Phyrexia: All Will Be One Set Review - Black

Phyrexia All Will Be One Black Set Review Cover
(Vraska, Betrayal's Sting | Art by Chase Stone | Graphic design by Luminarch

White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts/Lands | Gold I | Gold II | Reprints | cEDH

We All Fell in the Pit(s)

Welcome to The Dross Pits, fleshlings! Phyrexia: All Will Be One is almost upon us, and there are a lot of reasons to surrender to our new Phyrexian overlords. Presented here are the black cards of note from the new set, and there are quite a few, so let's get to it right away!

Before we do, make sure you familiarize yourself with the set's mechanics!


Drivnod, Carnage Dominus

That first line of text probably reminded you of Teysa Karlov, the second-most popular Orzhov commander on EDHREC at time of writing. I probably don't have to convince you that this ability is very good and very scary. When you're playing black, chances are you'll want to see a lot of things die and benefit from it, from Abyssal Gatekeeper to Zulaport Cutthroat. Basically, Drivnod goes into every aristocrat deck playing black, which means it's going to be a very popular card.

All the Domini can give themselves an indestructible counter, at a cost. I'd say Drivnod is pretty easy to activate, since you will no doubt want a lot of creatures in your graveyard anyway. Bonus points to Syr Konrad, the Grim, who will see those creatures get exiled from your graveyard and ping your opponents.

You can technically play Drivnod as your commander if you want to go mono-black aristocrats. Sure, it's one more mana than Teysa and gives you access to one less color, but I'll never fault you for wanting to play a mono-colored deck. Drivnod's indestructible ability and 8 power (our king was not dethroned) lets you have a slight Voltron subtheme to your deck as well, which is sweet.

If your deck wants creatures to die, you will make room for Drivnod, Carnage Dominus in it. That's pretty much all there is to say about it.

Vraska, Betrayal's Sting

First things first: I love Vraska's Borg Queen makeover. Chase Stone gave us a really sweet depiction of our favorite Gorgon, and even calls back to her Vraska the Unseen art. (Some folks have also pointed out that her tail ends with the Return to Ravnica set symbol, which is the first set that she appeared in. Neat!)

Vraska, Betrayal's Sting's set of abilities looks like standard planeswalker fare (card draw, removal, threatening ultimate). At least, that seems to be the case until we realize that she's the first planeswalker to be able to Proliferate. Some previous 'walkers could add loyalty counters to other planeswalkers, like Ajani, the Greathearted, but I'd argue Proliferate is a lot better than that. To me, that means Vraska is good enough to make the cut in Atraxa, especially superfriends and Infect lists. It's also safe to say that a lot of commanders that care about any kind of counters might want to play her, like Felisa, Fang of Silverquill or Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons. Decks that aren't running blue can be short on repeatable ways to Proliferate, and Vraska can help with that.

Her removal isn't as powerful as some of her other incarnations, since it can only hit creatures (Vraska the Unseen destroys a nonland permanent) and it actually ramps our opponent, but it's very flavorful! You see, Gorgons turn things into stone and stones are, y'know, Treasures! Or something like that. Oh, and you can target your own creature if you ever need to make a quick buck.

Using a planeswalker ultimate is always a nice bonus and never something you should count on. In Vraska's case, though, she will be seen mostly in decks that also want counter-doublers like Doubling Season, so her ultimate can happen once in a while. If you can Proliferate in some way on the turn you activate it, that's one opponent down!

I love Vraska, Betrayal's Sting. Her abilities feel very Vraskian, if I can make up such a word, and to top it all off, she is absolutely rocking that compleated look.


Archfiend of the Dross

Hey, a big scary Demon with downside! Except it isn't that big or scary, and the downside really sucks.

I don't know why I would risk losing the game for a four-mana 6/6 flyer, even if I can reliably Proliferate to keep it alive. It has another ability akin to Massacre Wurm, and that effect is good, but Archfiend doesn't kill anything on its own. You'd have to be in a dedicated deck that kills a lot of creatures to be worth it, and if you have access to white, I would just play the much safer Assault Intercessor instead.

The only redeeming quality of this monstrosity is for it to somehow find itself on the other side of the battlefield. Give it away with Fateful Handoff and draw four cards! Harmless Offering, Bazaar Trader, or Donate can also do the trick. Decks like Blim, Comedic Genius and Jon Irenicus, Shattered One might be interested in Archfiend of the Dross. Aside from specific "bad gifts" decks, I really don't think we'll see it a whole lot.

