Should you choose Mirran or Phyrexian in the pre release?
In case you are not aware, Wizards is doing a “special promotion” for the Mirrodin Besieged Prerelease – in your sealed deck, you get 3 packs of Scars and then 3 packs that are either purely Mirran or purely Phyrexian. I don’t really like that, because the Pro Tour is in two weeks and I would very much like to practice with the cards in a normal condition, and this both creates unusual conditions and also gives prize support in packs that we cannot use to draft. I have also heard complaints from the TOs who apparently need too much product in case everyone decides to play one faction over the other, but that is neither here nor there. A lot of people asked me which one they should pick, and though I honestly think both answers have merit, there is one clear choice for me as to what is best.
Lets take a glance at some of the cards from the new set, first:
Contrary to Scars, Phyrexian has cards in every color now, though not a lot in White and Red. The main point about Phyrexian is that, if you’re Phyrexian, there is almost no chance you’re not Infect – if you pick Phyrexian and do not go Infect, you lose a lot of value, even if there are non-Infect creatures in those packs. With Mirran, you cannot play any Infect guys from Scars, but there are way more non infect than infect creatures, so that limits your options a lot less.
White offers Phyrexia Banishment Decree, Gore Vassal, Phyrexian Rebirth, Priests of Norn and Tine Shrike, with Choking Fumes being very good against certain decks and not so good against others. This not a looot of cards for you to play White in a Phyrexian deck, but it is certainly doable – if you have, say, Sunblast Angel and an Arrest, you may very well find enough White to play it. It is important to keep in mind that those Mirrodin Besieged packs will be the smallest we’ve ever seen – there will be only 77 different cards, so you will see a lot more repetition than you’re used to. White has two infect common guys, as many as Black actually, so it is not unlikely that you have three or four among them, and they’re both powerful, so keep BW in mind as an option. If your opponent is White and Phyrexian, then there is a very decent chance he has the Wrath – it is rare, not Mythic, and it is certainly a card that makes people play that color.
For Mirran, it is also not that great. Divine Offering is a fine reprint, and so is Leonin Relic Warder, but both those cards are much better against Mirran. This is something you have to keep in mind – in a normal sealed deck, you’ll see a lot more non-infect than infect. In this format, you’ll see a much bigger concentration of Infect decks, about half-half. That means cards such as Artifact destruction are not as good as they used to be. It’s not like Shatter and Revoke Existence suddenly became unplayable, but they are a little worse, and this is a small victory for Phyrexia. Cards like Darksteel Sentinel, Sunspear Shikari, Platinum Emperion, Blight Mamba, Lifesmith and Trigon of Mending also lose a lot of their value (not that Lifesmith and Trigon had a lot of value to begin with, but you get the point).
Leonin Skyhunter is sweet, and complements Kembas Skyguard for a fast offense in the air. He also gets much better in multiples, and he is common. Overall, White is extremely unimpressive for Mirran, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a Phyrexian deck made better use of the White cards in MBS.
Red, on the other hand, offers very little for Phyrexia – only two cards. The fact that Into the Core is very good does not matter, because, barring some insane Scars pool (and then you’d have a much better pool if you played Mirran anyway), you will not play Red as a main color if you’re Phyrexia, and Into the Core is not splashable. This is a real strike against Phyrexia, because Red is one of the most powerful colors in Scars, and even if you open, say, Hoard-Smelter and Turn to Slag, you will probably have to let them go.
For Mirran, we have Burn the Impure and Kuldotha Flamefiend that stand out, though both uncommons. I think Kuldotha Flamefiend is ridiculously good and will be very underrated, and if the Mind Control is not the best uncommon, this is – I mean, for 6 mana you get a 4/4, sacrifice a Myr and kill their best guy, or two decent guys, or dome them for four. Red also has the second best Zenith and the only Mirran mass removal in Slagstorm (though the Flamefiend is kind of a mass removal). Corrosive Bolt also looks better than most people would give it credit for – it is much better than Lava Axe in most decks where Lava Axe would be good, and Blisterstick Shaman will always perform. Red seems solid for Mirran, and Red is already very good in Scars, so if you have Mirran packs Red is the color you will most surely be playing.
Blue has a Phyrexian bomb in Sphinx (I know, I know, it doesn’t have Infect, but the two cards per turn that you draw will), and the likely best uncommon in Corrupted Conscience. Steel Sabotage seems very playable, and Vedalken Anatomist seems like he will be good too. It is a shame that Quicksilver Geyser is not Phyrexian, since it would be much better in an Infect deck than not. Vivisection also looks good, depending on what you have in your deck – some decks would want it a lot, some wouldn’t touch it.
For Mirran there is the Serpent, which is solid but unexciting, and Treasure Mage which is much better than Trinket Mage if you have as much as a single target – I’d rather have Treasure Mage with Steel Hellkite, Battlesphere, even the new 4/4 flier, than Trinket Mage with Darksteel Axe and two Spellbombs. There are also Quicksilver Geyser and Vedalken Infuser in some specific deck, and.. that’s it. Blue is very unimpressive for both factions, and its best common, Serum Raker, suffers from being in the wrong faction and you will likely not play him if you’re Phyrexian. Overall Phyrexian is better here, but the Blue in scars is even better for Mirran, leaving Mirran the slight winner here.
Black Phyrexian has the best Zenith, and Flesh-Eater Imp looks extremely powerful. Massacre Wurm is also Phyrexian, giving it three of the four mass removals in the set, and probably the two best cards (Wurm and the Wrath), and Spread the Sickness fights for the best common slot. Virulent Wound is also very good, killing a Myr or a Plague Stinger and giving them a counter that you can start Proliferating on (or for Septic Rats), and it just has solid commons like Phyrexian Rager.
Black is to Phyrexian what Mirran is to Red – a very good color in Scars already, and even stronger than Red is in Besieged. Black was already good when you didn’t play all the infect dudes, and now that you know you will it gets even better, and it is hard to imagine a Phyrexian deck without Black.
Black is not to Mirran what Red is to Phyrexian, though. Phyrexian Red is unplayable, but Black is playable in Mirran. One of its two cards is Go for the Throat, which is an excellent splashable uncommon, and the other is Sangromancer, which is pretty good if you’re main Black (which you could very well be, since, again, Black was already good in Scars even in non infect decks).
Phyrexian Green has one of the best commons in Blightwidow, and one of the best uncommons in Viridian Corrupter. It is a solid color, and even though you will likely be BG, it is not mandatory. Glissa’s Courier is flat out unplayable, unlike her Koth counterpart, because he doesn’t have infect, and Unnatural Predation gives a new dimension to the games by simply existing – like Untamed Might, it’s one of those cards you always have to keep in mind against Infect. I also like Pistus Strike, at least as a sideboard card, and Creeping Corrosion can almost be considered mass removal against half the format.
Mirran Green is pretty terrible, and since it’s already not very good in Scars you will very likely not play it.
Living Weapon is a sweet mechanic, and almost all the Living Weapon equipments are playable, Mortarpod being the best of them since it kills an early guy and helps in finishing them off with Infect dudes, much like Contagion Clasp does. Core Prowler is another decent four casting cost Infect guy, and Phyrexian Juggernaut is also solid. You also get the only Myr you want to play, which helps solve two of the problems with some Infect decks, too many four drops and not enough two drops.
You also get a bunch of artifacts you couldn’t care less about – Psychosis Crawler, Mirrorworks and Ichorwell Springs all look like they’d be better in Mirran, and what would be one of the best equipments for Infect, Piston Sledge, is Mirran.
For Mirran there is Lumengrid Gargoyle, which should be played in pretty much every deck, as well as the previously mentioned Piston Sledge. Sledge is pretty much like an Aura that you happen to be able to re-equip, and I can see many games being decided by t2 Sunspear Shikari, t3 Sledge hit for 5 with Lifelink, though, again, Lifelink is not what it used to be. You get Sword of Feast and Famine, which is much better than it would normally be (again because half the format will be BG), and Thopter Assembly is pretty good, especially if you can Treasure Mage it up. Gust Skimmer is also a sweet playable if you’re Blue.
To me, overall, Phyrexian seems much more powerful than Mirran in the new set. It is not just a matter of having the most powerful cards, but the average card is better – it seems like all the Infect creatures got upgraded while the Metalcraft ones remained the same.
There is of course the fact that you still have three packs of Scars, and in Scars Mirran is better – most sealed decks used to be RW, after all. Mirran is also a lot more flexible – it is more likely you can play your best bombs from Scars if you’re Mirran, since Mirran generally plays a bigger concentration of artifacts, which means you need less from your colored cards – so, If you are Mirran and open Carnifex Demon, you are way more likely to get to play it than if you’re Phyrexian and open Hoard-Smelter Dragon.
Mirran to me seems like it is your “safe choice” – with Mirran, you’ll pretty much always come up with something decent. Phyrexian is a lot more hit or miss – the best decks will surely come from Phyrexian, but so will the worst decks, because, even though it’s more unlikely now, there will be times in which you don’t open enough Infect and then, when this happens, every Infect guy you open will become unplayable.
That said, I think The big problem with going Infect in sealed was never that the cards were bad, but that there wouldn’t be enough of them. Even with Besieged that is a real concern, but it is vastly diminished once you have access to three exclusive “Infect” packs. To me, Phyrexian is better enough than Mirran that it is worth the risk of “blanking”, so that is what I would choose.
One last piece of advice, if you want to win your pre release – memorize which card is from which faction, at least the important ones like bombs, removal and tricks. The moment your opponent plays a card from Besieged (or any card, sometimes), you know half the cards they cannot possibly have. If you know what is in each, you can figure out that you don’t have to play around Go for the Throat, for example, from your Infect opponent. If he plays a Phyrexian card, you know you are not getting hit by Divine Offering, even if they’re White. At the same time, if they play Black and Mirran, it is like they have Go for the Throat – why are they playing Black, after all? It is not really hard to do – there are only 155 cards, after all – and I think it will help you considerably to know what they can have and what they can’t, especially since the set is so small.
The last point I want to make is for you to decide what you want of your pre release. If you want to win, I’d recommend Phyrexian. If you don’t care much about winning or losing and just want to get to know the set so you can play future events (my case), I would probably choose Mirran, because the Phyrexian cards are way more intuitive – they’re just dudes with power and toughness, the bigger the better, easy to evaluate, and it doesn’t look like the cards from Besieged change much in the way of the Infect cards of Scars. There is a much bigger chance a card from Mirran surprises me, a much bigger chance that a card from Scars changes value if you play Mirran. Since this pre release I am playing for practice, do not be surprised to see me playing Mirran even though I think Phyrexian is the better choice.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this, and see you next week!