Rejoice! The latest Magic: The Gathering set, Phyrexia: All Will Be One is now available. We’ve been fully spoiled with all of the previews, and it’s time to make some bold predictions on what cards we could be crafting first on Arena or scream for joy when we open our first new packs.
Ever since Fable of the Mirror Breaker came out, evaluating cards for Standard prior to release has become the Wild West. Since when did a 3-mana saga enchantment exude this much sway over what cards are actually good to play in the primary competitive format of MTG?
Needless to say, it (and similar cards of its ilk) influence my evaluations in that 1. Bombs, as we’re accustomed to, aren’t really that bomb-y now, and 2. Value is the name of the game. Providing more value than what it costs as soon as it enters play is what makes good standard cards these days.
Nothing can explain things better than just diving into the cards I took notice of above all others in Phyrexia: All Will Be One [ONE], but first, let’s take a quick look into the set mechanics.
Phyrexia Main Set Mechanics
There are a couple of returning and new themes in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, but the most prevalent, I think, would be Toxic and Proliferate.
Toxic initially looks to me like Wizards’ attempt to slow down the value of powerful staples in Standard like Sheoldred. Specifically, as a Toxic player, you now do not care about your opponent’s life total. This could be great, however, that’s only half of Sheoldred, she can still whittle your life total down. So unless there ends up being some incredibly powerful synergy for Toxic in this set’s cards alone, I do not really believe a Toxic/Poison Counter deck can emerge as a new archetype in Phyrexia: All Will Be One.
Toxic (and Oil counters, actually) feel like Dungeons to me – they could be impactful in other formats, but very unlikely in Standard. I still mention it here because there are some cards that seem good on top of having Toxic. Corrupted is a threshold that activates or enables abilities whenever your opponent has 3 or more poison counters, so maybe this set of payoffs will help them along.
Proliferate helps Toxic too, because it increases counters on things that already have counters on them, but at least Proliferate’s benefits exist outside of that – with Planeswalkers especially. There doesn’t seem to be overly pushed and powerful PWs this time around (which is also somewhat good for the meta and economy in general) even if that may cut the value of Proliferate by a notch. There are some good targets from previous sets, like BRO Teferi, Sorin, and The Wandering Emperor, at least. There’s also the potential in Bant Midrange becoming a thing with its shield counters and Brokers Ascendancy. I think Phyrexia: All Will Be One’s Proliferate will benefit future sets, but right now I think it’s unlikely to start its own archetype, yet.
It just isn’t the time for slower control-based build-up-to-a-crescendo strategies when the best card in Standard is a saga that generates value on ETB, draws and filters cards, and produces a potential win-con all in one. The value-generating capabilities of existing cards are limiting the power of Planeswalkers somewhat, which again, can be good, lest we have another WAR or ELD situation in our hands, at the cost of having a midrange fiesta all over Standard.
Oil counters are generally somewhat like Fade counters in that they either increase or decrease effects depending on how many of them there are, and yes these are Proliferateable, but like Toxic, the Standard-viable Oil cards are those that are already good before even looking at the Oil counter benefits.
Lastly, there’s also an Equip cycle of cards that create a 2/2 token that auto-equips itself, but it looks like a powerful Limited archetype, but not really for Standard Constructed’s power level.
Phyrexia: All Will Be One White
Skrelv, Defector Mite – our little mouthy bug’s got Toxic, but as I’ve said above, that’s not what makes him good. For 2 life or W, he Selfless-Saviors another creature you control. Better than Selfless Savior in that he also makes the target harder to block, and is reusable. Skrelv is quite a steal as a 1-cost, and easily slots into any deck with White and cares about creatures (read: most of them).
Skrelv’s Hive – If Wedding Announcement is good, this can be good, but remember that the former draws you cards and gives an anthem. Skrelv’s Hive is 1 mana cheaper, and produces artifact creatures, which can possibly enable Mardu builds of Anvil decks. Again, Toxic is gravy here.
