Last updated on February 2, 2023

Tekuthal, Inquiry Dominus - Illustration by Martin de Diego Sadaba

Tekuthal, Inquiry Dominus | Illustration by Martin de Diego Sadaba

With Phyrexia: All Will Be One releasing next week and its prerelease just a day away, it’s high time for another Ultimate Guide. Today’s entry will introduce the Limited format and provide a theory-crafted overview of my expectations for ONE Sealed.

While I can’t say I’ve played any games of the format yet (as no one could have), I’ve put quite a bit of thought into the spoilers and look forward to seeing if my predictions play out. Let’s get to it!


Mechanics are a great place to start for any new set. I don’t want to just rephrase Andrew’s takes in his set review, so expect different commentary!

Toxic/Poison Counters

Infect took a 12-year hiatus only to return in the form of toxic. Toxic works differently than infect, but also gives poison counters to your opponents (you win if they get 10, just like before).

I see this as similar to what happened with day/night cards and the Daybound mechanic, which attempted to “fix” an old mechanic and bring it in line with modern Magic standards. Whether or not Daybound was superior to original Innistrad is ultimately a matter of personal taste.

Anyways, as for toxic, it differs from infect in four key ways:

  • Toxic creatures don’t deal damage in the form of poison counters. Instead they give your opponents poison counters when they deal damage. This happens alongside the damage they’re already dealing.
  • How much poison your opponent gets is based on whatever your card says (“toxic X”), not the amount of combat damage your creature deals.
  • Toxic stacks with itself because of this so you can increase your poison output by giving a creature “toxic 1” again.
  • Toxic has no effect on creature vs creature combat, unlike infect which would deal damage to creatures as -1/-1 counters.

How does this translate into gameplay? Have some more bullet points:

  • Given that there’s no combat boost, toxic is generally a weaker mechanic than infect.
  • This can be seen if you pay close attention to the rate of cards given “toxic 1”. A card like Duelist of Deep Faith would be absurd for a common if it had “infect” instead of “toxic 1”.
    • The developers felt no need to price cards with toxic 1 as though they had infect meaning lower mana costs, more generous base stats, and some extra utility.
  • You can’t insta-win with toxic and pump spells like you can with infect because toxic has an independent value and doesn’t scale off power.
    • Double strike is your best bet, especially if you can give extra toxic to the double striker.
  • Dealing damage alongside poison counters adds a lot of strategic ambiguity to toxic. Piling on poison counters/damage at the same time gives you two different avenues to try to close out a game with.
    • This will likely make the game play feel smoother and yet more unpredictable. Old infect was much more “all or nothing,” and most of the more expensive designs were pretty terrible.
  • It’s much easier to “dip your feet” in toxic without gimping your deck because toxic is a bonus that doesn’t detract from damage.

Toxic appears primarily in white and green and is the core Draft mechanic of the pair. Black also gets a fair number of toxic creatures while blue has very few and red has none. Cards like Compleat Devotion and Porcelain Zealot also have extra oomph when targeting toxic creatures. There are also Mite tokens with toxic 1 to assist you in poisoning your opponent.

One last thing worth mentioning is that toxic isn’t the only one to give players poison counters. Cards like Prologue to Phyresis, Infectious Inquiry, and Vraska’s Fall can poison your opponent with no combat required.


Corrupted is an accessory mechanic to toxic/poison counters that rewards you for having 3+ poison counters on an opponent. Cards like Anoint with Affliction and Sinew Dancer improve substantially if you can manage that. The existence of corrupted fundamentally changes how poison counters operate and the incentives around them.

Let me try to explain this by giving three levels of how poison normally works:

  1. Level 1 is 0 poison. You have no poison, you don’t care about poison, each poison counter you get does nothing other than advance the “I’m going to die to this at 10” track.
  2. Level 2 occurs as your track advances and your options decrease. You’ll have to respond in predictable ways to not lose the game as you approach 10 poison. You may have been able to take one from that Blighted Agent for a while, but eventually you’ll have to try to kill it or lose the game.
  3. Level 3 is 10 poison/you lose the game.

