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 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.
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!
Mass discard never looked so good! Part of the real fun of Persecute 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. Persecute 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. Persecute seems a little more fair in casual play than Mind Twist because it doesn’t take out lands and sometimes, requires the Persecute player to make an accurate read of what an opponent is holding. It’s a sort of mega Cabal Therapy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This obscure Saga card is mostly sought after for this “killer combo”
Thanks for joining me on this romp through Saga! We will continue the Urza insanity next week with the next set in the block.