Last updated on March 1, 2023
Planar Disruption | Illustration by Campbell White
Phyrexia: All Will Be One has been out for a bit now, so it’s time for another Ultimate Guide. I introduced the format and covered Sealed in my last article on the format, so today’s guide will focus on Draft.
Keep reading for advice on top commons, archetypes, pacing, removal spells, synergies, and how best to draft the format. Let’s get to it!
Format Big Picture
Mesmerizing Dose | Illustration by Konstantin Porubov
Welcome back to Phyrexia! Here’s how you best play the set… wait a minute, I’m hearing something approaching, hold on…
THE FORMAT IS BAD!!!
If MTG Twitter is any measure, ONE has been a controversial Draft set (to say the least!) If you don’t partake in MTG Twitter, check out this post by pro Austin Bursavich for a taste of the hatred that ONE has received:
Is this true? Is ONE one of the worst limited formats of all time? He expands on his thoughts further in a reply below:
Does Yours Truly agree with his assessment? Let’s break down his points and find out.
“All the mechanics are flavor text…”
This is obviously not a literal statement, but instead impugns the quality and gameplay relevance of the set’s five mechanics: toxic, corrupted, oil counters, proliferate, and for Mirrodin! None of these mechanics matter because turning dudes sideways with pump spells is all there is.
I don’t regard this statement as accurate. Toxic and oil are the best archetypes, and they’re defined by their mechanic and support cards. They are indeed aggressive, but both archetypes are defined by their chief mechanics. Toxic also has three different paces that I’ll talk about later.
“… there are very few interesting archetypes, it’s not very dynamic..”
This is a subjective claim, but you could objectively attack ONE for having archetypes that resemble each other more closely than most other sets.
For instance there are three toxic decks, two proliferate decks, and five other oddball archetypes. The dynamism in the set is best found in the archetypes’ subtle differences, the intersections between set mechanics, and the ample fixing to tie it all together. Another source of dynamism is that there are several uncommons that are sometimes worth building around.
“… it’s very aggressive and blocking is not good bc so many combat tricks that also draw a card…”
Little disagreement here. There are strong 1- and 2-mana creatures at common, and most of the archetypes are naturally proactive. Toxic naturally snowballs, and that snowball occasionally gets a push from corrupted too.
Your best for preventing corrupted is getting on board early, something all decks (even control decks) want to do. Blazing Crescendo, Compleat Devotion, and Free from Flesh cheaply win combat while accruing value, and there are only a couple easy ways to punish combat tricks (Hexgold Slash and Anoint with Affliction).
“… the colors aren’t even balanced.”
More on this later, but my ranking is red > white > green > black > blue. No color in the set is unplayable, but blue is clearly the worst. But Draft has a self-correcting nature, and blue isn’t as bad in ONE as something like green in BFZ.
“Some rares are broken, others are mostly boring.”
Some rares are definitely broken, and more broken than anything we’ve seen since Crimson Vow.They’re also rares, not mythics: you’ll play against more The Eternal Wanderer, Thrun, Breaker of Silence, and White Sun’s Twilight than you’ll feel like you should.
What balances these rares is that the format is also blazingly fast, which means occasionally dying with your unbeatable 6-drop in hand.
Despite all the criticisms I disagreed with above, I disagree that the set isn’t fun!
I felt under the gun playing ONE but not obscenely so, and found the puzzle of balancing pacing with power/ample fixing to be interesting. There are also a lot of interchangeable playables and plenty of cards that are only good in specific decks and matchups. I’ll conclude by giving this exchange as an example of our “Limited intelligentsia” being overly pessimistic on format speed:
The format is fast, but it’s not“mulligan three lands Migloz, Maze Crusher” fast!
As I was saying, the format is like some kind of extreme sports jigsaw puzzle. You have to figure out how to put all the pieces together while vicious alien creatures try to poison and bash you without first asking for consent. You may also suddenly find unwanted strangers showing up and flipping the table you were using (or finishing the puzzle for you, if it’s your The Eternal Wanderer).
Mastering ONE means learning both aspects of the set and knowing when to splash, when to bash, when to durdle, and when to complain that your opponent has “the same unbeatable rare again.”
I highlighted ONE’s color balance above, but to recap my rankings are:
Red is a versatile and aggressive color with a lot going for it; great common removal (Hexgold Slash and Volt Charge), solid creatures, oil counter support, good tricks, and an awesome hate card for Azorius () (Shrapnel Slinger).
The fast pace of ONE gels perfectly with red’s strengths since it’s a great proactive color and offers some of the best tools for trying to survive a fast draw. Red’s main shortcoming is its total lack of utility for toxic strategies.
White is another aggressive color with a clear focus on toxic. It’s the main color that provides Phyrexian Mite tokens, which are a source of toxic and sac fodder as well as a key focus for Selesnya () and Orzhov () decks. It also has one of the best common removal spells ever printed (Planar Disruption), and an awesome trick for toxic decks.
Green is firmly midrange in this set, focusing on oil counters and toxic themes with a touch of proliferate. Its approach to toxic is chunkier than other colors, which you can see from Plague Nurse and Tyrranax Atrocity. Its interaction is limited to just Ruthless Predation and Carnivorous Canopy.
