Last updated on April 30, 2023

Transcendent Message - Illustration by Liiga Smilshkalne

Transcendent Message | Illustration by Liiga Smilshkalne

Magic’s March of the Machine story is one of the biggest crossover events the game has seen in a while. The set is the conclusion of several years’ worth of stories that followed a plot by New Phyrexia to invade the rest of the Multiverse. That invasion finally happened in March of the Machine, creating a story that spans many different planes.

Apart from tying up more recent stories, MOM almost feels like a deliberate effort on the part of Wizards to make right by the much-maligned War of the Spark story. After having built to that event for a long time, fans were a little disappointed at the relatively low impact it had on Magic’s story. In contrast, March of the Machine really shakes up Magic’s lore, and it’ll be very interesting to see where it goes from here. MOM also corrected a controversy caused by War of the Spark’s novelization, so that’s a bonus.

More than most sets, understanding the story behind March of the Machine will help you understand where Magic’s story goes from here. With lots of big characters dead or missing and the planes suffering from the aftermath of this event, Magic’s story is sure to get a big shakeup following these events.

Ready to find out how the Phyrexian invasion plays out? Brace yourself for destruction en masse…

What Is March of the Machine About?

Surge of Salvation - Illustration by Dominik Mayer

Surge of Salvation | Illustration by Dominik Mayer

March of the Machine follows the remnants of the Gatewatch as they and their allies attempt to stop New Phyrexia’s invasion of the Multiverse. At the end of Phyrexia: All Will Be One, the Phyrexians were ready to use the compleated World Tree, now named Realmbreaker, to travel throughout the Multiverse and spread Phyresis to every plane of existence. MOM picks up right after those events and shows Phyrexia spreading its influence and oil across many different planes.

On a character level, March of the Machine focuses on a few different aspects. It answers the question of whether compleated planeswalkers are gone for good, and also reveals the ultimate fate of several heroes and villains.

March of the Machine Setting

Unlike many sets, which typically take place primarily on a single plane, March of the Machine’s story spans the entire Multiverse. The planes most featured in the main story are New Phyrexia, New Capenna, and Zhalfir (now considered its own plane).

To a lesser extent the main story also visits Kaldheim, Theros, Zendikar, Kaladesh, and Kamigawa. You can learn a bit more about the invasion of some of those planes and a few other B-plots through March of the Machine’s side stories.

Main Characters

Chandra Nalaar

Chandra, Hope's Beacon - Illustration by Randy Vargas

Chandra, Hope's Beacon | Illustration by Randy Vargas

Chandra is a pyromancer and planeswalker from Kaladesh, and she’s an original member of the Gatewatch. She’s easily the emotional lynchpin in this story. Her journey is one of the most personal, and she’s instrumental to setting the heroes’ plan that ultimately seals the fate of the Multiverse in motion.

Elspeth Tirel

Archangel Elspeth - Illustration by Denys Tsiperko

Archangel Elspeth | Illustration by Denys Tsiperko

A close second to Chandra in terms of importance, Elspeth is a planeswalker originally from the plane of Capenna. Her plane was invaded by Phyrexia when she was young, and she was taken captive by them before her spark ignited, allowing her to planeswalk.

Elspeth’s transformation in March of the Machine into an archangel is absolutely essential to the plot, and this set seemingly concludes her arch in relation to the Phyrexians.

Elesh Norn

Elesh Norn - Illustration by Magali Villeneuve

Elesh Norn | Illustration by Magali Villeneuve

As the leader of the New Phyrexian invasion force, Elesh Norn is the villain who takes center stage in March of the Machine. Norn has created a sense of religious fanaticism amongst her followers, and she’s often accompanied by a chorus or similar worshippers and attendees.

While Norn has appointed herself “Mother of Machines,” there’s plenty of in-fighting amongst the Phyrexian praetors and their followers. It’s made clear in this story that Norn also doesn’t care nearly as much about unity as she does exerting her own power and control over all Phyrexia and the Multiverse.


Wrenn and Realmbreaker - Illustration by Cristi Balanescu

Wrenn and Realmbreaker | Illustration by Cristi Balanescu

Wrenn is a dryad planeswalker with the unique ability to form symbiotic bonds with trees. While nearly half of her tree companions have come from Innistrad, her original home is unknown.

In March of the Machine Wrenn is being mentored by Chandra on how to control her fire-based magic. Wrenn is the only other planeswalker to accompany Chandra when it comes time to invade New Phyrexia; the plan is to have Wrenn bond with the compleated World Tree to end the invasion.

