Last week, Wizards announced their Buy a Box promo and debuted a new mechanic that, I will make no bones about, absolutely love. If you want to learn all about it (and I’m sure you do since you’re going to be seeing plenty of these cards), go to the page here and read the FAQ.
But for the discussion today we’re going to be focusing on two aspects: 1) paying 2 life and 2) what that actually means. We’re going to get to why this is the right time to print mechanic, how I’ve faced a similar problem with this before (in a round about abstract way), and I’m going to answer everyone’s favorite speculation question with more speculation, a new Force of Will.
And you know how much I hate speculation. Especially when people put fake cards and so many people think that it’s real and it gets passed around the internet and…
Take a deep breath, Robby. *Sigh* Here we go.
Phyrexian mana is the new kid on the block so you’re going to see plenty of amateur designs incorporating it. That’s fine, because it’s an awesome mechanic. Being able to pay 2 life instead of 1 colored mana means that you can play it cheaper (obviously). But this fits completely within the flavor of the set; the Phyrexians taking over and infecting everything. This is the perfect and, until we see Phyrexians again in future sets, the only place this mechanic should belong is in this setting.
Hooray, history lesson time: Hybrid mana was first created for the Ravnica set but then was jettisoned to the block after it, Time Spiral, because it could represent the fracturing of mana. It fit in Ravnica because the plane had adapted to allow both hybrid and regular mana to work. Both of those block could’ve supported the idea of hybrid mana since it made sense creativity and mechanically.
The key to that quick story is that the idea of hybrid mana fit in both blocks. If you notice, there’s something different going on with this set. With the introduction of Infect, life total doesn’t really matter. Sure, it matters, but it matter less. This is why Platinum Emperion was printed in SOM instead of a Platinum Angel reprint (which is in M11).
Only the Mirrans have life gain in this block (while only two Phyrexian cards have lifelink: Flensermite and Wurmcoil Engine) and two of the Planeswalkers do as well, but they’re not watermarked. The Mirrans lost a war because they thought the only way of beating the Phyrexians was to gain life. The Phyrexians laughed at that notion because they weren’t even playing with the same rules. Life (in the traditional sense) doesn’t mean anything to Phyrexians since they have infect.
Which leads us back to Phyrexian mana.
You can either pay the mana traditionally, which is fine, or you can pay life. Why does this work in only this block and not any other printed so far?
Life (in the traditional sense) doesn’t mean anything to Phyrexians since they have infect. Whoa, deja vu.
Phyrexians are more then happy to pay in something they don’t believe in. If given the option of paying my mortgage with monopoly money or “real” money, why wouldn’t I pay with the fake money? When talking about why certain cards were Phyrexian watermarked instead of Mirran, Maro answered this:
6. The Card Used Life as a Payment. This category really only shows up on one card in Scars. Why then did I include it? Let’s just say it’s my job to plan ahead.
Oh, I see what you did there.
While I thought Necrogen Scudder was a nice call back to suicide Black and hopes we’d get something like that again (who knows, we might), it was a foreshadow. Suicide Black was known for having efficient creatures/spells that required a drawback for playing with them. The combination of Carnophage/Hatred turn 2 win powered by Dark Rituals was huge. But I personally believe in the philosophy that Black can do whatever it wants as long as there’s a cost, most likely of sacrificing or losing life.
Over the course of Magic history, only 4 cards with the name Phyrexian have not been Black or colorless. Four out of fifty-five. Phyrexians are part of Black’s history, so when we finally see them take over a plane and they adapt some of the way mana reacts, why shouldn’t it take on the properties of their main color? Just like the Ravnica example above, you’re seeing how a world that’s starting out creates that obtuse mana. This does allow Black to have access to various cards and abilities it normally wouldn’t have, just by paying life.
Now we’ve learned that to the Phyrexians, 1 colored mana = 2 life. But where have we seen something similar like this before?
Oh, yeah. So, (theoretically), 2 life = 1 colored mana = 2 colorless mana. I talked about this in my look at my colorless hybrid piece, but you have to find effects that equal 2 life per 1 colored mana cost. With Surgical Extraction, we’ve seen precedent before with the card Extirpate, minus the split second. The effect certainly makes sense for B, but for 2 life for other colors? It still is a Black card, but you can here the Phyrexians whisper, “It’s ok, it’s just 2 life. Do it.”
I’m sure that it was also tested and 1 life as well, but it was too good. Without knowing how many Phyrexian mana cards there are in the set, I have no idea if 3 life was tested and it was too much for too many spells, or how powerful can a 1 mana spell be. Remember, they’re still the same casting cost so a hypothetical 2[P/W][P/W] Wrath of God can still be cast as 2WW instead of 2 +[4 life]. The cards have to cost correctly as not all the time will you pay them for their Phyrexian cost.
But you’ll notice that you can cast certain cards without paying the mana cost which means it can be cast when you’re tapped out. That’s appealing to Storm players (it adds a spell being cast) and for Force of Will fans. Many people have said that a Force of Will-like card could be printed within New Phyrexia. After all, just by paying life you can counter a spell for “free” and when you’re tapped out. But that’s when things add up fast when you add in more and more colored mana ([P/X] is the Phyrexian mana symbol with what color it is).
[P/U] = 2 life. Won’t counter a spell for that.
[P/U][P/U] = 4 life. This is straight up Counterspell. Will not see print as is.
[P/U][P/U][P/U] = 6 life. At what point does it become too much to counter a spell?
Remember, to be a true Force of Will analog, there can’t be any colorless mana that you have to pay in addition to. Plus, we’re talking about a Phyrexian mana cycle here not, just trying to recreate Force of Will. That’s what I’ve seen with plenty of the suggestions for the Phyrexian Force of Will, trying to be excatly like it:
After seeing the new Surgical Extraction, I was wondering if there could be a Force of Will/Pact of Negation type counter. Maybe something like As an additional cost RFG a blue card counter target spell.
Let’s take a look at all of Force of Will and its variants:
Each one of these spells were part of a cycle (well, Mindbreak Trap not as much of a cycle). While some of them do say “discard a card,” that’s what tied the whole cycle together. If the case was to have it be almost like Force of Will, Pact of Negation would also have the phrase “discard a card” on it as well. But it doesn’t. Players who are looking for a clone of Force of Will are going to be disappointed as the best move is to create something that is completely different while still functions the same.
If I was going to speculate, here’s how I would propose this new spell:
Phyrexian Force – [P/U][P/U]
([P/U] can be paid with either U or 2 life.)
Counter noncreature spell.
Boring? Sure. But, I believe that it can work. It can counter other counterspells, but also be an answer to Jace the Mindsculptor in Standard (though that’s a topic for later on this week). It doesn’t hit creatures, but that’s fine as it’s only a little worse than Negate requiring 2 colored mana.
New Phyrexia previews start next week and I’m sure this will be one of the things that MaRo talks about. I can’t wait to read what he writes as after all, this is only my perspective. I really like this mechanic’s concept and I can’t wait to see what WotC has done with it. When all of New Phyrexia is released, I think I’ll go back and take a look at the mechanics throughout the whole block and what I thought of them. Everyone else is doing set reviews, but I want to do something a little different.
This is not the place to speculate on other Phyrexian mana cards nor think of your own new Force of Will. I’ve seen plenty of threads pop up online and I would direct your attention there.
Until then, may you not get infected by the Phyrexians as well.