Last updated on May 1, 2023
Elesh Norn / The Argent Etchings | Illustrations by Magali Villeneuve
March of the Machine is right around the corner, and there are plenty of new and exciting cards to start testing. I’m honestly a little shocked at how much power is in this set; it feels like nearly every rare and mythic packs a punch.
Today I’m ranking what I believe are the 30 best cards in the set. What does each card do, are they any good, and how do they stack up to similar cards? Let’s find out!
#30. Invasion of Alara / Awaken the Maelstrom
Starting off with quite a banger in Invasion of Alara. It’s a 5-color battle card that generates some sweet card advantage when it enters the battlefield, and it has the possibility of transforming into the monstrosity that is Awaken the Maelstrom. The backside is a sorcery that has a whole plethora of effects including card draw, removal, some +1/+1 counters, and even copying a permanent you control.
All in all, I think this is one of those fun and unique cards that you’ll enjoy playing in casual Commander, but I doubt it’ll see too much play outside of that.
#29. City on Fire
City on Fire is another of those overly expensive enchantments that has a massive payoff. In this instance you get triple damage from sources you control. Pretty sweet, right?
I think this is a super fun and exciting bomb that can completely blow up a game, but its 8-mana cost dictates that it’ll only ever really see play in casual Commander pods. It’s not only castable in that setting, but there’s enough time left over to actually do something with it.
#28. Invasion of Ixalan / Belligerent Regisaur
Invasion of Ixalan is a 2-mana battle that gives you a nice dose of card advantage when it first enters, and it transforms into a 4/3 with trample and the ability to gain indestructible when you cast a spell.
I like the value coming out of this card, but it seems a little bit contradictory for green as a 2-drop. You’re giving up whatever other effective creature you could’ve played on two in exchange for a card. It’s not like you’re going to get the 4/3 out the next turn either since you didn’t play a creature on turn 2.
#27. Orthion, Hero of Lavabrink
Orthion, Hero of Lavabrink is a 3/3 human soldier that creates copies of other creatures you control at a rate of one copy for , or a whopping five copies for .
I think this card is neat, and it’s cool seeing a Kiki-Jiki effect on a 3/3 for four mana in Standard. In the worst-case scenario I think this card will see a mild amount of play in Commander. At best, maybe it’ll break something in Standard in Grixis () or something. Who knows?
#26. Drana and Linvala
Drana and Linvala is the first of many legendary creature cards featuring two of Magic’s most iconic characters pairing up together. In this case, Drana and Linvala come together to form a 4-mana 3/4 with flying and vigilance that shuts down your opponents’ activated abilities and gains those abilities itself.
This is a super sweet card. It offers a lot of value for multiple different reasons, and even presents itself as a decent flier on rate in the scenario where your opponents don’t have any activated abilities to take advantage of. Nice!
#25. Hoarding Broodlord
Hoarding Broodlord is another battlecruiser creature out of March of the Machine, coming in as a 7/6 flier for a total of eight mana! It’s got convoke, which hopefully makes it a more manageable cost, but it also gives you any card out of your library exiled face down to be played later.
Getting a generic tutor like that isn’t something you should glaze over, especially since you can use convoke to cast it! This could be a great way to slam a huge flier early and generate some card advantage at the same time if you’re playing a deck that manages to go wide quickly and effectively.
#24. Knight-Errant of Eos
Knight-Errant of Eos is a 4/4 with convoke for that flips two creatures with mana value less than the number of creatures used to convoke the Knight-Errant out off the top of your library.
This is classic white, and I see this card fitting in quite well to your average white weenie or hate bear Commander deck. Those lists typically already go pretty wide with cheap, 2- to 3-cost creatures, and this would be a great top-end that solidifies your board and has a lot of potential to come out early.
In fact, you could theoretically play this on turn 3, convoke with two creatures, and get two other creatures with 2-power (a very common stat line in white) out immediately! That’s a lot of value.
#23. Invasion of Innistrad / Deluge of the Dead
Invasion of Innistrad is the black battle card out of March of the Machine, and it doesn’t leave you wanting. Coming in at four mana with flash, this siege gives a target creature an opponent controls a massive -13/-13 debuff and can transform after its five defense counters have been depleted. Its backside, Deluge of the Dead, is an enchantment that generates two 2/2 Zombies and can effectively eliminate cards out of graveyards to make more.
Overall, this battle brings a lot of generic value that I think most black Commander decks can take advantage of. After all, there aren’t many pods where you don’t need creature removal or graveyard hate, right?
#22. Invasion of Ikoria / Zilortha, Apex of Ikoria
Invasion of Ikoria was one of the first battles spoiled, and it’s also got an X in the casting cost! This X dictates how large of a non-human creature you can tutor out into play, making for a great mono-green creature tutor. Its backside, Zilortha, Apex of Ikoria, is an 8/8 dinosaur that gives your creatures one of the weirdest, but powerful, ways of saying “unblockable” that I’ve seen.
