A machine is what. I am building a machine.
Great. With that awesome intro, complete with references to music I should listen much more to out of the way, let’s dive right into it.
It’s been a while since the last update here, and that is even despite the fact, that I have had a lot of time off this summer. But at some point I figured that I should play a bit of Diablo. No not Diablo IV. No not Diablo 2 Resurrected either. Not even Diablo 3. The real one: Diablo 2 Lord of Destruction. That is stupid. But also insanely addictive. So now I have another level around 80 character… And not so much content on here.
But now we are back! Today I want to write a few words on Machines in Old School decks. What is a machine – when it comes to Magic – you ask? Well, I am not sure, as I haven’t been able to exactly figure out if it is a firm phrase like “Combo” or “burn” or “’Tog” or other such manners of expression most of us sling around all the time in our world of Magic and coded speak.
When I google MTG Machine, I get a lot of hits on a lot of different stuff. Some of it is about colorless commander decks – Eldrazi thingies. There is also a lot about an expansion called March of the Machines. But there is not much about what I want to call a machine.
Except when I google MTG Old School Machine Deck. Then things start to happen. There is, of course, quite some entries on the Machine Head deck, but that is not even what I am talking about (even though that is one very sexy deck!).
But when we get a bit more into it, we start getting to it. In the Eternal Central article on Old School Reanimator it is mentioned that legendary deck builder Mark Chalice once created a deck called “the Machine” with focus on Hell’s Caretaker. A quick search later, and we arrive at a list.
Now we are talking (damn decks featuring four Mana Drains are looking wild!). That is one great and fun looking deck. The synergy between Hell’s Caretaker and Tetravus is a machine waiting to go. So I guess that is what the word Machine means if you speak it slang.
But that is not the entirety of what I want the word to mean. The phrase is too narrow if it is only about this specific interaction or this very deck.
Please, more definitions!
I know how everyone simply loves definitions. Or. Maybe. I mean… At least I know how I love definitions, so that I am sure we all know what we are talking about here.
A machine in Magic, in my definition, is very related to a synergy. Actually I guess all machines are based on some kind of synergy between cards. Synergies, as I have written a bit about here, are basically cards that work well together and enhance the value of each other. Right. Not a lot of breaking news there.
But a machine is not exactly the same as a synergy. It is a sub-category. It is – of course! – much more complicated than a simple synergy. Or at least it is a specific kind of synergy.
See, a machine in my view is specifically a synergy or a string of synergies, between permanents that uses more than one zone of the game actively, to gain an advantage. Often an advantage that results directly or indirectly in a perpetual stream of card advantage.
Well. That was long and complicated.
But I think what makes machines machines, is that they do not simply work on one level of the game. There are more to them. It is also important to highlight how they may not immediately win a game and maybe not even be the cause of a game win, but the will surely – if uninterrupted – do something extraordinary.
I see how this is a weak definition. I even acknowledge that Machines may not differ a lot from what is often referred to as “engines.” They may be the same, but I think there is something to the part about using more than one zone of the game. Engines does not necessarily use more than one zone. They are not always only made up of permanents. Maybe there are some slight differences.
It doesn’t matter too much.
Whatever they are, I love my some good old-fashioned machinery.
So what is it, that is so great about these machines, these complex interactions of old cards? Difficult to say. Often when I try to assemble my machine I could have done something much better with fewer cards. But there is just something to it. I guess it is the poor mans – or maybe more correctly; the Gentlemans – combo.
In real combo you assemble you combo, do your thing and win.
With machines, you assemble your machine, make shenanigans, try to make it work. Crank some shafts (or whatever it would be called) and hope to get it up and running. And when you do, the game has not ended. You are just sitting on an awesome gold mine of funny interaction, that even uses more of the games possibilities than you do in most games.
Fun interactions between your cards, but often also between you and your opponent who is trying to figure out how to get out of the machine (often a Disenchant will do the trick).
When I build new decks, I almost always incorporate some kind of machine in them. Especially if I am not playing fully powered. Why? Because machines, in their core, are card advantage engines. Most of the time, I actually start laying out the cards needed for the machine, and then I try to figure out what cards I should be playing around them, to make sure it will work in the best way possible.
This is a great way of building decks. It makes sure that the deck has a plan. It makes sure that you are thinking outside the box (at least often you have to, when designing machines). You will often make design choices that you would probably not do otherwise, and machines often force you to really learn some rules and interactions in the game. That can be a very good learning opportunity – not just for said specific interaction, but also to get a deeper understanding of the game in general. Much recommended!
Show us some!
This has got to be enough writing for one Tuesday night in August. We have to get down to business.
My number one favorite machine has got to be this:
No, you are right. This is not a machine in and of itself. But it is a great start. With this as the foundation, you are free to add a whole host of fun and great cards. Most notably:
If you are a real nutter who really tries to get that “most spicy” price, you are of course welcome to add Jalum Tome to the mix. For example alongside Sage of Lat-Nam. And of course the almighty Rukh Egg!
The Valley can also be changed for another Sacrifice outlet, for example my much beloved Ashnod’s Altar, if you have a use for a lot of colorless mana. And if you then also find room for Su-Chi, you can keep on doing sweet, sweet rotations of that raw fish through Skull of Orm. Uh! The interactions! The Synergies!
For other sweet fun machines, I absolutely recommend this one:
Sindbad and Sylvan Library is a known and much beloved draw engine. But if you combine it with stuff to take advantage of your graveyard, so you make sure the “Bad” part of Sindbad is also to your advantage, that machine is quickly looking very oiled up and ready to go!
When building a machine, the important thing is to find cards that interact with other cards has some game-changing effect on their own. Most often effects that you have to initiate somehow. That may be the reason it is called machines?
A close to random picture of cards I like including in my machines. As you will note, most of them have their own ability to affect something in the game. And all of them are awesome cards that needs to see way more play!
So that was it from me for today. I hope to write some more posts in the coming weeks. I know I am going to a tournament in a months time, so that will be awesome, and I have also acquired new cards along with a new project.
Have a great day