A Magictation by Mikeal Basile
“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.
Magic: the Gathering can be an exhausting topic to cover when you’re in the midst of spoiler season. It is no coincidence that content creators for MTG have been crying out repeatedly about being exhausted, as we seem to be in a state of constant spoilers. Yet I assure you, I am far from fatigued, my friends. Apparently, I am in the minority–people who just can’t seem to run out of words to discuss the spoiled cards. These new cards seem to foreshadow a few interesting developments and some neat callbacks to previous sets and cards as well. So if you don’t mind diving into leaked and unofficial spoilers, let’s talk about these nasty new Phyrexians, and the top 4 reasons why they are likely the real deal!
Reason #1: Layout, Art, and Spoiler match ups
Format and Layout look legit and match the official spoiled art work and concept art. The set symbol and the set name all match. These all seem to point toward this being a legitimate leak.
Reason #2: The cards match the flavor and the history all lines up!
The Myr Convert is an interesting card indeed. It has a new ability called “Toxic” and it specifically has “Toxic 1”. What that exactly means is anyone’s guess at this point. It might herald the return of poison counters, and perhaps is a way for a creature to deal regular damage and poison damage simultaneously. Originally, Serpent Generator from Legends was the first card to mention poison counters. Interestingly, the generator made creature tokens that gave an opponent a poison counter whenever it dealt damage. Serpent Generator also let us know that if an opponent had 10 of these counters they lost the game. Then, about 12 years later the poison mechanic was updated in Future Sight to be a keyword ability called Poisonous. This still allowed creatures to deal damage regularly and also give poison counters equal to the poisonous number: Snake Cult Initiation and Poisonous Sliver. Then a few years later we got a new keyword mechanic to “fix” poison: Infect. Infect changed the way creatures dealt damage. When a creature with Infect deals damage it does so in the form of -1/-1 counters to creatures and in the form of poison counters to players. This evolution of the poison mechanic last happened nearly 12 years ago with Scars of Mirrodin. So, it is no surprise to see Wizards revamping and revisiting the mechanic again, over a decade later. This could provide a way for poison to be an alternative win condition in decks that aren’t solely dedicated to winning in one of the saltiest ways possible. Additionally, it would make the way creatures deal damage to Planeswalkers make more sense. Rosewater has said that iInfect is a parasitic mechanic, in that it requires dedication to it over all else; it effectively eliminates many opportunities for creativity. This new Myr Convert is not only a great new take on the mana producing Myr, but perhaps the newest step in the evolution of not only Phyrexia as a storyline, but Magic’s mechanics as well.
Sinew Dancer is another card that seems to be shouting that poison has returned. Now, in the same vein as Metalcraft, we have a mechanic that cares about the number of poison counters an opponent has. This new Phyrexian soldier gains an additional ability to tap down another creature at a discounted rate when provided its controller has three or more poison counters (or is Infected). This makes sense from a lore perspective as the Phyrexians are better able to control other corrupted individuals. The more of Phyrexia’s poisonous oil one possesses the more they are able to be controlled by the domineering machines of that plane. The flavor text also begs us to consider the Borg or Communist aspects that the Phyrexians appear to be pushing, and that all flows together rather nicely. This leak looks legitimate.
Furnace Punisher is another interesting addition to the Phyrexian army. This warrior triggers on each players upkeep. It checks and punishes all who control fewer than two basic lands. This seems like an interesting card for constructed, but likely won’t be making waves in Commander or Limited anytime soon. It is a 3/3 Menace for three, but lacks a bigger impact. It could be a nice way for mono-red Standard decks to punish people for running mana bases without basics. Overall, an interesting new addition at the uncommon rarity.
Sawblade Scamp is another red card, but only costs a single red mana. That one red mana will net you a 1/1 hasted Phyrexian beast. This card is exciting as it introduces a new type of counter—the oil counter. Exactly what an oil counter does isn’t entirely clear. Sawblade Scamp lets us tap it and remove an oil counter from it to deal 1 damage to each opponent. We get to place oil counters on Sawblade Scamp each time we cast a non-creature spell. That is an interesting concept, and I think that it could make this a useful and fairly scalable threat. It doesn’t exactly have kicker, but drawing it late game doesn’t make it totally useless either. I can’t necessarily say the same for our original 1/1 haster—Raging Goblin. Overall, this looks like a sweet upgrade…perhaps a Phyrexian upgrade theme is actually the sub-theme of the set? Seems likely.
Reason #3: The reprint matches perfectly with previous reprints, concepts, and abilities likely to be seen in the set.
The next leak is merely a reprint, but seeing Thrummingbird printed as a Creature-Phyrexian Horror Bird is still pretty exciting (granted Commander Legends originally introduced us to that particular templating). Proliferation seems an apt and likely repeat ability that fits perfectly with a set that has plenty of counters to go around. This especially seems true when the number of counters seems to actually matter, as opposed to say First Strike or Trample counters that we saw in Ikoria.
Reason #4: The theme about all being one is reflected in the flavor and the idea of assimilation is consistent across the cards.
The last recent leak was Quicksilver Fisher. This fun little drake is a five mana 4/3 flier that lets you loot (draw a card and discard a card) when it comes into play. The most exciting part of this draft role-player is actually the flavor text. If you follow the storylines of Magic then you are already familiar with this concept, but it seems as though Phyrexia will get its claws into any old plane it wishes. The flavor text reads, “Phyrexia will stretch from sea to sky, across worlds and realities, inescapable and perfect.” The Phyrexian mission is to assimilate all those in existence. So, unless our heroes can stop it, it looks like Phyrexians will be the big bads for a very long time indeed. This isn’t much of a surprise as we’ve been seeing the Praetors show up in singleton form across several sets. This means that we could potentially see Phyrexians attempting to assimilate any world we’ve ever visited.
The Wrap Up
So, how do you feel about these new spoilers? Is it too much for you? Do you look forward to seeing more Phyrexians? I’m not certain if I’m overly excited or perhaps just overly optimistic about how this will all turn out. We’ve already watched several of Magic’s most beloved characters fall to the Phyrexian invasion. Perhaps The Brothers’ War will offer more insight into this set or perhaps we will end up being left in the past. Until more oily spoilers hit the net, may the counters and cards be ever in your favor!