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By: TheRegularGangster, TheRegular Gangster
Feb 28 2011 1:12pm
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It's been great to see the Urza queue firing so often since the first installment of the Hotel Infinite series went live.  People have really warmed to Urzas and I continuously get messages from people who are having a great time and making a great buck drafting it.  As promised I am here to deliver to much requested Urza's draft primer.  I will try to cover the format as thoroughly as possible but the best way to learn is to muster up 12 tickets and get in the queue.  Hopefully, this will get you started with a bit of an edge.

You should note that I will be putting little emphasis on rares, and heavy emphasis on commons, with a medium emphasis on uncommons.  The fact is that most draft decks are generally based on their commons and uncommons.  Rares are generally just gravy.

Introduction:

We've been over the expected value of Urzas drafting:  to me it is the best draft format available on modern day MTGO.  You simply can't beat a whole pile of commons over 1 ticket and a 5 ticket uncommon let alone all the rares worth 4+. 

"But how do I draft it?"  

 

Some Notes on the Format:

Land Quantity:  My Urza draft decks always feature 17 or 18 lands.  I generally prefer to play 18 lands with 2 cycling lands in mid-range to control decks.  Your intention is to cycle the cycling lands and play them only when necessary.  In decks such as RG or RB aggro I will play 17 lands.  There is a lot to do with your mana in Urza drafts, so having extra lands is not the end of the world.

Echo and Cycling are the abilities that dominate the format. 

Cycling creates tons of redundancy in Urza decks and allows you to splash more effectively, dig to that bomb or two on an every-game basis, or simply ensure that you have enough lands.  I don't tend to play terrible cycling cards but you can play them in a pinch.  

Echo is the ability that requires the most play skill.  You can lose tons of tempo and get 2 for 1'd often if you're not careful when it comes to echo creatures.  One of the factors that pushes players above the rest in UUL drafts is the advantage you get from either your own overpowered echo creatures or the screwing of your opponent's echo creatures.  I'll cover this in detail throughout the primer.  I tend to side with screwing echo creatures as opposed to casting them.

Enchantments & Artifacts:  Enchantments play a prevalent role in Urza drafting so enchantment removal should be added to your draft pile whenever you don't have anything else better to take.  In most cases you'd like your deck to have some kind of answer to enchantments.  Despite the focus on enchantments, do not dismiss artifact removal when it is available for sideboard spots or maindeck depending on the card.  This format serves up some nasty artifacts that NEED to be answered (familiar with Phyrexian Processor?) 

Mass Removal:  There are a significant number of mass removal spells in the Urza draft format.  I have had decks that have had 6 mass removal spells that relied almost solely on Pestilence damage and Subversion to kill my opponent (I won that draft - somehow it worked).  Be cautious of opponent's sitting there, twiddling their thumbs, and casting nothing.

Colour Hosers:  Colour Hosers are a factor in Urza drafts but not to the extent that many claim them to be.  You naturally want some of the better colour hosers in every sideboard.  Hosers will be examined in their specific colour categories.

On to the colours . . .

Black - Urza's Saga:

In my Hotel Infinite series, board member The Unspeakable alluded to how black is overpowered in Urza block drafts.  He is not off base.  Much like Zendikar block, Urza block features many overpowered black cards, and generally speaking, many players looking to play black sitting around the draft table at any given time.  This can cause you to be scraping for playables, particularly creatures that are deckworthy.  To me this is an in-built system of checks & balances to black power in Urza drafts. 

Black's common base in the first set is what sets it above all the rest, with some cards that should hardly even be printed in rare-form.  Let's take a look . . .

Above All Else:

Pestilence needs to be the first card in Urzas drafting that we talk about.  First off, it's a renewable wrath in enchantment form for 4 mana.  To make it even more over the top, you can manipulate this card via drafting graveyard reanimation, protection from black creatures, or creatures that are just bigger than your opponents.  Like any wrath effect you always have the advantage when holding it because you know you have it whereas your opponent does not (unless you've been telegraphing it like a donkey).  In almost no non-financial situations should you be passing this card.  If you get passed a Pestilence there is a good chance the person who passed it either a)  took something worth money or b)  has no idea what they're doing or c) has some hate towards black.  In any of those cases you are laughing (if they took money, ideally they took note that the pack contained a Pestilence and they will choose not to get cut on black pack 2).  Oddly enough, Pestilence does not always require the heaviest of black commitments.  You can successfully play this spell with a 50/50 mana base.  Where you will run into problems with this strategy is with other black cards that do require a heavy mana commitment to black.

It should be noted that Pestilence, a Pro-Black creature, and Urza's Armor is pretty much unbeatable.

Other Top Black - Commons and Uncommons:

Corrupt, Expunge, Befoul, and Vile Requiem are all top quality cards and should be picked first in most instances.  If you see any of these cards later than 3rd pick it is a great sign for any black drafter.  If you see any of these cards past third pick in the first pack you should immediately switch into black.  Black is one of the strongest colours in Urza block and if it is underdrafted it is your job to be in it.  In situations where you find your way into black when it is underdrafted you should almost always win the event.

