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What You Need to Know About March of the Machine Draft at the Pro Tour

May 02, 2023
Marshall Sutcliffe

This weekend is Pro Tour March of the Machine at MagicCon: Minneapolis. With the return of the Pro Tour is the return of high stakes draft, and March of the Marchine Booster Draft features as the format starting both Day One and Day Two, the first three rounds of play on each day. When it comes to calculating who makes the Top 8, and who doesn't, it's often the Draft record that makes the difference.

Put another way, any player who manages to 3-0 both of their drafts has a good chance of making Top 8 with even a middling record in Standard. There's a lot on the line as winning those first rounds can make or break a Top 8 run.

The March of the Machine Big Picture

So what will players be thinking about when they sit down to actually draft?

Hopefully they've done a ton of drafts and have a good sense for the format. Broadly this format is in the midrange part of the speed spectrum. While there are a few relatively quick archetypes to draft (thanks primarily to the backup mechanic) the games tend to either hit a tipping point in the middle part of the game or go long and grindy. And, as is normally the case, the commons in the set play the biggest part in determining which colors and color pairs are performing the best.

At the start, blue has taken the (rightful) spot as the top color, and it's been impressive with how it's done so. Cards like Preening Champion, Ephara's Dispersal, Eyes of Gitaxias, Saiba Cryptomancer, and Assimilate Essence have been some of the top performing commons full stop.

Preening Champion Ephara's Dispersal Eyes of Gitaxias Saiba Cryptomancer Assimilate Essence

Preening Champion in particular fits perfectly into multiple archetypes and is widely considered the best common in the format. Blue is also excellent in that it pairs well with all of the other colors, so it's the ideal place to start off a draft. Removal from black and to a lesser extent red will be sought after as well, particularly Deadly Derision, Final Flourish, and Volcanic Spite.

Deadly Derision Final Flourish Volcanic Spite

There are plenty of powerful cards in this format and common removal spells mitigate what could have been a bomb-heavy slugfest into something much more strategic.

In another color, white has aggressive creatures and combat tricks like Aerial Boost, Angelic Intervention, Swordsworn Cavalier, and Bola Slinger.

Aerial Boost Angelic Intervention Swordsworn Cavalier Bola Slinger

White—particularly when paired with blue for the tribal Knights archetype—is the go-to aggressive color and is great at getting the opponent to 0 life quickly if left unchecked.

Green provides the backbone for my favorite archetype in the format: five-color good stuff. Cards like Blighted Burgeoning and Overgrown Pest, as well as fan favorite Skittering Surveyor, provide a great shell for the deck.

Blighted Burgeoning Overgrown Pest Skittering Surveyor

But without the full cycle of all ten "gain Lands" the deck wouldn't work. These common lands enter the battlefield tapped but produce two different colors of mana and gain you 1 life, letting you cast powerful multicolor spells reliably and padding your life to give you time to get there.

Jungle Hollow Thornwood Falls Dismal Backwater Wind-Scarred Crag Rugged Highlands

Speaking of the Five-Color Deck

There are a few things to note about this deck in case anyone tries for it at the Pro Tour (or your next draft on MTG Arena).

First, you must prioritize the gain lands over most everything except premium cards in both Pack 1 and most of Pack 2. This is called “eating your vegetables” and it's not for the faint of heart. But by the time you get to Pack 3, and you already have great mana, you can basically take any powerful card you open or that gets passed to you.

Second, it's almost always worth it just go for the full five colors if you have the gain lands and green fixing anyway. You'll almost always find activated abilities or extra powerful cards to splash for.

Invasion of Amonkhet Heliod, the Radiant Dawn Yarok, the Desecrated

Last, the deck is actually good. The power level of the gold cards and the increased frequency of rare and mythic rare cards in the packs (because of dedicated slots for double-faced cards like battles showing up in every pack as well as the slot for the Multiverse Legends) means the players will see far more rares than in a normal draft. If you have the mana to be able to cast basically any card in the format, that's a great place to be going into the third pack!

Multiverse Legends

Speaking of the March of the Machine Multiverse Legends cards, the players will see one per pack from a total of 65 cards. At first glance these might seem like randomly fun additions to the packs but the fact that there's one in every pack makes a huge impact on the format.

For example, the full cycle of companion cards are here and, in case you forgot, they play very well in Limited. In fact, some of them are fully worth meeting the deck building restriction for!


Yorion, Sky Nomad is one of the best companions to build around for two main reasons.

  1. The overall power level of the cards in this set are fairly close, meaning that the cards you'll normally cut from your deck are still playable, it's just they aren't as good as the cards you're keeping in. You can run some of these mediocre-but-still-playable cards to get to the 60-card threshold needed to have Yorion be your companion and not have it ruin your deck.
  2. All battle cards (and many creatures) in the set have enters the battlefield abilities, perfect for blinking with Yorion.

The restriction on Lurrus—everything in your deck being two mana or less—is more demanding but boy this card is hard to beat if you can fully build around it. I have two rules to having a successful Lurrus as a companion deck:

  1. Always make sure you can cast something from your graveyard the turn you cast Lurrus. Your opponent is very likely to kill Lurrus at their earliest convenience. Remember, they know it's coming, so make sure you get your value in case they save removal for our favorite Cat Nightmare.
  2. Always have a backup plan to get Lurrus back. The best option in this set is Unseal the Necropolis. It's so backbreaking when you play Lurrus, cast something from your graveyard, they kill Lurrus, and then you buy back Lurrus and do it again.
Unseal the Necropolis

Unseal the Necropolis is a card you can play in any black deck, but as a backup plan to buy back Lurrus it can also be a game breaker.

Battles and How to Win (With) Them

Perhaps the most visible new card type in this set, battles are absolutely perfect for Limited play as they rely mainly on creature combat to be interesting—something Limited Magic is well known for.

Battles offer a ton of interesting decisions both in the draft portion as well as on the battlefield. During the draft, double-faced cards are revealed to the table so that everyone can see which were opened. Since all of the battles are double-faced, they will be revealed upon opening and this could definitely change how the players draft. If the player on your right shows you an Invasion of Innistrad you may want to think twice about going into black, for example. This kind of nuance isn't present on MTG Arena or Magic Online, so teams that tested in person will have an edge here.


Battles in general have played very well, creating kind of a mini game that the players navigate. Do you attack your battle to try to further your advantage? Do you leave a creature back to block in case your opponent plays a battle on their turn? It makes for deep strategic play and a nuanced look at combat.

But which battles have been performing the best?

Invasion of Amonkhet Invasion of New Phyrexia Invasion of Fiora Invasion of Innistrad

Invasion of Amonkhet has been the most impressive to me, as it's just an uncommon but it had an outsized impact on most games it's played. Most interesting is that it doesn't affect the board when played—a hallmark of the best battles is that they do something meaningful to the board when played.

So how does Invasion of Amonkhet still hang in as one of the best battles? It's the other side: every time you transform it, you get this awesome creature with the abilities of whatever the best creature in a graveyard is. Unreal on a 3 mana value uncommon that is a two-for-one just by casting it!

Invasion of New Phyrexia, Invasion of Fiora, and Invasion of Innistrad are less subtle in how they are good: they have a great, board-affecting, front side and plenty enough on the back end to justify attacking them as well.

See You This Friday, May 5

We'll be broadcasting all three days of Pro Tour March of the Machine, both Friday and Saturday have Draft to start them off and our intrepid coverage team will be there to bring you all the tough decisions, close picks, and big attacks. I hope to see you in the chat at from MagicCon: Minneapolis!

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