We’re back with another exclusive Magic: The Gathering Reveal – this time, a first look at six cards from the upcoming March of the Machine deck, including one that’s part of a potential Duo to instantly kill your opponent in Magic’s Standard form. We also spoke with Set Design Lead Dave Humpherys from Wizards of the Coast about the designs behind each card and the brand-new “battle” card genre.
Flip this slideshow to see all the new cardsand keep reading to hear Humphreys’ thoughts on it:
Probably the most notable of these cards is the Invasion of Tarkir, a battle card – the first new permanent type in Magic since WOTC introduced the ubiquitous Planeswalker nearly 16 years ago. When you play a battle, you get an instant effect, but you choose an opponent to defend it – dealing enough battle damage (either with attacking creatures or direct spells) will allow you to flip it over to a new card, in this case Angry Dragon. The Humpherys say they debated whether battles could be just magic or land, but “what we were aiming for conceptually didn’t really make sense as any card type out there”.
WOTC hopes the fights will be playable right out of the gate, as Humpherys also told us that other design teams have already expressed interest in their potential use as part of future decks. He explains, “If they play as well as we hope, they should appear from time to time in worlds where they make sense to the current story, but I doubt they’ll be in every group.” To help enable this, March of the Machine battles feature a “siege” subtype, providing some flexibility for WOTC to change or iterate on their design down the line.
Two more of our offerings revealed today are part of the March card tournament for the machine that engages individual formerly legendary characters from a specific plane into a single card – in this case, paral And Carrie Ziff from Kladash and anger And Turbran from Caldheim. “It’s great if we can find a way to fuse the abilities that characters are known for together to make a change that would seem coherent enough for a new creature card we might make,” says Humpherys.
The previously revealed team up was somewhat of a comic Oh my man and my queen, which is just an 18/6 creature with no abilities, but another reveal to us who uses a new backup mechanic to rework this legendary team to deadly effect. Creatures with Backup can grant +1/+1 temporary counters and abilities to another creature when they enter the battlefield, and the Voldaren Thrillseeker ability enables a combination of two cards to kill at once during March of the device as a result. While it takes 10 mana of three different colors to pull in one turn, using Voldaren Thrillseeker to improve Yargle and Multani instantly lets you have 20 powerful creatures that you can sacrifice to theoretically kill your opponent instantly.
“Voldaren Thrillseeker with Yargle and Multani was a very intentional interaction that we thought would be fun content given the mana costs of those cards and the ways to disrupt that combo by removing or gaining a life,” Humphreys confirms. He also explains that he led a group design for Ikoria, which had a way of giving other creatures new abilities in the Mutate mechanic, stating that they were confident using a similar idea here.
Our last two cards are the first Phyrexian “Lord” (magic slang term for a creature that preys on other creatures of the same kind) we’ve seen, as well as a Phyrexianized version of the fan-favorite magic Shark Hurricane. Most notably, the latter is one of the cards in March of the Machine that creates the first transmutation token of Magic, creating what is essentially an egg that you can push mana to hatch into an actual creature. Humpherys even says the idea for Chrome Host Seedshark came about because the concept art for those incubator tokens looked a bit like shark eggs.
You can read my full interview with Dave Humphreys below with lots of more interesting tidbits about these cards, but that’s far from the only thing Magic is cooking up right now. While March of the Machine will be released early next month, we also got our first exclusive reveal Lord of the Rings crossover set arriving later this year.
IGN: Battles is the first new permanent genre since Planeswalkers, and we’ve seen just how big of an impact it has on Magic. Do you expect fights to be of similar effect, and will appear in every deck from now on?
Dave Humphreys, March Design Lead for the Machine: We intentionally framed these fights rather than something akin to airplanes so that they could be used in a huge variety of futuristic settings. Other design teams have expressed interest in using it. If they play as we hope they should, they should appear from time to time in worlds where they make sense to the current story, but I doubt they’ll be in every group. In the meantime, we’re curious to see what players enjoy most about them so we know how to introduce future builds.
Why create a new permanent type at all? Was this simply the best way to express a new design you had in mind, or were you consciously looking to change the game in a new way?