Black mostly focuses on toxic and kill spells. It has one Exodia-tier common (Anoint with Affliction) but lacks other premium commons. If black isn’t slowing the game down or winning with poison, it’ll likely underperform.
Lastly, blue is uh… not great! Its primary themes are proliferate and artifacts, but the latter is more narrow. It lacks great interaction, has weaker early game plays than other colors, and tends to play better in Sealed as a support color, or in a dedicated artifact deck (usually Azorius).
If you can somehow stay alive long enough to cast them, blue’s clunkers can impress, like Vivisurgeon’s Insight and Quicksilver Fisher.
Five for each color to give you a feel for great commons that are worth drafting and keeping track of.
#5. Compleat Devotion is an efficient combat trick that draws a card. Playing this in toxic decks is a no brainer. You’d be amazed how far this plus a pile of cheap toxic creatures can go!
#4. Basilica Shepherd is generally good top end that comes with evasion and free artifact bodies with toxic.
#3. Indoctrination Attendant is a versatile value creature that’s good on its own but also synergistic with Prophetic Prism and for Mirrodin! equipment.
#2. Crawling Chorus is one of the set’s many good 1-drops, great for getting an early toxic lead and chump blocking later for races. Pair it with cards like Compleat Devotion and Bilious Skulldweller for best results.
#1. Planar Disruption is efficient all-purpose removal that’s only bad against Indoctrination Attendant and a handful of other cards like Cankerbloom.
#5. ONE’s speed and frequent races are a boon for Chrome Prowler, which looked utterly unremarkable before playing the set. It’s not my favorite card, but it’s a decent playable that’s strong in Azorius.
#4. Experimental Augury is a nice value card that helps dig for removal and bombs while giving you extra oil counters. Proliferate has been a bit lackluster in this set, so don’t be afraid to just play it as Anticipate sometimes.
#3. Blue’s only solo option for removal looked a bit better than it played out. I’m still happy to play Mesmerizing Dose if hitting isn’t an issue since removal is important in ONE.
#2. Malcator’s Watcher is your best bet for a 2-drop in blue. It chumps if needed and embarrasses cards like Pestilent Syphoner and Thrummingbird. It’s also great in artifact decks, especially with Unctus’s Retrofitter.
#1. I like Gitaxian Raptor! It’s a great blocker that walls most things and trades with creatures like Lattice-Blade Mantis. It also has in-built protection against combat tricks since it can still trade against Flensing Raptor and Compleat Devotion.
#5. ONE is fast and has a lot of playable X/1s, so I’m usually fine starting the first Whisper of the Dross. This is a great card to board in or out depending on your opponent’s creature sizing.
#4. Testament Bearer is a strong value creature that benefits from Phyrexian Mites not being able to block it. It competes favorably with Sheoldred’s Headcleaver on rate, but dedicated toxic strategies might prefer the latter.
#3. Stinging Hivemaster is a cheap value creature that’s best in decks that care about toxic since Phyrexian Mites can’t block)
#2. Blightbelly Rat is a good bear with two forms of upside. The format speed makes bears like this important and worth playing.
#1. Anoint with Affliction is incredible removal that would be great in this format even without corrupted, but your early game removal also kills 5-drops if you’re toxic. Always play this, pick it highly, and consider splashing it.
#5. Hazardous Blast is an important card for red decks that excels in races or as a board stall ender. It’s also great against most toxic decks, which tend to play a lot of X/1s like Jawbone Duelist, Pestilent Syphoner, and Phyrexian Mite tokens.
#4. Furnace Strider is one of the better 5-drops in the set. A 4/5 with haste for five is good on its own even without its extra oil and oil synergies.
#3. Chimney Rabble is an overperforming creature that puts most 4-drops to shame. It has good rate with haste and an extra body for chump blocking and wearing equipment.
#2. Volt Charge is burn at a fair rate that plays well with oil counters and goes face if needed. It’s good in all red decks but particularly great in Izzet () and Gruul ().
#1. Hexgold Slash is cheap and premium removal that kills low drops and a couple big creatures like Plague Nurse and Tyrranax Rex.
#5. Oil-Gorger Troll is a potentially great midrange creature that depends on you having enough oil for it to be good. One of the best reasons to play all of your oily filler like Predation Steward.
#4. Conditional dorks like Jaspera Sentinel are always gambles, but Rustvine Cultivator has been one of the better ones so far. It dorks every other turn on its own, blocks Phyrexian Mites, and cheaply enables good oil payoffs.
#3. Lattice-Blade Mantis is a hard-hitting threat with free oil, good sizing, and pseudo-vigilance. It has a couple bad matchups like Testament Bearer that are worth being aware of.
#2. +1/+2 makes a huge difference compared to something like Prey Upon, and ONE also lacks a lot of instants to blow Ruthless Predation out. While it’s always good to be cautious with fight spells, this one is well worth playing.)
#1. Contagious Vorrac wasn’t hard to call day 1. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes an undercosted pig is just the best common in the set. It’s a must play for all green decks, particularly ones with good high end.
Inverse of the last section, here I’ll highlight some cards you should generally avoid playing.
