Theorycrafting Toxic in Phyrexia: All Will Be One Draft
Before diving into a new format I like to look at the main set mechanics. Not only to understand how they work, my main goal is to anticipate how would this mechanic impact the strategies in game play and, as a result of that, how will I want my decks to look like.
Phyrexia: All Will Be One (ONE) is no exception. And there is plenty to think about. Out of the five main mechanics, four are pretty much interlocked with each other. Toxic puts poison counters on the opponent, while Corrupted only gets active when opponent has 3 or more poison, making those two linked, with Corrupted being a payoff for Toxic. Proliferate will be synergistic with Toxic, putting extra poison counters on your opponent when creatures can’t go through. But Proliferate is also a key enabler of oil synergies, another big theme of the set.
Such a large number of connections makes ONE potentially an interesting set to draft, if building synergistic decks is better than raw power. However, it is a nightmare to start playing because of those complications. This is why I decided to look a bit deeper on the poison synergies before the set gets released, so you can get an aid in your own pondering.
Table of Contents
Phyrexia: All Will Be One (ONE) Limited Guides
Types of Toxic Creatures
The first thing that I wanted to know about Toxic is the sizing of the creatures because it is crucial to understand what does the design team want us to do with the poison counters. You start the game at 20 life, but only 10 poison counters will kill you. Since creatures with Toxic deal both normal and poison damage, they attack both of those life totals simultaneously. But which one is impacted more?
To answer that question I looked at what % of life/poison total does each creature remove when it connects. Creatures like the Crawling Chorus, a 1/1 with Toxic 1, deal 5% of starting life total in damage, but 10% of maximum poison, meaning that relatively, they deal more poison than regular damage. Duelist of Deep Faith, a 2/2 with Toxic 1 deals 10% of starting life total and 10% of poison – making it even on both totals. And cards like Indoctrination Attendant, 3/4 with Toxic 1, deal 15% of life damage and 10% of Poison – making it deal more regular damage than poison.
To get an idea of what does the design team want us to do with Toxic, I looked at all the creatures with Toxic through that lens. And turns out a majority of Toxic creatures deal more damage in poison than in damage. And only very few deal more in damage than in poison, and those come with serious caveats. There is a large portion of creatures, 37%, that deal equal portions of damage and poison.
Poison Kill Aggro
What does it mean? To me this suggests that designers want us to win with poison at least in case of some decks. To be specific, they want some decks to have poison kill as plan A. And decks that win with poison should really focus on creatures that deal more in poison than in damage. So in draft, if you identify you are into poison kills, you should really focus on those creatures in your drafting and evasion or any other mechanics that allow those creatures to connect and proliferate.
Every card is balanced for its cost. Therefore if you play a 2/2 with toxic 1 – some of the cards cost will be located in its power and toughness, some in its ability. In creatures that deal more damage in poison, you will pay proportionally more towards the ability – therefore you invest more mana in the thing you are planning to do. In creatures that have more damage than poison, you pay proportionally more into the creature stats, which are secondary to your plan.
This comes with other caveats. Since you care about killing with damage, your combat tricks should not be used to push damage but to win combats. More poison than damage creatures will be slightly smaller so you will have to augment them to go through blocks. But unlike in other sets, where you used tricks to boost unblocked creatures and push more damage, here you might want to save a creature from removal or pump up a blocked creature to make it win combat therefore relatively increasing your board presence, because yours stays the same, opponents becomes smaller. This makes a card like Offer Immortality potentially very valuable. Your creature will be able to win combat and survive – so you gain that board presence advantage and in some decks you can have the mini-combo of playing it on the Sheoldred's Headcleaver, which can be a game-winning combination.
Evasion for Toxic creatures is also something different. Normally evasion is reserved for effects that make your creature impossible to block for opponent so it can cleanly connect. But with toxic you do not care about damage, dealing one is the same as dealing 5, because both trigger Toxic. Because this is true, any trample trick in a poison-kill focused deck is evasion. I would increase evaluation of the green Maze Skullbomb in such decks, for example.
To sum up, if my plan is to kill with poison I want to:
- Prioritise creatures that deal more poison than damage (relatively)
- Prioritise very early and early toxic drops
- Prioritise evasion, which includes trample
- Use combat tricks to win combat and save creatures rather than push damage
- Think of the 1 drop, 2 drop, 3 drop, t4 removal play style
But not every deck will want to win with poison. Some will be content to deal some poison, preferably to activate Corrupted, the mechanic that gives cards additional perks if opponent’s poison count is 3 or more, and then finish the job with regular damage.
