Last updated on February 13, 2024

Invasion of Shandalar - Illustration by Adam Paquette

Invasion of Shandalar | Illustration by Adam Paquette

Atraxa, Grand Unifier has loomed tall over Magic ever since it was revealed. It has a pretty good effect, but what had everyone shocked was a small detail on its reminder text: the inclusion of “battle” among the other card types. We all thought battles would be revealed in All Will Be One, yet not a single battle card could be seen.

With March of the Machine’s spoiler season well on its way (didn’t ONE release like a week ago?), we finally got a glance at battles, Magic’s all new card type!

If the introduction of planeswalker cards way back when has taught us anything, it’s that the introduction of a new card type can lead to confusion about rules and mechanics. I’m here to try and clear out any doubts that may come up about battle cards.

How Do Battle Cards Work?

Invasion of Dominaria - Illustration by Denys Tsiperko

Invasion of Dominaria | Illustration by Denys Tsiperko

Battle cards are transforming dual-face cards that enter the battlefield with a number of defense counters. The front side of the card is a permanent that’s played horizontally (first and only card that enters sideways so far) and can only be played at non-instant speed like any other permanents.

So far, we’ve only gotten a specific subtype of battle called siege, so most of the rules we know specifically apply to those battles but may be different for future battle cards.

A specific condition of the siege subtype is that when you cast it, you have to choose an opponent to defend that battle. You (and any other opponents) can then choose to attack that battle. It’s important to note that even if an opponent is tasked with defending a battle, the person who cast it is still both its owner and controller. You’re technically attacking your own permanent.

Once the defense counters on a battle are removed through damage, it transforms to its backside. There are battles that transform into creatures, artifacts, enchantments, sorceries, and even planeswalkers and legendary creatures.

The History of Battle Cards in MTG

Atraxa, Grand Unifier

Battle cards were first teased in 2023’s Phyrexia: All Will Be One through Atraxa, Grand Unifier’s reminder text. This mirrored the way Tarmogoyf announced planeswalker cards in the same way.

Battle cards first appeared in March of the Machine, and Invasion of Zendikar was the first battle card to be spoiled. This is the only set to have the battle card type as of writing, but they might (and probably will) show up in upcoming sets.

Speaking of upcoming sets, MaRo has stated that battles will be deciduous instead of evergreen. This means that the battle card type won’t show up in all (or even most) sets, but it’s a tool that can be used by the game’s designers if it fits a set’s flavor or mechanics.

The reveal of the battle card type led to a lot of player speculation as to how they’d work. Reddit users theorized heavily on the topic, and some of them actually got pretty close. I think it’s interesting how a big part of the discussion centered around a very important question: what can battles do that can’t be done through other card types that already exist? A lot of fan theories included ideas like cards that could level up or pass through several stages, but as other users also pointed out, this would’ve made them similar to cards like classes and sagas.

Another theory I personally like involved more of a tug-of-war mechanic: if an opponent dealt damage to the battle’s controller, they’d get control of it. This would’ve tied neatly to mechanics like monarch and initiative, but it would’ve also been pretty flavorful with Contested War Zone and Turf War.

Do Battle Cards Go In Your Deck?

Yes, battle cards are like any other card type and go in your deck.

If you’re thinking of cards like dungeons, planes, and conspiracies, which can have their corresponding card type on them, these are all actual cards but aren’t considered card types because they serve as additional objects, much like dice and coins.

How Many Battle Subtypes Are There?

As of writing this, we only have confirmation for the siege subtype. These are the only battle subtype that appears in March of the Machine, but we’ll be getting other battles in the future. Since siege battles force an opponent to protect them, we can safely bet there’ll be battles that task their own caster with defending them. Fans have obviously already started speculating on what other battle types could be. I like user Gentleman_Jaggi’s idea of defense battles have to be defended by their caster until they reach a certain condition, and war battles which have more universal effects and somehow end up throwing all players into the conflict.

Hopefully we’ll be seeing them sometime soon so we can have our doubts cleared.

How Do the Defense Counters on Battles Work?

Battles come into play with N defense counters on them which must be removed to defeat it. Once a battle is defeated, it’s exiled and comes back to the field transformed. Note that the counters on battles are defense counters, not loyalty, but since they work in a similar way to loyalty counters in planeswalkers, they’re getting called that.

