We have finally returned to Phyrexia for the first time in more than a decade. I’m not as invested in Magic lore as I used to be but I strongly dislike the Phyrexians. This makes me a bit less excited for this set than most others (although it does make me look forward to how they eventually get defeated). Regardless, this is a reasonably powerful set for the Legacy format. While the roster of impactful cards isn’t incredibly deep, those that will impact the format are almost certain to see some amount of play. This does make it an interesting set to look at and try to understand the implications of how the metagame will adjust.
I’ll be adopting the same Top 8 structure that I have been for the past few sets. The bottom half of the list are certainly far lower impact than the top half but they are all cards that I expect to see in play at some point. Once we get to the top of the list, though, there will be more than enough bangers to make up for that.
Let’s start this off with an honorable mention.
8. The Filigree Sylex
I was tempted to make this an honorable mention, since this is basically just Ratchet Bomb, but considering that I was playing Ratchet Bomb recently in Death’s Shadow, I thought this earned a spot on the list. This is technically better than Ratchet Bomb, outside of being legendary. Many decks that would want this (like Shadow) should probably be playing Powder Keg anyway but there are certainly reasons that you wouldn’t want to do that (such as playing artifact lands of your own).
7. Kaya, Intangible Slayer
Arena Rector decks have occasionally put up some strong results and I think this is an excellent inclusion for those decks. There are a lot of powerful, expensive planeswalkers, but this one is certainly high impact if it hits the battlefield. I don’t think this helps these archetypes significantly improve to the point where they can become more prominent, but every small addition does eventually add up and I think there’s a chance for this card to shine in that deck.
6. Sword of Forge and Frontier
While I don’t think this card is groundbreaking in any way, it is a completely reasonable Sword in a format with Stoneforge Mystic, which makes it at least somewhat appealing. There are situations where the protection could be appealing and the effect is very close to “draw two cards,” which is fairly high impact. As of right now, I don’t see any spots where this will really be a great choice but almost all reasonably powerful Swords see play at some point and I don’t think this will be any different.
5. Sheoldred’s Edict
I think this is quite a bit better than the sacrifice effects that are present currently. Hitting a planeswalker is appealing from time to time and the fact that this will almost always kill a Marit Lage, regardless of what their board looks like, makes Sheoldred’s Edict a very tempting sideboard card.
4. Minor Misstep
This is very clearly not Mental Misstep. It only ever trades evenly on mana value (or worse, in the case of zero-mana value cards). On the draw, this card will not be able to stop any threatening cards, such as Delver or Thoughtseize, and a lot of decks in Legacy at the moment rely on cards that cost more than one.
That being said, that doesn’t mean that this card won’t have an impact. It always trades with some of the best answers in the format, such as Swords to Plowshares and Pyroblast, which can be really important for decks like Delver. While Delver isn’t really set up to take advantage of a card like this at the moment, it might be a perfect fit for a deck like Death’s Shadow (suggestion courtesy of Bob Huang), which is appealing to me. In a deck like control, Minor Misstep counters a lot of different cards that can be problematic ranging from DRC to Dark Ritual, which is pretty interesting. Overall, I would not think of this card as a format warping staple like Mental Misstep. However, viewing it as a potential disruptive piece like Spell Pierce does make it seem more appealing.
3. Atraxa, Grand Unifier
I have seen a fair amount of conversation around this card, primarily as a very effective target for Natural Order decks. Providing those decks with access to a faux-Griselbrand really increases the impact of Natural Order outside of the context of Elves decks. While Natural Order strategies do have a fragile component, since opponents can interact with your creatures and disrupt your ability to utilize Natural Order, this card has a huge impact on the game and will all but stabilize any board state. I think this is certainly good enough to bring blue Natural Order decks back from the depths and I expect to see this on tables somewhat often. There is also the possibility of running this card in decks like Show and Tell and Reanimator as a non-Griselbrand option, which could be appealing. The fact that this can somewhat easily find all the pieces you need to protect yourself or go off again makes that pretty interesting, but it will take a lot to overcome the impact that Griselbrand has.
2. Mercurial Spelldancer
I’m unsure if this card will actually be better than Atraxa, but there is a really high ceiling for this card to be excellent. While this isn’t the first in the line of “two-mana creatures that benefit from casting spells,” I think this one might be closer to Dreadhorde Arcanist than Magmatic Channeler. It does require slightly more effort than Arcanist, since Arcanist only really required you to play a single spell, but this doesn’t take that much effort for blue decks. Casting a counterspell into a cantrip or removal spell immediately gives you the counters you need. Then, all it takes is any spell to get another chain going and generate card advantage. While it doesn’t have the same ability to clear out blockers that Arcanist did, it’s not as necessary since this card is unblockable. There is a high barrier to entry for blue-based threats these days, since this card will be competing with things like Murktide Regent. However, I think the impact is certainly high enough that I expect Spelldancer to become a meaningful card in the format before long.
1. The Mycosynth Gardens
There is a lot that can be done with this card and there’s no chance that I will capture the full depth of this card’s utility. The two most appealing targets to me are Lion’s Eye Diamond and Phyrexian Dreadnought. While I don’t think this card just fits into current decks that are taking advantage of those cards, I think building around them has a good chance to be effective. I’m most interested in playing Gardens in a deck with Urza’s Saga. Not only can Saga find either of the cheap targets that I discussed (as well as many more), it can also find Expedition Map, which can find the Gardens. This means that if you’re missing either half of the combo, you’ll be able to put it together. This potential, in addition to other interesting utility, makes me think that Gardens will be the best card in the set for Legacy.