both could have a spot in Nykthos Ramp lists. Invasion of Ixalan could likely be a replacement for Oath of Nissa like this list that did well in a preliminary or be essentially additional copies of Oath, and Invasion of Ikoria could serve as one or two of the flex slots. Invasion of Ikoria I am less confident in but it did find a slot in this challenge list as a one-of.
Next up, Invasion of Gobakhan is an awesome inclusion that is now seeing play in mono-white Humans. The 2-mana battle acts as a thoughtseize-esque effect that also flips into board wipe protection and pumps your team. Most aggro decks don’t want to trade 3 damage, but Light Shield Array’s (the invasions backside) ability stating “At the beginning of your end step, put a +1/+1 counter on each creature that attacked this turn.” usually gives you that damage back or more. The backside also as previously referenced helps protect you from board wraths as it has the ability to sacrifice itself to give your creatures both hexproof and indestructible. The ability to give your team indestructible when you already made your opponents board wipe cost 2 more is absolutely back breaking and will frequently buy you the time to kill your opponent. Every part of this card plays really well into the deck's plan and does it at an incredibly low cost. 2 mana for this effect is frankly, absurd. This list got 6th place in the challenge and has 3 in the Main and the list that got 4th has 2 in the sideboard. I am unsure of how much play this will see in the future as I am not a mono-white specialist, but it is certainly powerful and I think it will always be at least a consideration for the sideboard.
Volcanic Spite is a card that doesn’t have much to say to it but is an inclusion due to the fact it is a strict upgrade to Fire Prophecy. Volcanic Spite hitting Planeswalkers (also battles but that’s largely irrelevant) makes it so much better as Fire Prophecy is a very dead card in the Control Matchup game 1. It is possible for Fire Prophecy to see play as a 1 or 2 of if a list really needs a density of removal spells that allow you to put a card on the bottom of your library. Otherwise, that’s really about it.
Ancient Imperiosaur is an Enigma. It can be a 0 mana 20/20, but is still pretty good when convoked fairly to just get a 12/12 or similar beater with ward 2. As such, this card saw two impressive finishes in two very different decks. It recently 4-0’d a preliminary in a Gruul Midrange list. I would call it a Gruul Boats list, but in this deck the dino replaced the Boat. The other list previously mentioned got 17th, and was an all-in aggro deck based around using Gleeful Demolition to drop the Dino as fast as possible. The Dino and Reckless Bushwhacker provide the necessary amount of cards to make the deck a real threat. Both benefit from a wide board, but weaponize it differently which I think provides an interesting dichotomy in how the game is played. Will Ancient Imperiosaur become a new meta staple? No. It’s likely a splash in the pan, but it is fun to talk about!
The most interesting card to come out of March of the Machine to me is Faerie Mastermind. The 2 mana flyer draws you cards when your opponent draws their 2nd card each turn, and most importantly provides a density of good rogues. I talk about density a lot in my articles but it’s for good reason. A lot of solid strategies often need just 1 or 2 cards to become competitive. One payoff for a deck simply isn’t enough because you won’t draw it enough. The same thing goes for threats. Rogues having 12-15 efficient Flash threats instead of 8-11 means that you will actually have enough creatures to kill your opponent in a somewhat timely fashion. The deck uses a combination of Thoughtseize, Fatal Push, Spell Pierce and all of the other best counterspells/ removal to control the opponent while it slowly kills them with its little fliers.
Dimir Rogues is taking the challenges by storm. Before there were a couple lists popping up here or there but now it is everywhere. On the Saturday challenge (4/29/2023) it got a 2nd place, 8th place and 31st finish. The week before it was 6th, 11th and 23rd. This deck feels very powerful (and fun!) and is getting the results that show its strength as well.
There are a couple cards here or there that have seen a little play but in my opinion these are the cards with the greatest chance of seeing competitive play, or with the case of Ancient Imperiosaur simply the most fun.