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Archfiend of the Dross

Phyrexia: All Will Be One Limited Set Review: Black

J2SJosh reviews and rates every Black Phyrexia: All Will Be One cards for limited!

Hey everyone! I am here to usher you to your destiny of becoming part of the Phyrexian collective. Join us, as we will all be one soon enough. Oh wait, sorry… I’ve been told that I am to hold off on helping you be compleat and review all of the cards for limited purposes in its place. I guess we can do that instead, but you’re really missing out because Phyrexians know how to party.

Seriously though, I love this time of each set. Everything is new and exciting; we get to make all kinds of wild speculations about what the format is going to turn out to be. They may not let me sleep (or go outside, I miss grass) until I finish these reviews, but it’s still a great time. So, without further ado, I present to you Phyrexia: All Will Be One the limited review.

Here’s the usual grading scale:

Ambulatory Edifice

Rating: 3.0/5

You might think -1/-1 doesn’t matter much, but there are over twenty-five different cards that this can Nekrataal on the way in. That’s not including the mite tokens running around or using it post combat to finish off a blocker. It’s even a may ability so you don’t have to worry about not being able to play it when you’re low on life.

Annihilating Glare

Rating: 3.0/5

An improved Spark Harvest can do some serious damage for a mere one mana especially when you’re sacrificing their creature you stole with Awaken the Sleeper There are plenty of mites and other cheap fodder floating around as well. The option to just pay mana later is much better than something like Powerstone Fracture that always required you to sac.

Anoint with Affliction

Rating: 3.5/5

In the early game this exiles almost anything that can get in your way and as soon as you have corrupted going this becomes pretty close to the best common removal spell ever printed. Before someone gets started, I am not saying that this is anywhere close to that level. I’m saying that it would be if you started the game with corrupted active.

Two mana to exile a creature with no drawback at instant speed is certainly a payoff worth hitting corrupted early for. This is a big part of why that ability could snowball quickly.

Archfiend of the Dross

Rating: 4.0/5

This is a creature that the data and the actual power level are going to tell two different stories because you do need to make some considerations when building your deck with this. The card this reminds me of is Bloodvial Purveyor from VOW in that it’s a huge four mana evasive creature whose drawback doesn’t matter when they are dead.

I know the first thing that pops out of everyone’s mouth is “what if they just use enchantment removal on it?” and that’s where deck building comes in. Having sacrifice outlets like Annihilating Glare or Chittering Skitterling around gives you an out on that.

Proliferate is another way to keep the oil in this beatdown machine flowing. Basically, when this hits the table, you know the endgame has begun.  

Bilious Skulldweller

Rating: 2.5/5

This is a great way to try to get some early poison counters to turn on your corrupted payoffs. Even if they play a blocker, it will at least trade with anything they put in its way.

Black Sun’s Twilight

Rating: 4.0/5

You can use this as an early removal if you absolutely have to, but getting the old two for one will usually be worth the wait. It is a shame that it comes into play tapped because otherwise you’d be able to ambush a poor unsuspecting attacker as well.

Blightbelly Rat

Rating: 2.0/5

When the Phyrexians say all will be one, they really are inclusive because they even got the rats on their side. A bear with toxic and a relevant death trigger is a solid way to fill in the two-drop slot.

Bonepicker Skirge

Rating: 2.5/5

I want to like this more than I do, but it’s kind of an odd card because you only really want it if you have a toxic theme. If you are trying to win by poison counters, this becomes more of a “defensive” creature to keep you alive until you finish the job. By defensive, I mean attacking to keep your life total high or holding it back to trade off with a relevant threat.

Chittering Skitterling

Rating: 3.0/5

We’ve all heard the comparisons and I’m here to be a denier. While free to activate, this isn’t remotely in the same class as Skullport Merchant.  Not getting a free treasure on ETB, the corrupted requirement, and only being once per turn are pretty big drawbacks from being on the same level as a mythic uncommon. Still a very good card, but not as great as people have been making it out to be.

Cruel Grimnarch

Rating: 1.5/5

This is the type of card that is much better in sealed where you have more time and are more likely to still hit a card with it. It is going to be too slow against linear draft decks, but feel free to board this in if you find yourself in a matchup where you are tossing haymakers back and forth.

Cutthroat Centurion

Rating: 2.0/5

This is fine if you need a sacrifice outlet or have plenty of schwag you don’t mind tossing into the bin. The threat of activation keeps it relevant on attacks and blocks. Fine creature, but not really a core part of your plan unless you are going down the steal sac route.

