Urza’s Saga was a hell of a set. Appropriately, Urza’s Saga is a hell of a card.
If there was a better way to make the statement that the entire Modern Horizons product line is the Time Spiral of the modern era, I can’t imagine what it would be. And not only is it a brain-ful to process, it’s a really powerful card that’s absolutely going to make a splash in Modern and older formats.
Let’s start with the easy part, the type line. Well, easy relative to the rest.
Urza’s Saga is not a legendary permanent. Sagas aren’t traditionally legendary, and there wouldn’t be room for it to join the Brushwagg “name matches the subtypes” club if it were legendary. Remember, in a Time Spiral set, functionality comes second to delivering low-relevance punchlines. I say this earnestly, as someone who unironically appreciates the card Herd Gnarr.
Land with a bonus card type might be the most successful card category in Magic. As far as I can tell, Urza’s Saga will be the eighth card in the category and the others are the six artifact lands and Dryad Arbor.
In terms of enchantment synergies, Urza’s Saga is definitely worse than a Darksteel Citadel is in artifact synergy decks. I expect the raw counting synergies like those in Selesnya Hexproof to not mesh well with Urza’s Saga. You can cast your Springleaf Drum off Darksteel Citadel; you can’t cast Rancor off Urza’s Saga.
There’s also bit of a weird situation where a lot of the non-constellation enchantment triggers are on-cast and not on entering the battlefield, so Urza’s Saga doesn’t trigger them. Not a great start for a true enchantment theme deck.
I’m most interested in one-off synergies with the enchantment type that can slot into artifact decks. Hall of Heliod’s Generosity is a pretty free pickup to consider for those decks. Competing with Academy Ruins for the same effect might sound weird, but there’s a higher cost to spreading your colors in a post-Mox Opal format. If you’re already going down a road like Tempered Steel in your neo-Affinity deck, you have that white mana without a million Glimmervoids as a liability.
I also looked for something similar to the Green Sun’s Zenith + Dryad Arbor interaction, but the cards that directly drop enchantments are all clunkfests.
I keep mentioning Strength from the Fallen every year or so, and here it rolls back around. You can now Life from the Loam back an enchantment to trigger Strength from the Fallen and build multi-pump fast kill turns. This sounds like building a bad Dredge deck, but Hollow One was a bad Dredge deck until it wasn’t. I don’t even know where you would start with this hybrid graveyard-artifact-enchantment nonsense, but Shriekhorn and Mesmeric Orb seem like interesting places to start.
Life from the Loam isn’t the only way to recur a land Saga. Expect a lot of Urza’s Saga plus Crucible of Worlds action in future Modern.
With that fun exercise out of the way, we can now talk about the most likely reason the card type enchantment land comes up — you’re going to get Stone Rained if you play Urza’s Saga. It won’t be fun sometimes, but it also will be survivable. It’s the classic Vindicate principle. If they Vindicate your land, there’s a real chance you draw more lands and they in the end traded Vindicate for an irrelevant permanent instead of a relevant one.
Then again, Urza’s Saga does tend to be a relevant permanent, so I can’t really fault them for Disenchanting it. Still, that does mean you get to play more relevant threats against interaction when traditionally that has been a choke point for artifact decks, and they mostly take up land slots.
Though, check these types out against the most prevalent answer to problem permanents in the format. Land that makes tokens against a card that exiles nonland, nontoken permanents? Better luck next time. Maybe you can spike the Chapter III freeroll card.
Urza’s Saga being an enchantment means it notably isn’t an artifact. For an artifact-centric payoff, that’s great news. The most devastating effect against most artifact decks is a Null Rod variant, and Urza’s Saga just does its thing though a Stony Silence or Karn, the Great Creator.
On a similar dodging-interaction axis, it being a land means it never goes on the stack. Counterspell has nothing on the card, and Path to Exile on a Construct looks really embarrassing when your opponent’s land that makes creatures nets a three-for-one. Archmage’s Charm doesn’t even handle it that cleanly since the stolen Construct in their all-Islands deck is almost surely a smaller creature than a Construct in your actual-artifacts deck.