Ossification – good cheap removal that’s not picky, though it’s a bit awkward if you’re also using Farewell. Maybe that’s fine because this card can mean you survive until you can Farewell. It does address Planeswalkers, which Farewell and some other White removal does not.
Phyrexia: All Will Be One Blue
Blue Sun’s Twilight – YOINK! Cheap 2-for-1 against tokens (they cost 0), 2-for-1 against good creatures, and a 3-for-1 against possible win-cons. Stealing an Ao and triggering it instantly while keeping the 5/4 body seems like an appropriate 7-mana play in today’s Standard. I think this is easily the best card in the Twilight cycle of X-mana spells.
Ichormoon Gauntlet – this speaks to the combo player in me. There has to be some way to break this card, and I’d go as far as saying this is potentially the most meta-viable way of doing a Proliferate deck in Standard. I could be very wrong here, but this is the type of card that plays with the boundaries of either getting banned, or total dogshit, with no in-between.
Mercurial Spelldancer – Izzet spells, as you will see further in the list, are getting so many things to support your Balmors and Iconoclasts. This creature has a lot of value for only 2-mana, which is perhaps the cost threshold for things that do not ETB but are still good without needing to be overstated. This is the least powerful of the Izzet-friendly additions, mind you, and it’s quite good at that already.
Phyrexia: All Will Be One Black
Drivnod, Carnage Dominus – big Yargle vibes here: Drivnod seems like he’ll fit right in inside Esper Legends. 5-mana fatty that makes itself really hard to kill for an easy cost and condition. The static ability is a bonus at that, but can also drive whichever deck adopts this into a higher level of value (double the Ratadrabik zombies, anyone?).
Phyrexian Obliterator – a welcome reprint in this day and age, but this suffers from the problematic question “is this better than Sheoldred?”. It’s a bit bigger, sure, and it’s untargeted removal for your opponent’s permanents, but there’s not really a good reason to play Mono B (over BR, Grixis, or Esper) just to play this. Still, maybe it is the reason to play a deck that’s been pushed out by the banning of Meathook Massacre, but it may need to work hard with another self-damage enabler to do so.
Sheoldred’s Edict – good and versatile black removal, what’s not to like? Gets rid of Graveyard Trespassers cleanly, even on the turn it’s played. Banger flavor-text too, *chefs’ kiss*.
Phyrexia: All Will Be One Red
Capricious Hellraiser – Izzet spells, here we go. It’s a bit ironic that the wordy conditions this card asks for may very well be much much easier to fulfill than any of the set’s main mechanics like Corrupted. It exiles randomly, which is a bummer, but that may save it from the ban-hammer, because it’d be way more powerful than it already is. 3-mana 4/4 flyer that recycles a spell on ETB is muy bueno in Izzet, and maybe even Grixis. Not all of the 9 cards it requires for the cost reduction need to be noncreature spells, and so we may have an even bigger amount of control on what cards we do exile.
Koth Fire of Resistance – ramp, removal, win condition all in one. It’s cheap and can protect itself. Maybe Boros Burn or Big Red rises from the ashes, but RDW can honestly slot one of these in and it’d be better for it.
Vindictive Flamestoker – RB spells is eating good this set, huh? Drawing four cards in a spell-heavy and fast-firing Izzet deck can usually spell (pun fully intended) doom for your opponent, which means your Flamestoker is likely not going to live to do it. Is that good enough? I say yes, because for one mana, you get to suck away the plentiful removal in current Standard. If your opponent lets this guy live, they just signed their own death warrant.
Exuberant Fuseling – Anvil decks will want to slot this card in, and at 1 mana, that’s actually quite doable. It’s not a Teething Wurmlet, but since this is in R, I think that eases deck building a bit. The Oil counter here is bordering on just flavor or mechanical efficiency (rather than making +1/+0 counters a part of our jargon).
Furnace Punisher – punishes the current 3-color Standard metagame. Great card for RDW sideboards, probably maindeckable depending on if no more monos or duos enter the top tier of Standard decks.
