Welcome back, Lore Seekers! I didn't have room to talk about all the legends from March of the Machine in my flavor gems article last time, and there's a LOT to talk about, so let's dive in! Just as a note, I won't be covering any legends on the back face of Battles this time around; I'll have a whole other article just on Battles next time!
March of the Machine Legends
Elesh Norn by Magali Villeneuve
Each of the five praetors gets a final card in March of the Machine, and each has a back face saga with their respective philosophies. For Elesh Norn, The Argent Etchings are the guiding text for the Machine Orthodoxy, dating from when Karn was still imprisoned on the plane, and inscribed from his rantings. Argent means silver, referring to the silver golem, Karn.
Jin-Gitaxias's driving philosophy is The Great Synthesis, about reaching perfection through progressive iteration. He named is as such mostly because he hated that the The Grand Evolution sounded so much like Vorinclex. For Vorinclex's part, The Grand Evolution is an original Phyrexian term, but Vorinclex takes it incredibly literally.
Sheoldred believes in the guiding principles of the original Phyrexia, although she doesn't mind altering them to suit her needs. She calls these The True Scriptures, although that's mostly because Phyrexian Scriptures was already taken as a card name. Urabrask believes in The Great Work, a process of reforging Phyrexia into it's most perfect form. There's a lot of misunderstandings of Urabrask by the fandom, and while he does like it when Phyrexians choose their own forms, the process of becoming a Phyrexian is still an invasive one.
Heliod, the Radiant Dawn by Jason Engle
Compleation couldn't have happened to a nicer guy than [Heliod, the Radiant Dawn]. While we barely saw Heliod in the MOM story, he has escaped his imprisonment in the Underworld somehow (likely freed to fight Phyrexia), and we learn that Ajani compleats his followers in order to create a Phyrexian god in Heliod, the Warped Eclipse. Kaya, imbued with Halo, ends up dealing the final blow to Heliod. It's strongly implied that the other mono-colored gods were compleated, and most of the gods beyond that (save Ephara, God of the Polis, who I'll talk about more in the Battles article next time).
Rona, Herald of Invasion was a member of the Society of Mishra, a group of Phyrexian sympathizers. Her end goal was always completion, and she finally achieved it when she became Rona, Tolarian Obliterator. Her final form is a reference to the iconic Phyrexian Obliterator, which itself was a reference to the iconic Phyrexian Negator. Similarly, Etali, Primal Conqueror's completed state, Etali, Primal Sickness, is a reference to Blightsteel Colossus.
Ayara, Widow of the Realm is all about persistence, and what has persisted more than Phyrexia? While a lot of fans assumed Ayara, Furnace Queen meant she was marrying Urabrask, it really only means she's a red-aligned Phyrexian.
Man, poor Polukranos Reborn // Polukranos, Engine of Ruin. Polukranos was sealed into Nyx to keep him from rampaging across the world, is cut out of Nyx accidentally by Godsend, is imprisoned in the forest by Nylea to keep it from rampaging, freed by Xenagos to rampage, killed by Elspeth, and then, after all that, finally comes back from the Underworld only to be compleated.
Glissa, Herald of Predation gets her 4.0 in this set in a tribute before New Phyrexia phases out. As one of the most iconic characters of the Mirrodin/New Phyrexia story, I'm happy she's recognized here. This is my favorite of her cards, as I really like the Incubate mechanic as an alternative to poison for a Phyrexian deck.
Omnath, Locus of All is an interesting card. Every time we've seen Omnath its added a new color, and this time is adds Black mana, in the form of Phyrexian mana. Judging by the art and the Realmbreaker branches actually seeming to attach to Omnath, I think the flavor here isn't necessarily that Omnath is 'compleat', but that instead it's now also embodying the mana of New Phyrexia.
The Team-Ups and Heroes
There are bios for many of these team-ups here, and I recommend reading through because I'm going to be talking about the flavor of each card, rather than their specific histories (there's just not enough room to do otherwise). The Team-Ups in MOM vary between fun pairings, obvious pairings, and unlikely pairings.
