Can Anything Stop Urza’s Saga In The New Modern?

Is Urza’s Saga the latest example of a “use until banned” card in Modern? Eight SCG creators say what they’d play in a rapidly changing format.

Trail of Crumbs, illustrated by Daarken

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the arrival of Modern Horizons 2, many are unsure what they’d play in Modern. That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this advice aids in your decision making for your next Modern event.

Gerry Thompson — Golgari Food

Honestly, I’m not even sure what I’m doing here. I’ve been vocal about what I think the best deck is, so my recommendation shouldn’t come as any surprise. There’s no shortage of sweet options in Modern at the moment, but if you’re trying to win, play Golgari Food.

At this point, the only explanation for Trail of Crumbs doubters is that they haven’t seen it in action. If you don’t believe me, you need to try it for yourself. You’ll be sold with the quickness and be left wondering how anyone beats Golgari Food given how powerful their backup plan is. There are only a handful of bad matchups, yet none are close to hopeless.

My sideboard has improved dramatically in the last couple of weeks, which has been incredibly satisfying. Golgari Food is nearing its final form and I can’t imagine playing anything else. This deck is proactive, has relevant points of interaction against the majority of the format, mulligans well, and has a low mana curve.

Golgari Food does it all.

Dom Harvey — Amulet Titan

Urza’s Saga is the best card in Modern Horizons 2. Amulet Titan has been the best deck in Modern at various points and is always hovering near the top unless something even more broken has taken over. Urza’s Saga is what Amulet Titan needs to reclaim its throne; it finds Amulet of Vigor to power your best draws, pumps out threats to power through disruption, and does a good impression of Field of the Dead for Primeval Titan in longer games. Against other linear decks, Urza’s Saga can even find the Pithing Needle or Tormod’s Crypt that can stop them changing the terms of the game and the sideboard is configured to allow you to bring that bullet in while keeping another copy there for Karn, the Great Creator. 

Karn is the major difference from the ‘stock’ lists that are emerging but has picked up popularity again among some experienced Amulet Titan players. In addition to its usual role in increasing the deck’s threat density and covering your bases against things that go over or under a Primeval Titan, Karn addresses specific problems in this weird and wonderful new Modern; it stops the Food decks that can lock out Primeval Titan with Asmor or can find the tools to beat Blood Moon or Solitary Confinement, for example. 

Ari Lax — Five-Color Control (Lurrus)

With the rapidly rising number of Solitude + Ephemerate decks in Modern, I  just don’t want to be playing creatures right now. I put some thought into Selesnya Hexproof, but I’m not even sure that deck outpaces the Golgari Food decks these days and it runs right into Enchantress and Urza’s Saga hate. Enchantress is fine but has a similar issue of lining up with Urza’s Saga answers. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is a valid target for Solitude, so Izzet Through the Breach is right out. Ensnaring Bridge is loose against the Skyclave Apparitions that often come with Solitude. Urza’s Tower is fine, but there’s a lot of Blood Moon.

That brings us to Cryptic Command decks, and this one certainly looked sweet enough. I can see more traditional Scapeshift Bring to Light package being better since it’s a clean kill, but if there’s a time to try new things it is now. At the least, Terminus sure is a great club to hit the format with whenever you can’t micro-target specific threats the way Esper Control did a few months ago.

Patrick Sullivan — Izzet Prowess

I can’t say enough about Dragon’s Rage Channeler — another busted one-drop, a credible creature with flying, outrageous with Lava Dart and Bedlam Reveler, you name it. On top of all that, I always felt like this deck was one good card short, and now that’s solved as well. There’s no reason to play cards that are clunky or low on rate, and for as long as I’ve played this sort of strategy, the deck feels materially different now.

The sideboard is primarily informed by new decks in the aftermath of Modern Horizons 2. Cleansing Wildfire helps against Urza’s Saga along with the usual suspects, and I have found Spell Pierce to be the best option for fighting cascade and/or As Foretold while doing work elsewhere.

This feels like Prowess with Lurrus pre-rules change, expect there are no mirrors and no one is really prepping for the deck. Can’t recommend enough.

Corey Baumeister — Izzet Grinding Breach

Grinding Station and Undreworld Breach have always been a very powerful combo in Modern. But the main problem that was holding the deck back from being Tier 1 was how easy it was to hate out. Any Grafdigger’s Cage, Leyline of the Void, or Rest in Peace effect was usually good enough to stop the deck cold. That problem is no longer as big of a deal thanks to Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer; Urza’s Saga; and Urza, Lord High Artificer.

Not only do these creatures provide a nice Plan B, they actually speed up the deck as well. Starting with a Ragavan and a Mox Amber allows you to cast a Turn 2 Urza, Lord High Artificer or even just win the game on Turn 2 if you follow the pesky Monkey up with a Grinding Station and an Underworld Breach. 

Another factor that leads this deck to be a serious contender: Engineered Explosives is at an all-time high of effectiveness with all the Urza’s Sagas running around, as well as a stampede of Rhinos thanks to Crashing Footfalls!

