Proliferation of Plans

Posted in Serious Fun on October 5, 2010

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

The release has come and gone. The waiting, for everyone, is over. The hour of darkness is upon us: the Phyrexians are back!

Wait, you were expecting something else? It's Proliferate Week here and let me tell you: Phyrexians mean business. It took the better part of a millennium for Urza, arguably the greatest (or worst) planeswalker to ever come from Dominaria, to stop them in their relentless assault in the past.

How can anyone hope to address the sneaky spread of Phyrexia on Mirrodin?

Incrementally Good

The Phyrexians are a resilient bunch; killing them by the scores doesn't really bother them for long as they'll just mop up the remains and rebuild even better than before. But what makes them particularly scary is the depth of hidden, insidious strands of influence they weave. I'm not talking about bribery but sinister Sleeper Agents and the highly infectious Phyrexian oil.

While Sleeper Agents were part of the invasion of Dominaria, among other planes, it's the oil that's polluting Mirrodin. Slowly and surely it has been spreading and, if my bets are right, it's going to get a whole lot worse. Based on the damage they left to Serra's home plane there may be no hope at all of stopping, let alone reversing, the damage they will inflict.

Proliferate is precisely the type of flavorful mechanic that functions just as you would expect of Phyrexians: a little insertion of darkness then methodical, repeated growth until the tumor has taken over completely.

Of course, I'm not a personal fan of Phyrexia. When I signed on to Magic, I met Gerrard and Karn, Urza and Teferi—heroes of all degrees from the Weatherlight Saga—and the idea of supporting the dark lords in Magic history is something I oppose by principle of flavor: I spent years fighting Phyrexia, so why would I ever stop now?

You can make up your mind however you'd like, but be warned, I haven't heard good things about the long-term benefits of being employed by Phyrexia. However, even Urza admitted that the willful, focused pursuit of perfection was in itself an admirable quality, even if the ends were devastating to anything non-Phyrexian.

Plots that Span Turns

Download Arena Decklist

While it's not 100% Phyrexian it feels just right for showing how Phyrexians work. Between Skinrender and the multiple creatures with infect it doesn't matter what type of offense the opponent has as the -1/-1 counters will be plenty.


Winning via poison is the deck's eventual goal but it doesn't have to force the damage through: Ichor Rats provide a poison counter without having to hit at all then, craftily, proliferate can take over. Steady Progress not only helps your trickle of poison along, it will up the -1/-1 counters on any of your opponent's creatures you've touched.

Ichor Rats
Steady Progress

Instill Infection plays well with proliferate, and draws you a card, while Esperzoa is part of the "Bounce Contagion Clasp or Contagion Engine, replay for mad, sick Phyrexian influence" anti-creature plan. The lands are pretty straightforward but since this deck takes a little bit to get moving, as well as appreciates some extra colorless mana, all of the Locus lands appear alongside Crosis's Catacombs which can return a Glimmerpost to replay later for a life boost.

Crosis's Catacombs

The longer the game goes the better the odds that the Phyrexians will triumph. I can't believe I'm even saying this but you know, proliferate is actually pretty neat. Maybe there's something more that can be done with this proliferate thing.

Growth Irregardless

Download Arena Decklist

While this can most certainly be classified as a modular deck, proliferate is playing a subtle part in the background. Dumping plenty of artifact creatures into play with Tempered Steel, and Open the Vaults supporting that, is an aggressive, direct plan. That much will be obvious.

But Culling Dais and Throne of Geth give you options that play well against Shatter and Revoke Existence; anything that tries to kill your artifacts you can instead have the artifact be converted into something else. Proliferate and a bounty of creatures with counters will wreak havoc on combat math, and proliferating counters on Culling Dais ensures that the flow of metal won't cease.

Culling Dais
Throne of Geth

Cloudpost and Glimmerpost are no surprise here, but Vesuva can get the Locus action really going. Ancient Den serves as another artifact that can be converted into something else and without some regular Plains those white cards would look a little silly.

Here is Phyrexia being, dare I say, friendly. Adding counters to creatures and card draw isn't something the darkest force in the multiverse would facilitate, right? Why don't I introduce a few fellow friends to how proliferate is great?

Friends, Super!

Download Arena Decklist

I actually have no idea if this even works. I just felt somehow compelled to gather as many planeswalkers as I could to show them proliferate. Jace Beleren lets you draw a card then, if you proliferate, end up at the same number of loyalty counters. Elspeth, Knight-Errant accelerates to her emblematic conclusion and Elspeth Tirel can "go ultimate" the turn she comes down if you proliferate afterwards. Gideon Jura, a man of true action, could always use a loyalty boost as well.

And Jace, the Mind Sculptor? If you can tilt him up to twelve, the end result isn't going to be pleasant for opponents. Crystal Ball and Preordain help us dig down for whichever friend or creature-wiping spell we want.

Crystal Ball

Phyrexia comes with some great benefits for going long—everything you want increased surely gets bigger and better. With enough allies, making Steady Progress towards the end is easy or even trivial. One could say that Phyrexia has grown on me.

