March of the Machine spoiler season is in full swing, and amongst the myriad new cards kicking things off is a brand new Elesh Norn. This one’s a double sided card (just like the rest of the praetors) which starts off as a creature, then becomes a powerful Saga. And then becomes a creature again…
Elesh Norn, of course, was the big chase card with her last appearance in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, as Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines. This new, four mana version of the praetor queen, just titled Elesh Norn, has a very different, and very strange, set of abilities.
Let’s talk about the front side of the card first, as it’s arguably the least conventional. Whenever a source an opponent controls damages you or one of your permanents, they must pay one mana or lose two life. That’s a weird one. It does many different things. It disincentives attacks (especially for a go-wide deck) sort of like a pseudo Propaganda. But it also makes blocking harder for your opponents, since stopping your creatures will probably mean they take damage anyway.
In a go-wide deck it’ll be particularly effective, since blocking a 1/1 token and paying mana or taking extra damage feels like a terrible deal. Checking out the flip side of this Elesh Norn card, a saga called Argent Etchings, we see this is probably the game plan. To transform Elesh Norn in the first place, you’ll need to pay three mana and sacrifice three creatures, so having little dudes seems the right choice.
On Argent Etchings, we see a bunch of weirdos fondling Elesh- hey hands off! We also see a three-step Saga that begins by asking you to “Incubate 2 five times”. This is a new mechanic. What it means is you make five Incubator tokens, each with two +1/+1 counters on them. Normally, you’d be required to pay two mana to turn each of the tokens into Phyrexian creatures, but Argent Etchings does the transformation for you. So you immediately get 10/10 worth of stats. Not bad.
Things get even better as the saga progresses. First, all your creatures get a +1/+1 buff and gain double strike, ensuring a really big swing – though your opponents will see it coming. And then you destroy all non-Phyrexian creatures, before (as if that wasn’t enough) Elesh Norn gets to come back as a creature again, so you can do it all over.
We’ve already seen Jin-Gitaxias’s card – which has a similarly absurd saga on its backside, so we can assume all the Praetors are getting one of these. Check out MTG March of the Machine guide for the latest news and spoilers – we’ll pop them there when they show up.