The Phyrexians are back. Magic’s longest running bad guy clan has once again graced us with their compleated presence, and their latest iterations are as creepy and disturbing as any of them have ever been. Phyrexia: All Will Be One is hitting shelves right now, with every content creator out there drooling over the bounty of goodies that come with it. While most have gone deep on the best rares and mythics of the set, I like to take a look at some of the more nuanced and underappreciated aspects of the new sets. While normally I have a list of the best uncommons ready, ONE comes with so many cool and useful toys at the lower rarities that I was unable to narrow down my list to just a handful. So here today, we’ll be taking a look at a few different approaches on utilizing this powerful new set in each of our favorite constructed formats on the cheap.
Of the formats that will be impacted the most by the new set, obviously Standard stands at the top. With ONE bringing so many powerful commons and uncommons with it, it will likely be impossible to avoid running into decks that are heavily influenced by the set. The biggest addition to both Standard and Pioneer that the set offers is access to poison counters, both via the toxic mechanic and through a new series of cards that just straight up give opponents poison. Our first deck for today looks to use some of these to great effect, combining several of the set’s Limited archetypes to power out 10 poison while also working to keep the opponent off balance: Poison Control.
Budget Standard Poison Control by Darren Magnotti
This deck is all about the poison, using some cheap and evasive toxic creatures to deliver the first blows to then take advantage of all of the interaction that either proliferates or otherwise rewards poison counters. Bring the Ending being a two-mana straight counterspell is a huge boon to this archetype and control decks everywhere, while cards like Vraska’s Fall and Drown in Ichor make sure that the poison continues to flow while keeping you alive long enough to see it through. One of the big problems with decks like this in the past was that the poison engine struggled to also contain what the opponent had going on long enough to not die, but with this latest iteration, I can see that’s no longer the case.
The Limited archetype that potentially works best with cards that already exist in the format certainly goes to Rakdos Sacrifice, a prominent archetype in Standard even before the addition of these new ONE cards. Sacrificing creatures and artifacts for value to eventually outgrind the opponent is an excellent way to finish a game, and the Phyrexians don’t disappoint with what they’re able to bring to the table.
Budget Standard Rakdos Sacrifice by Darren Magnotti
Pairing with the old engine of Oni-Cult Anvil and the Blood token generators of Bloodtithe Harvester and Voldaren Epicure, we now have Charforger to pair with Experimental Synthesizer as a means to keep the cards flowing. We gain access to some powerful removal options in the form of Annihilating Glare and Nahiri’s Sacrifice, though the real gem of this deck (and the set in general – at least in my eyes) is Gleeful Demolition, a Kuldotha Rebirth clone that offers more versatility as a potential removal spell as well. Demolition is an effective army-in-a-can that pairs excellently with the tokens generated by Anvil, and further synergizes with Junkyard Genius to create a real go-wide attack pattern that opponents certainly won’t be expecting out of a grindy midrange strategy.
Pioneer is still a young enough a format that new sets can majorly impact the way that things are done. With the PT coming up, there’s a lot of testing with the new set already, and I don’t want to spoil anyone’s surprises. Therefore, the builds that we’re featuring today are going to be on the tamer side, though there will of course be many brews down the line that will be much more interesting.
What Phyrexia adds to Pioneer is the poison mechanic of course, but more importantly it adds several tools to be picked up by decks that were relatively on the fringes of being playable. Cards like Skrelv, Defector Mite, Sheoldred’s Edict, Ossification and Phyrexian Arena will likely establish and power out some very strong decks in the coming days, with many more strategies and synergies yet to be revealed.
First up we’ve got a Mono-Green Toxic deck that focuses on two cards that I feel are severely more powerful than people were giving them credit for during spoiler season: Viral Spawning and Prosthetic Injection. One thing to understand is that poison counters are just so strong. Avoiding life totals makes damage calculation much easier, and with the capacity to double up on toxic instances, getting to 10 is a relatively simple feat.
Budget Pioneer Mono-Green Toxic by Darren Magnotti
This deck uses the classic 8-Elf shell in order to boost out some incredibly thicc three-drops that will easily overtake a board state when left unanswered. The classic Stompy selections like Steel Leaf Champion and Questing Beast make an appearance alongside newcomer Bloated Contaminator, a one-man (or Beast?) poisoning machine that can singlehandedly deliver a lethal dose in just five attacks. Viral Spawning is a card that I thought was incredibly underrated because it’s straight-up card advantage in green. Two 3/3s, one card. While this may not be as efficient a rate as it used to be, the ability to continue to make plays when you’ve run out of gas in hand is a Green Stompy dream. It’s all wrapped together with the Injector, which can double up the rate at which a single creature administers its poison. The draw to this build over other Stompy lists is its ability to split its opponent’s attention between two different numbers, which leaves room for error on their part if they begin to focus on the wrong thing. I’ve already had opponents target my non-evasive toxic creature with their removal when they were dead on board to the toxic-less trampler, which indicates the power in splitting an opponent’s attention.
