Last updated on February 22, 2023
Sheoldred, Whispering One | Illustration by Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss
Updated for ONE by Pedro
I can’t think of a more mysterious, deadly, and interesting creature type than the mythical Praetors of Phyrexia. Nearly every player knows them and what they do. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur are household villain names at this point. Their art is amazing and incredibly detailed, they’re each powerful in unique and creative ways, and there’s one for every single color of Magic! What’s not to love?
But the Phyrexian Praetors are more than just cardboard. They have a unique storyline that’s fully fleshed out, have detailed interactions with one another, and are some of the most powerful creatures in all of Magic. Today it’s time to take a look at them. Let’s get started!
What Are the Praetors in MTG?
Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider | Illustration by Daarken
The Praetors are mysterious dictator tyrants of five unique factions on the plane of New Phyrexia, formerly known as Mirrodin. Each Praetor is entirely concerned with sculpting New Phyrexia into a plane of perfection, with each having their own design and view as to just what “perfect” actually is. This great quest of unimaginable scale is known as the “Grand Work.”
Despite their conflicting visions and roles, the Praetors and their correlating factions don’t necessarily stay in a state of conflict with one another. Each leader has their own agenda and role that adds to the monstrosity and uncanniness of New Phyrexia.
How Many Praetors Are There?
There are eleven unique Praetor cards in Magic, two for each color plus an extra black Praetor from MTG’s past.
So Who’s the Best Praetor in Magic?
When it comes to which Praetor is the best, the most powerful in terms of capabilities and strength lore-wise is obviously Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. Elesh Norn holds all of the cards politically, and while she isn’t as strong as Vorinclex or as fiery-hot as Urabrask, she can project the most influence and has already dominated the lands of Sheoldred and Urabrask.
With Vorinclex and Jin-Gitaxias off-plane, Elesh Norn is the natural leader of New Phyrexia and can execute her plan of unity and perfection, completing the Grand Work.
Although Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is tried and true, there’s some strong competition in Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines. The new version of this Praetor has been raising some eyebrows ever since it was released in All Will Be One.
The Complete List of Praetors Ranked
That’s enough lore for now. What you probably want to know is which Praetor cards are the strongest. There are only eleven to rank so I’ll list them in the order that I think is most sensical and explain why. Although the old Praetors cost a lot of mana and have powerful splashy effects, the new ones are costed for 60-card Constructed play, so these beings aren’t EDH/Reanimator/Cube exclusives anymore!
#11. Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
No matter how good the Praetors are or how cool you might think they are, somebody has to be last. In this case that somebody is Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger. When I think of Praetor I think of legitimate scary-looking creatures that do otherwise unimaginable things in Magic. Not just a mana doubler for eight.
Don’t get me wrong, having this Vorinclex in play is great, but Mana Reflection is often just better.
#10. Urabrask the Hidden
Here we have the most sympathetic Praetor, Urabrask the Hidden. Urabrask lived a very simple life of making metal parts and keeping the forges running, and that philosophy transfers over to its relatively barren oracle text. It just gives your creatures haste and has your opponent’s creatures enter tapped.
This card is great in the right deck, something like cascade with Maelstrom Wanderer. But it’s kind of dull outside of that.
#9. Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
Next up is the OG blue Praetor, Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur. Of all of the Praetors you could hope to stick for a complete rotation around the table at Commander night, this is the one you want. Despite costing 10 mana and only being a 5/4, this version of Jin-Gitaxias absolutely decimates any hopes your opponents had of winning once they discard their entire hand.
But keep in mind that this card doesn’t increase your maximum hand size. Keep your Reliquary Tower nearby.
#8. Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider
Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider follows the previous Vorinclex (sorry man, nothing personal). This card is just too specific to run in green or “big stuff” decks since it focuses too heavily on counters. But a 6/6 with trample and haste for is still good and shouldn’t be underestimated.
This Vorinclex saw a good amount of play in Emergent Ultimatum decks, and it’s nice against enemy sagas since it practically shuts them down.
#7. Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant
The Praetor from Neon Dynasty is a hard one to deal with once it’s on the battlefield. This sleek new look for Jin-G is also a much more potent version, and at a cheaper cost!
Instead of drawing you cards, Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant copies your spells each turn and even counter’s your opponents spells. This is an incredible card overall, and we love to see this for blue.