Orthodoxy Enforcer is a mild payoff for the artifacts deck that suffers from not being an artifact itself. It’s pure filler.
Leonin Lightbringer is more filler, best in Boros () but definitely outclassed by Bladegraft Aspirant. I must confess to wasting a Hexgold Slash on this once though, so don’t forget about ward!
Vanish into Eternity is too slow for a format like this, but it’s a useful sideboard card against Planar Disruption, Urabrask’s Forge, and planeswalkers.
I regard Prologue to Phyresis as a trap, plain and simple. It’s a blank cantrip that puts you behind on board without picking up extra value and card selection like Experimental Augury does. If you’re trying to establish poison for a long-con proliferate win in Dimir (), well, just hit your opponent with Voidwing Hybrid. Don’t play this awful card!
Gitaxian Anatomist is similar to Orthodoxy Enforcer in that it’s grade A filler that costs four mana. It’s a mediocre Pillarfield Ox that is occasionally used for extra value. Meldweb Curator largely outclasses it.
Aspirant’s Ascent is a weak combat trick that’s too proactive for most blue decks. The only blue-based archetype that’s proactive enough for this is Azorius, which has zero interest in toxic and struggles to fit this. It’s mostly there for those who like to mise, or want to try countering Volt Charge with +1/+3.
Duress is a pure sideboard card. You’ll eventually get the brick you deserve and hate it if you try to mise with this game 1. Discussed in greater detail as it has uses in BO3.
This isn’t a great Nantuko Husk set, probably because there’s no common Act of Treason and limited sac synergy. Cutthroat Centurion is best in Rakdos () and the occasional Orzhov deck with lots of Phyrexian Mites.
2-drops are important, but Fleshless Gladiator is one of the crummier 2-drops in the set. No deck prefers this to Blightbelly Rat.
Thrill of Possibility has been a great card in other formats, but it’s poorly positioned in ONE. There are few compelling reasons to care about discarding cards, and the speed of the format makes blank cantrips unappealing.
Forgehammer Centurion is a filler creature with bad stats. The ability looks promising but requiring two oil counters makes using it tricky.
Molten Rebuke is more playable than Vanish into Eternity, but it’s clunky enough to not be a priority and sometimes get cut. It’s at its best when 2-for-1’ing Boros players since you can choose one or both modes.
I liked Thirsting Roots at first for its promise of Lay of the Land plus flood mode, but in practice it makes your deck clunkier and more likely to flood out. Try not to play this if you aren’t splashing.
Adaptive Sporesinger is a bad filler creature. No deck wants proliferate enough to play a vigilant Gray Ogre, and Yeva’s Forcemage hasn’t impressed either.
Ichorspit Basilisk is another filler creature. It doesn’t have the stats to wall much and is only offensively threatening when toxic is relevant. One of the only toxic creatures that might get cut in poison decks.
Rather than breaking these apart by color, I just wanted to give a handful of premium uncommons that you’ll often P1P1 or pivot for in your Drafts.
#10. Hexgold Hoverwings is Snapping Drake base stats plus an equipment that forces your opponent into a position where they have to race or eventually die to “unlimited” fliers.
#9. Unctus’s Retrofitter is one of blue’s only premium non-rares. It puts your opponent under an immediate clock in a hurry. Be sure to play as many cheap artifacts as you can reasonably fit for it.
#8. Armored Scrapgorger is an efficient mana dork that blocks decently and upgrades itself into a 3/3 beater over time. No synergy is needed for this card to be great, but you’ll occasionally get value from proliferate too.
#7. Drown in Ichor is yet another premium removal spell. -4/-4 misses only a couple 5-drops, and the free proliferate is nice. Best in Dimir or splashed in Simic ()/Izzet, but good everywhere.
#6. Ossification is more premium removal that’s great in every deck and well worth splashing. Barring completely absurd scenarios, you’ll always have a basic for this in Limited.
#5. Rebel Salvo is good removal even with no discount, but all it takes is a single Barbed Batterfist for this to be incredibly efficient.
#4. Bladehold War-Whip is a close second to Cinderslash Ravager for the best signpost uncommon. It’s a 2/2 double striker for , a great piece of equipment, and an equipment discounter… all at the same time!
#3. Cinderslash Ravager is the best of the 2-color signposts. X/1s are fairly common and it barely needs a discount to be efficient. It’s also great to splash in any deck with a bit of oil synergy.
#2. Evolving Adaptive is one of the scariest first turn plays in the format since it can quickly and easily grow to massive proportions. It’s great in any deck with creatures, and even better when proliferate and oil synergies are present.
#1. Annex Sentry is a busted uncommon. It doesn’t hit big creatures but has 4 toughness, toxic 1, and the format is fast enough for this effect to be amazing. It’s even an artifact for Azorius too.
This is a bonus section where I’ll highlight some uncommons that I felt deserved specific commentary. Some of these are great, others less so, but all are notable!
Infested Fleshcutter is a high-variance card that can break board stalls and sustain itself since the Phyrexian Mites you make can equip it and keep going. But it does absolutely nothing on the backfoot, so it’s best in decks with lots of cheap creatures like Crawling Chorus. Board this out if you don’t think you’ll have time for this kind of effect.
