The Muse Vessel – Phyne With Me, New Phyrexia Set Review (Part I)

Welcome to a partial set review of New Phyrexia! The internet has been buzzing for the last week with the news that someone had gotten their hands on the so-called God Book for the new set and spewed the information all over the web. If you’re like me, then this kind if thing really does spoil the officially sanctioned slow-roll of preview cards and the anticipation and enjoyment of unwrapping the cards at the prerelease. On the other hand, if you’re like me then you were far too jazzed by the initial 20 Japanese cards that got leaked two or three weeks ago to turn a blind eye to the full spoiler.  Now that Wizards has officially spoiled the entire set, we can get started with our set review!   

As you might know already, we three muses are dividing and conquering the task of rendering hopefully coherent thoughts on the set, each of us here at the Muse Vessel is discussing each mythic rare and legendary creature.  The font color should give away whose opinions are worthless, comedic value only, and absolute gold.

Karn Liberated

Seedborn Muse:  This guy is the All Is Dust of the set, and not just for costing 7 colorless mana.  What I mean is that he’s overhyped for being very powerful at first glance, but he will settle down into doing solid work for colors that normally can’t access these abilities.

The correct comparison here is to Liliana Vess.  The abilities parallel: discarding a card is similar to exiling a card; tutoring for a card to put atop your library is likely to have equivalent utility to exiling a permanent; and the ultimate abilities are supposed to give you basic inevitability.  Yes, the ultimate is cool and can be activated three turns after he comes out.  Chandra Nalaar also was like that, and a Lavalanche at 10 is usually more directly correlated with victory than a grab bag of cards.  If Karn doesn’t get two good cards to restart with by the time he can ultimate, then you’re probably waiting some more turns.  Meh.

That said, giving blue or green the ability to exile things repeatedly is pretty tasty, and those colors also are two of the best at protecting planeswalkers (blue through spells, green through creatures).  So he could be fun in a Genesis Wave deck or something like that.  But in other cases, I’d rather have the consistency of Liliana or Chandra – at least for his $50 prerelease price tag.

Graveborn Muse:  Ridiculous! I understand that, for most of us, these will be out of our price range, At least initially, if you crack a copy of Karn in a pack you might be better served trading it away to a tournament-playing friend. If you do get to sleeve up a copy, though, paying seven mana to exile any permanent at all is definitely worthy of consideration. In many cases, you will find that you use Karn once to get rid of something annoying and leave him to be killed. A couple of my friends have proxied him up and slotted him into their EDH decks, and the first time I saw Karn in action, he exiled my Lurking Predators and then I killed him with a Treetop Village  – and that’s a fine use of a card.

The most interesting situation of all, and one that I think will occur more often than people expect, is when some of your opponents want you to trigger his ultimate. If one player is clearly losing, then they may fare better from starting over than from playing it out. It is theoretically possible that someone might actually use their own resources to protect your Karn, but it is much more likely that a savvy player will realize that they are losing, see that Karn is not targeting their stuff, and sit back. From the point of view of the weaker player, this forces the stronger ones to use their resources against you and Karn; this benefits the weaker players and gives you a much, much better chance of protecting Karn until he can go off.

Pro tip: if you’re using Karn’s +4 ability, you should reassure the rest of the table that, if the face-down card is an instant, sorcery or aura then it won’t be of any use to you at all. On the other hand, if you’re having your hand stripped, it is probably worth saying stuff like, “well, I can’t cast Emrakul anyway, so you can take that”, to convince the rest of the table that they’ll automatically lose if Karn gets to 14.

Windborn Muse:  As the Muse doing the final editing of the article, I get to see what Brandon and Daryl have to say about each card before giving my input.  Normally when I see something as powerful as Karn, I assume that the player is going to have to be prepared to deal with the inevitable attacks, since hugely powerful cards like Karn bring everyone against you.

