Upcoming Magic: The Gathering set Phyrexia: All Will Be One isn’t pulling punches as it builds towards a narrative climax later this year. Promotional material for the trading card game threatened to essentially kill five Planeswalkers, and today they delivered the names of thje fallen.
A livestream on Magic: The Gathering’s Twitch and YouTube channels introduced the new and returning mechanics for Phyrexia: All Will Be One - we’ll get to that in a second - but it also revealed the full list of Planeswalkers characters who have been compleated by Phyrexian oil, effectively obliterating their real selves and instilling an unshakeable loyalty to the Machine Empire.
These Planeswalkers had travelled to Phyrexia, once known as the plane of Argentum, as part of a secret strike force carrying out a covert and desperate plan to avert all-out war in the Multiverse. Given the gleeful promise from MTG’s designers and the fact that the next core set is called March of the Machines, players knew this ploy was doomed for failure.
Lukka was the first casualty, discovered first through leaks and then an official teaser from Wizards of the Coast. Players made a joke of the bumbling, selfish-to-a-fault Planeswalker meeting his end on this blighted plane, but that joviality didn’t last when the remaining deaths played out through a series of short fiction pieces on the MTG mothersite.
Once the dust settled, Nahiri, Vraska, Nissa and Jace Beleren joined the previously compleated Tamiyo and Ajani as agents of Phyrexia, though the betrayal of their own mind and body does come with a cool new compleated Planeswalker card for each. Jace is the big surprise - he has long been MTG’s golden boy with 13 dedicated cards across multiple sets and years, along with appearing or being mentioned on as many more.
Those less interested in the narrative aspect to MTG’s multiverse still enjoyed a surprise - Phyrexia: All Will Be One is bringing back Infect. Well, kind of. The polarising mechanic has received a makeover and is now called Toxic. Creatures with the Toxic keyword deliver a deadly poison to players they damage equal to the value next to the keyword. For example, Paladin of Predation’s “Toxic 6” deliver six poison counters to any player they manage to would. That’s a huge deal - any player who accumulates ten or more poison counters immediately loses the game.
This is a big change from the Infect mechanic introduced in the original Mirrodin block from 2011, where the full damage amount was delivered as “-1/-1” counters on creatures and poison counters to players. Quick, evasive creatures dominated Infect-focused decks, slipping past defences and - with the help of a spell to boost power and toughness - stealing the win before opponents could blink. Most players loathed how the domineering strategy sped up matches, and Infect never enjoyed more official support from a main card set.
Toxic reigns in a player’s ability to pile poison counters onto an opponent but gains an additional use through Corrupted, a state-based ability on cards in this set that activate once any opponent at the table has amassed at least three poison counters. The effects will likely run the gamut of design possibility - revealed cards with Corrupted buff creatures, bestow keywords such as lifelink and even power on enticing activated abilities.
Certain cards will also gain oil counters, though these seem to function as a set-specific resource similar to energy from Kaladesh whose use differs depending on what’s on the table. But with three counters knocking around, it’s no surprise that Proliferate is also making a return. When triggered, this ability allows a player to add one more counter to any existing pile. Opponent poisoned? Add one more. Creature buffed or shielded? Add one more of each! It’s a critical piece of a terrifying engine that will no doubt be the bane of players in limited format matches.
The last new mechanic - For Mirrodin! - will appear on a spate of equipment and creates 2/2 red Mana Rebel creature tokens who conveniently equip the weapon in question, ready for combat. The hearkens back to the Living Weapon mechanic from Mirrodin Besieged and New Phyrexia sets, though two power and toughness is a sight better from the measly germs those equipment produced.
Phyrexia: All Will Be One releases on February 10th, a mere month after the lauded Dominaria Remastered set and already establishing a breakneck product pace for 2023. Magic Arena players can submerge in the glistening oil of Phyrexia a little earlier when the digital version releases on February 7th.