Why I play Urza differently

It’s been six months, let that sink in a little. Six months of having Urza around and we still can’t say we have optimized the deck. That’s kind of crazy to me, it’s not like I haven’t spent a lot of the past six months trying. I’ve been through every colour in Magic, creature-dense variants, combo-focused decks and more midrange versions — but still no clear best build.

On the SCG Tour one of the premier teams — Lotus Box — have created what has become the most common build featuring [Card]Emry, Lurker of the Loch[/Card] and [Card]Gilded Goose[/Card] which is completely different from mine. I’ve focused on the [Card]Thopter Foundry[/Card] combo while they’ve been working to make the deck more and more fair every week. Here’s what their deck looks like if you’re not familiar:

[Deck Title= Simic Urza – Zan Syed]
[Creatures]
4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
4 Gilded Goose
4 Urza, Lord High Artificer
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
2 Metallic Rebuke
2 Whir of Invention
4 Mox Opal
4 Oko, Thief of Crowns
4 Arcum’s Astrolabe
1 Thopter Foundry
3 Cryptic Command
1 Sword of the Meek
4 Mishra’s Bauble
3 Engineered Explosives
1 Aether Spellbomb
[/Spells]
[Lands]
2 Polluted Delta
2 Flooded Strand
4 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Breeding Pool
1 Watery Grave
2 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Mystic Sanctuary
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Drown in the Loch
1 Assassin’s Trophy
3 Damping Sphere
3 Fatal Push
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Thoughtseize
1 Pithing Needle
1 Ensnaring Bridge
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

They even further developed the deck some more for the Invitational and worked [Card]Karn, the Great Creator[/Card] into the mix to have a dedicated plan for the mirror. Here’s that list which Edgar Magalhaes took to a Top 16 at the event:

[Deck Title= Simic Urza – Edgar Magalhaes]
[Creatures]
4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
4 Gilded Goose
4 Urza, Lord High Artificer
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Arcum’s Astrolabe
3 Karn, the Great Creator
2 Metallic Rebuke
4 Mox Opal
2 Everflowing Chalice
2 Cryptic Command
4 Mishra’s Bauble
3 Engineered Explosives
4 Oko, Thief of Crowns
[/Spells]
[Lands]
2 Flooded Strand
2 Polluted Delta
5 Snow-Covered Island
2 Breeding Pool
1 Watery Grave
3 Misty Rainforest
3 Scalding Tarn
2 Mystic Sanctuary
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Drown in the Loch
1 Mystic Forge
2 Assassin’s Trophy
3 Damping Sphere
2 Fatal Push
2 Thoughtseize
1 Pithing Needle
1 Mycosynth Lattice
1 Ensnaring Bridge
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Despite the success LB have found with this version, I have not been partial to the Goose or Emry and have mostly decided to go my own way when it comes to building Urza. And what’s incredible is that Urza is so powerful that almost every version has been successful.

To me the big difference is whether or not you want to expose yourself to kill spells or not. I would equate it to playing a deck like Storm and wanting to include a [Card]Birds of Paradise[/Card]. Sure it’d be good if it lived, but you’ve got to be very careful about turning the dead cards in your opponent’s deck into real cards.

My build is streamlined to try and flood the board with permanents that are also artifacts for [Card]Thoughtcast[/Card] and [Card]Metallic Rebuke[/Card]. This is also how you are able to utilize Urza the best, turning all your loose artifacts into [Card]Mox Sapphire[/Card]s and spinning the [Card]Temporal Aperture[/Card] of doom. I especially like how in my list I am trying to ignore the opponent and do my own thing better and faster than anyone else. My cantrips help me find Urza better than every other deck, and I don’t need to rely on fragile creatures to do that. If you ask me that’s why Urza is the best deck in the format:

[Deck Title= Sultai Thoughtcast Urza – Eli Kassis]
[Creatures]
4 Urza, Lord High Artificer
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Mishra’s Bauble
4 Mox Opal
4 Thopter Foundry
4 Arcum’s Astrolabe
4 Thoughtcast
4 Serum Visions
3 Sword of the Meek
2 Chromatic Star
2 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Engineered Explosives
2 Metallic Rebuke
2 Oko, Thief of Crowns
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Polluted Delta
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Darksteel Citadel
1 Inventors’ Fair
1 Watery Grave
1 Breeding Pool
4 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Snow-Covered Swamp
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
3 Fatal Push
3 Veil of Summer
3 Assassin’s Trophy
3 Damping Sphere
2 Nature’s Claim
1 Vraska, Golgari Queen
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

For mirror matches and control matchups the [Card]Thoughtcast[/Card]s have been way over-performing. At the Invitational I ran two [Card]Talisman of Dominance[/Card] for additional acceleration in those games where you can’t find [Card]Mox Opal[/Card].But, I just found them to be very inefficient and not worth the one turn of acceleration. So they became [Card]Engineered Explosives[/Card] to help with a few matchups where maindeck interaction is important like Humans. I pulled off a 7-1 record in the Modern portion of the Invitational thanks to Urza but also [Card]Thoughtcast[/Card]. I played versus the Lotus Box build of Urza almost 50 per cent of my rounds and won them all thankfully.

My Issue with the first Goose build up top is controlling the game is much more difficult in Modern than taking a proactive stance. With the list being a known quantity most solid players can avoid getting trapped in by the control elements. My criticisms of the secon list are even stronger and why I think many of the LB players didn’t make the Top 8 of the Invitational.

As sweet as Karn, TGC seems like it would be in this shell. It’s much too hard to make work with the deck constraints. It upped the curve significantly, it’s in a deck that doesn’t protect planeswalkers well, and now we’ve butchered our sideboard in a format where it’s very important to squeeze as much out of those 15 slots as possible. Is it great tech for the mirror? Sure. Is it worth weakening your game against the other 80 per cent of the field? I don’t think so.

The top decks of the format are [Card]Death’s Shadow[/Card], Urza, Burn, Tron and then it trails off into a really long list of five per cent or less played decks. Is Urza best suited to beat the top decks? Actually, probably not, they are all pretty close matchups. But, Urza does a really good job of beating up on all the random fringe decks in the format and that’s actually a problem for decks like [Card]Death’s Shadow[/Card]. This may be where the deck’s true strength lies. And I think the Karn version takes away from that strength. After that we just need a really good sideboard plan so we are beating everything.

For my sideboard shown here I changed a few things based on how the invitational went for me. I decided to go back to playing [Card]Damping Sphere[/Card], I like the interaction between Sphere and [Card]Thoughtcast[/Card] being that it can go last and be negligibly affected. Having that trump card for Tron and Amulet is just too tempting to pass up on and if we ever see Storm rear it’s head again then we have a potent weapon there too. With [Card]Veil of Summer[/Card] continually over-performing for me I decided to go up to a third copy in the sideboard. If you haven’t felt the joy of countering a [Card]Cryptic Command[/Card] with Veil yet…. Oh boy.

Vraska is a funny one to see in the sideboard of a modern deck I know, but a lot of people have been asking me for months what’s the best way to combat these decks. I’ve told them all that a smattering of hate with some [Card]Pithing Needle[/Card] type of effects is pretty effective. So, in turn my Oko’s had been getting shut down lately so I had to go to the next level and diversify my planeswalkers. Luckily no one sees this coming, it blows up the usual problem cards (Including Oko!) and then sets up for life gain and card advantage when you sac [Card]Chromatic Star[/Card] and don’t even lose a permanent. Also the ultimate is a very real win con in a few matchups by making a single Thopter lethal.

Due to the resurgence of Karn, TGC. I have switched out [Card]Abrupt Decay[/Card] and gone back to just playing [Card]Assassin’s Trophy[/Card]. I will miss the un-counterable joys and not handing over a land, but it also helps to deal with [Card]Urza’s Tower[/Card] and that’s pretty sweet in my book.

For those interested in an actual sideboard guide, you should subscribe to my stream @ twitch.tv/EliKassis. I send out decklists I work on all the time and sideboard guides as well. I welcome any and all questions on twitter or facebook, I go by my name on both.