Seedborn Musings – An Even Newer Phyrexia Set Review

Welcome to my third of the new set.  It seems like the set is more clearly divided into tournament and casual cards than ever before, which might prove great for those of us on the latter end.

Not even old cards are safe.

Before getting in on a per-card basis, a note on Phyrexian mana.  I see Phyrexian mana playing out like convoke, as it’s an option to use an expendable resource (creatures/life) for speed.  Most of the time you’ll be playing these spells on curve; you probably can’t rely on speeding up your whole deck this way, although I’d love to see a deck that did.  There’s also the off-color option for a lot of these, and that will be fun, but most of the time the card will be as advertised.  In other words, Phyrexian mana doesn’t make a bad spell awesome; it’s another options-based twist on stock effects.  I like it a lot and want to fiddle with it, but 2 life per mana is fairly limiting, not on the occasional use of it but on how many of these you can run in a game.  In Commander, its best use might be to ease the burden on mana-fixing; if your important splash color doesn’t need its color to cast the spell, that’s handy.

But on to the cards!

WHITE

Auriok Survivors

 

How often does equipment go to the graveyard?  Not often; only Blazing Torch has a way of putting itself there, so artifact sacrifice effects, general discard/mill, and opponents offing your equipment are the only ways of optimizing this ability.  The mill makes me wonder if this could enable a casual Dredgevine variant for creatures + equipments, but I’m not sure what that looks like.

Cathedral Membrane

I love that artwork, just as I love Walls generally.  It might – might be a reasonable thing to block with in Standard, as it kills Titans and you can revive it with a Sun Titan.  Until then, feel free to play it in casual with Echo Circlet and annoy people.  As a killer of large things, it’s different than most 0/3 Walls (a group I normally don’t play with; I look for at least 4 toughness usually) in that it’s not a good anti-aggro measure, but it might have new uses, and it’s neat design space to boot.

Due Respect

 

Just like true aggro rushes, white weenie decks can be stymied by a beefy blocker right before they would deliver the killing blow.  This card is cheap and cantrippy enough to say that the blow still happens.  The chock-full-of-threats aggro types don’t have time to cast this, but if you’re a shade below that, then this card could be a good fit.

Inquisitor Exarch

I’m reviewing all the Exarchs, but the lowdown is that they’re Clerics with modal ETB abilities.  Here we have an aggressively costed weenie (2/2 for WW) that gives the option of you gaining 2 life or target opponent losing 2 life.  Not that useful in multiplayer, but he’s as fast as many red creatures while also being reasonable against red, which is nifty.

Puresteel Paladin

 

As totem armor was to Kor Spiritdancer/Aura Gnarlid decks, so living weapon is to Puresteel Paladin decks.  The difference is that the Armors preserve the awesome creature you have while the Paladin can ensure that every subsequent creature is an amazing threat.  (He himself of course is a threat with all those as well.)  You can also break out your Daru Spiritualists/Starlit Sanctums again if you wish.  There are options, and they seem fun.  Now the person who pairs this with Leonin Shikari…

Suture Priest

We know what half of Soul Warden feels like.  We know what Blood Seeker feels like.  We haven’t seen a combination, and I think this guy is severely underrated as a result.  If you play him early and someone wastes removal on him, that’s okay; they used up a spell on him and you didn’t waste much mana.  But if someone leaves it in play in multiplayer…say you play 3 creatures over three turns and your opponents play 6.  Would you pay 1W to split 6 life loss among opponents and gain three?  I would, and he’s in a relevant tribe (for me anyway) and at common.  I assume he makes the cut in my Sen Triplets Commander deck (I’m already partially Cleric themed), but I haven’t looked at the deck to be absolutely sure.  If you don’t want to play this, suture self.  (I’m anticipating LSV’s review, apparently…)

BLUE

Chancellor of the Spires

Of the Chancellor cycle, this one seems to be the most curious.  A 5/7 flyer for 7 isn’t terrible; there’s a lot of stuff this guy can block.  And if he’s casting something more expensive than himself, you’ve made out okay, even if it’s something that will destroy him (like Decree of Pain).  He’s probably underrated unless someone figures out what to do with him, at which point he’ll be overrated.  You might want to pick these up on the cheap to trade them to people in your group who get easily excited over cards when they hear from someone else they’re good.

Corrupted Resolve

This is the Unified Will for poison, a late-game cheap tempo counterspell rather than one for a control deck (it can’t counter anything too early).  It’s splashable too, which helps.  A U/G infect with this and Unified Will could be fun if you like infect.  And the guy looks like Ed Roland from Collective Soul, which itself sounds like a card similar to Unified Will.

