Phyrexia: All Will Be One
This article is one of our set prospectives, a series in which we survey the Cube community about the cards they intend to play in their cubes from a particular set. Our survey is conducted between the set’s full-spoiler and official release and is meant to measure and document Cube designers’ first impressions of new cards.
It’s 2012. My brother and have just begun our Magic collection with a thousand “random” cards repacked by a local store. We don’t know or care that the box has a 1:100 ratio of rares to Sky-Eel Schools; all that matters to us is that Scars of Mirrodin is the coolest thing we’ve ever laid eyes on.
There have been some ups and downs since then, you might say: I tried casting Magmaw once; I learned that copies 5-100 of Sky-Eel School constituted “illegal deck construction”; Mirrodin became New Phyrexia, which was not so pleasant for Koth & co…
Anyways, Wizards has decided twelve years was long enough to develop some fuzzy nostalgia for the plane of syringes and bleeding teeth. And, well, they weren’t wrong — at least for the 343 Cube designers who responded to our Phyrexia: All Will Be One Cube community survey.
The 286 unique Cube owners who responded to our survey come from all corners of the community, from artifact-centric cubes to “Modern No Banlist” cubes and even a Dandân mono-blue cube.
The median cube curator is testing 6 ONE cards and has given a median of 2 cards a high rating (above 2.5). Elesh Norn may be disappointed that her set isn’t any more exciting to Cube curators than Urabrask’s, but this is still a respectable amount of interest from our survey respondents.
|The Eternal Wanderer||19.7%||2.1|
|Atraxa, Grand Unifier||18.5%||2.5|
|Nissa, Ascended Animist||17.0%||2.2|
|Vraan, Executioner Thane||15.2%||2.0|
|Drown in Ichor||14.6%||2.2|
|Conduit of Worlds||12.8%||2.0|
|Skrelv, Defector Mite||11.6%||2.1|
|Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines||10.7%||2.2|
|Mondrak, Glory Dominus||8.7%||2.2|
|Unctus, Grand Metatect||8.4%||1.9|
|The Mycosynth Gardens||7.5%||2.2|
|Kaito, Dancing Shadow||7.5%||2.2|
|Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler||7.2%||2.0|
|Sword of Forge and Frontier||6.6%||2.2|
|Nahiri, the Unforgiving||6.3%||2.2|
|Malcator, Purity Overseer||6.0%||2.0|
|Jace, the Perfected Mind||6.0%||2.0|
|Kemba, Kha Enduring||5.7%||2.1|
|Against All Odds||5.7%||1.9|
|Vraska, Betrayal's Sting||5.4%||2.1|
|Migloz, Maze Crusher||5.4%||2.1|
|Thrun, Breaker of Silence||4.8%||1.9|
|Whisper of the Dross||4.8%||1.7|
|Black Sun's Twilight||4.5%||2.2|
|The Surgical Bay||4.5%||1.9|
|The Fair Basilica||4.5%||1.8|
|The Dross Pits||4.5%||1.8|
|The Hunter Maze||4.2%||1.8|
|The Autonomous Furnace||4.2%||1.8|
|Jor Kadeen, First Goldwarden||4.2%||2.1|
|Drivnod, Carnage Dominus||3.9%||1.8|
|Blade of Shared Souls||3.6%||2.0|
|Melira, the Living Cure||3.6%||1.8|
|Vat of Rebirth||3.3%||1.8|
|Blue Sun's Twilight||3.0%||2.2|
|White Sun's Twilight||3.0%||1.8|
|Anoint with Affliction||3.0%||2.2|
|The Filigree Sylex||2.7%||2.4|
|Green Sun's Twilight||2.7%||1.9|
|Lukka, Bound to Ruin||2.7%||2.2|
|All Will Be One||2.7%||2.2|
|Expand the Sphere||2.4%||1.9|
|Vanish into Eternity||2.4%||2.0|
|Slobad, Iron Goblin||2.4%||1.7|
|Graaz, Unstoppable Juggernaut||2.1%||1.9|
Cankerbloom is the one ONE standout for Cube (couldn’t resist), with almost half our respondents testing this Terrain Elemental with added flexibility . The statline here makes Cankerbloom a fun guy to cast in a Magic game — it readily trades up or down on mana during combat, requiring strategic decision-making to optimize. Its activated ability is synergistic, flexible, and a good flavor match to the card name and creature types. That resonance of design, combined with Cankerbloom’s improvement on a well-loved Cube effect, ensures this little rot-eater is Phyrexia’s freshest design for the cube community.
“Nice art. Teeth.”
