Phyrexia: All Will Be One Commander Set Review

Sheldon Menery reviews the main Phyrexia: All Will Be One set for Commander MTG. From Twilight highlights to Dominus domination, this is the read you need.

Mondrak, Glory Dominus
Mondrak, Glory Dominus, illustrated by Jason A. Engle

The full set of Phyrexia: All Will Be One is out.  To say that it’s going to have a major impact on Commander is an understatement.  You’re going to see loads of these delicious cards at your tables in short order, as folks who attend the Prereleases will get their glistening oily hands on them and won’t be able to resist jamming them into decks or brewing new masterpieces.  Most of what we’ll see are excellent examples of lateral development—cards that go in directions other than being generically powerful.

For each color, which includes multicolored and colorless, I’ll be highlighting cards that I think are worth talking about by choosing the best common, the best uncommon, and a Top 5, plus some Honorable Mentions.  Honorable Mentions are cards that didn’t get mentioned in the Best or Top categories (so the Best Uncommon gets higher marks than an uncommon in Honorable Mention).  I’ll evaluate the color as a whole by its density of good cards, as well as the quality of the color’s best. 

One thing I’d like to try to do here is not just point out why cards are good, since most of you are already capable of that.  I’d also like to point out the kinds of situations in which the card can be better.  This will most often be for the battlecruiser and mid-power Commander games that I tend to find myself in.  If there’s a particularly noteworthy interaction at higher power, I’ll bring that up as well. 

Remember that we’re talking only about Commander here.  There are cards that might be houses in Limited or Standard that don’t get a second look in the format.  This review also contains only the main set cards.  We’ll talk about the 28 new cards of All Will Be One Commander next time.  Let’s dive right into it all.


Honorable Mention

Kemba, Kha Enduring Norn's Wellspring Resistance Reunited Skrelv, Defector Mite Skrelv's Hive

Best Common

Indoctrination Attendant

Best Uncommon

Against All Odds

Top 5

5. The Eternal Wanderer

The Eternal Wanderer

It was a battle for the fifth spot here between The Eternal Wanderer and Skrelv, Defector Mite. What really swung it was the combination of being able to have a battlefield sweeper right away and the fact that not more than one creature can attack The Eternal Wanderer.  Keeping it around a while will be easier than with other planeswalkers.  Creating the double-striking Samurai token is just a bonus, but the kind of bonus we can leverage in a Samurai deck. 

4. White Sun’s Twilight

White Sun's Twilight

Being a sorcery is what keeps White Sun’s Twilight in check.  It simply does too much to be an instant (unless it maybe cost XXWW).  As it is, we’re rarely playing it for less than X equal to or greater than five.  Sweep the battlefield, make our Mites, and start the poisoning. 

3. Phyrexian Vindicator

Phyrexian Vindicator

The mirror of Phyrexian Obliterator, Phyrexian Vindicator rolls right along with format favorites like Boros Reckoner and Truefire Champion.  The difference is that the damage to the Vindicator is prevented.  A flying 5/5 for four mana is nothing to discount, especially in a monocolor deck.  If we’re playing an aggressive manabase, I might see it up into a three-color one, but we’ll have to lean pretty hard into the white.  To be proactive with the Vindicator, we can run it alongside enchantments like Lightmine Field and Powerstone Minefield, then keep swinging into combat.  Great design here from the Studio X team.

2. Mondrak, Glory Dominus

Mondrak, Glory Dominus

There’s so much to love about Mondrak.  After the obvious token doubling, the first thing that hit me is that the activated ability to put an indestructible counter on it doesn’t cause it to tap; we won’t get pantsed if we want to swing Mondrak into combat.  Mondrak is an obvious fit into a Karador, Ghost Chieftain deck, especially one that likes to gain life (like my Halloween with Karador does) in order to offset the life loss from spending Phyrexian mana.  It’s really a toss-up for the top slot between this card and the next.

1. Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines

Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines

I figured since such a fuss got made over the first time I mentioned the card, it should be number one.  It’s really strong.  I will certainly play it to find out if it has the problems that I suggested it might.  I’ll also play it because I love the first half of what it does (and in more serious games, I also like the second half). 

Grade: A. Strong top stuff, reasonable density, although almost all of it is at rare (but that’s not enough to downgrade to A-). A splashy uncommon would have been neat. Against All Odds as an instant would have been splashy—but also a little too good.  Anyway, I’m playing the hell out of a bunch of the white cards here. 