Can You Proliferate Defense Counters on Battles?

Battles are permanents with counters on them so you can absolutely proliferate those counters if you want to. You obviously won’t want to proliferate your own battles since you want to remove them as quickly as possible, but you can always proliferate your opponents’ battles to drag them out as much as possible.

Can You Sacrifice Battles?

As long as you are that battle’s owner and controller (reminder: the chosen defender for a siege battle is not their controller), you could technically choose it for a sacrifice effect. Sacrificing a battle doesn’t cause it to transform.

Can You Destroy Battles?

Any effect that allows you to destroy a permanent can destroy a battle, since they’re also permanents that can be targeted.

Can You Damage Battles With Spells?

Battles are susceptible to any damage spells that allow you to deal damage to “any target” or “target permanent.” I’d bet that going forward we’ll get spells that specifically allow you to damage battles.

Can a Battle Attack Itself If It’s Turned into a Creature?

Some people have started speculating if it could be possible to use a handful of cards to turn a battle into a creature, and if so, would that allow it to attack itself. The answer is no as stated by Matt Tabak, but I think there may be some issues with it being “no because a battle turned into a battle creature can’t attack or block” for now, at least until there’s a more intuitive way to solve this.

What if the Battle is Defeated on an Opponent’s Turn?

It doesn’t matter if a battle is defeated during your own turn or an opponent’s. It’s still exiled and is cast transformed onto your battlefield. Which turn it is doesn’t affect the battle’s transformation.

Are Battle Cards Good?

I think battle cards are a super interesting design and could be extremely fun to play with. I think of it in more multiplayer/EDH terms, and I’m curious how much interaction battles (at least sieges) will get from players other than the owner, and to a lesser extent the defending player.

They could be a super interesting political tool to turn an opponent into a more desirable target, much like curses, but so far there are no real benefits for someone attacking a battle they don’t own.

At the end of the day, I think they’re good cards and can get even more interesting with time.

How Does All Will Be One Work with Battles?

All Will Be One

Battles entering the battlefield trigger All Will Be One much like a planeswalker would. This card is very delicately worded, so it avoids battles from being able to damage themselves as they enter the battlefield. That would essentially allow them to transform immediately.

Gallery and List of Battle Cards

Best Battle Cards

Invasion of Shandalar / Leyline Surge

Invasion of Shandalar’s effect is a decent enough recursion spell, but if you manage to transform it (and keep Leyline Surge from being destroyed) you can cheat any one permanent in your hand onto the battlefield per turn, which can be absurdly good.

Invasion of Ikoria / Zilortha, Apex of Ikoria

Green Sun's Zenith isn’t a massive staple for no reason. Invasion of Ikoria has the same effect for only a single extra green mana, with the added benefit of being able to transform into Zilortha, Apex of Ikoria, which can allow you to defeat your opponents way more quickly.

Invasion of Tarkir / Defiant Thundermaw

Invasion of Tarkir, and it couldn’t be any other way, is a great addition to any dragon tribal. The transformed side, Defiant Thundermaw, is possibly the best part of this card with an effect very similar to that of Tarkir’s dragonlords which trigger any time a dragon attacks.

Wrap Up

Ephara, Ever-Sheltering - Illustration by Johan Grenier

Ephara, Ever-Sheltering | Illustration by Johan Grenier

I’m really happy with battles as a card type. I think there may be some parts that we’ll need to see how well they actually work, especially things like interaction in multiplayer games, but I think they’re original and interesting designs. I hope we’ll be seeing more of them soon both with new mechanics and as lore devices.

But enough about what I think. What’s your opinion on battles? Do you like them or do you think they’re unnecessary? What’s your favorite battle so far? Leave a comment letting me know. And while we’re here, go ahead and visit our Discord to join an amazing community of Magic fans.

That’s enough from me for now. Have a good one, and I’ll see you next time!

Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates:

1 Comment

  • Avatar
    Robert Kell April 24, 2023 5:59 am

    ‘Once the defense counters on a battle are removed through damage, it transforms to its backside.’ That is not true. You need to select the backside. It is not automatic. I was playing on my phone and accidentally pressed another part of the screen when the battle was won and it exiled the battle but did not give me the backside. I don’t know why you are expected to select it. It doesn’t make sense.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *