This week, Magic: The Gathering launched their latest set, Phyrexia: All Will Be One, which goes full-tilt into the bio-mechanical horror of the Phyrexians, one of the the series’ oldest villains. The set is the third part of an ongoing storyline detailing the renewed conflict with the Phyrexians, as their leader Elesh Norn (depicted in terrifying statue form below) unleashes an attack across the entire multiverse.
I was able to sit down and play a few rounds with Phyrexia: All Will Be One at event this week to see some of the new art and mechanics on display, which focus on the Phyrexians viral infection of reality and, clearly create some horrifying results.
Much of the set’s art, which contains 271 cards, focuses on the corruption and horror which the Phyrexians influence brings. Many of the most striking cards have an almost monochromatic art-style, representing key characters and conflicts with with striking inky brush strokes. Solphim and Ezuri, Phyrexian creatures, look positively unstoppable as they tear through the forces of good, while characters like Koth have borderless art that shows their struggle against the viral Phyrexian threat. If you’re lucky enough to pull The Mother of Machines, Elesh Norn, herself then you’ll actually get art from Junji Ito, one of the most famous manga horror authors of all time, responsible for waking terrors like Uzumaki and The Enigma of Amigara Fault.
Some special mana cards show the infection spreading even to card art, making their design and writing completely unrecognisable. Other cards focus more on the detail of Phyrexian physiology and geography, with their red/white colour scheme extending to monolithic structures, and even making creatures like the Mites appear very reminiscent of the similarly disturbing EVAs from The End of Evangelion.
To represent the corrupting influence of the Phyrexians, there are several new mechanics at play in this set, as well as some returning ones. Poison Counters, for instance, are back as many creatures have Toxic effects, meaning you’ll often find yourself in a race against time dealing with their effects, as getting 10 or more poison damage will instantly lose you the game. However in addition, if your opponent has more than three Poison Counters, they are considered Corrupted, and subject to special abilities that activate from cards you’ve played (for instance, the Commander deck’s Ixhel forces a Corrupted opponent to exile the top card of their library face down).
Oil Counters are also introduced, which have various uses for powering up creatures or monitoring how much use they have. For instance, the Archfiend of the Dross can be somewhat perilous to use, as it enters the battlefield with four Oil Counters attached to it. At the beginning of every upkeep, the player must then remove one oil counter, and when they run out of oil counters, they lose the game right there and then. The best way around this is to use the returning Proliferate mechanic, which can add to any counter a player chooses (such as Oil Counters or Poison).
Gameplay with Phyrexia: All Will Be One can be quite fast, especially if your opponent has a good run with Toxic and proliferate, but there are plenty of powerful creatures you can use to deal significant damage and effects to counteract this, or even sacrifice for a stronger hand. Jumpstart Boosters are a great way to quickly get into the action, although the two Commander Decks (one hero themed and one Phyrexian themed) are also a good option.
Phyrexia: All Will Be One has both a lot of fun (if frightening) artwork as well as mechanics that facilitate fast, while tactical, play making for an interesting spin on the MTG formula. You can pick up the set via Draft Boosters, Set Boosters, Collector Boosters, Jumpstart Boosters, Commander Decks, Bundles, a Compleat Bundle edition, and it’s also available on Arena.
Also, just look at this guy.