Limited

Phyrexia: All Will Be One Prerelease Primer

Before we dive into the actual cards I have to give my quick Sealed rant. While Limited encompasses both Draft and Sealed, the two formats are wildly different. Draft is about navigating through picks and finding synergies and openings in order to construct a deck. Sealed, however, is much more reliant on finding your powerful cards, including removal, bombs, card draw, and mana fixing. Sealed is much more grindy and usually the player who can outpace the other will have an advantage. Prerelease events also give you an extra foil rare card which you can include in your deck, so decks will have more bombs on average.

To reiterate, Sealed is about:

  • Power over synergy
  • Building a 3-4 color to maximize your best cards
  • Grinding out your opponent in longer games

That being said, let’s jump into the mechanics and color combinations of Phyrexia: All Will Be One

Mechanics

Poison/Toxic

Poison counters return in this set, after not being around for more than a decade (Kaldheim excluded). Once a player receives 10 poison counters, they lose the game. Each poison counter can be thought of as two damage in this regard. With the return of poison comes a new mechanic, Toxic. Creatures with the “Toxic X” ability give your opponent X poison counters when they deal combat damage. A 5/5 with Toxic 1 for example will deal 5 damage to your opponent when dealing combat damage, alongside a Poison counter.

Corrupted

Corrupted is a mechanic that gives an added bonus to a variety of cards if your opponent has three or more poison counters. It’s a payoff mechanic that starts to shine towards the mid-to-late stages of the game.

Oil Counters

Oil counters are a new type of counter that affect various permanents. Having multiple Oil counters on a permanent can give it some type of bonus. Take Tamiyo’s Immobilizer for example:

I think this is a card that’s fairly decent on its own, with four activations. However, if you can reliably add more Oil counters to this card it just becomes a better Icy Manipulator (besides targeting lands), which has been an all-star in whatever Limited set it’s been printed in. This is a great way to make your opponent’s combat tricky and help you survive against Toxic creatures.

Oil counters also play very nicely with this next mechanic…

Proliferate

Proliferate is a returning mechanic that plays nicely with both Oil and Poison counters. Proliferate is a great way of getting your opponent above three Poison counters to enable Corrupted, or a way of even finishing off the game. It’s worth noting that no cards in this set give +1/+1 counters or -1/-1 counters, meaning that Proliferate is only going to add Poison, Oil, or Planeswalker loyalty counters (it’s worth noting there are ten in this set, with five at rare).

For Mirrodin!

While the Phyrexians are certainly large and in charge this set, there are still some Mirrodins holding down the fort. For Mirrodin! is a new mechanic for equipment in this set. When the equipment with this mechanic enters the battlefield you create a 2/2 Rebel token that immediately attaches to it. This mechanic has popped up in various recent sets, but now we get an official keyword for it.

One of my favorite past examples of this type of card is Dwarven Hammer from Kaldheim. I remember winning a match in a draft where I basically got in enough trample damage turn after turn with various creatures, dealing my opponent incremental damage after multiple turns. Usually equipment that provides a strong ability in combat like trample, doublestrike, and flying are the ones that will prove to be the best.

Mini-Mechanics

There are a couple more mechanics that can be found throughout this set, but they’re not worth exploring in too much depth due to how limited they are in nature. Similar to Clue tokens in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, these mechanics only show up on one or a few cards.

We get a land cycle of five common “sphere lands” (a new land subtype) as well as a few rare sphere lands. The only card that actually benefits you having spheres is Monument to Perfection, which is an ok card on its own in Sealed. Viral Spawning is the only card in the set with Flashback, which is now a somewhat evergreen mechanic. Ria Ivor calls back to Hero of Bladehold and also returns the Battle Cry mechanic. Rebel Salvo is one of the handful of cards with Affinity in the set.

Color Combinations and Archetypes

While Sealed is more about understanding power than synergy, it’s worth noting what the pre-determined ten archetypes are in this set. This can allow you to make easier and faster choices in deckbuilding by noticing what cards play well together.

Blue-White: Artifacts

Blue-White aims to generate synergy off of the number of artifacts you have in play.

Blue-Black: Proliferate

Blue-Black aims to generate value by proliferating. It’s worth noting that Proliferate is payoff, not setup. This means you have to rely on cards with either Oil counters or ways of giving your opponent poison counters before you can start profiting. However, once you do it becomes easier to get the ball rolling on cards that generate value with each time you proliferate.

Black-Red: Oil/Sacrifice

Red-Black is sort of hybrid in that it relies on creatures with Oil counters and some token/sacrifice strategies. Charforger is a great way to generate value in a longer game and 3/4 in power/toughness is good rate for three mana. Your goal is to draft cards that can generate good sacrifice targets, like cards that can come back from graveyard or token generators.