In this situation, I expect one of two things to happen:  Either the board focuses on Karn until he is dead.  If you have any defense up, Karn will likely last a long time since his loyalty starts so high and is essentially 10 with a first use.  This will be best for you, since it buys you time.  The other option is that the board decides they can’t kill Karn quick enough, so they focus on you, thinking you’ll be easier to take out than having to kill Karn (and then having to deal with Karn again if you play another one or recur the original). 

Either way, Karn, if carefully played, will earn you concessions with the ultimate or at the very least, take out two problems on the board.  Either of those options is worth the mana cost.

The Praetors

GBM:  Sheoldred, Whispering One: As if the Obliterator wasn’t enough, we get this too? Very simply, this card gives me wood, and not the kind that taps for green mana. Sheoldred says two very important things to your opponents: if they were planning to win with creatures, then they need to find another path to victory, and if they try to wage a war of attrition, then they’re going to lose. As someone who likes to win long games by attacking with creatures and using the graveyard as a resource, I couldn’t ask for more. Of course, she dies to removal, and both the creature-centric and graveyard recursion axes can be answered in a variety of ways, but that’s the nature of the game. For this black-hearted Timmy, Sheoldred is powerful card that allows and encourages me to play exactly my kind of game. I will be building an EDH deck with her at the helm, as well as putting as many copies as I can into virtually ever black deck I have. It’s a good time to be tapping swamps!

Urabrask, the Hidden: I’ve heard a lot of people saying that a 4/4 with haste is by far the weakest of the Praetor cycle, but I think that’s short-sighted. As long as he stays on the board, Urabrask is a potent force multiplier for your side that also hobbles your opponents. Take it from someone whose EDH playgroup has just rediscovered the power of Kismet: all of your plans go out the window when your critters hit the battlefield tapped. “Sure you can have a blocker – after my next attack, if you’re still alive.” An aggressive red deck with four Urabrask could easily rule a kitchen table. Also there are rumors that red may be capable of killing untapped creatures without breaking stride – how much fun will Flametongue Kavu be with this guy?

In the early days of Magic, the person who started the game also got to draw in their first turn. The reason we now have to choose between starting and drawing is that folks quickly realized that going first was a significant advantage, giving you a much greater chance of being able to control the tempo of the game and set your opponent on their back foot. What seizing the initiative is to military strategy, tempo is to Magic strategy. It doesn’t take much extra pressure to put your opponents in an untenable position, and untapping with Urabrask gives you a one or two turn lead on your opponents, which is going to be enough to decide a lot of games.

I’m looking forward to taking some of the stronger spells from my Akroma, Angel of Fury deck (which is fun to play, but is largely a showcase for foily John Avon mountains at this point) and building a blazingly fast EDH deck with Urabrask as my general. Seething Song, Pyretic Ritual, et al, will speed me up, a little bit of artifact and land destruction, as well as cards like Tsabo’s Web and War’s Toll, will slow them down, and Urabrask means that my other critters don’t have to choose between weights and speedwork.

Elesh Norn, Vorinclex and Jin-Gitaxias – I’ve heard all of these described in both glowing and highly critical terms. For me, I think WotC did a great job with this cycle, even though these three don’t inspire me the same way Urabrask and Sheoldred, the Jaw-Droppingly Sexy do. All five of these cards find creative ways to help you and hurt your opponents on the same axis, and I appreciate them all in terms of strategy, flavor and power level. Like I said with Sheoldred, they work well with a generic strategy in those colors, which means you can more or less plug them into existing strategies (yes, there will be a lot of Praetors in your EDH games for the next couple of months).

However, they are all unique enough that a deck built around a Praetor will be significantly different from one that isn’t – a very smart guy in my playgroup pointed out that even Elesh Norn, the most criticized of the cycle, made him want to play with cards that he wouldn’t normally consider in EDH, such as Spectral Procession. Similarly, Vorinclex wants you to play ramp, but not artifact or elf-based ramp, and Jin-Gitaxias needs ramp too, which for blue means draw and artifacts, but once the Git is in play, all your other draw is irrelevant. I’m not sure exactly how to build around him, but I’m pretty sure that first turn Mana Vault and second turn Umbilicus or Blood Clock would be the ideal.

