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The Phyrexians have finally done it – they’ve separated themselves so severely from the rest of the Magic-freaking-multiverse that they have developed their own mana. The Phyrexian mana symbol will only be appearing in card costs, according to Daily MTG, and even though they are color-aligned, you can pay 2 life in place of that mana. So, for example, I could run 4 Surgical Extraction as pictured in that article in my favorite, life-heavy white deck, with 100% playability. What color does a 600-lb. Phyrexian gorilla run in? Any color it wants..
This is unprecedented among the colors – it puts my favorite color into a position it hasn’t seen since Planar Chaos. A truism of Magic is that life gain, like land destruction, cannot actually win games on its own against a decent deck. If we can use it instead of mana, however? Any card of any color that uses Phyrexian mana is on the table again, for much cheaper than it used to be — especially if your opponent is trying to infect instead of damaging you.
Does this mean that direct damage will creep into infect decks in the Standard metagame? It might. But there’s no point in speculating. The Standard metagame will be what it will be and will change every few months, anyway, and in the meantime, those of us at home will have a diverse and flexible new mechanic with which to experiment. Suffice it to say, though, life as a magic meter instead of just a health meter has worked to great effect for classic cards like Snuff Out, and a large-scale version of the concept should be a game-changer.
Being a historically white-mana player, I have often wished for a way for white to make use of extra life besides not-dying (though, to be fair, that’s a classic). I looked at the rise of infect as quite a detriment to my playing style. However, Wizards’ new mechanic is making lifegain look more functional than it has since the days when Healing Salve was a real life-saver.
Besides that, though, the bizarre cheapness of these spells may become legendary for tempo purposes. Think of the madness of a Turn 1 Duress / Surgical Extraction. As if we didn’t have enough new ways to get rid of planeswalkers in this set, you can now strike down every copy of Jace, the Mind Sculptor at once, on your first turn, for one mana and two life. In Standard. I will be securing four copies of this card for this purpose alone, though it sort of embodies everything I find un-fun about the game. But when at Pro Tour — Rome, sometimes you have to do as the Pro Tour — Romans do.
It’s likely, of course, that unless Wizards involves Phyrexia again in the Innistrad block, we won’ t see Phyrexian mana again for a long time. It’s unclear yet how useful the Phyrexian-mana cards in this set are overall, or whether any of them will be good enough to splash into life-gaining or lifelinking decks, but the potential with this new mechanic for cross-coloration and extraordinary speed is glorious. It will change the way many people play this game. This is the sort of thing that excited me in Rise of the Eldrazi – I had hoped it would create a slower game. However, that one set couldn’t force players to enjoy hard-casting cards for 11 mana. Here, we’ll have the opposite effect — though there are plenty of fatties in this set (like Elesh Norn) who may benefit from the last few months of Eldrazi Spawn in Standard.
Although, with the added speed of Phyrexian mana . . . Nah. I should know better – fatties never prosper in Standard.
Here’s the thing – When I built my first deck, 2 mana for a 2/2 creature was good. 3 for a 2/2 was expected. We now live in a world where you can routinely get beasts 3-to-4 power or toughness for 3 mana, so the speed since I started is still blowing me away. While I’m excited for Phyrexian mana, and I plan to try to use it as best I can, part of me is apprehensive about this – I don’ t think I want to see Standard or Extended play work as fast as the Eternal tournament formats, where you’re winning or losing by the second or third (or first) turn. I’m sure it won’t get that far (am I?), but if you’re a staller like me, prepare yourself for New Phyrexia as best
you can – it’s coming hard, it’s coming fast, and it’s coming from any color it wants. Throw your predictability into the Quicksilver Sea.
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