Wrenn is also instrumental in the return of Zhalfir, fulfilling her promise to Teferi made during Midnight Hunt.

Teferi Akosa

Teferi Akosa of Zhalfir - Illustration by Chris Rallis

Teferi Akosa of Zhalfir | Illustration by Chris Rallis

Teferi is one of the oldest characters in Magic, having studied at the Tolarian Academy under Urza. Long ago, during a previous Phyrexian Invasion, Teferi phased out his homeland of Zhalfir to keep it safe.

After a long time searching for a way, Teferi is finally able to phase Zhalfir back in with the help of Wrenn during the events of March of the Machine. Teferi and the rest of Zhalfir also act as late-game reinforcements for the heroes of the story.


Koth is one of the few native Mirrans who remains free from New Phyrexia’s blight. He leads the Mirran resistance that’s been fighting for the plane long before the rest of the Multiverse knew of the threat it posed along with Melira.

Koth aids Chandra and Wrenn when they arrive on New Phyrexia, leading his armies to distract Norn’s forces while the pair of planeswalkers attempt to assault Realmbreaker.


Melira is a unique Mirran, being the first being born on the plane that had no metal parts on her body. She’s also completely immune to Phyresis, making her an important part of the resistance.

Thanks to her immunity, Melira can also heal others who have been infected by Phyresis as long as the process isn’t too advanced.


Mirrodin Avenged - Illustration by Scott Murphy

Mirrodin Avenge | Illustration by Scott Murphy

Karn is a silver golem created by Urza. Since then Karn has become a planeswalker, and he created the plane of Argentum which would eventually become Mirrodin, and then New Phyrexia. Karn sees New Phyrexia as his own mistake that he must fix since he unknowingly tracked glistening oil onto the plane.

Karn begins March of the Machine as Elesh Norn’s prisoner, having been captured by her at the end of Dominaria United.

Nissa Revane

Traumatic Revelation - Illustration by Cristi Balanescu

Traumatic Revelation | Illustration by Cristi Balanescu

Nissa is an elven planeswalker from Zendikar, and another original Gatewatch member. She was part of the initial strike team that sought to take down New Phyrexia during All Will Be One but was compleated when the mission when south.

Nissa now serves Elesh Norn and helps operate Realmbreaker’s portals. She also poses a significant obstacle to Chandra, who won’t hurt her due to their romance.

The Plot

The Messengers

March of the Machine starts immediately after the Gatewatch’s strike team is captured on New Phyrexia at the end of the previous set’s story. Elesh Norn tempts the planeswalkers she’s captured into joining Phyrexia and displays the dangers of challenging her by having Ajani kill Sheoldred in front of them.

The planeswalkers refuse, and Norn allows them to escape so they can spread the tale of what happened. The surviving planeswalkers, Kaya, Tyvar, and Kaito, go to Dominaria to begin planning how to fight off Phyrexia along with Chandra, Wrenn, Liliana, and Vivien.

While most of the group agrees they should focus on shoring up the Multiverse’s defenses, Chandra is adamant that they return to New Phyrexia. She’s shouted down or ignored by the others except Wrenn, who agrees their best course of action is to stop the invasion at its source. While the rest of the ‘walkers plan to travel to other planes and help with their defense, Chandra and Wrenn go to New Phyrexia.

New Phyrexia

On New Phyrexia, Chandra and Wrenn meet up with the Mirran resistance. Koth helps them invade Realmbreaker’s control platform but warns them that they might run into the compleated Nissa. Chandra is nervous about encountering Nissa, who she has had romantic feelings for in the past. In fact, as little as Chandra wanted to admit it, saving Nissa was a huge reason why she wanted to return to New Phyrexia. Koth, Melira, and Urabrask lead the resistance against Norn in hopes of distracting her.

The Invasion Begins

Meanwhile, Phyrexia begins its invasion of the Multiverse. While all planes are hit pretty hard, Norn sends Atraxa to New Capenna specifically to ensure the Multiverse’s supply of Halo isn’t destroyed. Many iconic characters from across the Multiverse are compleated at this time, including Koma on Kaldheim, Heliod on Theros, and Omnath on Zendikar. Though some minor victories are won, like the Wanderer’s defeat of the compleated Tamiyo on Kamigawa, things look bleak for the Multiverse.

