Time Spiral – Urza’s Saga
Date Reviewed: August 11, 2022
Commander [EDH]: 4.50
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Time Spiral has a non-gameplay distinction that’s rare among Magic cards: it is the name of both a card and an expansion. Curiously, the same is now true of the expansion it appeared in (and now that Sagas are a regularly recurring thing, I’d be a little surprised if the same wasn’t soon true of The Brothers’ War).
I was quite shocked the first time I saw Time Spiral’s game text, and I’m still kind of at a loss to explain it almost 25 years later. Did Timetwister really need to be stronger? Did you really need to get essentially a whole new turn with seven cards in hand – something even Time Walk can’t reliably do? Did you really need to be able to combine it with multi-mana lands and generate more mana than you started with? Having said that, while it was one of the contributing factors for breaking Urza’s Saga Standard in half, I wouldn’t necessarily discourage it in casual play. It can be used in more interesting decks than just Storm or Tolarian Academy, and I kind of want to see a deck that tries to copy it and then rush to play instants between the resolution of the copy and that of the original, as some kind of doubling-down on the Dragon Break-style concept the card plays with!
Constructed: 3/5 (in current Legacy; in 1998 Standard it was easily a 5)
Commander [EDH]: 4/5
Coming out of a set with a notoriously high power level to begin with, Time Spiral (never before reviewed on Pojo) is a card I’ve referenced intermittently when Timetwister-style effects get mentioned, and not without reason: aside from the original Timetwister, I would argue this is the strongest of its effect ever printed, and it’s thanks to the appearance of the “refund” mechanic that helped split Urza’s Saga in half.
Unless this gets countered, you’re likely losing nothing to cast Time Spiral once it resolves (besides the Time Spiral itself), and this pairs viciously with cards like Tolarian Academy to generate even more mana. You reset hands and graveyards, but with the mana to cats something from that new hand immediately, and that gives this great legs as a combo extender and enabler, and it’s part of what drove the entire block past the limits of what most people would consider “fair” and “reasonable”.
Time Spiral is powerful if it ever gets a chance to resolve, and most decks that run it will try to make sure it happens. It’s never gotten a foothold in Legacy that I know of, though; it’s a bit too slow (and Tolarian Academy will never, ever, ever be unbanned), and there are enough release valves to make this less likely to warp the game into a disaster on resolution. It’s still vicious, though, and the good thing about it being on the Reserved List (in a sense) is that it’s less likely to be able to destroy Standard again.
Constructed: 3 (I don’t think this is completely dead in Legacy, but making this shine is definitely not an easy task)
Casual: 5 (no kill like overkill)
Limited: 4 (since you get the first crack at casting things after Time Spiral, that makes this a slightly less risky investment)
Commander [EDH]: 5 (a competent deck may well turn one Time Spiral into a won game, and this is a phenomenal way to extend a combo to its breaking point)
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