Phyrexia – All Will Be One: An Elves All The Way Down Review

Magic the Gathering‘s latest expansion, Phyrexia: All Will Be One, released earlier this month. Phyrexia, a plane of mechanical abominations built from the husk of the metallic plane of Mirrodin, is preparing to invade the multiverse. Mirrodin has previously given Elf decks one of our favourite finisher in Ezuri, Renegade Leader. I wonder if our latest visit will provide anything similar?

Of course, I’ll be reviewing every Elf in the set and any other cards I think are worth talking about.

As always, this review focuses exclusively on a card’s application in Elves decks across Magic‘s many formats. If you think there’s a cool card for your complex proliferate combo deck in Commander, this isn’t the review for that. (That card’s still cool though, whatever it is.) The rating given at the end of each entry is out of five Trees and applies to whichever format the card suits best.

The Elves

Branchblight Stalker

Unfortunately for us, we’re starting with some cards that exist mostly to fill out All Will Be One limited. This one is a piece of the Toxic/poison counter decks.

I did a cursory search for Elves with Infect and only got four results. One of those was contingent on your opponent already being poisoned. As a result, there aren’t really enough options to even consider a poison-based variant for Elves.

Predation Steward

A second card that’s exclusively aimed at All Will Be One limited. This time, Predation Steward is for the Oil counter archetypes. Similar to Branchblight Stalker, there aren’t enough Elves that synergise with Predation Steward to consider for a deck. I guess there are some generic counters synergies, but the only other Oil counter Elf is next on our list.

Rustvine Cultivator

As I said before, we can’t really build around Oil counters. Oil counters are for All Will Be One limited and maybe Red-Green decks in Standard, not Elves decks.

However, Rustvine Cultivator does do something useful on its own. It might not be the fastest Arbor Elf ever, but some formats don’t have Arbor Elf. If you need some ramp or some lands untapped, Cultivator can do that for you. It can’t do it quickly, but it’ll get there eventually.

There is the bonus that Rustvine Cultivator can untap a land like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, but there are just better options for that. Those other option can do it every turn without needing to acquire Oil counters first.

If you’re in a format that’s really lacking in one-mana Elves that accelerate you (eventually), this is an option. Otherwise, stick to Llanowar Elves or Jaspera Sentinel or similar.

Ezuri, Stalker of Spheres

The second coming of Ezuri, Renegade Leader this is not. I like my Blue-Green Legends more than most, but Newzuri here isn’t doing anything we want. Sorry, friend, go do something for Commander players.

Glissa Sunslayer

Glissa Sunslayer is a very powerful card. Unfortunately, I don’t really see a home for her. So many effects packed onto a powerful body, yet none of them line up with what we need. Maybe she can be added to the selection of Green-Black options for Elves in Commander?

Everything Else

Annex Sentry

Annex Sentry joins the plethora of removal creature options we have. Brutal Cathar, Fairgrounds Warden, Skyclave Apparition and many others all have different pros and cons. Annex Sentry is no different.

It can only hit targets that cost three or less, but it can hit more than creatures. 1/4 is also big enough to actually survive some amount of interaction. However, being an artifact makes it more vulnerable to certain pieces of removal.

Over all, weigh up the different options when choosing what you want to include as a Chord of Calling target. I trust you know which one your sideboard needs.

Green Sun’s Twilight

We have a history of playing Green X spells that search for creatures in Elves. Green Sun’s Twilight is an interesting one. It’s obviously not on par with Green Sun’s Zenith or Chord of Calling. However, it does a Once Upon a Time impression at smaller values of X, being able to hit lands or creatures. I do like that you can hit something big at X=5, but you are reliant on the top of your deck. Maybe you can hit a Craterhoof Behemoth with it in Historic?

Nissa, Ascended Animist

Talking about Craterhoof Behemoth, here’s a big finisher. Nissa, Ascended Animist, when cast for seven mana, can immediately use her ultimate. This effectively ends the game if you have any kind of attacking force. Beyond that, Nissa can pump out threats and Naturalize problem permanents when you’re not quite ready to end the game.