Deceiver Exarch

Upping the blue Cleric count, we have a flashy Horned Turtle (good by itself) that can also get into some tapping/untapping.  I’m not ordinarily the guy building with these decks, but he’s deceivingly underwhelming at first glance.  (Ball is in LSV’s court.)

Phyrexian Metamorph

It’s been pointed out to me that this is the creature Grand Architect’s been waiting for.  You can use Grand Architect to cast the Metamorph, then copy the Architect and immediately tap for two more mana for artifacts.  As a Grand Architect lover, I’m fully behind this idea.  But a potentially 3-mana Clone is just a fine thing anyway, even if it’s slightly more fragile.  It’s a great weapon to have against decks that combo/ramp into something nasty way too early.  It also would be fun to run with Mind Control effects.  Copy that Titan on turn 4 and steal it on turn 5.  Sure, you could do this already with Clone, but this is more open-ended and optionally faster.  Many points in my book.

BLACK

Entomber Exarch

This might be my favorite of the cycle.  Black Clerics are a favorite combination of mine, and you can safely play him on-curve every time, which is something Gravedigger and friends have problems with.  EE’s discard ability also can hit lands, which can be one of those great moments in frustrated opponents – they read the card the first time, think it’s Duress, and get surprised when you make them discard Wasteland.

Ichor Explosion

 

I might be the only person who likes this card.  It’s pricey, sure, but global -X/-X effects are just good, and sacrificing a creature who was going to die anyway isn’t an actual cost (it’s like Spontaneous Combustion in this way).  There likely are better options in your collection than this, but if not, this is a sweeper at uncommon that everybody likely will trade you for being annoyed at it.

Postmortem Lunge

Like mana ramp, reanimation cards are so classic that it’s easy to forget how relatively few good ones there are.  This one’s reasonable on that front, but it’s the potential color bleed that makes this one interesting.  The exiling afterwards means it’s not good in traditional reanimation decks, but that’s where the color bleed also is useful.  Is there some weird blue-red thing you could make with this in it?  I’d be willing to give it a shot.

Whispering Specter

 

The ability seems most useful to lock up a winning board state, but don’t unblocked flying infecters tend to do that anyway?

RED

Bludgeon Brawl

Completely jazzed about this card (so is my Bosh-Commander-playing friend).  You could make R/W Kemba with Mycosynth Lattice to equip your lands to Kemba for 0.  I have to assume that’s one of the coolest board states ever.  In normal land, equipping is a great thing to do with your cheap utility artifacts, such as Tumble Magnet, Sphere of the Suns, or a Signet.  It is symmetrical, but who else would be configuring their deck for this?  You could also equip all your artifacts to one thing just to Fling him.  You could also equip a Darksteel Brute to something, bury it in a mound of Equipment, then surprise attackers with a blocker by animating the Brute.  Good card?  Unknown.  Hilarious card?  Definitely.

Geosurge

Now this card is top-notch.  While I don’t use a whole lot of ritual effects, I like the ones that enable big plays, and this one’s right up there.  A fourth-turn dragon without any other enablers sounds pretty good (with artifacts in the deck as well, Hellkite Igniter seems ideal here), as does ramping up to a commander.  Overall, I’m impressed with the creative variety of red in this set, and Geosurge is in the mix for being a well-designed ritual.

Rage Extractor

I had a Rumbling Aftershocks deck with all sorts of kicker fun.  It seems like the optimal way to build this is to play your Phyrexian spells at normal times until you get some of these out, at which point you pay 2 life into most of them to kill someone in short order.  Turn 5 Extractor followed by two 4-mana spells seems like an excellent idea.  I always like when cards like this exist, and while the range of combinations with it is limited, it still provides good clean Phamily fun.

Tormentor Exarch

 

Red Cleric!  I don’t know if the -0/-2 ability gives red a new spin v. just damaging a small creature, but that gives it some intrigue where none had existed.

GREEN

Beast Within

Point 1: Whenever you cast this, you have to say that you’re Pongifying the permanent.  It’s important.  “I Pongify your Jace” is correct.  “I cast Beast Within on your Jace” is incorrect.

