It’s time for the next Magic: The Gathering set to release as Phyrexia: All Will Be One is invading stores and is available to buy from places holding pre-releases tonight. I got the chance to get a little bit of early hands-on time yesterday with the set on Magic Arena as part of an early access program Wizard’s runs and I’m here to share a few thoughts about the set with a bit of a focus on Limited.
1) The Phyrexia: All Will Be One Limited Format Is Fast
There are a lot of good early drops in this set. These creatures are able to quickly rack up damage, and we see stat lines that are pretty aggressive in the set overall, especially when you consider the effective additional damage done via toxic. Creatures here hit early, and hit hard while accruing advantages for their caster.
The fact that the main token type in the set is the Phyrexian Mite also factors in speeding it up. Tokens are a classic strategy to help clog up the board, but with the Phyrexian Mites being unable to block it pushes the format to a quicker tempo. While other tokens like the 2/2 Red Rebel tokens can block, there are fewer of them overall in the set.
There are some slower controlling archetypes in the format for limited but they need to be responding to things quickly and promptly – this isn’t a set where you are building up to summoning giant robots or Eldrazi. Instead, the Phyrexians are out to compleat each other into their respective visions quickly and efficiently.
2) Toxic and Corrupted Are Important and Play Differently From Infect
Toxic is one of the core mechanics of Phyrexia: All Will Be One and the main method of delivering poison counters to opponents. It appears primarily in Black, Green, and White, and it deals normal damage as well as applying poison counters when it hits the player. This is significantly different from Infect which siloed itself off entirely onto an alternate track – instead toxic co-exists with normal life damage. There are two life-totals to track here, and players with toxic creatures will pressure both.
Another important difference is corrupted, as it means a lot of effects come online only once your opponent has at least three poison counters. This means that even the first few poison counters have an impact on the game, and some decks care more about getting Corrupted online than trying to go for a full poison kill. So you need to weigh the first few points of poison damage heavier than normal damage on whether to allow them or not, especially if your opponent is White/Black.
The change to toxic being a set number compared to infect’s power scaling does mean that it is less explosive in general. You aren’t going to see much ‘pump spell, you’re dead’ out of nowhere as you could in Scars of Mirrodin or against Modern Infect decks. That’s not to say though that you should feel safe once you get to a higher poison count, as there are ways for your opponents to finish you off from afar or by surprise. There's a trick that gives Toxic to a creature, a fair amount of proliferate in the set, and several instants or sorceries can just straight up give your opponent(s) a Poison counter.
3) Expect to see More Planeswalkers Than You’re Used To
While there’s not a War of the Sparks level of planeswalkers, Phyrexia: All Will be One has ten planeswalkers, the second most in a set ever. More importantly, is that five of these planeswalkers are rare, and not mythic rares, making them much more likely to show up in limited. They make up about eight percent of the normal rares, and a full quarter of the mythic rares. Given that in a normal draft, 24 packs are opened there’s an over 80% chance that a planeswalker will be somewhere in your pod, so you need to consider them.
The rare planeswalkers are Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler, Kaito, Dancing Shadow, Koth, Fire of Resistance, The Eternal Wanderer, and Kaya, Intangible Slayer. Of these five, The Eternal Wanderer is probably the biggest bomb with her mass removal ability, strong tokens, and a passive protection ability. The weakest for Limited is probably Tyvar, though he’s quite interesting for constructed applications.
The mythic rares can also be fairly bomby with Vraska, and Nissa being absolute house-wreckers if you face them. That’s more unlikely and what you expect in a normal set, but it is worth remembering they are out there too.
A quick reminder that Proliferate is in this set and it will help planeswalkers out even more. It makes getting something like Vraska’s 9 loyalty for her ultimate far easier, while also giving them effectively extra protection. Phyrexia is making its servants more committed to the cause all the time.
4) Expect Lots of Combat Tricks in Phyrexia: All Will Be One
There are a lot of good combat tricks in Phyrexia: All Will Be One and a lower amount than normal of instant speed targeted removal (only a couple in red, and one in black). There's also only one flash creature that can come down and block, so you should expect most of the combat step shenanigans to come from combat tricks.
Overall there are 11 pump spells at common and uncommon in Phyrexia: All Will Be One spread over the five colors, with 4 in White, 1 in Blue and Black, 2 in Red, and 3 in Green. Some of these are fairly strong, such as white's Compleat Devotion replacing itself if it targets a toxic creature, whilest granting +2/+2 to the creature. There are also a number of instants that have proliferate tacked on, which depending on the board can also work as a trick. Each color has at least a couple of ways to mess around in the combat step with spells, and some pretty solid ones overall. The shortage of instant speed removal in some spots also makes them more appealing so expect to see combat math get compleatly changed sometimes.
5) Wait On Card Prices For Most Cards – they’ll largely fall
I know, Phyrexia All Will Be One is the hot new thing and we all want to pick up the cards we’re interested in right now. Maximizing your magic spending though sometimes requires a bit of patience, and examining Phyrexia: All Will Be One we can see there are a lot of high-value cards in pre-orders and what folks are looking at.
Each set has effectively only so much secondary market ‘value’ it can hold, because when the value is notably more than what it is selling for, players and stores are buying more of the boxes and opening them up. If the estimated value (EV) of a pack in a set is significantly higher than what you are paying, it makes sense to do that and plan to resell cards you don't want. If it is lower, players and stores open less, thus driving up the scarcity of cards that do have value in the set and increasing their value. In essence: supply and demand apply to magic cards, and effectively tether the value of cards in a set to its retail price while it is in print.
Because there are a lot of good cards in Phyrexia All Will Be One, the preorder and early prices for them are really high as the cards are splashy and impressive. Some of these are cards that would be frontrunners in a weaker set, but while the set is in print, there's only so much value to go around to all these interesting cards, especially when Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines, and Mondrak, Glory Dominus are gobbling up a lot of value. These are cards each going for $40-$50 or more, as they are in high demand in Magic's most popular format Commander, the current driving force of magic finance. With several of the cards gobbling up so much of the set's value, there's that much less to go around to other cards, resulting in more affordable prices for other cards, as we saw with Kamigawa Neon Dynasty.
Which just makes it a great time to be a Magic player, as we have what in my early experience is an excellent new set, and some really neat cards are going to be available cheaper than they might be in another set. For tonight, I plan on enjoying slinging some cards with our Phyrexian Overlords while I prepare for my inevitable compleation.