A Dive into Pioneer and Modern with March of the Machines

Piotr Glogowski


Pro Tour March of the Machine in Minneapolis wasn’t the best tournament for me – with an 8-8 finish, I ended up one match win away from requalifying for the upcoming PT Barcelona. Tough luck!

At least, with the tournament being over, I was finally able to turn my attention away from Standard and Draft and back to Modern and Pioneer. March of the Machine and March of the Machine: Aftermath has introduced lots of interesting cards into those formats! Let’s dive in:


Creativity Combo: 《Change the Equation》

Change the Equation

《Change the Equation》 on the surface might seem like a weaker version of 《Aether Gust》 – but in a format as efficient as Modern, the ability to counter any spell that costs 2 or less actually covers a lot.

Modern 《Indomitable Creativity》 decks quickly adopted large amounts of 《Change the Equation》 in the sideboard, with a few copies bleeding into maindecks here and there. While it’s not quite 《Counterspell》, it’s close enough in many matchups.

Crashing FootfallsPrimeval TitanIndomitable CreativityBlood Moon

《Crashing Footfalls》, 《Living End》, 《Primeval Titan》, and most Creativities in the mirror are some of the important cards to counter; but at the same time, you can use 《Change the Equation》 to fight counter wars, 《Expressive Iteration》 and 《Blood Moon》 out of Izzet Murktide.

Creativity with its pile of 《Dwarven Mine》 really appreciates a broad interaction spell that includes generic mana in its cost.

Hammer Time: 《Surge of Salvation》

Surge of Salvation

I’ve covered Hammer in detail in my recent YouTube video guide《Surge of Salvation》 is a nice additional tool in the deck’s arsenal. Especially in Mono-White, 《Surge of Salvation》 offers protection in spots where 《Blacksmith’s Skill》 fails – notably, spells with multiple targets such as 《Fury》 and 《Force of Vigor》.

FuryForce of VigorGriefArchon of Cruelty

Granting Hexproof helps against 《Thoughtseize》 and 《Grief》 (especially when the opponent intends to back their 《Grief》 with an 《Undying Malice》!). Hexproof-granting ability can also sidestep an entire turn of 《Archon of Cruelty》 triggers, which against Creativity can easily be the difference between winning and losing.

While 《Surge of Salvation》 is not a strict improvement over 《Blacksmith’s Skill》, it seems like so far Hammer players prefer playing larger amounts of 《Surge of Salvation》 – I’m not surprised!

Hardened Scales: 《Ozolith, the Shattered Spire》

Hardened Scales lingered around the verge of Modern’s tier 2 for a long time, sporadically top 8ing Challenges, but rarely getting there and in general, lacking a little bit of power.

Ozolith, the Shattered Spire

The new version of Ozolith seems to have changed that – Magic Online user LordEgg’s top 8 result is not an isolated incident. The difference between sticking a single 《Hardened Scales》 effect is large; so finally gaining redundancy on your key card is a big deal. 《Patchwork Automaton》, 《Arcbound Ravager》, and 《Walking Ballista》 offer more than just creature size, and now they’ll be backed by a 《Hardened Scales》 effect more often. Unfortunately, if you pick up this deck, you’ll still have a terrible time facing 《Force of Vigor》.

4C Omnath: 《Nissa, Resurgent Animist》

Nissa, Resurgent Animist

Desparked and de-phyrexianized Nissa is one of the most enticing cards from March of the Machine: Aftermath. Fellow streamer YungDingo put her to use in Four-color Omnath, replacing alternative 3-mana card advantage options such as 《Risen Reef》 or 《Fable of the Mirror-Breaker》.

With 《Nissa, Resurgent Animist》 in play, every fetchland will not only grant you two extra mana, it will also guarantee you a spell. Such an effect works wonders with 《Wrenn and Six》, who guarantee you a never-ending supply of fetchlands. Elemental decks in Modern often struggle in the mid to late-game with flooding out. Nissa always guarantees that you’ll hit action with her trigger, reliably converting pure card advantage into game wins.

You have to be slightly more careful with Nissa than with some of the other options – unlike previously discussed options, your opponent can simply respond to your fetchland with a removal spell, denying you your value, but the payoff seems to be there.

Sultai Shadow: 《Invasion of Ikoria》

Battles as a card type are having a slow start, failing to make much of a splash in constructed. It’s fun to see a decklist build around one succeeding, even if it’s used in a slightly unconventional way. This decklist managed to take down a Modern challenge in the hands of user xfile, who never disappoints with his out-of-the-box thinking brews.

Invasion of IkoriaVampire Hexmage

《Invasion of Ikoria》 with a single 《Vampire Hexmage》 to tutor for is a combo – any time you play Invasion with X=2, you can find your 《Vampire Hexmage》, sacrifice it to remove all counters from your Battle, and let you cast the backside.

