Phyrexian Dreadnought – Mirage
Date Reviewed: March 23, 2023
Commander [EDH]: 3.63
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
I remember the first time I saw a Phyrexian Dreadnought card, way back in 1997 or so. It sparked excitement, followed by downheartedness when the onlookers realized they rarely had 12 power worth of creatures in play on turn 8, much less 1 or 2 (this was before people in my area learned about the concept of a mana curve). I believe that the only tricks to keep it for cheap back then involved phasing or Illusionary Mask, and most people didn’t know the Mask existed, much less how it worked. As such, the Dreadnought quickly got a reputation as close to completely useless.
Of course, the game was evolving very rapidly, and we soon got abilities that cared about a creature’s power even for the brief moments it was in play, and things that looked at creatures’ power in the graveyard, and even actual recognition of triggered abilities. The Dreadnought very quickly became far from useless, though it’s still more of a gimmick than a consistent attraction in both casual and competitive settings; it has a limited number of notes, but those notes are cute and surprisingly clever, and will demolish people who aren’t ready for them.
I’m actually very glad that the Dreadnought’s functional errata was overturned 15 years ago. People should really be rewarded for finding interesting interactions between cards, particularly when they don’t do anything more frustrating than “be really big”.
Limited: 1 (I’ve never seen anybody actually sacrifice enough power worth of creatures to keep it in play the “right way”)
Commander [EDH]: 3.5
Gifted with both ample length and thickness, and the ability to plow through defenses effortlessly, Phyrexian Dreadnought is a very intriguing card that presents an interesting puzzle to be solved. It also has a bit of history, having received functional errata in the past to try to get it to “work as intended” before they undid the errata on it and reverted it to how it was printed.
Twelve power is a lot of power to try and give up, and while the Dreadnought only costs one mana, you’re paying more than that if you want it to stick. Of course, you don’t need it to stick to have a good time, and that ability on the Dreadnought is a triggered ability that can be responded to. So you can take advantage of the fact that it dies immediately, you can just not care that it dies immediately, or you can keep that ability from going off altogether, and you have a Dreadrought ready to do fitting things.
Phyrexian Dreadnought is a weird card with a lot of subtlety, and it’s best if you don’t just play it at face value. Think of it less as a straightforward weapon and more as a cog in a degenerate combo, and you’ll find it pulls its wright. And, if all else fails, a 12/12 with trample can do plenty of work once enabled.
Constructed: 3.5 (a combo piece that’s not immediately straightforward, but one that can do a lot of work)
Limited: 1.25 (Mirage was light on the tools to make this work)
Commander [EDH]: 3.75 (you’re playing it for all it enables, not for it being a 12/12)
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