Another black uncommon I consider to be a first pick is Diabolic Servitude

Diabolic Servitude pairs well with Phyrexian Ghoul as you can consistently recycle the creature you reanimated if someone in your bin has become a better option (or if someone better has died since you cast servitude).  Phyrexian Ghoul and other sac-effect creatures ensure that your Diabolic Servitude does not die to enchantment removal.  Diabolic Servitude offers up massive card advantage if used properly.  It basically reads "race me or else all my creatures need to be killed twice."  I have never had this card under-perform.  Naturally, pairing this servitude with come into play effect creatures offers the user even more card advantage.

The Creature Base:

Top Urza's Saga Black Creatures:

You may notice that Black's top cards are all removal and that the top picks are lacking quality creatures.  Black's creature base is relatively weak in Urza's saga.  Phyrexian Ghoul, Looming Shade, and Ravenous Skirge are at the top of the heap for playable common black creatures.  Uncommons meet us with Skirge Familiar, Crazed Skirge, Sanguine Guard and Order of Yawgmoth

None of these creatures are enough to get anyone salivating.  Thankfully for black it doesn't really matter how great your creatures are when you are gifted so much quality removal. 

The Supporting Cast:

Hollow Dogs, Unworthy Dead, and Skittering Skirge are all good in specific decks but can be very poor in others.  Skittering Skirge pairs well with heavy removal decks or decks with counter-magic and limited win conditions (i.e. creatures).  Hollow Dogs pairs well with the same decks as skirge.  It should be noted that Skittering Skirge pairs nicely with Unearth.

Unworthy Dead is best placed with evasive creatures where his role holding the ground is important.  From Sicken, to pingers, to Sick and Tired, there are a number of things that make Unworthy Dead useless so he is most certainly not an auto-include.  Unworthy Dead is best in Black-White and Black-Blue.

Bog Raiders and Cackling Fiend often make the maindeck as well.  Blood Vassal almost never makes the maindeck (and shouldn't).

Urza's Saga's Black Non-Creature Support Cards:

Vampiric Embrace:  It turns a creature into a Sengir Vampire (or better) and can sway a game quickly.  As with any creature enchantment, there are many negative 2 for 1's that can go against you when you cast it or while it is in play.  I prefer to play Vampiric Embrace in Black-Green or Black-Red.  It has little to no place in Blue-Black or Black-White.  You generally have to take this far too high for the value it typically provides (Urza's drafters love creature enchantments - I don't).

Sicken:  What more can you ask for in a support card?  It serves as removal, can kill a bigger pest post-combat, and in the worst case scenario it cycles.  A high quality spell.  Sicken combos well with anything that looks to attack a creature's toughness.  You can get these anywhere up until 10th pick.

Duress:  I have always disliked duress in limited but it warrants sideboard consideration and can make the maindeck if absolutely necessary.  It's counterpart, Ostracize, is a better maindeck option. 

Despondency:  I don't like Despondency but it has been successfully played against me on enough occasions for me to include it in the support section.  We've all heard of "win more" cards.  Despondency is a "lose less" card in my estimation.

No Rest For the Wicked:  This card requires "tech" to make the maindeck.  It is good with or versus mass removal spells.  It is solid with sac-effects and come into play effects.  Sometimes No Rest for the Wicked is just to recycle your most important creature.  Again, you need some synergies to put this in the maindeck.

Victimize:  Victimize is a hit or miss card that can both hit big and miss big.  I prefer this card when it is paired with come into play effects.  I never pick Victimize high, but I take them late in case I get some real synergy (or a heavy creature base with some even heavier hitters).  (My best victimize to date was getting rid of Cackling Fiend to return Karmic Guide and Radiant Archangel to play.  The Karmic Guide in turn returned a Mother of Runes to the battlefield.)

Black's Colour Hosers:

Black is much more prone to getting hosed than it is effective at hosing people.  Yawgmoth's Edict is a decent hoser if your opponent is heavy white, but it is nothing to get overly excited about.  I'd rather discard my Bereavement when a green creature dies than put it in my deck ever.  Aside from that?  Black gets a few landwalkers and that's about it.  Yeah, you're not hosing much if you're trying to accomplish that via black.  There are two rares that offer black a chance to hose its opponents - Eastern Paladin and Western Paladin.  Those two men hose very well and should always be played maindeck.

The Black Rares - Urza's Saga:

Top Rares (These range from BOOOOOMB to Bomby)

Good Rares (These range from Solid to Playable)

Urza's Legacy Black:

Black doesn't lose any steam in Urza's Legacy and gains a consistent run of playable creatures, removal, and some creatures that have removal abilities.  Here is the time to stock up on men if you've spent the Urza's Saga packs drafting black's many removal spells.  The depth of black in Urza's Legacy makes it so that many people can successfully draft a black deck in Urza's block drafting.

