Welcome back, Lore Seekers! March of the Machine's story begins tomorrow, and it's an even you will not want to miss. It's hard to do a 'Preparing for' article with a set that takes place just about everywhere, but I'm going to do my best!
The Story of March of the Machine
While the Phyrexian arc has been brewing for years, it's finally come to a head in the last year and a half. You can read about what happened after War of the Spark up to New Capenna in Catching Up: From WAR to New Capenna and I give a quick breakdown of New Phyrexian history in Preparing for Phyrexia: All Will Be One. I don't have the word count for a detailed story summary here, but if you want something more targeted for preparing you for March of the Machine, I highly recommend my panel from Magic Con Philly: The Road to March of the Machine.
The Planes of March of the Machine
March of the Machine Key Art by Billy Christian
When I said the set takes place just about everywhere, I wasn't kidding. Of roughly 27 major planes that still exist (that is, by my definition of planes that were a focal setting for a card set), 19 have already been shown to be part of the upcoming Phyrexian Invasion. The other planes I'd consider major (although some are less 'major' than others) include Fiora, Kylem, Rabiah, Regatha, the Plane of Mountains and Seas, Ulgrotha, and Vryn. While we haven't seen any of those yet, we've still only seen a small fraction of the set so far.
With those out of the way, let's dive in to what we've seen so far:
Invasion of Alara by Mathias Kollros
The plane that named the three allied-color arcs 'shards' and kicked off modern Magic's story as we know it. We've seen art for Invasion of Alara, but we don't know what the card does yet. In the art we see warriors from all five shards: Leonin of Naya, Viashino of Jund, Human and Rhox Knights of Bant, an Etherium-enhanced wizard of Esper, and even a demon of Grixis, all united against the Phyrexian incursion!
The vast desert of Amonkhet is blossoming with a twisted parody of life... a different twisted parody of life than it's used to. Blossoming Sands makes reference to the Copper Host, which we can surmise is the name of Vorinclex's army during March of the Machine.
While we haven't seen the plane home to Strixhaven, most of the core student legends, like Dina, Soul Steeper, Quintorius, Field Historian, and Zimone, Quandrix Prodigy have all appeared on promotion art.
Dominaria has been involved in this invasion since Dominaria United, although the fighting is sure to heat up just as the Dominarians were hoping it would wind down. We've seen two team-up cards from this setting, both of which are *chefs kiss* levels of flavor. Yargle and Multani is the matchup no one knew they needed, and Slimefoot and Squee pairs together the comic relief of both the new and old Weatherlight crews.
We've actually seen a lot of Eldraine, from Thornwood Falls depicting Phyrexia's incursion into the Wilds, to the completion of Ayara, First of Locthwain in Ayara, Widow of the Realm and Ayara, Furnace Queen. We've also seen the Questing Beast fighting a Phyrexian for an upcoming secret lair drop in the signature storybook style of the plane. And we know there will be major repercussions for the planes in Aftermath, as The Kenriths' Royal Funeral shows. How will Rowan and Will react to the death of their parents? Only time will tell.
Scoured Barrens tells us that the glistening oil and the crystals of Ikoria are going to mix, creating metallic mutations in the monsters. Oh good, because the monsters didn't mutate enough there already.
Innistrad has shown us two unique team-ups so far: Thalia and the Gitrog Monster and Katilda and Lier. Thalia has long shown a willingness to compromise in order to defeat a greater evil, and my current headcanon is that The Gitrog Monster was promised lots of tasty Phyrexian snacks. Meanwhile, Katilda and Lier both represent pre-Avacynian cults that have been making a resurgence in the defense of humanity. It's a side of Innistrad I really love to see, and I'm excited to see these two together.
Jungle Hollow hints at the Phyrexians using the fallen remains of dinosaurs in their invasion, mixing tar pits and glistening oil. Ghalta and Mavren, meanwhile, shows that the local factions can put aside their differences long enough to fight off an extraplanar invader. I do love the irony of the Dusk Legion getting colonized, though.
Swiftwater Cliffs talks about Jin-Gitaxias and Chrome Host, from which we can guess each faction's army will have its own name.
The home of the original World Tree, Kaldheim seems ready to take a beating from New Phyrexia. We've seen artwork of invasion and the completion of several cosmos monsters.
Dismal Backwater mentions that the Phyrexians appear to be going after Tamiyo's home, the floating moonfolk city of Otawara. We also see Kairi, the Swirling Sky in one of the key arts, and Goro-Goro and Satoru teaming up to wonderful effect. While both characters are new, Satoru Umezawa has deep roots in continuity going all the way back to the original Legends. I'm definitely looking to revamp my Umezawa-themed deck with this card instead.
The Invasion of Lorwyn shows us the Gilt-Leaf Elves vs the Phyrexians, in a war to determine who is more perfect, perhaps?
Invasion of Mercadia is the blast from the past I didn't know I wanted. The art shows Mercadia City under assault, being defended by Rishadan Airships and a Dragon Engine that might be Ramos, Dragon Engine.
Bloodfell Caves tells us that Atraxa, Grand Unifier will be leading the invasion of New Capenna, likely because her angelic origins may give her a greater resistance to Halo than other Phyrexians.
New Phyrexia is omnipresent in the set, but we haven't seen much set on the plane itself yet, except perhaps for the new versions of the Praetors.
Ravnica just can't catch a break from interplanar invaders. While we haven't seen much that points specifically at Ravnica, Borborygmos appears to be in one of the key arts.
Invasion of Shandalar by Adam Paquette
The art of Invasion of Shandalar is a reference to Eloren Wilds, which itself is a reference to the original Microprose video games where Shandalar first appeared. The Eloren Wilds were one of the pre-generated location name possibilities in that game. Regardless, cute callback!
Invasion of Tarkir by Darren Tan
Invasion of Tarkir shows us something we haven't seen before on Tarkir: dragon riders! Beside and behind the completed Kolaghan brood, we see a Dromoka brood dragon and an Atarka dragon both being ridden by their respective clan.
Tranquil Cove and Heliod, Radiant Dawn // Heliod, Warped Eclipse show us Theros is having perhaps the most dramatic losses early in the invasion: the compleation of the gods themselves!
Finally, we come to Zendikar, where Omnath, Locus of All has absorbed the mana of the Invasion Tree and New Phyrexia and become compleat. Meanwhile, Drana and Linvala have teamed up to battle yet another threat from outside their world!
The Invasion Tree
The key to this entire invasion is the sapling that New Phyrexia grew from the World Tree of Kaldheim. Now called Realmbreaker, the Invasion Tree is in the background of much of the March of the Machine art, with its branches bringing New Phyrexians and causing havoc.
The March Continues
Everywhere is under attack. Our heroes have failed. Nothing is safe from Elesh Norn's grasping ambitions for the multiverse. As the story begins, I'm going to have a LOT to talk about in the coming months, with multiple flavor gem articles and a lot of Flavor Commander builds to tackle. See you soon!