It seems safe to assume that a reasonable percentage of people reading this spent their weekend, or at least their Saturday, playing at the New Phyrexia prerelease while their time on Sunday was dedicated to more important things like Mother’s Day… or maybe just watching the Lakers lose. All jokes aside, New Phyrexia has a lot of interesting cards that are, well, NEW, and they need to be evaluated to help people prepare for the new drafting format! A few awesome people may have the entire set already figured out while the rest of us (including awful players like yours truly) grasp at straws. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that since I’m the one writing these articles (which are downright awesome), I can at least make up some mumbo-jumbo so that people make the same mistakes as I. Without further ado, I’ll present an outline of New Phyrexia and the more frequently seen cards that will shape the format.
The cards in Limited formats, in this case full-block Scars draft, are broken up into a few categories (bombs, removal, creatures, and filler) in order to determine their importance. In general, bombs are not encountered frequently because they are rare/ mythic, like Skinrender… oh wait, thanks WOTC! The list above is the default picking order, but what happens when there’s a bad piece of removal compared to an awesome creature? Removal is better than creatures and that means that it should be taken before creatures, right? Wrong. No matter how many Divine Offerings you have, you’re not going to beat a deck infested with Blightwidows. Most of the cards that you will be dealing with are commons, and figuring out where they fall on the card-quality scale will help you succeed in this new drafting format.
Not all removal is created equal, and while some of the cards from the list above are quite good, others are not. For example, while Volt Charge, Blinding Souleater, and Grim Affliction are excellent because their cost is low, they are instants, and they have a significant effect without requiring anything else specific (i.e. metalcraft, an artifact/creature to sacrifice, etc.), Victorious Destruction is very mediocre because it’s expensive, a sorcery, and targets a group of cards that isn’t normally central to most games of Limited.
This is quite deck-dependent and certainly no Cage of Hands. A ground-based aggro deck isn’t going to get nearly as much mileage from Forced Worship as a defensive White/X deck because of the card’s design; it prevents creatures from attacking you. Granted, it’s good in aggro if paired with a squadron of flyers, but since it’s from the first set drafted, it’s difficult to properly evaluate how good it will be.
This is an upgrade to Bonds of Quicksilver… when it’s on the Battlefield. Pinging the opponent for one can be a pretty big deal, although most decks that end up running Bonds can’t take advantage of the life loss effectively because they’re clunky. Numbing Dose costs a lot of mana but doesn’t accomplish very much; it’s certainly no [card]Turn to Slag[/card].
Necrite wasn’t as good as this guy but the Zealot is still not exceptional. The problem is that most decks will have artifact creatures that either trade with it or are bigger than the Zealot, and if you’re looking to do something other than just trading creatures, you shouldn’t have high hopes for the 2/2. Granted, the Zealot will be good against certain archetypes like Dinosaurs which often skimp on larger artifact creatures, but against decks that Chrome Steed and Rusted Slasher are good in, Blind Zealot will be lacking. The Zealot gets better as the amount of removal in a deck increases, just like Moriok Replica, because it functions as both a win condition while also having good utility.
This gets better as the opposing mana curve increases and will usually have more of an impact on a game in the early stages, but it’s more difficult to use effectively than any of the targeted removal even though it does kill Blightsteel Colossus AND Melira’s Keepers. The obvious problem with Geth’s Verdict is that it’s lacking against cards like Myr Sire and Origin Spellbomb.
Now this is good removal. Grim Affliction deals quite well with most creatures, getting around Blight Mamba’s regeneration, while also having the potential for additional utility with the Proliferate effect. Sometimes Grim Affliction will be a two-for-one and add a counter to Tumble Magnet while other times it will be just a one-for-one.
This is good removal assuming your deck isn’t built so that it falls behind often because the opponent is likely going to get a free hit in with the creature before being sacrificed, which means that the rest of your game plan shouldn’t involve you getting beaten down. The overall slow nature of the card makes it worse than Volt Charge and Grim Affliction but still good because it kills everything.
Roughly one-fourth of the format’s creatures have one toughness which makes this new Flametongue Kavu (well, almost) quite good. The added benefit of being playable by every color without a significant downside (Blinding Souleater) along with being attached to a reasonably-sized body makes Pith Driller highly playable; it’s also one of the only removal cards that can create a significant tempo swing because it both kills a creature while giving you one as well.
This ranges from quite useful to near-useless again depending on your deck archetype. Dinosaur decks won’t be able to use Artillerize very well because their curves are high while an aggro deck with a low curve will be able to use it quite well because it is looking for ways to close out the game once its creatures become outclassed.
This is barely playable because it’s quite slow and only targets artifacts. There certainly are games where non-creature removal is necessary when facing down a Decimator Web or Trigon of Corruption, but those are few and far between compared to the situations where you need creature removal, and there are often better options than this five-mana sorcery.