Just like top survey performers of the past, efficient removal spells tend to do well among Cube curators during preview season. These fresh spins on Diabolic Edict, Pacifism, and Chained to the Rocks, respectively, are no exception. Contrasting old and new makes ONE’s spice look good, and these spells are sure to be accessible to any manner of Cube, including those that are rarity-restricted or budget-minded.
Cards with Oil counters are not highly tested among the Cube community, save Mercurial Spelldancer. Just below a quarter of our respondents are testing this novel spells-matter enabler, perhaps because Constructed Legacy tastemakers are already experimenting with “oiling up the Spelldancer” (their words, not mine). But over half of our respondents are testing at least one card with Oil, suggesting that the mechanic is modular for a wide variety of Cube designs.
“This is Additive Distraction: The Set™️. There are a ton of cards that may be good, but Toxic or Oil makes it difficult for me to evaluate them.”
Compleated planeswalkers (read: extra body parts and syringes) arrive in force in ONE, led in our survey results by Nissa, Ascended Animist. The 3-in-1 modal casting cost, combined with some aspirational and splashy abilities, are certainly a major factor in her appeal.
Planeswalkers with normal amounts of body parts and a total lack of syringes are also present on Phyrexia, The Eternal Wanderer leading the pack in our survey. Her self-guarding static ability and punishing board wipe combine to make her a fearsome finisher for control decks. (And hey, if you’re here for the extra body parts, there’s always the “what-if” alternate arts.)
… Some skepticism about Toxic, that is. Skrelv, Defector Mite, alias “Mother of Runes with flayed musculature,” is ONE’s most-tested card with the new Toxic keyword. That’s not saying much — less than one in five Cube curators are testing Skrelv, and 70% of our respondents aren’t testing any Toxic cards at all. Considering Toxic is purely upside, without the extreme linearity of Infect before it, this lack of enthusiasm suggests to me that Cube designers are wary of the added complexity of the mechanic.
And if that’s true for Toxic, it’s doubly so for Corrupted, led by Skrelv's Hive on our most-tested cards. Corrupted is, again, pure upside, but it’s exactly meaningless without Poison in the environment. In Cube, where new mechanics often add to 30 years of design complexity and compete against 30 years of design elegance, this vastly decreases Corrupted’s appeal — nine tenths of our respondents aren’t testing any Corrupted at all.
“This set has been an absolute goldmine for me. It's taken a while for us to have another set that focuses on Proliferate, but it has been well worth the wait!”
Happily, the same cannot be said for Proliferate. Two-thirds of our survey respondents are testing at least one Proliferate card, twice as many as for Toxic. The most popular of these, Drown in Ichor, is the first time a -4/-4 effect has been available at the price point, even ignoring its upside.
Rounding out ONE’s new and returning mechanics is a twist on Living Weapon: For Mirrodin! The most-tested “Mirran Weapon” is Barbed Batterfist, likely buoyed by its appeal to rarity-restricted Cube curators. If I had to pick a mechanic whose power level was underrated, it would be For Mirrodin(!). Dragonwing Glider and even Sylvok Battle-Chair are resilient, flexible threats that offer appealing synergies, but their sheer novelty may not have caught the eye of tastemakers during preview season. (And for the pedants in the room, “exclamation point technology” has been around for decades.)
Phyrexia: All Will Be One offers incredibly deep rosters of new mechanics on top of powerful and resonant bread-and-butter designs. Qualms about all the teeth aside, Phyrexia’s not just a pretty face when it comes to Cube!
My own thoughts:
Repetition breeds familiarity. The first time I learned how planeswalkers worked was brain-melting. Ten years later, I’m flippin’ loyalties like Benedict Arnold. Mechanics like Toxic, Oil and Compleated require less mental load the longer we play with them, and the more examples there are in an environment. Repetition breeds familiarity. Familiarity lowers complexity.
“Toxic 1 is on a lot of cards I'd love to see exist without the keyword for cube purposes.”
ONE clearly illustrates the complexity/novelty tradeoff. Complex cards exist partly to generate novel gameplay moments, but that doesn’t mean complexity is strictly beneficial. Many of ONE’s Poison-related cards have appealing non-Poison qualities, but as we saw with Corrupted’s dismal performance, adding complexity without novelty can only be negative for Cube designers. When our respondents say they’re uninterested in linear (a.k.a. “parasitic”) mechanics like Corrupted, I suspect part of their dislike is simply that the complexity isn’t worth the novelty.
Dear WotC: whoever designed Quicksilver Fisher, you may have thought you could get away with power-creeping Sky-Eel School by a full point of power. You thought wrong, sirrah! You may have fooled the rest of the Magic world, but I’ll certainly never buy a hundred of this loser! …So there.
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