Grown. On me. Oh. Oh no. No, no this is not good. I think I've made a mistake. An error. Why can't I think of anything negative about Phyrexia? I'm confused, surely. Since my thought processes are compromised I'll turn to the wave of input all of you have provided. There must be a million (give or take several hundred thousand) reasons to love something in Scars of Mirrodin that isn't related to Phyrexian domination.

Thoughts Not My Own

Let's start with the Magic: The Gathering Facebook group.

Salvatore A. had the "first comment" and it was simply "Genesis Wave." Bravo! You've won me over on the spot! In fact, several more of you mentioned it too! I agree that it's definitely one of my new favorites!

Brad W. took things a lot farther with "I loved almost every card in this set!" That might be too many to love but hey, that's your call. Except that means you're with the Phyrexians—and no friend of mine.

Koth was a smash hit for dozens of you. I can't wait to see where this powerful planeswalker ends up. Ryan H. wants "to find a way to break Koth" but asked a more important question: "is Myr Battlesphere and Myr Galvanizer as broken as I think it is?" If by "broken" you mean "a boatload of attacking Myr fun" then I would say yes. Break away!

Jason M. said the best were "all of the infectious creatures" but went on to add "Go Putrefax and Mimic Vat!" While throwing wave after wave of angry infectious Horrors is distinctly Phyrexian, it still looks pretty neat.

Nathan P. shared that "Spikeshot Elder [and] Grafted Exoskeleton won me plenty of games at the first Prerelease! ... Second Prerelease I went to Carnifex Demon was amazing, even if I didn't have Contagion Clasp to go with him." Two Prereleases? Nice. Supporting Phyrexia? Not nice at all. Having fun? Well done!

Joe S. seemed prophetic when he shared that "proliferate seemed the most interesting, so I would say Throne of Geth. It seems primed for future shenanigans." As you can see from above: shenanigans indeed.

Galloway M. went right for the top of the awesome-but-totally-scary things to do with "Prototype Portal and Mindslaver." Even scarier? He wasn't alone in thinking this! Some of you have some very provocative ideas!

Prototype Portal

Abraham A. was simple and to the point: "Elspeth. First booster I opened was her."

Some of you went a little more against the grain, like Karl W. who shared he liked "Riddlesmith ... even if he had a lot of haters." To those of you who love a card "no one else does" I'll bet you that there are dozens of other players who love it. You just haven't met them yet!

Of course, Facebook wasn't the only way I heard from you: my email and Twitter feed were blasted with awesome stories.

Mark H. opened a Sword of Mind and Body at the Prerelease "and other players would do EVERYTHING that they could to get rid of it. I had a lot of fun using that card." Huh, I wonder why?

Wotjek K. was a fan of Wurmcoil Engine, something a few folks have taken to calling "the sixth titan." I don't know about that, other than I'm chucking Wurmcoil Engine into just about all of my EDH decks. Food for thought.

Ryan M. is also an EDH fan, and he was excited for Ezuri, Renegade Leader. He "keeps elves alive" and "buffs elves." While pointing out that the Overrun ability "is mana intensive" he is a creature "in a tribe known for making mana." @oddlittlebunny also liked the leader of renegades, and promised to add him "in my Elfdrazi" deck. I'm not sure what "Elfdrazi" is, but it sounds awesome!

Tony M., who got in just under the wire, shared that he really liked Neurok Invisimancer. He liked it for the same reason I did: helping dudes get through in Sealed games. Rob also emailed me and said that his "favorite card at the Prerelease was Contagion Engine." And @Thornicator as well as @Synt4xx said that "Necrotic Ooze is probably my favorite." Luckily for me I enjoyed all three cards myself as I had one of each in my Sealed deck from Saturday:

Prerelease Deck

Download Arena Decklist

Yeah. They did good things for me too.

And speaking of Saturday (and Sunday!), thank you to everyone who came out and sampled Scars of Mirrodin. I had a great time seeing a lot of different things:

  • What you love about the latest set
  • An updated Standard Mass Polymorph deck—hilariously awesome!
  • A huge variety of Sealed decks
  • EDH decks already running some of the new cards
  • Almost all of the "random" foil commons I was looking to trade for

It's way too much to fit into here but I didn't forget about you all—thank you again! And, if you're curious, whether I'm locked down or free to roam I'll certainly be at the next Prerelease when Mirrodin Beseiged rolls around.

And you should too.

It's the End of the World as We Know It

Scars of Mirrodin is here whether we're ready for the Phyrexians or not. It's clear that I have an issue of sorts with them and while it may be for the best if I avoid their contaminating reach I just can't help myself: this new set is amazing in so many ways.

And the fact that there were hundreds of statements saying the same thing means that all of you are finding just as many exciting things as I am. May every pack be the card you want, and every deck be as fun to play as you hope.

Keep proliferating your excitement: it will only get better from here!

Latest Serious Fun Articles


January 5, 2016

Hedron Alignment by, Bruce Richard

When I first looked at my preview card, I couldn't really wrap my brain around it. The card does so much that I wasn't really understanding its value. Kind of a "forest for the trees" thi...

Learn More


December 29, 2015

Eternal Pilgrim by, Bruce Richard

When religious belief turns into religious fervor, things get problematic—particularly on Zendikar. When the Eldrazi were originally imprisoned, stories were told to ensure no one would t...

Learn More



Serious Fun Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All