Point 2: This card is absurdly good.  Detractors will point to the 3/3 Beast as a high price to pay, but obviously you’re destroying cards that will kill you faster than that.  Should you destroy a Primeval Titan with this?  Obviously!  That guy’s going to deal you 6 from attacking and probably 3-6 more off Valakuts.  Yes, you make a 3/3 Beast – those are easy to block.  You can also use this in response to a Slagstorm and have no downside.  Green deals easily with the 3/3 creature universe; it’s random other permanents they sometimes have problems with.  Shoot, you could use this for a surprise blocker if need be (point it at an Ichor Wellspring?).  It’s instant; it’s cheap; it’s wonderful.  But amazingly it’s not as wonderful as

Birthing Pod

Which is my favorite card in the set by incredibly far.  It’s going into my Glissa Standard deck for certain, where it hopefully will revitalize everything I try to do with that deck.  As you probably are aware, the 6-mana slot is a fantastic one for creatures, much more so than the 5-mana slot.  Taking the best 5-mana creatures, such as Acidic Slime, and turning them into Titans or Wurmcoil Engines or even something that isn’t in your deck’s colors is a solid plan.  You can also annoy the mess out of blue decks with the mostly-unstoppable plan of Gaea’s Revenge Podding into Terastodon.  As with the Wurmcoil Engine plan, the Pod allows Green Sun’s Zenith to take a detour on the way to finding a nongreen creature.  6 mana finds a Slime, 1 mana and 2 life finds an Engine…I’m okay with this.

To go Old Man Johnny on this one, this is yet another place to put the Scornful Egotist/Rush of Knowledge combination.  Turn 2 acceleration, Turn 3 Egotist, turn it face up, turn 4 Pod and sac into Reya Dawnbringer, and you can keep recurring your Egotist into more 9-mana creatures.  Sound nuts?  Yes, but I’d love to see it happen.

By the way, this is good in Commander.  I offer tech this quality every week.

Brutalizer Exarch

This is the most exciting Exarch to the other muses as well.  6 mana for a 3/3 is a lot, but the body’s basically a bonus.  A spell with those two modes is on the verge of playability anyway, particularly in a singleton format, and the chance to bounce/reanimate him makes you glad he’s a creature.

Corrosive Gale

 

This is one of the cards I meant when discussing Commander splashability.  Maybe you’re some five-color monstrosity (Etched?) and you want some utility spells you can cast reliably; this fits the bill perfectly.  The same principle’s there for three-color decks as well.  I don’t know a deck where green’s the minority color in those decks, but the card’s not bad as an XG; it’s just nice to have the safety valve.

Noxious Revival

Did someone set their Genesis in the graveyard too early?  Surprise them when they crack a fetchland by putting that Genesis back in their library before they shuffle.  There are other more Reclaim-based uses of this (I want to discard splashy instants/sorceries of all colors so I can Noxious Revival them in response to a Galvanoth trigger), but there’s enough utility there plus the tap-out surprise factor that could give this a home.

COLORLESS ARTIFACT

Alloy Myr

Scuttlemutt did more than this but was a Scarecrow; this is basic but a Myr.  I don’t see why that makes this an uncommon unless it’s simply for Limited play, but having a number of these cards with different names is useful.

Conversion Chamber

 

You can make a Golem at just one charge counter; this makes it much easier to use than Titan Forge.  It can provide a midrange threat to those Energy Chamber/Vedalken Infuser sort of decks that do fun things but never seem to do enough to win most games.  The other ability’s marginally useful, but only needing one counter from somewhere makes this possibly good.

Darksteel Relic

You already know if you want or don’t want this, and you already know who disagrees with you.  The art looks it’s a bathroom sign for tourists who don’t speak the native language, prohibiting washing your hands with black gunk discs.

Hex Parasite

 

No, this doesn’t answer Jace problems by itself.  But it provides several colors a potentially reliable answer when paired with other cards.  How many good Standard decks are simply based on a critical mass of similar cards?  Soul Sisters existed when there were possibly 8 Soul Warden effects (Soul Warden/Soul’s Attendants).  There were some top 8 decks involving Megrim simply because Liliana’s Caress was around in Standard for 3 months as well.  Hex Parasite can combine with Vampire Hexmage in a black deck to be that critical mass, and that can be the answer to Jace.

It also is the best way to keep Decree of Silence out.

Lashwrithe

The Phyrexian homage to Nightmare Lash is both a critical mass card and a way to make Death’s Shadow fun in Standard.  May I suggest Distortion Strike in the mix?

Myr Superion

There aren’t many ways to play this before turn 3, and even fewer with Myr.  Not even Myr Reservoir can work with this.  So what do you do with it?  Go all Naya-like and work with its 5 power, perhaps.  Put it directly onto the battlefield with stuff like Genesis Wave, possibly (this is one of my favorite options).  Discard it on turn 1, then Dark Ritual into a Stir the Grave for it on turn 2 (I’m not sure why either except to play Stir the Grave).  This just isn’t a Myr for any Myr deck I can imagine.

