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8, Feb, 23

MTG's Newest Format May Be the Fastest in Recent History!?

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Article at a Glance

Phyrexia: All Will Be One has just dropped online! While players got a taste of the set during its prerelease season starting last Friday, Phyrexia officially hit MTG Arena and MTG Online servers as of yesterday! Alongside new toys to play in constructed formats, players jumped the gun to try and solve the latest, and perhaps most complex, introduction from MTG’s newest set of all: its Limited format. Early data suggests something rather shocking: players who like to brew together a slower, synergistic decks may be disappointed. Phyrexia: All Will Be One Limited may be the fastest draft format in recent history. That said, while this data may be able to point early drafts in a direction, it should not be taken at face value.

Don’t Miss Your Two Drop!

Earlier today, Fireshoes on Twitter outlined that, according to very early data on the Phyrexia: All Will Be One Limited format, this may be the fastest format in the data tracker’s history. For reference, 17 Lands is considered one of the best resources for MTG Arena players to stay up-to-date on the general meta for any particular Limited format played on the MTG Arena platform. With that in mind, 17 Lands only has data from the Limited formats that have seen play on MTG’s newest client, so Phyrexia: All Will Be One Premier Draft, in particular, may be the fasted Limited format that MTG Arena has ever seen.

Early responses to the featuring of this data seems to suggest that its on to something. Many MTG players aren’t super fond of how fast this Limited environment has been on release:

“This was very noticeable to me at prerelease. Every deck was on multiple one drops, whereas conventional wisdom is that you don’t really run one drops in limited decks unless they do something insane.” – @DTrain_94

“This set has felt absolutely rancid to me so far, I usually love a new limited set and this has just felt terrible. Blocking is SO punishing and there are a ton of creatures that have bonuses on attack or on their turn that make them terrible blockers but great attackers.” – @HalfAgain

Take This With a Grain of Salt

Of course, this is still incredibly early into the format. While that means there is still a lot of opportunity for innovation amongst Limited’s invested icons, it also means that the sample size for 17 Lands’ current chart is quite small and potentially somewhat biased. As of the writing of this article, the site does not have enough data to present winrate percentages of individual cards, supporting this claim further.

Over on Twitter, Limited expert Sierkovitz’s outlook on the matter is an excellent example of what trusting data with a small sample size too much can do:

“I am not saying ONE is a slow format, I am just saying that the data we have are problematic and drawing conclusions from problematic dataset is not a smart idea. Maybe ONE is super fast – we will know for sure soon. But opinions like “worst set ever” are just hot-takeism.”

The problem being referred to is identifying results from the Early Access Event as an outlier. As stated by Sierkovitz, the lack of a B03 icon in the above graph for Phyrexia: All Will Be One Limited is missing. However, Quick Draft, a format that was only playable for Phyrexia in the All-Access event, is a massive outlier that has a data point on the graph. This early data suggests that Phyrexia: All Will Be One’s early metagame is incredibly quick. Still, judgment calls writing off the entire format based on this early dataset may be a mistake. The point of all this is to suggest that using this data to infer the potential of a faster early metagame of Phyrexia: All Will Be One Limited can be valid, but limiting your view of the format solely to one source can be problematic.

While the basis of this argument hinged on Early Access drafting being a potential outlier affecting early statistical results too much on 17 Lands as a result of early concessions is up for contention, the points stand. We need more information before completely writing off a new Limited format, which some players appear to be doing. That said, the suggestion that players should be ready for fast decks due to this data could be very real.

For now, according to early results, two drops may be at a premium in this format. For those who are unsure what cards to look out for, here are some common suggestions (with some uncommon support)!

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Barbed Batterfist

barbed batterfist

This particular common two-drop has been incredibly impressive, but only when used alongside certain strategies. Even if your token gets dealt with early, various effects that require sacrificing artifacts or bouncing permanents to hand can make the Batterfist a much stronger utility card. Having something to play on two definitely seems better than playing nothing at all, but Barbed Batterfist truly shines when used alongside cards that care about artifacts and equipment.

unctus's retrofitter

Unctus’s Retrofitter has proven to be an absurd way to follow up a turn two Batterfist. There are a lot of one toughness creatures in the format, including the Batterfist alongside its ‘For Mirrodin!’ ability. This means that this equipment creature will likely run into a lot of interference equipped to deal with cards like it in a net-positive way, like Malcator’s Watcher and Ambulatory Ediface. The Retrofitter allows you to repurpose your Batterfist after the token dies. Still, if you do this on-curve, you actually end up unequipping your token and giving it an unexpected toughness. This isn’t always relevant, but if your opponent has something like the watcher or a Pestilent Siphoner as a way to keep up with you on board, this can lead to an early swing for six. With a surprising amount of strong targets for Unctus’s Retrofitter, this may be one of the strongest uncommons in the set.

Malcator’s Watcher

malcator's watcher

Talking about the Watcher, this card has been very impressive in early Limited. This won’t be doing a ton on turn two besides (hopefully) trading with a creature or eating a potentially misplaced piece of removal, but since the card replaces itself on death, it’s a fantastic choice for slower decks that want to win the game with bigger spells. This can, notably, also be a fantastic target for Unctus’s Retrofitter. That card is very good in the current format.

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Anoint With Affliction

anoint with affliction

Doing something on turn two doesn’t necessarily mean playing a creature. If Phyrexia: All Will Be One’s Draft format ends up being as fast as early data suggests, the restrictive clause on Anoint With Affliction won’t matter too much. Most MTG Limited players are able to identify removal options like this one as premium choices, which means they likely will not be sticking around in packs for very long.

Mandible Justicar

mandible justicar

Outside of just playing a two-drop for tempo purposes, Mandible Justicar needs a bit of build-around support to make it a strategy worth going all-in on. It does, however, give me Towashi Songshaper vibes, which was such an underrated two-drop in Neon Dynasty Limited that it ended up creating its own archetype later on.

veil of assimilation

This card does some silly things when paired with Veil of Assimilation, which was a major synergy I used to 5-0 a local prerelease. That said, many Limited experts have flagged this card as a trap, so take this particular highlight with some caution. That said, when combined with the Veil, Mandible Justicar is privy to +2/+2 buffs whenever an artifact enters play. It will also pick up Vigilance to block Toxic creatures in an emergency. While I will not be surprised if the investment for this strategy is too much, I think it has potential.

Don’t Jump to Conclusions Yet!

While early data suggests that Phyrexia: All Will Be One’s Limited format may be the fastest we’ve seen in quite some time, it’s far too early to write the entire format off. Even if this ends up being an incredibly quick race to the finish line, it doesn’t necessarily mean the format will be bad. Any Limited format that has promising strategies in all five colors is one that I can get behind. New Capenna Limited is a recent example of a rather unbalanced format due to how powerful Bant’s payoffs were. This made a lot of drafts become rather samey since everyone was trying to draft the same archetype for a long while (which inherently made everyone’s deck kind of mediocre, but that’s a different story). While players may want to prepare for life in the fast lane, let’s wait for MTG’s Limited masterminds to acquire more info before making a final judgment call.

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