Why Does "Phyrexian" Need to Be a Creature Type, Now?

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Posted on Jan. 12, 2021, 8:39 a.m. by DemonDragonJ

Kladheim is making "Phyrexian" an actual creature type, which I find to be weird, since WotC previously had repeatedly said that it was far too late to make such a creature type, and I also felt that it was more appropriate to have the creatures of Phryexia be united by purpose, rather than biology. I also am very concerned that WotC may retroactively change many creatures from the game's past to have that type, as there are simply far too many creatures that are associated with Phryexia to make that a feasible task.

What does everyone else say about this? Why is "Phyrexian" becoming its own creature type, now?

Caerwyn says... #2

Their reason for doing it now is likely so they can have a cross-set theme of the forerunners to a more wide-scale Phyrexian incursion. The lack of a Phyrexian subtype worked when you had dozens of Phyrexian creatures in a set - their relationship to one another was obvious. But if you have one creature in one set, one in another, maybe two or three in a third, their all being part of a collected unit might not be so obvious.

As for them being bound by purpose, not biology, their bio-mechanical corruption is the most fundamental part of their identity.

The creature type should have been implemented ages and ages ago; it’s going to be a massive undertaking to errata all the existing cards, but the scale of the task is no excuse for putting off something that should be done.

January 12, 2021 8:56 a.m.

legendofa says... #3

If I may engage in hypotheticals here, would a new creature type be needed if the Esper culture from Alara started traveling to other planes? Assuming that the replacement of flesh with metal continues in some areas of New Alara, of course. The Esperites share(d) the trait and cultural identity of rejecting their organic bodies due to perceived weakness with the Phyrexians. If a group of Windwright Mages and Etherium Sculptors suddenly showed up on Dominaria, Ixalan, and Kamigawa (picking planes at random here), would they need a new creature type like Alaran or Esperite, or would they continue to be Humans and Vedalkens? Or would they all suddenly be Constructs or something?

Off-topic sidebar: This is part of why I want a Return to Alara set. What does it look like 20, 50, 100 years later?

At what point does bio-augmentation meet the criteria of a new species or creature type, especially if (a) the result can no longer be considered organic at all, and (b) they go to a place where this is unheard of?

January 12, 2021 10:33 a.m.

This does open the door for (assuming it doesn’t already exist, some of that was during my MtG walkabout) a “Grip of Phyrexia” enchantment, allowing us wizards to perfect other creatures ;p It seemed like they gave up on worrying about making new types a while ago. The wheel just keeps turning.

January 12, 2021 10:38 a.m.

Massacar says... #5

Just as Caerwyn said, Phyrexian should have been a creature type ages ago, like during the days of Yawgmoth (much less Mirrodin). So I am glad they are finally adding it and hopefully going to errata all the cards.

Phyrexians are one of my favorite things from MTG lore, so it's good they get recognition as a tribe of their own.

January 12, 2021 10:57 a.m.

TriusMalarky says... #6

Well, I don't know, in the short span of a few sets we now have Sharks, Dogs, Warlocks, and more. And that's not including the Dinosaur errata and Mummy -> Zombie errata that's happened in the past as well.

Wizards sort of went off the rails with them creature types. I wouldn't be surprised if "you" and "Rosewater" become Planeswalker types in the near future.

January 12, 2021 11:14 a.m.

Caerwyn says... #7

legendofa - I think Phyrexia's bio-augmentation is fundamentally different than Esper's. Phyrexian Compleation is defined by transformation and loss of identity--you become part of the collective and now exist to serve Phyrexia. On Esper, they're infusing races with Etherium, but they are not trying to create a single new perfected race in the same way Phyrexia is.

I would say that is why Phyrexia is specially deserving of a creature type--their primary purpose is subjugation and transformation into a new existence, not simple augmentation.

TriusMalarky - I think Sharks were a mistake, seeing as they could be covered by the existing creature type "fish". Dogs was not a new creature type--they merely decided it was stupid to use "Hound" as a creature type since most of the dog cards were not hounds, so they updated the phrase they already used. Warlocks are distinct from other types of magic users within the greater Wizards canon, and I expect we will see some interesting Warlock cards when we go to Faerûn later this year.

Dinosaur was added as a creature type because it made sense to do so--obviously they would retroactively apply that.

The Zombie to Mummy update happened with the Grand Creature Type Update of 2007 where they eliminated a whole host of unnecessary card types, so really is not relevant to the point you are making.