Black Sun's Twilight

I'm getting some Profane Command vibes here, and that's not necessarily good. I love Profane Command, but I still ended up cutting it from my Sefris deck. The instant speed on Black Sun's Twilight is really nice, don't get me wrong, but I don't think it makes it all that better. If you want both modes, you have to pay at least six mana, which is a lot. There are just going to be times where this doesn't kill what it needs to kill and doesn't reanimate what it needs to reanimate. You can't even ambush any attacks, because the reanimated creature enters tapped.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't think Black Sun's Twilight is efficient enough in a color that can already kill and reanimate things very efficiently.

Geth's Summons

Four mana is not really competitive for a reanimation spell, but it's not terrible either. If your deck is designed to poison your enemies, though, Geth's Summons becomes a lot more fun.

Reanimating a creature from each of your opponents has been seen before at four mana in Dredge the Mire, but your opponents can choose what creatures you get, and you can't reanimate a creature from your own graveyard. Sepulchral Primordial lets you choose your targets, but still only from your opponents' graveyards. When Geth's Summons is active, it's closer to Ghouls' Night Out – which I actually really like – without the downside of having the creatures gain Decayed. The thing with this type of spell is that sometimes there just won't be anything of value to reanimate... but you might also end up with a Void Winnower, an Archon of Cruelty, and a Dockside Extortionist!

Geth's Summons fits in decks that want to distribute poison counters, and that's pretty much it. It's included in the new Ixhel, Scion of Atraxa precon, which can also run Vishgraz, the Doomhive as its commander. Infect decks like Atraxa, Praetors' Voice or Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon can be interested as well. Cool card, but very niche.

Geth, Thane of Contracts

Let's try to work with Geth, Thane of Contracts's first ability. Kaervek, the Spiteful might give us some pointers.

Geth is a Zombie, so while he's out, Gravecrawler can create a loop with Pitiless Plunderer and Bastion of Remembrance and drain your opponents to death. Also, Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder's Thrulls will die as they are being created, so you will never reach the threshold to sacrifice him. That's a lot of dying creatures, which we love in aristocrats. There's also some value in playing creatures with one toughness that trigger when they leave the battlefield, like Stitcher's Supplier or Vindictive Lich. I also feel like there are some shenanigans to be had with Golgari Thug.

Geth's reanimation ability can only be activated at sorcery speed and requires you to tap him, which ultimately limits its combo potential, and the "If this creature would leave the battlefield, exile it instead of putting it anywhere else" clause doesn't help. Geth can just be a good old reanimator deck: mill or Entomb some big creature, reanimate it, profit. No loops, just good value, and that's perfectly okay.

Grismold, the Dreadsower might have a use for Geth, although the fact that only your creatures get -1/-1 makes him less enticing than Kaervek, the Spiteful, which affects all creatures.

If you can work around Geth, Thane of Contracts's first ability, he might offer an interesting flavour of aristocrats. If you want to go reanimator, he comes down earlier than Chainer, Dementia Master but he has to be tapped for his second ability, which is a drawback.

Karumonix, the Rat King

I'm not sure Karumonix is better than Ashcoat of the Shadow Swarm or Marrow-Gnawer as a mono-black Rat commander. It has decent stats, a good card advantage ability, and it offers an alternate way of killing someone with poison counters. Still, to me, he looks better in the 99 than at the head of a deck.

I will say, rodent enthusiasts never had so many options:

All these Rat decks will benefit from Karumonix, the Rat King, but I don't expect to see this card anywhere else.

I want to thank my brother Mathieu Gatien for his thoughts on Rat tribal. His Lurrus Rat Colony deck is always a blast to see, and a nightmare to play against.

Kinzu of the Bleak Coven

If you ever wanted to play Nightmare Shepherd as your commander, then Kinzu is the card for you!

An aristocrats strategy seems a decent avenue for Kinzu. She can buy back creatures with powerful abilities, like Kokusho, the Evening Star or Massacre Wurm. In that way, she reminds me of Ratadrabik of Urborg. She's not as good as Ratadrabik, of course, since she's mono-black and she exiles the creatures after they die. The tokens getting Toxic 1 is a nice upside: a lot of our synergy creatures can have flying, like Falkenrath Noble, so hitting someone for a poison counter shouldn't be too hard.

You can probably also focus on a poison strategy. Load up on poisonous creatures and Proliferate effects, and you've got a stew going. If any of your valuable creatures die, they come back with another instance of Toxic 1, making them even more deadly. Where Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon encourages a Voltron strategy, Kinzu wants you to go a little wider and little more value-oriented. As with any strategy involving poison counters, however, be prepared to face a lot of hate from your opponents.

Some decks might be interested in Kinzu for the 99. She's a Vampire, and many Vampire decks have an aristocrats subtheme. I don't know if she's good enough for Edgar Markov, since that list is pretty optimized by now, but I think she can find a home in mono-black Vampire lists, like Vito, Drana, or Timothar, at least. I wonder if she could be interesting in Syr Konrad, the Grim, since he deals damage when a creature dies and when it is exiled by Kinzu to become a token, because the card left the graveyard.

