Top 10 Control Cards Of Phyrexia: All Will Be One

Shaheen Soorani counts down his Top 10 control cards of Phyrexia: All Will Be One. Can this set push control back into the Standard spotlight?

White Sun's Twilight
White Sun’s Twilight, illustrated by Julian Kok Joon Wen

The upcoming set is stirring excitement among control players worldwide. Phyrexia: All Will Be One has no shortage of staples for the greatest archetype, especially in the newer formats. My first order of business during preview season is to determine which cards will enhance control’s chances of success in Standard, the format where it struggles the most. There was a time when control was at the top of the power rankings of the format, but those days are long gone. The midrange-ification of Standard was successful, and it is now up to us to bring health back to competitive play.

Magic is at its best when aggro, midrange, and control are all viable options. When the creatures are imbalanced and the spells are terrible, midrange dominates. The upcoming set has a few gems that I noticed immediately, even though many of them benefit midrange and control. That is a trade-off I am willing to make because control is so close to becoming solvent. Any breakthrough addition would be better for us than them.

Phyrexia: All Will Be One has given me enough to work with to make a Top 10 list. That is saying a lot, since most sets are a stretch to even offer half that. Some of the cards on this list need a little help out of the gate to be impactful; however, the raw power is there. There is much riding on the viability of poison as a win condition of a white-based control deck for some of these cards to have a meaningful impact on Standard. Even if that is not the case, there are plenty of black and artifact spells that I am excited to get in the lineup.

#10: Black Sun’s Twilight

Black Sun's Twilight

This barely made the cut and is a removal spell full of value. I am all about giving creatures -X/-X with another perk attached. Many of the removal spells designed this way have seen competitive play, and Black Sun’s Twilight is built equally strong. The issue for true control is the lack of creatures played in traditional lists. For control decks that use more creatures, or for those teetering on the boundary of midrange, this removal spell is for you. For me, returning fallen creatures is not my forte, which makes it my number ten on the list.

#9: Argentum Masticore

Argentum Masticore

I really wanted to make this card move up on my list, but it suffers from the same drawback as Black Sun’s Twilight. The control decks I enjoy the most play minimal creatures to remove the efficacy of enemy kill spells. Playing a bunch of creatures pushes you into their trap, something I have avoided for years. Argentum Masticore is a very powerful creature, with a strong body on the battlefield and an ability that control could easily use. The repeated destruction of enemy permanents is an easy trade-off for discarding cards, while it handles combat efficiently and is hard to kill. If you’re going to play a creature in a control deck, this is the one to employ. This is especially true if the abundance of removal and enemy creatures are multicolor.

#8: The Filigree Sylex

The Filigree Sylex

Do you all remember Ratchet Bomb? I sure do, and it was always floating around in my control decks. With the reduction in power of sweepers, The Filigree Sylex could be a powerful supplemental addition to that category. When a card like this hits the battlefield, it significantly changes the trajectory of the opponent’s plays. It will rarely be a dead card and provides any control deck an avenue to destroy permanents that would normally be difficult to remove. This has always been my gripe with Dimir Control, even when it was at its height of power level. The Filigree Sylex handles early-game pressure well, can get you out of trouble in a pinch later, and acts as a win condition if unneeded. I will definitely have a few of these in my Standard decks, regardless of which color combination I land on.

#7: White Sun’s Twilight

White Sun's Twilight

This is the big question mark card of the Top 10 list. I absolutely love sweeper effects that have a giant upside when used in the late-game. Some of my fondest memories of competitive play involved Martial Coup, which is nearly identical to the design of White Sun’s Twilight. The reason why this is number seven on the list is because of the viability of toxic as the control finisher in Standard. Without having that as a focus, you will end up with five tokens that cannot block, and it will be difficult to finish the job that they start.

The good news about White Sun’s Twilight is the cast of characters that could join it. Cards like Skrelv’s Hive, Mirrex, Reject Imperfection, and Bring the End would all enhance the power of this card as a control finisher and sweeper in competitive play. Each of these cards provides exciting new gameplay to the traditional control deck. This is no accident, as White Sun’s Twilight and Skrelv’s Hive provide lifegain. Lifegain is the lure they use to hook us and it often works on me.