Drivnod, Carnage Dominus

Rating: 3.5/5

Back in Dominaria we used to get 9/3 worth of stats for the same five mana. Guess you can’t possibly power creep something as spectacular as Yargle, Glutton of Urborg. This one can be indestructible which is a bonus, but that is still answered by Drown in Ichor or enchantment-based removal.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t let you double dip with Chittering Skitterling or other sacrifice effects since it works the same way as Teysa Karlov. It does let you get double triggers off of Malcator's Watcher, Watchful Blisterzoa, and their ilk.

Drown in Ichor

Rating: 3.5/5

I’m not going to waste anyone’s time explaining why a two mana removal spell that proliferates is good. Step 1: Take this. Step 2: Profit.


Rating: 1.0/5

I’d have to be under some heavy duress to consider playing this one. There are some pretty narrow times to board this in, but not being able to hit creatures is a huge drawback in limited. That’s not even getting into the normal problem of drawing your discard after they play their cards. That’s gonna be a no from me dawg.

Feed the Infection

Rating: 1.5/5

I’ll choose quarantine over feeding the infection, thank you very much. This card would have been excellent fifteen years ago and even now it’s not always going to be bad. It’s just hard to pay four mana and lightning bolt yourself without affecting the board. 

Fleshless Gladiator

Rating: 2.0/5

The bear came back, it wouldn’t stay away, the bear came back the very next day. It’s not amazing or anything because it does cost three mana and you do lose a life every time it comes back. It just fills a nice niche in a deck that needs some recursive ground presence.

The ability isn’t as a sorcery so you can still bring it back on your opponents end step after chump blocking to have it ready to go again the next turn.

Geth, Thane of Contracts

Rating: 2.0/5

Don’t click accept on these terms and conditions without reading the fine print.

Playing more creatures means that you get hit harder by the reverse Glorious Anthem while playing less creatures means that his ability is less relevant. Sure, you get a 3/4 for three, but at what cost to the rest of your team?

It doesn’t work with death triggers since it exiles the creatures so you really need a lot of ETBs to make it work. The other possibility for this is in a control shell with a lot of cheap interaction, card advantage, and haymakers.

Gulping Scraptrap

Rating: 2.0/5

Forget Bloom Hulk, we have a Gloom Hulk. This is a fine top end for a poison deck as it helps stabilizes the ground before eventually giving you two proliferates out of one card. You just can’t play too many five drops in your deck and there is plenty of top end to go around.

Infectious Inquiry

Rating: 1.5/5

Another classic card archetype is the black Divination with same pain included. The playability heavily hinges on the speed of the format and right now it’s not looking great for the home team here.

Karumonix, the Rat King

Rating: 2.5/5

If you ever hit on this then it goes from decent inclusion to “hot damn, that was sick as hell”. It’s not like you really mind playing some combination of Blightbelly Ratand Chittering Skitterling so stock up on the rat pack.

Necrogen Communion

Rating: 1.5/5

I hope the communion line isn’t too long because this isn’t worth the wait. I don’t entirely hate it though because you can slap it on Pestilent Syphoner and it presents a very quick clock including achieving corrupted in a single hit.


Rating: 1.5/5

Even a Phyrexianized mosquito turns out to be more annoying than anything else. Do you really want to play a four drop that gets demolished by Hexgold Slash? It can grow, but way too slow for the initial investment.  

Nimraiser Paladin

Rating: 2.0/5

Another acceptable top end card for the toxic deck. You can take your pick of one or two random ones, but the majority of your deck should be cheaper toxic creatures and interaction.

Offer Immortality

Rating: 1.5/5

Has immortality ever been offered without some kind of catch to it? The catch here is that this is a situational trick that only protects against some of the removal in the format and can’t push extra damage outside of casting it on a trampler.

It’ll feel amazing when you block their five drop with a 1/1 or when they gang block one of your attackers. It’s just too inconsistent for my tastes.

Pestilent Syphoner

Rating: 2.0/5

Sometimes this is a necessary evil as a relatively cheap, evasive way to get the poison party started if you don’t get any of the better enablers. It’s just going to feel really bad when you play this and they drop a Malcator's Watcher.

Phyrexian Arena

Rating: 2.5/5

Yeah, I gave Phyrexian Arena a grade this low and I’d do it again. On one hand, it benefits from the life not mattering as much if people are trying to kill you with poison counters. On the other, it is a three mana do nothing in a format that people are going to be trying to swarm you early.

Phyrexian Obliterator

Rating: 3.5/5

I have such good memories of playing this in constructed, but this has a lot of the same issues I already talked about with Phyrexian Vindicator.