Honorable Mention

Blue Sun's Twilight Jace, the Perfected Mind Mercurial Spelldancer Tekuthal, Inquiry Dominus Tamiyo's Logbook

Best Common

Experimental Augury

Best Uncommon

Transplant Theorist

Top 5

5. Mindsplice Apparatus

Mindsplice Apparatus

I wasn’t quite grasping why it has flash.  After consulting with some smart people, I came around to understand that it’s for power level/game play reasons (as opposed to flavor).  It’s a bit slow to set up otherwise, if you have to tap out to cast it.  Seems reasonable.  With a little bit of proliferation and a turn or two, we’ll be paying only colored mana for our instants and sorceries in no time.  It’ll likely go into my Dreaming of Intet deck, which likes a big Comet Storm or Crackle with Power finisher.  Solid card. 

4. Encroaching Mycosynth

Encroaching Mycosynth

We’re creating a little vulnerability for ourselves here, since Vandalblast is going to be a real ouch, but the potential upside is huge.  At least we can’t get Armageddon’d that way.  Cranial Plating becomes a one- or two-shot commander damage killer with even the most modestly-powered creature.  Any permanent in the graveyard now becomes castable with Emry, Lurker of the LochFiligree Angel gains boatloads of life.  Urza, Lord High Artificer becomes even sillier than normal.  And so on. 

3. Unctus, Grand Metatect

Unctus, Grand Metatect

The combination of an Anthem and looting when our blue creatures become tapped moves Unctus up my list.  We have incentive to attack since the creatures are larger or we could take the more controlling route by playing Opposition.  Because Unctus can fill up our graveyard pretty quickly, it’s a nice addition to a classic Sharuum, the Hegemon deck.  We’ll remember to add Deepchannel Mentor to the deck and be off to the races. 

2. Blade of Shared Souls

Blade of Shared Souls

Both the casting and equip costs of Blade of Shared Souls are nicely aggressive.  I’ll make mention of the fact that unlike most copy/clone effects, this one is targeted—it kind of has to be since it’s a trigger, not an as ~this~ enters the battlefield ability.  I’m all about being For Mirrodin! with a second Consecrated Sphinx or Avenger of Zendikar.  Or a bunch of the nonlegendary creatures from this very set (hello, Phyrexian Vindicator!). 

1. Ichormoon Gauntlet

Ichormoon Gauntlet

This one has had the folks online buzzing since it came out, and I agree.  Superfriends decks have a very saucy new toy, potentially adding several counters to one of them over a turn cycle just by casting (noncreature) spells.  Think of all the extra turns one might take with Gideon, Champion of Justice.  Now, all those War of the Spark planeswalkers that don’t have many ways of adding loyalty counters will get quite some love. 

Grade: A. Very good density, and there were more than five viable candidates for the top spots—which almost could have gone in any order and still been reasonable. 


Honorable Mention

Karumonix, the Rat King Necrosquito Ravenous Necrotitan Scheming Aspirant Vraska, Betrayal's Sting

Special Mention #1

Phyrexian Obliterator

I don’t generally mention reprints, but because of Phyrexian Vindicator, I thought it’d be nice to shout out its clear inspiration.  It also makes me wonder why I’m only playing it in one deck (the appropriate Captain Mindflayer).  I think I’ll put it into a deck that also has Makeshift Mannequin or Betrayal of Flesh for the big blowout. 

Special Mention #2

Vraan, Executioner Thane

This one is a special mention because I want to applaud the design team for leaning into the triggers only once each turn mechanic on the card.  It’s something that they’ve been doing a fair amount of lately to gate the power of cards, and I’m of the mind that they should continue.  Cards like Blood Artist are obviously quite strong, but with unlimited triggers, they can get out of hand pretty quickly, not to mention a little boring.  We have to work a little harder to make Vraan approach the same kind of value, and in the long run, that’s good for both the game and the players. 

Best Common

Infectious Inquiry

Best Uncommon

Feed the Infection

Top 5

5. Necrogen Communion

Necrogen Communion

I’m a sucker for Auras that are variants on False Demise.  Have been ever since Mercadian Masques, when other Auras weren’t so great.  We’ve definitely seen an upgrade in the quality of cards which enchant things over the last decade.  Given its low casting cost, I’m not upset that it’s limited to our own creatures.  That it has toxic 2 is just a bonus.  We can enjoy putting it on a creature with landwalk ability, like Sheoldred, Whispering One, or simply trample so that we know we’ll get that hit.  Of course, a nice triggered ability, like Noxious Gearhulk or Kokusho, the Evening Star, will pay great dividends.  A dream would be to have Necrogen Communion on one of those two, then hit it with Saw in Half.

