Elesh Norn has started the March of the Machines and the entire Multiverse is under attack!
In this article, I'm going to take a look at what Magic's newest expansion brings that can impact Legacy. As it is impossible to review everything (most of the new cards are focused on Limited or Standard formats) so let's go to what, I believe, is relevant to the format. But first, it's important to mention the new card type released in the expansion: Battle.
For an understanding of how these cards work, I recommend this great article written by Romeu. As for its use in the format, unfortunately I think most battles are too clunky to see play in Legacy, although some show potential.
An interesting thing is that they follow the inverse logic of Planeswalkers, where you play and force the opponent to deal with the permanent and end up seeing more play in control-oriented decks. Battles, on the other hand, are more suitable for aggressive decks, which force the opponent, often in decks without blockers, to avoid their transformation at any costs.
Some Battles have triggered abilities that resemble spells of the same cost (Invasion of Mercadia and Tormenting Voice, for example), but they have that extra of leaving a latent value on the battlefield that can be used later on, which makes us reconsider whether that could be enough to bring the effect of a previously ignored card into the format.
Four Mana is a lot in Legacy, so to justify this investment in the format, the card has to basically win the game by itself.
While the new Archangel Elspeth passes the first test of quality for a Planeswalker, which is the ability to protect itself with its abilities, but the competition for the position is very fierce, and it's hard to justify its use over The Wandering Emperor for the same cost, or Comet, Stellar Pup for a light splash to Red, as both do much more relevant things and still have a hard time carving their space in the Metagame.
You know what I just said about a 4 mana card and Legacy? It's even more complicated when talking about a creature. While the Saga side of Elesh Norn is quite strong and likely ends the game in the second chapter, the front side is quite fragile, and its activation is an invitation to take a Swords to Plowshares in response.
Invasion of Gobakhan
This card's "PV" effect (Elite Spellbinder) has already been shown to be good enough to see play in white Initiative decks for 3 mana, so it's a card that can be considered for 1 mana less in decks like Initiative, or Death and Taxes.
Invasion of Gobakhan has few Defense counters, which facilitates its transformation, and its other face is very useful precisely for decks that are already looking to pressure the opponent with creatures.
Creatures with disruptive abilities like Phyrexian Censor often find space in Legacy – see Archon of Emeria – and while Ethersworn Canonist is the most effective creature with a similar ability, Censor is harder to play around (who runs Phyrexian spells besides Infect??). It is priced appropriately for the white Stompy decks.
If Initiative decks are still strong, the second ability is also relevant, avoiding blockers and making the opponent rethink their plays in the competition for The Initiative Card // Undercity Card.
Surge of Salvation
Chrome Host Seedshark
In a set that has already reprinted Monastery Mentor, we now have its shark version, Chrome Host Seedshark. While the Mentor is more efficient and potentially ends the game faster, it's hard to discount the "pitches to Force of Will" factor.
Also, being blue opens up the potential use for other color combinations like Grixis. This Shark Typhoon hatchling has potential.
The world champion card looks interesting in Control vs Control games: it can land in response to a Ponder or similar effects, puts pressure on Planeswalkers, and offers a way to drain excess mana at the end of the opponent's turn.
Moment of Truth
Impulse is better for the cost and no longer sees play, Preordain costs less and does about the same, and both Predict and Reckless Impulse have been showing up as better alternatives to the banned spell.
Rona, Herald of Invasion
Tribal decks are quite common in Legacy: Goblins, Elves, Slivers, Merfolks, Humans, Zombies... If there is a possibility that a Phyrexian tribal exists, it depends on a good Lord, and this one is a good Lord.
The ability to return from the dead (and, to boot, grant Menace) makes this Samurai a constant threat to the opponent. It remains to be seen if there are enough pieces to create a cohesive deck, but remember that several old cards have been updated with the Phyrexian creature type.
Render Inert is basically a Planeswalker removal for 3 mana. It is also used to kill Battles. Eventually, it also disables a Chalice of the Void or resets a Saga. But the only reason I'm considering this card is that the bonus of drawing a card while doing so is what makes it have some potential
Bloodfeather Phoenix offers a possibility of extra damage and resilient for Burn decks, but at first seems slow to me for the strategy. Perhaps as a sideboard option against decks where the archetype needs that extra gas to force the last few points of damage.
Into the Fire
Cards like Kozilek's Return or Brotherhood's End often show up on the sideboard, as when they aren't useful, they are completely dead in the main deck. Into the Fire not only gives you the option to be cycled, it can also dig even deeper by switching other cards in your hand when the board isn't an issue.