The Creature Base:

Top Black Creatures - Urza's Legacy - 3 Kill-Spell Creatures:

Black gains three creatures (well its 4 but one isn't great) in Urza's Legacy that have built-in creature removal abilities.  Naturally, these creatures are all good with reanimation (and in Bone Shredder's case, return to hand effects). 

Bone Shredder (uncommon) tops the list for Urza's Legacy Black creatures.  It is well known by Urza's drafters (or anyone half-decent at limited) that Bone Shredder is clear first pick.  In fact, in all the Urza's drafts I've done I have only accumulated about 7 Bone Shredders.  This is either explained by his splashability or my inability to open him.  His echo cost can be abused as you can choose not to pay if you have reanimation available.  Oh, and add in the fact the shredder has evasion too.  He's a first pick among first picks.

Taking the silver medal is Phyrexian Defiler.  The Defiler is uncommon like his better counterpart Bone Shredder but he has a relevant body as a 3/3.  Phyrexian Defiler sacs to Last Gasp a creature and is a big enough size that he can go a long way to getting your opponent to zero.  For some reason people aren't as keen on Phyrexian Defiler as I've had 4 in a deck on previous occasions.

Phyrexian Debaser takes the bronze medal for black's Urza's Legacy creatures.  A 2/2 Flier for 4 with a built in disfigure is solid value in any format.  Debaser has the bonus of being common, so you have plenty of opportunity to add this solid creature to your draft pile.

Urza's Legacy - Black Support Creatures:

Black actually doesn't have one unplayable creature in Urza's Legacy outside of Plague Beetle, so we'll round out the black un/common creature base with the remainder of the creatures.  Rares will be included later in the primer:

Tethered Skirge is a Wind Drake with a drawback that is negligible.  Tethered Skirge is the top of the support creatures and I even debated adding him to the above section, but he just didn't quite make it.

Giant Cockroach and Fog of Gnats might as well be reprints of Hollow Dogs and Unworthy Dead (both from Urza's Saga) based on their similarities.  Like the dogs, the cockroach is best in removal heavy decks where he's sure to get through for big chunks of damage.  Like the dead, the gnats clog things up for control-style black decks allowing them time to set up.

Rank and File is a hill giant who predominantly kills Priest of Titania, Elvish Lyrist, Wild Dogs, Multani's Acolyte and can send others to the bin post combat.  He can almost always be included maindeck and I always choose to play this over Giant Cockroach

Phyrexian Broodlings is better than most people give him credit for.  Built-In "Sacrifice a Creature" abilities are often good in limited for a myriad of reasons (your opponent's Confiscate turns into a removal spell instead of a 2 for 1, they don't gain life off Corrupt etc).  You can also boost the broodlings with smaller creatures to make him survive your own Pestilence.  I have had many games where broodlings is the only creature on a board paired with a Pestilence.  A quality support creature in the important three drop slot who you can get post-12th pick

Phyrexian Denouncer is a 1/1 for 2 that sac's to -1/-1 something until EoT.  He's only borderline playable and can be sided out and in accordingly.  Don't value this creature anywhere near his other sac-ability counterparts.  Actually, it's probably best if you don't value this creature at all where the maindeck is concerned.

Urza's Legacy Black Spells:

Top Picks:

Swat is black's most reliable spell in Urza's Legacy.  It kills a ton of the creatures in the format (more if you instate some -1/-1 effects) and it cycles when it isn't required (which is rare).  I'd estimate that for every Swat I draw I cycle them about 20% of the time.

Phyrexian Reclamation is an enchantment that has grown in my books.  It is heavily aided if you have a Corrupt in your deck.  I am putting it with the top spells because it is just plain broken when you have great come into play effect creatures (like Bone Shredder) or the removal creatures mentioned above (ahem, Bone Shredder).  Even without the creatures it is really busted with, Phyrexian Reclamation is card advantage in the long run and it keeps your threats returning repeatedly.  Urza's is largely about wearing down your opponent and the Reclamation is a wearing-down machine.

Support:

Sick and TiredSick and Tired is a quality spell that is well paired with the blue ping effects.  Even on its own Sick and Tired almost always provides value in the form of a combat trick or a straight 2 for 1.  Simply killing one creature with Sick and Tired is fine too.  Extremely versatile.

Engineered Plague:  Plague isn't what it was in old extended when it just beyond-wrathed certain decks (Goblins).  You should only run the plague in out of your sideboard and only on rare occasions.

UnearthUnearth is a solid spell (and its worth a little something too) but it is deck dependant even though it has cycling. Unearth pairs well with Skittering Skirge and cheap come into play effect creatures such as the aforementioned Bone Shredder.

Ostracize is comparable to Duress in limited but better.  Why is it better?  It's better because it misses less often and occasionally reveals something that you really didn't want to see later.  I was once really screwed by my own Ostracize.  I turn one Ostracized my opponent.  He revealed 3 lands, 2 Pegasus Charger, Unearth, and another spell.  Ostracize equaled a turn 1 Pegasus Charger.

