Magic History: New Phyrexia

Magic Untapped takes a look back at the set New Phyrexia.

After nearly 30 years of Magic: The Gathering, it's nice to look back at older sets to reminisce and see just how much the game has changed over the years.

In this video, we look back at New Phyrexia, the final set in Magic: The Gathering's Scars of Mirrodin block.

Check it out:

Video Transcript:

On May 13, 2011, the 55th expansion in Magic: The Gathering history came out, bringing another 175 cards (including three reprints) into the game.

As the concluding chapter in the three-set Scars of Mirrodin block, Wizards of the Coast teased two names for the set, not wanting to let the cat out of the bag as to which side won the conflict in Mirrodin Besieged.  To that end, the set was to be called either Mirrodin Pure, implying that the Mirrans successfully repelled the new Phyrexian threat, or New Phyrexia, meaning that the Phyrexians succeeded in corrupting and overtaking the plane of Mirrodin.

In late March, not too long before the set’s prerelease, the truth was known.  The Phyrexians had won and New Phyrexia would be the set’s official name.

<Maro DTW Phyrexians 24:19-54 “We wanted to use…be a Phyrexian.”

As the first truely Phyrexian-focused set, New Phyrexia introduced five new mana symbols.  Referred to as “Phyrexian mana,” these symbols resemble the Phyrexian symbol with color-specific colored backgrounds.  This type of mana can be paid for either through the conventional generation of a mana of its respective color, or by paying two life to artificially create one of that color.

The set also saw the return of the block’s previously-established mechanics of infect, proliferate, living weapon, metalcraft, and imprint.

In addition to that, New Phyrexia also introduces a cycle of new named Phyrexian villains to Magic.  These would be the Phyrexian Praetors: Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Jin-Gitazias, Core Augur, Sheoldred, Whispering One, Urabrask the Hidden, and Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger.

<Maro DTW Phyrexians 25:02-25:32 “Each color has…New Phyrexia.”>

And, how do these Phyrexians differ from the “O.G.” Phyrexians from Yawgmoth’s reign on the actual, original plane of Phyrexia?

<Maro DTW Phyrexians 25:52-26:13 “The original Phyrexians…they really are.”>

No disrespect to Yawgmoth, of course.

In getting back to the actual cards found in New Phyrexia, the set had (technically) six cycles, which is double what the previous set, Mirrodin Besieged, had.

Most notable among them include:

  • The aforementioned Praetors;
  • Chancellors, five rare created that can be revealed at the start of the game for a small effect to give a player an early advantage, and
  • Basic lands.  Like Mirrodin Besieged before it, New Phyrexia also boasts a cycle of basic lands that are designed to show either a scene inside the Phyrexianized core of Mirrodin or references to Mirrodin’s artifact lands.

As far as the set’s promotional cards are concerned, attendees of New Phyrexia’s prerelease event received an alternate art, foil Sheoldred, Whispering One card.  Launch party participants were given a Phyrexian Metamorph.  Magic Game Day participants were provided with a promotional, full-art Priest of Urabrask, whereas top-eight finishers won a full-art foil Myr Superion.  Also, the set’s buy-a-box promo was Surgical Extraction.

As far as non-promotional cards worth a mention, New Phyrexia boasts a decent variety of them (beyond the Praetors, each of which are pretty darn good):

  • Birthing Pod, the one-time backbone of several combo decks.  The card wound up getting banned in Modern in January of 2015;
  • Dismember, a rather effective creature removal spell despite the fact that (thanks to its Phyrexian mana) can often cost its caster four life to pull off;
  • Etched Monstrocity, which continues a series of “etched” artifact creatures that began with Etched Oracle in Fifth Dawn and continued with Etched Champion in Scars of Mirrodin;
  • Gitaxian Probe, a (technically) free card draw spell thanks to its Phyrexian mana cost.  Eventually, the card was banned in both Modern, Legacy, Vintage, and Pauper thanks to its ability to freely expand a player’s storm count in storm strategy decks;
  • Karn Liberated, Magic’s first colorless planeswalker card.  Beyond that, the card is quite powerful and is often found within Modern Tron decks;
  • Mental Misstep, a very specific counter spell that, upon release, was banned in Modern and was immediately popular in both Legacy and Vintage.  That is, until it was also soon banned in the former;
  • Phyrexian Obliterator, an updated version of the “suicide black” creature Phyrexian Negator and an extremely aggressive and damage-punishing card thanks to its anti-self damage ability.  The card would be reprinted in 2023’s Phyrexia: All Will Be One;
  • Surgical Extraction, a popular and versatile sideboard card thanks to its mono-Phyrexian mana casting cost, and;
  • Sword of War and Peace, a continuation of the block’s expansion upon the original Mirrodin block’s series of “Sword of X & Y” cards.

And, as mentioned before, there’s also the five Phyrexian praetor cards: Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Jin-Gitazias, Core Augur, Sheoldred, Whispering One, Urabrask the Hidden, and Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger.

So, where does New Phyrexia leave these new Phyrexians in terms of the overall Magic: The Gathering multiverse?

<Maro DTW Phyrexians 26:53-25:01 “The Phyrexians are…of these days.”

So, what are your thoughts on New Phyrexia?  Please, share what you think about the set in the comment section below.

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Thank you for watching.

Barry White

Barry White is a longtime Magic: The Gathering player, having started in 1994 shortly before the release of 'Fallen Empires.' After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, he went on to a 15-year journalism career as a writer, reporter, and videographer for three different ABC affiliate newsrooms.