Hi Commander players! Today I’m covering a card that might help you dig up a few old friends. How old? Well how about last century, when this card was first printed. Like an old friendship, this card is timeless, including a flavour text (Death is no excuse to stop working) that would resonate with just about every boss or employee in human history. How it would resonate depends on your side of the soil.
Phyrexian Reclamation, or Phyrexian Rec for short, takes us back to a simpler time of good vs ultimate evil. In early Magic, the Phyrexians were the do-it-all baddies of the Multiverse. They took hostages and committed atrocities. They created monsters in labs and reanimated corpses. They invaded other Planes, and built Doomsday weapons, and staged hero-on-hero-combat-to-the-death between Urza and Gerrard, resulting in Gerrard decapitating Urza, who would go on to dominate Modern briefly until the banning of Mox Opal. They did it all to death, so thoroughly that Phyrexian Dad Yawgmoth saw his Tomb printed before his actual card. Maybe Yawgmoth’s Agenda should have been to delegate.
These days, that delegation has happened organically. With the release of each successive set, a new niche of villain creatures and tropes is established, and a little of the Phyrexian ubiquity is taken away. The Eldrazi are now the premier invaders, Bolas is the multiverse villain on all the movie posters, and 2019 green cards are responsible for the atrocities and hostage taking. Even the necromancy has been firmly supplanted by all of Bolas, Liliana and the entire Planes of Innistrad and Amonkhet. But the name on one of the best reanimation outlets available is still ‘Phyrexian.’
Reanimation in Magic is big game. Decks that put their creatures in the graveyard and then bring them back either for value or for a drastic cost reduction pervade most formats. In Commander, the options are vast, including many Commander options who are reanimator all-stars themselves, like Meren of Clan Nel Toth. But most decks that run creatures will inevitably see them die. If you put Phyrexian Rec into play turn 1, chances are you’ll have a target for it, sooner or later. And putting it into play turn 1 is both totally reasonable, and a big reason to play it. The cheap CMC helps out in the late game, too, as it means more mana for activations.
Since the activation is at instant speed and requires no tap, it can be done any time. Have a cycler in the graveyard and need to draw? Have a single, game-saving card in hand with a discard effect on the stack? Just want to bring your dead creature to hand on your opponent’s endstep so you can cast it again on your turn and get the sweet sweet ETB effect? Want to bring back two such creatures? Yup, all that, providing you have the mana and the life to pay. Neither are nasty costs, and the inflated life totals in Commander help. It even adds a point of devotion and, as an enchantment, isn’t easy to get rid of. There isn’t a signature play to be had here, just hundreds of value plays.
As long as you run creatures and don’t run into too much graveyard hate, Phyrexian Rec is going to do work for you, and open up all sorts of new strategic avenues. It’s tough to advocate against playing it, but clearly it’s a no-go if your only creature is your Commander. Similarly, if your creature count is extremely low, and they don’t have ETB or death effects, it might be a fifth wheel. Or if you’d rather they come back straight from the grave to the field, or if they’re hard to cast for some other reason. But as long as you’re in black with creatures, Phyrexian Rec should be on your short list.
Phyrexian Rec should also be on the reprint shortlist. It has three printings, in Urza’s Legacy, and then Commander 13 and 15. While it was an uncommon initially, meaning there’s an ok supply, prices are still around $5 or more. Rarity in the Commander sets is mostly irrelevant and there are no foils, so a Masters set reprint with foils would be ideal. Phyrexian Rec in the upcoming Commander precons would be nice, too. If you want a foil, the Urza’s Legacy copies are more than $30.
In summation, Phyrexian Reclamation reminds us a time when Phyrexia was the ultimate evil in Magic, and did everything from Doomsday weapons to necromancy. Nowadays, any black mage can use this card to bring back the dead cheaply, and with a ton of versatility. With a friendly casting cost, palatable activation, and delicious effect, you’ll scarcely notice the stink of undeath. While it is hardly flashy, being a workhorse uncommon, the price of Phyrexian Reclamation isn’t low, and foils are expensive. Look out for a reprint, but in the meantime, try to get your bony hands on a copy of this Staple. After a few activations, you’ll be dying to tell everyone how good it is. Thanks for reading!
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