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Scouring Through Saga

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Urza's Saga is the first set in one of the financial powerhouse blocks of Magic. Though it was supposed to be themed around enchantments, I reckon that Urza's Saga really has the theme of “you'll pay $10 for this, this and this.” While Tempest represented the first truly modern set, Saga expanded on this to make iconic cards that are still remembered today for being overly powerful. The block was also marked by Mark Rosewater's meddling with innocuous cards, resulting in beasts like Tinker (why should you have to pay mana with Transmute Artifact?) and Yawgmoth's Bargain (truly, Necropotence at twice the mana and instant payoff is fair).

This week, we'll take a romp through Saga and look at its multitude of valuable cards. As usual, I used www.magictraders.com to gather prices, while also cross-referencing with popular card stores to make sure that quoted prices were accurate. Saga represented a set about Enchantments, and you're bound to see many of these permanents pop up on the list. My hope is that, in reading this article, you get a sense of what the valuable cards are; I only mention ones worth a dollar or more. Even if you cannot recall a  specific price, ideally you will remember a featured card when going through bulk binders at the local store. Saga has so many expensive cards that I broke this article into two halves so that you can appreciate the magnitude of the set in a more digestible form. Let's get started!

Angelic ChorusThe Inquest magazine killer combo was combining this with Serra Avatar – make the biggest creature in the game at the time even larger! Angelic Chorus is still useful to a lot of people, and since it has the word “Angel” in it, the card has value for that reason too. You have to imagine, also, that Angelic Chorus appeals to the casual player across the spectrum. If they like fatties, then getting a life bump every time is great. The person who loves all their Walls also loves the Chorus – in fact, one of the other Inquest combos grouped the Chorus with Wall of Junk! It also has some charm for token decks that want to get the most out of each and every little Saproling they produce.$1.50Arcane LaboratoryThe Lab is a crucial piece of sideboard equipment for Eternal wizards, since it couples so well with counterspells to fend off Storm combo decks. Though it has been reprinted in 7th Edition and color-bled into Rule of Law, the Meth Lab is still a power uncommon in Saga. They are nicely tradeable cards and people expect to have sets of four. You might encounter a little competition from the 7th edition foils, but most people prefer the black-bordered Saga copies to white-bordered base set copies.$1.25Argothian EnchantressSince the dawn of time with Verduran Enchantress, people have been slapping Wild Growths onto Forest Bears in pursuit of the Enchantress deck. It is only fitting that the Enchantment set would have a new Enchantress. Popular in both Legacy and casual circles, Argothian Enchantress is just about the best enchantress effect in Magic. Decks of old would use her to draw a thousand enchantments for a Rabid Wombat or Auratog. Current Legacy lists use her card draw to power Words of War or Solitary Confinement.For a card with a niche appeal (because Enchantress players are rare in general) the Enchantress has a huge value. She has been popular since Day One.$12.00Argothian Wurm
Honestly, I had to do a double-take when I saw this card in my research. In an era of Tarmogoyf and even Hunted Wumpus, the Wurm looks mediocre. However, for those intent on building a green-based Land Destruction deck, the Wurm is a combination Stone Rain and finisher. It's sort of the original Browbeat. Do you want to lose a land or face down a fast clock? When a deck can already punk a few of your lands, the prospect of losing more to the Wurm is scary indeed. It is a good example of how powerful the casual market is when it comes to Saga.

$2.00

Attunement

Attunement was a cornerstone of the Replenish deck, since it allowed for massive draw and discard to fuel the white sorcery. It also triggered the aforementioned Argothian Enchantress, letting a player filter through their deck with no loss in cards. I think most newer players are unaware of the card's existence; it certainly has a weird effect.

$1.00

Back to Basics

Back to Basics, aka B2B, wins The Most Literal Card Title award. It sat for years at $2, only really seeing play on monoblue sideboards in fringe Vintage decks. Merfolk decks in Legacy changed that dynamic dramatically, and now it is a cornerstone of most fishy sideboards. It commands a good price and trades quite briskly. Long-time traders might undervalue it because it was so marginal for so long.

