– Masters 25
March 23, 2018
Commander [EDH]: 4.25
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
New Phyrexia is unquestionably one of the most frightening sets in Magic’s history. Innistrad has a foreboding and menacing atmosphere, and Theros often does a good job of making you feel small and mortal (not always in the obvious cards, either – why do the Returned’s masks have such intricate facial expressions?). But there is no set that is as confronting and transgressive as New Phyrexia, and the callbacks to it in the Commander sets reinforce this – refer to something like Grip of Phyresis for comparison. Of course, it includes significant elements of body horror and open depictions of atrocities and medical experimentation, but I think it’s partly the way they all seem so plausible, even when they involve things that should be physically impossible.
When we originally reviewed Phyrexian Obliterator in 2011, I closed my comment with the exclamation “Blessed perfection indeed!” I stand by that now, though this guy really has to be used in mono-black, and even then he can make for some awkward hands with mono-color staples like Mind Stone. That’s not a major problem when you get so much upside for devoting yourself to a color, and I actually think it’s kind of nice to see such an incentive for devotion in an era where it seems like every other set has multicolor elements.
Phyrexian Obliterator is also a link to Magic’s history, as it is an update to Urza’s Legacy‘s Phyrexian Negator in both mechanical and flavor terms. The Negator represents a member of an elite force that attacked Urza’s academy in Tolaria in retaliation for his earlier intrusion into Phyrexia. Both are special cards with a great history, and both are strong representatives of their respective era of Phyrexia’s history.
While some of the mythics of Masters 25 were dubious, Phyrexian Obliterator is not in that dubious category. Gifted with horrifying combat stats (5/5 with trample), a vicious punisher effect that makes it extremely hard for green or red to remove safely, and a ruthlessly efficient death stroke, Mister Snuffles is in a league of his own. The only thing that keeps him from being absolutely absurd is his mana cost; quadruple black makes him nigh-impossible to splash for or play outside of extremely black-centric decks. The reward is well worth it, though, and it’s not impossible to drop this on turn 2 (or even turn 1) in Legacy or M25 limited with the help of a timely Dark Ritual or two. It’s a fitting representative from the brutal New Phyrexia, and it’s an excellent creature whose power is balanced by its color-intensive mana cost.
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