This is the best common removal in the set because it’s very flexible as an instant, deals a lot of damage, and is moderately cheap. Red doesn’t usually have as many ways to take advantage of the proliferate effect when compared to Grim Affliction and Black, which puts an emphasis on the color that is being paired with Red, but with the expansion of Infect into Red, that point isn’t as much of a concern as it has been in the past.
This is good removal because it’s relatively cheap which gives Green a way to deal with threats efficiently without having to lean on Red/White for the support. Sylvok Replica was the only common removal that Green previously had to deal with artifacts and it was often difficult to use effectively because it was slow; Glissa’s Scorn is not slow at all. The format is roughly one-third artifacts which make Shatter effects still good, although not as important as traditional creature removal.
This color-shifted reprint of Steal Strength can range from a simple Mirran Mettle to a two-for-one that’s a complete blowout. Imagine killing a Spikeshot Elder while letting your Acid Web Spider pick off a Lumengrid Gargoyle; that’s gross! However, once the opponent knows what’s up, it will be much harder to get a significant advantage from the Bite. In other cases, a -1/-1 effect won’t be as useful because the opponent may simply have very few one-toughness creatures and won’t tap out before attacking his Alpha Tyrranax into yours. The opponent may also have a deck that doesn’t have much combat interaction (ex: an aggro flyer deck filled with Leonin Skyhunters and Kemba’s Skyguards). Still, Leeching Bite should prove to be quite useful in most cases.
Tappers have always been at the top of the list in terms of card quality because they cheaply deal with the best opposing creature. The obvious downside is that they’re quite vulnerable to removal and Blinding Souleater is no exception. Despite it being “playable” by all colors, the Souleater won’t shine outside of White except when paired against an Infect deck. That’s not to say that it will be terrible and unused by non-White, but rather that it may be used a few times depending on the matchup before it turns into a do-nothing 1/3. After all that negativity about the Souleater, rest assured that it’ll be amazing in any deck with Plains.
There are roughly seventy artifact creatures (roughly one fourth of the format’s total creatures) that will fall victim to the Mine which makes it a rather narrow piece of removal when compared to other options. Gremlin Mine is generally weaker than any of the Shatter cards because it doesn’t kill Thopter Assembly, Myr Turbine, etc., although it can be more beneficial in a Metalcraft deck that’s looking for ways to turn on its Rusted Relics. Non-Blue decks will generally have better removal options, though being an artifact does mean that it’s a free-roll in terms of color commitment which leaves you more flexible during the draft.
There are other commons that are good enough to be thrown into the pool with the removal. These cards are generally creatures that have a significant impact on the Battlefield to the point at which they act with the efficiency of a removal spell.
Beating through a creature with first strike is quite difficult in this format, and when it’s extremely low mana cost of just two is factored in addition to its other stats (3/1 and being playable by every color), it’s not difficult to see why the Legionnaire is amazing. There are very few ways to deal with this creature economically besides a removal spell, and with the amount of time that the Legionnaire will buy you before it gets outclassed, it’s a wonder why it’s a common.
Flying has always been one of the best abilities because it forces the opponent to potentially play a different role that was different from how it was constructed. For example, a deck with a lot Plated Seastriders and Scrapdiver Serpents would be fine against a deck full of Blade-Tribe Berserkers but not against Sky-Eel Schools. Spire Monitor is quite resilient because it isn’t an artifact in addition to a moderate toughness. There will be times when its Flash ability will allow you to pick off a creature from an unsuspecting opponent while also pairing well with other different cards in the format like Stoic Rebuttal and Quicksilver Geyser. The existence of these cards makes it more difficult to properly evaluate the board and play accordingly.
First strike and Infect is a powerful combination because it’s very difficult to find enough power among creatures to deal with the combination. Razor Swine kills everything that doesn’t have first strike or at least two toughness (which is roughly half the format). The Swine is even harder to kill when it’s on defense because it requires the attacking creature to be at least a 3/3 when it would deal damage.
Here’s a recap of the reviewed commons:
(This list isn’t a concrete pick order and is only to give you a rough idea of where the cards rank in my mind).
5 Blinding Souleater
5 Volt Charge
5 Grim Affliction
4 Pith Driller
4 Parasitic Implant
3+ Porcelain Legionnaire
3 Glissa’s Scorn
3 Blind Zealot
3 Leeching Bite
2+ Spire Monitor
2+ Razor Swine
2 Forced Worship
2 Gremlin Mine
2 Geth’s Verdict
1 Numbing Dose
1 Victorious Destruction
Now that we’ve reached the end of the article, I’ll be upfront with you: I haven’t drafted this set at all and am simply using the masterful skills that I’ve acquired over the years while cracking packs in drafts to theorize how the format will play out. Some evaluations of cards may be slightly off, or even dare I say, wrong. Regardless of whether you believe me or believe I’m full of it, what isn’t up for debate is that New Phyrexia opens up a new unexplored format for everyone to draft.