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Scouring through Saga, Part Two

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This week marks the second half of our exploration into the mammoth trove of valuable cards from Urza's Saga. No other block contains as many solid cards to be traded for, plucked out of collections or rummaged from bulk bins for profit. You can take a look at the previous half of this article here to see where this article picks up. Let's start!

Lifeline

Lifeline has a great effect – your creatures don't really die, sort of like Enduring Renewal. It even combines with Contamination from the same set for a perma-lock. The downside is that Lifeline affects everyone equally, but if you build your deck around it, you can make better use of the card than an opponent can. Lifeline has seen no reprinting and the creature recursion is a casual classic. You can expect to move these to EDH players who want fun, global effects as well.

$3.50

Lightning Dragon

As far as Dragons go, this is a very Dragon-y one. It pumps up, it's in Dragon colors, and it harkens back to Shivan Dragon, the queen mother of all terrible lizards. The downside is that pesky echo; you give up your entire fifth turn for the card, and with luck, you may be able to swing for five points. Due to its Echo, Lightning Dragon is essentially unplayable and has always been. This means that many people will look at it and discount it as a worthwhile card. You can flip Lighting Dragons for a decent profit if you know their actual worth to Dragon collectors!

$3.50

Lotus BlossomLotus Blossom has seen no play competitively, but it benefits from the Lotus bump – it has that L-word in its name that conjures up fantastical dreams of an iconic card. The Blossom showcases the “growing” theme in Saga. The idea was that you could put out some piddling cards early on that would grow in power over time. If the opponent did not handle it there, you might return six creatures from your graveyard to your hand, counter a spell later in the game, or make piles of 3/3 Beasts. I think the great failing of this mechanic was that the cards were not sufficiently powerful to be playable off the top. A Lilting Refrain on turn 7 is absolute trash, and there is little incentive to play it on any turn after two. If Saga were a modern set with the growing mechanic, I think you'd see cards that functioned like Proliferate or helped one move counters from one card to another. Maybe that Lilting Refrain could be sacrificed to turbocharge a Vile Requiem the turn it came off the top.In any case, Lotus Blossom is another card that is an unlikely above-bulk candidate. Pick them up and trade them at a slight premium.$1.75Mishra's HelixThis card is a redo of the disappointing Floodwater Dam. The Helix forms a fundamental part of the Wildfire deck that Kai Budde put together and won big bucks with. Incidentally, the Wildfire deck is a perennial fan favorite. You can easily find players at your local store who remember it fondly and maybe want to recreate it. Big mana red controlling decks are rare and fun, and the Wildfire list was a powerful and enjoyable deck. The Helix served to lock down an opponent, and with Grim Monolith, it could come out very quickly. Incidentally, as printed, the Helix didn't target, which made some people view it as much more powerful than it was (since if they tapped lands for mana in response, you coul theoretically tap other lands with the Helix instead).Largely because of its appeal in Wildfire and to a lesser extent, Elf decks, the Helix is in demand.$2.50MorphlingOh, how the mighty have fallen! For those of you just getting into Magic, Morphling basically read like this:3UUFlying, Vigilance, Shroud5/8 (or better)Morphling was a highly distorting card because it could come out, play defense, then shred an opponent on the counter-attack. It was very hard to remove and because it could stay back and defend, given enough mana, blue decks could pack a pair of Morphlings and consistently take them to victory.In large part, this depended on the fact that you could pump Morphling to five power and put damage on the stack, then shrink it to survive any combat encounter. In the meantime, it could almost never be removed with spot-kill. It saw play in Accelerated Blue, Keeper, Oath of Druids and many other decks. For a long time, it was considered the best creature in the game and could readily pull in $25 or more. Thanks to better creatures in the meantime and a complete gutting with the new combat rules, the Morphling has dropped substantially in price. Its value now comes from the fun of having what was once a great creature. Incidentally, this terror was made as a “fixed” version of Versuvan Shapeshifter that was less likely to confuse new players...$7.50Opal ArchangelFor a two-mana discount, you get a conditional Archangel. This card has modest appeal for Angel collectors. It is also fun for its political aspects. My brother, for example, was never a serious Magic player but had a multiplayer white deck full of lifegain and things like Combat Medic, which he would use politically. He used Opal Archangel as a threatening card that said “look, if you make any attempt to be aggressive, this thing is gonna come out and pound you.” Don't underestimate cards like this for casual players, since they have a fun effect for the price.$1.25PariahA pariah, by the way, is an outcast.Pariah was fun with the En-Kor creatures because you could distribute around a lot of damage with them. Combine those Kor with a few walls and you could avoid taking most of the pain coming your way. Pariah also functions as one of those really cool political kill spells. In a multiplayer game, tag an opponent's creature with it and then you gain an ally of sorts when repelling attacks. If you choose to take the damage, that Goblin Welder or Steel Hellkite of theirs might just bite the dust instead. If they want to keep it around, they might go about protecting you.Pariah has seen only a little bit of competitive play; it did get attention in White Weenie decks during Standard at that time, especially as a removal spell. However, it is a fan favorite and commands a premium.$2.50
Mass discard never looked so good! Part of the real fun of was slipping it past a blue opponent, blowing away all their carefully-hoarded counterspells. It came up in Standard during the Solar Flare era, among others, as a good way to smash opponents in the mirror. has a tremendous appeal for casual players when they dream of casting it off of a Dark Ritual to dismantle an opponent on the second turn. seems a little more fair in casual play than Mind Twist because it doesn't take out lands and sometimes, requires the player to make an accurate read of what an opponent is holding. It's a sort of mega Cabal Therapy.