Black's Urza's Legacy Top Rares:

Black's Urza's Legacy Good Rares:

*Subversion is a deck dependant rare and can be plain awful in certain archetypes.

Black - In Summation:

Black is considered to be the top colour in Urza's draft and I would have to concur.  With that privilege of colour strength black drafters have to be aware that drafting black may be a liability as 5-6 players in any given draft could be in black to some extent.  Pair this with the fact that black has heavy mana commitments on many of its top picks and you can find yourself with some interesting mana-bases.  I feel this inherently creates a system of Checks and Balances when it comes to the Urza's colour scheme.  On any given day any colour is best:  Don't get caught up in the "best colour" BS that people often talk.  Formats are not that cut and dried.

Urza's Saga Blue 

I always feel a little dirty if I'm not drafting blue in Urza's block. I am a firm believer that up until SoM block that blue is almost always the best limited colour. In SoM block that has changed but it generally holds true for blocks preceding Scars of Mirrodin (Zendikar is another exception). Champions block saw the Soratami and the Glasskites. Mirrodin block saw blue affinity and the interactions therein. Ravnica block was loaded with blue goodies whether it be Azorious, Izzet, Dimir or Simic. I guess it's just that blue generally has an advantage over other colours due to the inherent evasion the colour offers, paired with the tempo, the tempo disruption, and the mass card advantage. Blue is quietly strong in Urza's block, but I'm about to let that cat out of the bag.

Tip: When drafting blue, prepare yourself for the long haul, particularly if paired with white. There are many games that become a war of attrition that often end in decking your opponent. You need to evaluate the situation, your remaining cards, and how many threats you can answer. I've been aware at 25 cards remaining in library that games were going to come down to decking. Play fast, play tight, and make sure you're ahead in the decking race. Opportunity helps. 

Top Picks - Common and Uncommon:

Here is why I feel blue is often under-drafted: There are not many cards that stand out as first picks. Other colours offer cards such as Pestilence, Arc Lighting, Albino Troll, or Path of Peace/Pacifism as stand out high picks, blue offers few of these cards in Urza's Saga. What colour do I end up first picking more often than any other? That's right . . . Blue. Here are some of the cards that I consider to be of first pick quality:

Hermetic Study is the best blue common and you need to take it relatively high to have a shot at them. If you first pick it you can rest assured you're going to get a Horseshoe Crab for the cheesy machine-gunesque combo. I take Hermetic Study over Arc Lighting and I don't think twice about it. Counter-magic, Mother of Runes, Rescind, and Monk Idealist are all cards at your disposal to help protect your Hermetic Study. As with any “ping” effect Hermetic Study aids in combat and nugs your opponent when it’s not just killing 1 toughness wieners. Aside from the obvious Horseshoe Crab Combo, some other cards that Hermetic Study pairs well with are Sicken, Thornwind Faeries, Goblin Medics, Pestilence, Vigilant Drake, Morphling, and Sick and Tired.

As Good As

 

Confiscate is the most obvious first pick blue un/common.  Like any control magic effect, Confiscate offers inherent card advantage and it is strictly better than removal.  When I see a Confiscate I can pretty much rest assured my deck is going to be good.   Confiscate pairs well with:  Everything.

Wizard Mentor is another blue card that I feel (know) is of first pick caliber. The bonus here is that you don’t need to first pick Wizard Mentor: he often tables! So, why is Wizard Mentor good? Gray Ogre stats isn’t the answer!  Once you untap with mentor, your opponent is immediately met with more question marks than answers. They can no longer kill the wizard; they can no longer kill any other creature. They can’t attack or block effectively (particularly when first strike on your side of the board is involved).  On top of that, Wizard Mentor combos with any creature with a come into play effect and there are some spicy ones.

The list goes on but rest assured that it is quite extensive.  Wizard Mentor is the busted nuts.  If you plan on having a mentor-heavy deck you should try and avoid white as white offers the weakest come into play effects.  Often, I end up with UR or UB mentor decks.  Lately, I've been drafting UGR mentor decks that splash Ghitu Slinger and Avalanche Riders. You can usually count on 2x Wizard Mentor (although this article might taper that back to 1x).   This man dominates games and wins tournaments.

The Creature Base:

Blue offers a series of enchantments that turn into creatures that are called "veileds."  For the sake of this article, I will consider them to be creatures.  The veileds trigger when your opponent casts a spell.

Blue offers many solid creatures in Urza's Saga on top of the aformentioned Wizard Mentor.  Peregrine Drake, Pendrell Drake, and Sandbar Serpent are all high quality creatures that both block and attack quite well.  I've been known to first pick any of these creatures on multiple occasions.  Veiled Serpent and Veiled Apparition are both extremely powerful:  they are the only two veileds I have ever cast (sorry Veil of Birds and Veiled Sentry, but I don't like you). 

Support creatures in blue include Spire Owl, Fog Bank, and Horseshoe Crab.  These three creatures are playable in any blue deck. 