Invasion of Ikoria

《Invasion of Ikoria》 with its 8 toughness survives 《Unholy Heat》, making it a tough-to-remove threat in some matchups, and its ability to ignore blockers will not let your opponent live for long, especially when paired with other big-statted creatures in 《Death’s Shadow》 and 《Tarmogoyf》!

TarmogoyfTraverse the Ulvenwald

Adorably, Battle is a new card type, letting 《Tarmogoyf》 grow even larger than usual and Delirium be achieved with greater ease if it somehow ends up in your graveyard.

Belcher: 《Reckless Handling》

The last Modern decklist I’ve got for you is a list from Magic Online’s master of Modern Charbelcher decks – Bob49 himself. This mostly traditional approach to Belcher is supplemented by two copies of 《Reckless Handling》, a card that flew entirely under my radar.

Reckless Handling

Turns out, as far as this deck is concerned, it’s just a two-mana reprint of 《Gamble》 you can use specifically for the namesake card. Of course, the random nature of the card makes it very stressful to play, but in a deck centered solely around finding its namesake card, it seems worth the risk!


While some March of Machine cards made an impact here and there in Modern, some of the developments happening in Pioneer were even more interesting to watch!

Lotus Combo: 《Chandra, Hope’s Beacon》

Chandra, Hope's Beacon

GinkoHS dropped 《Mastermind’s Acquisition》/《Approach of the Second Sun》 win condition entirely from their Lotus Field deck in favor of 《Chandra, Hope’s Beacon》.

OmniscienceBala Ged Recovery

Once you use your 《Emergent Ultimatum》 to put 《Omniscience》 into play and draw most of your deck, you can use 《Bala Ged Recovery》 to loop your Chandras. With three Recoveries, you can deal infinite damage.

Playing a 《Chandra, Hope’s Beacon》, casting a 《Bala Ged Recovery》 to get back the other two Recoveries from your graveyard, and using Chandra for damage lets you use one of your Recoveries to grab Chandra back and repeat the process. Since Chandra seems like arguably a better individual card to draw than the traditional 《Mastermind’s Acquisition》 and you also get to free a sideboard slot, this approach seems to have a lot of promise.

Mono Green Devotion: 《Polukranos Reborn》

Polukranos Reborn

《Polukranos Reborn》 is great at addressing some of the weaknesses of Devotion and finally seems to be the card that unifies the few remaining flex spots in maindecks of Mono-Green. It’s cheap, provides a lot of Devotion, draws cards with 《Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner》, serves as a mana sink, blocks, and stabilizes with lifelink once flipped. Effective cards costing exactly 3 mana are a great way to make sure you take advantage of your Elves surviving, while still being castable in a reasonable timeframe if Elves got answered.

Invasion of Ixalan

《Invasion of Ixalan》 is another March of the Machine card we see in the list. I have slightly less hope for the card’s staying power compared to 《Polukranos Reborn》, but it’s a cantrip effect providing sticky devotion, which can be welcome.

Old-Growth TrollKiora, Behemoth Beckoner

Mono-Green is also a deck that’s pretty good at flipping battles – it doesn’t actually often win with damage, and both 《Old-Growth Troll》 and 《Polukranos Reborn》 defeat the battle in a single attack. Defeating the battle might be especially valuable if you control a 《Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner》 to draw an extra card!

Creativity Combo: 《Volcanic Spite》

Volcanic Spite

This upgrade is very simple – 《Volcanic Spite》 is just a straight-up upgrade over 《Fire Prophecy》. The biggest loser of that upgrade seems to be 《Narset, Parter of Veils》, who will now cleanly die to a 《Volcanic Spite》 after using her -2 ability, reducing the overall stock of the card.

Rakdos Sacrifice: 《Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin》

Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin

Desparked 《Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin》 seems tailor-made for Pioneer Sacrifice, helping you convert pings and drains from 《Cauldron Familiar》 and 《Mayhem Devil》 into card advantage and damage.

《Korvold, Fae-Cursed King》 has appeared in a similar role in the past, but it’s both more expensive and requires a splash, so while Ob seems less powerful, there are tangible advantages to considering him as your top-end.

魔女のかまどCauldron Familiar

That said, when I took Ob Nixilis for a spin in leagues I was deeply disappointed by the card’s performance. Rakdos Sacrifice is known for being a dangerous deck when it assembles all of its synergies. It’s much weaker when you fail to assemble your Witch’s 《Witch’s Oven》 with 《Cauldron Familiar》, and Ob doesn’t help in those games much, making him somewhat of a win more card.

The reason to play Ob Nixilis would be if you believe that you’ll get to assemble your synergies routinely, but you’ll still need extra punch and extra power.

Korvold, Fae-Cursed King

That’s potentially true against Mono-Green Devotion, where Ob might take over a game that otherwise could slip away from your control, but against most other decks Ob seemed lacking to me. Just like 《Korvold, Fae-Cursed King》, I expect 《Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin》 to stabilize as an uncommon option that some players turn to, but over time will fail to stick in stock lists – just like Korvold did.

