Tree of Tales – Dawn of New Phyrexia

Welcome back to the Tree, have a sit and we will begin. So this week gives us the official spoiler for New Phyrexia, and things look pretty good. I’m going to evaluate some of the cards, specifically for constructed value this week, with limited to come soon. This set looks like it will bring some parity to the format, and hopefully will give us some much needed relief from the doldrums of UW vs. UW that have been dominating our table tops.

For reference, here’s a link to the complete spoiler on

I’ll do this by color, so here we go.

Colorless (not artifact)

Karn Liberated – Obviously our only non-artifact colorless card, he is also our only Planeswalker. Despite his high cmc, he is extremely playable, as any Vindicate ability on a stick is incredible. However, I don’t like him, as he promotes extremely long games, which are bad for constructed Magic. Printing an extremely good card that extends games past realistic time frames is a problem. Hopefully we won’t see another Sensei’s Divining Top debacle, as he is less playable at 7 mana. Still, watch this guy, he wins games.


Dispatch – Time will tell if this is another Swords to Plowshares, or simply another Oust. It has the potential to be the best removal spell in Standard, but only if Metalcraft becomes a viable strategy. Possibly in a tap-out artifact heavy control build, running around Tumble Magnet, Sphere of the Suns and Everflowing Chalice. Definitely one to watch, as I tend to lean on the amazing side of the fence.

Inquisitor Exarch – I actually like this one quite a bit. A 2/2 for WW that deals two damage or gains you two life is an exceptional deal, period. I could definitely see mono-white being a possibility, as it got several good plays this set.

Phyrexian Unlife – This is a pretty weird one as well, but may be one of the best enchantments they’ve printed in quite a long time. In older formats where infect is not a reliable strategy, this can essentially turn into an extra 10 life for 3 mana, and actually flat out beats life loss strategies like Tendrils of Agony. Definitely not a Standard inclusion, but Legacy enchantress will want to consider this one.

Puresteel Paladin – Seriously, wtf. Another 2/2 for WW, only this one is even better. Equipments become cantrips, and Metalcraft is equip 0 for everything? Sign me up. Quest seems to be enjoying life, that’s for sure.

Suture Priest – So a Soul Warden for you and life loss for your opponent. Coupled with the other cleric from Rise, this may actually make Soul Sisters a viable strategy again, especially coupled with the Squadron Hawk/Stoneforge Mystic package. I know I will certainly be testing a few lists with this guy as well as several of the others on this list.


Blighted Agent – A 1/1 unblockable infect for 2. Yes, yes, a million times yes. Despite his inherent fragility, he is inevitable if unanswered. A great addition to the UB infect list, he gives them another great weapon.  Equipment on this guy ends the game so quickly it bothers me.

Corrupted Resolve – Another conditional counterspell. This one is more likely than most in the right deck (*cough* UB infect *cough*), but I am not a fan of conditional counterspells. Probably not as good as Spell Pierce in the list, but worth testing.

Deceiver Exarch – This is the key piece to the new infinite combo that everyone is going crazy for.  With Splinter Twin, this guy ends the game in a tremendous fashion.  However, he doesn’t scare me much at all, as he has no inherent protection and requires that a 4 cmc Aura be attached to him.  When I’m playing a list with 7 instant speed removal spells and 6 counterspells, I just can’t see this being reliable against me.  However, if you don’t have removal, this is stupid.

Mental Misstep – Similar to Spell Snare, but probably better. Having an alternate cost of 2 life makes it possible to cast before you play land or alternately when you are tapped out, which can be very good in Legacy. Countering a Sensei’s Divining Top before you’ve played a land is brutal, but time will tell if it’s good enough to warrant any kind of main deck support, or be relegated to sideboard slots in particular situations.

Psychic Surgery – And now we make it to the card I hate the most in this set. R&D has stated many times that they don’t print cards that purposely hurt formats, and this brutalizes Vintage. Turning off top of deck tutors in that format is insanely powerful. Disappointing, very disappointing.


Caress of Phyrexia – Despite looking like a terrible spell, this may actually turn out to be pretty good. Having a spell that can punch the last 3 poison counters across is actually pretty good, even at 3BB. Considering the ratio of poison counters to life totals, this is similar to punching 6 damage through all at once.

