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Wizards had worries about Poison returning in MTG Phyrexia

Wotc had concerns about bringing the divisive Poison mechanic back for Phyrexia All Will Be One, and so tried to tweak the way it was implemented

MTG Phyrexia All Will Be One artwork of a metal-enhanced boar

There was some trepidation about bringing poison back in an MTG Standard set, Phyrexia: All Will Be One development co-lead Adam Prosak tells Wargamer. This mechanic, which provides an alternative way to kill a player beyond reducing their life total to zero, has proved divisive in past implementations – some love it, some hate it.

Phyrexia: All Will Be One has poison in spades. It’s a key part of one of the set’s main mechanics, Toxic. So the design team had to try and find ways to make poison more palatable.

“We felt like it was very difficult to visit Phyrexia without doing poison counters, they’re so aligned with each other,” Prosak explains. “So we tried to find ways to mitigate some of the divisiveness.”

MTG Phyrexia All Will Be One artwork of a humanoid monster with a crablike carapace for shoulders, a red fleshy ribcage, and red tentacled tendrils emerging from its shoulders

According to Mark Rosewater’s recent article on Phyrexia: All Will Be One direction, originally the design team tried to bring back Infect, which used both poison and -1/-1 conters. “There was some scepticism, both in that R&D has soured on environments using -1/-1 counters and because Infect is disliked by many,” he says.

According to the lead designer, the key problem has always been: “the bifurcation of poison. Either you played a poison deck or you didn’t.” As Prosak says, “Originally, Infect was all about being a glass cannon to kill your opponent immediately with 10 poison counters. The Corrupted mechanic is an attempt at [mitigating] this, to give some amount of poison and some amount of foreboding,” Prosak says.

Corrupted gives a bonus to your cards if an opponent has three or more poison counters. This encourages, Rosewater says, decks that want to “poison the opponent a little” but sometimes kill them that way, even though that’s not their main goal.

While poison’s all-or-nothing problems were reduced in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, the mechanic is no less deadly. Prosak says: “You cannot protect yourself, there are no ways to remove the poison counters. We felt that’s a very important distinction between that and just a different life total. So not being able to undo poison counters is a big part of the foreboding, the big Phyrexian dominance we have here.”