Last updated on January 27, 2023

White Sun's Twilight - Illustration by Julian Kok Joon Wen

White Sun’s Twilight | Illustration by Julian Kok Joon Wen

Phyrexians, the greatest threat to the known Multiverse, are showing their claws and teeth in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, and they have lots of weapons at their disposal. One of these is toxic , which relates to infect, a previous Phyrexian-themed mechanic.

The mechanic has a lot of potential, and today I’m taking a look at how toxic works. Let’s dive in!

How Does Toxic Work?

Mite Overseer - Illustration by Nestor Ossandon Leal

Mite Overseer | Illustration by Nestor Ossandon Leal

Toxic N goes like this: if a creature with toxic N deals combat damage to a player, that player gets N poison counters. While N is usually 1 or 2, there are cards with toxic 6 and even 9 in the set, so beware!

Poison counters are only applied to players if the toxic creature deals combat damage to a player. It doesn’t work with planeswalkers. Toxic also doesn’t do anything to creatures the way that infect does with -1/-1 counters.

Let’s say you have a 3/3 creature with toxic 2, and it deals three damage to a player. They also get 2 poison counters thanks to toxic 2. Your opponent could block this 3/3 with a 3/4 without fear of having their creature become a 0/1, like it would with infect.

The History of Toxic in MTG

Toxic’s first appearance was on two cards in 2007’s Future Sight, but with a different name: poisonous. R&D changed the name to toxic for Phyrexia: All Will Be One, which gave it a more Phyrexian feel.

Toxic appears on some cards in ONE, like Venser, Corpse Puppet and Bloated Contaminator, as well as any cards that make the Phyrexian Mite token.

What Does Toxic X Mean?

Toxic X means that if a creature with toxic X deals any amount of combat damage to a player, they get X poison counters. So far we’ve seen the X count go up to 9 on Monument of Perfection, but most creatures have toxic 1 or 2.

It’s interesting to note that if the toxic creature has trample it may deal damage even if it’s blocked, and in this case all the poison counters from toxic are still dealt to the opposing player. Blocking only prevents the extra damage that player would otherwise be dealt.

Is Toxic a Triggered Ability?

Like infect, toxic is a static ability, not triggered. It’s always on, and if a creature with toxic deals damage then the poison counters are inflicted without a trigger and without using the stack.

Does Toxic Stack?

Yes, toxic does stack. If a creature has multiple instances of toxic, let’s say toxic 1 and toxic 2, and it deals combat damage to a player, they get a total of 3 poison counters because of the two toxic abilities. It’s fair to say that the creature effectively has toxic 3.

Toxic vs. Poisonous

Toxic and poisonous are the same mechanic, really. Toxic is equal to poisonous, just rebranded for the Phyrexian feel. It’s like chroma in Eventide vs. devotion in Theros.

Toxic vs. Infect

Toxic has a few things going on in the comparison with infect. Toxic creatures deal combat damage as well as poison damage, which isn’t true with infect. With infect creatures you only get one route to victory since they don’t deal combat damage. With toxic you can apply both pressures, and it works nicely with proliferate and corrupted.

Should your opponents gain life or remove counters, there are two separate win conditions and one doesn’t exclude the other. It also helps Limited play since you’re not screwed if you start drafting infect and it gets cut.

Is Toxic Good?

Toxic has been catching the attention of Commander players, especially since it’s somewhat easier to win with 10 poison counters than 40 damage or 21 commander damage. EDH players have wanted more poison cards to add to their infect deck since 2011, and toxic provides that.

Toxic can make it into 60-card Constructed formats too. Infect has always been a staple of Modern, and there’s more possibilities available to players even if the mechanics work a bit differently. The addition of the corrupted mechanic also adds more relevance to poison spread.

Toxic Tokens

There are three tokens with toxic in Phyrexia: All Will Be One: the 1/1 Phyrexian Mite token with toxic 1, the 3/3 Phyrexian Beast token with toxic 1, and the */* Phyrexian Wurm token with toxic 1.

Gallery and List of Toxic Cards

Wrap Up

Monument to Perfection - Illustration by Igor Kieryluk

Monument to Perfection | Illustration by Igor Kieryluk

I’m already anticipating playing with poison counters in the next set. Toxic looks like a nice implementation of poison counters that are less parasitic than infect, and it works better with pump effects and combat tricks.

This should be an exciting mechanic to play with in Limited and Constructed alike. What’s your position on the infect x toxic debate? Let me know in the comments below or in the Draftsim Discord.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one!

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