However, we do have a lot of game-ending options in older formats. If Nissa finds a place, it’ll be in the Arena formats.

Poor Nissa.

Tyvar’s Stand

Tamiyo’s Safekeeping was an interesting option printed last year for protecting a synergy/combo piece. Tyvar’s Stand is a sidegrade to Safekeeping. You don’t get the little life bump from Safekeeping, but you can sometimes just use it as a Fireball to end the game.

I don’t know if you’re in the market for a single-target protection spell, but this might be the best one we’ve ever had.

Atraxa, Grand Unifier

Atraxa, Grand Unifier is one of the most impactful cards from All Will Be One for the game as a whole. She’s replaced a lot of other creatures to become one of the best reanimation targets available. Atraxa is seeing play as far back as Vintage Oath of Druids decks.

For us, Atraxa isn’t as powerful, but she is Green. Being Green means we can find her with Natural Order, a staple of Legacy Elves. I don’t see her turning up over Craterhoof Behemoth and Progenitus in the more combo-based Elf lists. However, she could easily find a home in Cradle Control lists that have become popular recently.

Melira, the Living Cure

I don’t know how powerful decks trying to win with poison will be on Arena will be after with the release of All Will Be One. I do know that if they’re a problem, Melira, the Living Cure will be a useful sideboard option to have.

Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler

Here’s the card I’m most excited about from All Will Be One. Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler not only survives the set without falling to Phyrexia, but he comes out swinging for Modern. Elves might be the one deck that can utilise every ability to their full potential. We have a bunch of mana abilities that benefit from Tyvar’s passive and +1 abilities. Almost all of our creatures can be recurred with the -2, although you won’t be able to get back a Shaman of the Pack or Elvish Archdruid.

Prior to the release of All Will Be One, builds of Elves that utilise Fiend Artisan were becoming popular. Tyvar slots right into these builds. Fiend Artisan not only benefits from being able to use its ability immediately, but getting two activations using Tyvar’s untap ability can lead to some powerful plays. It also costs two mana, so can be recurred with the last ability and it grows from the mill.

We got to try Tyvar on stream over on our Twitch channel and he performed amazingly. We were running a version of Fiend Artisan Elves that incorporated the Devoted Druid combo. Giving the combo haste and getting two Artisan activations to search up both halves was very powerful.

Soulless Jailer

For our final card, we have a useful sideboard option. Soulless Jailer counters a few different strategies that Elves can often stuggle with.

The first ability deals with Reanimator and Dredge style decks. A reanimated Serra’s Emissary is normally very difficult for us to deal with. We can also die to a bunch of Prized Amalgams or Silversmote Ghoul creeping out of the grave. Unlike Grafdigger’s Cage, Jailer doesn’t shut off our own Chord of Callings.

The second ability shuts down Cascade decks trying to cast Crashing Footfalls or Living End. Both of which are match-ups that I’ve struggled with a lot. This is similar to Drannith Magistrate, an oft-used to sideboard option.

Packing answers to all of these on a body with four toughness is a great utility piece to have access to. Just be careful to not try and use your Tyvar‘s -2 ability when Jailer is around.

Parting Thoughts

Phew – I was a bit worried there until we got to Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler. Other than him and some sideboard options, this set really doesn’t do much for Elf players. I had hopes for the new Ezuri, but even he was a let down. But, boy, is Tyvar a hell of a card to carry the set for us. I am excited by the idea of getting to play him more.

The next set on the horizon is March of the Machine and we’ve already seen that the Phyrexians are invading the whole multiverse. This includes the first sighting of Lorwyn in a while. Hopefully that means some cool new Elves that aren’t just half-metal monstrosities.

As I said, I’ve been trying some of the new cards (mostly Tyvar) on stream, so while you’re waiting for the next review, come and say hi on a Thursday evening. If you’re looking for more reviews in the meantime, you can find all of our previous Elves All The Way Down reviews here.