In case of such game style, your plan will depend on the corrupted payoffs style. If you play cards such as Zealot's Conviction or Incisor Glider, you want to activate your Corrupted as early as possible. Because of how your cards work, you also want to focus on killing with damage from then on. This makes it important for you that your poison enablers will be either 1 drops, or things that are even on damage and poison. Starting the game with a toxic one drop and a creature like Duelist of Deep Faith is a good way of getting Corrupted online quickly. And if you manage doing that, you gain a lot of value from Corrupted cards and you can start focusing on killing with damage leaning on Corrupted.
But to get there you need to make sure you deal the initial 3 poison, so you need a reasonable density of Toxic creatures. But unlike in the decks that plan to kill with poison, here you want to use mainly the creatures that deal equal amounts of poison and regular damage. Mentioned Duelist and the Flensing Raptor look like very good candidates, which is great as white looks to be the color where most of the early Corrupted payoffs are located. No card exemplifies that design strategy better than the BW signpost uncommon. Vivisection Evangelist is a 5-drop, so preferably you want it to be online on turn 5 to kill a creature and allow good attacks. And then it leaves a solid 4/4 body that doesn’t have Toxic. If you planned to kill with poison, that is not very useful but if you care only about the first 3 poison counters and then plan to finish game with regular damage, this is perfectly what you want.
This has other knock-on effects. Here you want your combat tricks to be able to go face, rather than merely protecting your creatures. So Offer Immortality is less tempting, but things like Compleat Devotion and Zealot's Conviction become premier. This is also most likely the best home for Porcelain Zealot.
To sum up, my plan for aggro corrupt would be:
- Have very early Toxic creatures
- Have ways to give them evasion
- Prioritise creatures dealing equal poison and regular damage
- Make sure to have a top end that deals regular damage
- Prioritise aggressive Corrupted payoffs
- Make sure your tricks can advance pushing damage
But not every Corrupted card needs to be online on turn 5. Some of them are perfectly fine without Corrupted active in the early to mid-game. Take Anoint with Affliction and Bring the Ending. Both cards are perfectly fine in the early game – you will not see creatures with mana value higher than 3 until turn 4, maybe even later, and your opponent is going to tap out for most of the early turns. But in the late game you want those cards to have Corrupted activated to stay relevant.
This points towards slower deck, maybe more controlling, that plans on having a late game. And in that late game it does want to have opponent and more than 3 poison. Since majority of the cards that look like they want to be active in late game are in Black and Blue and Blue has almost no Toxic, you might want to rely on dealing your poison with spells rather than with creatures and you may not need toxic at all, instead of that starting with Prologue to Phyresis or Infectious Inquiry and later getting to 3 poison with some incidental proliferate to maximise the power of your cards.
This means that you really want to kill with regular damage, and who knows, maybe even mill if you get a couple of Font of Progress (don’t try it at home, card looks dubious, but I will test it for science, so you don’t have to). In those scenarios you can benefit from Toxic but tune your deck as one that deals with opponent’s poison strategy rather than focusing on yours. Those type of slower decks do rely on having bombs that provide win inevitability if you survive the first turns offensive. Because of that cards that dig for bombs and help getting corrupted, like Experimental Augury may be essential.
Some decks might have a dual strategy and pivot between damage and poison kills. I envisage those as the ones that are capable of going wide and having a large number of mite-making spells. Going wide with mites can lead to poison kills, but also opens the possibility of killing with mass pump spells, like Plated Onslaught or maybe even Noxious Assault, which in GW deck heavy on the mite synergies could be damned if I do, damned if I don’t situation where opponent must block 3 creatures to survive while being on 7 poison.
The key cards here will be all white as that is where Mites are most common. Things like Charge of the Mites or Indoctrination Attendant are key for that type of deck, generating multiple bodies to let you be poison-wide. The flexibility might prove to be useful, as you may adjust your play plan according to the game state or opponent’s deck, but it may as well fall into a trap of card A + card B type of deck, when you need to draw two distinct component to make it work and if you don’t, you are in trouble.
Predicting the format with low to non experience is not an easy task. But in my opinion thinking about the plans for the games will set you on the right tracks as you play more and 17Lands.com data is released, so you can see which plans are actually successful. We will see if format allows for full poison aggro, or if go wide hybrid deck is possible. But my hope is that after reading this, you will see Toxic and Corrupted in a slightly different light.
If you liked this article, my latest data seminar talks about this and more in detail about proliferate, oil and equipment strategies. But wait, there is more. I also give you the insight into my thought process for building archetype skeleton, a simple theory-crafted mock limited deck. All that is available on YouTube like many other seminars I ran.
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Really helpful article. Thanks, Sierkovitz.