Kinzu of the Bleak Coven is decent, but her five-mana cost is holding her back from being super efficient. She seems to care about a lot of things (tokens, poison counters, aristocrats), so focusing on just one strategy will be ideal if you want to build her well.

Monumental Corruption

To be happy with Monumental Corruption, I want to be able to draw five or more cards, which means that I would probably only play it in a dedicated artifact deck. It is not an artifact itself, so there's a bit of push and pull there, but I still think it's worth the inclusion. I also like that it can take out an opponent if you have amassed an ungodly amount of Clues, for example, or if you control a Biotransference.

In my decks, I like to have a wide range of card advantage options. A sort of 'card draw buffet', if you will. I want draw that's cheap and efficient, repeatable, and/or synergistic, and a couple of just 'raw draw' effects, like Pull from Tomorrow. This new Monumental Corruption card fits that last category pretty well. It feels like Stinging Study: powerful, but only in some specific decks.

Any deck that wants to have a lot of artifacts on the field should give Monumental Corruption a try. Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth and Tivit, Seller of Secrets like to InvestigateKorvold, Fae-Cursed King and Jan Jansen, Chaos Crafter care about Treasures, and Imotekh the Stormlord just wants everything to be an artifact.

Phyresis Outbreak

Infect decks sure are getting a lot of new toys! What? I'm not worried. Not in the slightest. Nope. Not at all.

There is suprisingly little to say about Phyresis Outbreak. If your deck interacts with poison counters and you are playing black, you will probably play this card. A three-mana one-sided board wipe is insane. To be blunt: in some situations, it might be better than Toxic Deluge, black's arguably best board wipe. At worst, it cleans all your opponents' 1/1 tokens off the board. It also gives a poison counter to each opponent, which can potentially kill someone outright in the late game. It also plays around indestructible, as many black wraths do.

Play Infect? Card good. Next.

Vraan, Executioner Thane

We must not think of Vraan as a Blood Artist. The words "one or more" and "triggers only once each turn" make sure of that. We have to consider him as a synergy piece rather than a combo piece. Blood Artist will help you win the game if you achieve a critical mass of death triggers, but Vraan rewards you for the sacrifices you make every turn.

Braids, Arisen Nightmare wants to sacrifice something at every end step, and Vraan adds another two damage on top of Braids' ability, which doesn't seem bad. He's a Vampire, so aristocrats Vampire decks, like Elenda, the Dusk Rose, might have a use for him. He's also good in decks that can sacrifice Snakes or Pests every turn.

I don't see a very good reason to choose Vraan as your commander when Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim exists, but that's just me! I can't tell you what to do.

Uncommons & Commons

  • If you can poison your enemies reliably, Anoint with Affliction is your best removal spell. Or maybe second-best, behind Deadly Rollick, but that's still saying a lot.
  • Chittering Skitterling might be interesting for black Infect decks that also go wide, like the new Vishgraz, the Doomhive.
  • Artifact decks, which are known to recur artifacts from the graveyard multiple times and make arbitrarily large amounts of mana, might have a use for Dross Skullbomb. I could see it in Ashnod the Uncaring to draw cards and buy back some key creatures from the graveyard.
  • I don't know why you would go to such lengths to assemble a creature that can be infinitely sacrificed when more efficient options exist, but just know that Boonweaver Giant and Necrogen Communion can combo off with a sacrifice outlet. Do what you will with that information, dear reader.
Archfiend of the Dross | Art by Lie Setiawan

Did the Dross Gross You Out, or Engross You?

Except for maybe Drivnod, Carnage Dominus, I didn't see anything that screamed "staple" amidst today's selection. We mostly got cards that are going to be useful in specific decks rather than format-warping powerhouses, and that's great! I'm excited to see Vraska, Betrayal's Sting as a repeatable way to Proliferate in decks that care about counters, especially the ones who don't have access to blue for Flux Channeler or Inexorable Tide, for example. Monumental Corruption will see little play outside of artifact decks, but will be pulling its weight there. Also, Vat of Rebirth looks like a pretty sweet uncommon to me.

What do you think? Am I sleeping on Black Sun's Twilight? Am I giving Vraska too much credit because I think she's cool? Is there some broken interaction I didn't see? Let me know in the comments! I'm Philomène, thanks for reading, enjoy the new set, and stop resisting, fleshling. Surrender to the glory of Phyrexia.

Philomène is a film composer from Montréal, Canada. Her love of card games started in the late 90's with Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Ball Z and of course, Magic: The Gathering. Preferring a more casual kind of game in commander (art and lore being very high on her list of reasons to play cards), she satiates her competitive urges through Limited formats.

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