January 12, 2021 12:07 p.m.

aholder7 says... #8

Creature types serve two main purposes. The first is mechanical, certain effects will apply only to certain types so the power of such cards is proportional to the number of cards with that type Elvish Clancaller. Notably there are also cards that don’t care about specific types so any creature type that is sufficiently large can get use out of them Coat of Arms. Because of this sparingly used creature types are generally not very good. Having a card like Uncle Istvan (pre-errata) would suffer due to not being part of a larger type. To be fair plenty of cards get by without any tribal support at all which is perfectly fine but by grouping some of these together you are opening up options for future tribal decks to be created. An example of this can be seen with cats and dogs. Cats are a unified creature type in magic. The leorin are cats, they aren’t catfolk, or Leonin creature type, they are cats. So cards like Regal Caracal work on all of them and you have plenty of cards to put together. Dogs on the other hand have jackals, as well as dogs. Dogs was a replacement for hound and all previous hounds were made into dogs so that wasn’t really a new creature type. Jackals will likely not fit into any dog deck and for that reason have less of a chance at being played. There is also the issue of creating cards that support a tribe in a creature type that have a lot of creatures such as elves or humans. Wizards could probably print a 1 mana 0/1 with the effect “other kraken’s you control get +2/+2 and flying” and this would be fine but replace that with elves and you have a card that would get banned harder than Oko. But if you want to create a card that benefits a creature type but it seems too powerful for the existing type it may be reasonable to create a new type to allow for this card and others in the future to thrive. Dinosaurs could have been kept as lizard if they really wanted to but the second goal of creature types is flavor. You want to get across a certain idea about a creature and it’s identity through its typing. And while dinosaurs are big lizards I think most people consider them drastically different enough to justify a new creature type. Warlock’s creation also fits into this second category by allowing the separation of people who get power from dark powers out of cleric which still could probably hold them but has a strong connotation of religion and demons (for dark clerics).

On the topic of creating the phyrexian creature type we can measure it against the criteria above. Does it serve a mechanical purpose? And is the difference in flavor large enough to justify it? Horrors, minions and constructs (a large part of old phyrexian cards) are not an overly supported tribes. Mechanically the main issue is that you wouldn’t be able to give cards across the spectrum buffs because of their variety especially when you consider that there are smaller pockets of other creature types that still could be phyrexian. Flavor wise are the phyrexians different enough as a group to justify a typing? almost all creatures have their type based on species and occupation (wizard, fighter, noble). From the species perspective, horrors and constructs still seem to fit the general theme of these cards quite well. Personally I don’t see their alterations to self as a new species separate from these categories or from other types that exist but this is where a lot of the discussion of the validity of this type will happen. Yes they are all United in purpose but the purpose is too specific for the general occupation creature types.

New creature types also always carry the baggage of should old types he errata’d into this new type? Hounds -> dogs was easy, all of things of 1 type are now other type. Phyrexian would involve a lot of changes that many people would not be able to guess by looking at the cards like they could probably do with dinosaurs. So I think the concern for retyping old cards is very valid.

Personally as much as I like Phyrexians I don’t see the need for the new type unless they are planning on adding specific support for it. And if they are adding support for it I don’t see it as worth the issues it causes as they probably would have to retype a lot of the old cards to make it make sense.


January 12, 2021 12:46 p.m.

Mcat1999 says... #9

Personally, I feel that Phyrexian is not really needed. What I would have much rather seen is the inclusion of the Artifact typing.

Phyrexians are half-machine, half-organic monstrosities. Their artificial aspect should be exemplified. Take for example Suture Priest. Nothing on her card denotes her artificial and mechanical being, despite very clearly being so.

January 12, 2021 1:23 p.m.

Caerwyn says... #10

Mcat1999 - Adding an artifact typing would be a much bigger change than a subtype update. Implicating Affinity or the plethora of other artifact synergies; being vulnerable to additional removal; etc. It would fundamentally change each and every one of them in unexpected and unpredictable ways. It would be a disaster for each and every format where Phyrexians are legal--a type update, particularly a type addition without retroactively removing existing types, is not that big of a deal.

January 12, 2021 1:34 p.m.

legendofa says... #11

Caerwyn If I'm getting your response to me right, Phyrexians should have that creature type because they were (in-story) specifically made to be Phyrexians. Phyrexians should be a creature type to reflect their unique biological and ideological modifications.

If that's right, it seems like the Phyrexian typing is designed primarily to integrate the story into the mechanics. The Phyrexian creature type is as much about worldview as biology, not fitting neatly into a "class" or "race" subtype. Which would be more correct for Glistener Elf, Elf Phyrexian Warrior or just Phyrexian Warrior? For Blighted Agent, Human Phyrexian Rogue or Phyrexian Rogue? Phyrexian Battleflies as Insect or Phyrexian Insect?

I would love to see Phyrexian added to the typeline of Phyrexian Snowcrusher.

This isn't going to change any minds at WotC, so back into hypotheticals, but would something like Cyborg or Augmented (maybe less sci-fi-ish) have been more acceptable?

January 12, 2021 1:37 p.m.

legendofa says... #12

Just had another off-the-wall thought: Phyrexian as supertype, not subtype. That would let it cover pretty much anything Phyrexia-related, but it would be a very flavor-based supertype.