Despise – Finally, a Planeswalker hate card worth playing. Can we say good against Caw-Go? Yup. Between this and Inquisition, they will have a VERY difficult time keeping their action cards available. Discard has gotten steadily better of late, with lots of effective spells for a single B.

Entomber Exarch – A strong sideboard card against control. Despite it’s small body, the targeted discard will almost always be effective. 2-for-1s are usually pretty good, but his tiny frame may disable the inherent card advantage.  He also can recur good creatures like Gatekeeper of Malakir and Vampire Hexmage for Vampires, so he is definitely playable.

Geth’s Verdict – So. Good. Edict + life loss = AMAZING. This may push the envelope far enough to make MBC viable again, and will certainly be worth playing in UB control. Oh, and did I mention it’s an instant? Thank you R&D.

Life’s Finale – I really wish this card said library OR hand. Anyway, it probably isn’t better than Black Sun’s Zenith, but it isn’t FAR off. 6 mana is pretty steep though, and probably makes this unplayable.

Phyrexian Obliterator – OMG. A 4 cmc 5/5 with trample AND an ability that just ends games. His all colored mana cost makes him unplayable in anything but a deck running all black producing lands, but he is still just incredible. Probably the best creature printed since Primeval Titan in terms of pure power.

Praetor’s Grasp – I was on the fence about this one until I thought about the big boy in the format, Jace 2.0. In the deck which this fits best (UB Control), stealing a 2.0 is just great, and almost everyone is running him. Taking one away from them and putting it on your side of the board is a power swing that they really don’t want happening, especially since it leaves you free to keep your Jaces in your hand, waiting for him to deal with his own. Also, you don’t have to show them what you take, which can be a pretty strong advantage (i.e. take a counterspell).  Lastly, if you were playing UB Control and I told you that you could tutor for anything in your own deck for 3 mana, it is highly likely that Jace 2.0 would be the logical target anyway.

Surgical Extraction – My favorite black card in the set. Extirpate is the best sideboard card I play in Legacy, and we get one I can play for 2 life instead of a mana? Sooooo good. I will be playing these in every format. Tectonic Edge a Creeping Tar Pit, then exile ALL of them? Seems good. Take away all those pesky Hawks? Also seems good. I like it a lot, and if you’ve played Extirpate, you probably do too.


Moltensteel Dragon – This guy is the finisher red has wanted for quite some time. A 4/4 flying firebreathing dragon for 4 mana and 4 life is a better deal than it looks like. The phyrexian mana firebreathing is an interesting touch, essentially ending games if a player taps out at the wrong time.

Priest of Urabrask – Red gets a Priest of Gix. Interesting. I can’t judge whether this will see play since red doesn’t have Dark Ritual to produce the amazing turn ones that the original did, but it may have a solid place in RDW.

Slag Fiend – The second immediately Legacy playable card in this set. Affinity just seems like they will abuse this guy, sacrificing their board to Arcbound Ravager with Disciple of the Vault in play, pumping two creatures at once while dealing damage straight to the face. BR affinity variants are almost a guarantee at this point, with Shrapnel Blast, Galvanic Blast, this guy, and the original affinity pieces making it a brutal and lethal combination. 3 colors may be pushing it, but I want to see this guy in some decks, beating face as an 8/8 or 9/9 for one red mana.


Birthing Pod – This thing is just disturbing, as it can do some incredible things. Running up a food chain with this will get crazy really fast. It also serves as a shield for removal, enabling you to sacrifice the creature in response to go get another copy, or an even better creature. It’s initial mana cost is somewhat steep, but it really does resemble Survival of the Fittest. Definitely on the list of cards to watch.

Fresh Meat – This has gotten a lot of hype, but I don’t think it will be as good as people think. Leaving 4 mana up just to potentially stop a sweeper that may or may not happen is not necessarily the best strategy, or even the most viable one. I could be wrong, but this just seems like a bad responsive card, and you usually want your sideboard cards to be proactive.

Melira, Sylvok Outcast – A good silver bullet creature. Must be answered for UB infect, and thus can create a barrier between them and you. However, it has no protection, so it won’t do much.

Noxious Revival – I am very interested to see if this is good enough to see play. Regrowth is amazing, but we will see if it’s as good when it’s on top. Vampiric Tutor was almost as good as Demonic Tutor though…..

