MTG Battles are a strange new addition to Magic: The Gathering. With only a few cards of this type in existence, it’s understandable that you might not be completely up to speed on how Battles work. Here we’ll talk you through the rules for Battle cards, the history of this card type, and the best Battle cards you should be putting in your decks.
Battle cards came out in 2023, but their existence was revealed one MTG set before they actually emerged. The Atraxa card from Phyrexia All Will Be One referenced this mysterious new card type, but we had to wait months for March of the Machine to spill the beans. Prior to this, there hadn’t been a new type of card in Magic since MTG planeswalkers arrived in 2007, so needless to say, this was a pretty big deal.
Rules for MTG Battle cards
The basic rules for MTG Battle cards are actually quite similar to planeswalkers. This is a new permanent type which, like ‘walkers, can be attacked and damaged. Battles enter the battlefield with a number of ‘defense counters’ which work just like loyalty counters, and they go to the graveyard when their defense is depleted. (This is referred to as ‘defeating’ the Battle.) One point of damage removes one defense counter, and so on.
Because Battles are a new permanent type there are relatively few cards that can interact with them. There are lots of spells that can destroy artifacts and enchantments, but to wipe out a battle you’ll generally need ‘non-land permanent’ removal, or an effect that deals damage ‘to any target’. But Battles can be attacked.
When an MTG Battle card is played, its controller chooses a player to be its protector (there are restrictions on this depending on the Battle type). The rules then apply like planeswalkers. Other players can choose the Battle as a target for any number of their attacking creatures, whilst the protector player may choose to defend it by blocking.
MTG Battle card types
Right now there is just one MTG Battle card type, the Siege. Currently, all Sieges in the game come from the same set, March of the Machine, and this is the only type of Battle card released thus far. Wizards has explained it’s being cautious with Battles, to see how they play and how they’re received.
Sieges are strange looking cards. They’re double-faced and are played landscape at first. When a Siege is cast, its controller must pick an opposing player to be its defender. The controller wants to defeat the Siege, because once the Siege’s last defense counter is removed, it is exiled, and its controller gets to play its reverse face for free. Essentially, you get a reward for defeating your own Siege.
Sometimes, that reward will be a creature, other times an enchantment or an artifact. It could even be an instant, a sorcery, or a planeswalker. It can sometimes be worthwhile playing a Siege, even if you don’t plan to invest time defeating it, because all Sieges have some sort of effect when first cast as well.
Best MTG Battles
Invasion of Alara
Invasion of Alara is our first five-color Battle card, and it deserves a shout out for its combo potential. While it has a demanding casting cost, the effect you get when you play this Battle is basically MTG Cascade with a value of four. It’s a little better than that, in fact, because you get to pick which of the two cards you want to Cascade into.
This means it works with all the same broken nonsense that Cascade does, including Adventures. A popular trick is to use Invasion of Alara to play Bramble Familiar’s 7-mana ‘Fetch Quest’ Adventure for free, and build up an impossible lead.
We barely need to speak about the back half of the card. Awaken the Maelstrom is very good, but you need to divert so much damage into popping it that it’s often better just to attack.
Invasion of Ikoria
Invasion of Ikoria is a fantastic MTG Battle, because it’s an excellent MTG Tutor card. Plug enough mana into this spell and it can find you any creature you’re after – as long as it’s not a human – and plonk it right onto the battlefield. It even gets stuff from your graveyard.
Invasion of Tarkir
Invasion of Tarkir is a powerful Battle card, but a very situational one. It only really does anything in tribal decks full of MTG dragons. If that’s what you’re playing, however, this is a very attractive option, allowing you to play a burn style strategy and push loads of extra damage through.
Invasion of Gobakhan
Invasion of Gobakhan is an MTG Battle that’s versatile and efficient enough to see play in a bunch of different formats and decks. Whereas most Sieges have two modes, the effect you get when you play them, and the reward you get when you defeat them, Invasion of Gobakhan has three.
It starts out with some light hand disruption, and then you only have to hit it for three damage to access a powerful anthem that will keep pumping your creatures if they attack. In an aggressive enough deck this might be enough to outspeed your foe, but there’s still some more value to be had.
If you sacrifice your Lightshield Array, you get to make your whole board hexproof and indestructible. Okay, this lacks the crucial surprise factor of Heroic Intervention, but there’s a reason that card costs $10 despite several reprints.
Invasion of Zendikar
Invasion of Zendikar is less flashy than many of the MTG Battles on this list – it’s only an uncommon for starters – but it’s a really solid role-filler for multi-colored decks. It’s an MTG mana ramp card that can be vital for fixing your mana and can then flip over into a decent-sized body, without you putting in much work. Not bad at all!