A multiverse under siege. Familiar faces return, with some sporting harsh, metallic new features. A giant tree is also there. These are just part of the vistas from the newest Magic: The Gathering set, letting you play out iconic battles against or for the Phyrexian invasion.
With March of the Machine out and in full swing, it’s always nice to take a nice cup of compleat-a-cino and look back at the highs and lows of the set. To that end, we spoke to Matt Danner, Senior Creative Lead at Wizards of the Coast about the thrilling conclusion to the Phyrexian saga.
So we’ve had quite a bit of the Phyrexian aesthetic with the most recent batch of sets, did you ever worry about needing to make this set’s Phyrexians stand out in any way compared to the previous ones?
Matt: March of the Machine was interesting in that you were seeing known characters becoming Phyrexianized. We also got to see the corruption of the planes, and how that was unique to each individual world. Additionally, we really wanted to show a more fear-inducing transformation process as the denizens of the multiverse see their friends transform.
Were there any concepts that came up while you were exploring what you wanted March of the Machine to be that you really went ahead and rolled with?
Matt: We create world guides for all of our sets to provide our artists with visual targets. This set was so intense because most of the world guide made its way in, which is rare. The compleation of gods was something that came up during the concept push for the world guide that ended up in the set with the compleated Heliod.
Similarly, when going over sketches and concepts for this set, were there any elements you saw early on and were like “That’s wonderful, we need to roll with this” ?
Matt: Literally, all of the stages of the invasion. The way story is conveyed on cards isn’t linear, so fans see the cards in a random order, meaning we needed to make sure we were conveying the escalating tension of the invasion through the visuals of the portals.
Personally I quite like Phyrexians, and they’ve easily been the stars of the whole arc with their unique body horror aesthetic. Considering we’re not actually meant to be rooting for them, could you talk about making the heroes look equally impressive?
Matt: Elspeth’s return and Wrenn becoming a main set primary character were highly impactful, and we needed to make them visually sing. We wanted all the characters on all the planes to have a sense of urgency and agency. The denizens of their planes aren’t running in terror, rather they are rallying to fight for the future of their homes. Kaldheim in particular was eager for the fight!
Is there anything you’d like to say about any of the newer talent come to work on March of the Machine? Any in particular that stand out?
Matt: All of the artists that worked on March of the Machine helped make the set amazing. We asked a ton of them, and they crushed it. The battle images were very intensive, and those artists delivered. In particular, the artists who had their initial Planeswalkers images debut in this set, Cristi Balanescu’s Wrenn and Realmbreaker & Denys Tsiperko’s Elspeth are very memorable (Author’s note: you can see the art at the top of this interview!)
March of the Machine is arguably Wizards of the Coast’s most elaborate set yet- combining all the various planes of MtG lore and putting them at war with the mechanical Phyrexians. The sets are available now, complete with themed Commander Decks so you can have your favorite heroes duke it out, even if they’re a Spinosaurus reduced to a walking skeleton.
Our thanks to Matt and Wizards of the Coast for the interview,!
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