All Things Temur Urza For SCG Knoxville

Ross Merriam’s teammates took Temur Urza to the Top 4 of SCG Columbus! He has the latest list and a sideboarding guide ahead of SCG Knoxville!

Emry, Lurker of the Loch, illustrated by Livia Prima

At 10pm last Friday, five members of Team BCW were set to register a rather stock list of Four-Color Urza in the Team Modern Open at SCG Columbus, with Daryl Ayers opting for his trusty Amulet Titan. Our list had some Thoughtseizes, Abrupt Decays, Archmage’s Charms, and Cryptic Commands in the interaction slots, and Emry, Lurker of the Loch over the en vogue Ice-Fang Coatl. There was some spice in the sideboard, namely Blood Moon and Experimental Frenzy to go over the top in the mirror and other attrition matchups, but for the most part we weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel when this one has proven plenty capable of transporting its drivers into the winner’s circle.

But when we returned to our hotel room from the BCW Challenge event that night, none of us were particularly excited to register the deck. It felt silly to put so much stock in playing single-game matches in a somewhat casual environment, but the three of us in attendance lost a lot of games, and something about the deck felt off. If it was only one of us feeling that way, the others probably would’ve ended up talking them back to the stock list, but we were all in agreement that something needed to change.

So we huddled around Eli Kassis laptop, with a copy of the deck loaded on Magic Online, and got about to making wholesale, untested changes to our deck the night before the tournament. If that sounds like a dicey proposition to you, it is. I wouldn’t recommend doing so on the regular, but trust us, we’re professionals:

At the end of this highly scientific process, we ended at a list unlike anything any of us had played before, but we were all excited to play it the next day. And one thing I’ve learned in my years playing Magic is that excitement will keep you engaged over a long day and keep you playing focused where you’re more likely to get sloppy over nine rounds with a slightly better list that you’re not at all invested in. It was a risk to register this deck at SCG Columbus, but one we felt good about, and we wanted to make a splash on the first weekend of the year.

For the team of Eli Kassis, Shaheen Soorani, and me, the tournament was short with a 6-2-1 record and a narrow exit after Day 1 of competition. Still, all of us liked the deck and felt that some slightly better play or a more fortunate distribution of our losses would’ve gotten us to Day 2 in position to make a deep run.

But Team BCW: B Squad, comprised of Corey Baumeister, Pete Ingram, and Daryl Ayers, took two copies of the deck to the Top 4, a great result. Here is Pete’s list:

Eli, Shaheen, and I played a third copy of Anger of the Gods in the sideboard over the extra Experimental Frenzy. Corey and Pete also found two copies of Aether Spellbomb whereas my team only had one copy each, the downside of adding obscure commons to your deck the night before the tournament. Instead we played the third Engineered Explosives. Well, Eli and I did. Shaheen registered a second copy of Mox Amber because some people are beyond saving.

Explaining Our Card Choices

The basic principle behind our list is that, unlike the Ice-Fang Coatl / Archmage’s Charm lists that have been popping up, we wanted to be proactive. The expensive counterspells are awkward when you’re trying to tap out because it’s hard to leave up appropriate mana for them. Both compensate for that fact by having modes that let you cast them proactively, but our primary complaint from the stock list was its clunkiness, and these cards were the major offenders.

Moreover, Mystical Dispute and Veil of Summer are among the most popular sideboard cards in the format, making expensive counterspells a huge liability in sideboard games. Metallic Rebuke, on the other hand, costs one mana most of the time, protecting you from your opponents’ explosive starts while also helping you force through or protect your key threats, all of which are powerful enough to take over a game.

As for our other choices, here’s a brief rundown on them: 

Emry, Lurker of the Loch VS Ice-Fang Coatl

Emry, Lurker of the Loch Ice-Fang Coatl

This choice is critical to how the rest of the deck is constructed. With Ice-Fang Coatl as a flash threat, holding up mana for Archmage’s Charm and Cryptic Command is much easier. But there is no comparing the power of the two. Emry is capable of completely dominating a game, while Ice-Fang’s advantage is that it provides immediate value. So you have one card with a slightly higher floor while the other has a vastly higher ceiling.

In this situation, you would need a metagame where it’s very difficult to realize the ceiling of Emry to make me want to play Coatl instead. That’s a metagame with plenty of spot removal for Emry’s fragile body or other ways to disrupt its ability, like graveyard hate or Chalice of the Void to stop you from looping Mishra’s Bauble.

Chalice of the Void

Chalice has seen a resurgence in Eldrazi Tron, but the current Modern metagame is very low on spot removal. It’s too much of a liability to load up with Oko as prominent as it is, and Urza, a must-kill, is still a clean two-for-one in the face of spot removal. Lightning Bolt may be the worst it has ever been in Modern right now, black removal runs afoul of Veil of Summer, and Path to Exile is not a good answer to an Emry cast on Turn 1 or 2.