$5.50

Catastrophe

I have this theory that any white card with the phrase “destroy all creatures” won't ever dip below a buck. Catastrophe is an incredible card because it works whether you are ahead or behind. Rocking a big flying creature and looking to seal the deal? Blow away the board with the Armageddon side. Need to catch up? Wrath is your bet. There have been numerous riffs on the Wrath of God theme in Magic since the original, and Catastrophe is probably the second-best version (discounting Day of Judgment). It has enough casual and EDH appeal to garner a following.

$1.75

Child of Gaea

Remember folks, we're still in the “C” part of the alphabet – you'll appreciate this richness when we get to the wasteland of Prophecy...

When you need a mountain of wood, Child of Gaea is an excellent choice. I wonder if MaRo looked at Force of Nature and decided to give it the MaRo Bump. Like Silvos, Rogue Elemental, Child of Gaea sees casual appeal in Elfball-style decks, where a big regenerating trampler is a fine outlet for lots of excess mana. When Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary was available as an EDH general, the Child appeared in just about every list; the Trample makes it a real player-killer. The Elemental is another example of one of those cards you would pass by as bulk filler, since it has never really seen competitive play.

$1.50

How to lose friends and annoy people.

Contamination

There was a time when you could blow someone out with Entomb for Nether Spirit, followed by Contamination. It is an absolute blowout of a card and has saved me in a lot of EDH games from the predations of five-color combo players. Those sick souls who base their decks around Contamination can now utilize Reassembling Skeleton if they want to perpetuate the disease. In some ways, I am surprised that Contamination isn't worth more money, but then again, without a continuous sacrifice outlet, it can be a poor card in Monoblack Control decks.

$2.50

Copper Gnomes

Why are these worth anything? Maybe someone has a gnome theme deck. Maybe they plan on getting Darksteel Colossus out by running the gnomes ahead. At their printing, there was no spectacular artifact to put into play – would you even want Aladdin's Lamp out? With that card, Gnomes only saves you four mana (or forty-nine if you play with the Arabian Nights copy). Nowadays, I am a little puzzled over the appeal of these little shoemakers.

$1.00

Crater Hellion

Saga also has Echo cards, and the Hellion is a good example. It is a great multiplayer card, one of the few Wrath effects available to Red players. What I like about the Hellion is that you can conceivably wipe the board and end up with a big pounder left over afterward. Echo has prevented it from being reprinted and it is a great addition to many red decks. These factors make it an especially valuable card to get as a bulk toss-in.

$2.50

Darkest Hour

Perhaps people are looking to combine this card with Light of Day or Circle of Protection: Black for a combo. Maybe they want to supercharge their Darkwatch Elves. This simple, elegant card has some sort of casual appeal and sees a tiny amount of commerce.

$1.00

Duress

Sometimes, the original is still the best. Though Duress has been reprinted frequently, the first printing remains in demand. Duress was, to my recollection, the first modern targeted discard. It is still a phenomenally powerful card and the ability to pluck out a card of your choice for a single mana was unseen before Duress. Previously, you had to spend 2B for Coercion. The reduction in mana cost can be justified because the cards that Duress takes out are usually lame and not fun. Nobody likes to lose their Shivan Dragon, but that guy with the Desertion? He deserved to lose it.

$1.25 (for a common!)

