Last updated on January 27, 2023

Mindsplice Apparatus - Illustration by Ovidio Cartagena

Mindsplice Apparatus | Illustration by Ovidio Cartagena

Phyrexia: All Will Be One (or just #MTGONE) looks like a distorted Scars of Mirrodin/New Phyrexia set so far. Phyrexians took the plane of Mirrodin after all.

With new sets come new mechanics, and oil counters are no exception. They’re like charge counters with a little Phyrexian touch. Let’s take that inspiration when we dissect the matter and rip the subject wide open.

Is this a slick mechanic, or does it ask you to put in some elbow grease? What do oil counters do, and what are they good for? All questions will be answered!

How Do Oil Counters Work?

Archfiend of the Dross - Illustration by Lie Setiawan

Archfiend of the Dross | Illustration by Lie Setiawan

Oil counters are counters that are put on permanents, most notably artifacts and Phyrexian creatures. Some cards get oil counters naturally as the turns go, while others require you to cast instants or sorceries. The more oil counters they have on them, the better.

Some cards require you to take off some counters to reap the benefits, like Norn's Wellspring or Migloz, Maze Crusher. Other cards, like Urabrask's Forge, get a stronger effect the more oil counters they have (similar to Shrine of Burning Rage). Others still use the counters like the fading mechanic so the card comes with counters but you need to take one off every turn, like Evolved Spinoderm.

It's very important to note that this set also has the proliferate mechanic, and oil counters can be proliferated to turbo-off your engines.

The History of Oil Counters in MTG

Oil counters were introduced in 2023’s Phyrexia: All Will Be One. It’s one of the main mechanics of the set and is used to glue different themes (instants and sorceries matter, add counters, proliferate, and more) together.

This mechanic is very similar to how charge counters were used in the Scars of Mirrodin block, where you could have diverse implementations in cards like Shrine of Burning Rage, Tangle Wire, and Lux Cannon. Some cards are natural buildaround cards, which are only good if you build your deck to maximize some aspect (sacrifice creatures, combat damage, spellslinger). Others are those bomb-like cards that you just put in every deck.

How Do You Get Oil Counters?

How to get these new counters varies by card.

Some get it naturally, turn after turn. Others require you to do something, like casting instants or sorceries. Some cards, like Archfiend of the Dross, use oil counters as a doom clock (when it’s over, you lose) by losing a counter each turn. You can add oil counters using proliferate or The Monumental Facade, which transfers oil counters from itself to any creature or artifact.

According to WotC’s Matt Tabak, lots of cards put oil counters on themselves or other permanents, while others move oil counters around.

Can You Proliferate Oil Counters?

Sure! Proliferate works with all kinds of counters on permanents (including poison counters on players). When you proliferate, every permanent that has at least one oil counter can have another added to it (including your opponents cards, but you probably won't do that).

What Do Oil Counters Represent in Lore?

Phyrexians spread across the land and different planes using the Glistening Oil, also known as Phyrexian oil. They use it to spread their corruption, turn machines into living beings, and turn living beings into Phyrexian-like creatures (this is known as “compleation“).

Adding oil counters to a permanent means that it’s “more Phyrexian,” so to speak.

Are Oil Counters Good?

Oil counters are the kind of mechanic that'll appeal to Johnny players who like to do stuff and move counters around. Some cards look particularly interesting and powerful, like Urabrask's Forge and Norn's Wellspring.

I for one love these puzzle-y mechanics where you sometimes feel like you’ve built a nice engine, and sometimes it looks iffy.

Gallery and List of Oil Counter Cards

Watchful Blisterzoa

Best Oil Counter Cards

#6. Archfiend of the Dross

Archfiend of the Dross

Archfiend of the Dross is the type of card where you want to maximize the upside, like Demonic Pact. You want to have a big 6/6 flier on turn 4, and not lose to it.

It’s a demon and there’s always demand for new demons in EDH decks. It’s a very aggressive creature that also puts pressure on your opponents’ chump blocks.

Sadly for Archfiend there’s good competition with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.

#5. Mindsplice Apparatus

Mindsplice Apparatus

Mindspace Apparatus is your typical draw-go card that you’ll flash at the end of a turn. Suddenly all your counterspells and removal cost one less to cast. Next turn it’s two less, and so on.

X spells are going to be extra powerful if you keep it going long enough.

#4. Norn’s Wellspring

Norn’s Wellspring

Norn's Wellspring is a card that fits sacrifice/weenie strategies well. You get to draw a card for every two creatures that die. Not bad.

#3. Evolved Spinoderm

Evolved Spinoderm

Evolved Spinoderm is an interesting take on a Blastoderm. It’s a 5/5 with hexproof that trades hexproof for trample later in the game. It’s possible to keep the beats longer if you can proliferate regularly.

#2. Migloz, Maze Crusher

Migloz, Maze Crusher

Migloz, Maze Crusher is probably making a presence in Gruul () decks. A 4/4 for three mana is already good, and it’s all upside from there.

You can easily transform it into a 6/6, even 8/8, by spending the oil counters.

#1. Urabrask’s Forge

Urabrask's Forge

Urabrask's Forge looks like a real card. You get a 1/1 token on the first turn, then two, then three, and so on. Looks like a nice card to ramp into turn 2 or proliferate into.

Wrap Up

Norn's Wellspring - Illustration by Jonas De Ro

Norn's Wellspring | Illustration by Jonas De Ro

As a big Phyrexian and Scars of Mirrodin/New Phyrexia fan, I’m eagerly anticipating the release of ONE. The mechanics look fun and well rounded. The mix of poison counters, damage, and proliferate suddenly ending a game is nice, and I look forward to building a deck with an oil counter engine and proliferate. There’s a new tool for people that play counter-based EDH.

What oil counter card are you most anxious to add to your decks? Let me know it in the comments below or in the Draftsim Discord.

Stay safe folks, and thanks for reading!

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