Mike Elliott (lead)|
Mike Elliott (lead)|
with contributions from Beth Moursund
|Art direction||Ron Spears|
|Release date||October 12, 1998|
|Themes and mechanics||Free spells, Sleeping and Growing enchantments|
|Keywords/ability words||Cycling, Echo|
(110 commons, 110 uncommons, 110 rares, 20 basic lands)
|Development codename||Armadillo |
|Magic: The Gathering Chronology|
Urza's Saga is a 350-card black-bordered set containing 110 commons, 110 uncommons, 110 rares, and 20 basic lands. Its expansion symbol is a set of gears, highlighting the artifacts theme of the set, and is meant to symbolize Urza’s experiments in finding a means to defeat Phyrexia. R&D originally envisioned Urza's Saga (and the Urza block as a whole) to be centered on an enchantment theme, but the creative team had already decided that the block should be all about Urza, the greatest artificer of all time. By further referring to the block and the companion books as the "Artifacts Cycle", the original idea disappeared from view. It didn't help that that the set contained some very powerful artifacts and artifact-themed cards like Fluctuator and Tolarian Academy. In fact, with so many cards in the set that were considered by many to be "broken," the following period became known as "Combo Winter," with many such "broken" cards and combos filling all tournament formats. This led the DCI to ban a large number of cards in December 1998.
Urza's Saga was the first set to replace 60-card starter decks with 75-card tournament decks, the idea being that this would make it easier to run Sealed deck tournaments. Cards were also sold in 15-card boosters and four preconstructed theme decks. Each booster pack contained 15 cards: 11 commons, 3 uncommons, and 1 rare. The boosters featured artwork from Herald of Serra, Chimeric Staff and Phyrexian Colossus. The prerelease promo for Urza's Saga (September 26, 1998) was a foil Lightning Dragon; this was the first time a Magic card was released in foil, though the next set in the block, Urza's Legacy, had foil cards inserted randomly into booster packs.
Written by Duelist Executive Editor Will McDermott, the The Official Guide to Urza's Saga takes a card-by-card look at spells, artifacts and specialty lands in set. In addition to the card analysis, the Guide includes images of every card in the expansion and presents a unique look at Urza's story from the explosive end of the Brothers' War to his discovery of the Thran Mana Rig.
From the perilous domains of Phyrexia and Shiv to the splendor of Serra's Realm, Argoth, and Tolaria, he travels the planes seeking weapons to destroy the dark forces that stalk him. New magic discovered. New power revealed. Urza's Saga has begun.
Hundreds of years have passed since the Brothers' War, but many things that started there are only now coming to fruition. Urza's Saga departs from the story of Gerrard and Volrath in a flashback, showing the origins of the Legacy. The readers meet Teferi in his student days and Serra at the peak of her power.
Mechanics and themes
Like many earlier blocks, Urza's Saga did not have an overarching theme, though it did have an emphasis on enchantments and artifacts. The popular cycling keyword, which allowed players to discard unwanted cards to draw new ones, was introduced in this set. Echo, a keyword requiring a second mana payment on a permanent in exchange for higher than usual stats, also debuted in Urza's Saga.
- Phyrexian Colossus was printed with a collector number of 306/350 when it should be 305/350. 306 is the number for Phyrexian Processor which is printed correctly.
No new creature types were introduced in this expansion.
The following creature types are used in this expansion but also appear in previous sets: Ape, Avatar, Beast, Bird, Boar, Cat, Centaur, Cleric, Crab, Djinn, Dragon, Drake, Elemental, Elf, Enchantress (later changed to Druid), Giant, Goblin, Hippo, Horror, Illusion, Imp, Insect, Knight, Lizard, Merfolk, Pegasus, Shade, Shapeshifter, Skeleton, Snake, Soldier, Spirit, Thrull, Treefolk, Troll, Viashino, Wall, Whale, Wizard, Worm, Wurm, Zombie.