I haven’t liked Atmosphere Surgeon. Most blue decks don’t leverage the evasion well, and its base stats are poor and don’t help it stick around long enough to use its ability. It’s outclassed by Ichor Synthesizer, of all things.
Font of Progress is a funky wincon for a proliferate deck that does nothing other than win games and has zero redundancy besides Jace, the Perfected Mind. Not recommended, but I could see playing it in a very specific control deck.
Minor Misstep is a narrow and generally pointless sideboard card, please do not play this.
Tamiyo’s Immobilizer is a great uncommon for both proliferate strategies and artifact decks. In proliferate decks it’s more of a way to stay alive or frustrate offense. Aggressive artifact decks are less likely to refill it but might not even need to.
Necrogen Communion is an interesting card that’s one part go-for-broke-toxic-aura, one part Kaya’s Ghostform. Your best bet for making use of this is to put it on Pestilent Syphoner or Flensing Raptor. I don’t recommend it because Anoint with Affliction, Planar Disruption, and Mesmerizing Dose will ruin your fun.
Churning Reservoir is a grindy build-around that depends on certain cards to be good. It plays best in Rakdos alongside cards like Charforger, Necrosquito, and Sawblade Scamp. Gruul aggro decks are better off avoiding this since it’s slow and dependent on the actual removal of oil counters.
Cankerbloom almost made the above list because its good base stats and Naturalize-on-a-stick play well together. There are a lot of targets for this, and you aren’t punished if you can’t find one.
Atraxa’s Skitterfang is a great card for any deck with creatures that gets even better if you have oil and proliferate synergies. Lifelink and flying will be your most common choices. This is a difficult card to play perfectly as doing so requires foresight. You might occasionally spend counters on needless lifegain, or realize you needed to gain more life earlier.
Against All Odds is a weird card that’s slow, awkward, and difficult to get great use out of. An ideal use would be blinking a Prophetic Prism while returning a 3-drop like Annex Sentry. It rewards you for the same synergies that Indoctrination Attendant does but requires extra setup and does nothing on its own.
Like most other Draft sets, ONE has 10 2-color archetypes, each with their own signpost uncommon. Having a good gameplan for each is a shortcut to building great Draft decks!
Azorius artifacts is an aggressive deck that makes great use of a lot of cards that only it wants.
Its signpost uncommon is Cephalopod Sentry, a well-statted flier that can be outright game winning in Azorius. As Cephalopod Sentry suggests, the key to success here is to hit a critical mass of artifacts and artifact payoffs while playing a tempo game.
Some of the best artifact payoffs in the set are Unctus’s Retrofitter and Unctus, Grand Metatect. The Retrofitter plays awesome with all of Azorius’ common 2-drops and can quickly force your opponent into an “answer this or die” situation. Unctus is an artifact lord of sorts that gives you some serious virtual card advantage.
Veil of Assimilation and Tamiyo’s Logbook are good ways to go over the top in Azorius, though they accomplish this in different ways. The Veil is good for racing and best when targeting with Mandible Justiciar. The Logbook can be a bit inconsistent when you flood or have too many early creatures die, but it’s an impressive card advantage engine with support.
Artifacts are the name of the game for Azorius, so you’ll want to grab as many of those as possible. The best ones are Eye of Malcator, Malcator’s Watcher, and Mandible Justiciar.
Eye of Malcator basically can’t block, but the great sizing and card selection are good. I’m always happy to play virtually any number of those in Azorius and will usually round out my curve with filler like Escaped Experiment and Goldwarden’s Helm. Planar Disruption is your best common removal spell.
Having a good high end is less important than having a critical mass of cheap, playable artifacts. You’ll want a total artifact count of around 13+ (more is better), with the rest of your playables going to bombs and removal.
If you do end up playing some clunkers, my 5-drop preference order is Mirran Bardiche > Quicksilver Fisher > Meldweb Strider, but they’re fairly close in quality. Expect to play 16 to 17 lands, 16 if you have no high end and 17 if you do, or you have common Spheres.
Red decks have the easiest time against Azorius since cards like Shrapnel Slinger, Gleeful Demolition, Migloz, Maze Crusher, and Red Sun’s Twilight are all great here. Red Sun’s Twilight in particular is just nightmare fuel for Azorius. Cheap deathtouchers can be decent too if your opponent is relying on Eye of Malcator and Unctus’s Retrofitter.
Dimir Proliferate (Control)
Dimir proliferate is a somewhat confused deck that’s best built as a control and tempo strategy. Voidwing Hybrid subtly encapsulates a lot of Dimir’s play patterns:
- It can be built grindy, getting back Voidwing Hybrid with proliferate while accumulating extra oil and poison counters.
- Sometimes you just win games with fliers, getting off to a quick start and using removal and bounce spells to win the race.
- Dimir has an inherent tension between winning with damage and winning with poison, as Voidwing Hybrid is equally efficient at both.
One other problem with Dimir is that proliferate itself has been a little underwhelming. Most common oil creatures like Glistener Seer and Gitaxian Raptor really don’t reward you much for proliferating. So you’ll need higher rarity payoffs for proliferate to feel more than incidental.