Overall, we’ve illustrated a card with a bunch of cross-pollinated synergies that is both simultaneously vulnerable to specific removal but really resilient to the generic answers people play, and we’ve only really covered four actual words on the card.
Enough about type lines. Time for the text box that takes up most of the card.
The Construct Army
The primary role of Urza’s Saga is going to be cashing out for two Construct tokens. Wait, I said two Constructs?
In a trick you may recognize from Dominaria draft, your Saga triggers go on the stack. Urza’s Saga also gains the abilities from its first two chapters permanently. That means you get to make a Construct on the second turn, and then respond to the third chapter and make another Construct. What a fitting non-obvious play pattern for a card named after a 1990s set.
Constructs hit hard, especially in multiples when they boost each other’s power. Most Urza’s Saga decks should be ending the game a turn or two after making the second Construct without any assistance.
You have some of the same issues as filter lands or bouncelands, where you really need a different land first to curve Turn 2 Urza’s Saga, Turn 3 Construct, Turn 4 Construct. This also points towards a higher land count than artifact decks have traditionally played, though without Mox Opal that already had to happen.
The key number for your Constructs will be the first one landing as a 4/4. Obviously that’s the number for it to survive Lightning Bolt. Less obviously, that’s basically just asking you to have metalcraft prior to activating Urza’s Saga. And even less obviously, that’s the number for your opponent to usually die the turn after the third chapter on Urza’s Saga.
You make a 4/4. You untap, you make another Construct (two 5/5s), and Urza’s Saga goes off for another artifact (two 6/6s). The first one connects for six damage, and any other artifact this turn or next turn threatens fourteen damage for the clean twenty.
That’s way too easy to clean lethal someone off a land drop. Urza’s Saga and random artifacts make a Turn 5 kill, outpacing classic alternate artifact beatdown threat Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas.
It costs zero mana. Seeing why this card is insanely good yet?
Brought to You By the Mana Symbols Zero and One
Great. You make some Constructs or something. If your opponent doesn’t die, what are you finding with mana cost of zero or one generic mana? Not zero or one mana value, the actual mana symbol cost, so no Chalice of the Void for zero or whatever.
The boring value answer is Mishra’s Bauble or Chromatic Star. Get your card of value back, and your double Construct land is also a Horizon Canopy. The only thing I have to add here is that Urza’s Saga is a huge payoff that doesn’t have a mana value of zero, so you can play a much bigger Lurrus-artifact deck than you used to be able to. Though once your Constructs are hanging around, it might be better to just find Welding Jar. What’s a better card to cantrip into than another Construct token?
On the subject of Lurrus artifact decks…
Yes, I am aware Puresteel Paladin costs double white, but I can dream big. Urza’s Saga is the correct scale and cost of backup plan for the Colossus Hammer decks to be able to win games without their namesake card while also adding to your primary synergy.
There are other similar nonsense engines available in this mana band, but they’re a bit less powerful and line up worse with Lurrus’s cost.
The other boring answer is replacing your land with another mana source via Springleaf Drum. You probably want Springleaf Drum in a lot of Urza’s Saga decks anyways since Turn 1 Springleaf Drum off Urza’s Saga, Turn 2 Memnite is the cleanest way to start your Construct train on Turn 2. It is slightly less boring if you find Mox Amber, but whatever.
Ghostfire Blade has already been considered for Affinity in the past, and the two extra power from it locks up your “turn after Chapter III” kill I mentioned before. Rather than boosting your 6/6s to 7/7s with any other artifact, the Blade just makes one an 8/8 for the same amount of damage. Signal Pest has a similar mathematical impact and an even stronger Affinity pedigree, even if that was all in the pre-Lava Dart days.