Endless Wurm

I picture this guy like one of those banal bumper stickers that says “End This Wurm” with the first part crossed out. The Wurm continues the tradition of Big Green Men With Drawbacks, sharing that role with Child of Gaea in the very same set. Endless Wurm had appeal for Enchantress players looking for a quick game-winner. You could feed it used-up Wild Growths and you only needed two or three enchantments around to win the game with the Wurm. It also combos well with Crystal Chimes... Endless Wurm has a brisk amount of trading and appeal going for it, so it might not be hard to find a taker for spare binder Wurms.$2.00Energy FieldIt makes sense that Energy Field is blue because it is an annoying card. At least it works to foil counter decks, because they quickly must sacrifice it. On the other hand, Energy Field was good with Stasis and Millstone decks, since they could sit behind it for a long time with small, repeatable effects chugging away. It sees marginal play in Legacy, but its real appeal lies with the casual crowd. It has an ability that you do not find in Blue, so it is even more interesting for players who take the time to scour Gatherer for weird cards.$3.50ExhumeNeed another power common? Exhume is a potent Reanimator spell and lends a lot of power to the eponymous Legacy deck. Alongside Dark Ritual and Entomb, Exhume guarantees an early and dangerous fat creature to pound with. Unless the opponent geared their deck to work with the card as well, they are going to get something silly and wimpy while you are charging over with Iona, Shield of Emeria.$1.75ExplorationMy gripe with Exploration is simple: it is an elegant, interesting card and it has never been reprinted! I just checked, it's not even on the Reserve List! Come on, this is a fan favorite from the day it was printed, and we can't see it in another Core set? Is its acceleration that much more dangerous than Noble Hierarch?Exploration is, admittedly, a powerful card that has a good home in the Legacy Lands deck. It has been steadily rising in price over time, going from about $15 in the spring of last year to the current price it sits at today. It is a solid trade card and you shouldn't budge on its value, since you will easily find someone who wants it and appreciates its value.$22FluctuatorIn 2003, I came up with a Fluctuator deck that ran Ancient Tombs and City of Brass to Fluctuate out a lot of cyclers into the graveyard. From there, it was a Songs of the Dead off Lotus Petal for a Living Death or Haunting Misery. The idea of a deck with only eight lands shocked people! Of course, One-Land Belcher in Legacy kind of threw water on that glamor.Thanks to cycling showing up in later sets, Fluctuator has some pretty playable cards to send through the machine. It is pretty worthless to have multiples in play, but getting free cycling on a lot of your cards is good enough for players, apparently. Expect to find this one in dollar bins; I found two the other day!$2.75
Fog Bank

Fog Bank is a darned tough wall to get through in a color that sorely needs defense. It promises to neutralize an attacker every turn, making it useful in multiplayer for indicating that players should just attack someone else. It's a less annoying Maze of Ith. Fog Bank is also an uncommon that you can pull out of thoroughly-scoured collections for value. It's a superb card to know the value of.

$1.75

Gaea's Cradle

The Cradle clearly has a lot of appeal for Elf players who are not content to make only fifty mana per turn. It gets attention in EDH and, infrequently, in Legacy. It is the green Tolarian Academy and is hardly a fair card. The Cradle steadily ticks up in value each year, and it's one of those golden casual cards.

$30.00

Gamble

Gamble represents red tutoring, which is rare on its own. I like to put it in Sneak Attack decks, but it also appears in Belcher and Lands decks. Gamble also has a very economical casting cost, meaning it can be dropped into many decks packing Red and needing a little help finding something. I have seen this card double in price over the past year, probably on the back of EDH and a little Legacy attention.

$5.00

Gilded Drake

Does someone want to explain why this is on the Reserved List? For that matter, why is Oath of Ghouls but no other Oath on that list? Gilded Drake couples well with anything that can bounce it back to your hand or make tokens, like with Soul Foundry. It used to be played in the Reanimator mirrors because you could use it to jack your opponent's Avatar of Woe. People still like the Drake, especially because it gives the opponent a little consolation prize when you've taken their bad guy.

Glorious Anthem

Enough people complained that Crusade pumped opposing white creatures that Wizards printed the Anthem to make things right. They even printed it again in 7th Edition to widespread rage – it was in a vote against Crusade and competitive players felt that the casual crowd voted the Anthem in, even though it was historically worse than Crusade. Looking back on it, I tend to think Glorious Anthem has been vindicated; B/W Tokens would not have been as good if its enchantment could not pump Bitterblossom. People generally like the Anthem, while Crusade provoked the “I don't want to help my opponent!” response from too many people. On top of that, aside from brief moments, White Weenie is basically a dead strategy. The Anthem is a highly tradeable card, so it's good to keep an eye out for them.

$2.50

Goblin Lackey

Hey, let's print a Black Lotus for Goblins! As time went by, this Goblin got even more ridiculous. He went from putting Goblin Ringleader in to deploying a Siege-Gang Commander on the second turn. Lackey was so powerful, he was banned in Extended. I think at this point, most people know that it is a valuable card. However, they might not know just how much Lackey really goes for, and you can stand to profit by knowing its current trade value.