4. Archfiend of the Dross

Archfiend of the Dross

Coming from the Abyssal Persecutor school as a 6/6 flyer for four mana with a serious drawback, Archfiend of the Dross returns us to a time when Demons were powerful allies that could turn out to do us quite some injury.  The power of Archfiend of the Dross is gated differently from Vraan and quite a bit more interestingly.  We’ll have to go in with a plan to either make sure there are lots of counters on it, or, more likely in black, a sacrifice outlet should things start to get too hairy.  We’ll probably also have that friend who will want to Donate Archfiend of the Dross to us.  Some friend. 

3. Vat of Rebirth

Vat of Rebirth

The inexpensive casting cost of Vat of Rebirth was the first thing to catch my eye.  It’s trivially easy to get four oil counters on it, what with Treasures and all, so we’re going to enjoy lots of activations.  That we can only activate as a sorcery is a small downside for being able to reliably return dead creatures to the battlefield.  I’m also excited that two uncommon cards made the Top 5 here.

2. Black Sun’s Twilight

Black Sun's Twilight

I suppose Black Sun’s Twilight can surprise someone by returning Phyrexian Obliterator to the battlefield.  For me, I’m only casting it with X equal to five or greater unless I’m in a pretty dire circumstance, since returning the creature is the more compelling part of the equation.  The downside is that we can get wrecked by the targeted creature going away before resolution, countering the spell.  The upside is that we don’t choose what we’re bringing back until resolution because that part isn’t targeted.  If someone uses graveyard hate to get rid of what we really wanted to reanimate, we can still bring back something else. 

I suspect the card was developed with a single target so that it could be countered due to an illegal target.  If the creature in the graveyard were also targeted, then removing the creature on the battlefield wouldn’t counter the spell.

1. Drivnod, Carnage Dominus

Drivnod, Carnage Dominus

I really wanted to put Drivnod on the Kethek, Crucible Goliath list I built last week, but it hadn’t been previewed yet.  This is a sweet card.  It doubles up our Grave Pact triggers.  It makes the Kokusho, the Evening Star drain 10/30 instead of 5/15.  Protean Hulk nets us two packages of six (not one of twelve).  It’s a reasonable mirror to Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines, although the creative team couldn’t do the same kind of wordplay as Harvester of Souls / Soul of the Harvest.  This card is the good kind of bonkers.

Grade: A. The best cards are slightly below the level of other colors, but the density of good ones more than makes up for it.  Then we add the two special mention cards to complete the rating.


Honorable Mention

Cacophony Scamp Exuberant Fuseling Gleeful Demolition Slobad, Iron Goblin Urabrask's Forge

Special Mention

Rebel Salvo

This special mention is simply for the new ability affinity for Equipment.  It’s another excellent use of power gating.  With some very good indestructible creatures running around the format, it also might simply be worth playing to remove that ability.

Best Common

Hazardous Blast

Best Uncommon

Awaken the Sleeper

Top 5

5. Koth, Fire of Resistance

Koth, Fire of Resistance

This Koth lives a pretty simple life:  searching up Mountains and doming people.  Add Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle for the complete face-roasting package. 

4. Capricious Hellraiser

Capricious Hellraiser

Even if we’re not getting the three-mana discount, casting Capricious Hellraiser is worth it.  We get the 4/4 flyer and then something else.  It might actually be a little more valuable early, as we’re likely to get a ramp or other kind of mana acceleration spell out of the deal. 

3. Solphim, Mayhem Dominus

Solphim, Mayhem Dominus

Of the things to double up with Solphim, we have Repercussion, Blasphemous Act (and the two together), Lightmine Field, and Acidic Soil—all favorite cards in my You Did This to Yourself deck.  No secret where this one is going. 

2. Red Sun’s Twilight

Red Sun's Twilight

As with the other Twilight cards, it seems like waiting to have the mana for X to be five or greater makes the most sense.  If what we’re blowing up includes mana rocks, then we’ve paid back part of the spell’s cost.  In most games, we’ll never want for targets. 

1. All Will Be One

All Will Be One

It seems fitting that the card which has the set’s name in it is absolutely silly.  My go-to card here is Mr. Babycakes himself, Forgotten Ancient.  All Will Be One will deal damage coming and going, first pinging someone for every spell cast, then again when we move the counters off of Forgotten Ancient during our upkeep.  Don’t even get me started with The Ozolith.  And as pointed out by SCG’s own Braden, Mover of Markets, it’s a two-card infinite damage combo with The Red Terror. People might want to start stocking up on Witchbane Orbs

Grade: B+. With the exception of All Will Be One, the best cards don’t quite measure up to the other colors.  The density is still there. 


