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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Sep 29 2016 12:00pm
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Welcome back to the Modern Flashback Series! Even less to talk about today than last week—still no word on Conspiracy: Take the Crown or Kaladesh Inventions, but Lee Sharpe has said we will hear something this week at least. On to New Phyrexia!


New Phyrexia is the final set of the Scars of Mirrodin block, and while there are plenty of complaints that could be made about how the set was revealed (presumably Xger will talk some about that in his article), the main takeaway is that the Phyrexians won the war. As such the watermarks are weighted about 90/10 in favor of the Phyrexians, while Metalcraft is almost non-existent. While everyone liked the Phyrexian mechanics more anyway (and their power level is part of the reason why New Phyrexia has the highest average value per pack of any set in the Modern Flashback Series—even though most of that was Gitaxian Probe not being reprinted in Modern Masters 2015, and presumably it’ll go down a bit during the Flashback drafts), it will definitely change how you draft the format. However, we’ll get to the full consequences of that later—for now, let’s start with the mechanics.


Mutagenic Growth Pith Driller Trespassing Souleater

Phyrexian Mana:

Phyrexian Mana seems simple at first, but it can be split into two main use cases. On one hand you have spells that just need Phyrexian Mana to be cast, and these can generally played without any colored sources (especially the ones that only require a single Phyrexian Mana) and are very strong. On the other hand, spells that have an activated ability with Phyrexian mana (most notably the Souleater cycle) need colored mana, especially ones you plan on activating multiple times (like Blinding Souleater). Overall, Phyrexian Mana is powerful, but unlike in Constructed (where its main strength is from free/cheap spells and breaking the color pie), the main strength here is that most of the Phyrexian Mana cards are good artifacts.


Maul Splicer Sensor Splicer Wing Splicer

Golem Tribal:

One of the strangest parts of New Phyrexia is the Splicers, a group of Artificers that create Golem tokens then give abilities to them. While the Splicers are generally efficient by themselves, they work with other Golems through the rest of the block like Golem Foundry and Phyrexian Hulk (not to mention making Precursor Golem an actual precursor).


Blighted Agent Razor Swine Mycosynth Fiend


The biggest change in New Phyrexia is that Infect has finally spread to all five colors. Black hasn’t changed much (though Whispering Specter is an interesting design), and white is the same as Mirrodin Besieged, but the other three colors are doing interesting things. Blue’s Infect creatures allow you to force through poison with Blighted Agent’s unblockability and Viral Drake’s Proliferate, and that works well with the “Poisoned” theme on Chained Throatseeker and Corrupted Resolve. Red gets three cards that use red in unique ways (a pinger, a firebreather, and a first striker), but unfortunately none can really stand on their own. Green has the most interesting changes, as while a card like Glistener Elf has obvious strength, there’s also a weird sub-theme involving both types of damage on Mycosynth Fiend and Viridian Betrayers, which is fine, but still doesn’t really work that well.


Dispatch Exclusion Ritual Volt Charge

Other Mechanics:

As would be expected with the rise of the Phyrexians, Battle Cry is gone, Metalcraft only appears on three cards, and Imprint has been corrupted by the Phyrexians to appear on non-artifacts for the first time. On the Phyrexian side, Living Weapon hasn’t changed, but the main change is in Proliferate’s efficiency. Other than Viral Drake, the other three Proliferate cards are each three mana and treat the Proliferate as a bonus to an already playable effect (Volt Charge is a Lightning Bolt, Tezzeret's Gambit is a Divination, and Grim Affliction puts two -1/-1 counters on a creature).


Now it’s time for the colors—keep in mind that I’ll be putting the Phyrexian Mana spells with their respective colors, but you can generally play them anywhere.


Lost Leonin Porcelain Legionnaire Remember the Fallen Forced Worship


White has been clearly polarized into fast cards and slow cards. On the fast side, both Lost Leonin and Shriek Raptor are great Infect creatures, while Porcelain Legionnaire and Cathedral Membrane are cheap artifacts (though any deck can play them), making the aggressive white Metalcraft cards in the previous sets slightly more reasonable. On the slow side, Shattered Angel can gain a lot of life, Remember the Fallen is good card advantage (allowing you to get two creatures in most decks), and both Forced Worship and Exclusion Ritual are good pieces of removal. However, one of the most striking parts of white is how they made it feel Phyrexian—neither Inquisitor Exarch nor Loxodon Convert breaks the color pie, but just giving white a Giant Cockroach feels weird enough.