Urza's Saga Blue Support Cards:

Power Sink:  A quality piece of counter magic that is online on turn two.  The secondary ability of Power Sink can really screw your opponent in a myriad of different situations.  It also ensures that the path is clear for you to do whatever the $@#% you want.  Counterspells are blue removal, particularly in this format where they're easier to sit on with EoT cycling as a regular option.  This often tables.

Rewind:  Not as good as Power Sink, but a hard counter that allows you to cycle end step or activate abilities.  Rewind appears in the same run as Veiled Serpent - I take the Veiled Serpent.  This almost always tables.

Annul:  Annul is borderline playable and often a silver bullet out of the sideboard.  In certain matchups you'll be happy hitting ANYTHING with it, but it should hit something.  This has the added bonus of countering big threats, such as confiscate and pestilence, as well as opals and veileds.  Against green decks I will counter a fertile ground and not get greedy.  With that said, Annul has enough good targets that it can almost always go maindeck as a one of.

Catalog:  Instant speed card selection:  not flashy but decent nonetheless.  Catalog is better when your deck has countermagic.

Enchantment Alteration:  This card deserves a mention as a valid sideboard option.  It is always card advantage when it hits and sometimes it hits big.  It's important to note that it does not target the new source.  I've Confiscated a Morphling with Enchantment Alteration in the past.  It also works well against opposing embraces, Pacifism, Rancor, Hermetic Study, and just about any other local enchantment.  It can make the maindeck in a pinch, but I generally like to see if it is going to hit first.

Curfew:  Curfew is a deck dependant card that can be amazing at times and flat out awful at others.  It will serve you best most times if you have a lot of creatures with come into play effects.  It can also really screw with tempo on opposing echo creatures.

Lilting RefrainLilting Refrain isn't as good as traditional counterspells but it can make any control deck.  It serves as the card that shuts the door in the long-term and some people play really poorly around it.

Pendrell Flux:  Pendrell Flux is much better early game.  Thankfully for blue drafters, if blue can survive the early game than it typically wins.  Pendrell Flux kills echo creatures reliably and serves as blue spot removal more often than it serves as a dud.  I run Pendrell Flux in 9/10 blue decks.  It should be noted that Pendrell Flux works well with cards such as Lilting Refrain, Power Sink, Slow Motion, land destruction effects and Miscalculation as well.

Rescind:  Rescind is one of the most underrated cards in the format.  With all the enchantments in the format (the return to hand enchantments and embraces particularly) you often get 2 for 1 value out of this card.  It serves all the same combat trick purposes that bounce always does (double blocks) and it removes threats and blockers when necessary.  The hidden beauty of Rescind is the amount of times that you kill echo creatures with it by bouncing a land.  On top of that you gain a massive tempo advantage.  If it looks like it is ever going to underperform (which is very rare) you can cycle it in hopes of something better.  A gem.  It isn't rare to see this 10th pick.

Zephid's Embrace:  I'm not generally a fan of creature enchantments but the "embrace" series from Urza's Saga are some of the best limited local enchantments ever printed.  This one turns a dud into a shrouded flier with +2/+2.  It wins games and it makes a 2 for 1 less likely as it provides shroud.

Urza's Saga Blue Rares:

Top Rares:

Good Rares:

Blue's Colour Hosers:

DouseDouse is a top quality colour hoser and should be added to your sideboard whenever you possibly have the chance.  I take Douse over mid to low range playables.  Countering all red spells does not require an explanation as to why it is potentially good.

Hibernation:  Hibernation is not as good as Douse but it can be game-winning on its own and it is never dead versus green decks.  Like any colour hoser, you should draft this card over low-range playables as a viable sideboard option.  On many occasions, this is used to counter a Rancor and out-tempo your opponent.  It should be noted that green features a myriad of echo creatures that this can devastate on upkeep after echo is paid.

Urza's Legacy Blue:

Blue isn't quite as deep as Black in Urza's Legacy but it certainly isn't green with envy.  The Urza's theme for Blue continues in Legacy, with some quality counter-magic, some ping effects, and evasive creatures.

Urza's Legacy Blue - Top Creatures:

It is tough to put Blue's creatures in order in Urza's Legacy as they each provide a different deck component.  There are clearly some blue creatures in Urza's Legacy that are above the rest (and the beauty is they occasionally table!):

Thornwind Faerie:  A pinging flyer for 3 mana.  No explanation needed.

King Crab:  This man is a huge body for a blue-ground-creature.  That alone makes King Crab  play in any deck.  When your opponent happens to be playing green, the crab says "answer me or you lose."  Recently I've been drafting a lot of Blue-Green and King Crab saves your vital green creatures from opposing removal spells (such as Anaconda vs black decks).

Vigilant Drake:  A 3/3 flier for 5 who attacks and blocks if needed.  Oh, and he carries a Hermetic Study with some poise.

Raven Familiar:  A card-advantage flier who can be abused in correlation with other cards.  If your deck is looking for some advantage, there is nothing wrong with first picking a Raven Familiar.

