Battles in Commander: How do they work? Which are the best for EDH? | Magic: The Gathering
June 19, 2023
Magic: The Gathering
March of the Machine, MTG, Battle
With the release of March of the Machine we have experienced a rare event in Magic: the release of a new card type! Along with the traditional types creature, instant, sorcery, enchantment, artifact, and land, as well as the newer ones planeswalker and tribal, battles have been added to the game. And that is precisely what we are going to focus on in today's article.
Unlike other types of cards that have emerged over the years, such as plane or phenomenon cards, which are card types intended for casual formats and do not usually have a place in traditional or competitive formats, battle cards are a new official card type that we can use in all formats, from Standard to Vintage, obviously including Commander among others.
In this article, we will review what battles are and how they work, as well as reviewing some of our favorites in the Commander format!
MTG's new card type: What are battles?
The first thing we'll notice with battle cards is that they are two-sided cards, with the front face being the actual battle side, which is in a unusual horizontal format. However, the back of the card will be in the regular format and be a card of another type, a creature or planeswalker for example.
This is because the battle cards have been created to represent the battles that have taken place during the course of the Phyrexian invasion in the Multiverse. Generally we will see the battle for a plane on the front side and one of the protagonists of the battle on the back.
For example, Invasion of New Phyrexia shows the knights of Zhalfir arriving at the battle. When the battle is over, on the back side we have Teferi, Temporal Archmage, the Zhalfirin planeswalker who led his forces in the battle.
How do battles work in MTG?
Now let's delve a little deeper into how they work. To begin with, all the battles that were released in March of the Machine have the subtype "Siege." So there might be more battles in the future that may have different subtypes amd mechanics!
Like all permanents, battle cards can only be cast during our main phase and if the stack is empty. The side that we cast will be the battle side, as it is the one that has a casting cost.
Battles enter the battlefield with a predetermined number of defense counters on the card. You can find them in the lower right corner. These counters indicate the amount of damage required to defeat it. Whenever a battle takes damage, that amount of defense counters is removed.
One of the main characteristics of battle cards is that, like planeswalkers, they can ba attacked and dealt damage. But here is the important difference: when it comes to battles, our goal is not to preserve them, but to defeat them!
When we cast a siege and it enters the battlefield, we'll have to choose one of our opponents as its protector. All players can attack that battle to defeat it - except its protector, who will be the only one able to block attacks against the battle. So it's important to differentiate between the controller of the battle and its protector, as in the case of sieges,for the first time in Magic, we'll be able to attack a permanent we control.
Combat damage isn't the only way to remove defense counters from a battle. We can also deal damage to them through spells or abilities. There will be cards that specifically mention they can deal damage to battles (like Nahiri's Warcrafting), but we can also rely on cards that can deal direct damage to any target or remove counters from permanents (such as Vampire Hexmage).
When the last defense counter is removed from a siege battle, it is defeated and (as a triggered ability) the battle's controller exiles it and then casts the back side of the card without paying a mana cost. As mentioned before, the back side of battles can be multiple card types. The introduction of battles in March of the Machine saw 36 different cards of that type being added to the game, with backsides ranging from creatures and planeswalkers to enchantments, artifacts (regular ones, vehicles and equipments), and even sorceries.
Here is some additional information and tricky interactions that could be useful to know when playing with and against Battles:
While a battle is on the battlefield, it's considered a permanent, so it can be destroyed by abilities or spells that target a permanent. But in this case, it won't count as defeated and you won't get to cast the back side!
A battle can be defeated by removing all the counters at once, for example with an effect like Vampire Hexmage. When the last counter is removed, we trigger the ability to play the back side. However, if we use an effect like Crystalline Resonance to make a copy of a battle, the copy won't have counters, and therefore won't be defeated, since defeating the Battle involves removing the last counter. So if a Battle has no counters and its triggered ability has not triggered and resolved, that battle will go to the graveyard without transforming.
A defeated battle can be countered in two diffenrent ways. Cards like Stifle can counter the triggered ability after removing the last counter. And if the battle's triggered exile ability is not resolved, it is without counters and its ability is not on the stack, it will go directly to the graveyard. Also, battles don't simply transform, the back side will be cast. A regular Counterspell works in this case as well.
Battles in EDH: Our top 10 cards for Commander
After having gone over what they are, how they work, and some tips about battles within Magic: the Gathering, it's time to review our favorite battles in Commander!
The ETB effect of Invasion of Amonkhet affects all players, so in Commander there are many possibilities of hitting something interesting among the four graveyards out of a total of 12 milled cards and 3 discarded, in addition to drawing a card. Once we defeat it and it returns as Lazotep Convert, we will have many options to copy a creature with an interesting effect, especially if we are using a reanimator strategy.
The ETB effect of Invasion of Arcavios may be somewhat expensive, costing 5 mana to search for a card and being limited to an instant or sorcery, but the fact that it is not limited to the library is an added bonus. The most interesting part of this card is Invocation of the Founders, which allows us to copy every instant or sorcery we cast from our hand, and from here it depends on what kind of player we want to be. Copying fun effects, advantage-gaining effects, disruptive effects ... or extra turn effects.
Invasion of Fiora is probably one of the best ETB effects among the battles. We can choose to destroy legendary creatures, non-legendary creatures, or both . Depending on the board state, we can make the decision that suits us best. Once defeated, Marchesa, Resolute Monarch offers us a good attacker, as well as the option to continue defeating battles, eliminating planeswalkers, and of course drawing cards.
Invasion of Ikoria is a perfect battle for Timmy decks filled with giant creatures or creatures with ETB effects! We can directly search for the one that interests us the most and put it into play. The only restriction is that it cannot be a human creature, but green has plenty of options that meet this requirement. Zilortha, Apex of Ikoria is a stompy player's dream - we can attack with our huge army of monsters and assign damage as if they were unblocked. Anyone looking for a good finisher? Imagine combining this with Craterhoof Behemoth ... WOW!
Invasion of Shandalar is a perfect battle for decks that want to play grindy games. We can exchange resources with our opponents and then recover up to 3 permanent cards from our graveyard with just the ETB effect. Once defeated, each turn we can put a permanent card from our hand onto the battlefield. What is the craziest card that comes to your mind to cheat into play for free? Maybe Omniscience ...
-13/-13 will probably be enough to get rid of any threat on the board, and we can do it even with creatures that have indestructible. To top it off, it has flash! Deluge of the Dead also offers a supply of zombies for our board, while acting as a graveyard hate effect.
Perhaps Invasion of New Phyrexia may seem a bit pigeonholed into knight decks, especially with its back side Teferi Akosa of Zhalfir, but any token deck would be happy to have an effect like this invasion, and Teferi is strong enough even without using the -2 ability that only benefits knights.
Speaking of specific cards Invasion of Tarkir will be without a doubt much better in a dragon-themed deck, since we can enhance its ETB effect. In addition, Defiant Thundermaw is also greatly enhanced if we can accompany it with other dragons, being able to turn an attack with multiple creatures into a pseudo sweeper.
Ramp decks can rejoice in having this card, as it not only accelerates our mana by adding two extra lands, but it can also fix our colors if we are playing multicolor decks. Awakened Skyclave is another good way to fix and accelerate our mana while also having a decent body on the board.
Invasion of Gobakhan may not have the best ETB effect for a multiplayer format like Commander, as it can only affect one card in one of our opponent's hands, but Lightshield Array is undoubtedly a great card that will power up our board every turn while also protecting it from potential sweepers.
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