A new enchantment printed in Phyrexia: All Will Be One has split the MTG player base. Skrelv’s Hiveis currently being tested in many Standard decks and is also one of the most in-demand cards in Phyrexia Limited. There are many players who believe this card is very good. Others, however, think the card is underwhelming and significantly less powerful than it appears to be. Let’s talk about Skrelv’s Hive and why players are so divided on it.
Into the Hive
For two mana, one of which must be White, Skrelv’s Hive generates a 1/1 Phyrexian Mite artifact creature token during each of its controller’s upkeep steps. These tokens cannot block and have Toxic 1, meaning they give one poison counter to any opponent they damage. Skrelv’s Hive also deals one damage to its controller every upkeep step. This downside is partially negated, as the hive also gives all of its controller’s creatures with toxic lifelink as long as an opponent has three or more poison counters.
Many Magic: the Gathering players, though certainly not everyone, view Skrelv’s Hive as a powerful card. The fact that the tokens it creates cannot block prevents them from being used defensively, the ability to generate a 1/1 with toxic 1 every turn is very impactful. This is especially true if a player controls multiple copies of Skrelv’s Hive. Making two, three, or four poisonous mites a turn quickly overcomes an opponent’s capacity to adequately block them. Although the life loss begins to bite when a player controls many copies of the hive, moving from a negligible side effect to a genuine downside, the Mites gaining lifelink can prevent this from becoming too big of an issue. Some players have even dubbed this card the second coming of Bitterblossom.
When Skrelv’s Hive was officially revealed on Reddit, the user Psychout40 nicknamed it “Skitterblossom” in reference to the skittering motion of a toxic Phyrexian Mite and also to a powerful card from the past.Bitterblossom is an enchantment from Morningtide, the second set of Lorwyn block, released back in 2008. Bitterblossom generates a 1/1 flying Faerie Rogue creature token each upkeep, whilst costing its controller one life. The similarities between Bitterblossom and Skrelv’s Hive are clear. Both cost their controller one life each turn but generate a steady stream of 1/1 creature tokens. Additionally, both have the same mana value, although Bitterblossom is Black, whilst Skrelv’s Hive is White.
The tokens generated by Skrelv’s Hive lose access to flying and the ability to block, which Bitterblossom’s Faerie Rogues have, but instead gain the ability to distribute poison counters and have conditional lifelink. This probably makes Skrelv’s Hive’s tokens worse overall, but it is not a perfect comparison. The major downside of losing access to flying and the ability to block is balanced, at least partially but not entirely, by gaining Toxic 1. The mites generated by the hive can kill opponents twice as quickly as Bitterblossom’s faeries can, but they also have more difficulty getting past blockers and are useless defensively.
Skrelv’s Hive in Standard and Limited
The hive currently seems to be performing well in Limited. Phyrexia: All Will Be One is shaping up to have an incredibly fast-paced limited format. This is in part due to the prevalence of toxic cards, and other effects that distribute poison counters. This means that Skrelv’s Hive slots right into many of the most aggressive Phyrexia: All Will Be One Limited strategies. The card is in high demand in both White/Green Toxic Aggro decks and Black/White decks focussed on activating the “corrupted” ability word.
As for Standard, the meta is still being formed but many players are experimenting with the hive in a variety of different decks. Some players are slotting the hive into aggressive mono-white builds, whilst others are trying it out in Esper Toxic decks.
The hive synergizes particularly well with Mondrak, Glory Dominus a legendary creature that doubles the number of tokens its controller creates. Describing a Naya tokens deck utilizing both of these cards, content creator The Asian Avenger writes: “you’ll be producing so many tokens that you’ll probably lose track of your board state.”
For all of this experimentation, some players are sceptical about Skrelv’s Hive’s actual viability. In a thread discussing the card on Reddit, user Cody8509 laid out some of its flaws: “There are some downsides, it takes 2 turns before the mites can do anything, assuming the opponent doesn’t have removal, the lifelink is conditional on 3 poison counters, so likely not until turn 5-6 at minimum, the mites also can’t block, not saying it’s a bad card, it’s good in my opinion, just slow.”
Mtg Streamer Ashlizzlle is one of the card’s more notable critics, describing it as “a trap” in a tweet.
Skrelv’s Hive has definitely generated some discussion. At time of writing the card is valued at around $5.00, it’s anyone’s guess whether players will keep trying the card out or will move on to other strategies.
Skrelv’s Hive is not the only card to be released in the years since Morningtide to be compared to Bitterblossom. Dreadhorde Invasion, a card from War of the Spark, was released to a certain amount of hype. Dreadhorde Invasion is also a two-mana value enchantment that generates tokens and costs its controller life. Valued at approximately $5 upon War of the Spark’s release, Dreadhorde Invasion quickly lost value and is now regarded as a bulk rare worth less than a dollar. This is because Dreadhorde Invasion generates tokens through the amass mechanic, which means that no more than one Zombie Army can be in play at once, significantly dampening its effectiveness.
In terms of strength, Skrelv’s Hive is definitely a more viable card than Dreadhorde Invasion, but it doesn’t quite measure up to the strength of Bitterblossom. Can Skrelv’s Hive earn itself a place in the Standard metagame or is it also a trap like Dreadhorde Invasion before it?