Spined Thopter Impaler Shrike Viral Drake Psychic Barrier


There’s so much evasion in blue—sure, every deck wants Spined Thopter, and Blighted Agent only goes in Infect decks, but something like Impaler Shrike looks so powerful, even if it’s much weaker than it looks (UU strikes again, and one toughness is weak in a world of Fume Spitters and Marrow Shards). Viral Drake is also very strong, as it can win the game on its own, or just be a good blocker that Proliferates your charge counters. There’s also a lot of tempo here, as Psychic Barrier and Vapor Snag add the “lose one life” rider to a couple of reasonable cards.


Caress of Phyrexia Mortis Dogs Blind Zealot Enslave


Infect is in a strange place here, as while your common is the nearly-unplayable Toxic Nim (I don’t want my six-drop to be killed by a Virulent Wound), Reaper of Sheoldred is the defensive creature you’ve been missing, while Caress of Phyrexia is a great Harrowing Journey/Lava Axe split card. Even more strangely, non-Infect black decks get a lot of great tools, as Mortis Dogs is very efficient (though Infect makes the “lose life” clause slightly worse than it looks), Blind Zealot is a better Severed Legion (even if Intimidate isn’t great in an artifact block), and Entomber Exarch is Gravedigger with upside. You also still have a decent amount of removal—everyone will steal your Dismembers, but Enslave is certainly good enough, even if the drain isn’t relevant in the Infect decks.


Volt Charge Scrapyard Salvo Tormentor Exarch Act of Aggression


Red is in a strange place here, as most of the strength was put into the Infect cards (along with the Proliferate on Volt Charge), but one pack isn’t enough to build a red Infect deck—maybe it can support one of the major Infect colors? There are still some interesting cards, as Scrapyard Salvo might be worth trying to build around (note that it’s common, unlike the similarly build-around Rage Extractor), and a Slash Panther or Artillerize isn’t awful. The most-powerful cards are at uncommon, as Tormentor Exarch is a good removal spell that can also pump a creature for the win, Act of Aggression is an instant-speed Act of Treason, and Whipflare can easily be a one-sided Pyroclasm (though be ready to side it out against other Metalcraft decks).


Thundering Tanadon Glissa's Scorn Leeching Bite Triumph of the Hordes


What happened to green? After the great green cards in the previous two sets, it feels like something is missing, especially in the non-Infect creature space, as while Death-Hood Cobra is okay for a two-drop, even Thundering Tanadon isn’t great (though double-green makes it more-likely to stay in green). Instead, green’s strength is in its removal—sure, Glissa's Scorn is just Shatter with upside, but both Beast Within and Leeching Bite shatter the color pie itself to give green removal that isn’t based on creatures. There are also two major pump spells that each change the format in specific ways: Mutagenic Growth makes all Infect creatures a threat, while Triumph of the Hordes is a cheaper Overrun that actually works better in non-Infect decks.


Blinding Souleater Gremlin Mine Shrine of Loyal Legions Alloy Myr


Common Uncommon

Starting at common, the Souleater cycle varies vastly in quality: on one hand Blinding Souleater is a premium common for white and Trespassing Souleater is good, but Insatiable Souleater is awful. Of the non-color-aligned commons, Mycosynth Wellspring is fine, but the real star is Gremlin Mine, which is surprisingly efficient considering it’s a one-mana artifact itself. Moving up to uncommon, there are a lot of weird, mostly unplayable artifacts like Mindcrank and Isolation Cell, but the real stars are the Shrines. However, like the Souleaters, there’s a wide variance: Shrine of Loyal Legions and Shrine of Burning Rage are great (and possibly playable outside their colors, especially if you care about artifact density), and Shrine of Piercing Visions always cycles at least, but the others are completely unplayable. There are also a surprisingly high number of good artifact creatures: Kiln Walker is a 3/3 for 3 attacker, Alloy Myr is a good fixer (even if Scuttlemutt makes it look awful), and the Living Weapons are good as always (though I wouldn’t just throw Necropouncer in any deck, as its main value is its low Equip cost). Finally, Phyrexia's Core is an interesting test case for the cost of a colorless land, as the minor lifegain is nice, but it’s only worth playing if you have specific synergies (mainly Wellsprings).


Now to the archetypes:

Infect: (GB, GW, UB, others)

Yes, all the Infect creatures in New Phyrexia allow a lot of different Infect sub-archetypes to exist, but they generally fit into two main archetypes. On one hand, there are decks that are the normal Infect “creatures plus pump spells” archetype like in the previous two sets, and while GB still has the highest density of Infect creatures in all the packs overall, white has enough good creatures (and they’re generally better than the equivalent black creatures) to make that build competitive. On the other, there is a controlling build that focuses on evasive creatures and Proliferate, and the UB build works best for that.


Metalcraft: (RW, RU, others)

Yes, the payoffs for Metalcraft are mostly left to Scars of Mirrodin (as even Mirrodin Besieged’s Metalcraft cards were awful), but the archetype’s still viable. In particular, a lot of the colored cards are best in Metalcraft, whether it’s the Phyrexian Mana creatures or the Splicers. If more people are avoiding the themes specifically, you can pick up the Metalcraft cards later in the other packs while putting the good artifacts higher in your pick order.