Invasion of Kaldheim
In a deck like this, the front of Invasion of Kaldheim, - and basically the reason for using this card here - basically allows you to double the cards in your hand for one turn. Its back, eventually activated with a Grapeshot or some other spell desired by Burning Wish, works as a light version of the Birgi's horn if it is necessary to prepare a new combo turn.
Invasion of Mercadia
But since then, a certain Saga called Fable of the Mirror-breaker made me rethink that when this effect is linked to other values besides just the discard/draw, especially when that value is another threat which the opponent has to deal with, and I had to reconsider the possibility of this Battle being playable. It's a card I'm going to test at Red Prison.
Invasion of Tarkir
In a UR Aggro list running the already ubiquitous Murktide Regent and the potentially dangerous Sprite Dragon, it's not at all difficult to make this Battle do more than the initial 2 damage and still leave the danger of a Defiant Thundermaw. Of the Sieges launched in March of the Machines, Invasion of Tarkir is the one with the greatest potential for Legacy.
Red Prowess decks never made the transition from Modern to Legacy, even though Monastery Swiftspear is a key card.
Khenra Spellspear is slower than some alternatives of the same cost, but offers a transformed version that is simply brutal and already activated on the third turn. I don't think it's what Burn decks want, but I think it could be the pillar to bring Soul-Scar Mage and Bedlam Reveler to the format.
The final version of the Red Praetor, Urabrask has the word “Combo” tattooed all over the card. The creature version is a true engine for decks that want to do numerous spells in the same turn, and if necessary, activating the Saga version should buy time in the first chapter, dealing with full boards while setting the stage for the usually lethal third chapter. If they're going to succeed, I don't know, but you can be sure people will attempt to break this card.
Fire Prophecy was even considered in Red Prison as a removal that could be used over a Chalice of the Void and that would serve to get rid of dead cards. Unfortunately, it was too restrictive and more versatile cards like Abrade, Bonecrusher Giant and Dead//Gone won out.
Maybe expanding its targeting options will put it back in contention, and that's precisely what Volcanic Spite does.
Invasion of Ikoria
Invasion of Ixalan
I repeat here what I said about Invasion of Mercadia - if it was just a spell that looked at cards, it wouldn't even consider it to the format. But these Battles generate an extra value that is stored there and eventually redeemed. I'm not going to disregard the potential of low-cost battles that already recover the card investment (a cantrip, if you prefer) and can still generate future threats.
Wrenn and Realmbreaker
The most hyped card in the expansion does have potential in Legacy! The first deck to think about Wrenn and Realmbreaker is Lands, which has use for all the abilities of the new Planeswalker. Other Control decks can benefit from it, but then the cost is more prohibitive, and she would compete with Teferi, Time Raveler.
Baral and Kari Zev
I heard comments that this legendary duo would be the new Dreadhorde Arcanist for Izzet decks, but let's be real, 3 mana is a lot for what the deck proposes to do.
Invasion of Azgol
Another low-cost Battle with an effect suited to the cost and an eventual body. The problem is that the decks that are most interested in this effect are Control lists, which limits the effectiveness of the card.
Invasion of Ergamon
Invasion of Ergamon resembles the Mercadian invasion, but the cost is much more restrictive. The rhino it summons is pretty cool, as it already generates a valuable effect as soon as it comes into play.
Invasion of Kaladesh
On the one hand, this Battle already creates a way to start activating it. On the other hand, the vehicle it summons is more dependent on a specific deck build.
Invasion of Kaladesh might interest 8-Cast, which has the means to attack the Battle, crew the Vehicle, and make this elusive creature a potentially lethal threat.
Invasion of Pyrulea
In addition to joining the endless list of cards with embarrassing names in Portuguese, it's another low-cost Battle with a useful generic effect.
Sword of Once and Future
Sword of Once and Future, the last sword! Like the rest of the cycle, they might be worth it on the Stoneforge Mystic equipment kit. This one is strong, but the competition with Sword of Fire and Ice is fierce.
Protection from Red in general is more relevant than from Black, but the Surveil + pseudo-Snapcaster ability is much stronger than simply drawing a card. That leaves the 2 damage trigger from Sword of Fire and Ice as a bonus, but the Dimir sword can also cast some removal from the graveyard to fill that gap. The season to decide which is the best Sword is open!
Phew, we've reached the end! In particular, it's not an expansion that will revolutionize Legacy, and much of what it has to offer is dependent on whether Battles are truly useful to the format.
Finally, if you think there's something potential that I left out, leave that comment.
See you next time!