Phyrexia: All Will Be One Set Review - Enemy Colors and Wedges

(Ovika, Enigma Goliath | Art by Antonio José Manzanedo)

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

Enemies Today, Family Tomorrow

Hello, one and all, to the review of Phyrexia: All Will Be One. We have planeswalkers, new legends, new archetypes, and a teaser to a new card type. The set is incredibly impressive in the depth of new cards that it has brought to the format that fit in multiple decks, while also providing a deep well of support for new archetypes. Let's jump right into this review!


Atraxa, Grand Unifier

This is certainly a powerful effect, one that can helm just about any type of deck. I worry that this makes her a little too much like Muldrotha, the Gravetide for me. I used to have a Muldrotha deck, and I enjoyed crossing over cards with multiple types to maximize value. There's a similar appeal here for Atraxa, who can also use the card type 'tribal', as seen on things like Bitterblossom.

I suspect this largely will evolve (or devolve) into a blink deck. Ephemerate Atraxa and draw four, five, or six cards, then repeat. That ten-card dig can help you find key pieces pretty quickly for anyone looking for, say, specific combo cards, in a way that's somewhat reminiscent of Niv-Mizzet Reborn. I personally wonder if there's something to be made out of her seven-mana cost, such as filling her deck with cards like Stinging Study or Majestic Genesis.

Of course, it's possible that the 'Battle' card type Atraxa hints at will change our expectation of how she plays, so we'll have to keep our eyes peeled. For now, though, the new Atraxa covers a lot of ground we're already quite familiar with.

Ixhel, Scion of Atraxa

Ixhel, Scion of Atraxa leads the Corrupting Influence precon. Poison counters are the foundation of the deck, with a focus on spreading it evenly amongst opponents. For each opponent with three or more poison counters, we can steal the top card of their library. I'm a staunch supporter of Gonti, Lord of Luxury, and this immediately makes me like what Ixhel brings to the table. A 2/5 flyer with vigilance is an incredibly solid defensive creature, and Toxic 2 means one attack isn't enough for us to get any rewards, so we'll need a few other poison creatures or Proliferate effects to get full value.

One of the critiques of Infect is that it's very difficult to take down an entire table with this mechanic. Giving ten counters to a single player usually requires substantial commitment, which can leave the Infect player vulnerable. The most commonly described scenario is that the Infect player can knock one player out quickly but then sputter out. Ixhel spins this on its head by asking us to spread the love instead, and rewards us with late-game sustaining power. That said, I find it amusing that our new poison commander also utilizes a secondary strategy that is somewhat disliked: theft.

Overall, I'm excited to see what Ixhel, Scion of Atraxa is able to do at the table, both at the head of its own deck and in the 99 of poison-themed decks run by the likes of Atraxa, Praetors' Voice and Vishgraz, the Doomhive.

Nahiri, the Unforgiving

It took me a while to really grasp what Nahiri, the Unforgiving is up to. Her first loyalty ability forces attacks and prevents the chosen creatures from swinging into planeswalkers. If you're in Boros Superfriends with Cadric, Soul Kindler, I suppose that could be useful. Her second ability is hardly inspiring; paying three or four mana to rummage isn't what I want to do in EDH, but I guess I'm not mad that she gives me the option, either.

Those two abilities pulled my focus away from what Nahiri really wants to do, which is all centered on her final ability. Temporarily recurring creatures or Equipment shouldn't be overlooked. Paying four mana to bring back a hasty five-drop will swing games more than you think, and Nahiri can do this every turn! Plus, if we use that effect on a creature, we can Populate with cards like Determined Iteration to double up on that temporary value. Nahiri could show up in decks like Ghired, Conclave Exile as another way to get new awesome tokens. Nahiri is a force to be reckoned with, and I won't be surprised if she's initially overlooked in the early stages of this set's release.

Neyali, Suns' Vanguard

Up next is the face of the second precon from All Will Be One: Neyali, Suns' Vanguard, from the Rebellion Rising deck. Here's another legend that could put the new Nahiri to work.

I want to stress how powerful it is to give all tokens double strike. Neyali will end games if you give her breathing room. Usually when I think of tokens, my mind goes to Soldiers, Saprolings, Zombies, and all the other classic types that tend to swarm the board. That's a shallow view, though. We also have Angels, Dragons, and Elementals, to name a few. There are powerhouse tokens in these colors, and you'll regret overlooking those when you're being hit by a 4/4 or 6/1 token with double strike. And it keeps going! Cadric, Soul Kindler, Feldon of the Third Path, and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker also create tokens to swing into the fray.

If that type of finality isn't good enough for you, Neyali also tacks on absurd card advantage and staying power. Drawing cards is good - I know, more news at 11 - and Neyali can "draw" up to three cards per combat. It might initially look like a Reckless Impulse effect, but Neyali lacks the usual timing restrictions we associate with red's form of 'impulse draw'. It doesn't matter if Neyali's in play, either. As long as we can attack with a token, we can play the card.

While there are already plenty of aggressive red and white commanders out there, Neyali strikes me as one that will stand tall amongst her peers.