Now, this deck is very challenging to play and takes some serious practice to not only get fast with the combo but also recognizing when you can indeed combo off. Don’t forget you can combo off even if you just have Ragavan on the battlefield as your only legendary creature. You simply add a ton of red mana by bringing back Mox Amber over and over, and then you finish it off with getting Chromatic Star twice for two blue mana to cast Thassa’s Oracle.

Urza also has some fancy tricks it can do with Grinding Station. Make sure to always tap the Grinding Station for mana before an artifact enters the battlefield. This effect adds up quickly and using it correctly can be the difference in a few extra flips you get off Urza’s secondary ability!

Shaheen Soorani — Azorius Control

Control is back in full force in Modern.  Counterspell has enhanced every blue deck in the format, while the other Modern Horizons 2 goodies increased the viability of individual archetypes.  Damn for Esper, Kaldra Compleat for Stoneblade, and Solitude for Azorius Control are the immediate upgrades spread across the various control decks.  Subtlety is another free spell in the mix that could positively affect each version, but the overall strength of control has leapt without question.

I’m starting off with Azorius Control and it has already paid dividends.  Leaning on the consistent manabase and powerful spell package, I’ve found success against the new and old decks of the current metagame.  The weakness of Azorius Control was its early-game removal, leaning heavily on Path to Exile to solve all its fast-creature problems.  With Solitude here, that problem has been eliminated.

Removing one-drops with Path to Exile was a painful play, ramping the opponent right from the start.  Solitude creates a choice in removal and adds to the overall number.  Having seven ways to deal with a creature is plenty and the upside to casting them later is huge.  Giving an opponent in the late-game a land is largely irrelevant and producing a flash creature with lifelink is a game changer.

Solitude and Counterspell have combined to make Azorius Control great once again and I am here for it.

Todd Anderson — Grixis Death’s Shadow (Lurrus)

The theory behind Grixis Death’s Shadow (Lurrus) is that you get access to the game’s most powerful cards in the one-mana slot. Disruption like Thoughtseize makes sure your opponent isn’t doing anything unfair while turning on one of Modern’s most terrifying threats. Death’s Shadow thrives when you play fewer creatures, so the ones we are playing need to be very strong. Luckily, Modern Horizons 2 gave us plenty in Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Dragon’s Rage Channeler.

Alongside Death’s Shadow, these two threats come down quickly and allow you to cast multiple spells in the early turns. Using cheap creatures to make your disruption stronger is exactly the Delver style I like to play. As you can tell, we’ve moved away from some of the more polarizing cards like Temur Battle Rage because Death’s Shadow is our only threat where that card is actually good.

To call this a Death’s Shadow deck isn’t exactly accurate. We’re not dealing ourselves chunks of damage. We’re just using our lands and Thoughtseize to enable a one-mana creature that happens to be large. It only costing one mana is the draw, but it isn’t the focal point. I think there will be some matchups where sideboarding out Thoughtseize and Death’s Shadow is commonplace, morphing almost into a Grixis Control shell. Spreading Seas and Engineered Explosives are nods to that, as some of the Food or Urza’s Saga shells will need responses, and casting answers means we can’t always take our time casting threats.

If you want a controlling deck with an aggressive slant, I think you’ll really like this strategy. It can put some heat on a slower opponent, but it thrives in the situations where you need to be flexible. I love how seamlessly those transitions can take place; it’s why I’m so drawn to the archetype. In Modern, it’s important to be flexible if you aren’t polarized in your game actions. Having cards or plans that let you easily change from aggro to control is an important factor in deckbuilding, and I think I’ve provided the necessary tools for doing just that in this new Modern format.

Cedric Phillips — Izzet Prowess

Modern Horizons 2 has, as expected, turned Modern completely on its head and I couldn’t be happier that it has done so. It’s not that Modern was stagnant before Modern Horizons 2, but a huge injection of new cards is always welcome. And given the cards that have been added to the format, I can happily say that Modern is going to be a wild place for a long time.

Is Dragon’s Rage Channeler the most impactful card from the set for Modern? If you had asked me that question two weeks ago, my answer would have been no. Now? It’s getting easier and easier for me to say yes. Urza’s Saga and Asmor not withstanding, DRC is absolutely insane and has made decks like Izzet Prowess, Mono-Red Phoenix, and new takes on Death’s Shadow possible. This kind of manipulation is rarely seen on a creature, but the fact that it turns into a 3/3 flyer takes DRC from just fine to an automatic four-of almost instantly.

With the addition of DRC, there’s no need for Izzet Prowess to play cards like Sprite Dragon, Stormwing Entity, or the truly-terrible-in-Modern Delver of Secrets. Instead, you can build the deck to be able to play a longer game with Expressive Iteration and Bedlam Reveler, as well as play some fun-of one-ofs in your sideboard like Echoing Truth and Shattering Spree (or Shatterstorm if you’re really feeling it).

Izzet Prowess was the best deck in Modern pre-Modern Horizons 2 and it looks like it’s here to stay for at least a little while longer thanks to Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer Dragon’s Rage Channeler. Not bad for an innocuous uncommon if I do say so myself.