Baral and Kari Zev by Magali Villeneuve
Baral and Kari Zev are unlikely allies. Baral is an overzealous consulate enforcer and the murderer of Kiran Nalaar (among many other crimes, like trying to execute Chandra Nalaar). Kari Zev meanwhile is a freewheeling airship pirate who ends up rescuing him before realizing who he is. It goes to show the Invasion makes strange alliances necessary, and while this isn't the strangest one, it's definitely one of the most likely to have come to blows if not for the Phyrexians. We also learn that Baral was pardoned by the consulate for his service during the invasion. I'm sure Pia and Chandra will be taking that well!
Borborygmos and Fblthp have a pair of eyes between them, but the huge/tiny dichotomy here is what really sells this card. Between Fblthp, a small Azorius homunculus, and the giant leader of the Gruul, whoever thought of this card deserves a raise. The tiny Fblthp cheering Borborygmos on is really the best part for me here. While I would categorize these as unlikely pairings, in hindsight this card is obvious too.
Djeru and Hazoret is an obvious pairing, as two of the few remaining Legends from Amonkhet that survived Hour of Devastation AND War of the Spark. Hazoret is the god-survivor, the sole remaining uncorrupted god on Amonkhet, and Djeru was the last 'worthy' that was to be sacrificed by her, but thanks to the intervention of the Gatewatch, tragedy was averted just as Nicol Bolas arrived and revealed his grand deception.
Drana and Linvala aren't as unlikely a pairing as you may think, given the 'allies' situation on Zendikar during the Battle for Zendikar era. Zendikar is used to teaming up against extraplanar threats at this point! Both of these characters were fighting as part of the allied Zendikari forces around Sea Gate a couple years ago in-universe, and it makes sense they'd be fighting together again now.
I think my favorite part about Errant and Giada is that Errant is using halo-infused paint, which is just a wonderful touch for this street artist. There was some confusion around Streets of New Capenna as to whether or not Giada died at the end, and it's nice to see we can confirm she did not, she was just undergoing her angelic metamorphosis.
Ghalta and Mavren is a fun unlikely pairing, but when you realize Ghalta is the primal embodiment of hunger, and she's paired with a vampire, it clicks together in a great way, despite the inherent silliness of the concept of a vampire church on Mavren's back.
Hidetsugu and Kairi is a REALLY good unlikely pair, given that Hidetsugu is the one who killed Kairi's previous form, before she reincarnated, Keiga, the Tide Star. Imagine things being so bad you team up with the ogre demon who killed you. It also means that Hidetsugu is now free from the oni realm, which seems bad. Lots of prison breaks this set.
Inga and Esika is fun because it pairs the Omenseeker Inga, who has the ability to see and chart paths between realms, and Esika, the god of the world tree who is best at moving between them.
Kogla and Yidaro are Ikoria's King Kong and Gamera, respectively, and it's SO MUCH FUN to see them team-up here. Yes, I know Yidaro has a Godzilla Series card, but the turtle dinosaur itself is a reference to the turtle kaiju Gamera, not Godzlla.
Kroxa and Kunoros are a fun pairing of teeth and mouths in the Underworld. This is another great 'obvious in hindsight' pairing that I'm happy to see. Kroxa is let free by Athreos, God of Passage, but Kunoros, Hound of Athreos is sent to keep an eye on the Titan and direct it, which means this is yet another prison break.
Quintorius, Loremaster isn't a team-up, but it's cool to see a new Legendary Creature card before his spark ignited.
Rankle and Torbran are an unlikely duo that have a fun side story. There's not much to say here other than it's appropriate that two members of the wilds, one that sympathized with humanity and one that does not, are teamed-up just before Wilds of Eldraine.
Thalia and The Gitrog Monster is an incredibly unlikely pairing, and it's my understanding that it stems from a Candian Highlander in-joke that the arm we see the Gitrog Monster eating in its original art was Thalia.
Yargle and Multani is just funny. There's no other world for it. It's great to see Multani again, who was a stalwart ally in the fight against the original Phyrexia but who didn't show up in Dominaria United outside of art.
Zimone and Dina are both students at Strixhaven, and alongside Quint are probably the most popular of the five student legends.