Corrupted adds two more levels to this, because there’s a new threshold of poison mattering by introducing corrupted. 3/10 poison is much, much easier to achieve than 10/10 poison, but the benefits are also smaller.

A revised chart would include two more “levels,” one for early-game actions that prevent corrupted and the other for corrupted itself where you play from then on with the understanding that certain cards will be boosted. The increased value of early poison has a couple effects:

  • It makes it much more sensible to dabble in poison. Instead of being a full “toxic deck” you can try to proliferate the one or two counters you have to three and then boost a couple of your cards.
  • This also creates paranoia. You may be more likely to act rashly to prevent initial poison when you know that 3/10 poison matters.
    • This could also show up in deck construction and the general way players approach the format, skewing curves lower due to players’ perceptions of poison aggro posing a threat.

I’m curious to see how well corrupted will play out, especially given that a lot of corrupted cards don’t directly aid a “count to 10” gameplan. This could lead to inconsistency as your corrupted cards may not find themselves boosted if things aren’t going well.

A safe bet is to play only corrupted cards that are at least decent without their boosts, assuming you aren’t a dedicated toxic deck. Corrupted is a core focus for Orzhov () in Draft as shown by Vivisection Evangelist and appears mostly in those colors (and not at all in red).

Oil Counters

Oil counters are a new kind of counter that appears on quite a few cards in ONE. Cards will usually enter with a number of oil counters which can be used in a variety of ways for a variety of things.

Their functionality is closely tied to whatever card has them, and your oil cards might do things like:

  • Letting you untap lands mana dork style.
  • Giving you sorcery-speed pumps to push through damage.
  • Having your creature grow extra large based on the number of oil counters on it.
  • Dealing damage based on the number of oil counters on things you control.
  • Drawing cards equal to the number of oil counters on your creature after it dies.

Oil is the core mechanic of Gruul () in Draft and appears quite a bit in blue, red, and green while barely appearing in black or white. It’s notable that three signpost uncommons (Charforger, Cinderslash Ravager, and Serum-Core Chimera) care about oil counters. There are also cards that care about your total oil count like Kuldotha Cackler and Urabrask’s Anointer.

Oil’s varied outputs all have one thing in common, which is that they’re boosted by…


Proliferate is a returning mechanic that hasn’t been seen since War of the Spark. This is a powerful mechanic that has obvious synergy with toxic and oil counters.

As long as your opponent has one poison counter you can keep giving them one more each time you proliferate! Proliferate increases your options for counting to both 3 and 10 and makes using oil cards over and over much easier.

One thing to note about proliferate is that it seems to have gotten a bit of a #glowup in this set. The upgrade in efficiency (extra card selection and -1 mana) is incredible if you compare an old card like Steady Progress to Experimental Augury! While it’s easy to just blame power creep (Contagious Vorrac says hello), an alternate explanation is that proliferate is somewhat limited in function here.

There are no +1/+1 or -1/-1 counters on anything or any cards that give them, so the only uses of proliferate are increasing toxic counters, oil counters, and planeswalker loyalty counters. Toxic is an all-or-nothing mechanic if you aren’t turning taking advantage of corrupted boosts. Adding extra oil seems more readily useful, but filler oil cards likely won’t give you huge benefits for proliferating. I still expect the mechanic to be great but wanted to mention this point.

Proliferate is the core mechanic of both Dimir and Simic () in this set, which Voidwing Hybrid and Tainted Observer highlight. Their approaches to proliferate are different as Dimir is more about trading off resources and controlling the game while Simic wants to ramp and build critical mass. Proliferate should still ultimately be useful for every deck but Boros (), as all other decks deal with oil counters and toxic in some way.

For Mirrodin!

Our final mechanic is a bit of an oddball, having no particular synergy with the other four mechanics (and also being the first keyword to feature an exclamation mark). For Mirrodin! Cards are all pieces of equipment that create a 2/2 Rebel token on entry and are then equipped to that token.