I really like how this Invasion was designed. It really fits green’s theme and can fit well into just about any general green strategy you could think of.
#21. Surrak and Goreclaw
Surrak is back for the first time in years, and this time he’s got a friend.
Surrak and Goreclaw are the mono-green duo that make up this 6-mana 6/5 with trample that also gives your other creatures trample! Its triggered ability has creatures enter with a +1/+1 counter and haste. This is quite fitting for the characters, and it helps provide additional, instantaneous pressure for green’s creature decks.
#20. Polukranos Reborn / Polukranos, Engine of Ruin
Since all our favorite legendary creatures are coming back, why not enjoy a new Polukranos? Polukranos Reborn is back, this time as a 4/5 with reach for triple green.
Disregarding that insane value, assuming you’re in mono-green or have excellent fixing in Standard, it also has an activated ability to transform. Its flipside, Polukranos, Engine of Ruin, is a 6/6 with reach and lifelink that’s reminiscent of Wurmcoil Engine, but better.
This card is a powerhouse, and thank god it’s triple green. Otherwise I fear for all remaining Standard players.
#19. Zurgo and Ojutai
Zurgo and Ojutai make up the Jeskai () legendary mythic, and what better way of doing that than being a 4/4 flier with haste? It’s also got hexproof for a turn and generates card advantage whenever it or another dragon deals combat damage to a player.
Very Jeskai, and I think it’s appropriately priced.
#18. Faerie Mastermind
Faerie Mastermind is another interesting new addition. This 2/1 flier with flash punishes card-drawing opponents by letting you cash in, and also operates as a card-draw engine itself.
Will it be Modern-playable? Probably not. Will it have a place in any other faerie tribal list? Definitely.
#17. Chandra, Hope’s Beacon
Chandra, Hope's Beacon is yet another 6-cost Chandra that comes in at five mana. This one copies your instants and sorceries, with a limit of one per turn, but it can also generate mana, give you some card advantage, and blow up two targets.
I’m a bigger fan of the passive ability than any of the activated ones. I’m going to enjoy slotting this into some Izzet () spellslinger decks, but I don’t have many expectations for anything beyond that.
#16. Kroxa and Kunoros
Kroxa and Kunoros is a Mardu () elder giant dog with vigilance, menace, and lifelink. You can reanimate a creature whenever it enters or attacks if you also exile five other cards from your graveyard.
I’m a little disappointed this doesn’t do more, but at the end of the day you still get an excellent body with a great ability.
#15. Tribute to the World Tree
Tribute to the World Tree is a 3-mana enchantment that blows a lot of other green enchantments out of the water. It draws you cards whenever a creature enters the battlefield with power 3 or greater. If not, you still get two +1/+1 counters.
This is a card I’d be more than happy to play in any mono-green deck. At worst you get stronger and stronger creatures. At best you get plenty of card draw to keep the forces coming. Great all around!
#14. Ghalta and Mavren
Ghalta and Mavren is your classic, run-of-the-mill dinosaur vampire. It’s a 12/12 with trample—obviously—that also creates more tokens whenever you attack.
It’s big, it’s huge, and it’s going to kill anything it comes into contact with. That kind of simplicity and big beefy stats is always welcome.
#13. Zimone and Dina
Zimone and Dina is a Sultai () legendary human dryad that comes into play as a 3/4 that drains an opponent whenever you draw your second card during a turn. If you use its activated ability, which requires you to sacrifice another creature, you get to not only draw a card, but also put a land into play. If you’ve got eight or more lands, repeat it.
This is a pretty classic Sultai build. Leaching life, drawing cards, and putting lands into play. It doesn’t get much better than this, and I think this creature brings a lot of value for a 3-drop.
#12. Etali, Primal Conqueror / Etali, Primal Sickness
Etali, Primal Conqueror is a massive 7/7 with trample that gives you a bunch of free nonland cards to cast off the top of your opponent’s libraries! Fun, right?
If you manage to transform it for a whopping 9 or 10 mana, you get an even better 11/11 with trample, indestructible, and damage with poison counters.
#11. Archangel Elspeth
Another set, another Elspeth. Archangel Elspeth probably isn’t the best Elspeth they’ve ever printed, but that’s a hard bar to clear.
This time around you’re generating 1/1s, buffing up other creatures, and returning creatures with a mana value of 3 or less to the battlefield. Classic white, right?
#10. Vorinclex / The Grand Evolution
The new Vorinclex is a 5-mana 6/6 with trample and reach, and it tutors out some Forests and can flip for . The backside, The Grand Evolution, puts creatures from your graveyard into play, distributes some +1/+1 counters, and lets your creatures fight others for just mana.
This card is intense, and it has a lot of pure-green mechanics all jammed into one. It’s a big creature with trample, puts more big creatures into play, and allows for creature-based removal. This is just good all around.