Much of the metagame is composed of Urza decks that are light on spot removal, big mana decks that play none in the maindeck, and various combo decks like Devoted Devastation and Storm. Humans and the Death’s Shadow variants are where I can see Ice-Fang Coatl shining, but that’s far from enough to put it above Emry.

Experimental Frenzy

Experimental Frenzy

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

No card runs away with mirror matches faster than Experimental Frenzy. The deck already has a bunch of cheap spells and fetchlands to manipulate the top of your library. Once you find an Urza, Lord High Artificer, you start generating laughable amounts of mana and casting several extra cards a turn. Beyond the mirror, Frenzy is also great in any attrition matchup, and still quite good in matchups where you take a reactive role but aren’t relying on counterspells, most notably Devoted Devastation.

Frenzy was the sideboard spice in our stock list, and though our sample size with the card wasn’t huge, we had been impressed enough to want to move it to the maindeck, and it continued to perform well in the tournament. Moving Frenzy to the main was the death knell for Cryptic Command, since you want both fewer counterspells and fewer four-drops to accommodate it.

The first time you cast a Frenzy into your opponent’s obvious untapped Island for Mystical Dispute, you’ll be reciting poetry, too.

Galvanic Blast

Galvanic Blast

Galvanic Blast is extremely well-positioned right now. It answers Emry early and Urza late. It kills Thought-Knot Seer and Karn, the Great Creator against Eldrazi Tron. Stoneforge Mystic against Bant Snowblade. It’s excellent in the creature-combo matchups, especially if your Devoted Devastation opponents are relying on Mirran Crusader in the sideboard games. It can even help kill an Oko. And all for one mana. When you have cards like Experimental Frenzy in your deck, it’s important to have the rest of your deck be as efficient as possible.

You miss out on the ability of Abrupt Decay to cleanly answer an Oko, but I think the gains are worth it.

Aether Spellbomb

Aether Spellbomb

Engineered Explosives’s position in the metagame has declined in the last month, though the ability to loop it with Emry demands you play a couple of copies. Still, you need to replace the others, and ideally it would be with another cheap artifact that provides some interaction. Aether Spellbomb meets those requirements while also being another way to generate card advantage with Emry.

The Unsummon ability is surprisingly effective right now, bouncing animated Food tokens, Construct tokens, Gurmang Anglers, and pesky Reality Smashers while also serving as meaningful disruption against Infect and Devoted Devastation. Between Oko, Urza, and Frenzy, you’re able to consistently take over the long game in matchups that don’t involve Tron lands or Primeval Titan, so keeping your opponent’s battlefield clear while you set up your own is valuable. And since it cycles there is no chance of it ever being a dead card.

One last neat play to look out for is bouncing your own creatures that your opponent stole with Oko. Most lists are playing at least one copy of Spellbomb, so be more wary using your own Okos this way, and if you steal an Urza and then cast your own copy, be sure to keep yours with the legend rule.

Waterlogged Grove

Waterlogged Grove

Without Cryptic Command, Mystic Sanctuary was no longer appealing, so the search was on for another utility land. Waterlogged Grove was the best we came up with, and was solid throughout the day. I may try to experiment here going forward, but it’s hard to top a land that cantrips in the late-game.

Cutting Mystic Sanctuary takes a lot of strain off the rest of the mana, too, letting us go down to fifteen Islands in a nineteen-land deck by playing the Grove as well as a Stomping Ground, Snow-Covered Forest, and Snow-Covered Mountain. You can freely fetch for these since you don’t need a pile of Islands for Mystic Sanctuary, nor a pile of blue mana for Archmage’s Charm and Cryptic Command.

And best of all, you never have a land that enters the battlefield tapped early. Modern is slower than it’s ever been right now, but it’s still important to get ahead early, since establishing the first Emry, Oko, or Urza will lead to a material advantage that puts you ahead going long.

Blood Moon

Blood Moon

This is one of the key cards in the deck, because having the best haymaker against big mana decks reduces your need to have hard counterspells as the game goes long. Blood Moon can completely shut down the Primeval Titan decks and they are generally trimming on answers since the card isn’t that popular in the wider metagame. Without these in the sideboard, it wouldn’t be possible to move to the more proactive build, so even though it’s not in the main, it’s a critical component of the deck.

Moving Forward

After SCG Columbus, this is the list I would register this weekend for SCG Knoxville:

Only some minor changes here. I like the third Frenzy that Corey and Pete played, but I want the third Anger to help against creature decks and graveyard decks that can run you over. The third Veil of Summer already only came in against Death’s Shadow variants and Jund, and those decks are declining.

As for the Stoic Rebuttal, Rebuke is awkward in multiples since it gets worse as the game goes long, and I think the slight tweak to get one hard counterspell is valuable, especially in pre-sideboard games against big mana strategies.