Your best cards outside of Voidwing Hybrid are bomb rares, premium removal spells, proliferate payoffs, and anything above rate that says “proliferate” on it. Tamiyo’s Immobilizer and Scheming Aspirant are +A payoffs for this archetype. Trawler Drake and Necrosquito are also pretty good and reward you for playing proliferate cards.
Removal is the most important thing to prioritize in Dimir. It doesn’t get any better than Anoint with Affliction, which you can supplement with lesser removal spells like Mesmerizing Dose and Whisper of the Dross. Bring the Ending is at its best in this deck since both Quench and the later mode work fine.
For creatures I’ve liked Testament Bearer, Gitaxian Raptor, and Blightbelly Rat the best for 4-drops, 3-drops, and 2-drops respectively. Use your removal and filler creatures to buy time for higher rarity payoffs and Vivisurgeon’s Insight.
Dimir is a control deck first and foremost since it’s a combo of the two slowest colors in the format. Making cuts in Dimir is often a matter of figuring out how much you want to lean into toxic and corrupted.
My typical Dimir deck wins with damage and uses incidental toxic to power up Anoint with Affliction and Bring the Ending. Lean into toxic by making your filler poisonous, or lean away from it and only play the best toxic cards (like Voidwing Hybrid). Expect to play 17 to 18 lands.
Most decks are going to try to go under Dimir, but going over the top of it is possible too. Try not to run your uber bomb into Bring the Ending if you can avoid it.
If you’re the aggro deck, success or failure will depend on if you can set the pace of the match or not. A Dimir player who has to tap out for blockers every turn is probably losing, but if they get a moment you might find yourself unable to safely play combat tricks into open mana.
Rakdos is a grindy deck with lighter synergy than most of the other archetypes in the set. Charforger is a great card that shows off its main gimmick, which is taking advantage of “put into a graveyard from the battlefield” cards.
You can pull ahead on cards and win an attrition game if you can keep having creatures trade in combat (or keep sacrificing Skullbombs).
Charforger is the most important card by a mile, and the chief reason to even play Rakdos. Necrosquito and Vat of Rebirth have similar incentives too and have both been decent.
If you’re leaning into this kind of thing, proliferate spells like Drown in Ichor and Volt Charge become much better. Awaken the Sleeper is at its best in Rakdos thanks to its synergy with sacrifice cards like Annihilating Glare and Cutthroat Centurion.
You’ll want a nice mix of removal spells, curve filler, and Skullbombs. Rakdos are the two best removal colors, so finding good kill spells shouldn’t be too hard.
Furnace Skullbomb and Dross Skullbomb are of similar quality, but you can even play off-color Skullbombs just to cantrip them. The best common creatures for Rakdos are Testament Bearer, Chimney Rabble, Barbed Batterfist, and Stinging Hivemaster.
Grindy Rakdos decks want 3+ “eggs” payoffs, removal spells, 3+ Skullbombs, a nice curve, and 16 lands. You can lean on your Skullbombs as cantrips so you can play an extra spell.
If you don’t have a very good grindy deck but still find yourself in Rakdos, you can also just build it aggro. Aggro Rakdos leans away from slow cards like Vat of Rebirth to include pump spells and extra beaters.
Kill Charforger and chill, I guess?
Rakdos hasn’t been super impressive to play against for the most part. If your opponent is leaning on synergies then answering their engines is priority #1, and staying alive is priority #1 if they’re aggressive.
Gruul oil is the single best deck in the format, and one of the most overpowered 2-color archetypes in recent memory. Cinderslash Ravager is the best 2-color uncommon in the set, but only the beginning of Gruul’s strengths.
You’ve got a lot of options for payoffs in Gruul, but the deck also doesn’t need higher rarity cards to impress. An exhaustive list of strong uncommons/rares that work best includes: Urabrask’s Anointer, Migloz, Maze Crusher, Atraxa’s Skitterfang, Evolved Spinoderm, Evolving Adaptive, Exuberant Fuseling, Armored Scrapgorger, Incubation Sac, Urabrask’s Forge, Ichorplate Golem, and The Filigree Sylex.
Because all these cards are good on their own and synergistic with oil payoffs, Gruul has incredible redundancy and an easy time curving out with impactful plays.
Gruul wants a mix of pump spells, removal, oil creatures, and Oil-Gorger Troll from its commons. The only oil creature I dislike playing is Forgehammer Centurion because the others range from decent (Rustvine Cultivator, Axiom Engraver, Predation Steward) to great (Furnace Strider, Lattice-Blade Mantis).
My pump spell hierarchy is Free from Flesh > Blazing Crescendo > Titanic Growth, but a mix can also lead to blow outs.
Gruul should be built proactive but also gets to enjoy a bit of value for free. Proliferate is good here when it’s incidental but not worth playing subpar cards for. It’s important to have a good curve and a nice mix of pump spells and removal to back it up.
The best Gruul decks are those that can always draw a card off of Oil-Gorger Troll when you play it. Expect to play 17 lands if you aren’t splashing with Thirsting Roots (which usually takes the place of a land).
