The set has only fifty cards, and presents the consequences that the events of the war against Phyrexia had on the Multiverse, including several Planeswalkers losing their spark.
Although a fifty-card mini-set sets the precedent for future product releases in the same category, The Aftermath has some interesting cards for competitive formats.
Today, we're going to review the best ten cards in the set for Explorer!
The 10 Best Cards from March of the Machine: Aftermath for Explorer
The criteria for this Top 10 were defined by the potential that these cards have to appear in established decks, or to establish new ideas of archetypes in competitive formats.
10 - Blot Out
Blot Out is in an awkward position on Pioneer and Explorer. On the one hand, it's an efficient removal that deals with both creatures and Planeswalkers, prevents their recursion, as well as bypassing protection or Hexproof effects. On the other hand, since we don't have creature-oriented Reanimator decks in Pioneer, it is less efficient than Sheoldred's Edict in most situations.
It also works as a decent, definitive, Instant-Speed answer to expensive threats, and works better than Sheoldred's Edict in attrition games. In the absence of better or more flexible cards, this spell integrates at number 10 as a useful answer option should Reanimator become an archetype in Pioneer in the future.
9 - Sigarda, Font of Blessings
Sigarda, Font of Blessings is an excellent attrition card for decks that care about the types it addresses: Humans and Angels.
By offering Hexproof to its other permanents, Sigarda can replace Shalai, Voice of Plenty in any list that runs Dominaria's angel to protect its threats in longer games, and still manages to generate card advantage for its controller if it survives at least one turn on the battlefield.
However, Sigarda is not a target for Collected Company or Tocasia's Welcome, both of which are staples of strategies its color combination would normally resort to. And, compared to those pieces to accumulate value, the new Sigarda requires more conditions and a little more luck to work.
I believe she still deserves testing and/or slots on the Sideboard of lists like Selesnya Angels, but her space to compose the maindeck is too limited today.
8 - Metropolis Reformer
7 - Nashi, Moon's Legacy
In many ways, Nashi reminds me of Raffine, Scheming Seer. He's priced appropriately in a currently unpopular color combination in Explorer, he protects himself, and has an elusive body that helps him get past blockers.
Nashi cares about legends, and doesn't specify what kind of cards he can copy. So Tamiyo, Field Researcher's adopted son can cast some powerful bombs from its controller's graveyard, like Planeswalkers and/or artifacts like Esika's Chariot, in addition to some important creatures like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.
Delirium decks need support to get back into the competitive scene since Pioneer's Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath ban, and perhaps Nashi is precisely what the archetype requires to make its way into the Metagame once again.
6 - Tranquil Frillback
In a game of Mono Green Devotion against Greasefang, for example, six mana is a relatively cheap cost to have a creature on the board that will destroy Esika's Chariot, exile the opponent's graveyard, and still recover four damage they might have caused during the match.
Another archetype where Frillback can find a home is on the Gruul Vehicles lists, where their flexibility reduces the number of parts needed on the Sideboard, while a 3/3 body for four mana that does something important in the ETB still has some use.
5 - Narset, Enlightened Exile
Narset, Enlightened Exile has two major advantages that make it a threat that demands an immediate response. The first is the fact that it grants Prowess to all creatures. This means tokens created by other sources and/or permanents also grow with any noncreature spells you cast.
Her second advantage is that the recursion ability Narset triggers when attacking has an amplified scope, and she can cast Planeswalkers, Enchantments, and Artifacts, which allows her to be present outside traditional Spellslinger decks.
However, her biggest weakness is that Narset requires a full turn to make any difference, and we don't have an archetype ready for her in the Metagame yet, given that current Spellslinger lists seek to play under, while she is a value card.
4 - Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin
One of The Aftermath's most discussed cards for Pioneer and Explorer, Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin already has a specific home in the format: Rakdos Sacrifice, where it's been compared to Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, the main reason to follow the Jund Food route.
While Ob Nixilis is a powerful card and interacts insanely well with Cauldron Familiar, Witch's Oven, Mayhem Devil, Oni-Cult Anvil, and even Zulaport Cutthroat, it's not superior to Korvold for not enabling its own trigger at all, forcing its controller to have the necessary parts to avoid having "only" a 4/3 with Trample and Flying in play.
I don't think Ob Nixilis and Korvold are mutually exclusive, and a "go big" variant of Jund decks could make use of both to establish powerful standalone threats. Or new variants of Rakdos, with a more elaborate Midrange plan, could arise from the arrival of Capenna's new crime king as a "payoff".
In addition, Ob Nixilis also enables a new combo with All Will be One, where any damage and/or counters put on a permanent you control will trigger one of the two pieces, generating an Infinite damage looping.
3 - Jirina, Dauntless General
Orzhov variants of Humans haven't made it to Explorer yet due to the absence of Bloodsoaked Champion, which grants an efficient one-drop with an easy-to-trigger recursion effect on an Aggro deck. But black did get some major Human support in The Aftermath, most notably with Ayara's Oathsworn and Jirina, Dauntless General.
The new Jirina is the best reason to give Humans the black splash in Explorer. Its ETB trigger is problematic for archetypes that resort to the graveyard, such as Abzan Greasefang, while its activated ability allows it to maintain the "Go wide" proposition without worrying about cards like Supreme Verdict or Ritual of Soot.
2 - Filter Out
Filter Out excels in The Aftermath for its flexibility on lists that mind having creatures in play but want to remove other permanents with a single card. An example of this in the format are Spirits decks, in particular the Mono Blue variants, which have no other efficient means of dealing with various artifacts, enchantments, or Planeswalkers.
Another game where it can get the spotlight is in Control mirrors, where lots of non-creature permanents tend to populate the board, and the loyalty counters on your Planeswalkers matter. Returning, at the End Step, another Planeswalker from the opponent and a Narset, Parter of Veils whose ability has already been activated twice generates a great advantage in the game, especially if accompanied by an Absorb and/or Dovin's Veto in your hand.
1 - Coppercoat Vanguard
Humans are one of the most prevalent Aggro decks in the competitive Explorer Metagame. Its combination of impactful threats and synergies makes it a true contender in the format, especially against archetypes that resort to many spells or need specific pieces to close a combo, where Thalia, Guardian of Thraben added to Adeline, Resplendent Cathar and Thalia's Lieutenant create a mix of disruption and fast clock.
Coppercoat Vanguard is almost an immediate inclusion in any Humans variant. In addition to serving as one more "lord" for the tribe and offering more consistency to the most aggressive turns, the new creature also protects its threats from targeted removals, and even a Fatal Push played against it means one removal which your opponent had to use to deal with this issue, while the other threats remain on the battlefield.
That's all for today.
If you believe that any important cards were left out of this list, feel free to mention it in the comments!
Thanks for reading!