$9.00 (yes, really)

Goblin Offensive

They certainly are.

$1.00

Great Whale

Before Legacy brought the altogether-superior Palinchron, Great Whale was part of a combination with Recurring Nightmare that generated infinite mana. You could use Survival of the Fittest to get it online, then funnel the mana through a Shivan Hellkite or any other appropriate vessel to burn out an opponent. Great Whale is still worth more than bulk, in spite of being “just” a free 5/5 creature.

$1.50

Greater Good

One of the coolest things was seeing Greater Good get played in the GWU Greater Gifts deck of several seasons past. While discerning players have long known of Greater Good's incredible drawing power, this was the first deck to make the most of it. You could run a Yosei, the Morning Star through it as a free sacrifice outlet and hey, also draw five cards in the process! In that time, you probably found another Yosei or a Congregation at Dawn or Gifts Ungiven to pull up another Yosei for more locking. The green enchantment sees play in casual and EDH decks, where the original copy is much better than the terrible 9th Edition art.$1.25Herald of SerraAt one mana less, the Herald acts like her older sister but is weaker and needier – eight total mana to get use out of it! That said, she came out at a time when players were told that Serra Angel was too good to be reprinted (versus being unplayable now). On top of that, she's an Angel and a significant one for Angel collectors. I fondly remember opening one in a Saga pack and being thrilled to have it.$1.50Ill-Gotten GainsIGG sat around for years until my teammate Mike Bomholt put it together with Leyline of the Void and Intuition to make IGGy Pop, Legacy's first original Storm deck. It has a massive effect and can make friends in multiplayer, but the card retains value because it is still played in some Legacy metagames. On top of that, if you work really hard (over the course of months), you might be able to have Iggy Pop sign your copies. I've seen it accomplished.$3.50
Intrepid Hero

I like Intrepid Hero a lot, since he's this questing knight off to kill the dragon. It was one of those way-cool cards to read about when it first came out, because this was like the white Royal Assassin! It even saw some minor play in Extended with Eladamri's Call, being a fetchable murder machine. It has been reprinted, but the original Hero still wields a premium.

$1.75

Karn, Silver Golem

The more that we see in Mirrodin Besieged, the more Karn, Silver Golem looks like a total jerk. Vintage players have known he's been unkind for years. “Hey bro, let me give the gift of life to your Mox Sapphire – oh, it died? Whoops. Let's see if Mox Emeral fares any better.” He's trash-talking you from the other end of the table while sending over a Tangle Wire and Smokestack to kill you. Though he acts like a pacifist, Karn, Silver Golem is a killer through and through. He still sees substantial play in Vintage MUD decks and he's a quirky general in EDH.

$3.50

Whew! What a list of cards, and we are only halfway through! Urza's Saga is positively laden with expensive cards. Traders who buy collections have dreams of ripping through unsearched piles of Saga cards, for good reason. Join me next week as we look at the second half of the set, where we will encounter Superman, the MaRo-tinkered Eureka and the “improved” Timetwister.

See you next week!

-Doug Linn

www.twitter.com/legacysallure

7 thoughts on “Scouring Through Saga

  1. Ahahaha, it's awesome that you've internalized my 'End this Wurm' joke from one of my earlier articles to the point where you forgot where it came from. Now you're stuck seeing 'End this Wurm!' every time you have to look at it, too.

    Seriously, though, I do love this series. I started doing mine because I wanted the information for myself, so I like having someone else do the work =)

  2. Great series! I played during the time these sets were released (Revised – Saga), took a break for a while then came back at M10. Good memories. Can't believe how affordable things like Cursed Scroll and Tradewind Riders have become 😀

  3. I'm glad you guys liked it! Doing these reviews reminds me how many valuable cards there are in each set. It also highlights just how much of a force casual players are.

    q1006662, I remember buying up the RecSur deck a long time ago when all that stuff dropped a bit in price. It's so fun to go back and get the hot decks you could never cobble together when you were 13!

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