Sideboard Guide

VS Sultai/Simic Urza


Metallic Rebuke Metallic Rebuke Stoic Rebuttal Engineered Explosives Aether Spellbomb


Experimental Frenzy Veil of Summer Veil of Summer Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute

You don’t want that many counterspells because everyone has Veils and Disputes. Frenzy dodges those so you’re slightly ahead, but mulligan aggressively for explosive hands because the matchup snowballs on either side if one person stumbles.

VS Simic Titan


Galvanic Blast Galvanic Blast Galvanic Blast Aether Spellbomb Aether Spellbomb


Blood Moon Blood Moon Blood Moon Ashiok, Dream Render Disdainful Stroke

Experimental Frenzy is borderline here, so if you’re playing against a build with more midrange creatures like Tireless Tracker you can play a Galvanic Blast or two over them, but you’re still grinding in a lot of games, and even with the discord between Frenzy and counterspells the card is powerful in those games.

VS Amulet Titan


Galvanic Blast Experimental Frenzy Experimental Frenzy Aether Spellbomb Aether Spellbomb


Blood Moon Blood Moon Blood Moon Ashiok, Dream Render Disdainful Stroke

Similar to Simic Titan, but there you definitely have enough targets to want Galvanic Blast.

VS Mono-Green Tron


Galvanic Blast Galvanic Blast Galvanic Blast Engineered Explosives Experimental Frenzy Experimental Frenzy


Blood Moon Blood Moon Blood Moon Ceremonious Rejection Ceremonious Rejection Disdainful Stroke

The added counterspells make Frenzy even more of a liability, so I’d rather keep in more artifacts to make my draws more explosive. Here, Aether Spellbomb is better than Engineered Explosives since it draws cards with Emry and can hold Wurmcoil Engine in check. 

VS Eldrazi Tron


Engineered Explosives Metallic Rebuke Metallic Rebuke Experimental Frenzy Experimental Frenzy


Blood Moon Blood Moon Blood Moon Ceremonious Rejection Ceremonious Rejection

I cut Rebuke here because they can be a liability if Chalice of the Void blanks some of your artifacts. On the draw you can consider cutting more zero-mana artifacts to dodge Chalice but if you cut too many you’ll add unnecessary inconsistency to your draws.

VS Gifts Storm


Experimental Frenzy Experimental Frenzy Aether Spellbomb


Ashiok, Dream Render Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute

You may be tempted to bring in Anger of the Gods, but with Engineered Explosives you already have enough answers to their Empty the Warrens plan, especially with Emry to recur them. If you’re struggling with this matchup I’d recommend playing more from the Gifts Storm side, because seeing its machinations first hand makes it a lot easier to deduce what they’re up to and how best to disrupt them.

VS Devoted Devastation


Metallic Rebuke Metallic Rebuke Stoic Rebuttal Gilded Goose


Anger of the Gods Anger of the Gods Anger of the Gods Ashiok, Dream Render

This version of Urza is great at stopping the combo and sideboard nonsense like Mirran Crusader, but their midrange plan with Oko, Thief of Crowns is still potent, so be wary of holding back too much and leaving yourself unnecessary vulnerable to it.

VS Bant Snowblade


Metallic Rebuke Metallic Rebuke Aether Spellbomb Gilded Goose Gilded Goose


Anger of the Gods Anger of the Gods Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Experimental Frenzy

With some Angers in, your Engineered Explosives often activated on one to destroy their mana creatures. Your Geese often die, and in the sideboard games the added tempo they provide isn’t as relevant. Be mindful of Force of Negation and Spell Queller, since they produce the biggest blowouts. One note on the latter: you can overpay for Engineered Explosives to dodge Spell Queller.

VS Four-Color Death’s Shadow


Metallic Rebuke Metallic Rebuke Stoic Rebuttal


Experimental Frenzy Veil of Summer Veil of Summer

You’re very favored going long, so prioritize answering their threats and try not to get cheesed out by Temur Battle Rage.

VS Burn


Experimental Frenzy Experimental Frenzy


Anger of the Gods Anger of the Gods

You don’t want to bring in too much creature removal but a couple of extra sweepers help against their creature-heavy draws. You don’t want to play a long game and give them extra draw steps, so swapping them for the two maindeck copies of Frenzy is perfect.

This list isn’t metagamed with Burn in mind, so if you want to hedge that direction I’d recommend one or two copies of Nature’s Claim. It functions as both a lifegain spell and an answer to Eidolon of the Great Revel and potential sideboard copies of Stony Silence.

I don’t know how much longer Oko has in Modern, and I pray it’s not much, but until we are delivered from this nightmarish fairy tale, this is the list of Urza I’d recommend for SCG Knoxville.