#9. Sheoldred / The True Scriptures
Sheoldred, like all the other Phyrexians this release, is a pretty standard rendition. It’s a 4/5 with menace that forces opponents to sacrifices a nontoken creature or planeswalker. When you flip it by paying , you’re greeted with The True Scriptures, an enchantment saga that destroys creatures and planeswalkers, forces your opponents to discard some cards, and reanimates all creatures from all graveyards into play under your control.
This has one of the better sagas I’ve seen from the Phyrexians, and while I don’t think it’ll live up to the previous Sheoldred, this is still a great card.
#8. Invasion of Tarkir / Defiant Thundermaw
Tarkir’s Invasion, aptly named Invasion of Tarkir, comes in at just two mana and deals at least two damage to any other target. More, if you reveal some dragons from your hand. The backside is a 4/4 flier with trample and an ability that flings two damage at any target whenever a dragon you control attacks!
This card is all around greatly priced and does a lot, and I’m sure it’ll see plenty of constructed play.
#7. Thalia and The Gitrog Monster
Thalia and The Gitrog Monster is a 4-mana rendition of the two classics. This 4/4 with first strike and deathtouch lets you play an extra land each turn, punishes nonbasics from across the table, and can turn your spare lands or creatures into card advantage.
I think this is a great intersection of the two cards, and I’m glad design decided to lean into the Gitrog aspect, particularly the lands and sacrifice aspects. Those better align with the green and black parts of this card’s color identity so well.
#6. Sword of Once and Future
Sword of Once and Future is certainly shaping up to be one of the best Swords, certainly on par with Sword of Fire and Ice. Between protection from blue and black, both of which have decent creature removal in different forms, and the card advantage of the on-damage ability, there isn’t much this Sword leaves you wanting.
#5. Omnath, Locus of All
The newest Omnath, who has unfortunately fallen to the Phyrexians, is a 4/4 that transforms unspent mana into black mana instead of losing it. On top of that, you can add a bit of mana to your pool by revealing specific cards off the top of your library during your precombat main phase.
I think it’s pretty obvious that this Omnath falls short of some of its predecessors, but it certainly packs a lot of value into a single, often 4-cost, creature. I’m personally quite interested in seeing where this ends up in Commander after a few weeks.
#4. Urabrask / The Great Work
This version of the traitorous Phyrexian pings an opponent when you cast an instant or sorcery. It can also transform for the low cost of a single red mana, assuming you play three or more instants or sorceries that turn.
The flipside, an enchantment saga aptly titled The Great Work, deals damage to each opponent and their creatures, creates some Treasure tokens, and has the chance to cast a bunch of spells out of your graveyard. Nice!
#3. Jin-Gitaxias / The Great Synthesis
Jin-Gitaxias continues the trend of calling Phyrexians by their whole name. This iteration of everyone’s favorite freak is a 5/5 with ward 2 and draws you cards when you cast cheap spells. To transform it, you just need to pay a small amount of mana. Its flipside, an enchantment saga named The Great Synthesis draws a bunch of cards on top of giving you no maximum hand size.
It bounces non-Phyrexian creatures, and also lets you cast a bunch of spells for free! It’s sort of a combination of all the other Jin-Gitaxias cards before it, and I’m all here for it.
#2. Wrenn and Realmbreaker
Wrenn and Realmbreaker is the newest iteration of the Wrenn planeswalker, this time coming in at just and starting with four loyalty. While I think this is one of the more powerful and efficient cards in the set, I also think it’s much weaker than Wrenn and Six despite the low mana value.
The mana-fixing ability paired with the mill 2 offers a nice bit of value for Golgari () Commander decks that can use both of them effectively and don’t mind lands in the graveyard. The manland ability is also decent. It keeps up until your next turn, which provides a decent defensive layer for itself.
Overall we’ll have to wait and see how this card plays out in Standard or Pioneer.
#1. Elesh Norn / The Argent Etchings
Who else? It’s none other than Elesh Norn.
This 4-mana iteration comes in at 3/5 with vigilance, and taxes your opponents two life unless they pay whenever one of their sources deals damage to you or a permanent you control. Its activated ability, which costs and the lives of three other creatures, exiles it and immediately returns it to the battlefield transformed!
The backside is an enchantment saga that starts off with five instances of incubate 2 and then gives your creatures +1/+1 and double strike for a turn. Finally, the saga destroys all permanents—yes, permanents—with a few exceptions.
All in all, this card is a total powerhouse and is more than powerful enough for four mana.
City on Fire | Illustration by Jake Murray
That wraps up today’s breakdown and analysis of the top 30 cards in March of the Machine! It’s shaping up to be quite the release, and I’m sure it’ll bring many new additions to all your favorite Standard and Commander decks.
What did you think of my rankings and the sets spoilers in general? What cards are you most excited about, and were they included on the rankings? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, or over in the official Draftsim Discord.
Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!
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Don’t forget that City on Fire has Convoke which should make it cost an average of 4 mana each fame, depending on your deck if course. It’s a perfect fit in the Prismari Performance precon from C21.