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Vintage 101: A Saga By Any Other Name


Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're going to be diving into the first of spoilers we've got on Modern Horizons 2, a set that can certainly be promised to bring all sorts of shenanigans as evidenced by the first Modern Horizons. We've also got two Challenges to talk about and the Mythic Society event from last week.

So without further ado, let's dive right in!

Saga Saga Saga!

Last week's MTG Weekly stream gave us our first look at some of the things coming in Modern Horizons 2 as well as Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, and while I typically wait for the full set to be released before reviewing cards, the spoiler season is still a bit away and there is at least one card that I want to discuss. If you guessed that the card was Urza's Saga, well, you'd be right!

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There's a lot to process with this card, so we should probably start with the basics of how this card functions, as I'm sure not many Vintage players have a large amount of experience with Sagas (as very few of them have ever seen play in the format thus far). This is a Land, and as such it does take up one of your land drops for the turn to put this into play. It's also an Enchantment, which is relevant for a number of reasons mainly related to how removable this is from the battlefield. Third, this is a Saga, which comes with a number of rules baggage associated with the card type.

When you first put this into play, this will get one Lore counter and then the Chapter I ability of gaining the ability to tap for colorless will go on the stack. The ability to tap for colorless that this trigger grants is permanent to the Land until the Land is sacrificed later on. This means it can also tap for colorless in the next turn as well.

The following turn at the beginning of your first main phase, the second Lore counter is added and the Chapter II ability triggers, giving this land the ability to pay two and create a 0/0 Construct that is the same token as generated by both Karn, Scion of Urza and Urza, Lord High Artificer.

The third turn after, the third Lore counter is added and the Chapter III ability triggers. Once this ability resolves, you will search your library for an artifact with mana cost 0 or 1 and put it onto the battlefield. Then you will sacrifice Urza's Saga as a state based action (Saga rulings state that it is sacrificed if it has a number of lore counters greater than or equal to the final Chapter number and if there is no trigger on the stack). The term mana cost here is important, as the card is specifically looking for only cards that have a printed mana cost 0 or 1 on the card. This is not the same thing as converted mana cost (or now known as mana value), where a card such as Lotus Bloom or even Stonecoil Serpent could be fetched by it. Neither of those cards have an explicitly printed 0 or 1 mana cost on the card, so they cannot be fetched with this ability.

Furthermore, from the time the third Chapter ability resolves and sacrificing the Saga to the state based action, there is no chance to do anything with the land in regards to activating the construct ability or tapping for mana. However, you can activate it in response to the third Chapter trigger, or you can also activate it in the draw step or upkeep step of that same turn. This means if you want, you can use the Construct token ability twice before this land is gone for good.

Finally, if for some reason this thing loses all of its abilities (for example, via the card Blood Moon or Blood Sun), the Saga rulings state that if the Saga has no Chapter abilities, the final Chapter number of the Saga is considered to be zero, and then the state based action forcing it to be sacrificed will kick in. (So don't play Blood Moon alongside your Urza's Saga, kids)

In the context of Vintage, this is certainly a very powerful land, so let's talk about the upsides and the downsides of this and where it might be considered. Let's start with some of the downsides here, because they are interesting.

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Urza's Saga is both a Land and an Enchantment, which opens it up to being able to be removed by effects that remove either. For example, this is a target for Force of Vigor, a card that sees a relatively large amount of play in the format. It's also a target for both Strip Mine and Wasteland, and there are some use cases for that, such as being able to Wasteland this with the first chapter ability trigger on the stack, so that it cannot even be tapped for mana in response. In addition, putting the opponent off of other sources of mana in order to make it impossible to activate the Construct token ability also effectively turns it into a self-Strip Mine eventually. We all know "dies to removal" has never been a reason to not play a card though, but it is important to keep these scenarios and gameplay decisions in mind, as well as the fact that both Strip Mine and Wasteland are the two most played lands in the Vintage format currently.

One of the other obvious downsides of this too is the fact that just like a card like Karn, Scion of Urza, you cannot pay for the Construct ability with Mishra's Workshop mana. That can be semi-important if the only mana sources you have are Workshops it might not be worth playing this out until you can make use of the Construct ability better.

