Conventional wisdom about Phyrexia: All Will Be One Limited is that it’s a blisteringly fast and aggressive format. Red and Green are widely regarded as the best color pair to draft. Blue, meanwhile, is seen as the format’s worst color, and Control decks are seen as unplayable due to Aggro decks being so powerful and dominant. These observations have largely been accepted by the MTG Community, and this has changed the way that Phyrexia drafts unfold. Often, Red and Green cards get snapped up right away, whilst Blue cards wheel around the table unpicked. This narrative was recently challenged, however, by Ben Stark, an MTG pro player who argued that Blue is actually the 2nd strongest color in the format and that it is perfectly possible to build Control decks that can turn the tables against the ever-present Aggro onslaught.
Give Blue a Chance
Blue has been dismissed by many commentators and content creators since Phyrexia: All Will Be One was first released.
A piece on Hipsters of the Coast states: “Blue is very weak. Your creatures are understatted and your interaction is terrible or nonexistent.”
Draftsim’s Phyrexia: All Will Be One Guide argues: “No color in the set is unplayable, but blue is clearly the worst.” Though it does later note: “Draft has a self-correcting nature, and blue isn’t as bad in ONE as something like green in BFZ“.
Several of MTG Rocks pieces have also been critical of Blue. We condemned the color for, amongst other things, its lack of removal at Common and the slow pace of some of its strategies.
Ben Stark has taken it upon himself to defend Blue and the control strategy which the color enables. In an episode of the Limited gameplay focussed podcast Limited Resources, Stark set out his argument for why he feels Blue is the 2nd best color in Phyrexia: All Will Be One…
Stark’s argument was multifaceted and complex, the podcast episode dedicated to it came in at just under two hours in length, but it can be broken down into several key points.
- Draft a deck like you’re trying to beat Aggro. Play cards that block well and a run lots of cheap cards to prevent yourself from being killed early.
- Players in Blue need to prioritize making the right picks even if sometimes they seem counterintuitive. Stark advocates taking Meldweb Strider over Quicksilver Fisher, as the Strider is more difficult to remove and better enables a controlling strategy.
- Stark states that players can beat out aggro strategies by maximizing the value of their Oil counters with proliferate effects and then closing the game out using threats that are bigger and better than what the opponent can offer.
- Cards to prioritise include Glistening Seer, Mesmerizing Dose, Ichor Synthesizer and Gitaxian Raptor. Gitaxian Raptor, Stark argues, is an especially good card that drafters are not currently valuing appropriately.
- Cards to avoid include Thrumming Bird, Tamiyo’s Logbook, and Vivisurgeon’s Insight. Stark argues that Thrumming Bird’s Proliferate effect is nice, but it comes attached to a creature that simply is not relevant. Tamiyo’s Logbook and Vivisurgeon’s Insight, meanwhile, are simply too slow to combat the Aggro decks that dominate the format.
- Red remains the format’s best color, but Blue is underrated and undervalued. Players are currently viewing it as the set’s worst color when in fact it is the second best.
Stark has put his advocacy for Blue into practice at events with money on the line. He drafted a Blue deck during Pro Tour Phyrexia, and also during the most recent MTG Arena Open, winning prize money during the Arena Open.
So are Blue Control decks in Phyrexia: All Will Be One getting massively underrated by the MTG Community, or are they still not worth considering despite Stark’s arguments?
On the one hand, it is pretty easy to argue that cards like Gitaxian Raptor are being underrated and that Blue has more to offer than it is currently getting credit for.
On the other hand, a part of Blue’s current strength lies in the fact that it is frequently under-drafted. There is a risk that, with this knowledge out in the world, the pendulum may swing in the other direction. If the perception that Blue is an unplayable Color is broken, then more players will begin to draft Blue decks. If more players draft Blue, then the advantage it holds as an underappreciated color will be lost, because it will become much harder to get valuable Blue cards uncontested.
It looks like there is still plenty of experimentation to undertake with Phyrexia: All Will Be One and that its Limited format is far from being solved.
Read more: Upcoming MTG Arena Set Revolutionises Draft Formats