#6. Urabrask, Heretic Praetor
Urabrask, Heretic Praetor turns every draw into “red impulse draw” for your opponents, actively avoiding them to hoard cards in their hands. This is awesome against control players that play draw-go style decks and hold counterspells.
Besides, you’ll have an extra impulsive draw each turn as the red aggressive player.
#5. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is one of the better Praetors, even if it costs seven mana. Its -2/-2 isn’t something to understate since it totally purges all mana dorks and cheap hatebears. But you’re already playing it in a creature-based deck, and +2/+2 is incredible after you have a couple other creatures to start swinging with.
Grand Cenobite used to be a prime reanimation target against creature-based and weenie strategies in Unburial Rites decks. The only problem is not being able to capitalize on the +2/+2 if you don’t have a sizeable board.
#4. Sheoldred, Whispering One
Sheoldred, Whispering One ended up in here because of the sheer value you get from playing it. Not only does it cause players with non-creature-based strategies to come up short, it also works as a great recursion engine later in the game. Its devastation in a turn cycle is only beaten by Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, but that demands more mana which is a pretty large setback.
#3. Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor
Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor is a nice 3-drop in black aggro decks to keep drawing cards after hitting opponents, adding a nice Curiosity effect to everyone. It’s even got a 7-mana application for EDH purposes where its bonus applies to all creatures as long as they’re not attacking you, so you’re implicitly goading your opponents’ creatures.
#2. Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines
A card that’s scaring the EDH community into an emergency ban before it’s actual release, Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines is a Panharmonicon for you that negates ETB effects for everyone else. All that while having the same 4/7 stats and vigilance from Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, and costing just five mana to boot.
#1. Sheoldred, the Apocalypse
One of the better costed Praetors for Constructed at only four mana, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse has seen play in lots of formats including Standard and Pioneer, and it’s become a premium black 4-drop.
The Apocalypse has got stats, some resistance to removal, a draining effect that’ll ultimately win the game, and it shuts down card draw from the opponents while bolstering your own. You’ll also actually gain five life in the end if you pay five life to draw five cards. Profit!
The Lore of Magic’s Praetors
Who Were the Praetors and What Did They Do?
Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger | Illustration by Karl Kopinski
Elesh Norn is the leader of the Machine Orthodoxy that seeks to replace skin with metallic structures. They believe skin is the ultimate symbolic barrier between individuals and unity. In accordance with this belief, Elesh Norn wants to be a “great unifier” of New Phyrexia.
Compare that cooperative lifestyle with that of Jin-Gitaxias, leader of the Progress Engine, an organization devoted to progressing Phyrexia through experimentation. These experiments try to further “develop” life through new tools, methods of warfare, and enhanced cybernetics.
But Sheoldred has another plan: to corrupt, enslave, and overpower all other human beings. She’s one of seven “Steel Thanes” that fight to control the black faction of Phyrexia and deals in the shadows with a constant influx of new information from spies and secret informants. In contrast with Elesh Norn’s beautiful porcelain and Jin-Gitaxias’ sleek metal, Sheoldred is covered in rusty metal plates and oily liquids.
Urabrask is the Praetor of the Quiet Furnace, the red faction in New Phyrexia. He’s in charge of the industrial side of Phyrexia, commanding and managing those who work in the forges or harvest slag. He’s covered in a mixture of bone, sharpened steel, and rusting iron, which gives him a very molten and fiery appearance. Instead of dealing in any kind of grand plan, he just supplies materials and weapons to the other Praetors looking to project power.
It’s this simplicity that causes the other Praetors to view Urabrask as weak and lacking in willpower. But he gains the most sympathy here since he lets Mirrodin refugees take shelter in his domain. Urabrask is the red Praetor and is open to freedom and emotion, something the other Praetors lack.
Finally there’s Vorinclex, the leader of the Vicious Swarm and diehard supporter of a survival-of-the-fittest lifestyle. He commands a group of Apex predators that to turn New Phyrexia into the ultimate arena to hunt down and eliminate flaws in the population. He looks to turn the creatures of the plane into ultimate perfection not through science or unity but through natural selection.
Is Urabrask a Slobad?
Urabrask the Hidden | Illustration by Brad Rigney
There’s some speculation that Urabrask the Hidden was secretly a Slobad, a goblin with a spectacular affinity for artifacts. This would explain his mercy shown to Mirrodin refugees, his lack of any real concept for the Grand Work, and why he was so looked down upon by the other Praetors.