SBM:  Now these guys (things?) are scary good.  If I had monocolored good stuff Commander decks, I probably would use these as commanders regardless.  As regular creatures, I think they’re quite good, but they aren’t at their full potential unless you can use them a lot.  As much as I don’t like Commander decks that sit there with artifact mana ramp and tons of card draw for seemingly no purpose, using all that to accelerate into these guys from the command zone is a worthwhile idea.  (Mind you, each of these as commanders makes you the pre-game target.) 

I like each of them for different things, but the scariest to me are Jin-Gitaxias and Vorinclex.  The other advantages are creature/attrition based, but Jin-Gitaxias gives raw card advantage (with flash!) while Vorinclex gives the most ridiculous mana advantage I’ve ever seen (though in long games this ability gets worse, so maybe that helps).  Have you considered Vorinclex with Omnath?  That gravy is good.

We haven’t seen too many creatures that are this baldly powerful for casual play.  It will be interesting to see if they make good commanders or if they’re so good that they make their owners automatic targets.

WBM:  Each of these cards is a house.  When Elesh Norn was initially spoiled, people went crazy over the ability, and now it is probably only #4 on the power chart in comparison to the others.  While Urubrask is the weakest of the bunch, he is still very difficult to deal with. 

Just a request for anyone choosing to player any Praetor: please have some way to win the game quickly once this comes into play.  How much fun will it be if you can never keep a card in your hand past the end of your turn, or you have to constantly sacrifice creatures or you can’t untap your mana?  These cards are lockdown cards, and with any deck running a lockdown, be sure you have a way to win quickly, as opposed to just sitting there waiting until everyone finally concedes in frustration.

SBM:  I’m sure Daryl has a different take, but…in any sort of large game (Multiplayer as opposed to multiplayer), I don’t think this guy’s particularly good.  In a 2HG or Star or something like that, though, he should be an absolute house.  Clearly, he’s good against red decks and aggro non-token decks; Elf decks looking like the current Standard would have a difficult time, but Saproling decks wouldn’t so much.  So the larger the game, the less likely he’ll be amazing, but he has every chance of being very good.  Just remember that he is very sad to see a Wall of Frost or Darksteel Myr.

If you want to do some Standard jank with him, splash green for Irresistible Prey

GBM:  What can I say? This card does everything a black mage could possibly ask for – we’ve never seen anything like it before! Another thing we’ve never seen is me, a notorious cheapskate, shelling out $90 or so for a playset of a chase Mythic, but I fell in love with this monstrosity so hard that I actually did it. I figure I might even start playing Standard if this badboy is as powerful as he looks – 4 Obliterator, 12 Duress and 44 Swamps should do the trick nicely (legal disclaimer: there’s a reason I’m not writing tournament articles). I’m tempted to add some mana rocks for acceleration, which would allow me to add Phylactery Lich. Two 5/5 badasses by turn four, without playing green? Sure, I’ll sign up for Team Phyrexia – here’s my liver, and just take whatever other organs you need.

At the kitchen table, Obliterator is just awesome in any 20-life format. It is far from the biggest creature you’re going to see, but it puts people in a very difficult position, especially if you give it a saboteur ability (such as you might find on a Sword of This and That). Then they want to block it, but they can’t do damage to it and it tramples right over any zero-power chump-blockers. Yes, a Swords to Plowshares will answer it without any trouble at all, but when you can draw out their premium spot removal with your four-drop, you’re doing something very right indeed.

It would also make a great finisher in most black control decks – especially if you have something like a creatureless or creature-light discard deck, and you find that Liliana’s Caress isn’t quite enough of a wincon for you. The biggest danger that I can see for the Obliterator is Fresh Meat – attacking into an army of Saprolings could merely end up tripling the power of their force, so be careful.

One last word: Arena. Did I mention the Arena? Fear the darkness!!

