The future of Magic: The Gathering’s multi-planar universe isn’t looking so hot. Upcoming set Phyrexia: All Will Be One gives centre stage to the trading card game’s eponymous villains on their home world. An early look even included a damning threat for the group of Planeswalkers rising against their onslaught - half of the ten major characters won’t survive the mission.
Publisher Wizards of the Coast meted out the first details during a December 13th livestream on its Twitch channel with Blake Rasmussen and Mike Turian. Phyrexia: All Will Be One releases on February 10th, 2023 following a prerelease week that runs from February 3rd through the 9th. Magic Arena players will arrive on Phyrexia a day earlier than the paper community - on February 9th - but everyone will get a solid look at the set when card previews begin January 17th.
What little Wizards showed of the upcoming set’s artwork portrayed a nightmarish world of twisted body horror, viscous machine oil and metallic rot. A few old faces, some long dead and others more recent casualties, have reappeared as necrotic shadows of their former selves, and card cycles from previous sets do the same - the Sun’s Zenith series from Mirrodin Besieged will return (sort of) as a five-mana colour Sun’s Twilight cycle of spells that illustrates how completely the praetors now control the plane.
The star of the show will be Elesh Norn, the white Mana-aligned praetor and ostensible leader of Phyrexia’s forces on the corrupted plane of Mirrodin. Not only is she all over the promotional material, but her card will appear in five different art styles - one of which is illustrated by Junji Ito. The renowned manga artist was previously the subject of a Secret Lair wherein a handful of cards were specially reprinted with Ito’s renditions as the art.
Phyrexia: All Will Be One’s showcase style - alternate versions of cards featuring special artwork - is called Ichor Showcase and will paint select creatures, such as the reprinted Phyrexian Obliterator or previewed Slobad, Iron Golem with violent smears of viscuous ink that look very close to blood smeared across a wall. The set will also feature borderless manga style cards that portray the 10 Planesawalker cards included in the set as if they had been compleated - the process of corrupting living creatures that previously struck the planeswalkers Ajani in Dominaria United and Tamiyo in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.
The cruel trick, as Rasmussen himself pointed out, is that Wizards of the Coast has openly threatened the lives of five planeswalkers who will take the fight against Phyrexia to their core planet. The list of potential victims contain both veterans and newcomers to the lore: Jace Beleran, Kaito Shizuki, Kaya, Koth, Lukka, Nahiri, Nissa, Tyvar Kell, Vraska and The Wandering Emperor face a potential oily fate in a preamble to the Marvel-esque final confrontation planned for the following card set, March of the Machines.
The move is a smart one: Planeswalkers are often fan-favourite characters that allow Wizards of the Coast to tell more involved stories as card sets jump across worlds, but too often these powerful spellcasters feel immune to the conflict and destruction of the multiverse. Phyrexia: All Will be One has place a loaded weapon on the table and called its shot, which raises the stakes on the story but also energises players as they speculate on the outcome.
More information on the different art styles and products contained in Phyrexia: All Will be One can be found on Wizards of the Coast’s website. Set mechanics and more information about how it will play likely won’t drop until mid-January, when card previews begin rolling out from the mothership. This Phyrexian-focused set will be the first of 2023, a year in which top executives hope the often brutally cramped release schedule of 2022 will find space to breathe - and time for players to actually enjoy the game before yet another onslaught of promotional marketing.