Back on New Phyrexia, Chandra and Wrenn realize they’ve been lured into a trap and that Norn has seen through their plan. The Mirran resistance begins losing many troops. Nissa arrives and pulls Wrenn from her host tree then dismembers it. Elesh Norn taunts the resistance and her captive, Karn, basking in what seems to be the victory of New Phyrexia. She even has Urabrask dismantled for his betrayal of the Phyrexians.

Angelus ex Machina

Somewhere, outside any plane of existence, Elspeth Tirel awakens after absorbing the blast of the Filigree Sylex. An unknown voice, which sounds vaguely like her mother’s, presents Elspeth with a choice of where to be sent to help defend the Multiverse. After considering her options, Elspeth decides to head to New Phyrexia. She is reborn as an archangel, and it’s revealed that she has been speaking with the planeswalker Serra.

Elspeth intervenes on New Phyrexia just in time to provide a major distraction. Norn, busy with Elspeth, turns her attention away from Chandra and Wrenn, who begin trying to reach Realmbreaker. When Chandra is captured by Nissa, the Mirran resistance takes turns carrying Wrenn to Realmbreaker. It’s ultimately a grievously injured Melira who gets Wrenn to the tree, and Wrenn begins trying to bond with it.

Turning the Tides

Across the Multiverse, angels begin turning the tides of the battle, the same way Elspeth did on New Phyrexia. On New Capenna, the residents intentionally destroy a building, toppling it over onto Atraxa, killing her. Things are starting to look better, and New Phyrexia is beginning to panic.

Wrenn successfully bonds with Realmbreaker. As she burns away its corruption and allows the true tree to grow from within, she also reaches out through its branches to find Zhalfir. She contacts Teferi, who opens a portal and begins bringing Zhalfir back in New Phyrexia’s place. He and his people join the battle, helping the Mirrans and planeswalkers there.

As Elspeth fights Elesh Norn, the New Phyrexians turn on one another. Jin-Gitaxias, seeing Norn’s fading power, begins openly attacking her with his own armies. Ajani steps in to fight the praetor and his Gitaxians for their disloyalty.

After confronting Elspeth and being attacked by the treacherous Gitaxians, Elesh Norn is in a state of disrepair. Karn reforms his body and finishes Norn off for good, removing her head from her body. Though Karn isn’t a fan of killing, he knows he needs to correct his mistake of creating New Phyrexia.

The Denouement

The remnants of the Mirran resistance and the rest of their allies return to Zhalfir through Teferi’s portal. At the behest of Chandra and Teferi, Nissa and Ajani are brought back with them, alive but unconscious. Zhalfir takes New Phyrexia’s place in the Multiverse as a plane of existence, while the Phyrexian plane is banished in Zhalfir’s place.

With the invasion over, Teferi replants Wrenn’s seed on Zhalfir so that she will regrow there following her temporary death inside Realmbreaker. A dying Melira offers to give her life to help fix Ajani and Nissa, much to Koth’s dismay. Koth also feels lost without his home and many of his friends. Elspeth consoles him, though it’s revealed that her personality has been altered by her transformation into an archangel.

Melira ultimately goes through with her sacrifice, reversing Ajani and Nissa’s Phyresis, and both return to their original states. She’s only able to do so with Karn’s help: in the process Karn must give up Venser’s spark, making him no longer a planeswalker.

Nissa and Chandra share a kiss, and Chandra is vindicated for her relentless optimism throughout the story that Nissa could be saved.

Story Spotlight Cards

Archangel Elspeth

Archangel Elspeth

Archangel Elspeth shows the moment Elspeth arrives on New Phyrexia in her new form.

Breach the Multiverse

Breach the Multiverse

The art on Breach the Multiverse depicts Realmbreaker’s branches spreading out throughout the Multiverse. The dark background implies that this could be the blind eternities.

Elspeth’s Smite

Elspeth’s Smite

Elspeth's Smite shows Elspeth’s fight with Elesh Norn. Though it may seem as though Elspeth kills Norn here, she actually just injures the praetor. Norn is killed later in the story by Karn, explaining why this card doesn’t do enough damage on its own to kill any version of Norn.

Into the Fire

Into the Fire

Into the Fire shows the moment Wrenn and Chandra arrive on New Phyrexia to take the fight directly to Realmbreaker.

Invasion of New Phyrexia / Teferi Akosa of Zhalfir

Both sides of the battle card Invasion of New Phyrexia show when the portal to Zhalfir opens and the troops arrive to help their allies. While the front side focuses on Zhalfir’s soldiers, the flip side, Teferi Asoka of Zhalfir, depicts Teferi himself leading the troops into battle.

