Mike Elliott (lead)|
Mike Elliott (lead)|
with contributions from Beth Moursund
|Art direction||Ron Spears|
|Release date||October 12, 1998|
|Free spells, Growing enchantments and Sleeping enchantments|
or ability words
|Set size||350 (110 Common 110 Uncommon 110 Rare 20 Land)|
|Development codename||Armadillo |
|Magic: The Gathering chronology|
Set details[edit | edit source]
The rarity break down of the 350 black-bordered set is 110 commons, 110 uncommons, 110 rares, and 20 basic lands. Urza's Saga's expansion symbol is a set of gears, highlighting the artifacts theme of the set, and meant to symbolize Urza’s experiments in finding a means to defeat Phyrexia.  R&D originally envisioned Urza's Saga (and the further block) to be centered on the enchantment theme.  But the creative team told them that this block was going to 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 so many broken cards were in the set that the following period became known as Combo Winter. Players believed that too many overpowered cards and combos filled all the tournament formats.  This moved the DCI to ban a large amount of cards in December 1998.
Marketing[edit | edit source]
Urza's Saga was the first set to replace 60-card starter decks with 75-card tournament decks. Cards were also sold in 15-card boosters and four preconstructed theme decks. Each booster contained 15 cards: 11 commons, 3 uncommons, and 1 rare. The packs featured artwork from Herald of Serra, Chimeric Staff and Phyrexian Colossus. The design change from 60 card starter decks to 75 card tournament decks was made to make it easier to run Sealed deck tournaments. The prerelease for Urza's Saga (September 26, 1998) gave away foil copies of the card Lightning Dragon as a promotion. This was the first release of a foil card in Magic although the next set in the block, Urza's Legacy, had them 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 an unique look at Urza's story from the explosive end of the Brothers' War to his discovery of the Thran Mana Rig.
Storyline[edit | edit source]
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[edit | edit source]
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. 
Misprints[edit | edit source]
- 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.
Creature types[edit | edit source]
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.
Cycles[edit | edit source]
Urza's Saga has seven cycles:
- Cycling lands: These common lands come into play tapped and add one mana of the appropriate color to one's mana pool, but can also be cycled — Drifting Meadow, Remote Isle, Polluted Mire, Slippery Karst, and Smoldering Crater. The related uncommon cycling land Blasted Landscape adds only colorless mana to one's mana pool, but comes into play untapped.
- Embraces: 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. — Gaea's Embrace, Serra's Embrace, Shiv's Embrace, Vampiric Embrace and Zephid's Embrace. Each card refers to a rare creature from either Alpha or Urza's Saga: Child of Gaea, Serra Angel, Shivan Dragon, Sengir Vampire, and Zephid, respectively. Verdant Embrace in Time Spiral referenced this cycle, mimicking Verdant Force.
- Legendary lands: Rare legendary lands, that when tapped provide mana for each card type you control — Gaea's Cradle creatures, Serra's Sanctum enchantments, and Tolarian Academy artifacts. The cycle was rounded out with Shivan Gorge and Phyrexian Tower, which did not share the others' mana abilities, and despite being legendary did not refer to a specific location.
- "Perpetual" enchantments: 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 — Brilliant Halo, Launch, Despondency, Fiery Mantle, and Fortitude.
- Rare growing enchantments: 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 — Serra's Liturgy, Recantation, Discordant Dirge, Rumbling Crescendo, and Midsummer Revel.
- Runes of protection: 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 — Rune of Protection: White, Rune of Protection: Blue, Rune of Protection: Black, Rune of Protection: Red, and Rune of Protection: Green. 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 growing enchantments: Each of these uncommon growing enchantments can be sacrificed for an effect that grows with the number of verse counters on it — Serra's Hymn, Lilting Refrain, Vile Requiem, Torch Song, and War Dance.
Mega cycle[edit | edit source]
- Uncommon "twos": Each card in this cycle has two targets — Rain of Salt, Redeem and Symbiosis (the latter-most being common instead of uncommon). Although a small cycle, the idea was continued in Urza's Legacy with the cards Peace and Quiet, Rack and Ruin, and Sick and Tired (the latter-most being common instead of uncommon).
Mega-mega cycle[edit | edit source]
- Voices: Voice of Law and Voice of Grace are the first and second card of this cycle of Angels with protection from a color. It would be continued by Voice of Duty and Voice of Reason from Urza's Destiny, completed in Nemesis with Voice of Truth and ultimately referenced in Planeshift with Voice of All.
Preconstructed decks[edit | edit source]
Urza's Saga has four theme decks. The expansion was the first one to feature a three-colored theme deck.
|Theme deck name||Colors included|
Notable cards[edit | edit source]
- Congregate — Strong in multiplayer-games. 
- Corrupt — Finisher and life-gainer for mono-black decks who 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.
Reprinted cards[edit | edit source]
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.
Functional reprints[edit | edit source]
Urza's Saga has seven 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.
- 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.
References[edit | edit source]
- 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"
- 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.
[edit | edit source]
- Official Urza's Saga Information Product Page — Magic: The Gathering (old)
- Urza's Saga product information page — Wizards of the Coast (new)