While everyone has obviously shouted “You can find the cards from Lantern Control!” when they saw Urza’s Saga, no one has said the other obvious part where that deck gets significantly better if you just give it a free way to battle people down. The deck traditionally played a ton of Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek. Urza’s Saga is just a Tarmogoyf you get to add for free to take down decks that might actually beat you in a long game.
While I did imply you don’t want to Turn 1 an Urza’s Saga, that play does let you find a high-impact piece of graveyard hate against Dredge in a relevant timeframe. Or maybe just a relevant timeframe on the play, but that’s good enough. Dredge has been a historically rough matchup for Affinity-style decks due to Conflagrate and Ancient Grudge, but Urza’s Saga is a huge step towards tipping the balance there.
Yup, these cards interact with permanents. Add them to the list. Having a clean way to turn Urza’s Saga into anti-Spike Feeder action seems pretty good now, and Pithing Needle means that every time your Chapter III trigger goes on the stack, your opponent has to crack all their fetchlands and Mishra’s Baubles so you can’t freeroll them. Naming a card once you select Needle isn’t a trigger; it just happens and they don’t have priority.
But the real whammy is Expedition Map. Chaining Urza’s Saga isn’t quite the old Eye of Ugin for Emrakul, the Promised End finale you could have off lands, but it’s in the right ballpark. Basically every Urza’s Saga deck should inclue one or two Expedition Maps for this purpose. You don’t really want more because Map isn’t a good draw without Urza’s Tower in your deck, but the cost to turn “I drew Urza’s Saga and it was good” into “my opponent got Squadron Hawk ten-for-oned in a battlefield relevant way by my land” is basically just playing those couple of Maps.
You can also do some wild stuff with Hex Parasite where you put the Chapter III trigger on the stack every turn then remove a counter from Urza’s Saga before it resolves so it just hangs out making Constructs and fetching artifacts, but that all involves finding it off one Urza’s Saga and getting the next one to go off. Feels like a lot of win more to me.
A Couple of Ways to Urza’s Saga
Let’s roll out the lists.
So these are Affinity cards, but you get to play a new awesome “three-drop” threat that doesn’t cost three mana, get to freeroll Lurrus, and get maindeck hate cards. Sounds like the 2021 upgrade the deck has needed to compete again.
This deck really wants one-drops that don’t get Lava Darted, but right now that’s the uncastable Icehide Golem and… Merchant’s Dockhand? Not quite what you are looking for.
Ancient Stirrings? In this decade? It’s more likely than you think.
Urza’s Saga is colorless and it wants you to find additional land drops. I don’t have a lot more to add to Ancient Stirrings here than that, and the fact that Nurturing Peatland is great and overlaps Ancient Stirrings with Cranial Plating. Or maybe you should have Waterlogged Grove to bridge to blue sideboard cards and Aether Spellbomb, but it’s all about the same.
Affinity is obvious. On to more fun things.
I’ll leave it to Shaheen to discuss the details of this deck, but Urza’s Saga fills the same role as Monastery Mentor in recent lists of this deck while being a mana source in the true combo games. It also gets recycled with Teferi, Time Raveler for a bonus Construct, and hits the graveyard to jumpstart Underworld Breach value chains.
All that without me saying the words “false tempo” and summoning Gerry and the Splinter Twin fanatics. Seriously, one of the best things you can reliably do for a combo deck is give it a strong fair game at minimal cost to the combo engine. It just becomes too hard for every other deck to handle both styles of pressure, and if the core combo is at the right scale for the metagame, these decks often just take over.
I’ve trash-talked Rip Apart, but this is a perfect deck for it. The Flame Slash mode is often not enough for most combo decks, but once you price yourself into declaring attackers in a decent chunk of games, the flexibility of killing a creature or a hate card is a game-changer.
I expect a lot out of Urza’s Saga, but the card seems primed to deliver on that expectation. Everything adds up to it being an extremely compact way to win games if you’re doing anything artifact-synergy-related.
For a card with a lot of punchlines, Urza’s Saga sure delivers one hell of a punch.