Welcome to Card Kingdom’s 1-oh-ONE Draft guide for the newly-released Phyrexia: All Will Be One set! If you skipped out on the spoiler season or you just want a one-stop cheat sheet to help you through your early Limited runs, read on: I’ll explain all the most important picks and tricks you need to look for.
Shape of the Format
In their previous appearances, Phyrexians have always been an opposing force, but this time? They’ve long since won the war for this plane, and other than a meager handful of Mirran rebels, it’s Phyrexia all the way down! So regardless of which colors you draft, you’re going to be engaging with Phyrexian creatures and signature Phyrexian mechanics – it’s more a question of “which ones?”
Speaking of color, the first thing I look to establish for new Draft sets is how many colors I should expect to be playing. The answer is influenced not only by the percentage of multicolor cards in a set, but also the amount of color-fixing spells and tools, the power level of cheap aggressive creatures, and other metagame factors.
This time around we’re definitely back to the old school of two-color decks as default, along with a full lineup of signpost gold uncommons to help guide you into a lane. I do think there’s the potential for three color decks, or even more if you’re in base green for superior color-fixing. But two is always the safest option – particularly in a set where most decks will be playing creatures early on and the combat tricks are very strong.
Unfortunately, the removal at common is only so-so, particularly for red and green. Blue, white and black have a better range of options, but even then they’re mostly situational, costly, reversible or all three. Given the power of toxic and other aggressive mechanics, I think my first priority in these early Draft runs is just making sure I come equipped to trade off with attackers as much as possible and preserve my life total for better things!
Signature Mechanics and Archetypes
This set divides the main Phyrexian mechanics across all five colors in an attempt to give each of them their own unique twist on that classic glistening-oil taste. Mmm, delicious.
The new replacement keyword for infect/poisonous, toxic is mainly in three colors: white, green and black. Each offers its own approach to the mechanic, with WG being the all-in infectious swarm we’re used to. WB, meanwhile, focuses on getting just a bit of poison going for its corrupted cards, which get upgraded once an opponent has at least three such counters. And GB simply has the most ways to apply poison directly through spells and proliferate to victory.
Toxic ends up a significantly different (I would say better) deckbuilding experience than infect, since your toxic creatures are also dealing regular damage alongside the poison counters and will often threaten to kill that way faster. But if you lose control of the board, any incidental poison damage you’ve done can turn into a very powerful plan B.
Oil counters appear most often on blue, red, and green spells, and all three colors are basically doing the same thing in the same way: ticking those counters up across as many permanents as possible. The actual function of the oil will differ based on your specific cards and colors, but they mostly end up transmuting back into extra damage at some point – either through pumping stats, turning on static buffs on creatures, or just paying to shoot your opponent directly.
Proliferate itself is the last major mechanic for the set, appearing primarily in blue, black and green. It doesn’t feel automatically valuable for every single deck the way it did in say, War of the Spark – probably because ONE has zero +1/+1 counters to draft across the entire set.
But since poison counters are in the set, proliferate spells can instead build into a controlling variant of the toxic aggro decks. Proliferate spells and a few flying toxic threats are the heart of this gameplan, trading speed assault for true inevitability. UG, UB and GB are all perfectly capable of that, and I definitely see these colors as the most likely base for rainbow drafts as a result.
There are a handful of other minor themes; UW has an artifacts-matter/affinity thing going on, RW cares about a bunch of equipment cards and RB is trying to make sacrifice value happen for the millionth time. But I suspect even when playing base-red your decks are more likely to hinge on the power of proliferation than not. So you may as well start planning around it from the very first pick.
As ever, commons are the lifeblood of Limited, and knowing which ones are valuable to each color is perhaps the most important thing to learn about a set. Here’s my early picks for which ones should become YOUR early picks:
Whether you’re trying to leverage corrupted cards, a proliferate engine or just poison down your opponent quickly, there’s huge upside to getting toxic attacks in on early turns. A turn-one Chorus gives you the best chance of doing that, even if your opponent has the turn-one removal spell to match.
It’s not even the best white removal-aura in this set (that would be the uncommonly-good Ossification) but Planar Disruption will work plenty well enough when you just need to swing the combat math back your way. White’s average mana value this set is low enough that you can probably double-spell this with a creature the turn you want it in aggro decks, which raises its stock significantly. And it still turns off any pesky planeswalkers or oil-counter engines your opponent may have lucked into.
As the world’s foremost Evershrike authority, you can trust me when I tell you this is among the best one-mana auras ever printed. The floor is an admittedly meager combat trick, but once you’ve reached the three-poison threshold you’re upgrading to a top-tier instant trick which just… never goes away. Quick-Draw Dagger was one of the most ballyhooed Limited commons in recent history, and that was with a mana cost significantly easier to play around than this will be. Watch out.
There’s a little variance in how these mana-taxing counters fare from set to set, but the two-mana, tax-two versions are almost always money. Playing two mana behind curve is just not viable for most opponents, so this will reliably break up their curve in the early game or snipe an expensive bomb later. That ability to answer their best card when you need it is even more consistent with the corrupted clause, which should be easy to enable with proliferate.
Blue only has a scant few toxic attackers compared to other colors, but that doesn’t mean it lacks ways to convert proliferate triggers into lethal damage. Gitaxian Raptor offers a fine bundle of stats for its price, and the chance to re-allocate those stats on the fly at no mana cost is always, always better than you think. On defense you can generate favorable blocks in almost any spot, and while slightly weaker on offense it can still tack on some nice burst damage.
I’m not quite as confident about this one, but if I was so high on the potential of Bring the Ending then I think a solid body which buys it back has to be worth a mention. The non-creature spells really do look like the star of the show for Ux decks, and for the slower ones this creature is exactly what you need to try and turn the corner. The body invalidates small attackers while your recurred spell hopefully deals with their larger one.
Cheap creatures are definitely more plentiful than usual in ONE, so I’m not as desperate to play Grizzly Bears as I often might be. But calling this a Grizzly Bears is doing it a disservice. Whether you’re the faster or slower deck in a matchup, black is looking to rely on poison counters as its primary gameplan. And whether you’re playing offense or defense, Blightbelly Rat can be the consistently-valuable glue holding that plan together.
I like to find different kinds of cards to highlight in these articles where I can, but it’s hard to ignore how important these cheap toxic creatures are in the white-black decks. Like Crawling Chorus in white, playing this little critter on-curve is going to be the easiest way to score your first poison counter. And considering how heavily black can lean on corrupted and proliferate from there, it could easily end up being the most important attack of the game.
Any of black’s removal spells could have gone in this slot, but that’s part of why this weird creature might end up more important. ONE is the first set in several years to have neither a Raise Dead nor a Village Rites style effect. With black’s mechanics leaning towards a slower gameplan, that means card advantage will be important to find wherever you can. Four-mana for one toughness is a scary investment, but at least on defense you can sort-of ignore the disadvantage by having it stare down their biggest potential attacker. And if you do have to trade down, you’re still getting a super-cantrip to replace it.
Broad cost-reduction mechanic at common and a 2/3 menace for 2R? Talk about two great tastes that go great together! Yes, this will be a less potent attacker than usual in a set with a lot of cheap creatures clogging up the battlefield. But it gets those points back (at least in my estimation) when you remember that a lot of your discounted equipment cards are effectively creatures too. I expect the equipment deck itself to be so-so, which means you’ll probably get the chance to snag a bunch of these if you’re the player in that lane for your draft. I’m pretty excited to try it.
Moving onto the other main theme of red, Sawblade Scamp really looks to define the URx “prowess” style deck for ONE. As far as historical comparisons run, I don’t think it’s as good as Thermo-Alchemist or even Spear Spewer in this role. But there’s always the chance to pull a couple of them out and start proliferating with the next common on this list, and that’s going to add up to a lot of damage in a hurry.
This spell isn’t getting my nod because it’s particularly exciting (well, except for in constructed with Mindsplice Apparatus) but because it’s so essential. With few ways to answer flyers and especially with the number of nasty combat tricks running around, I’m taking as much Volt Charge as I can get my hands on. It’s a little over-costed to be a star player, but it does synergize quite well with the other stuff red is doing.
I find myself a little disappointed by the cheap toxic creatures green has to offer, but there are some very nice commons up the higher end of the curve. Reading this as a 5/4 vigilance for four, it absolutely towers over the average creatures in this set and should at the very least force a favorable trade when your opponent blocks to kill it. That kind of profile on a common creature at this mana cost can become the crux of your gameplan; just keep slamming and swinging with them and dare opponents to keep up.
WotC has been very aggressive in expanding the role of these multipurpose green kill spells over the last few formats. This one will have fewer targets than Shoot Down did last set, but the cards it does hit are the ones you’ll want to have die – aura-based removal, flyers, equipment. The proliferate trigger doesn’t have a ton of great common payoffs in green, so the final judgment on Carnivorous Canopy probably comes down to what your other colors are doing for you. Which brings us to our last common recommendation…
As stated above, ONE looks to have just enough fixing to make aggressive multicolor drafting viable, but not enough to make it free. Since Terramorphic Expanse is the kind of card which could be snapped up by anyone at the table who isn’t feeling the spells in their pack, I think Thirsting Roots is the card to take high and take often if you prefer those greedy drafting strategies. The fact that proliferate seems to have higher value everywhere except green only cements me on this being the rainbow-drafter’s keystone card, and I’d be happy playing quite a few of them.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em
I need to be honest with you, reader – I really loathe Scars of Mirrodin block, along with pretty much everything Phyrexia has represented since they moved away from being campy mechanical spiders.
Part of that is down to aesthetics or the kind of story writing they inspire (it’s just not my thing), but mostly it was their mechanics. Infect, proliferate, and Phyrexian mana all have some pretty onerous gameplay associated with them even after you set aside any power level concerns. So I was not especially thrilled to hear we were embarking on an extended Phyrexian design arc.
But I have to admit, WotC has won me over with this set better than I ever expected. Those dodgy mechanics are so much better utilized here, in ways which blunt or actually erase their design flaws.
Phyrexian mana is only discounting ability costs or expensive planeswalkers, and no longer removes the need for colored mana completely.
Decoupling poison damage from creature power with toxic fixes most of my problems with infect immediately. Where it was once an all-or-nothing deckbuilding choice, now you can choose to sit anywhere on a scale between aiming to win with only infect, or only with regular damage. Thanks to corrupted spells there are now actually meaningful thresholds for poison other than “dead” and “not dead”, and I think that’s easy to see as a communal good.
Even proliferate has a cool new look here with the design on the oil counter cards feeling like a lot of intense work went into balancing around it and limiting the ways to increase or move the counters between cards.
It all feels like Phyrexia has truly begun to approach its perfected form. I promise it’s not just the glistening oil making me say that. Good luck in your Limited events, and I’ll see you again for March of the Machine!
Tom’s fate was sealed in 7th grade when his friend lent him a pile of commons to play Magic. He quickly picked up Boros and Orzhov decks in Ravnica block and has remained a staunch white magician ever since. A fan of all Constructed formats, he enjoys studying the history of the tournament meta. He specializes in midrange decks, especially Death & Taxes and Martyr Proc. One day, he swears he will win an MCQ with Evershrike. Ask him how at @AWanderingBard, or watch him stream Magic at twitch.tv/TheWanderingBard.