Last updated on January 27, 2023
Mindsplice Apparatus | Illustration by Ovidio Cartagena
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!
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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
- Archfiend of the Dross
- Armored Scrapgorger
- Atmosphere Surgeon
- Atraxa’s Skitterfang
- Axiom Engraver
- Bladed Ambassador
- Churning Reservoir
- Cinderslash Ravager
- Evolved Spinoderm
- Evolving Adaptive
- Exuberant Fuseling
- Font of Progress
- Forgehammer Centurion
- Free from Flesh
- Furnace Skullbomb
- Furnace Strider
- Gitaxian Raptor
- Glistener Seer
- Ichorplate Golem
- Ichor Synthesizer
- Incubation Sac
- Kuldotha Cackler
- Lattice-Blade Mantis
- Magmatic Sprinter
- Meldweb Strider
- Mercurial Spelldancer
- Migloz, Maze Crusher
- Mindsplice Apparatus
- Norn’s Wellspring
- Oil-Gorger Troll
- Predation Steward
- Rustvine Cultivator
- Sawblade Scamp
- Serum-Core Chimera
- Tablet of Compleation
- Tamiyo’s Immobilizer
- The Filigree Sylex
- The Monumental Facade
- Trawler Drake
- Urabrask’s Anointer
- Urabrask’s Forge
- Vat of Rebirth
- Vindictive Flamestoker
- Watchful Blisterzoa
Sadly for Archfiend there’s good competition with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.
X spells are going to be extra powerful if you keep it going long enough.
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.
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.
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.
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