$1.75

Phyrexian Colossus

Phyrexian Colossus also saw attention in competitive play, due to Tinker. Back when Tinker was merely a “fair” card, it was played in Extended alongside a toolbox with Mishra's Helix and Phyrexian Colossus. Though this giant looks like it has a terrible drawback, the Tinker deck ran four Voltaic Keys to power up its Grim Monoliths. Thus, for a single mana, it could swing with a nearly unblockable monster. Phyrexian Colossus has been reprinted in subsequent sets, which makes me a little curious about why it is still priced above bulk.

$1.25

Phyrexian Processor

Those Phyrexians make really cool tools. The Processor was an instant fan favorite when it came out. You could make minions that were huge – 7/7s every turn! Remember that this was a time when big creatures came with big drawbacks, and the cost of paying 4 and some life for repeatable monster production is still cool today. At the time of printing, people looked to offset the downside of the Processor with Worthy Cause and Diamond Valley. They Tinkered it up for a fast win condition or only gave up a little life to make good use of the tokens for sacrifice. The standard at this time for token production was junk like The Hive and Serpent Generator, so you must imagine the impact that Processor had for casual players.

Today, Phyrexian Processor gets modest fringe attention in Legacy, but it really shines in EDH because of the high starting life totals. It is quite realistic to make 20/20 minions with it every turn, but it is wise to save up eight mana for an immediate activation in that case.

$2.50

Phyrexian Tower

More Phyrexian stuff? The Tower is popular for people who need to control their creature sacrifices. It is only infrequently used for actual mana acceleration. In Standard, it combined with Academy Rector to pull out Yawgmoth's Bargain and end the game immediately.

The Tower still sees attention because, as a land with some utility, it slots in well for EDH decks. Some players pack the Tower in their black casual decks on the off chance that they can send a used-up Thrull to the butcher for a bigger Drain Life.

$2.75

Planar Birth

Planar Birth can make a lot of cards change zones, but it only works for basic lands. It is fine when combined with a card like Reprocess or Forbidden Ritual, but it has very limited real applications.

$1.00

Planar Void

This is a triggered effect, making it worse than Leyline of the Void most of the time. It is also symmetrical, which hurts you if you run your own recursion. However, Planar Void does have the advantage that if you draw it later in the game, it is much easier to cast than Leyline. It is an uncommon worth pulling from boxes, since it remains a fringe sideboard card.

