Battles are good for much more than just growing the Goyf. Let’s break down Magic’s newest card type!

March of the Machine spoilers are in full swing, and this spoiler season brings us something rare: an entirely new card type! This is the first new card type since Planeswalkers were released in Lorwyn back in 2007, and given the huge impact Planeswalkers have had on literally every format, expectations are high.

Battles look something like a cross between an enchantment and a Planechase card. I’d bet the sideways layout is intended to allow both players to read the card, as your opponent(s) will play a role in the presence of Battles on the battlefield. All the Battles in this set have the subtype Siege, implying that future Battles might play out differently. Let’s take a look at Invasion of Gobakhan, aka “White Thoughtseize.” Check out the reminder text for the subtype Siege:

PVDDR strikes again...

Think of it like giving your opponent a Planeswalker that you really want to kill! There are plenty of ways to defeat a Siege, but they mostly involve bringing one down to 0 defense counters. Here are some options:

  • Attacking it with creatures
  • “Any target” burn spells
  • Ways to remove counters (think Vampire Hexmage)

Notably, “defeating” a Battle is different than “destroying” a Battle. Destroying or exiling a Battle would remove it without the transforming ability triggering. If your opponent gives you a Battle and you don’t want them to get access to the backside, your options are limited:

  • Spells that exile or destroy permanents (mostly in white)
  • Spells or abilities that specifically remove Battles (none as of publishing this article, but I bet we’ll get a Reclamation Sage variant sooner or later)
A great way to ensure your opponent never wins their battles. 

When a Siege is defeated, it’s exiled (removing any modifiers like other types of counters or auras), then cast transformed. This means the back half can be hit by Counterspell, and is subject to other casting payment taxes and effects. The back side might be a creature, spell, or who knows what- this new card type opens up some really interesting design space! Future Battle subtypes might not even have a backside, or might even enter on your side and ask you to defend them instead of your opponent.

Now that's worth the effort!

Battles all have one thing in common- they’re all (at least) two-for-ones, and it doesn’t look like the front sides have been overcosted too much to account for that. The fact that these are permanents, which can potentially be flickered, reanimated, or otherwise reused at low cost, makes these already flashy cards very strong. Even the Sieges that don’t have planeswalkers on the back seem to be worth casting on the front, and worth defeating to unlock the back.

It’s nearly impossible to say how Battles will affect the texture of a game of Magic until we actually play with them. The place I’m most excited to see them is in Limited, where the emphasis on creature combat is already at its relative highest. Many players can relate to the sinking feeling of an opponent setting up a solid board protecting a planeswalker. Will there be a similar feeling associated with casting a Siege, knowing you’ll never have the resources to flip it? As someone who tends towards aggressive decks across all formats, how good will a Siege need to be before it becomes worth it to play and attack one, rather than just attacking the opponent? Will burn players ever even read these things??

Imagine flickering some of these... every turn...

These new cards look like fun in Commander, too, as the politics involved in taking down a Siege will make for some fun gameplay. I’m pretty happy seeing creature combat emphasized to such an extent on this new card type, as Magic can sometimes stray away from its roots, but still have plenty of unanswered questions. If you’d like to stick around for more thoughts on this wild new card type, be sure to check out the Draft Chaff Podcast. Good luck in the coming Battles!