Here’s a basic heuristic to evaluate these cards:

  • Their initial output is a 2/2 plus whatever the equipped stats are. Barbed Batterfist is a 3/1, Hexgold Hoverwings is a Snapping Drake of sorts, etc.
  • They’re also mana sinks as you can move the equipment itself around whenever you feel like paying for it.

For Mirrodin! cards vary a good deal in quality and range from mediocre filler (Goldwarden’s Helm) to bomb rares (Dragonwing Glider). The best for Mirrodin! cards will go in every deck, the decent ones will go in most decks, and the bad ones will go in Boros decks trying to maximize cards like Bladehold War-Whip and Jor Kadeen, First Goldwarden.

Format Overview

Color Identity

Zopandrel, Hunger Dominus - Illustration by Antonio José Manzanedo

Zopandrel, Hunger Dominus | Illustration by Antonio José Manzanedo

This is a brief section touching on each color’s identity at common and how that’ll translate to your experiences with them. Think of it as a companion to the themes I cover a bit further down,  but color focused.


White is mostly an aggressive color with a variety of different incentives to turn creature sideways. It’s one of the most toxic-focused colors and also touches on artifact/equipment themes.

White has one of the best removal spells in the set (Planar Disruption), but not much else to offer control decks. Indoctrination Attendant might be a sleeper hit here thanks to its synergy with Prophetic Prism, usage against Planar Disruption, and decent base stats.


Blue seems to be one of the slowest colors in the set, but it does have a couple aggressive cards like Escaped Experiment, Meldweb Strider, and Eye of Malcator. Much of what blue has to offer includes slower cards like Quicksilver Fisher and Vivisurgeon’s Insight.

Its main themes seem to be proliferate and artifacts. Experimental Augury is a blue common I’d be delighted to play in just about any deck because Anticipate plus proliferate is an incredible rate.


Black has excellent removal, mediocre creatures, toxic support, and a bit of card advantage to boot. It’s notable for its evasive toxic creatures like Pestilent Syphoner and Sheoldred’s Headcleaver.

Whereas white goes wide to get poison counters and green uses sorcery-speed pump, black is more likely to go around or kill blockers. The best black commons are easily Anoint with Affliction and Annihilating Glare.


Red is an aggressive color that cares more about oil counters than any other color. This can be clearly seen with cards like Kuldotha Cackler and Furnace Strider.

Red’s other niches are equipment/artifacts and two great burn spells (Hexgold Slash and Volt Charge). I’d expect both of those to be some of the most commonly picked commons in the set.


Green is an aggressive color that touches on several of the set’s main mechanics, with a fair amount of support for proliferate, toxic, and oil counters. Plague Nurse and Tyrranax Atrocity show off green’s bigger approach to toxic as white/black are more incremental. Green’s only common removal spell (Ruthless Predation) is decent, and it also has an extra mana fixer in Thirsting Roots.

Contagious Vorrac is easily green’s best common thanks to sheer rate. It’s about 90% to hit in a 17-land deck (making it a 3/3 Civic Wayfinder at common), and proliferates if it doesn’t. Always play the pig if you’re in green, and draft it highly!

Thematic Overlap

This is mostly a quick recap of the above, but:

  • Toxic powers up corrupted and proliferate, and makes combat extra important.
  • Corrupted can come together incidentally or be an expected payoff for poison aggro decks.
  • Proliferate boosts toxic and oil counters all at once.
  • For Mirrodin! lets you play more artifacts without hurting your creature count.
  • Mites help stack poison, boost artifact counts, and are good sac fodder.

Repetition reinforces important concepts!

Prince vs. Pauper

One concept developed by the Limited MTG community to evaluate formats is to describe it as a “prince” or a “pauper” format.

If you’re not familiar with the terminology, a prince format is dominated by higher rarity cards with a flat power level at common and uncommon and a lot of unbeatable bomb rares. Cards like Glorybringer, Dream Trawler, Ethereal Absolution, etc. By contrast, a pauper format is dominated by commons thanks to synergy, aggression, or common and efficient answers to large threats.