This is the best deck in the format, so if you’re expecting a quick kryptonite paragraph, well, sorry! Hard removal is a good start against Gruul since its best quality is how many high quality threats it has. You also have to respect pump spells and try to deny Gruul blowouts from +2/+2 or Volt Charge in the middle of combat.
Speaking of Volt Charge, that’s a good card to be aware of as I’ll often use my life total as a resource to try to avoid getting blown out by pump spells. The existence of Volt Charge sets a limit to how much of that you can get away with, so try not to drop to less than seven life (especially if your opponent seems to have cards they just aren’t playing).
Selesnya Toxic (Go Wide)
Selesnya is the first of three different toxic strategies I’m covering. Slaughter Singer shows off Selesnya’s terrifying offensive presence and go-wide poison approach.
Noxious Assault and Plated Onslaught are the most direct payoffs if you lean heavily into Phyrexian Mites. But these are less important than premium toxic creatures like Jawbone Duelist, Annex Sentry, and Viral Spawning.
You might sometimes win with damage in Selesnya, but your focus should be on toxic first and foremost. There’s just so much redundancy for it in these colors!
Good toxic creatures and Compleat Devotion is my favorite way to build Selesnya. The best toxic creatures at common are Crawling Chorus, Flensing Raptor, Duelist of Deep Faith, and Basilica Shepherd. All of these cards are white, so expect to be base white more often than base green.
Charge of the Mites has also performed well here, providing removal and curve redundancy for this very focused archetype.
Selesnya is one of the most straightforward decks in the format to build. Try to make sure all your creatures have “toxic” on them and all of your pump/removal spells go towards the goal of poisoning your opponent.
If you have enough Phyrexian Mites/creature density, consider something like Noxious Assault if you have it too. Expect to play 16 to 17 lands depending on how lean your deck is.
With black splash for Necrogen Rotpriest
Cheap blockers, kill spells, Hazardous Blast (Selesnya tends to have a lot of X/1s), and Melira, the Living Cure are good here. Feel free to take some clunk out of your deck, especially on the draw.
Awareness of Compleat Devotion and mass pump like Plated Onslaught is a must here. Don’t be afraid to take a little poison early to avoid “+2/+2 draw a card” blowouts.
Orzhov Toxic (Corrupted)
Orzhov is the second of ONE’s three toxic strategies. Of all the poison decks, this is the one least likely to win with poison. It’s more interested in just getting corrupted then winning with damage. Vivisection Evangelist helps drive this point home by not having any toxic on it.
There aren’t actually that many cards with corrupted on them, and few rise quite to the level of the awesome Vivisection Evangelist. Chittering Skitterling is probably the next best thing since Orzhov tends to make a lot of Phyrexian Mite tokens.
Apostle of Invasion and Ravenous Necrotitan also deserve a shoutout, but I’d prefer to pick premium early game cards over either one.
Anoint with Affliction is king!
Beyond that, you’ll want good early game toxic creatures and extra poison support like Infectious Inquiry and Vraska’s Fall. You aren’t really trying to win with toxic, but at the same time you’ll need redundancy because getting stuck at 2 poison is brutal. So it’s totally fine for most of your creatures to have toxic even if you end up winning with damage later.
Incisor Glider is great here as both a blocker and mid-game threat. Sinew Dancer has been okay, but I hate playing multiples because it’s poor without corrupted.
A good Orzhov deck has a nice mix of toxic creatures, corrupted payoffs, removal spells, and incidental poison cards. This is a great deck for clunkers like Cruel Grimnarch and Apostle of Invasion since winning with damage is more common than getting to 10 poison.
Orzhov can certainly be aggressive but has felt more midrange-y to me than Selesnya, which always seems to operate at a breakneck pace. 16 to 17 lands is the norm for Orzhov based on curve.
The ideal game against Orzhov is one where you never reach three poison. Fearsome cards like Vivisection Evangelist become mediocre filler if you can accomplish this.
You might end up goading your opponent into suicidal attacks too, because I’ve seen my opponents sacrifice creatures for three poison several times. Cards like Whisper of the Dross, Hexgold Slash, and good 2-drops are premium here. Keep some late game though so you can still overpower Orzhov later.
This has been the archetype I’ve enjoyed the most so far, but its quality seems highly dependent on certain cards. Serum-Core Chimera shows off what Izzet is: a spellslinging control deck with oil and proliferate synergies.
There’s nothing better than Serum-Core Chimera here, so my interest in Izzet is often a function of having it (or multiples!) It’s not the only game in town though, as Trawler Drake and Ovika, Enigma Goliath are also good incentives. Noncreature cards that proliferate have juicy synergy with Trawler Drake and Serum-Core Chimera.
Hexgold Slash is the #1 common here since cheap all-purpose removal cannot be beat. Your goal is to maximize the number of good removal spells you have and then throw in some “whenever you cast a noncreature” spell creatures and one or two Vivisurgeon’s Insights.
Other cards that are good in Izzet are Mesmerizing Dose, Experimental Augury, Surgical Skullbomb, and Volt Charge. As for creatures, the best ones are Chimney Rabble, Gitaxian Raptor, Axiom Engraver, and Ichor Synthesizer.