Zurgo and Ojutai by Daarken
Zurgo and Ojutai has interesting implications, with Ojutai being desperate enough to allow Zurgo to ride him, and then we see many dragon riders in the battle (which I'll talk about next time!)
Orthion, Hero of Lavabrink was named after a flavor text only character, one of the few characters from Lavabrink we knew of. Lavabrink wasn't really explored much in the original Ikoira set or story, so it's nice to see them represented here.
Surrak and Goreclaw are a fun pairing because the first art we had of Surrak other than his Legend was Savage Punch, which featured his alternate timeline counterpart fighting a bear that may or may not have gone on to be part of Surrak's vest. In this timeline, he's working with the bear!
March of the Machine Commander
Rashmi and Ragavan by Joshua Cairos
Here's a quick lightning round for the Legends of the MOM Commander.
Bright-Palm, Soul Awakener was an Imperial student who tried to manage a merge gate on her own and was sucked into the spirit realm where she learned kami magic. She summons kami to fight the invading Phyrexians.
Brimaz, Blight of Oreskos makes sense as being completed given he was Ajani's best friend on Theros. It's a shame, because he was a good guy and the link trying to reconcile the leonin with Meletis, who had a deep history of animosity for one another.
Gimbal, Gremlin Prodigy is a gremlin who got very smart after eating a lot of devices. The implications for gremlins in the future of Kaladesh here is very interesting.
Kasla, the Broken Halo was a flavor text character, but we see now rather than blinding herself with her halo like the other angels (in penance for failing to stop the Eldrazi) has broken in and turned it into a scythe.
Sidar Jabari of Zhalfir hails all the way back to the original Mirage block, as one of the heroes of the Mirage War. Being phased out with Zhalfir means he's only aged a decade-ish in the centuries that passed while Zhalfir was phased out.
Elenda and Azor are a fun pairing, as the entire reason Elenda became a vampire was to track The Immortal Sun, the device created by Azor with his own spark, which he removed from Elenda's people centuries ago. I doubt she's happy with him, or the fact that it's flat out gone from the plane.
Moira and Teshar are a sad pairing, and personally my least favorite of all the team-ups. Teshar was a cleric of Serra in the order of the Ancestor, a carry-over of the Order from the Odyssey and Onslaught blocks. Moira, meanwhile, was a necromancer who had her physical form destroyed. There's not much exciting about pairing these two relatively unknowns, although both of their cards had to do with graveyard recursion.
Rashmi and Ragavan are a fun pairing, and while Ragavan has THREE associated cards in all the sets surrounding MOM, I actually want to talk about Rashmi, who invented The Planar Bridge that Tezzeret used to start this whole thing by transporting praetors around. Whoops! I'm sure she'll find the Omenpaths interesting, though.
Saint Traft and Rem Karolus are the two biggest badasses on Innistrad. Traft, in his day, was a demon slayer of such renown that angels followed him. Cultists had to trick him and lure him into a trap that got him killed. Rem Karolous, meanwhile, is the most accomplished Cathar of the modern day, the plane's Van Helsing analogue. Very cool pairing.
Shalai and Hallar makes more sense when you realize that Shalai is the angel assigned to watch over Llanowar, the forest of elves in which Hallar resides. Don't worry, I'm sure Hallar's bonded kavu is okay.
Goro-Goro and Satoru is a silly team-up, there's not much to say about it other than the card itself is incredibly cool, and it's great to get more Umezawa lineage cards. I'll need to be making a new Flavor Build article to replace Tetsuo with this card.
Katilda and Lier are both cultists of long marginalized faiths on Innistrad. While Katilda is a benevolent witch who worships the nature diety Ghrin-Danu, Lier is a more sinister, Lovecraftian cultist who worships a god of sea and storms (like the Kralmar).
Slimefoot and Squee is perfection. It's the best card in the set, bar none. Pairing the two comic relief characters from both Weatherlight crews is just, the best possible flavor. No notes!
The Battle Continues
Next time I'll be tackling the Battles of MOM and the all the flavor, from obvious stuff to deep cuts!