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MTG March of the Machine release date and mechanics

In April 2023, March of the Machine brought the entire multiverse together for one epic battle - from dates to new MTG cards, how it went.

Magic the Gathering march of the machine: MTG artwork of Teferi, with a giant image of Elesh Norn behind him.

MTG March of the Machine was the second MTG set of 2023. Its story capped off an epic Phyrexian plotline that ran for four sets, was set across numerous planes, featuring fan-favourite characters from the length and breadth of the multiverse.

Below you’ll find everything from March of the Machine’s release date to its story – all you need to know about the biggest MTG set of 2023. You can check out our MTG 2023 release schedule to find out how it fit in among the other releases that year. If you’d rather look to the future, check out our current MTG release schedule guide.

MTG March of the Machine release date timetable, showing all release dates for the set

March of the Machine release date

The global tabletop March of the Machine release date was April 21, 2023. It was available in paper after a week of prerelease events from April 14–20. The digital release on Magic Arena and Magic Online was April 18.

Magic the Gathering march of the machine: artwork showing a range of characters including the planeswalker chandra, ready to fight phyrexia.

March of the Machine spoilers

March of the Machine spoilers ran from March 29 – April 4 2023. A key feature early on was MTG characters teaming up, unlikely alliances between legendary creatures who would normally hate each other’s guts. Everyone from Fblthp and Borborygmos to Yargle and Multani joined hands to fight back the Phyrexians.

MTG March of the Machine: Borborygmos and Fblthp MTG card

There were some very prominent Compleation victims among the early spoilers. The Theros god Heliod has been turned Phyrexian after his believers were corrupted – once flipped, this card gives all your spells flash and a cost reduction when your opponent draws cards.

MTG March of the Machine card Heliod

The beloved MTG Commander Omnath finally gets his fifth colour, becoming a Phyrexian in the process: Omnath, Locus of All has an interesting take on ramp and card draw

MTG March of the Machine card Omnath, Locus of All

Our favourite dino, Etali, also has a Compleated card – though her basic form is so powerful you rarely need to flip her to win a game.

MTG March of the Machine - the MTG card Etali

The full cycle of life-gain MTG land cards return for the set, showing all kinds of planes looking rather the worse for wear.

MTG March of the Machine card Wind Scarred Crag

The set contains several new MTG Planeswalkers. Chandra, Hope’s Beacon was shown off early. She’s a big red finisher who lets you copy one spell per turn, with flexible loyalty abilities that make her a fantastic inclusion in burn decks. She was accompanied by Elspeth and Wrenn; one is an angel now, and the other has merged with  Realmbreaker, the Phyrexian’s doomsday weapon.

MTG Chandra Hopes Beacon card

Breach the Multiverse was also an early reveal: an expensive black spell which lets you mill your opponents and then steal their best stuff out the graveyard. It went on to become a powerful player in Standard format monoblack MTG decks.

Magic: The Gathering: The MTG card Breach the Multiverse.

The blue-black Sword of Once and Future finally completes the Mirran ‘Sword of’ cycle, which began all the way back in 2004’s Mirrodin block.

MTG March of the Machine release date - The MTG card Sword of Once and Future

Realmbreaker isa snazzy legendary artifact, and the tool the Phyrexians use to drill holes through the multiverse for their multifront invasion. It steals lands out your opponent’s deck, and for a lot of mana, lets you pull every Praetor out of your deck and put them onto the field.

MTG March of the Machine release date - The MTG card Realmbreaker, the Invasion Tree

Speaking of Praetors, the set contains a full cycle of new double-sided Phyrexian Praetors, which transform into game-ending sagas – if you can meet their unique, steep costs. Elesh Norn was the first revealed.

MTG march of the machine card elesh norn

March of the Machine mechanics

MTG March of the Machine’s mechanics introduced a brand new card type, Battles. This was first mentioned on the Atraxa card in All Will Be One. This isn’t just a novel subtype like Sagas, but a whole new card type, like Planeswalkers. Battles are double-sided cards, and one appears in every single pack of March of the Machine.

MTG Battle card Invasion of Zendikar

Battles are permanents that enter the battlefield with defense counters, and which you will assign an opponent to defend. You can target Battles with attacking creatures just as you can for Planeswalkers, removing defense counters as you deal damage. Battles all have an effect upon entering the battlefield, and then when you defeat them (through combat or damage) you get to exile them, and cast their other side for free.

MTG Battle card Awakened Skyclave

Battles aren’t the only double-faced cards in the set. Many creatures can be transformed by paying a mana cost, which includes Phyrexian mana (colored mana you can pay for with 2 life). Their flip sides are all Phyrexians. The five Phyrexian Praetors can all also transform into Sagas, provided you can meet their challenging conditions and costs.

Another new mechanic is Incubate. Incubate creates creates Incubator artifact tokens with +1/+1 counters on them. You can then pay mana to transform those cocoons into 0/0 Phyrexian creatures. To accommodate this mechanic, the core rules had to be updated to allow tokens to transform.MTG March of the Machine release date - a diagram of the incbate mechanic

The new ability Backup appears on many creatures from the set. When those creatures enter, they place a +1/+1 counter on any creature, and give it all of their printed abilities for a turn. These might be simple keyword abilities (like Deathtouch or Lifelink), or something rather more powerful and complex.

MTG March of the Machine card Moment of Truth

March of the Machine story

March of the Machine’s story introduced huge changes that will shape both Magic: The Gathering’s mechanics and its story. The main set symbol gave cheeky hints about the plot, showing the planeswalker Elspeth’s sword thrusting through the Phyrexia icon, while the Commander set symbol is big bad Elesh Norn. The packaging also hinted at a big role for Teferi…

YouTube Thumbnail

The key beats of March of the Machine’s story are: the Phyrexians have built Realmbreaker, their own version of the Kaldheim world tree, which allows them to break into different planes and attack the whole multiverse at once, under Elesh Norn’s command.

The goodies weren’t caught with their pants down, and on many plains they came together to fight the Phyrexians as one big army. It’s a bigger Avengers Assemble moment than War of the Spark, facing off against the new evil league of compleated planeswalkers.

The killing blow came from two sources: the Planeswalker Wrenn merging with the Realmbreaker doomsday device to create new portals that linked with Zalfir, the phased-out home city of Teferi; and a newly transformed angelic Elspeth who delivered the mortal wound to Elesh Norn.

Magic the Gathering march of the machine aftermath logo

March of the Machine: The Aftermath

March of the Machine: The Aftermath was a ‘micro set’ released on May 12, 2023. It was sold in collector boosters and little epilogue boosters that contained just five cards. It contains far fewer cards than a normal set, and has no Common cards – just Uncommons, Rares, and Mythics.

The set was wildly unpopular with fans. Some didn’t like paying so much for so few cards, while others found the experience of opening duplicates of so many uncommons deeply unrewarding. The set could also not be drafted, but was legal for Standard play.

March of the Machine Commander decks

There are five March of the Machine Commander decks. The really big innovation was the return of Planechase, an EDH-only mechanic that sees players hopping around the MTG multiverse for different effects.

Deck Color Theme Face commander
Growing Threat White-Black Phyrexians Brimaz, Blight of Oreskos
Cavalry Charge White-Blue-Black Knights Sidar, Jahari of Zhalfir
Divine Convocation Blue-Red-White Convoke Kayla, the Broken Blade
Call for Backup Red-Green-White +1/+1 counters Bright-Palm, Soul Awakener
Tinker Time Green-Blue-Red Artifact tokens Gimbal, Gremlin Prodigy

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