Triumph of the Hordes – An alternate win condition for elves, nothing more. Overrun Ezuri, cast this, GG.


Hex Parasite – Very, very good. Killing Jace with a 1/1 is just too good, and pumping him to epic proportions at the same time, well, that’s just gravy. Really good.

Immolating Souleater – I don’t know about this guy. He could be really good, providing a half-hearted Hatred effect, but a 1/1 for 2 in RDW just isn’t very good. He might get there though. A Goblin Guide turn 1, followed by him turn 2. A Lightning Bolt and one red mana, plus 18 life paid equals GG on turn 3, but he is very answerable.

Myr Superion – This guy just screams break me. A 5/6 for 2 just seems too good, despite the drawback. Grand Architect casts this guy immediately, which is just stupid for turn 3. When this guy is beating your face in, remember I told you so.  I could also see this in mono-green elf based ramp, with him, Leatherback and Venge supplying the beats.

Pristine Talisman – Just another entry in the mana acceleration artifacts line. Probably not too good, but it does get you there faster. Coupled with Everflowing Chalice and Sphere of the Suns, it might create the reliability of mana acceleration that is necessary for artifacts to take front stage in Standard.

Shrine of Burning Rage – This might also be the finisher that RDW has been looking for. Played turn 2, it can potentially deal upwards of 7-8 damage only a couple turns later. It’s expense might make it unplayable, but artifacts that deal damage have always been something red has sought after.

Sword of War and Peace – The cycle is complete. This will make the Caw-Blade match-ups even dumber, and give them the added protection they needed to make it a full circle. This might actually be better against them than for them however, being an auto-include in Mono-White Quest. The life-gain would also trigger Ajani’s Pridemate, so maybe Soul Sisters is viable. Either way, this thing one of the best cards in the set, period.

Torpor Orb – My 2nd favorite card in the set is another sideboard card. Shuts off Squadron Hawk and Stoneforge Mystic, which is all I want. Also does numbers on lots of other cards including Titans, but we all know what this will be focused against, and I like it. UB Control just keeps looking better and better….

There are more, but these are the most viable cards in my opinion. Caw-Blade looks like it will have quite a bit to deal with in the new Standard, with cards like Torpor Orb, Surgical Extraction, and Despise hating them out painfully. Will it be enough to unseat them? We will see, but I personally think our skies may be clear of avian creatures in the very near future.

Personally, this set feels like it favored black, giving them a new edict, several good sideboard cards, and a new discard spell that should all be constructed worthy. Blue got the least love, but that’s not unexpected, given the current dominance of Jace 2.0. White and Green both got good additions to their arsenals, and Red did marginally better than Blue, which is to say not especially well.

I really like this new set, despite the cycles of gigantic worthless creatures. They printed lots of viable, constructed worthy cards, and opening packs of this set will feel productive, even when you get the bad parts of the box. Drafting with this will also be a pleasure, opening crazy bombs like the Praetors. Next time I will list my favorite limited picks for the set, as well as a breakdown of which colors got the most love this time around.

Local News

So this previous weekend, local Yoni Skolnik took 2nd place at the SCG Boston 5k with Junk. This deserves a congratulations. I really liked his list, as it mixed a good blend of old and new, packing 4 Green Sun’s Zenith as the biggest change on the norm. This enabled him to run some silver bullet one-of creatures, which is definitely a little different, and seems quite good. Again, Congratulations to Yoni for his exceptional finish.

He was one of two BGW lists to place in the top 10 at Boston, which doesn’t surprise me in the least.  Hymn to Tourach is one of the best cards in the format, and can easily glide you to the top spot all by itself. Coupled with Thoughtseize and any form of disruption, it can basically shut your opponent off their game, which in Legacy is nearly always fatal.

I should be attending the SCG Orlando 5k on May 14-15, and I plan on playing my strangest of strange combos, Hive Mind. The line of thinking is really quite simple: even passable success with the deck will garner more coverage than usual due to the odd nature of the deck I will be playing. Besides, how cool would it be to combo kill someone on turn 2 in a feature match with a deck your opponent has never even seen before?

Well, that’s it for this time. Until next time, keep turning those creatures sideways!