Otharri, Suns' Glory

Just like Neyali, Otharri, Suns' Glory feels like it will fly under the radar for approximately one game before people realize how much it snowballs. I imagine someone will gloss over Otharri with the thought, "Okay, it makes a 2/2 every combat." The pieces won't fall into place until Otharri attacks for the second time and brings multiple tokens into play. Just like the many Phoenixes we've seen through Magic's history, Otharri will return again and again. While it may require a chunk of mana and having Rebels in play, being able to bring back this commander over and over means the resistance never dies.

I'm sure it's not shocking to mention that extra combat cards, like Karlach, Fury of Avernus, will set the board ablaze. If we want Otharri in the 99, then I think Isshin, Two Heavens as One will need to be renamed "Isshin, All Will Be One" because that synergy will simply drown the whole table out! The first attack will result in a total of three tokens. That means the second attack will create seven. I'm sure you can see where that goes. Isshin can even play other legends that grant experience counters, like Minthara, Merciless Soul and Kelsien, the Plague, to accelerate. In fact, Otharri seems like a great card for Kelsien, too!

Vishgraz, the Doomhive

Another role-player for Toxic decks, or an aggressive beater for decks that want to win through combat damage. In a four-player pod, I don't think it'll be hard for this card to become a 10/10. Take out one enemy with poison and another with commander damage? This thing wields a surprise Tainted Strike extremely well.

Also, that enters-the-battlefield effect creates three bodies. That's huge. Teleportation Circle, Cloudshift, Anointed Procession, Conjurer's Closet... you can amass an army in very short order. I recommend using cards like Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa and Behind the Scenes to make all those tokens harder to block!

If Ixhel, Scion of Atraxa appeals to you for its long-term value, consider Vishgraz as the more Saskia the Unyielding-y version of the Abzan poison strategy. Ixhel and Atraxa can take it slow and poison enemies bit by bit, but this commander's here for the good ol' fashioned poisonous beatdown.


Ezuri, Stalker of Spheres

Ezuri returns and brings with it an extremely classic Simic design space: "Whenever you do X, draw a card." Drawing cards by doing the thing your deck is already designed to do always garners mixed feelings from the player base. It's an undeniably popular design, though, so it shouldn't be a surprise to see Proliferate get the treatment as well. Ezuri's good to play early for immediate value or later when you've already got some counters in play. Proliferating twice and drawing two cards with an established board is a significant advantage, even if it's fairly mundane.

Simic counters is a well-established archetype at this point, what with three trips to Ravnica and all of Strixhaven's counter-ful nonsense. Ezuri will be right at home with legends like Tanazir Quandrix and Vorel of the Hull Clade, and he'll catch the eye of many Superfriends decks that make use of mass Proliferate cards, like Planewide Celebration.

Glissa Sunslayer

In her newest iteration, Glissa Sunslayer is an aggressive and dangerous combatant. First strike and deathtouch guarantees that an opponent will be consigning a creature to death if they want to prevent her combat damage trigger. However, I don't think her ability warrants that people must make that type of sacrifice. On hit, Glissa can choose between drawing a card, destroying an enchantment, or removing three counters from a permanent. While the first two are solid, I think the effect that actually makes her most unique is that last one. She can reset Sagas, indirectly kill planeswalkers, or play around with cards like Dark Depths.

While she reads as super impressive, it requires a substantial amount of work to use her ability. I'm always leery of commanders that require combat damage to proc their effects, as it often means they're inconsistent, unreliable, and/or slow. I think she'll make a great role-filler in decks like Kethis, the Hidden Hand, and if you happen to be packing any Lure effects, they're pretty funny on her.

Jor Kadeen, First Goldwarden

On first read, I really adore Jor Kadeen, First Goldwarden. I like low-to-the-ground commanders, and he encourages going wide with your Equipment rather than loading a bunch onto just a single creature. But then I read closer, and, well, you can still just load the Equipment onto him and he'll draw cards anyway. I like the idea of a deck full to the brim of Living Weapon and For Mirrodin! cards, telling a flavorful story just through the mechanics of those cards, but I suspect any go-wide Equipment players are already pretty happy with the likes of Akiri, Fearless Voyager.

Kaya, Intangible Slayer

As much as I want to love Kaya, Intangible Slayer, I think she just misses the mark. Seven mana in today's Commander format is relegated to game-altering spells. Tapping out necessitates big impact on the board. Her passive ability is cute, but not grand, her plus is barely a scratch, and there are plenty of ways to draw two cards for a quarter of her mana cost. The biggest boon is her -3 effect, which she can fire off twice before expiring, but again, it's not enough to impress me. Maybe she'll do well in Aminatou, the Fateshifter decks, but this really strikes me as a Standard deck control finisher rather than an EDH piece.

