Urza, Lord High Artificer
– Modern Horizons
June 17, 2019
Commander [EDH]: 4.38
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Urza is probably the second-to-last person I ever expected to see on a modern Magic card (behind only Yawgmoth). Not because he shouldn’t be – as one of the central figures behind the most important stories of the 1990s, as Dominaria’s greatest defender and the metaphorical father of all artificers, he absolutely should be. But he was a planeswalker when the nature of the spark was different, and for a long time, Wizards of the Coast was reluctant to use characters of that type on actual cards because of game balance issues.
This card, however, seems to show Urza when he was “only” the ruler of Old Argive, during the Brothers’ War. Some of his abilities seem to call back to that era: adding a powerful and modular (and growing in power) creature to your side is a reference to his armies of artificial life, and is an equally effective strategy in our times when we swarm the field with Servo tokens and cards that care about historic spells. (I also just have to mention the synergy with Unstable‘s Contraptions!) Some, however, seem to hint at his vast planar power: the mana generating ability starts to feel a little like Tolarian Academy with enough cheap artifacts in play, and his last ability is Temporal Aperture, an enigmatic invention from Urza’s Saga which inspired Mind’s Desire.
If you’re looking at the numbers, Urza’s probably don’t quite put him where competitive Magic would find much use for him in faster formats, although it’s conceivable that anything that untaps with him in play just wins on the spot. He will most certainly be a powerhouse in casual formats – the most fitting card and greatest portrayal of Magic’s greatest antihero.
It’s fitting that a Yawgmoth card is paired with an Urza card. And this one is pretty nuts. While Urza has ostensibly been on a card before (Blind Seer and the Unstable planeswalker), this is a bit more clearly Urza in a usable form. And a pretty good one, at that.
Urza is the kind of creature that shines alongside a lot of blue artifact support, as he uses artifacts to make mana and makes them on his own. He makes the same Construct token that Karn, Scion of Urza when he comes into play, and that token can also tap for mana from the outset. Since blue as an artifact color likes to swarm the field, he shines rather brightly alongside the token-makers, the artifact supporters (like Padeem), Treasure, and general synergies the color brings.
Of course, that’s not all; his last ability calls back to Mind’s Desire, the mega-busted Storm card from Scourge by randomly pulling a card from your library to cast (or play) for free. It’s harder to abuse this than other free-spell mechanics, thanks to the shuffle and that it costs 5 mana per pop…but Urza can turn all of your artifacts into mana to cast these spells. Paired with something like Leyline of Anticipation and means to untap artifacts (like Unwinding Clock and Seedborn Muse), and this gets very scary.
Urza is pretty crazy, and there’s a reason he’s the chase card of Modern Horizons. Fairly bulky as a 1/4, brings friends, and can help you power out in the end. I think he’s a smidge slow and awkward to function in Modern proper…but he does have a lot going for him in casual formats, so he’ll always have a home.
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