Phyrexian Altar
Phyrexian Altar

Phyrexian Altar – Double Masters

Date Reviewed:  August 3, 2022

Constructed: 2.75
Casual: 4.00
Limited: 3.00
Multiplayer: 3.13
Commander [EDH]: 4.38

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.

Reviews Below: 


Phyrexian Altar is what we used to call an “engine” – which is to say, a card that repeatedly converts one type of resource into another. Such cards often lend themselves to combo decks, infinite or otherwise; note, for example, that the Altar generates infinite mana with Enduring Renewal and Ornithopter (or any other zero-cost creature). I’m not aware of any historical tournament decks that used this card, which is probably just because the large formats around the turn of the century were heavy on control decks that could punish a three-mana artifact, not to mention faster combos. Similarly, Invasion Standard not only lacked the right cards for it to go infinite, but had a tendency to throw Blastoderms at your face while you were getting set up. Of course, none of that is to say that such a combo deck couldn’t arise somewhere at some point – one of the constants in Magic is that new cards make you re-evaluate older cards.

At casual tables, it can be an absolute all-star with the right support. Even a humble token generator can lead to scenarios where you “cash in” and exchange two or three 1/1s for a much bigger and scarier creature. There are perhaps ways to make that exchange with more consistency and less risk, but Phyrexian Altar rivals any of them for speed – and it has relatively “fair” applications with color-fixing and such too.

Constructed: 3/5
Casual: 4/5
Limited: 3/5
Multiplayer: 4/5 (try and get everyone to attack each other while you set up)
Commander [EDH]: 4/5 (not only are you often one threat among three or more, it’s hard to effectively race via Blastoderm-throwing in a 40-life format)

I’m pretty sure the flavor text refers not only to old Phyrexia, but the Mother of Machines Elesh Norn. If the rumors are true, she’ll be the last Praetor revealed in the sequence beginning in Kaldheim. Considering how strong the first three were, and that Sheoldred is hinted to be bringing the fight to Dominaria and giving us the first major glimpse at New Phyrexia’s forces, Norn’s return is sure to be quite the event.

 James H. 


Phyrexian Altar is an absurdly powerful card that has never quite panned out in Constructed formats. It’s a powerful engine, but it relies on you being able to throw bodies into it to generate absurd amounts of mana. All the same, it’s managed quite a name for itself over the years with cards like Gravecrawler to generate infinite comes-into-play or death triggers, and adding in other pieces (like Rooftop Storm) can result in infinite mana for whatever you’re planning to try and pull off. It’s perfectly functional as a fair card, but its degenerate combos are what’s gotten it a lot of attention (usually with Zombies somewhere), and it’s likely going to keep finding pieces to abuse with it. Other colors can also have plenty of fun with things like Reveillark/Karmic Guide loops, and the world is your oyster in terms of milking this for all it’s worth.

Constructed: 2.5 (always been a step too slow, and Legacy is not friendly to this card)
Casual: 4.5
Limited: 3
Multiplayer: 3.5
Commander [EDH]: 4.75

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