The only real evidence I can find for this is that Jin-Gitaxis had a hunch (that’s right, we’re working off a hunch) that Urabrask had some grander idea planned that he hadn’t revealed. This could very well be a future where Mirrodin was reclaimed by Phyrexia and the Mirarri’s goblin population would benefit from that.
How Did Vorinclex Get to Kaldheim?
It’s not a secret that the Praetors aren’t planeswalkers, so it’s not unreasonable to wonder, “hey, how did this monstrosity cross into another plane of existence?” While we don’t know how Vorinclex got to Kaldheim, we can guess that he probably used the portal created by Rashmi called the Planar Bridge.
But this process destroyed all of his organic matter, leaving only his metallic parts. Vorinclex was able to rebuild himself from various animals that were curious to how his structure appeared in the forest, and eventually he rebuilt a powerful body compared to his previous one.
Vorinclex wreaked havoc on the plane with the help of an infected Tibalt, eventually returning to New Phyrexia through a portal after nearly killing Esika.
How Did Jin-Gitaxias Get To Kamigawa?
Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant | Illustration by Chase Stone
In the quest for multiplanar domination, Elesh Norn demanded Jin-Gitaxias find a way to compleat planeswalkers and use their abilities to transport Phyrexians across multiple planes. Jin-Gitaxias traveled to Kamigawa through the Planar Bridge and with Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh’s help, where he learned to successfully compleat a planeswalker without removing their soul. During his period of research on the plane, he was sliced in half by The Wandering Emperor only to be reconstructed by Tezzeret after being brought back to New Phyrexia.
And if you were wondering, that isn’t a typo. “Compleat” is the word in Phyrexia that means to bring something organic to perfection by turning their organic components into artifacts and machine.
How Did Urabrask Get To New Capenna?
Although Urabrask is a Praetor he actively opposes Elesh Norn’s rule, which is a belief he shares with the planeswalker Tezzeret.
Because of this, Tezzeret transported Urabrask to New Capenna using the Planar Bridge to obtain what they needed to fight Elesh Norn in New Phyrexia. Most notably the help of Elspeth Tirel as well as Halo, a substance already used by New Capenna denizens to fight Phyrexia in the past.
Are the Praetors Dead?
No, none of the Praetors are dead. Each one is taking part in the new storyline, with Sheoldred visiting Dominaria and Urabrask in New Capenna. Vorinclex and Jin-Gitaxis both experienced some near-lethal encounters in Kaldheim and Kamigawa, but they’re still currently alive and on New Phyrexia.
Is There a Praetor Secret Lair?
Yes, there was a Praetor Secret Lair that’s no longer available. It included a copy of each original Praetor in the Phyrexian language for $29.99, or $39.99 in foil. This was a great deal given just how much each Praetor is on its own, and you can still find copies of the Secret Lair for sale on TCGPlayer.
Decklist: Praetors in Commander
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur | Illustration by Eric Deschamps
Alseid of Life’s Bounty
Mother of Runes
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
Vial Smasher the Fierce
Gix, Yawgmoth’s Praetor
Sheoldred, the Apocalypse
Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines
Urabrask, Heretic Praetor
Urabrask the Hidden
Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
Swords to Plowshares
Bala Ged Recovery
Ascent of the Worthy
Fires of Invention
Kiora Bests the Sea God
Temple of Mystery
The World Tree
All together the Praetors only make up eleven unique cards in a deck and don’t have much synergy with other cards in Magic. They aren’t a tribe in any sense and are really just cool creatures to include in a Kenrith, the Returned King deck, which is exactly what I have for you here!
This list is your typical run-of-the-mill 5-color-good-stuff list with Kenrith. It has a lot of customizability since it’s meant to literally be a casual deck of your favorite cards. This version is more of an all-out list with an expensive mana base and tutors, but you can easily tone it down a bit.
The overall theme with this list is “big stuff,” which of course includes all seven Praetors and other bombs like Genesis Ultimatum and Mob Rule. If you’re already looking to include the Praetors and you’re going with a casual deck, this is one of the most fun ones to play.
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite | Illustration by Igor Kieryluk
That wraps up what there is to know about the Praetors! They’re my favorite creatures in Magic. I just think they’re so cool and overwhelmingly villainous, and I can’t help but like them.
What do you think, though? Do you see them as intimidating as I do, or are they just another overpriced creature that dies to Infernal Grasp? Let me know in the comments down below or over on the official Draftsim Discord.
Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!
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Can’t believe you forgot to at least mention Gix!