One strategy that many players of both Pioneer and Modern want to see happen in the format is a porting of the Hammer Time deck into Pioneer. The act of sliding a Colossus Hammer onto a cheap creature by way of Sigarda’s Aid is just too juicy to pass up, and with help from the new Kemba, Kha Enduring, we now have the means to make it happen regularly.
Budget Pioneer Hammer Time by Darren Magnotti
Admittedly this deck has very little to do with the uncommons from ONE, however the strategy is one that’s crossed the minds of most Pioneer players since the dawn of the format. With Skrelv doing its best Giver of Runes impression, Sram, Senior Edificer and Ingenious Smith sifting through the deck to create a late game engine and a turn three kill available via Hammer and Adorned Pouncer, this build may just have what it takes to get somewhere in the Pioneer metagame.
Essentially the plan is to threaten the Hammer combo at every turn throughout the game while also playing a reasonable aggro strategy on top of that. Thanks to Kemba, we’re able to make some boisterous threats in the early game and have a strong backup in the later turns to rely on, which gives this deck potential to wreak some havoc on an unsuspecting field. With further testing and development this may also be a deck that I cover in a later installment as well.
Modern, of all the constructed formats, is typically least impacted by a new set’s appearance due to its already tremendously deep card pool. That isn’t to say that new cards can’t sneak their way into the format though. With access to so many cards, it’s easy for a new printing to pair up with a card from 10 years ago to make a devastating mark on the format, while other new entries slot well into existing shells that people have tried and tuned over the years. So while we’re not so much working with entire mechanics, we do have cards and strategies that are very on-theme and relevant to the Phyrexian motif that we see in our new set.
First up we have a fresh take on an older deck that saw some marginal success between 2018 and 2020, Blue Steel. This is a deck that looks to combine the mana “generation” of Grand Architect and Chief Engineer to power out some huge board states full of artifact creatures. The strategy provides a fun experience similar to playing Commander, as there are a lot of interwoven synergies and cards that people have never played against before.
Budget Modern Blue Steel by Darren Magnotti
By combining the mana ramp idea with Unctus, Grand Metatect, a Grand Architect-adjacent clone, and Pili-Pala, the other half of an infinite-mana combo with the Architect, we are left with a midrangey value pile that can either turbo out a board state on par with Zoo decks or turn down to a simmer and buy time until it can combo out. The deck strives by existing in the unknown, as most of these cards haven’t seen play in about 10 years, if ever. With the two-pronged attack of coming at the opponent with huge artifact creatures or an infinitely large Walking Ballista, ideally their resources will be stretched thin and one of the two plans will find its footing to succeed.
Lastly there’s yet another deck that features my favorite card from the set, Gleeful Demolition. Like it’s Kuldotha cousin has seen before, we’ll be utilizing this card as a means to spit out multiple bodies for one mana and taking advantage of that in a sort of 8-Whack/8-Blast hybrid shell.
Budget Modern Kuldotha Whack by Darren Magnotti
This list combines some of the strongest burn spells in the format with a go-wide strategy to swiftly and concisely overwhelm an opponent before they can get their game plan into motion. Goblin Bushwhacker and Signal Pest work to reward the plethora of Goblin tokens that the deck will be producing, while Galvanic Blast and Goblin Grenade can deliver mighty blows to a life total for a finishing flurry. Drawing from the 8-Blast shell that’s seeing play right now, this deck also looks to use Experimental Synthesizer as a means to keep cards moving as the Goblin army grows. If there’s one way to steal wins in Modern, it’s to play a deck with 4,000 red one-drops in it, and this deck looks to lean hard into that notion. While it may not be as powerful upfront as casting the card Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, I’d love to see the Monkey make its way through our legion of Phyrexian Goblin baddies.
Phyrexia: All Will Be One looks like an absolute banger of a set. With so many new options for so many formats, it’ll be difficult to find just one or two paths to follow. The set has powerful effects from top to bottom, with nothing seemingly overbearing and demanding a ban. It delivers on all of those nostalgic notes while giving us a fresh coat of paint on some characters that we love to hate. I’m looking forward to seeing how the set will impact each of these formats on a broad scope, as well as which cards will fly under the radar in terms of the secondary market’s influence. While we wait for the set’s full release, I’m looking forward to seeing and finding even more budget brews with this crazy set. Until next time, stay safe, play smart and thanks for reading.