Phyrexia: All Will Be One Green
Tyrranax Rex – I love me my Carnage Tyrants, but this is now just a worse Titan. Maybe, just maybe, if UW control (or Ux Flash, oh no) comes in as a dark horse in this meta, this can be good. But I’m not counting on that. We are now in the age of not being impressed with 7-mana 8/8 Trample Hastes.
Bloated Contaminator – this is a worse Graveyard Trespasser, in a color that wants – nay, NEEDS – to outsize its opponents on curve. Still, 3-mana 4/4 is a good baseline, and this creature does lean into Toxic – it’s just that Green stompy’s in a bad place recently. If you put this in Gruul… well, I think I’d rather just kill my opponent with, you know… DAMAGE instead if I’m in Gruul.
Evolving Adaptive – it’s a worse Pelt Collector, and this is good compared to most of the other Green cards in ONE. If that doesn’t tell you what I’m trying to say about G here, I don’t know what does
Venerated Rotpriest – possible combo piece for Illuminator decks, but that deck is UW, and does not have Toxic, meaning I’d have to target my creatures roughly 10 times. I’d be willing to give it a chance, and maybe it can splash Green, or there’s a GW version of it somewhere. I put this card here in this list to tell you how sad I am about Green’s cards in this set.
Phyrexia: All Will Be One Gold / Colorless
Glissa Sunslayer – Will this ever get to attack, and therefore, provide value? Maybe. Is there a Golgari Legends deck? There’s none. Why is this card here then? I want there to be a viable Golgari list in Standard for the next set. Please? This and another new card, Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler, are a non-bo, but, please Wizards. I can stand Vraska betraying Jace, but I don’t know if I can stand another set without a viable Golgari deck.
Zenith Chronicler – this can be Esper Sentinel for Standard. Much weaker, and much more narrow, but the draw is guaranteed. It can be the sideboard card you can always slot in if you don’t know what else to put.
Soulless Jailer – we’re never not gonna need GY hate, and this card’s got a new spin on it that I guess prevents casting from exile as well. That prevents things like Chandra 3 and a few others, and that might be enough to earn this its sideboard slot.
All in all, Phyrexia: All Will Be One doesn’t seem to be a set chock full of pushed Rares and Mythics, and I have to reiterate that that’s great for MTG in the mid and long terms. Is it good for Standard? Somewhat, because it doesn’t create a warped meta, considering we already are in one where Fable, Sheoldred, Invoke Despair, and Raffine run the show. Those are not bombs (well maybe Invoke is) in the barest sense, and so they are quite answerable – they just increment the value they give every turn including the turn they come into play. The price is that we’re going to have Anvils and Harvesters and Invokes up to our necks until the near future.
I’m excited for Red to make a great comeback, and clearly they are the best color in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, to me. Next would be White, which holds the title of the current best mono deck in Standard, and possibly will remain as is unless Red upstages it. Third is Black, no surprise there except that while there are no cards that push it up, there are also no cards from other colors that seemingly can overtake it. Blue continues to be a great support color, and thank Wizards there’s nothing much to help Mono U Djinn (they’re fine as is).
Sadly, Green is in last place, as it is still paying for all the shenanigans it pulled during the WAR and ELD days. Someday, Green will once again be good. Someday. Not in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, and certainly not tomorrow, and not until the next set is spoiled.
As always with my MTG write-ups, all images are sourced from Scryfall, and these are merely my opinions and theories on an exciting new time period of MTG that’s about to unfold. I could be dead wrong – and in fairness, nobody saw Fable coming – but I’m hopeful these insights will help you in your crafting and other card acquisition/deck-building decisions for Phyrexia: All Will Be One.
I’m in Mythic every season in Arena, and I hit Mythic via Standard Bo3 and the current set draft in Limited Bo1, and most of my takes come from my experience playing these formats. Maybe someday I will tackle Historic/Explorer in detail, and maybe even Pioneer in MTGO, who knows? In any case, see you on Phyrexia: All Will Be One release day, February 10!