Phyrexia: All Will Be One’s card list is out for the MTG community to see. Players have already begun to figure out how these cards are going to interact with some relics of the past, and it’s creating quite a stir in the secondary market. Multiple new infinite combo pieces are getting expensive, like The Red Terror with the new All Will Be One card and Aphetto Alchemist, which goes infinite on its own alongside Unctus, Grand Metatect. Besides the obvious rise of these new Commander combo cards, another group of cards is beginning to spike heavily due to excessive demand. Phyrexia: All Will Be One brings with it support from one of the most feared mechanics in the Commander format, which has given rise to cards that’s purpose is to keep Infect, or the new MTG Toxic mechanic, under control.
MTG Toxic in Commander
This topic has been talked about extensively. We even had a lengthy discussion about community controversy regarding the topic. We won’t go too much into this here as a result, but there does need to be some clarification before we discuss the cards rising in price.
Poison Counters are a mechanic that originates from the MTG set Legends. Poison Counters can be placed on a player due to a creature dealing combat damage. Once you get ten Poison Counters, you lose the game. The cards that interacted with Poison Counters in Legends did not have a keyword, and instead clunkily listed the details of placing a Poison Counter. Pit Scorpion is an example of a card from this set that cared about Poison Counters.
Poison would not make another appearance until Timeshifted Future Sight cards introduced the Poisonous mechanic. Poisonous was only ever printed on two cards and is a triggered ability that places Poison Counters on a player equal to the creature’s Poisonous value whenever the creature manages to deal combat damage.
This eventually evolved into Infect, which was introduced to Magic: the Gathering through the Scars of Mirrodin block. This mechanic was quite different from Poisonous in the sense that it converted any combat damage done by a creature with Infect directly into Poison Counters. There is no triggering of an ability, and the number of Poison Counters scale with the amount of damage the creature with Infect is doing. This means that an Infect creature dealing ten combat damage will end the game on the spot. This version of granting Poison Counters is particularly feared in the Commander format. Regardless of your life total, one bad hit from an Infect creature will end your game out of nowhere.
Coming in Phyrexia: All Will Be One is the new MTG Toxic mechanic. Like Poisonous, Toxic assigns a set value of Poison Counters alongside a creature with the keyword doing combat damage. Unlike Poisonous, Toxic directly modifies the type of damage being done, which means there is no triggered ability involving adding Poison counters to the player. If you want to read more into the Commander controversy involving Poison Counters, we have a deeper discussion into community reaction here.
With Phyrexia: All Will Be One introducing new Poison Counter support to MTG, it’s understandable that many players are beginning to have flashbacks to getting one-shot killed by Infect creatures or the infamous Triumph of the Hordes.
As new Poison support started spreading across the internet, Leeches’ interest began to rise heavily. Notably, this is a Reserved List card, which means it is very likely that this card will never see a functional reprint. This exclusivity also makes it an easier target for buyouts, but the card has been spiking for quite a long time, which suggests that the price increase behind this card has not been artificially inflated very much.
According to TCGplayer price history, Leeches started seeing a gradual increase starting from the middle of October, starting at around $5. Leeches saw a gradual spike to early January but has finally hit a whopping $20 in NM condition after a massive spike throughout the month.
While the increased demand for Leeches is understandable, especially considering the increased Poison support, Leeches can be an awkward choice for a Commander deck. The card is extremely one-dimensional, only removing the Poison Counters on you. It’s very rare for an entire table to be on Infect, so your life total will keep mattering to the players who do not want to deal Infect damage, making the downside of Leeches potentially worse than its upside. The new MTG Toxic mechanic also deals hybrid damage, meaning that new Toxic-inspired Commander decks may still care about your life total. Unless you’re heavily metagaming towards a player who loves Infect, or against the new Toxic-inspired preconstructed deck that is interested in getting its opponents in a Corrupted state, there may be better alternatives out there, like the other card that has been spiking on the secondary market.
Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Melira, Sylvok Outcast has also, understandably, been seeing some increased interest following the full reveal of Phyrexia: All Will Be One. This financial spike is much more recent than Leeches’ spike and not quite as severe. Melira only started spiking about two weeks ago, starting around $4.50. Current prices indicate that Melira is going for about $11-12 NM on average but has gone for as much as $18. Technically, both cards are quadrupling in price, but the $18 price remains an outlier for now.
It doesn’t take much to understand why Melira is good against Poison Counters. Melira literally prevents its controller from accumulating Poison Counters, essentially preventing the risk of being one-shot, as well as being Corrupted if you have not been already. While Infect deals damage in Poison Counters to players, it also translates damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters, which explains Melira’s second ability. However, to not make Infect creatures absolutely useless in front of Melira, creatures will lose Infect. Otherwise, Infect creatures would, essentially, be unable to deal any combat damage.
Unlike Leeches, Melira is also a 2/2 body, which means this card can actually do something against decks that don’t care about Poison Counters. It does end up being a 2/2 creature with no abilities most of the time, which is not ideal, but it’s better than nothing.
Another weakness of Melira that Leeches does deal with is Corrupted. If you already have three Poison Counters on you before Melira enters play, this card cannot remove them, so your opponent will still get Corrupted bonuses. It will, at least, prevent the worry of dying to Poison Counters, which is good enough for her to see a huge uptick in price.
Are These Worth It? (Personal Opinion)
Is there a ton of Poison interaction in your Commander playgroup? Are you expecting to face an endless legion of MTG Toxic decks after Phyrexia: All Will Be One drops? If one of these statements is true for you, and you dislike the Poison Counter mechanic in general, then these could be worth picking up. The inability of these to provide value outside of a Poison matchup makes them questionable cards to add to your 99 unless you’re really dedicated to having an answer to the mechanic.
A better and potentially more affordable alternative for an EDH may be the new Melira, Sylvok Outcast. This creature is not as good against Poison as the two cards spiking in price, but it does slow down the rate of Poison significantly. In exchange for a weaker check to Poison, Melira does something relevant outside of Poison matchups. This card can protect an artifact or creature that would be put to the graveyard by sacrificing itself. This means Melira can potentially throw itself in front of your Commander in times of urgency.
The answer to the question posed in the headline changes a bit in a constructed context. Right now, Poison is not an issue in formats where these cards are legal. Still, in the improbable event that MTG Toxic changes this, they could become viable sideboard options after Phyrexia: All Will Be One hits store shelves.