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Ranking the Mythics of New Phyrexia

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If you were playing when Mirrodin Besieged came out, you might remember the interesting direction Wizards took with the final set of the block. They referred to it as just "Action" stating that it was going to either be Mirrodin Pure or New Phyrexia and left it to the players to try guessing who would win. In the end, as we all know, the Phyrexians won and we ended up getting one of the wildest sets of all time. Phyrexian mana warped tons of formats and the set contained several designs that dominated both competitive Constructed Magic as well as the then still budding Commander.

The set also gave us an absolute murderer's row of outstanding mythics, going so far as to create a cycle of the most beloved characters in the game's history: the five praetors of New Phyrexia. There's no shortage of incredible cards to talk about today, so let's get right to ranking the mythics of one of the game's most beloved - and reviled - expansions of all time!

10. Etched Monstrosity

What an absolute letdown to start on. Etched Oracle was never a tremendous standout, but it was an iconic card with a rock solid design and felt like the kind of card that makes people think Fifth Dawn. Etched Champion was a powerhouse in very specific aggro decks seeing play all the way back to Legacy. Etched Monstrosity seemed poised to be an awesome continuation of this, showing how such an iconic creature gets turned into a Phyrexian. Instead, what we ended up with was a terribly underwhelming design that felt like a bulk mythic no one cared about right from the start. Even worse was that due to the five colored mana symbols, you couldn't even play it in most Commander decks, rendering its uses even lower than that of your average bulk card. Only one mythic in this set was truly a dud and it was easily this.

9. Urabrask the Hidden

Urabrask jokingly received a reception as the weakest of the five praetors for a long time. That's because his two cards in New Phyrexia and Streets of New Capenna were both the least impactful of their respective cycles. That's not to say Urabrask the Hidden is bad by any measure. It's just that when you put it against the rest of the cycle's wild abilities, it just reads relatively mediocre by comparison. Despite that, it's still a great card, if a bit misunderstood.

8. Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur

I'd actually put Jin-Gitaxias way higher if it weren't for his high mana cost here, because you truly get to cripple your opponents with this one. Ten mana is an absurd rate that your average player isn't likely to pay in any capacity, but getting to refill your hand every turn while leaving your opponent without one is game-ending on its own. Even if your opponent has cards that can answer it, there's decent odds that they'll end up being left with so few cards they'll be trying to topdeck to get out of it.

While tough to get out normally, it has historically seen a decent amount of play in various Reanimator builds. The card has fallen off in favor of newer cards - particularly now with the rise of Atraxa, Grand Unifier - but remains a valuable tool for Reanimator's toolbox all the same.

7. Sword of War and Peace

I'd say Batterskull was far and away the more impactful piece of equipment from this set (more on that later) but this set's Sword of X and Y was no slouch either. It saw a ton of play in Standard as a way for Caw-Blade decks to close out games and even post ban for its usefulness against aggro decks like Red Deck Wins. Despite the powerful showing in Standard, though, it failed to see a ton of impactful play in older formats where it mostly only sees play as a meta call in specific scenarios. Instead, you'll often see something like Sword of Fire and Ice or - if legal - Umezawa's Jitte, leaving this one largely in the dust.

6. Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger

I've rarely seen a card quite as universally reviled in Commander as Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger. The card absolutely warps games around it the moment it hits the battlefield, and even sooner than that too if you're running it in the command zone. People hate trying to deal with Vorinclex and loathe how he shuts them out from being able to do anything while the player who controls the Vorinclex gets to dominate everything. I've actually seen a number of players stop running it just because of the reaction it tends to bring to the table. If that isn't a signifier of power and potency, I don't know what is, and it's definitely a tremendously iconic card as a result.

5. Phyrexian Obliterator

Phyrexian Obliterator is like the crowning achievement of a card that's super popular just by definition of being cool and unique. In practice, it's actually hard to utilize well. The cost of four Black mana makes it difficult for most decks to cast and when you actually do get to play it, opponents are so disincentivized from blocking to deal with it that it often just reads "5/5, Phyrexian Obliterator can't be blocked." Despite that, the card commanded a fairly hefty price tag for a long while until it was reprinted in Phyrexia: All Will Be One where even then people got super excited for the card to arrive solely because of its historical coolness factor. That alone should be a testament to how beloved the card is, even if it isn't actually that great in most cases.

4. Sheoldred, Whispering One

For a good while, it was pretty trivial to get your hands on a Sheoldred given how she was the set's prerelease promo. As such, she was considered good, but also sort of nothing special, just the card you'd see at the Commander tables and maybe a couple Standard Reanimator lists. As the years went on, though, the rise of Commander made her popularity grow considerably and her price went with it as all the new Commander players coming into the game needed copies of their own as well. This led to a huge rise in not just the popularity of the card, but of her character as well, which culminated with the mighty Sheoldred, the Apocalypse in Dominaria United. Still, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't love rocking the original in 100-card Magic thanks to her ability to chip away at opponents' resources while constantly refilling your own.

3. Batterskull

If you weren't playing in the early 2010s when Batterskull first came out, it might be hard to see what all the hype was all about. Nowadays, there're several better equipment setups and it gets pushed aside unless you're playing Legacy where it's been fairly playable since it was printed. It was Batterskull, though, that helped completely lock up Caw-Blade as one of the most format defining decks of all time (with Sword of War and Peace's aid, of course). Sword of Feast and Famine was what really made the most impact, giving the deck enough ground to make an impact in the first place, but Batterskull ultimately gave it its real power. It wasn't long until the deck was banned and even then the card continued to see tons of Standard play.

What made it such a standout, though, was the card's longevity. Not only did it see a ton of the aforementioned Legacy play, but tons of Cube play as well. I wanted to say it didn't see a ton of play in Modern mainly because Stoneforge Mystic was banned there for the longest time, but even well before that unban happened, it had tons of tournament performance. Arguably one of the most significant cards in the game's lengthy history, and that's saying something - even if it usually only shows up as a simple one-of.

2. Karn Liberated

You simply haven't lived until you've run into a turn three Karn. Better yet, you haven't lived until you're the one doing the casting. Karn Liberated made peoples' jaws drop from the day he was previewed for several reasons. For one, it was a revelation seeing Karn get cured after seeing him being corrupted in the previous sets. For another, his abilities were off the charts. His ultimate especially sent ripples through the player base at the time because it was something no one had ever seen before and it got players buzzing with excitement over it. As time has gone on, he's largely just been relegated to Tron decks and Cubes, but when he hits the board, you know you're on borrowed time all the same.

1. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

I originally wanted to give Karn the number one spot because of just how unique he was at the time, but let's be real: nothing in this set has proved to be as iconic as Elesh Norn herself. When New Phyrexia was released, all of the praetors were represented on equal level, but Elesh Norn took over in players' collective minds quickly. Not only was she taking over in Commander and in Cubes, much like the other praetors, she was also making quite a splash in various Constructed formats, such as in Legacy Reanimator and a powerful finisher for different Modern decks like Birthing Pod. As time went on, Elesh Norn completely dominated as a fan favorite and became the face of the inevitable return to Phyrexia and the invasion of the greater multiverse. All of that started right here with this one powerful card - well deserving of the top spot.

Paige Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

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