#6: Mindsplice Apparatus

Mindsplice Apparatus

This card has received a ton of hype and hate, so you all know I had to include it. There are some folks getting Wilderness Reclamation vibes from Mindsplice Apparatus, while others see the deckbuilding constraints a card like this adds. Mindsplice Apparatus can make all your spells insanely cheap to cast, but the quality of Standard instants and sorceries has diminished over the years. We are not taking a ton of extra turns, while drawing piles of cards each turn. Both sides of the aisle could be correct on this card. Mindsplice Apparatus will either be broken beyond belief and singlehandedly resurrect control, or be a complete bust and unplayable.

#5: Ossification


If white-based control leaps into viability, Ossification will be right there with it. It hits a planeswalker or creature, exiling it for only two mana. The catch is that it requires a basic land, a cost that is not as easy as it appears. In Standard, including multiple basic lands is normal operating procedure, but that may cancel Esper Control as an option. For the first time in my career, I may abandon blue as the primary control color in my next deck. There are too many incentives to play Orzhov Control, especially the cards you see on this list, to ignore. With Ossification, it is too cheap, efficient, and powerful to skip, and likely deserves a higher spot on this list.

#4: Phyrexian Arena

Phyrexian Arena

The return of Phyrexian Arena is glorious and brings joy to Magic’s elderly population. [Copy Editor’s Note: Hey, I resemble that remark!] One of my first control decks, named The Masterpiece by Michael Flores, was a four-color monstrosity that solely generated card advantage from this enchantment. The nostalgia alone has me excited to play it, but the power level of the card is still significant. There was a lot of debate around Liliana of the Veil, a planeswalker I knew would dominate the Standard format in its current form. Some people believed it was a relic of the past and would see no play. Those same people will sneer at Phyrexian Arena, a card that is not as strong as Liliana of the Veil, but one that can equally take over a game in the right matchups.

#3: Sheoldred’s Edict

Sheoldred's Edict

This is the best removal spell to come from the new set, and that is a feat on its own. Ossification is great, but Sheoldred’s Edict is an instant that handles some very difficult-to-remove targets on the opponent’s turn. Diabolic Edict effects have seen play for over twenty years, with this version being one of the strongest iterations yet. Having three options to choose from for two mana is ridiculous, especially with one being planeswalker. This creates the illusion of choice for the player, prompting them to sacrifice their only planeswalker, their giant nontoken creature, or their token creature with toxic. This is a removal spell I will play in every black-based control deck in Standard with confidence.

#2: Seachrome Coast and Darkslick Shores

Seachrome Coast Darkslick Shores

Mana fixing is king, and I am happy to welcome back the fastlands to Standard. I have been conditioned to play only half the fixing for Esper Control, since they like to release them separately most of the time. With this set, we are getting Seachrome Coast and Darkslick Shores at the same time, giving us more opportunities to craft a feasible Esper Control manabase to accommodate the heavy mana requirements of Standard. I am unsure how many of each of these I would play in an Esper Control deck, since we have some lands to work with already and they are very weak when drawn later in the game. Even so, having both of these at our disposal makes building manabases easy, especially if we decide to go Azorius or Dimir Control.

#1: Kaya, Intangible Slayer

Kaya, Intangible Slayer

The number one spot of Phyrexia: All Will Be One was easy for me to decide. It was love at first sight with Kaya, Intangible Slayer, as it completed control’s need for a strong finisher. Control has had issues closing out games for years in Standard. The win conditions have been decent, but nothing compared to what they have had in the past. Kaya solves that problem immediately, giving us a seven-drop win condition with hexproof that runs away with the game the moment it hits the battlefield.

If the game is getting away from us, the lifegain from the first ability provides nice relief. It will see use rarely, but I am glad that it is there. The second ability will be the most common, as it draws us two cards while providing the opponent a measly scry 1. Card advantage is king, especially when on a hexproof permanent that must be attacked down. Since Kaya starts with six loyalty, that will not be an easy feat for any matchup to accomplish.

The final ability is what makes Kaya as good as it is. For only three loyalty, Kaya exiles a creature or (non-Aura) enchantment. After, it produces for us a 1/1 flying token that is a copy of the exiled target. This grants us all the enters-/leaves-the-battlefield triggers, in addition to the other powerful abilities it may have had. This is a fantastic ability that provides an immediate answer to a threat, provides protection, and remains at three loyalty. Kaya, Intangible Slayer will be the only win condition that an Orzhov-based control deck will need, and I am ready to hit the ground running with it in the new Standard.