Artifact Removal/Sacrifice (Dinosaurs): (GR)

The resurgence of people drafting Scars of Mirrodin block has put a more-generic title to the GR deck I’ve referenced: Dinosaurs. This deck just has big creatures, along with all the good removal, without necessarily focusing on the sacrifice synergies. That’s not to say you can’t still build around the artifact synergies (Gremlin Mine in particular fits perfectly), but you don’t necessarily need to.


That’s all for the Scars of Mirrodin block, as well as for the Modern Flashback Series for a couple weeks. In three weeks the Year of Modern Flashbacks shuffles the chronological order a bit to feature Innistrad Block over Halloween, but I’m certainly not going to be disappearing anytime soon. Next week I’ll try my hand at an initial Kaladesh guide (artifact block into artifact block—I wonder if Wizards planned that at all?), and then I have two Designing Reprint Sets articles coming: my initial Modern Masters 2017 design, as well as something around the Conspiracy 2 release (assuming it’s something I can work with).



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Well, I'm glad I put the by Cheater Hater at Thu, 09/29/2016 - 14:08
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Well, I'm glad I put the "something I can work with" stipulation with regard to Conspiracy 2, as I don't think Treasure Chests are--unless by "work with" you mean "rant about". Seriously, there are around 3,000 Modern rares and 500 Modern Mythics, which puts the list around 6500 cards (each rare appears twice for each mythic) before you consider the curated list (635 cards, though some have multiple versions apparently, and relative rarity is also "curated by Magic R&D" (aka arbitrary, and we will never know the numbers unless sufficient outrage is generated--and considering "this isn't supposed to be a prize cut", we may be well on that path)) or "some amount of play points" (which again, we know nothing about). Right now the plan is to let all of this settle down, publish the Kaladesh article next week (as the earlier/cheap prerelease was the only universally good thing about the announcements--even the cheaper ticket/Play Point costs lead to cards having a lower value thanks to the booster price not being reduced), and see what happens, whether it's odds/prize changes, public reveal of some odds, or at least a partial rollback (to the old payouts at least, if not the whole concept). Regardless, something needs to change, because this method of releasing supplemental sets is not sustainable--worst case they're just added to the curated list, and we might see a couple playsets of Sanctum Prelate or Recruiter of the Guard released total on MTGO. (Also, hidden in the announcement is that "selected cards from C16 will be released"--that doesn't seem great either)

Current info, namely Lee by AJ_Impy at Thu, 09/29/2016 - 18:33
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Current info, namely Lee Sharpe's video, gives us one pile of play points and two curated cards out of ten packs. A very small sample size, but all we have at present. Can we extrapolate how many packs will be awarded across the client?

Equivalent of packs or the by xger at Thu, 09/29/2016 - 19:30
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Equivalent of packs or the chests? I'm going to write something up on the numbers of all the announcements, so I'm curious what you would want.

Chests, I find myself having by AJ_Impy at Thu, 09/29/2016 - 21:09
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Chests, I find myself having to correct myself on that a fair bit because I think of them as untradeable three-card packs with two commons and maybe a rare. I was thinking about taking stock of the general numbers of given events firing and extrapolating how many chests would be awarded over time, then taking that two in ten curated, one in ten points benchmark from the video and using it to try and work out how many of each of the 635 curated cards we might see.

That's essentially what I've by xger at Thu, 09/29/2016 - 21:33
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That's essentially what I've started working up. It will be rough though, because we don't even know what exactly curated means--I doubt you will be as likely to get a Black Lotus as you would a Path to Exile. Hopefully I can get it done in time to potentially go up on Monday.

I really don't want to by AJ_Impy at Thu, 09/29/2016 - 21:41
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I really don't want to crossreference the prices on all 635 curated cards, but I hope someone else does.

Yup, that's on my docket as by xger at Fri, 09/30/2016 - 00:35
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Yup, that's on my docket as well...

Then I wish you the best of by AJ_Impy at Fri, 09/30/2016 - 02:54
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Then I wish you the best of luck, and may repetitive strain injuries forever be far from your door. :)

I know I saw it on reddit by Cheater Hater at Sat, 10/01/2016 - 03:38
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I know I saw it on reddit somewhere, if you don't want to do the math yourself. I don't remember exactly, but while the EV wasn't awful, it's top-heavy with four cards above 50 tickets and assumes an equal distribution--then again, we don't know the worth of Inventions (or non-foil Expeditions for that matter).

Essentially the chests ARE 3 by Paul Leicht at Thu, 09/29/2016 - 21:10
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Essentially the chests ARE 3 card packs.