March of the Machine, the latest expansion for Magic the Gathering is out. Its story spans the entirity of Magic‘s Multiverse, from Alara to Zendikar. With so many planes being invaded by the Phyrexian army, what new Elves will we see emerge from the conflict?
Well, that’s what this Elves All The Way Down review is here to find out. As is tradition at this point, we’ll be going over every single new Elf printed in the set. We’ll also be looking at a bunch of other cards that could bring new support for Elf decks.
As always, this review focuses exclusively on a card’s application in Elves decks across Magic‘s many formats. If you think there’s a cool card for your Phyrexian tribal deck in Commander, this isn’t the review for that. (That card’s still cool though, whatever it is.) The rating given at the end of each entry is out of five Trees and applies to whichever format the card suits best.
Ayara, Widow of the Realm
Our first new Elf isn’t here to make friends, whereas Elves need to be able to work together. With this in mind, it isn’t surprising that Ayara is a synergy piece for sacrifice decks, rather than Elves. While it might be fun to sacrifice your spare mana dorks, Ayara isn’t really worth an include.
I have been fortunate enough to get to kill people with Ayara in March of the Machine limited. Both with her front side and back.
Part of me wants to utilise Ayara’s Furnace Queen form to bring back copies of Shaman of the Pack to finish off my opponent. However, having to spend eight or nine mana to get there is too much. Especially when the card doesn’t do anything we want otherwise.
A victim of the need to fill out March of the Machine limited archetypes, Compleated Huntmaster isn’t a very elfy Elf. Sure, we have lots of spare tokens running around to upgrade into 3/3s. However, the Phyrexian tokens don’t work with anything Elves want to do. Furthermore, it costs three mana and a creature just to get a 3/3 out of it.
Another victim of March of the Machine limited, there isn’t much to say about Iridescent Blademaster. It’s filler at best in draft, let alone any constructed format.
The limited cards just keep on coming. Serpent-Blade Assailant is fine. It can act as the glue between a few different archetypes in limited. Outside of limited, it’s pretty ass(ailant).
Glissa, Herald of Predation
Finally, the culmination of the Incubate-matters Elves we’ve just covered. Glissa, Herald of Predation generates a good board presence over multiple turns. She even helps the creatures she creates get through your opponent’s board. Again, however, Incubate tokens aren’t Elves and don’t synergise with anything else we like doing.
Seeing as three of the Elves in the set care about Incubate, I decided to try out an Elf/Incubate deck in Standard. I had fun on stream with it, but I don’t think it can be anything more than fringe without dropping the Elf theme. At least Jinnie Fae, Jetmir’s Second finally found a place she can shine. She combos so well with Incubate! Instead of making a non-creature token that you have to pay mana to turn into a 0/0, Jinnie makes it so you make a Cat/Dog immediately – and it still gets the tokens.
Invasion of Lorwyn
What’s this non-creature spell doing in the Elf section? Well, if we look at the other face…
…it is an Elf!
I was really hopeful when the art for Invasion of Lorwyn got revealed. I have long accepted that it will take nothing short of a miracle for us to make a full return to Lorwyn (the return to Kamigawa gives me some hope). A card showing up in March of the Machine that directly shows a bunch of Elves teaming up on the best Elf plane could have been so good.
Instead, we got a limited-only removal spell that transforms into an Elf that cares about lands. I was tempted to give a score of zero due to my disappointment. However, I like the art of our first Battle enough to not be that harsh.
Knight-Errant of Eos
For a deck that can put a lot of bodies on the field, Knight-Errant of Eos can be a pretty good way of digging for more creatures. For Elves specifically, there are better options in older formats, but in the Magic Arena formats it could be a useful tool to have access to.
I do like the fact that, because most of the Elves we care about are relatively cheap, you only need to convoke the Knight-Errant with 2~3 creatures to be able to hit good cards.
Surge of Salvation
Another piece of protection to add to the pile, Surge of Salvation provides another interesting option for keeping our Elves safe. Furthermore, it even protects us from targeting effects for when that’s relevant. Surge doesn’t protect from destruction-based board wipes, but it does work against damage-based ones.
Whether this is the protection spell you want will be based on what cards you’re trying to protect your Elves/combo pieces from and what other options are in your format. Just keep it in mind as an option.
Meeting of Minds
Now, I don’t expect this card to be relevant in many formats, but Pauper Elves sometimes runs Blue for Distant Melody using cards like Birchlore Rangers. Having access to another draw spell options in the format add to our potential to completely flood the board. Unlike a card like Lead the Stampede or Winding Way, Meeting of Minds can draw into other draw spells.
I have no idea what the correct balance for the four aforementioned cards is, but having more pieces in our toolbox to fully streamline the deck can’t be a bad thing.
