This week brings us to the last part of Urza Block. We'll look at the set's theme of enchantments and their enablers while we go through a big history lesson in the process. You'll see the other “best creature ever printed” after Morphling (and Goblin Welder!) and see piles of beloved casual cards. Interestingly, Destiny lacks the power uncommons that you saw in Legacy and Saga, so the potential for cards like those $10 Crop Rotations doesn't exist here. However, there's still a lot of money to be mined from the set with the beaker for a symbol. Let's get started!
The Sexy Rector has been a favorite from Day One. She would get out a Sneak Attack if you wanted to play halfway fair, and would do absurd things otherwise. Rector was superb in Sabre Bargain, a deck that used her to go get, you guessed it, Yawgmoth's Bargain. The trick with making Rector sing is combining her with effects that let you regulate when you sacrifice her. For example, you can use Phyrexian Tower or Renounce, both of which Sabre Bargain used.
Interestingly, Rector was one of the first creatures that people wanted to restrict in Vintage. Before Goblin Welder, before Psychatog (which was a factor but not great at the time) and before Worldgorger Dragon, there was this lonely 3W creature. The supremely powerful thing about Rector is that she could combine well with Cabal Therapy to make Rector Trix, a deck that utilized the creature to fetch up Yawgmoth's Bargain. With the instant shot of cards, you would eventually find Illusions of Grandeur and hardcast it. Up twenty more life, you could then find that one Donate and give away your prize. In an era before Storm, Rector was a powerful creature for combination decks. Though she's relegated to casual play now, it is a powerful and recognized card.
This guy features some pretty rad art, but he's really slow in other aspects. It's a Curse of Shallow Graves on a creature, which is desirable in some circles. Mainly, it's above bulk because it has a cheap, potentially powerful effect that works well in EDH. There's about a dozen creatures that are just better for reanimation engines, but this one is fine.
I first came across Attrition when I was building an EDH deck recently. It's a very versatile card when you have a lot of targets to point it at, like in a multiplayer game. The enchantment is incredible when you can pair it with something like Ker Keep or Sengir Autocrat, making for a sick mess of creature removal. In a way, it's like a Grave Pact that's a little less obvious.
Remember a few columns ago when I mentioned that Cleansing Wildfire is a perennially popular deck for nostalgic people to build? The dragon was the favored kill mechanism in the decks. It's a huge monster for what you pay for it and I'd be inclined to say that it would be Constructed playable today, especially since it's so simple to splash for. On top of that, it's part of a desirable tribe. It's not as expensive as Lightning Dragon, but it's a whole lot better.
Michelle Bush came up with the idea of pairing Donate, Illusions of Grandeur and Necropotence together to make a mean machine. The Trix combo, as Illlusions/Donate was called, ruled Extended for a long time and I think it was the first iconic “two card kill” that people had seen beyond A-Dragon's Rage Channelerball. What I love about it is how it took two crap rares to make the combo.
Donate's price comes mainly from its appeal in building Trix decks, but some Johnnys like it for wacky combos. Try giving someone Colfenor's Plans, for example!
I remember when Elvis was a $10 card – its text will make a Timmy player's eyes go wide with glee. Before it was reprinted into oblivion, it was the iconic sleeper hit, the card to pull out of a junk binder or rare bin and make big cash. It still holds a bit of value because people like having the originals, but they have definitely plummeted in value.
I like the real multiplayer dynamic of this; you have it out and everyone else is telling that one guy not to attack you because they're assembling their elf armies or horde of dragons. Alternately, you can have a buddy crash into you and throw False Profits in front of it to wipe the board. This also has the very rare effect of being a white sweeper that exiles cards, not just kills them. They are attractive in a trade binder to the right crowd.
I had to look up the price on this guy, since it's crazy. What are people incubating with this? Most tribal strategies have really inexpensive dorks. Maybe it's Dragons or Angels. Who knows. All I know is that this card is a lotto ticket when you find one in a bulk bin. Trade for them low and get them in the hands of people who need to make their Spirit decks work.
This is pretty close to a Red Armageddon against a lot of decks, letting you selectively ruin someone's day with the ultra Stone Rain. I had to look it up when I first saw it, which tells me that it's entirely a casual card. That said, it's a popular casual card.
In their quest to trim excess, EDH players look to make their lands do more work. The Hollow is a nice surprise to stop opponents trying to off your guys, and it's got a pretty low opportunity cost. The land is unglamorous, but people like Legendary Lands and they especially like green-themed ones. Good EDH utility lands are often very expensive.
And now, we come to an iconic card to wrap up a look through this block. I could think of no better emblem of the excesses of Urza Block than Yawgmoth's not-so-bad Deal. I imagine the scene in The Godfather; it's the end, the baptism, and the priest says “do you reject Satan and all his empty promises?” If Satan is Yawgmoth, then his deal is anything but empty. 4BB and nineteen life gets you a third of your deck in hand. Toss in Drain Life, Belbe, Corrupted Observer, Soul Feast, Tendrils of Agony, or all manner of other life-syphons and see just what happens.
It's said in Italy that there is a fat pope and then a skinny pope – a colloquialism meaning that one will serve a long time and do great works, and the one after might reign for a short period or be insignificant. Magic follows the same cycle most of the time, and that cycle was kickstarted with Urza Block. You went from stupidity at every level to tameness and lameness from Masques block. It was driving an Escalade to school and then having to borrow your brother's Celica for the rest of the year. The over-corrections made a format so dilute that menial strategies like Rebels were dominant and a lack of testing cards like Rishadan Port meant that the game was just as dumb in Standard. But alas, I have already revealed too much of next week's rant!
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