Weatherseed Faeries:  This faerie almost ended up in the support section, but I'm a sucker for 2 powered or greater fliers for three mana.  Mix in the fact it has protection from red and it promotes Weatherseed Faeries to the top tier.  Play it maindeck every time and side it out occasionally versus black and ping.

Urza's Legacy Blue Support Creatures:

Cloud of Faeries:  cycles, flies, leaves tricks and counter-magic open.  Pair that with the fact its worth over a ticket and Cloud of Faeries finds its way into most blue decks.

Bouncing Beebles:  A 22nd or 23rd card that gets a whole lot better when you play it out of the sideboard after noticing that your opponent has a couple of artifacts.

Walking Sponge:  A card I never play or side-in but I can see some decks that you'd maybe want him against.  He barely got a mention.

Urza's Legacy Blue Spells:

Blue doesn't really have any "top pick" spells in Urza's Legacy but is given a good quantity of higher-end support spells.

Miscalculation: Miscalculation is a top notch spell that either takes something with it while extending to the late game or cycles for something new.  Look for these from picks 1-8.  They occasionally table.

Opportunity:  Opportunity is a multi-faceted draw spell that either provides you with massive card advantage or a card that you slow-roll during a stalled game to deck your opponent.  You need to get one of these in the first four picks to have a legitimate shot at one.

Snap:  Snap is worth over a ticket and provides tempo, protection, and allows for EoT cycling or counter-magic.  It's a solid bounce spell but, unlike Rescind, I rarely play more than one in a deck.

Slow Motion:  I've never actually played Slow Motion in a deck (and I draft blue a lot) but it deserves a mention as it has synergy with Pendrell Flux.  These are two enchantments you can get a pile of and if you pair them together in droves they become renewable removal spells.  At the very least Slow Motion helps extend things to the late game or slow your opponent down while you pick away at him with evasion.

Intervene:  Intervene is a card that has been growing on me slowly but surely.  I will never play more than one maindeck no matter how much it grows on me.  This card's value is in protecting your creatures from clutch removal spells and it also serves to counter the huge list of local enchantments throughout Urza's draft.  You can get these 15th pick.

Urza's Legacy Blue Rares:

The only real "bomb" is Palinchron (who is an end-it finisher, but not a traditional bomb by definition).  Regardless, he's your only choice if you want to open a busted rare for your blue deck once you get to pack three.

He's bigger than the rest because he's better!

Blue . . . In Summation:

Blue is my favourite colour in Urza's block drafts.  Blue just has this Je Ne Sais Quoi about it.  In a skilled drafter & player's hands that is familiar with the format, blue decks can be just about unbeatable due to the amount of people that avoid it.  Even I, a professed blue-biased drafter, avoided blue for my first 10-12 Urza drafts.  Not only that but factor in that I had only played against islands once in that opening stretch . . . losing to the islands in the finals.  Nowadays I see blue a little more consistently drafted but it remains an under-drafted, secretly over-powered colour.  Sideboarding is more important in blue decks based on matchups.  Stay tuned for the Archetype section of this primer for information on that!

Urza's Saga Artifacts:

As most artifacts found in Urza's Saga are rare, I will feature all cards in one section.

Urza's Saga Artifact Creatures:

Cathodian:  Cathodian was good in mirrodin limited and he's all the better now with the mana burn rules changes.  Nowadays, the drawback of potentially getting mana burned for three is just an added bonus that can occasionally be abused if you need the mana and can sac your Cathodian.  He's a colourless Trained Armodon.  One of my general limited rules is that if its 3cc and over and the power of the creature matches the casting cost its good value.

Hopping Automaton:  A filler creature that has evasion in a pinch.  The stats are nothing to be impressed with but this creature often makes the cut.

Karn, Silver Golem:  This is one of those cards that I always take as a high pick, but its largely for nostalgia purposes.  I've always loved Karn.  Karn is a perennial blocker, but someone who only gets through on an empty board.  He's best in control decks with other artifacts.  He pairs nicely with Urza's Armor.

Mobile Fort:  Another artifact that serves best in control decks.  A 3/5 or 0/6 blocker is a pain to get through.  A 3/5 attacker is extremely difficult to effectively block.  In most archetypes Mobile Fort plays and shines.

Phyrexian Colossus:  I've never cast Phyrexian Colossus in Urza's limited but I have played it once.  I don't get too excited about playing this in a deck as I feel it's too overpriced for aggro and too against-the-cause for control.  This leaves him being at home in a mid-range deck and there aren't too many of those.

Wall of Junk:  Yet another grey card that is best in control archetypes.  A two-drop that blocks Winding Wurm all day?  I'll take it.  I've never been disappointed with Wall of Junk.  I've also abused Wall of Junk with Pestilence in the past.