Conceptually, what we were aiming for didn’t really make sense like any card type out there. We definitely debated whether it should be lands or magic as the mechanic was developing. The danger of the new card type is the lack of ways to interact with it. Fortunately, the game engine allows interaction by attacking and blocking them and rewards for winning the battle in the types of cards already in the game. Cool new card type though. We just need to be sustainable when we do it.
Mark Rosewater spoke on his podcast once about how difficult it is to dial in the balance of something new like this – specifically first equipment cards, in that case. Are you looking to play it safe with the first round of Battles so they don’t cause balance issues, or are you hoping they’ll be played competitively right out of the gate?
While we know that creating a new card type like battles can have risks, we approached it more from the point of view of systematically determining how we could mitigate those risks rather than aiming at the power level. Hopefully, these will be playable right out of the gate.
Is siege the only current type of battle? Was it part of the intent to introduce subgenres right away to leave you more design space in the future?
Siege is the only current sub-genre of Battle. As I indicated earlier, there were other future teams exploring the battle design space, so we knew we wanted to set things up in a way that would align with other functions and keep the design space open for future iterations of battles.
When it comes to character selection, what goes into making the perfect legendary team?
I don’t think there is one formula for building a perfect team. I think they’d both be a lot of fun when the two characters overlap in identities but also in stark contrasts. It’s great if we can find a way to fuse the abilities that characters are known for together to create an evolution that would otherwise seem cohesive enough for a new creature card we might make.
Is there a specific spouse you’ve considered giving a card that you’re sad about and didn’t make the final cut?
I think all of the pairs that we were so excited about made it to print. We kept adding more to the collection and making more for the beta. There were a few couples we just didn’t get to with satisfactory mechanical designs, but none of which I felt didn’t ultimately land on a more satisfactory design than that aircraft.
Was there a time when these teams were two cards using the “Partner With” mechanic, or was the idea always to combine their abilities into one?
The idea behind it was to combine two characters into one card. “Partner with” is also a mechanical thing we’re most likely to use on legal non-standard products.
It looks like Voldaren Thrillseeker’s backup mechanic could yield some unexpected combos depending on what abilities he’s attached to – for example, only within this combo can you use it with the previously revealed Yargle and Multani to deal 20 damage. Did you have to come up with any rules when designing backup abilities given the three decades of creatures they can interact with in eternal formats, and do you have any thoughts on this two-card combo specifically?
Voldaren Thrillseeker with Yargle and Multani was a very intentional interaction that we thought would be fun content given the mana costs of those cards and the ways to disrupt that combo with takedowns or life gains. There weren’t any rules we felt we needed to put in place other than just testing designs. I led the set design for Ikoria and therefore also the variable builds in that set, which means I particularly enjoy incorporating abilities like this but also felt confident we could do it again with this mechanic.
We’ve already seen iconic characters being complemented and how that affects their mechanics, but it’s fun to see Chrome Host Seedshark, which is basically the completed version of the charming Shark Typhoon. What are some of the challenges or joys of completing certain iconic magic concepts and metaphors as well as characters?
The joys of the process have been largely in looking around our entire multiverse and finding what we’d like to see in phyrexianized form. Seeing what our artists can create with that is very satisfying. The idea for Chrome Host Seedshark came in part from my thinking that some of the Incubator tokens in the concept art push look a lot like shark eggs to me and suggest this concept. I also loved that we completed some of our creatures in forms that were callbacks to some of our earlier iconic Phyrexian creatures. There weren’t many challenges other than running out of space on the set to do all the critters we might have wanted to see.
The Phyrexian Butcher is the first proper “Lord” of the Phyrexian creatures. Why did you decide to wait until March of the Machine for that instead of being introduced aboard Phyrexian’s main plane in All Will Be One?
There were so many Phyrexian creatures in All Will Be One that having a card you cared about was pretty easy, at least in a closed, legitimate context where over 90% of creatures had this type of creature. We knew the desire for the cards you were interested in though, and we knew March of the Machine had them as a percentage of the deck that were more suitable for limited and would still be close enough to build.
Tom Marks is IGN’s deputy comment editor. He loves card games, puzzles, platforms, puzzle platforms and much more. You can Follow him here.
“Lifelong beer expert. General travel enthusiast. Social media buff. Zombie maven. Communicator.”