Bill’s Gonna Kill You With ONE Prologue to Phyresis

Prologue to Phyresis

Prologue to Phyresis from Phyrexia: All Will Be One

  • Card Name: Prologue to Phyresis
  • Mana Cost: 1U
  • Card Type: Instant
  • Rules Text: Each opponent gets a poison counter. Draw a card.
  • Illustrated by: Simon Dominic

The Technology in Bill Stark’s Azorius Poison Deck is Breathtaking

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that Bill Stark made the most creative Standard deck in years. I mean, sure, caveat: competitive Standard. Standard where you might actually be able to win a match. Or dozens. In fact, Bill himself made Mythic with it!

I mean look at the thing:

Okay maybe that’s not 100% fair. That’s “my” take on Bill’s deck (for his original version, check out Bill’s blog post). I changed a couple of lands and added two basic Plains. Bill’s original list just had twelve Plains/Islands multi-lands and twelve basic Islands. That’s part one of his refreshing set of technological leaps here. The compleat* devotion to Islands powers up Flow of Knowledge. This might be the best Flow of Knowledge engine deck I’ve ever seen.

There were two problems with Bill’s mana that I sought to correct: First, for Depopulate (and the one Sunfall I added) the deck needs WW. Often it will need WW on demand. To that end I found the compleatly** 100% Islands setup more cute than practical (if still ingenious). So I just added two basic Plains. Literally not taking any of Bill’s precious Islands away… Just making it so we can untap to successfully Depopulate or Sunfall under pressure a little better. I also swapped some Idyllic Beachfronts for Obscura Storefronts. That change doesn’t matter a ton, but we can gain a little life and thin our deck of land in a universe where we now play two more physical copies.

The second catalyst to my adding two Plains is simply that he only had 12 total lands that enter the battlefield untapped. That’s just not enough. Almost every competitive deck needs at least 14, so I righted that minor ship.

This deck uses Mindsplice Apparatus to make Flow of Knowledge very cheap — well everything very cheap — and then puts itself into a position where it is casting several cards per turn, drawing a ton of cards, often gaining 10+ life, and probably saving 10+ mana at the same time. The first discounted Flow of Knowledge gets the ball rolling, but after that, it’s much more about casting lots of “good” spells rather than landing 1-2 great ones each turn cycle.

Prologue to Phyresis is Only One of Bill’s Throwback Kills

This is obviously a deck that the great mid- to late-1990s deck designers — many of whom went on to become #wotcstaff like Bill himself did — would love. Technically the “kill” is the one Prologue to Phyresis. There is only one!

Methodologically, you have to find the one at some point, resolve it, and then go about your business. Your first Prologue to Phyresis might be a whopping two mana, but in the case you cast a second it will probably only cost one… And the engine later on will just be one mana copies of Experimental Augury followed by one mana copies of Witness the Future; maybe you throw in a few one mana copies of Union of the Third Path. That draws a card, right?

The engine is wonderful once it gets going. At some point — and you will typically grind your opponent to this point on account of simply living long enough with a Mindsplice Apparatus in play — you will just cast nine Auguries over 1-2 turn cycles and that will be that.

But a “narrow” kill isn’t the only beautiful throwback about this deck. I mean the “kill” itself is a cantrip! I really — really — admire Bill’s discipline on this. If I had somehow come up with the same idea I don’t think I would have ever gotten to the point of understanding that I wouldn’t need four copies of Prologue to Phyresis. It’s a cantrip! It replaces itself!

The other kind of “old school” throwback is essentially a “Gaea’s Blessing kill” a la Brian Schneider or Mike Donais. There were schools of multicolored control decks circa 1997 or 1998 that just recycled Gerrard’s Wisdom with Gaea’s Blessing and that’s what they did. They gained life, drew cards, gained life again, dared you to try to kill them. Union of the Third Path is clearly a giant upgrade in this regard; and once you discount Gaea’s Blessing to U (from 1G) it starts looking like the best control card ever printed.

I think at this point you probably smell the enthusiasm I have for Bill’s Poison deck. I invite you to check out some games I played with it this weekend on ye olde YouTube.

Further Reading on Bill’s Blog

If you liked this post, or find yourself intrigued by Bill’s deck building creativity, you might want to go back and check out earlier editions of Making Mythic. His goal each month seems to be to build a new, different, creative — but still competitive — deck with which to climb the Mythic ladder. I’ve certainly come away with some valuable ideas from his many at-bats; though none have been quite as breathtaking as Azorius Poison. Nevertheless, here are some you might like:

Bill goes really deep into his unique decks on the blog, and talks about individual play patterns in a way no one else can do justice. And believe me, some of us have tried.

If you geek out on creative deck building, I encourage you to explore there further.


* See what I did there?
** See, I did it again 🙂

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