$1.00

Priest of TitaniaThis has that golden ability of being an elf that is great with other elves. Priest of Titania is like a mini-Rofellos and it's not a legend, so you can run plenty of them. Green cards have actually gotten good in the past few years. When the Priest was printed, that mana could only be funneled into cards like Masticore that were good everywhere. You eventually had Plow Under, and there was Stunted Growth and other mildly-disruptive cards, too.These days, though, Green has worthwhile cards to pump seventeen mana during your mainphase into. Cards like Regal Force, Tooth and Nail and even Helix Pinnacle give good mana dumps for your Priests.Most importantly for you, the reader, Priests are a very expensive common. They can be the saving grace in a purchased collection that has been picked over, and they are a perpetual reason for me to go through commons boxes.$3.00Serra AvatarUntil probably Lord of Extinction, Serra Avatar was the biggest monster in Magic. It is still a very valuable card. It rewards white lifegain players and it is a perfect monster to combine with Sneak Attack. Its revolutionary reshuffling quality made it so that you could pull out the Avatar if the opponent managed to off it. All of this combines to make a fan favorite to this day.$10.25Serra's SanctumThough it doesn't come close to Gaea's Cradle, the Sanctum is still chased by Enchantress players. It is one of the few white cards that actually accelerates your mana, and people just happen to like Enchantment decks. It is a card that is worth knowing the current value of, so if you are buying or trading one, try to get the current price on the spot.$13.50Shivan GorgeBecause it is a land with a marginal effect, the Gorge sees a little attention in casual circles. Unfortunately, since it is Legendary, you cannot dream of using two of these to slowly grind down an opponent.$1.00Shivan HellkiteThe Hellkite was a chase card when it first came out, because it had an ability that wasn't really seen before on Magic cards. You had marginal effects like Reckless Embermage or one-shots like Rocket Launcher, so the allure of a firebreather on this level was big. The Hellkite saw a bit of play in Vintage as a way to funnel infinite mana from Worldgorger Dragon into a kill. These days, though, the dragon only sees casual affection. It's important to note that this is barely half the price of Lightning Dragon!$1.75Show and Tell
People thought that combining this with Dream Halls is something new, but the truth is that S&T was used for that from the beginning. It could also salaciously cheat out Mind over Matter in Academy decks. What I find most interesting about the recent price-ramp on S&T is that it spiked on speculation, and while Dream Halls has come down, the enabler has not! S&T was also keyed into pretty quickly; in about a week, everyone knew that it was a hot commodity.

$19.50

Smokestack

Smokestack is one of my favorite cards. It's a brutal choice to force on someone. Remember that you can stack the ability so that you sacrifice before you add a counter. It also tags up well with Crucible of Worlds and Trinisphere to choke out opponents. It is an integral part of the Stax strategy in Vintage, which has been around for nearly eight years. It's a hot card with a lot of value to it.

$10.00

Sneak Attack

Sneak Attack represented one of the first big endeavors that I made into speculation, and it remains one of my most profitable ones. The thing about nabbing them in anticipation of Eldrazi was that they were $12.00 when the Eldrazi were announced. Ergo, a lot of money to wrap up into the card at the time. I picked up two sets with an eye on flipping them and just waited until they hit a good price.

Sneak Attack is the ultimate cheater card. Who cares when you have to lose it at the end of the turn? Even smashing down an Avalanche Riders for R is a deal! When you combined it with Darksteel Colossus, you'd get your monster back. Given a little more mana, a Dragon Tyrant can smoke an opponent in one or two hits. It's not hard to see why Sneak Attack has such appeal.

$23.00

Stroke of Genius

This was heralded as an improved Braingeyser when it first came out. It was an exciting card when combined with Grim Monolith and could potentially refuel your hand at the end of the opponent's turn. Stroke had immediate play in Academy decks, both as a draw card and kill mechanism to deck the opponent. For a long time, it was restricted in Vintage for power reasons. These days, you can pack four copies. It also has a good deal of appeal in casual formats, since you can hit whoever you want with it and you don't have to risk tapping out on your own turn.

