Chancellor of the Dross – New Phyrexia
Date Reviewed: March 16, 2023
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Chancellor of the Dross is an interesting card, part of a unique cycle that uses a design concept that hasn’t been explored as much since. I think some people occasionally forget to make use of the trigger, or occasionally become confused about what order they should do things in when there’s other things to do during their turn. Still, the concept clearly hasn’t been entirely forgotten, as the Mystery Booster playtest card Impatient Iguana is a suggestion that it has some space to innovate, and we had Sphinx of Foresight in the mainline releases as recently as Ravnica Allegiance.
This is probably the strongest of the New Phyrexia Chancellors, with some caveats. When you get the first-turn trigger, it’s a reasonably significant shift in starting life for 1v1 formats, especially if you can back it up with more pressure. The issue has always been that he’s expensive for the aggro-ish vampire decks and much too expensive for tournament burn decks. With that said, his stats are technically good, his ability can make a difference sometimes, he has a relevant creature type, and he works well with other life management effects. He’s a decent choice in casual games, particularly if you have a way to make the sometime turn-zero life swing relevant (he definitely makes people start closer to the Zendikar vampires’ “bloodied” threshold, for one).
Chancellor of the Dross was mildly famous for being the cornerstone of a hypothetical, mostly-broken-but-also-slightly-interesting format. If there was no four-of limit, a deck with 60 of this card would always have seven in its opening hand, and make its opponent lose 21 life at the beginning of the first upkeep. However, the counter to this would be a deck that can start on 22 or 23 life, which is surprisingly possible with cards like Nourishing Shoal and Providence. But the lifegain deck would lose in turn to 60 Memnite (or even, most likely, Chancellor of the Forge), and even Rocket-Powered Turbo Slug if we presume that the Unhinged stuff actually works in black-border. This isn’t actually quite the final evolution of decks; Frank Karsten, scholar and gentleman that he is, did an actual analysis of this joke format which might help if you want to try it out (or want to reinforce your belief in singleton cubes!).
Commander [EDH]: 3.5
If you’ve never seen New Phyrexia‘s Chancellor cycle before, they might surprise you, and maybe not in a good way. All five of them are mono-colored cards that let you reveal them at the start of the game to get some kind of benefit before everyone gets going. Chancellor of the Dross is one that’s always been intriguing, both casually and competitively, as it represents a swing of 3 life before anyone does anything else. It doesn’t seem like a lot at first, but you’re spending no cards to do so, and this does stack in multiples. That said, if you’re bold enough to keep an opening hand of four copies of Chancellor of the Dross, you had better hope that you can blow them out in short order…though I suppose you can make a first-turn kill with four copies of these and two copies of Soul Spike, an inefficient but hilarious way to end a game before it’s even begun.
To be fair, if you’re playing Chancellor of the Dross in Modern, it’s not likely for the body; the body’s not bad, but he costs seven mana and triple black, making him a really inefficient threat (though still a threat); he’s awful unless he’s in your opening hand, and even then, you’re likely stuck with the Chancellor in your hand as a mostly dead card or discard fodder piece until late. That said, he is still extra tempo in a game where every point of life can matter, and putting an opponent at 17 life before turn 1 can matter in formats like Modern, which tend to be fast and tend to hemorrhage life to enable a lot of their early plays. It won’t ever be a star, but this can throw people off their game and make for some fun, and sometimes that’s all you can really ask for.
Limited: 4 (it dodges Dismember, which is huge)
Multiplayer: 4.25 (it drains everyone equally)
Commander [EDH]: 3.5 (the main issue is that he’s just a decently large beater unless he’s in your opening hand, and life totals starting at 40 means the three-point drain is a bit less impactful)
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