January 12, 2021 1:49 p.m.

aholder7 says... #13

I’m not sure I would appreciate it as a super type. That would be a really significant shift for magic as there are only 7 super types. 3 of which aren’t legal in any constructed formats (elite, ongoing and host) and 1 that has been phased out (world). The remaining three are “basic”, “legendary, and “snow”. Personally I wasn’t even a huge fan of snow being a super type and my guess is that since no other super type was introduced since (on constructed legal cards) wizards decided it wasn’t worth it to create a super type out of anything else. While technically yes they could do it, and it would open up the possibility to do various things with the cards I don’t think it would serve them any better than adding a creature type to all the previous cards and would be far less problematic.

I think MCatt was talking about going forward making them artifacts, with the lore justification being that they’ve advanced to the next stage of phyrexian evolution where they are truly one with machines enough so to justify an artifact typing. I agree that going back and adding this would be to big of a change. Creature types are one thing. Types are another.

January 12, 2021 2:28 p.m.

I think the big fear is that we’re marching toward another correction like there was back in 2007, when we had to fix all our kelp/paratrooper/donkey/leper problems. I feel like we have mostly-good reason to believe that WotC has learned their lesson and can avoid creating that scenario again.

January 12, 2021 2:55 p.m.

Rzepkanut says... #15

Since retconning all the lizards into dinosaurs and then hounds into dogs I feel like they have gotten more comfortable with doing this sort of thing.

Plus when we next see a plane that's heavily infested by the Phyrexian again (which seems very likely now) then we already have some creatures with the card type to trigger all the tribal synergies they're sure to use.

January 12, 2021 5:17 p.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #16

If WotC adds the Phyrexian type to existing creatures, I really hope that they do not remove any existing creature types from them, since many of them are horrors, and very much deserve to be such.

January 12, 2021 8:12 p.m.

Mcat1999 says... #17

I think a supertype is far more effective and both mechanically and thematically accurate. For example, then we could have Phyrexian sorceries or enchantments.

Also, it blends well with other times one plane invaded another. Take for example War of the Spark when Nicol Bolas brought forth the Dreadhorde. We would have seen the following typeline:

  • Legendary Amonkhet Creature - Zombie God
January 12, 2021 9:37 p.m.

Mcat1999 says... #18

Also, in terms of what a creature type means, it is a racial classification and an occupational description.

So a Human Cleric is a Human being who happens to be in the profession of a Cleric.

And an Ooze Warrior is somehow an Ooze creature who is a Warrior, as defined by WOTC classification.

Adding in a Plane of existence, while descriptive, adds nothing to the race / class and more toward the extra-planar identity of not just who the being is, but WHAT the being is and most importantly WHERE the being came from.

Just as the Legendary supertype denotes something of great and important significance, and the Snow supertype denotes an alternative type of permanent, and the Basic supertype denotes a specific "generic" source of mana, a "Planar" supertype could denote specific heritage and existence.

For example, if something later on has "Protection from Phyrexia sources" you know it means ANYTHING with that supertype, not just creatures.

January 12, 2021 9:43 p.m.

Mcat1999 says... #19

And to argue my own point, I feel if Snow is a supertype, so should Desert be. It's a bit silly to have one "biome" be a Supertype and an actual biome be a subtype.

January 12, 2021 9:44 p.m.

Caerwyn says... #20

DemonDragonJ - Your post got me curious, so I looked into the errata for adding Dinosaur--while a much smaller scale than adding Phyrexian is going to be, I think it is informative as to how Wizards will handle a large-scale addition of a creature type that should have existed in the past.

There are around 14 old Dinosaurs that were updated to have the Dinosaur subtype. Of those 14, 8 only gained Dinosaur as a subtype--most were Beasts that became Dinosaur Beast, though there were others as well (Fungus Dinosaur, Spirit Dinosaur, Dinosaur Zombie Beast). The remaining 6 were all Lizards--these ones lost the Lizard subtype and became Dinosaurs.

Extrapolating from this, it looks like they will not remove a subtype unless that subtype is mutually exclusive with the newly-added subtype. A Lizard Dinosaur does not make sense; but a Dinosaur Beast does, since Beast is such a generic term.

Phyrexian is not going to be mutually exclusive with anything--I would be surprised if we saw substantial, if any, removals of subtypes.

January 12, 2021 9:49 p.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #21

Caerwyn, I am glad that you believe that, since I do not wish for some of my favorite creatures that are associated with Phyrexia, most notably Phyrexian Obliterator and Atraxa, Praetors' Voice to lose the horror subtype.

January 13, 2021 4:45 p.m.

TriusMalarky says... #22

Wouldn't Phyrexian be mutually exclusive to, say, Myrran? But then Myrran's not a creature type, so . . .

January 13, 2021 5 p.m.

Gleeock says... #23

Wasn't compleation an evolving concept? Maybe Phyrexians started as an impure ideology and have finally evolved into a unique group instead of sub limited races? I hope so it makes thematic sense and is less confusing for new players

January 13, 2021 10:06 p.m.

Gleeock says... #24

Auto correction sucks. I meant Phyrexians were a bunch of sublimated races. Maybe they have finally reached a cultural racial milestone. Where before they were mostly cobbled horror tools

January 13, 2021 10:12 p.m.

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