Urza's Saga Non-Creature Artifacts:

Barrin's Codex:  I've never played this card and it has been in my sideboard on many occasions but I feel a mention is warranted.  If you can cast this card early and let it grow you can get some good value out of it.  Unfortunately, you'll have to dedicate the better part of two turns to draw any cards off of Barrin's Codex.  This card is only a viable option in control decks and should always be sided out if you see any artifact removal coming from your opponent's deck.

Chimeric Staff:  The staff is a solid drop in any type of archetype.  It is mana intensive but can take over games in a hurry.  It also can't be enchanted by your opponents, expunged, or befouled.  A good finisher.  If it says "Chimeric" odds are it is good in limited.

Citanul Flute: The flute is a mass-card-advantage bomb that usually needs to be over-pressured or answered.

Crystal ChimesCrystal Chimes is a card that is typically only playable in white based decks particularly in an archetype I call Rune Blue.  I will go into this archetype further in the archetype part of this series.

Dragon Blood:  This card takes over games and can play in any deck with more than 10 creatures (which is not every deck in Saga limited).  I recommend taking Dragon Blood high.

Endoskeleton:  A solid playable that is slightly better than filler.  Endoskeleton is best suited to aggressive decks and can play in mid-range decks.  Control decks should avoid playing this card.

Grafted Skullcap:  A bomb in aggressive decks, a top-tier card in mid-range decks and a dud in control.

Mishra's Helix:  The Helix is a pet card of mine in limited and I rarely let one sneak by me.  It plays in control decks (to shut things out after you've stabilized) and it plays in aggro decks (to prevent your opponent from stabilizing.  One of my favourite Saga decks ever featured 2 Mishra's Helix, 4 Creatures, and 2 Whetstone.

Noetic Scales:  Far from a bomb but well worth a mention.  Noetic Scales is great with lots of come into play effect creatures and cards like Wizard Mentor that can manipulate how many cards you have in your hand.  If you trust your play skill, Noetic Scales is a card where you can really let your play shine and win based on skill.

Phyrexian Processor:  This is easily the biggest bomb among Urza's artifacts and should only ever be passed if you open a foil worth a lot of money.  Phyrexian Processor single-handedly wins games.  It's broken to the point that it can be the only spell you cast and you can still just win.  The format has very few answers to the processor making it significantly more powerful.

Phyrexian Processor is the cream of the crop for Urza's Artifacts.

Pit Trap:  A quality two-drop artifact that needs to be sided out in certain matchups.  It is spot removal and can be selected anywhere from 2nd to 8th pick.  Aggressive decks should avoid ever playing this card.

Smokestack:  A money rare that has a good place in aggressive and mid-range decks.  Smokestack is most effective against control decks that require a lot of mana.  Control decks should avoid playing Smokestack.  You can stack the ability on upkeep so that you sacrifice first and add the counter second.

Temporal Aperture:  A card advantage artifact that can take over games if you make it to the late game.  I generally do not bother with this card but have had to deal with it on several occasions.  It should be noted that you cannot cast the cards it reveals as though they had flash so you have to use this card mainphase in the event you reveal land or creature.  I'd rate it about 5/10 and have no desire to play it in the future.

Urza's Armor:  Urza's Armor is a house in control decks and decks featuring Pestilence.  If you're drafting control you should strongly consider taking any armor that you see pass your way.  At first I was not a believer in Urza's Armor, but it made a control deck of mine once and now I quietly windmill it.

Whetstone:  Whetstone is a bomb in control decks to the point that it is nearly unbeatable.  Mid-range decks can support this card effectively as well.  Aggro decks have no interest in taking this card or in cutting it.  You simply fix it so that your opponent draws with an empty library before you do.  The bonus is there are very few answers to Whetstone once it is on the table.

Urza's Legacy Artifacts:

Urza's Legacy Artifact Creatures:

Urza's Legacy greets us with two solid uncommon artifact creatures, a playable common artifact creature, and a decent rare.   I'll rank them in order.

Ticking Gnomes:  A good stats creature with Echo who sacrifices to screw up combat or kill an annoying creature.  Any deck should have room for Ticking Gnomes.

Thran War Machine: A Juggernaut-Esque creature with echo, but 5 (dirty) toughness!  He's on par with Ticking Gnomes being less versatile but more of a finisher.

Beast of Burden:  Ever wonder where all these core-set all stars come from?  Well, this six-drop is from Urza's Legacy.  I almost always pass him but he's definitely playable.  Every time my opponent has a Beast of Burden he seems to get terrible value out of it as you (the opponent to Beast of Burden) can usually manipulate its power and toughness stats.

Jhoira's Toolbox:  I have no idea who Jhoira is but his tool box is full of @#$%.  I never play this card but it deserves a breathe because it can serve like one of the aforementioned black regenerators.  I would play this if I had 2-3 other artifact creatures and required a 23rd playable.

Urza's Legacy Non-Creature Artifacts:

These are all rare, all busted in limited, and all good signs if they're in your draft pile:

Ring of Gix:  A well-designed Icy Manipulator with an echo cost.  No explanation needed as to why this wins games.