WBM:  This thing is a freaking beast.  He practically guarantees that someone is taking five damage.  Personally though, I think this guy is best suited to a black combo or control deck.  If you can get him out early, then leave him sitting on defense, you should have no problems with other players.  Anyone attacking you has to figure out which of their permanents are disposable, then decide if it is worth it to attack.  If your opponents attack with little guys the creatures just die and take their permanents with them.  A 5/5 is ideal for your opponent, but will still cost them a ton in board position.  Worst case scenario for the opponent is when they are relying on a huge dude.  It will be a wonderful sight watching your opponent stew when their 11/11 dude just sits there, waiting for someone to draw some removal.

Since his defense is so good, I expect him to hold everyone off while the black mage sets up his shenanigans.  This card demands your removal spells right away, since it means there is going to be trouble, and everyone else on the board will have one less other person to attack. 

Love the name – the flavor is pure Jund! Of course, the flavor would be better if the keywords were trample and haste, just to make it Jundier, but to be honest, when your back is to the wall, you really want vigilance and lifelink on the critter you topdeck.

Five colorless mana for a 4/4 with lifelink and vigilance would be somewhere between decent and strong if the casting cost was 3WW. The fact that it is colorless and once the creature is killed you get to keep the equipment makes this a shining example of power-creep. I wouldn’t mind so much, because I’d love to put this equipment in a bunch of different decks (especially EDH – for some reason I use much less equipment in 60-card decks. I should probably remedy that), but I’m not thrilled with the high price tag and Mythic rarity.

That being said, the bounce ability is fantastic; it makes it by far the best implementation of Living Weapon. This would belong in my Kresh deck even after I took out all of the other artifacts and replaced them with artifact sweepers. Not only do you keep the equipment after the Germ token or whatever is killed by a Wrath, but you can reasonably expect to be able to cast Batterskull again after a Disk or Deed.

As a half-creature, half-Equipment that dodges removal and provides a renewable creature, this is already good, but the abilities look great on other creatures too.  Like the Obliterator, this is one of those cards that will cause grief not from any funky interactions but from just owning the face.  Any commander looks good with this on it as well, except for maybe Norin the Wary.

There is a combo around this card, but I just don’t see it.  If your Germ dies and you need another creature, this one is just 8 mana away.  The equip cost is high, but there are plenty of ways around that now.  Look to see this on Lost Leonins and Phyrexian Obliterators in the future. 

Nice holla back at Fifth Dawn.  I’m quite fond of this card, but where does it go?  My Maelstrom Nexus/Bringer deck would use this if I weren’t also centered on Legacy Weapon.  He’s like a WUBRGish mini-Kozilek whose mana investment goes over two turns.  Those who want them are really glad this card exists.  Those who don’t want them will curse their unKarned luck.  (“Why must you be so unKarned to me?”)

Nice work on updating an old Mirrodin favorite. Etched Monstrosity is decent as a 5/5 for five, and if you can get the mana to remove the counters, then you’re definitely getting your money’s worth. I’ve always meant to build a five-color EDH deck, and I have an artifact deck that does silly things with counters, so if I opened one of these it would definitely find a home. I’m sure the price on this will be reasonable and we’ll all have fun figuring out our favorite ways to supersize this big bastard. Just to give my two cents, I’m thinking Fate Transfer is a powerful (and always unexpected) budget option, while Hex Parasite might be strong in Standard if you can get your hands on them.

I tend to agree with GBM here; this is a card that will see the counters get moved or removed by other artifacts, and rarely ever by paying the cost.  Do keep in mind that proliferate is wildly popular in casual play, so if you aren’t removing those counters quickly, expect to see more of them on this guy as the game goes on. 

In the end, I think this card is simply a dud.  Even as a 10/10, there is no trample and he is an artifact.  That huge power and toughness are just wasted here. 