So how does ONE measure on this scale? Well, in my estimation we’re looking at quite a prince set, albeit not a hopeless one. There are so many great rares that seem like windmill slam P1P1s. There are also 10 planeswalkers in the set, one of which could be Ethereal Absolution levels of dumb (The Eternal Wanderer). Five of those planeswalkers aren’t even mythics to boot!


Another aid to the format’s prince status is that it has rather solid mana fixing. There are five mana fixers at common alone: Thirsting Roots, Prophetic Prism, Terramorphic Expanse, Dune Mover, and Phyrexian Atlas. Prophetic Prism and Terramorphic Expanse are at the upper tier of common mana fixing, especially when compared to junk like Warped Landscape, Gateway Plaza, or Unknown Shores. The others are better than said junk as well, if not overwhelmingly great.

If you compare this to the last two sets (The Brothers’ War and Dominaria United), ONE has substantially more fixing than BRO, but less fixing than DMU. My expectation is that splashing will be both common and good, but true 3- and 4-colors should be rare. Atraxa, Grand Unifier is the only direct incentive to play anything truly adventurous, but do splash every single Black Sun’s Twilight that you open!

Format-Specific Sealed Tips

Glissa Sunslayer - Illustration by Krharts

Glissa Sunslayer | Illustration by Krharts


I’m borrowing this from my guide to BRO Sealed as I thought it was a succinct step-by-step for  how to approach Sealed:

  1. Open your pool and sort your cards by rarity/color.
  2. Note your bomb rares, multicolor cards, removal spells, and fixing.
  3. Note which of your colors is the deepest after removing weak cards and unplayables.
  4. Start laying out builds that play as many of your good cards, bombs, etc. as possible.
  5. If you have fixing, dig through your other colors and identify bombs and removal spells that might be worth splashing (all the best common removal spells I mentioned could be considered, especially if you’re light on kill spells and high on fixing).
  6. Iterate your deck over and over, trying to strike the perfect balance between mana curve, card advantage, bombs, removal, etc.
  7. Settle on a final product, and battle it out!
  8. And finally, don’t forget that you can use our Sealed pool generator to practice the set.


My prediction is that the format will be faster than most, with lots of early game posturing related to setting up toxic counters.

You might find yourself running out of steam and then just losing to value after your opponent stalls at six to eight poison if you’re all-in-one toxic 10’ing your opponent. But on the other hand you might be able to finish them off with proliferate too.

Sealed should be slower than Draft for sure. Expect to play against lots of 3- and 4-color piles with greedy splashes. Try to lean an aggressive archetype and bash face with dudes and pump spells if your pool can’t do that well.

Having an overall gameplan for your deck seems important in ONE. Decide what your deck is trying to do and follow that theme, be it Selesnya () toxic, Izzet () spells, Dimir () proliferate, etc.

Your Sealed pool might also just lack strong theming. Build a good-stuff/control deck or an aggro deck if your pool also lacks bombs and fixing.

And most importantly, have fun! It’s a new set, so focus on learning more so than winning. Keep your pool together if you want so that you can battle with friends after the prerelease and better prepare for when the set goes live on MTGA and Magic Online next week.

Themes and Archetypes

Sword of Forge and Frontier - Illustration by Scott Murphy

Sword of Forge and Frontier | Illustration by Scott Murphy

Sets also have themes and subthemes for you to aim at beyond the mechanics. ONE has a few of these worth expanding on.

Artifacts Matter

An artifacts subtheme is present in this set and is Azorius’ () Draft theme (see Cephalopod Sentry and Malcator, Purity Overseer). There are several commons like Mandible Justiciar and Eye of Malcator that highlight the prominence of this theme.

My expectation informed by these cards for artifacts deck is that it’ll be aggressive and not focused on toxic/corrupt. Proliferate on the other hand should be a bit more useful as a lot of artifacts in this set sport oil counters.

Another aspect of note is that this theme overlaps nicely with for Mirrodin! and mites. The deck also gets extra value out of generally decent cards like Prophetic Prism and the Skullbomb cycle.