Gruul Vehicles: 《Ancient Imperiosaur》

Ancient Imperiosaur

Another streamer D00mwake finished in 8th place in a Pioneer challenge with a build of Gruul Vehicles decks swapping 《Skysovereign, Consul Flagship》 for 《Ancient Imperiosaur》. While Imperiosaur’s ceiling is very high, and some decks struggle to remove a really big creature, I see it mostly as a curiosity. 《Reckless Stormseeker》 having the ability to haste your big convoked dinosaur is really adorable!

《Rona, Herald of Invasion》 Combo

Rona, Herald of InvasionMox AmberRetraction Helix

Piloted by aptly named ComboMAN – 《Rona, Herald of Invasion》, 《Mox Amber》, and 《Retraction Helix》 is an infinite mana combo. You get to replay your 《Mox Amber》 an arbitrary amount of times, untapping Rona each time.

Karn, the Great CreatorWrenn and RealmbreakerTyvar, Jubilant Brawler

Once you get there, any of your planeswalkers can convert into a win, as you can produce infinite mana in their colors first, and subsequently bounce them and recast them however many times you want with 《Rona, Herald of Invasion》. 《Karn, the Great Creator》 will simply win by fetching 《Aetherflux Reservoir》; 《Wrenn and Realmbreaker》 can use [-2] until it finds Karn; while 《Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler》 can give you an extra loot every time you use his +1 ability to untap Rona.

The combo is, frankly, a little convoluted and reliant on finding and sticking your Rona, which is not always trivial. 《Retraction Helix》 isn’t an exciting standalone card to play, either.

One of the qualms I have with this build is how heavy it is on planeswalkers. It’s true that 《Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler》 works beautifully in this shell – effectively grants haste to Rona, while also letting you fight through removal with his unearth ability; on the other hand, the Rona deck is focused on assembling the combo, so it can’t afford to fit interaction, making it really hard to actually stick or protect planeswalkers. This becomes somewhat of an issue with a whooping ten of them. Another issue is that your combo IS weak to simple removal – 《Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler》 can help you fight through 《Fatal Push》, but what if our opponent only casts it in response to your 《Retraction Helix》?

Boros Convoke: 《Knight-Errant of Eos》

Knight-Errant of EosVenerated LoxodonReckless Bushwhacker

This is a deck I’ve seen pop up in league 5-0’s and that I’ve been playing for the past few days to impressive results. 《Knight-Errant of Eos》 together with 《Venerated Loxodon》 and to a lesser extent 《Reckless Bushwhacker》 provide you with a consistent payoff for going wide, letting the rest of your deck be focused entirely on just making as many early tokens as possible. Some of the starts that this deck can offer can be very impressive!

Gleeful DemolitionBurning-Tree EmissaryOrnithopter

This deck lives and dies by its powerful openings. The best hands are able to play a convoke 5-drop as soon as turn 2, thanks to 《Gleeful Demolition》 producing a whooping 3 tokens for just one mana. 《Burning-Tree Emissary》 and 《Ornithopter》 as free creatures also help a lot with explosiveness. Hands should be mulliganed aggressively, ideally trying to do something powerful by turn three. That said, you are able to produce those powerful openings often enough to punish decks that failed to prepare.

Clarion SpiritPlargg, Dean of ChaosLegion Loyalist

There are a lot of builds and variants of this strategy out there, with plenty of different payoffs and enablers to choose from. But the approach I liked the most after a few leagues was avoiding playing any creatures I’ve seen in other lists that trade unfavorably or neutrally with removal spells – like 《Clarion Spirit》, 《Plargg, Dean of Chaos》 or 《Legion Loyalist》 – and making it hard for your opponents, as they need to use their point removal to try to cut you off Convoke as you present them with more and more 1/1s.

Invasion of Gobakhan

While the deck has been impressively strong for me so far, it’s clear that it has a weakness to sweepers. My sideboard attempts to tackle that at least partially with the new 《Invasion of Gobakhan》, but 《Temporary Lockdown》 and to a lesser extent 《Extinction Event》 are really hard to sidestep. 《Knight-Errant of Eos》 can give you a good amount of staying power, but for that, you need to keep a board of creatures in the first place!

Jegantha, the WellspringWedding Announcement

《Jegantha, the Wellspring》 in the sideboard might look puzzling with 《Burning-Tree Emissary》, but it’s there for post-board games when you’d like to cut them for 《Wedding Announcement》 against the grindy matchups.

Boros Convoke is my favorite deck to come out of March of Machine so far and I’m excited to follow its evolution in the upcoming weeks!

Piotr Glogowski (Twitter / Twitch / Youtube)

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Piotr Glogowski Before his first Pro Tour top 8, Piotr "kanister" Glogowski was already extremely famous as a streamer. He kicked off the 2017-2018 season with an impressive record at Pro Tour Ixalan (8th place), then reached the Finals with his great teammates at World Magic Cup 2017. His talent was flourished after all, and he finished that season as a Platinum Level Pro. Read more articles by Piotr Glogowski

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