Red-Green: Oil/Big Creatures

Red-Green is as Red-Green does. Here you’re looking to pickup creatures that enter with Oil counters on them. Green and Red have some decent removal/fight spells as well.

Green-White: Poison

Green-White is about attacking and buffing up your Toxic creatures. Be on the lookout for Toxic-based synergies, like Compleat Devotion. In a vacuum a +2/+2 combat trick for two mana is pretty weak, but drawing a card and dealing your opponent two poison (effectively four damage) is a really great deal. I actually didn’t fully understand that Toxic creatures give poison counters equal to that creature’s total toxic value, which is a nice reminder on Plague Nurse. Overall your plan is to play Toxic creatures and get them out of range of dying in combat to your opponent’s creatures.

White-Black: Corrupted

White-Black is an archetype that benefits off your opponent having three or more poison counters. Vivisection Evangelist is an incredibly powerful “Flametongue Kavu” but it only works if your opponent is corrupted. When building this archetype I’d look for early ways to get in poison counters, either through direct spells or creatures with Toxic that have evasion.

Black-Green: Poison

This archetype certainly gives me flashbacks to first learning how to play Magic in Mirrodin Besieged Limited. Necrogen Rotpriest is a beefy threat that can end the game quickly for your opponent. Deathtouch creatures with Toxic also make it much harder for your opponent to block profitably, unless they have a swath of cheap creatures in play.

Red-Blue: Non-Creature Spells

Blue-Red is a pretty interesting archetype in that it revolves around you casting noncreature spells. I think this makes the archetype pretty flexible, especially if you have a lot of proliferate spells. You don’t have to rely on a high creature count in this case, just some ways to get in poison counters. I think Blue-Red will play similarly to Blue-Black, with Red giving you some different removal spells and ways to draw cards.

Red-White: Equipment/Aggro

Red-White is traditionally an aggressive color combination, and in this set it’s no different. For Mirrodin! cards are all Red and White, meaning that if you end up in this color combo you’re more than likely playing this strategy. What you’re looking for here, besides the obvious For Mirrodin! cards, are cards that benefit you for having them in play, like Oxidda Finisher for example. It seems counteractive to the lore to play creatures with Toxic with cards like Bladehold War-Whip, but you can actually get the job done with a big doublestriking Toxic creature, making it bad for your opponent to block and not block at the same time.

Green-Blue: Proliferate

Blue-Green will probably play similar to Blue-Black with the benefit of Green giving you some beefy creatures in your pools. Here you’re also aiming to Proliferate, but make sure you have enough setup cards for your Proliferate payoff effects.

Closing Thoughts

Phyrexia: All Will Be One will be a tricky set to navigate. Toxic and Poison counters make for a set where knowing when and how to attack and block will be of vital importance. You now have not one but two sources of life that you can use as a resource. You can lose to direct damage from Poison counters in the form of Proliferate effects, making it important to know how much Poison you can take on certain combat steps.

One way you can frame your thinking is that noncreature spells that either have Proliferate or “opponent gets a poison counter” on them can be treated like shocks.

You sort of have to change your perspective in this set, Prologue to Phyresis is a two-mana shock, draw a card in Blue. Weird right?

In a similar vein, Experimental Augury has a similar effect, but is more flexible. Augury is a better card draw effect, and also can add both a Poison counter for your opponent and add Oil counters to any of your Oiled up permanents. The only real difference between these two cards is that Prologue to Phyresis is that it gives your opponent their first poison counter, making it a better early play to get the ball rolling. It can also bridge the gap so your opponent can become corrupted! My point to all of this is that cards in this set have multiple applications depending on how you construct your deck.

Circling back to my original point at the start of this article, while it’s important to note how cards synergize and interact with each other in a new set, it’s still just as vital to understand how Sealed games usually play out. I think this set actually makes for very flexible Sealed pools because Oil, poison counters, and Proliferate aren’t totally specific to a given color combination or archetype.

Another point worth mentioning for Prerelease in particular is that it’s a tournament where you should be focusing on having fun. I like to try out crazier decks, cards I think aren’t strong on the surface, or weird-looking rares in these types of events because the important thing to be focusing on is having fun and making new connections. Prerelease is about learning with the people around you. They make for great events to build up the community. As a good friend taught me years ago, “prerelease is about teaching new players what the cards do.”

I’m excited to play with this set in person before it releases in digital. I know I’m going to be keeping my eyes out for Proliferate spell-based decks. This set looks pretty deep with a lot to explore.

On a final note, here’s a practice pool you can play around with: https://sealeddeck.tech/xcd7Twepf6

Here’s what I ended up building: https://sealeddeck.tech/99LlVJAQwA

Happy prereleasing!

@roman_fusco

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Marry Wilson

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