The upsides of this card are fairly pronounced. Being a land is important because there are plenty of cards that tutor a land onto the battlefield, but in Vintage one of the most played of those is Golos, Tireless Pilgrim.

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Golos can nab this card in a pinch if it needs to gain traction on a board state, and that alone makes for an interesting concept. One of the big things this card does is being able to create creatures in a fashion that cannot be typically disrupted via cards like Collector Ouphe and Null Rod (as long as you have a functional mana producing land to use with this like Ancient Tomb), while the third ability being able to tutor for an artifact is somewhat just minor icing on the cake, since more often than not the appropriate cards to get often end up being Black Lotus and Sol Ring. There is some measure of discussion of using this to grab hate permanents versus some decks, but realistically, grabbing a hate permanent and waiting three turns to do so in Vintage is excessively slow, so really it is the Construct-making ability that will really set this card apart in Vintage.

There is also a really solid interaction with Thespian's Stage in being able to copy this land, and then copy another land in response to the third Chapter ability to make it not be a Saga anymore, or to use some form of card that removes counters (Hex Parasite, Power Conduit come to mind) to keep removing the third Lore counter in response to the ability so that you get the trigger to search for an artifact, but not have to sacrifice it. These are all things that could be somewhat playable in Vintage.

Playing this onto an empty board can mean the difference between you having creatures and your opponent being unable to deal with those creatures. I expect that we can see this card as a one of in any deck that is playing Golos for sure, simply because of being able to tutor it into play if need be. I don't expect to see this kind of card in Ravager Shops personally, and I only say that because of the general speed of how that deck operates means that time spent taking turns off to tap mana for an ability is time wasted not casting threats or lock pieces and attacking the opponent, and it could potentially be too slow. I could maybe see one to two in a list like that, but the manabase of Ravager decks is exceptionally tight for speed purposes (although it could end up replacing Mishra's Factory), and sacrificing that speed for this effect is also often unnecessary, given that the deck already has cards that can generally win through Null Rod effects like Stonecoil Serpent and first castings of Fleetwheel Cruiser. Still, it's worth testing in those shells to see just how good it might be.

It's also generally theoretical that this could see play in a more dedicated shell to its power level, using either cards like Crucible of Worlds to replay these from the yard but also the aforementioned effects that keep the land from being sacrificed in order to keep making use of the tutor effect plus the Construct token ability.

What I will say about this card finally however, is that there was some initial hubbub on Twitter over it that I saw, and people claiming that this was extremely busted in Vintage. While I think this card is good, it's important to also remember that this is the barest spoilers of Modern Horizons 2 and there's further things on the horizon very soon here that could also stand to eclipse this one. That being said, the card is certainly powerful, but I don't think it's so powerful that the format can't deal with it (given the relatively high playability of both Strip Mine and Wasteland in general in the format) and I don't think it's even close to restriction-worthy.

I look forward to seeing how things play out with this card in general though. It's definitely strong, and as I said in my Legacy article earlier this week, kudos to the designers who were able to evoke the very essence of the set Urza's Saga originally being an enchantments matter set but then turning into an artifact centric set by making an Enchantment that cares strictly about Artifacts. Solid A+ flavor right there.

Mythic Society Weekly 5/5

The Mythic Society events continue to fire every week and are getting some great participation! If you're interested in these events, they are essentially very casual four round FNM-like events played on Magic Online. Got a deck idea that you aren't sure might be good enough? This is a good place to try that out! You can check out their events and their Twitter over here. Now let's take a look at some lists.

At the top of the heap this past week is the Lurrus Mono White build.

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So many Leonin! Between Leonin Arbiter and Leonin Relic-Warder it is a veritable cat party going on here! Seriously though, super solid deck for sure.

We also saw the Grixis Witch Tinker list in this event.

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This is a super powerful deck. We discussed Sedgemoor Witch in-depth last week, but it just continues to perform well and do good.

Further down the event, we've got some Lands action with some Fastbond.

