I’ve already mentioned how much I love the flexibility that Phyrexian mana gives to pumpable creatures like Moltensteel Dragon and Immolating Souleater, however, there is much more to Phyrexian mana than just a 10+ damage on the third turn from a 2-drop common.
Casual players who are thinking about drafting or playing in the Sealed Deck tournament tomorrow should know going in that New Phyrexia is going to allow you do things in Magic that you may never have done before. Things like putting a counterspell in your Red deck, using PropagandaPropaganda-like control in Black without splashing, and returning creatures from the dead using only Blue mana and a shaving off your life total.
How does this magic happen? Why all this can be yours for the small price of handing over your immortal soul (or at least two lives) to Phyrexia. I’ll avoid giving you the full catalog of cards that possess this added flexibility and narrow it down to my Top 10. If you’d like to look at the full line-up yourself, head on over to our Visual Spoiler for New Phyrexia.
So, without further ado, the Top 10 Phyrexian-powered cards we think you should play tomorrow no matter which color(s) you’re drafting. Never has being colorblind felt so morally troubling…*
Top 10 Phyrexian Powered Cards to Draft, Regardless of Color
1. Tezzeret’s Gambit – Three mana for two cards and a proliferate thrown in. This top ten is in “no particular order”, so I’m not saying that Tezzeret’s Gambit is the best thing out there, but it allows colors like Red and White to fill their hands late in the game.
As far as planeswalker-associated spells go, this is one of my favorites. Jace’s Ingenuity
Jace’s Ingenuity is instant speed and a three-draw, but with a converted casting cost of five, it is a bit much for me.
Flavor-wise, I wonder what’s going on with this card. The art makes me excited about getting into the storyline of New Phyrexia, though it’ll be awhile before I get my hands on a Fat Pack. Heck, I’m still catching up on the novels from the Lorwyn block.
2. Pith Driller – Especially in Draft and Sealed Deck, versatility and card advantage are key. In Legacy, and even Standard, where it is almost taken for granted that you have four of each “power” card in your deck, you can get what you want and need because you’ve built your deck that way. That isn’t the way with Limited – you have to pick cards based on their versatility and the possibility of card advantage.
For four mana Pith Driller’s got a decent power and a hard-to-deal-with toughness, plus there is a good chance that his ability permanently handicaps or eliminates one of your opponents creatures. He’s a great way to kill that annoying Suture Priest
Suture Priest or Vault Skirge
Vault Skirge. Elimination is key in Limited formats and to be able to take out one of your opponents creatures AND put one of your own into play with the same card makes Pith Driller a must-include. For Draft he’s a good first and GREAT second pick. If you have a chance to grab a Pith Driller, and because he’s a common I bet you will, I highly recommend it.
3. Noxious Revival – Normally, I don’t think a card like Noxious Revival would catch my eye. With the Phyrexian mana symbol, however, I was willing to give it a second look. It would allow any mage a 2-life resurrection spell, which, because it puts the creature on top of your library, isn’t great in most circumstances. It is just TOO slow.
However, there are a lot of big, fantastic creatures in New Phyrexia which your opponent is going to have to work hard to eliminate. Imagine the look on his face after he shells out four life to Phyrexian-cast Dismember (see below) on your Moltensteel Dragon and you put it back on top of your library at instant speed.
Similarly cards like Blind Zealot which have a special effect if sacrificed after combat damage, could be (ob)Noxiously Revived and put back into action quicker than you can say Xenograft.
4. Act of Aggresson – Words cannot express how much I hate cards like Act of Aggression. You’ve probably been playing against Act of Treason
Act of Treason and Corrupted Conscience
Corrupted Conscience for some time now, so you know how painful it is when an opponent loses to your fatty in game one and then sideboards in three or four of those things. Well, be prepared to encounter Act of Aggression in decks of every color. There are plenty of sweet creatures to swipe in New Phyrexia and some of them are game enders – especially if you can find some way to give them Infect.
Oh, and P.S. it’s INSTANT SPEED, which means you could really ruin somebody’s day by stealing one of their beefier creatures to block another, hopefully eliminating both threats in the process. Because this monstrosity is an instant and could be cast for only three generic mana, I think it has the utility and surprise factor to be a heavy hitter in Limited, if not beyond.
5. Porcelain Legionnaire – Despite his… lavatorial name, Porcelain legionnaire is a great buy at two generic plus two life for a 3/1 with first strike. In most cases this, comparatively rare, ability will allow him to survive conflicts with even some of the larger Infect creatures. His toughness of one makes him vulnerable, but in most cases your opponent will struggle to justify using his creature elimination to silence a common that you cast on turn two.
If you come up against him, however, you’ll be glad you drafted Pith Driller who won’t even need to waste his ability on the little shrimp because he can withstand the three first strike damage and hit back. I always struggle with making predictions about commons because we all know that some commons are more common than others (A whole box of M11 and only one Llanowar Elves
Llanowar Elves, come on! Not a single Goblin Bushwhacker in the WHOLE BOX!!!), but hopefully you’ll have ample access to this guy as he is a solid second or third round grab.