Merciless Repurposing

Merciless Repurposing

Merciless Repurposing shows Urabrask being dismantled on Elesh Norn’s orders. The flavor text makes it seem as though Urabrask may have survived this encounter, but with New Phyrexia banished from reality it’s impossible to know the red praetor’s ultimate fate.

Mirrodin Avenged

Mirrodin Avenged

Mirrodin Avenged shows the moment Karn finally destroys Elesh Norn for good, holding her severed head as she disintegrates.

Moment of Truth

Moment of Truth

Moment of Truth depicts the moment Elspeth chooses to return to life as an archangel and intervene on New Phyrexia. Though she doesn’t have her wings yet, the feathers in the art give a hint at the transformation to come.



This new version of Negate depicts Ajani’s Phyresis being reversed by Melira and Karn, returning him to his original state.

Render Inert

Render Inert

It’s mentioned in the story that when New Phyrexia phases out of existence, the glistening oil on other planes no longer has any function. It’s theorized by the planeswalkers that this happens because Elesh Norn made it so that the oil only takes her directions. Without her, those who were compleated were left without any instructions to follow.

Render Inert shows a Phyrexian invader as it falls motionless to the ground, no longer receiving instructions from Norn.

Seal from Existence

Seal from Existence

Seal from Existence gives a look inside Realmbreaker as Wrenn burns away its corruption and her own body along with it. Though Wrenn’s grown body is burned, Teferi secures her seed and replants her.

Storm the Seedcore

Storm the Seedcore

Storm the Seedcore depicts the moment Wrenn is carried by the Mirran resistance to the base of Realmbreaker.

Surge of Salvation

Surge of Salvation

Surge of Salvation shows the effect of the angels spreading their Halo throughout Theros.

Transcendent Message

Transcendent Message

The hand seen in Transcendent Message belongs to Teferi, but it’s not his literal hand. Wrenn searched for traces of Teferi’s magic to help locate Zhalfir, so what’s actually shown is Wrenn following that trace to find where he is.

Traumatic Revelation

Traumatic Revelation

Traumatic Revelation shows when Chandra first encounters the compleated Nissa. This is just after Nissa dismembers Wrenn’s host tree.

Wrenn and Realmbreaker

Wrenn and Realmbreaker

Wrenn and Realmbreaker is the joined version of Wrenn with what used to be the World Tree. There are fresh branches growing from the tree, depicting Wrenn purifying it and attempting to overwrite the effects of Phyresis.

The Flavor Text

Axgard Artisan

Axgard Artisan

Axgard Artisan’s flavor text gives players an idea of how the warriors of Kaldheim approach a fight. It also introduces a new named character, Skodreg. While these bits of lore don’t always pay off, there’s a chance we could see Skodreg on his own card during a future visit to his plane.

Deadly Derision

Deadly Derision

Deadly Derision gives us a look at what Daretti is up to during the Phyrexian invasion. The flavor text paints the picture of a triumphant moment when Daretti overcomes the forces of Phyrexia with his “superior” technology.

Harried Artisan / Phyrexian Skyflayer

The flavor text on both Harried Artisan and its flip side Phyrexian Skyflayer do a great job illustrating how the process of Phyrexian compleation changes someone’s outlook.

Phyrexian Gargantua

Phyrexian Gargantua

Phyrexian Gargantua’s flavor text is a good bit of dark comedy, but it also gives players insight into Braids’ reckless process of creating Phyrexian horrors.

Scrappy Bruiser

Scrappy Bruiser

Scrappy Bruiser gives a look at a street-tough raccoon Riveteer from New Capenna. Not only is this creature giving good Rocket Raccoon energy, but the flavor text shows how Riveteers conduct themselves. This is also another named character that doesn’t seem to have been compleated, so maybe we’ll get a future Koko card as our first raccoon commander.

Wrap Up

Seal from Existence - Illustration by Anato Finnstark

Seal from Existence | Illustration by Anato Finnstark

March of the Machine’s story is one of the biggest events to happen in Magic’s lore in a while. Though New Phyrexia was defeated, their invasion still left quite a scar across the Multiverse.

While those who are compleated may be dormant for now, some future villain may find a way to reanimate the glistening oil. After all, the oil existed before Elesh Norn and New Phyrexia, so it may still be a danger. We’ll have to wait for The Aftermath to see the full extent of the invasion’s impact and get more hints as to where Magic’s story might go from here.

Did you enjoy March of the Machine’s story? Which characters do you hope to learn about in The Aftermath? Let me know in the comments below or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing you in the next one!

Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates:

Add Comment

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