Collective Nightmare and Pile On
As I mentioned before, Convoke is a mechanic that plays extremely well with Elves. We’re very good at filling up the board with extra bodies and they all contribute to casting these spells. (Sometimes even for free!)
Collective Nightmare will probably only be useful as a sideboard option in the younger formats, but Pile On has potential to reach some older formats like Modern. Being able to kill anything for one or even zero mana is very powerful. You can hit Murktide Regents and Karn Liberateds all day long.
Here we are: our newest big, green monster. It’s yet another card with Convoke, but this one only needs Green mana/creatures, which works even better with Elves. With an Elvish Warmaster or two hanging around, you can get to the point where it doesn’t even cost any mana and gets the full fourteen +1/+1 counters.
I’ve already had a chance to test out Ancient Imperiosaur. While it will never have the impact of a card like Cratehoof Behemoth, there is something very empowering about slamming down a 20/20 creature on turn three. As a result, it’s probably not pushing out other wincons from older formats, but part of me doesn’t care. I just want to make my huge one-shot dinosaur.
Explorer is a format that doesn’t have a lot of the classic Elf win conditions available. Maybe that’s where our big green friend will find a home.
With the addition of a new card type in Battles, it is worth noting that Green is the colour that has been given a way to deal with them. If there is ever a Battle that is meta-relevant, having a Naturalize variant that destroys them is worth keeping in mind. Atraxa’s Fall also acts as a Plummet, so there an extra bonus to make up for it being a sorcery rather than an instant.
Invasion of Ikoria
Talking of Battles, here’s one that might actually be good for us.
Invasion of Ikoria is basically Finale of Devastation. Both cards cost the same and have different game-ending upsides under some circumstances. Finale could pump your entire team if X was high enough. Invasion of Ikoria instead gives you a huge dinosaur that allows your attacks to effectively ignore blockers when dealing damage. You can find Invasion of Ikoria with cards that look for permanents, however, an option that Finale doesn’t provide.
I still think I prefer Finale for its board-wide pump. However, I do appreciate that having a different option to use when it’s relevant is good. I feel like if you’re able to attack this Battle enough to kill it, you probably don’t need the bonus 8/8 and ability to attack through blocker to end the game.
I also find it an awkard downside that Invasion of Ikoria specifies non-Human. Sometimes our sideboard silver bullets are humans, like Drannith Magistrate. Sometimes our ‘Elves’ are Changelings, like Realmwalker. I think not being able to search for cards like these is a pretty big problem for the Invasion.
Invasion of Ixalan
Invasion of Ixalan fills a similar space to cards like Once Upon a Time or Winding Way. It digs for specific cards that we might need in a given situation. It isn’t free at the start of the game like OUaT and can’t get multiple cards like Winding Way. However, being able to hit any permanent card and give us value later are both two relevant upsides.
It also turns into a cool dinosaur.
Inga and Esika
I’m not sure if Inga and Esika will be relevant for any competitive Elf decks. However, I do like the second ability in a format like Commander. Tapping a Priest of Titania for six mana isn’t too hard in that format. Afterwards, you can put that mana into two creatures, giving you two extra cards. Turning everything into mana dorks for any colour is just gravy.
Kogla and Yidaro
Kogla and Yidaro offers two different utilities in one card. They’re a searchable creature with many of the spells that Elves play that can act as a removal spell. They can also act as a Naturalize that cantrips from hand.
I don’t know if those two uses make them worth an include anywhere, but I played Apex Altisaur in Legacy recently, so it’s entirely possible. Kogla and Yidaro might not fight all of your opponent’s creatures, but they’ll fight one of them for much less of an investment.
Well, over all, I’m kind of disappointed by March of the Machine for its Elf representation. I’m rather excited about the set as a whole, with a new card type and a bunch of pay-offs for decks I enjoy. However, I can’t help but feel like the Elves were a bit of a let down. This is the first time since Magic Origins that we’ve seen Lorwyn and the cards are all aimed at Limited without any actual Elf synergy. I’m kind of surprised they didn’t save Leaf-Crowned Visionary for this set and just have it be from Lorwyn.
The non-Elf cards are really what carried this review. I’m looking forward to convoking my big 20/20 dinosaur and winning some battles. I just hope the next set has some good Elves. If only there was a way of seeing ahead to what March of the Machine: Aftermath held for us.
As always, I’ve been trying out some of the new cards on stream, so if you want to see some of them in action, head over on a Thursday evening (UK time). Always happy for new viewers in chat to talk about these new cards with. If you’re interested in previous sets, you can find all of our older Elves All The Way Down reviews here.
Jamie is a MtG and assorted gaming enthusiast who wants to bring his enjoyment and passion for games to everyone.