November 27, 2020
Commander [EDH]: 4.38
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Hopefully your Black Friday will not be as tumultuous as the one the kids from South Park experienced a few years ago. I won’t link to any clips from it here, because I don’t know how many of you are reading from work or school and almost everything South Park does is inappropriate for work and school, but their adventure was quite funny – and, sadly, a little too close to home in some locations.
But on a lighter note – and yes, I realize there aren’t very many lighter notes when it comes to Phyrexia’s Ninth Sphere – we’re mainly here to talk about a longtime fan favorite card, Phyrexian Arena. You can view it as a toned-down version of yesterday’s card of the day, but I prefer to think of it as a source of inevitability. There are games where if it stays in play for as little as one turn, it will have made a difference, and the longer it lasts, the further ahead you will be. It’s in a curious position in that it doesn’t get much play in the larger four-of formats like Modern, but can be absolutely dominating in casual settings (or even Commander, under the right circumstances; it’s such a threat-dense format that other things will draw both the removal and the general threat assessment heat).
Another black card, this time for Black Friday. Phyrexian Arena has also been a Commander staple for years because, while it’s simple, it’s effective: one card for one life, on top of any other card drawing and effects. This happens in your upkeep, which has some interesting applications, but the point is still the same. Extra card draw is powerful, as has been shown over the years by the likes of Dark Confidant (and Necropotence), and Phyrexian Arena’s gimmick is that it’s a flat rate per card (and harder to remove than Dark Confidant).
Unfortunately, Phyrexian Arena hasn’t really kept up as well over the years; while it would be arguably broken at two mana, three mana is sort of in a “strong, but not that strong” dead zone, and black has a lot in its three-drop slot that it might be inclined towards (like any of the Liliana planeswalkers) instead of taking a turn off for turning on card advantage. It can still work, and I think it would definitely be a very powerful card as part of today’s Standard environment, but Modern is a bit too hostile for enchantments that need time to do their thing, particularly at the three-mana or higher point of the curve.
Constructed: 3 (it can work if you make it, but it hasn’t had much success in recent years)
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