$4.75

SunderI am kind of shocked why Sunder doesn't see more play. It's a blue Armageddon, but maybe blue doesn't need that. Crucially, Sunder is an Instant! You can dismantle an opponent at the end of their turn by Sundering their lands back and forcing them to discard most of them. What a grind!$1.00Temporal ApertureAnother element in the Wildfire deck, the Aperture serves as colorless card draw. For some reason, my playgroup referred to it as The Whammy, perhaps a reference to Press Your Luck. That gameshow featured a game of chance where the Whammy represented losing. So, you'd say “big money, no whammies!” when using the Aperture in an attempt to chase away lands from the top of your deck and call up big spells that you could benefit from.$1.00Thran QuarryA rainbow land that has a bit of appeal; the Quarry doesn't get a lot of love because most of the multicolored spells you want to cast don't end up putting creatures on the board. That said, it has some appeal and since it is a rainbow land with only one printing, people want it.$3.25Tolarian AcademyLegendary Land is an understatement.Academy was responsible for more people leaving the game than any other card except, possibly, Skullclamp. People felt that losing on the third turn before they did anything was not the way to play the game of Magic, and this was the poster child for degenerate combos. It was played in Standard for a couple of months before it got the axe, and those were some scary months. You could untap it with Mind over Matter or use it to punch up Time Spiral for more cards. In Vintage, it was the core of the Academy deck, which could use Crop Rotation to pull it out and make even more mana with moxes.It's also worth mentioning that this abomination of a land was supercharged because the storyline department thought that it should make blue mana, instead of the colorless mana it originally made. Thanks, guys.$30.00TurnaboutTurnabout saw some play in Legacy High Tide decks as an untapper, and it sees a little bit of attention in casual circles. It's sort of like a Cryptic Command in that it can Fog things down, or it can even tap down an opponent during their upkeep to deny them a meaningful turn. It's an uncommon to watch for.$1.50Vernal BloomIf Green needs anything more, it is apparently good mana production. The Bloom last saw serious attention when it could power out a Tooth and Nail at an early turn. It gets a little bit of play these days in casual circles, but it benefits the opponent with Forests and it's seen reprinting. That said, it is above bulk prices.$1.50Victimize
Did you know this was a dollar? People like Reanimation and especially seem to like pulling out several monsters. Trade in a token for two more pounders! Check your boxes for Victimize; before I started this series, I had no idea it was worth a buck.

$1.00

Voltaic Key

Though it's been reprinted, the original is still desirable. Untap a Time Vault or play fair and only untap your Mana Crypt. At one to play and one to activate, the Key is a perpetual fan favorite for all sorts of mischief.

$2.50

Whirlwind

Green mass removal spells are exceedingly rare, and Whirlwind can tackle cards like Iona, Akroma and all sorts of Dragons. It was printed in Starter 1999 too, but that barely affects its price.

$1.00

Wildfire

Wildfire is a fantastic name for a horse and a pivotal spell for the eponymous red control deck. Not much survives the four-by-four, especially if you can ramp into it and catch all of the opponent's lands with it. Wildfire saw play early on, but it also popped up in Magnivore decks as a way to dominate the board with a single spell. It has been printed a lot, but this is the only black-bordered copy.

$1.50

Windfall

Windfall is another one of those absurd Draw-7s, limited only because it gets worse as the game goes on. My favorite play with it in Vintage was to use Hurkyl's Recall to bounce an opponent's board of lock artifacts at the end of their turn, then blow them away for eleven or more cards with Windfall.

$1.25

Worship

Though Worship is fragile, it is an alluring effect. For the bargain price of maintaining a creature, you cannot die to most things! Worship has gotten a little bit of tournament attention because it can be hard for monocolored decks to remove. It's a very popular casual card.

$1.75

Yawgmoth's Will

This obscure Saga card is mostly sought after for this “killer combo”

Courtesy of Inquest Magazine, Dec. 1998

$15.25

Thanks for joining me on this romp through Saga! We will continue the Urza insanity next week with the next set in the block.

Until then,

Doug Linn

www.twitter.com/legacysallure

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