Mites are aggressive, poisonous little artifact creatures that are almost exclusively created by white cards. All mites are 1/1s with “toxic 1” and “can’t block”. They can be sacrificed for extra toxic counters, count as extra artifacts, and make good sacrifice fodder.


Sacrifice is a common theme for Rakdos () in a lot of Draft formats, including this one. Charforger shows this focus off as it makes a 1/1 and then rewards you for having fodder die with oil-fueled card advantage.

You can also take advantage of classic treason and sac play patterns with Awaken the Sleeper and Annihilating Glare or Cutthroat Centurion.

Noncreature Spells Matter

This is a small theme that’s classic Izzet territory. It overlaps with proliferate quite a bit as noncreature payoffs like Serum-Core Chimera and Trawler Drake all scale via oil counters.

This feels like one of the more control-oriented themes of this set because you’ll want cantrips and removal, and most of the payoffs are about building oil over time. Using Experimental Augury to double proliferate on Trawler Drake (while drawing a card) sounds great to me!


Yep, we’ve got bombs.

Here’s a list of cards better than every common/uncommon that you should windmill slam in Draft and greedily eye when you open them at prerelease this weekend. All of these without double pipped mana costs should be splashed, or at the very least highly considered as splashes.

  1. Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines
  2. The Eternal Wanderer
  3. White Sun’s Twilight
  4. Blue Sun’s Twilight
  5. Jace, the Perfected Mind
  6. Tekuthal, Inquiry Dominus
  7. Archfiend of the Dross
  8. Black Sun’s Twilight
  9. Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting
  10. Dragonwing Glider
  11. Thrun, Breaker of Silence
  12. Nissa, Ascended Animist
  13. Tyrranax Rex
  14. Zopandrel, Hunger Dominus
  15. Ezuri, Stalker of Spheres
  16. Kaito, Dancing Shadow
  17. Kaya, Intangible Slayer
  18. Glissa Sunslayer
  19. Lukka, Bound to Ruin
  20. Sword of Forge and Frontier

This is by no means an absolute list of great rares (Bloated Contaminator, Migloz, Maze Crusher, and Ria Ivor, Bane of Bladehold are other examples), but 20 seemed like a nice rounded number to show just how many good rares there are.

Cross your fingers and hope that your Sealed pool has as many of these as possible!

Junk Rares

Another prince quality of ONE is that it has a lower number of useless rares compared to most sets. While not all of its rares are good, there are only a couple of cards that you will never play.

Those are:

  1. Encroaching Mycosynth is a combo/Constructed card with zero usage in Limited. You don’t need to make your cards artifacts if you’re building around artifact synergies because you’ll already be playing artifacts.
  2. Ichormoon Gauntlet’s second mode isn’t useless, but this doesn’t seem worth the card or mana investment.
  3. Mindslice Apparatus’s noncreature theming is a thing in ONE but doesn’t need anything this dedicated.
  4. Mirran Safehouse is a Constructed hate card that’s unplayable garbage in Limited.

And that’s really it for unplayables, though obviously cards like Soulless Jailer and Zenith Chronicler are just mediocre filler creatures. The fast lands and four(!) colorless ability lands might eat your rare slots too, but they’re certainly not “junk” in the truest sense of the word.

Wrap Up

Archfiend of the Dross - Illustration by Lie Setiawan

Archfiend of the Dross | Illustration by Lie Setiawan

And we’re done! I hope your prerelease goes well this weekend and that you have a wonderful time playing this set. This is the most excited I’ve been for a Magic set since Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.

What do you think of this Sealed format? Are you looking forward to prerelease? Let me know in the comments below or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.

ONE really does seem like a ton of fun to play with, and I can’t wait to crack some packs and get to battling!

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  • Avatar
    Widget February 2, 2023 7:08 pm

    Thank you! I never comment on these articles but I was compelled to after reading through- it covers everything a prospective sealed player would want to know for prerelease and more. Quality work!

  • Avatar
    Jack February 14, 2023 10:15 am

    Great read as usual

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