Well, we knew this was coming. Between all five of the swords, the competition is pretty stiff, and this will have to play very well for it to even come close to replacing SoFF. Hopefully it will fail to do so and the price will be manageable for the casual tribe. I’m honestly unsure how valuable the lifegain will be to you; on a larger creature, straight up lifelink would be better. It is likely to be better than the three life from SoLaS (for what that’s worth), but what you’re usually going to play it for is the protection and the damage-dealing. Especially in 20-life formats, the potential to do an extra two damage and then an extra maybe four or five from the cards in their hand is very swingy indeed. I’d certainly think about putting this in any deck that has lifegain triggers a la Searing Meditation, a lot of Earthquake effects that you need to protect your critters from, or any deck that can keep your opponents’ hands full, such as a Howling Mine-fueled aggro deck or anything with Trade Secrets.

This one’s mysterious to me.  Should it have a deck built around it (Owling Mine sort of tricks with this as a finisher on something random), or is it fine on its own?  If you run a Caw-Blade thing in principle (i.e. sticking Swords on flyers, not i.e. being an oppressive Standard deck), this one is likely to be better, since you’re getting protection from a prominent flying color, which Sword of Feast and Famine does not grant.  While I’m curious and cringing to see where it goes in Standard, I think it’s not as good a casual sword as some of the others, since you don’t derive maximum benefit from sticking it into just anything, but certain forms of aggro decks across the board, as well as anyone in a heavily blue Commander group, will adore having this.

The more cards the opponent has in their hand, the more likely it is that they can stuff your attack:  higher risk for higher reward.  Protection from red and white certainly limits what can stop it and what can kill it, assuming your groups like white exile spells as much as mine does. 

I’m not sure how good this will turn out, but considering the previous Swords, you can expect it to see play in your group as soon as they are ripped out of the packs. 

Bennie Smith has pointed out that Melira ensures your persist creatures return to the battlefield counter-free.  That probably doesn’t make her commander material, but she could provide nice support to an Experiment Kraj deck depending on its configuration (hello, my nemesis Glen Elendra Archmage).  She’s also not an elf, she pairs nicely with Witherscale Wurm, she makes Black Sun’s Zenith/Carnifex Demon one-sided, and Phyrexian Hydra is absolutely absurd with her out.  There are more applications of her than I thought.  Make of it what you will.

Melira’s value will be completely dependent on your playgroup.  If your group is crazy with infect, Melira becomes a stalling tactic, as your poison-dependent enemies work to get rid of Melira.  If your group isn’t “louse”y with infect, then she becomes a sideshow card that is there to do weird things with her abilities (I like a Black Sun’s Zenith option already!).

The last time we saw a legendary creature that cost 3WR, it was a 3/3. Now it’s a 5/4 with first strike…I guess we can chalk that up to inflation? Also, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it does not look like JK is going to do much prevailing any time soon.

A Jor Kadeen deck looks like it is going to be relatively simple to build, but also incredibly powerful – just on his (her? I haven’t seen the art) own we’re looking at almost an overrun, never mind the fact that with Metalcraft you have an 8/4 first striker. I like to have a Standard-legal EDH deck built at all times, just to ease the transition for newer players, and I think JK will replace Omnath, Locus of Mana when Zendikar rotates out this fall. As many artifact creatures as possible, Metalcraft up the wazoo, and white and red removal to clear the way for the onslaught. Some will probably complain that with such a linear mechanic WotC is basically building our decks for us, but I say the sooner I can build a deck the sooner I can have fun playing it.

Jor Kadeen looks to be a Mirrodinized version of Agrus Kos as a commander, which is a deck style I’d probably prefer.  Metalcraft makes JK an 8/4 first striking commander, which is scary, and if you’re that sort of deck, you’re already playing a lot of equipment (Sunforger’s one, but as JK’s a Warrior, Obsidian Battle-Axes goes here too).  Since JK isn’t picky about colors, you can make this sort of deck easier with him as well.  Each commander will have different functions, but if I were to make red-white beats JK’s definitely my preference of the two.

Really people, I don’t think you need us for this one.  What sort of deck do you think he belongs in?  I knew you’d come up with Golem tribal just by looking at him.

Stay tuned for a special Tuesday edition on the Muse Vessel!  Daryl comes back solo to give us his take on more of his New Phyrexia favorites!

This entry was posted in Graveborn Musings, Seedborn Musings, Uncategorized, Windborn Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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