6. Phyrexian Metamorph – I’ve been looking at Phyrexian Metamorph for a long time. This card, with alternate art, is what you’ll be getting at the actual Neal Patrick Harris (NPH) Release. At first I wasn’t overly impressed by a CloneClone with a Phyrexian mana symbol, but read it again. He can come in as an ARTIFACT as well. He’s always an artifact in addition to whatever creature type, so he’s helping with your Metalcraft. The versatility that comes from his ability to imitate a creature or an artifact in the world of Mirrodin makes him a pretty incredible addition to any deck.
Add to all that flexibility the chance of putting him into play on the third turn and you’ll find your opponent wondering how to deal with his own bomb. Use him in a Red deck with Priest of Urabrask
Priest of Urabrask and cast him for free. After answering your opponent’s best creature from the early game, bring him back with Noxious Revival to mirror a late-game fatty.
7. Dismember – As I’ve mentioned before, removal is key in a Limited environment and Dismember is about as good as removal can get – especially when you’re playing Blue or Green! For one mana (and four life) you can knock dragons and angels out of the sky. At instant speed you can grind into the ground that monster that your opponent tapped out on the fifth or sixth turn to play.
Because Dismember is an uncommon it will likely be in quite a few decks tomorrow and it seriously ought to be in yours. While there are a few creatures in New Phyrexia that could live through a Dismembering, the times that you’re up against a Chancellor of the Annex
Chancellor of the Annex will easily be offset when you take out the one Phyrexian Obliterator
Phyrexian Obliterator in the entire tournament without dealing it a single point of damage.
The fact that Dismember is going off at instant speed will also prevent someone from using Urabrask the HiddenUrabrask the Hidden or Act of Aggression to hit you with haste before you can respond.
8. Norn’s Annex – When PropagandaPropaganda first made its debut, my playgroup (which at that time still didn’t understand the concept of “the stack”) experienced our first control deck. I craftily traded “terrifying” creatures like Craw Wurm
Craw Wurm (thank God for the introduction of the rarity coloring system) for Counterspells, Boomerangs, and Equilibrium
Equilibrium, then threw in Propaganda and proceeded to make everyone hate me and quit playing for a couple weeks…
Now, this isn’t a course in how to lose friends and alienate people, but we all know that “attack tax” in whatever form is major irritation. Provided your opponent isn’t playing white, Norn’s Annex takes that irritation to a whole new level, making your opponent pay two life for every attacker. The fact that this irritation can begin on turn three makes Norn’s Annex something that you at least won’t want to be passing on to the next guy.
9. Thundering Tanadon – This card has been a favorite of mine since New Phyrexia was first spoiled. He’s straightforward, he’s simple, he’ll be running over whatever flimsy defenses your opponent has set up by the fourth turn and soon be dealing enough damage to make your own sacrifice in playing him pay off.
Five power makes Thundering Tanadon capable of squashing almost everyone in his league, and four toughness makes him immune to most damage based removal, though not, of course, Dismember.
Finally, I love him because he’s a common. Hopefully you’ll be able to get your hands on a couple Tanadons allowing you to have a Bash Brothers thing going on. I also highly recommend intro music for this guy. If you can’t guess what his favorite AC/DC tune is, then you don’t deserve to call yourself a sweatpants-wearing planeswalker.
10. Mental Misstep – Have I saved the best for last? To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure, and really I don’t think anyone else is either. While Mental Misstep is possibly going to make a significant impact on the Standard and Legacy scenes, I don’t know that this card is your best bet for a first pull in the drafts tomorrow.
While a “free” counterspell, especially in a non-Blue deck, is not something to be scoffed at, the limitation placed on its use will make Mental Misstep difficult to effectively employ. Within New Phyrexia there is a very limited number of spells that it can counter.
There is, on the other hand, the delightful possibility, indicated by the flavor text, of using this bad bad even BEFORE your first turn. However, after that initial opportunity goes by, you might be holding onto this card for awhile. Mental Misstep has drawn a LOT of attention and I don’t think you should underestimate it’s impact on the game. So, grab your playset tomorrow if you can, but, speaking personally, I think there are several cards on this list that I would grab in a draft before Mental Misstep.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this brief discussion of the joys of Phyrexian mana. Despite the versatility Phyrexia provides there are obviously downsides: You could quickly get yourself into a sticky situation if you get too greedy about playing these cards at the earliest possible moment, but that’s what Phyrexia is all about – using masochism to increase one’s sadism.
Best of luck tomorrow! I’ll leave you with a few cards that didn’t make our list, but deserve your consideration once the Limited festivities are over.
Honorable Mentions: Gitaxian Probe, Rage Extractor, Cathedral Membrane
These are some fine cards that I think would be highly enjoyable in some Constructed situations (though only Gitaxian Probe is likely to see serious Standard play). Rage Extractor has to be mentioned simply because it ensures that in a Phyrexian mana dominated deck your opponent is suffering at least as much as you are when you cast your spells. Cathedral Membrane is similarly situational. I don’t know if anyone would be silly enough to actually through their fatty at it to die, but I can imagine that there would be ways to exploit its “each creature it blocked” ability in casual Legacy play. I suppose if your opponent had it in play it would make a hilarious target for Act of Aggression…
*Moltensteel Dragon was disqualified to heavy participation in yesterday’s post.