Honorable Mention

Bloated Contaminator Evolved Spinoderm Infectious Bite Noxious Assault Thrun, Breaker of Silence Tyrranax Rex Venerated Rotpriest

Best Common

Oil-Gorger Troll

Best Uncommon


Top 5

5. Armored Scrapgorger

Armored Scrapgorger

A very cleverly designed card that scales up as the game goes on, Armored Scrapgorger also does some graveyard cleanup.  I suspect that it’s going to continue to produce mana once it’s 3/3, since by then the creatures will be much larger.  We’ll just have to be careful that we’re not the only ones with cards in the graveyard. 

4. Conduit of Worlds

Conduit of Worlds

Dredge players will like Conduit of Worlds because of the land clause.  The rest of us will like it because we can cast our permanents again.  Using it limits us to one spell per turn, but that’s not too steep a price to pay for being able to continually recast some permanents.  If we happen to have something like Mystic Snake or Draining Whelk in the graveyard, all the better, since we won’t cast them until someone else’s turn anyway.  Can you imagine this with Prophet of Kruphix running around in the format? [Copy Editor’s Note: Eww.]

3. Green Sun’s Twilight

Green Sun's Twilight

Once more, we’re waiting until X can be five or more before even thinking about casting a Twilight.  With a little library control, like Scroll Rack or Worldly Tutor, we can have something quite strong sitting on top.  Just don’t forget the plus one part of the resolution. 

2. Zopandrel, Hunger Dominus

Zopandrel, Hunger Dominus

The first time I read this card, I did an audible “Whaaaaaat?” even though I was alone.  Add Xenagos, God of Revels targeting a six-plus power commander for a quick kill.  Or one-shot with Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle.  Or make any kind of midrange team quite murderous.  Sure, it costs seven mana.  It’s worth every drop.

1. Nissa, Ascended Animist

Nissa, Ascended Animist

Speaking of “yes, it costs seven mana,” the new Nissa is going to make bodies hit the floor.  We won’t be able to use the -7 ability if we cast it for its compleated cost, but we can start building towards it and those Phyrexian Horrors will soon be eligible to get their battle tickets punched.  My dream is to watch someone have this Nissa, Zopandrel, and Craterhoof Behemoth all going at once—with someone else (preferably me, not gonna lie) sitting on Inkshield

Grade: A+. The top cards are some of the best in the set, and there were multiple cards in competition for every slot. 


Honorable Mention

Ezuri, Stalker of Spheres Glissa Sunslayer Kaito, Dancing Shadow Lukka, Bound to Ruin Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler

Best Uncommon

Cephalopod Sentry

Top 5

5. Melira, the Living Cure

Melira, the Living Cure

I know I wasn’t the only one that had to read the new Melira twice to avoid declaring it just an upgraded Saffi Eriksdotter.  The poison clause is pretty clear.  The activation on the Saffi-like ability, now extended to artifacts as well, is exiling Melira.  This means that we can’t have any loops with Reveillark and friends.  Running Riftsweeper will help get Melira back, though into the library.  It’s a start. 

4. Ria Ivor, Bane of Bladehold

Ria Ivor, Bane of Bladehold

In exchange for some damage now, Ria Ivor offers us toxic Phyrexian Mite tokens.  The primary situation I might see doing this in is if our opponent’s life total is too high to bring down with conventional damage, so we’ll go the poison route.  Having that option available, along with commander damage, is excellent defense against lifegain. 

3. Kethek, Crucible Goliath

Kethek, Crucible Goliath

The Commander RC’s preview card and one I already started building with, Kethek provides both an excellent jumping-off point as a commander and valuable one of the 99 in a Rakdos-aligned deck that likes to sacrifice things, such as Kresh Into the Red Zone or the Altar of Thraximundar.  Played alongside Stalking Vengeance, we have a winner.  I’m still up in the air on whether I go through with that build, now that we’ve seen all the cards, or just jam Kethek into one of those two decks.

2. Kaya, Intangible Slayer

Kaya, Intangible Slayer

Another one that got an audible gasp when I first saw it, this Kaya starts big and runs that way.  All three abilities are big, four if we’re counting hexproof.  The +2 life drain sets up the very clever +0 card draw.  I’ll take the trade of drawing two to have everyone else scry one anytime; in fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing that text on a sorcery.  Finally, the -3 exiling a creature or enchantment is huge.  Commander is often a format about recursion; Kaya’s exile prevents that.  A great package here.