Necropouncer

This is the one living weapon card whose Germ is supremely underwhelming for its cost.  Consequently, its cheap equip cost is likely to get overlooked.  Don’t make that mistake; +3/+1 and haste for 2 mana is quite good, and this card’s Treasure Mageable.  That doesn’t make it good, but you shouldn’t discount it for the initial shock of paying 6 for a 3/1 haster.

Omen Machine

This is one of the best Commander cards in this set.  You might have glossed over it – I don’t recall having to fight Daryl and Bruce to talk about this one – but it’s incredible.  It suffers again from the comparison problem.  Here, we see Uba Mask or Wild Evocation and get worried about that last clause.  But it’s the best of both parts.  If your Commander deck is in a historically bad color set for drawing cards – monored, e.g. – you ought to consider this card as a hoser for those who intend to draw cards.

Let’s break this down: Players can’t draw cards.  Sure, we’ve seen that before.  But that second ability is both Uba Mask and Rule of Law: You get one spell from your library, and you must cast it now.  That sounds problematic if it’s a good spell, but what’s worse, your controlling opponent casting it now or saving it for a more opportune time?  Again, red decks have no problem with this; they want to deal damage in the now anyway.  But forcing other people to topdeck with you and have no fully coherent game plan keeps some of the hate off the red mage while said mage’s topdecks do the same thing they already were doing.  People say Commander is about drawing lots of cards, but you can turn that around and make people play fairly – which is of course unfairly since you’re taking advantage of it.  I don’t know if anyone else ranks this card as highly as I do, but if I were playing R/non-U I’d strongly consider this, and if I were playing just R I’d almost definitely include this.

Shrine of (Boundless Growth/Burning Rage/Limitless Power/Loyal Legions/Piercing Vision)

These all have the feel of being designed right.  It saddens me that Shrine is an enchantment type rather than an artifact type (sorry, Hondens – no pals), but these have basic effects that are fine as slow off-color options but build pretty quickly as on-color options.  Black’s seems best for stalled board states, red’s and green’s seem the most broadly useful, the blue one is in a color that can use it often, and I’m not keen on white’s (but I’m not keen on tokens, so there’s that).

Surge Node

See Darksteel Relic, except that this is less of a bathroom sign.

Torpor Orb

 

I like this as a Standard sideboard card.  Everybody and their grandmother evaluates creatures these days by whether they have an immediate impact on the board; I don’t remember them doing so 3 years ago, but they do now.  Anyway, the easiest way to do this is to have an ETB effect.  Torpor Orb says no to all of them – to Squadron Hawk, to Stoneforge Mystic, to Acidic Slime, to Titans.

It doesn’t say no to a host of other things, though.  That’s what you build with.  Graveyard-triggering creatures, Grand Architect, Phyrexian Revoker, Clone – all these can have varying immediate impacts on the board without annoying the Orb.  Plenty of ETB creatures are popular in casual for the same basic reasons they’re good in Standard, and you could build a deck there too.  I love the design space of this card, I love that we now have a hoser of something that quite frankly needed to be hosed (the power level of creatures lately has been more about these abilities than body-for-cost ratios; ask Leatherback Baloth how he feels).

THE ONE NONBASIC LAND IN THE SET – Phyrexia’s Core

Mirrodin’s was better.

The things I like most about this set are: it had several cards that make my Standard Glissa deck tons better; it has plenty of answers to odd problems; and it has creative cards in all colors.  This is helped out by Phyrexian mana being the theme as opposed to a new keyword; with no battle cry or anything with long reminder text, the amount of vanilla/French vanilla cards is down, leaving plenty of space for ingenuity and technology.  This is my favorite set since at least Alara Reborn and possibly Future Sight (my favorite alongside Planar Chaos); the Mirrodin references, color bleed, and odd abilities make it feel like Time Spiral block encapsulated, which is a welcome relief given how often WotC seems to say they regret making that block in the manner they did.  The tournament cards don’t seem broken (for once!), while the chase cards for casual make you such a huge target that it’s not automatically a good idea to run them.  This leaves the best cards to be the underrated ones by and large, and that’s how I like it.

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About Seedborn Muse

Articles: GatheringMagic.com, 2012-; Muse Vessel, 2011; StarCityGames.com Talent Search, 2010; Hardball Times, 2008-2010; Baseball Prospectus, 2007. Books: Spill of the Tongue, Slip of the Mind (Draft in 2011; wanting feedback); Hardball Times Annual 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. Songs: soundcloud.com/earth-dyed-red. Sketch comedy: In development.
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