Ovika, Enigma Goliath

While this isn't quite The Locust God, it's doing a dang good impression. Both have high mana values, are resistant to removal, and can create armies out of thin air. Ovika can lean into planeswalkers, artifacts, enchantments, or the classic spellslinger style, all while generating tons of Goblins. From there, it's just a matter of how we want to use those tokens to win. Burn at the Stake for a million? Coat of Arms for even more? Impact Tremors? Shared Animosity? These are well-known options, and Ovika carries them all extremely well. I hope to see this show up in EDH games soon, because it's packing a very big punch.

Ria Ivor, Bane of Bladehold

A legendary Hero of Bladehold! Ria Ivor targets a creature and replaces its damage this combat with Phyrexian Mites. Creating a swarm of tokens is nothing new for white, but the damage prevention is intriguing. Ria encourages you to buff one creatures and make sure that creature connects.

I'll be honest, I don't really think this comes together. 'Buff one big creature' is hard to make happen in a deck that's simultaneously trying to do 'token swarm' as well as Toxic stuff. Even in the 99 of other decks, cards like Myrel, Shield of Argive or Adeline, Resplendent Cathar create tokens more reliably, and these colors are not short on pump abilities that far outstrip the effects of Battle Cry. Even poison decks might find themselves flustered that Ria Ivor needs to prevent poison application to try and create more poison later.

Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler

Like many fans of Magic, I was reintroduced to Tyvar during the story events of All Will Be One, but this time I got to know the character and instantly fell in love with our Jubilant Brawler. Like the majority of rare planeswalkers, this version of Tyvar comes with an enchantment-like passive ability. If you're wondering whether that ability is any good, well, Thousand-Year Elixir currently sees play in over 60,000 decks, so yes, this effect is a powerful and known quantity.

I particularly enjoy that his abilities act as a great bridge from his Tyvar Kell, which specifically dealt with Elves. Giving haste and untapping mana dorks is pretty awesome, and it can make cards like Circle of Dreams Druid really explode. Willowdusk, Essence Seer, Yurlok of Scorch Thrash, or Baba Lysaga, Night Witch are all very eager to be untapped, and the minus ability even mills and resurrects! Tyvar is possibly my favorite planeswalker of the set, and my Kagha, Shadow Archdruid deck will be featuring him shortly.

Uncommons & Commons

Bladehold War-Whip

I want to like this, but the more I've looked at Equipment decks, the more I wonder whether this card is too redundant for them. From Bruenor Battlehammer to Hammer of Nazahn, from Sigarda's Aid to Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist, and from Puresteel Paladin to Astor, Bearer of Blades, we already have a lot of ways to cheat around equip costs. That doesn't make this card useless, and it's a great budget option for sure, but unless you really like the starting 2/2 double strike token, I don't know if it will make the cut for Equipment players when they start tuning things up.

Necrogen Rotpriest

There's not much to say about Necrogen Rotpriest. It's great in poison decks that run a lot of the new Toxic cards. It's a good blocker, too! This will be a terror in Ixhel, Scion of Atraxa and Vishgraz, the Doomhive.

Serum-Core Chimera

Yeah, no. Geistflame Reservoir and Firemind's Research fill a similar niche as this Chimera, and those are only played in about 3,500 decks each. It's important that this triggers off of any noncreature spell, but even so, the payoff is low. Some oddball Kykar, Wind's Fury, Vadrok, Apex of Thunder, or Ovika, Enigma Goliath could give it a try, but I think there are better payoffs out there.

Tainted Observer


Tainted Observer is an incredible support piece for counters decks. It triggers on nontoken and token creatures alike, there's not a once-per-turn limit, and it's a sizeable flyer. Paying two mana to trigger its ability might be tricky early in the game, but green isn't known for its mana troubles. Otherwise, this card is very "business as usual." You follow your gameplan and you get rewarded. This card feels very fair, and counters decks love having a persistent way to Proliferate for value.

My dream scenario for this card combining it with Kasmina, Enigma Sage and a couple of other planeswalkers. Use each planeswalker to copy Kasmina's Fractal-creating ability, and then use all of your mana to create a wall of creature tokens while netting loyalty. Is that good? Debatable, but it sounds fun.

Vivisection Evangelist

This is a great way to power down Ixhel and co. if you're finding your deck to be too efficient. Otherwise, I think you leave this in the bulk pile. There are plenty of ways to destroy creatures and planeswalkers in black and white for less mana and with fewer restrictions, and this doesn't even grant any poison counters in combat! It's a great card if you're committed to flavor, but avoid it otherwise.

No Divisions, No Wedges Between Us

Ooph, what a time! I think my favorite cards here are Tainted Observer, Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler, and Ixhel, Scion of Atraxa. I enjoy the versatility that the first two bring, and I'm excited to see how Ixhel performs despite the reputation on its mechanics. What about you? What are your favorite new cards from this batch, or from the set as a whole?

Let me know in the comments, or you can let me know at MagicCon Philly!

Until the next one!

Mason is an EDH player from Georgia, who is a self-proclaimed Johnny and Vorthos. His MTG career started with a casual lifegain deck with only a single win-condition. When not consuming MTG, he spends his time being a full-time student, an avid sports fan, and a dabbling musician. Mason can be found on twitter @K_Mason64

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