Izzet should be lean, interactive, and equipped with a couple haymakers (Vivisurgeon’s Insight, Watchful Blisterzoa, Ovika, Enigma Goliath, etc.) to mitigate flooding. Splashing has been surprisingly good in Izzet since it has a great deal of interest in extra removal like Planar Disruption and Anoint with Affliction.
Prophetic Prism is your best tool for this because noncreature cantrips are already appealing to begin with for Izzet. Expect to play 17 lands most of the time.
Kill Serum-Core Chimera if you can, and pressure UR relentlessly. It’s hard for UR to have enough kill spells to stay afloat, and most of its blockers lose hard to Compleat Devotion. Hexgold Slash is often the difference between victory and defeat here, so definitely punish them if they tap out.
Golgari Toxic (Go Tall)
Golgari () is a bigger kind of poison deck that counts to 10 at an irregular pace. Necrogen Rotpriest gives you a taste of how fast it can kill you with poison.
Necrogen Rotpriest is great, but not as lonely as something like Serum-Core Chimera. You can supplement or replace it with several premium uncommons. Bilious Skulldweller, Nimraiser Paladin, Venomous Brutalizer, Viral Spawning, and Ribskiff are all great here. Bloated Contaminator is also terrifying if you’re lucky enough to have it.
Poisoning your opponent is the name of the game, but Anoint with Affliction is still better than any other common. I like all of the common toxic creatures well enough with the exception of filler extraordinaire Ichorspit Basilisk. Having a good curve of them is more important than focusing on any specific one, but I’d say that Pestilent Syphoner and Stinging Hivemaster are favorites.
Most of your creatures should say “toxic” on them, and those that don’t should be very good dudes that you’d be foolish not to play (i.e., Cankerbloom, Armored Scrapgorger, etc.) The rest of your deck should be removal, bombs, etc.
Pump spells in Golgari are fine but not quite as sexy as in Selesnya or Gruul. Offer Immortality and Titanic Growth pale in comparison to Compleat Devotion, Blazing Crescendo, and Free from Flesh.
Lighter on toxic than most Golgari will be
Golgari is a midrange deck that usually does all of its damage in the form of poison. Your best for beating it is to either go under it (Boros, Azorius, Selesnya) or answer key threats and win out over time (other decks). A bit of poison early isn’t the end of the world, but be aware that Golgari can chunk you quickly later.
Try to play around Tyrranax Rex if you can, especially if you’re behind. Leave a chumper/blocker for it or hold up a Hexgold Slash (the best possible answer to it).
Any longtime reader of mine knows what to expect from Boros. It does what it always does; refuses to shake your opponent’s hand and immediately tries to slap them in the face.
The difference between Boros in ONE and most sets is that it’s better equipped to do so here. Bladehold War-Whip is a promising card that belongs to a surprisingly promising archetype.
As an aggro deck, Boros can do just fine without rare payoffs, but it would certainly like them if possible. Bladehold War-Whip, Rebel Salvo, Hexgold Halberd, Hexgold Hoverwings, Jor Kadeen, First Goldwarden, Kemba, Kha Enduring, and Dragonwing Glider are all premium cards in this deck.
There isn’t really a single common that towers above others in Boros, so focus on building a good curve first and foremost. The best common creatures are Chimney Rabble, Bladegraft Aspirant, and Barbed Batterfist (not technically a creature). The other for Mirrodin! equipments are worse but still decent filler for your 3- and 4- and 5-slots.
You’ll sometimes play toxic filler like Duelist of Deep Faith and Flensing Raptor just for curve, but poison should never be a focus. Consider Indoctrination Attendant for your 4-slot because it gets extra value from equipment.
As for noncreatures, Planar Disruption, Hexgold Slash, and Hazardous Blast are the best ones.
Boros is a pretty standard aggro deck that has the added benefit of getting “free” equipment from its cards. This gives it some extra reach late game and helps make flooding a bit less painful.
You’ll want a lot of 2-drops and a curve topping at Chimney Rabble if possible. 16 lands is ideal, but don’t hesitate to play 17 if you have 5-drops.
I’m almost tempted to just link to “Staying Alive” and move on to the next section. Seriously though, you know the drill: play blockers, retrick their pump spell with Hexgold Slash, and go over the top.
You can also try to win the race with whatever proactive plan you have, especially if you can time your interaction well. Artifact destruction is good but not great (your opponent still has a 2/2 left over), so try to play Shrapnel Slinger over more dedicated cards like Carnivorous Canopy and Red Sun’s Twilight.
Simic Proliferate (Tempo)
We’ve finally arrived at the last deck, Simic proliferate. Tainted Observer clues you in to the fact that Simic is another proliferate-focused strategy. Of all the proliferate decks, this is the one most likely to reach 10 toxic.
Simic has some overlap with Izzet and Dimir in terms of the cards that work well for it. Tamiyo’s Immobilizer is great in all three, but arguably best here since Simic has a definite tempo element to it.
If you lean into toxic, all of green’s toxic uncommons like Viral Spawning, Venomous Brutalizer should do great. This means that Distorted Curiosity will be at its best here too. If you’re leaning away from toxic then most of what worked for Izzet/Gruul should work well here.