Urza's Saga has seven cycles:
|Cycling lands||Drifting Meadow||Remote Isle||Polluted Mire||Smoldering Crater||Slippery Karst|
|These common lands come into play tapped and add one mana of the appropriate color, but can also be cycled. The related uncommon cycling land Blasted Landscape adds only colorless mana, but comes into play untapped.|
(Child of Gaea)
|In an effort to get more people to play enchant creature Auras, this cycle was made which combined several abilities onto a card with a mana cost of MM. Each card refers to a rare creature from either Alpha or Urza's Saga. Verdant Embrace in Time Spiral referenced this cycle, mimicking Verdant Force.|
|Legendary lands||Serra's Sanctum
|Phyrexian Tower||Shivan Gorge||Gaea's Cradle|
|Rare legendary lands.
|Perpetual enchantments||Brilliant Halo||Launch||Despondency||Fiery Mantle||Fortitude|
|When these common Aura enchantments, each with a converted mana cost of 2, go to the graveyard, they are returned to their owner's hand.|
|Rare growing enchantments||Serra's Liturgy||Recantation||Discordant Dirge||Rumbling Crescendo||Midsummer Revel|
|Each of these rare growing enchantments has a mana cost of MM except for the white one that costs . Each can be sacrificed by paying one mana of the appropriate color for an effect that grows with the number of verse counter on it.|
|Uncommon growing enchantments||Serra's Hymn||Lilting Refrain||Vile Requiem||Torch Song||War Dance|
|Each of these uncommon growing enchantments can be sacrificed for an effect that grows with the number of verse counters on it.|
|Runes of protection||Rune of Protection: White||Rune of Protection: Blue||Rune of Protection: Black||Rune of Protection: Red||Rune of Protection: Green|
|These common enchantments are similar to the Circles of Protection from Alpha, but their activation cost requires rather than , unlike the Circles which allowed for merely splashing white. Their cycling ability, however, gives them extra utility. Two other runes exist complementing the cycle: Rune of Protection: Artifacts (uncommon) costs only one mana to activate, as opposed to Circle of Protection: Artifacts, which costs to activate. Finally, Rune of Protection: Lands, is a rare which prevented damage from lands. All 7 of the runes were illustrated by Scott M. Fischer and featured the same woman in the art.|
|Uncommon enemy color hate||Absolute Grace, Absolute Law||Douse, Hibernation||Yawgmoth's Edict, Bereavement||Disorder, Scald||Carpet of Flowers, Spreading Algae|
|Each color contains an uncommon card that viciously attacks one of that color's two enemy colors. This is a throwback to a similar cycle from Revised Edition.|
|"Free" Spells||Rewind||Peregrine Drake||Great Whale, Time Spiral|
|Each of these blue spells has an effect that untaps a number of lands equal to their mana value. For the creatures, this untap happens as an enters the battlefield effect, and for the spells, they are part of the resolution of the ability.|
|Voices||Voice of Truth (Nemesis)||Voice of Reason (Urza's Destiny)||Voice of Grace (Urza's Saga)||Voice of Law (Urza's Saga)||Voice of Duty (Urza's Destiny)|
|Voice of Grace and Voice of Law are the first and second cards in this mega-mega cycle. These are uncommon white 2/2 Angels that has a mana cost of and have protection from a different color. Voice of All, who has protection from a color chosen as it enters the battlefield, would be released in Planeshift as an homage to the mega-mega cycle.|
Urza's Saga has four theme decks. The expansion was the first one to feature a three-colored theme deck.
- Congregate — Strong in multiplayer-games.
- Corrupt — Finisher and life-gainer for mono-black decks that used Yawgmoth's Bargain.
- Duress — For a long time this was the best discard card, now often replaced by Thoughtseize.
- Fluctuator — A card to take advantage of cycling by reducing cycling costs to nothing.
- Gaea's Cradle — The green land accelerating elf decks like crazy. Often used in combination with Priest of Titania.
- Gamble — A strong but risky red tutor.
- Great Whale — Together with Recurring Nightmare made a strong infinite mana combo-deck.
- Goblin Lackey — One of the most sought after Goblins.
- Karn, Silver Golem — The first legendary artifact creature.
- Morphling — Nicknamed Superman.
- Phyrexian Processor — Often saw play in artifact-decks. In legitimate play, the most commonly played number was 7, as it pays the least for the highest yield.
- Priest of Titania — Made big mana in block green control decks.
- Serra's Sanctum — The white land still being played in the Legacy deck Turbo Enchantress.
- Show and Tell — A sorcery that has had several decks built around it, largely in conjunction with cards such as Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Omniscience.
- Sneak Attack — An enchantment that had entire decks built around it. Often used in combination with Serra Avatar and Crater Hellion.
- Smokestack — Still is the basis of many "Stax"-decks, like the old vintage UbaStax, or Legacy's RedStax (MoonStax), WhiteStax (AngelStax, ArmageddonStax).
- Stroke of Genius — The finisher of choice for most infinite mana decks.
- Temporal Aperture — The first card to enable players to shuffle their library without this first being the result of some other effect, especially searching.
- Time Spiral — A strong variation on Timetwister.
- Tolarian Academy — Decks were built around the Academy with zero cost artifacts to produce huge amounts of blue mana.
- Voltaic Key — One-card engine together with mana creating artifacts.
- Windfall — Very strong draw-spell, restricted in Vintage.
- Yawgmoth's Will — A staple in many decks, considered by some to be the strongest card ever.
The following cards have been reprinted from previous sets and included in Urza's Saga.
- Anaconda — was last seen in Portal.
- Bog Raiders — was last seen in Portal.
- Bull Hippo — was last seen in Portal.
- Dark Ritual — was last seen in Tempest.
- Disenchant — was last seen in Tempest.
- Enchantment Alteration — was last seen in Chronicles.
- Exhaustion — was last seen in Portal Second Age.
- Goblin Matron — was last seen in Portal Second Age.
- Goblin Raider — was last seen in Portal Second Age.
- Gorilla Warrior — was last seen in Portal.
- Healing Salve — was last seen in 5th Edition.
- Jagged Lightning — was last seen in Portal Second Age.
- Pacifism — was last seen in Tempest.
- Path of Peace — was last seen in Portal Second Age.
- Pestilence — was last seen in 5th Edition.
- Pit Trap — was last seen in Ice Age.
- Power Sink — was last seen in Tempest.
- Presence of the Master — was last seen in Legends.
- Rain of Salt — was last seen in Portal.
- Seasoned Marshal — was last seen in Portal.
- Wildfire — was last seen in Portal Second Age.
Urza's Saga has eight functional reprints:
- Argothian Swine is a functional reprint of War Mammoth from 5th Edition and Wild Elephant from Mirage, save for creature type.
- Blanchwood Treefolk is a functional reprint of Plated Wurm from Portal Second Age, save for creature type.
- Dromosaur is a functional reprint of Raging Gorilla from Visions, save for creature type.
- Hollow Dogs is a functional reprint of Charging Bandits from Portal, save for creature type.
- Mobile Fort is a functional reprint of Walking Wall from Ice Age.
- Serra Zealot is a functional reprint of Tundra Wolves from 5th Edition, save for creature type.
- Spire Owl is a functional reprint of Sage Owl from Weatherlight.
- Unworthy Dead is a functional reprint of Drudge Skeletons from 5th Edition, Walking Dead from Legends and Restless Dead from Mirage.
- Wizards of the Coast (August 02, 2004). "Ask Wizards - August, 2004". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Magic Arcana (June 21, 2002). "Armadillos". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Brady Dommermuth (October 31, 2006). "Ask Wizards". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (June 07, 2010). "Disadvantaged". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (November 10, 2003). "Make No Mistake". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Magic Arcana (July 26, 2004). "The first foil prerelease card". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Scott McGough (March 21, 2011). "From the Ground Up". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Wizards of the Coast (1998) "New Features of Urza's Saga"
- Mark Rosewater (July 25, 2022). "Magic Design A to Z, Part 3". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Magic Arcana (March 22, 2004). "Cycling art mystery". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Urza's Saga Preconstructed Decks — Wizards of the Coast
- Mark Rosewater (October 13, 2014). "Team Building". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.