The evil Phyrexians made a return to the Magic the Gathering scene in Kaldheim! Last time we saw the Phyrexians in a Standard-legal set, it was all the way back in New Phyrexia. Now, we get a juicy new Phyrexian creature, complete with a denoted creature type, something players have been asking for years. The first and only Phyrexian to be revealed was a Legendary Creature called Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, who appears to be a beefy creature with a counter doubling effect, but also the ability to halve the counters opponents get, rounded down, as well.
Six mana is really not much of a cost in a Green deck (4 colorless, 2 Green), and many Green decks have 6 mana on turn 4, or even turn 3 under the right circumstances. The fact that this Vorinclex could slow down a lot of opponent strategies makes it even more interesting. There are many popular creatures that come into play with +1/+1 counters and, of course, planeswalkers come into play with loyalty counters. The Monstrous Raider can simply deny a single counter being placed, which is going to make a lot of people sad. Could Vorinclex serve as a sideboard card to absolutely hose counter-based strategies?
Vorinclex also has a very interesting interaction with the popular Saga Enchantments. Since Sagas function by having Lore counters placed on them, the controller of Vorinclex gets two chapters of a Saga, and their effects, at once, while opponents don’t get a single counter. This shuts down popular sagas such as Elspeth’s Nightmare, Elspeth Conquers Death, The Akroan War, and more. Vorinclex also serves to both boost and nerf the powerful new two-color Sagas from Kaldheim, boosting for the controller of Vorinclex and nerfing them for the opponent.
This Vorinclex’s ability is definitely lopsided, but like many other cards in Kaldheim, it requires a very specific type of deck to be built in order to take advantage of the abilities. He’s a must-answer card, as have many Phyrexian creatures in the past. Just being a 6/6 creature with trample and haste means that he’s doing damage in most cases as soon as he hits the board, not something that can be said for many “hoser” type cards. I can’t even imagine how hated this card will be in Commander. He’ll not only be an auto-include in many strategies, but a Commander himself!
For me, the biggest draw to Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider is he can affect planeswalkers. He causes some planeswalkers to access their ultimate abilities as soon as they’re played, while also nullifying the benefit of opposing planeswalkers getting a loyalty counter from using +1 abilities could change the way that planeswalkers are played for some time. Monstrous Raider also affects creatures that come into play as 0/0’s plus +1/+1 counters.
No matter what the case is with this Vorinclex, he’s going to draw a lot of hate very quickly. Early on in his Standard playability, he found a home in both Jund Monsters and Jund Planeswalkers. Both decks feature Valki, God of Lies not only for his hand disruption ability, but for his Tibalt planeswalker flip-side, which is deadly when it comes into play with its loyalty counters doubled thanks to the planeswalker interaction with Vorinclex. The powerful new Saga Binding of the Old Gods also plays a key role, not only for its flexible removal, but its ability to fetch any Forest card from your deck tapped – both abilities you get at once with Vorinclex in play.
Also, while it didn’t come up early on in Kaldheim Standard, Kaldheim has another sleeper card in the Legendary Creature Fynn, the Fangbearer. Fynn gives all creatures you control with deathtouch the ability to give a player two poison counters when it deals combat damage to that player. Notably, Vorinclex will allow you to double the amount of poison counters placed. Will that prove to be a competitive deck in the long run? Perhaps not, especially since everything hinges on Fynn surviving. Still, the interaction between Vorinclex and Fynn is there, even if it has only been hinted at and not seriously pursued.
There were rumblings that Vorinclex could be the first card banned in Standard from Kaldheim. While he is quite powerful and was a Standard powerhouse for some time, he never overtook the format in the way that overpowered cards such as Oko, Thief of Crowns did. As for why Vorinclex is on the plane of Kaldheim in the first place, it seems like it was little more than a strange fan service moment to help sell the set, which it certainly did regardless of the original intention.
Believe it or not, as soon as the Ikoria set and its powerful Emergent Ultimatum left Standard, Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider seemed to be nowhere to be found at top tables. After the release of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, it seems Vorinclex retreated to the sideboards of Mono-Green aggro for the most part, while an occasional Red/Green (Gruul) Aggro deck would play a copy, mostly to synergize with the +1/+1 counter shenanigans of Ochre Jelly.
Of course, Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider continues to be perhaps the second-best chase card of the Kaldheim set, just behind Goldspan Dragon. Most of its play after late September 2021, however, comes almost entirely in Commander. In particular, the Innistrad: Crimson Vow legendary Halana and Alena, Partners take great pleasure in having Vorinclex double the +1/+1 counters they create. The Monstrous Raider hasn’t done much on its own as a Mono-Green Commander, but so many other Commanders are happy to have the big Phyrexian on board.
How would you play Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider?
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