It’s usually not going to come down before turn six or seven despite being a four drop. There’s a lot of clean answers to it that you wouldn’t have to be worried about in constructed. On top of that, this doesn’t fly so they can just take it on the chin and attack through the air.

Ravenous Necrotitan

Rating: 2.5/5

Daaaammmmmn, that’s a whole lotta stats for four mana. You don’t even have to draw up some kind of crazy God draw to have corrupted by turn four either. Even if you don’t get there, you can sac a mite or something to get this beasty out there.

While raw stats aren’t what they used to be when it comes to modern limited, outliers like this are definitely worth looking into.

Scheming Aspirant

Rating: 3.5/5

This sounds like a scheme that I want to get in on because it has a great payoff. Seriously, this is a one card game plan if you have enough proliferate going on. That’s not even getting into how sick it is if you have multiples of this.

Sheoldred’s Edict

Rating: 2.5/5

While edicts are almost always worse in limited than constructed, this one has some versatility built in to mitigate some of the problems. Being able to choose the mode gets around the usual “I guess I sacrifice my 1/1 token” issue, but it still only hits their worst creature.

This does have the nice little bonus of being able to randomly nail their planeswalker. It’s one of those when you need it, you really need it abilities.

Sheoldred’s Headcleaver

Rating: 1.5/5

While toxic two and menace are a nice combination, I’m still hesitant to play a four-mana creature that gets obliterated by Hexgold Slash. Only having two power also makes it much less threatening to double block so maybe try to shore it up with Offer Immortality if you do play this.

Stinging Hivemaster

Rating: 2.0/5

This just barely clears the threshold for being happy to play it. Getting a mite when it dies is just enough value that you don’t mind the normal 3/2 trading down for a two-drop problem.

Testament Bearer

Rating: 2.0/5

I ordered Organ Hoarder off of and this is what showed up. Man, this is almost as bad as the Elsa doll incident…Where’s Skullclamp when you need it?

This trades for literally anything, but at least it hits hard enough that they can’t ignore it forever. While sacrifice synergies come to mind, do you really want to be sacrificing a four drop instead of a random token?

Vat Emergence

Rating: 2.5/5

Over the last few years, I keep coming up on the five mana reanimation spells. The dream is to pitch Atraxa, Grand Unifier to Thrill of Possibilityand bring it back with this. Now that I think about it, that might end up being one of the bounties for this set.

Bringing the best creature back from any graveyard (thanks for the bomb oppo) is almost always worth the cost and this even proliferates on top of that.

Vat of Rebirth

Rating: 1.5/5

If you play this on turn one and have a long grindy game, this could very well end up winning you the game. If you draw it late in the game, it does stone cold nothing. I prefer more consistency out of my cards.

Vraan, Executioner Thane

Rating: 3.5/5

Draining for two is a pretty huge swing and having it tacked on to a creature dying really discourages your opponent from participating in combat. Even if they decline your invitation to trade, you have plenty of other opportunities to sacrifice your minions for profit.

Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting

Rating: 4.5/5

Breaking news! Mythic Planewalker that kills creatures and draws cards is good! I don’t know how to deal with this shocking revelation, it truly is a brave new world. At least Vraska gives them the opportunity to treasure the moment.

Vraska’s Fall

Rating: 1.5/5

All the things that I said about making Sheoldred's Edict good are the reasons this is bad. You pay three mana and that poor mite token is outta there. The poison counter isn’t enough to make up for that. Feel free to board this in if they are a large creature deck though.

Not that I am a complete degenerate when it comes to gambling or anything, but what do you put the over/under at on the number of times this ever actually picks off a Planeswalker.

Whisper of the Dross

Rating: 2.5/5

You probably think I’m insane for having this so high, but being able to kill so many creatures in this format makes this a solid playable. Since it’s -1/-1, it even plays as a combat trick if you can’t pick something off. The instant speed proliferate might even get them too depending on what counters you have laying around.

Wrap Up

Black is looking pretty sexy to me as a color with a plethora of good removal. Its creature base is solid even if it has a few turds floating around the punch bowl. It appears to synergize extremely well with white, blue, and green. Pairing it with red seems to be more of a generic steal sac, remove everything they play strategy.   

I’ll be back tomorrow with my Phyrexia: All Will Be One Limited Review of Red. Until then, stay classy Magic people!

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.

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Josh is a member of the elite limited team The Draft Lab as well as the host of The Draft Lab Podcast. He was qualifying for Pro Tours, Nationals, and Worlds literally before some of you were born. After a Magic hiatus to play poker and go to medical school, he has been dominating Arena with over an 80% win percentage in Bo3 as well as making #1 rank in Mythic.

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