1. Atraxa, Grand Unifier

Atraxa, Grand Unifier

We knew that she was going to be big, and our friends in Design did not disappoint.  Our four-color commander (missing only red) is battle-worthy as a 7/7 with flying, vigilance, deathtouch, and lifelink.  Speaking of “battle,” the triggered ability hints at a yet-to-be-revealed card type called battle.  I don’t engage in any speculation.  That excitement aside, when Atraxa shows up, we get to look at the top ten cards and put one of each type in our hand.  Let’s hope the land is Reliquary Tower

This card absolutely delivers.  I’m not sure what I’d build out of her besides a good-stuff deck in those four colors.  There are Angels in all four of those colors, so that’s an option.  Maybe it’s time to dust off my Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice deck, remake that into something else, and jam Angels with Atraxa.

Grade: A+.  Nearly every card in the section deserves some consideration.  It was extremely difficult to actually pick which went where and which got left off.


Honorable Mention

The Filigree Sylex Graaz, Unstoppable Juggernaut Mirran Safehouse The Mycosynth Gardens Staff of Compleation

Special Mention

Mirrex The Fair Basilica The Seedcore

There’s a new land type, Spheres. They’re pretty straightforward in design. The ones which provide colored mana, corresponding with basic land types, can all sacrifice to draw a card.  The others have a range of abilities worth exploring. 

Best (Non-Skullbomb) Common

Phyrexian Atlas

Best Uncommon

Atraxa's Skitterfang

Top 5

5. Tablet of Compleation

Tablet of Compleation

All our focus here is drawing a card for one mana.  It’s not that difficult to get there in a proliferate deck.  Tablet of Compleation goes into a deck in which we’re already playing Contagion Engine and Contagion Clasp, providing more fuel for our nonsense.

4. Monument to Perfection

Monument to Perfection

Three mana to get a basic, Sphere, or Locus into hand might seem a little expensive, but it’s a step along the way to creating a very scary creature.  Kind of like the end condition of a Gate deck, if we have enough different lands among those three types, for just three mana, we can turn Monument of Perfection into a 9/9 artifact creature with toxic 9.  It’s one of those things we’ll be happy we achieved, whether or not we kill someone with it.

3. Argentum Masticore

Argentum Masticore

Another thing to love about this set is the callback to old creature types, as with Argentum Masticore.  This one if very strong, discarding a card to destroy a nonland permanent with mana value less than or equal to the discarded card.  The place for Argentum Masticore is in a reanimation deck in which we’ll be discarding large creatures to do the double duty of destroying important permanents and then coming back to bash face later.  On top of that, we have a 5/5 first striker with protection from multicolored (so most commanders).  This is a card that might get glossed over on first look that I see providing excellent value.

2. Sword of Forge and Frontier

Sword of Forge and Frontier

We finally get the “protection from Gruul” Sword, and its triggered ability is a doozy.  In addition to bottling two cards to play this turn, it offers us an additional land drop—worth it even if we weren’t looking at extra cards.  A nice continuation of the cycle.

1. Soulless Jailer

Soulless Jailer

It might seem weird that I’m listing a card that prevents me from doing my favorite thing at number one, but I can’t deny the power of Soulless Jailer, which takes a variant tack from Grafdigger’s Cage.  The latter prevents creature cards from coming back.  Soulless Jailer stops all permanents from coming back.  Note that they can go back to hand, like with Oversold Cemetery.  It also shuts down flashback cards and other ways of casting from the graveyard, like with the trigger from Diluvian Primordial, as well as exile.  Soulless Jailer is an excellent Stax piece that prevents some busted things from happening without itself being too oppressive.  The design space here was tight, and they fit it in extremely well.

Grade: B-. Good but not great all around.  Would have liked to see at least one splashy thing among the artifacts.  The Sphere lands bump the overall rating up a fraction, as does inclusion of the fastlands like Darkslick Shores.

We’ve waited a long time for this story arc to reach its culmination.  Phyrexia: All Will Be One has done so in dramatic fashion, not just for the Vorthos types, but for the rest of us as well.  The set has so many playable cards as to be one that will define how Commander moves this year, and it’ll do so the right way—with interesting and thought-capturing cards which take some effort to get maximum value from.  This is an outstanding set for the format, which is why I’ve taken you on this rather long journey.

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