What commons you prioritize in Simic will depend on where you fall on the oil/toxic scale, but mixing the two means maximizing proliferate. The best oil cards are Rustvine Cultivator, Gitaxian Raptor, and Oil-Gorger Troll. Toxic is a bit weaker at common since you’ll be limited to only green cards, none of which are amazing.
Your best options for proliferate are Contagious Vorrac, Experimental Augury, Mesmerizing Dose, and Vivisurgeon’s Insight. Ruthless Predation is important too because Simic has almost no removal.
Simic has a bit of an identity crisis and more access to color fixing (Thirsting Roots, Armored Scrapgorger) than other decks, so expect to splash frequently. Whether you splash for removal, Cinderslash Ravager, or Necrogen Rotpriest will depend on the composition of your deck.
Simic usually won’t have as much removal as something like Izzet or Dimir, which forces it to play more of a tempo game. Try to stay afloat early and look for opportunities to pull ahead of your opponent in a big way.
Aggression is good because Simic isn’t the fastest deck and has the worst removal in the format. A good toxic draw will often have you desperately scrapping to survive. It’s also one of the least likely color pairs to be able to blowout a Compleat Devotion mid-combat.
Going over the top of Simic is also viable if you can keep Tainted Observer off the board. Games where it lives tend to be much more dangerous than those where it doesn’t, because it can quickly count to 10.
Drafting the Set: A Gameplan
Now that you have a better understanding of the set’s archetypes, we can come up with a gameplan for drafting the set itself. This is something I’ve been meaning to include more of in other guides, so I’m happy to start here.
Here are my rules of engagement:
- The best P1P1 is something broken like The Eternal Wanderer, White Sun’s Twilight, or Blue Sun’s Twilight.
- You can’t always open the goods, so the next best thing is a premium uncommon or top common like Hexgold Slash and Contagious Vorrac.
- One thing to understand about ONE is that there are cards that go in every deck (bombs, removal, Contagious Vorrac) and then cards that flesh out an archetype (oil creatures, toxic beaters, Experimental Augury, etc.)
- Because of this I like to jump around quite a bit for the first few picks of a Draft, taking high power payoff cards alongside general staples. My thinking is I’ll usually play the staples regardless, and that speculating on payoffs like Necrogen Rotpriest can be very rewarding if the archetype is open.
- It also helps that this set has a lot of fixing, so early picks on Planar Disruption and Anoint with Affliction can still be splashed later too if desired.
- Once you get to the first wheel of pack 1 you can try to figure out what’s actually open based on the filler cards remaining in the pack, as well as anything premium that’s somehow around.
- Signposts are your light in the darkness of this set, and late signposts should be a great sign that an archetype is open.
- There isn’t a single signpost uncommon in this set that I’d call bad, nor is there any 2-color archetype I’m unwilling to play.
- Because of the set’s quick pace, the worst cards to take early are mediocre 5-drops like Meldweb Strider and Molten Rebuke. You’ll always have as many of these as you could ever want.
- Don’t be afraid to abandon an early signpost uncommon if the color pair seems dry. At my last FNM for instance, I took a P1P5 Necrogen Rotpriest and abandoned it for Dimir due to not seeing any toxic green creatures. By the draft’s end I had three Voidwing Hybrids, so I surely made a good choice!
And uh, have fun I guess! Drafts of this format have been neat so far, and I’ve certainly drafted a couple of decks that don’t resemble anything I mentioned above:
- Try to start the game on turn 3 at the latest.
- Keep less 1-landers/sketchy hands than you would otherwise because this set is rather unforgiving.
- Hands with your 6-mana bomb in them aren’t always mulligans, but should be if they are otherwise unfunctional.
- You can sometimes get away with keeping very slow hands on the play. Especially if you know your opponent’s deck already.
This isn’t a concern for BO1 Arena players, but this is still important for MTGO dinosaurs like me. There are a couple common sideboard adjustments I find myself making in this format:
- Creature sizing adjustments; boarding in Plague Nurse and Gitaxian Anatomist against Gruul for instance, which is chock full of 3/3s.
- Flying hate like Copper Longlegs, Malcator’s Watcher, and Carnivorous Canopy versus fliers.
- Artifact hate mostly versus Azorius.
- Duress against White Sun’s Zenith, The Eternal Wanderer, Boros equipment sometimes, and control decks in general.
- Play/draw adjustments; adding more The Dross Pits on the play or trimming them on the draw, increasing or lowering my curve on the draw based on pace expectations, etc.
- Adding/removing a splash; conditional change based on deck/matchup. Examples would be boarding in Ovika, Enigma Goliath in Gruul-based against control, or removing a splash against aggro for more blockers/stability.
- Countermagic boarded in/out depending on pace of your opponent and the number of expensive haymakers they have, particularly ones like White Sun’s Zenith which is quite vulnerable to Bring the Ending.
Minor Misstep | Illustration by Lorenzo Mastroianni
And we’re done! I hope all this information helps you navigate this especially treacherous set. There’s plenty to critique with ONE, but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t enjoyed playing it. Case in point: I’m finishing this article at FNM draft right now.
What are your thoughts on this format so far? Love it, hate it, somewhere in between? Let me know in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord.
Good luck in the Limited Open this weekend, and until next time!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: