Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
– Fate Reforged
July 2, 2020
Commander [EDH]: 4.25
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, the events of War of the Spark have serious implications for Tarkir, which makes this a good time to look back at one of that block’s most famous cards. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is rightly famous, because he is one of the most powerful planeswalkers ever printed, despite not having any pre-ultimate abilities that draw you cards or do other kinds of odds manipulation that tend to please tournament players. He exerts control over opposing creatures and planeswalkers (and even enchantments and new, better-designed artifacts, for that matter) incredibly effectively. And just as importantly, he has a high but non-specific mana cost – any deck can use him effectively, given enough mana acceleration.
In addition to his early life in Tarkir, Ugin was one of the planeswalkers who bound Emrakul, Kozilek, and Ulamog on Zendikar. Although the Eldrazi are gone from that plane now, it wouldn’t surprise me if we heard one or two references to those events later this year in Zendikar Rising.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon was easily the chase card out of Fate Reforged, and it’s not hard to see why. Powerful effects on a colorless planeswalker can really do damage if you ever get to 8 mana, and it turns out that asking only for 8 mana is not too tall an ask for a deck like Tron or another deck able to cheat on that cost. The cost is real, but a board wipe that can stick around is oft worth it, and a salvo of Lightning Bolts after that means that you get value even without Ugin’s ultimate, which is hilariously a mirrored version of Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker’s ultimate.
Back in Core Set 2021, I think Ugin may have a home with as fast as the current Standard can be; thanks to U/G ramp tools, there’s a deck that can turbo this out quickly enough. It still has a home in Tron because of its ability to hit on turn 4 (or 3 if you believe in yourself) and end the game on the spot, and it’s likely that a resolved Ugin will end a game in record time even now.
Constructed: 4 (worth the price of admission, but the price is steep)
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