Memory Jar:  Mass limited card advantage and a certain nostalgia element for classic player.  The Memory Jar should never be passed.  You run out your hand, cast the jar in advance, crack the jar with a pile of open mana, and win the game.

Grim Monolith:  (Note, Grim Monolith is worth 24 tickets).  I'll provide an excerpt from one of my games why this qualifies as busted in limited.  I won the match but this was game 1 and I most definitely lost this game:

Opponent Turn 1:  Forest, Go

My Turn 1:  Island, Go

Opponent Turn 2:  Forest,Grim Monolith, Go

My Turn 2:  Island, Go

Opponent Turn 3:  Forest, Multani Maro Sorceror, Go.

My Turn 3:  Island, Concede.

On that note, stay tuned for upcoming installments of this primer and of the Welcome to the Hotel Infinite series.  After having had the release week/computer problems week that I've had, I think the next installment will feature the "Managing Tilt" section.  The next Urza's Primer will cover Green, Red, and White!

Cheers,

TRG

Captain of MTGO Clan Frat Broke (selectively recruiting)

TheRegularGangster on MTGO 

11 Comments

nice article by cavegoat at Mon, 02/28/2011 - 14:29
cavegoat's picture

stop givign away the money!!!

Excellent by DeckWizard at Mon, 02/28/2011 - 14:58
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5

This is a great series. I look forward to the rest of the installments.

Splendid by Clan Magic Eternal at Mon, 02/28/2011 - 14:59
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5

One of the best strategy draft articles ever on this site. Well presented very knowledgable and well crafted. Hats off to you Sir. This sets a high benchmark and I hope you keep writing for PureMTGO.
-hammer

...but I love my wizard by Flaming_Dragon_777 at Mon, 02/28/2011 - 16:06
Flaming_Dragon_777's picture

...but I love my wizard mentors that table! *cries in the corner*

I look forward to seeing what you write about white.

This is awesome.. good job! by GainsBanding at Mon, 02/28/2011 - 16:21
GainsBanding's picture

This is awesome.. good job! I only wish this had been sent to me privately instead of published in a place where it can be read by hundreds of people who I will have to face in the queues.

I wish there had been a few more pictures of the cards or descriptions. The places where you had the pictures were great. But there were some long sections where I had to click on each card to see what it did. Really the problem here is that puremtgo does not have the "hover over" technology.

Hey, puremtgo guys, if you're reading this, make it so the cards will appear when you hover over a link!

Thanks for the comments guys, by TheRegularGangster at Tue, 03/01/2011 - 00:19
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Thanks for the comments guys, article took a loooooooooong time to write with all the pictures and linking. I will try and get the next one out ASAP.

Great by Tuor0 at Tue, 03/01/2011 - 01:20
Tuor0's picture
5

I read both your series (if we count this article as one) and I must say your the best writer I read on this site. I know you put effort to have well organized text and thoughts and it is very effective. Continue your great work!

Good article, now if only by ArchGenius at Tue, 03/01/2011 - 12:06
ArchGenius's picture
5

Good article, now if only Urza's drafts would fire more often.

My general strategy in Urza's draft is this.
a) If I get a Pestilence, cut black hard.
b) If I don't get a Pestilence, take red and white removal over similarly powerful black removal.
c) I play blue only if I can get Hermetic Study or as a supporting color if it is severely under-drafted.

Of course, I generally lean towards more aggressive strategies in draft and contstructed so my bias shows.

Very Glad to have this guide by silverwyvern4 at Tue, 03/01/2011 - 12:59
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Very Glad to have this guide Thanks!

Excellent article, and thanks by unspeakable at Tue, 03/01/2011 - 13:44
unspeakable's picture

Excellent article, and thanks for the mention! I have been playing a bit more Urza lately in spite of myself, though now with the BBB drafts (which I love and hate simultaneously) it's on the backburner for a bit. I look forward to your future articles on this subject.

Nice Guide by PTjvs at Tue, 03/01/2011 - 14:10
PTjvs's picture

Not sure why I don't recognize your username, as I have done a ton of these drafts. Your evaluations are pretty good. I think you are undervaluing Despondency, Opportunity, Veiled Serpent, Slow Motion and overvaluing Grim Monolith (sure, if you ramp into Multani, you win, but if you ramp into Argothian Treefolk, so what?) and Cloud of Faeries. I am much, much happier running Slow Motion than Cloud in any sort of control deck (although obviously I am not adverse to raredrafting clouds). I basically never WANT to maindeck clouds and, if I do run them, I am cycling them a very high percentage of the time.

Slow Motion makes the cut at least 80% of the time in my decks. It does most of the things that Pendrell Flux does, but has the added benefit of being relevant all the way until your opponent hits 7 mana or so. Slow Motioning a Winding Wurm is always a blowout, but even just hitting an angelic page, goblin raider, or any 2-3 drop on turn 3 puts an opponent in a serious conundrum. In addition, although you don't usually want to maindeck multiples (just like the flux), there are decks that are basically cold to multiple slow motions.

jvs