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This list evokes the old school Ziasbond feel to me with the Bazaars and Workshops, but also the Crucibles and Fastbond. Mirage Mirror is another great way of enabling the Depths combo as well. Super neat deck, and I also realyl love the Field of the Dead in the sideboard.

Justin Gennari over here just mashing all sorts of archetypes together, and this one even has Extus, Oriq Overlord in it!

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Wild deck for sure here. Hogaak PLUS Bant Midrange PLUS Witch is a super serious flex. Pretty cool and very spicy. Also there's a Gate to Phyrexia in the sideboard!

Finally, we come to some true event spice in BAZAAR-STILL.

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Yes, this is a Standstill deck that also plays Bazaar and Squee. Also there's Replenish in this deck. WILD.

Vintage Challenge 5/8

We had two Challenge events last weekend, the first of which was the mid-afternoon Saturday event. Thanks to the efforts of the Vintage Streamers Discord we know this event had 65 players in it.

You can find the Top 32 decklists for this event here.

Breach was exceptionally popular in this event after riding down low for a little bit. Things ebb and flow a lot in the format right now so it's not surprising to see popularity wax and wane on certain archetypes. The major constant right now it seems is Doomsday.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Doomsday 1st Diem4x
Lurrus Control 2nd wambocombo2020
BUG Midrange 3rd fingers1991
Breach 4th sixmp
Dredge 5th NekoReality
RUG Midrange 6th tom_basketball
Breach 7th bennybo
Aggro Shops 8th kanister

And yes, constant at winning is apparently what Doomsday does very well, as it took down this event in the hands of Diem4x.

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This deck is so extremely solid, there's just not even a reason to mess with the deckbuilding formula for right now, unless we get something new and interesting in Modern Horizons 2. Definitely a very powerful deck for sure.

The Second Place finalist is the Lurrus 4C Control deck.

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Lurrus enabling some power from cards like Deathrite Shaman and Dreadhorde Arcanist does seem quite strong for sure. It's a pretty interesting and unique deck and seems to have a lot of power.

Also in the Top 8 we had some Breach action, being the msot popular deck in the event.

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Using Sedgemoor Witch instead of splashing into White is interesting for sure, but I can see it. Also Expressive Iteration is pretty cool to see as well in the main deck.

Further down the Top 8 we have a neat Aggro Shops variant.

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No Ravager here but mainly threats that are fairly Null Rod resistant. Three Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is certainly something, but also the sideboard option of God-Pharaoh's Statue is certainly something.

Outside of the Top 8 further down we had a sweet UR Standstill variant.

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Seems like a fun and powerful list. I know you lose a bit of removal options being in straight UR instead of Jeskai or UW, but the mana really lines up well here, and it seems really strong.

Vintage Challenge 5/9

The second Challenge event of the weekend was the early morning Sunday event, which had 57 players in it.

You can find the Top 32 decklists for this event here.

The Grixis Tinker (Witch) deck had a lot of popularity in this event, despite not converting super well to the Top 8 of the event. Doomsday however, remained quite on top of things in both representation and in winning the event.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
Doomsday 1st discoverN
Ravager Shops 2nd Montolio
BUG Midrange 3rd GGoggles
PO Storm 4th LeoFa
Golos Combo Shops 5th Darkmattergun
BUG Midrange 6th Sprouts
Doomsday 7th sixmp
BUG Midrange 8th _INF_

This time at least the winner with Doomsday was the one and only discoverN!

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Library of Alexandria in the sideboard here is very unique because of how little that card actually sees play in Vintage these days.

The Second Place finalist is our good friend Andy Markiton on Ravager Shops.

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Definitely a straightforward and powerful Ravager list here. Andy is no stranger to this. He's placed well in several events and won several more on Shops.

Also in the Top 8 we have another Shops deck in Golos Combo Shops.

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There is an honest to goodness Kozilek, Butcher of Truth in the sideboard here and I'm loving it. Also, as we've noted in the past, the number of Archive Trap played by these decks to get around Doomsday is silly.

Outside of the Top 8 we had some White Weenie action!

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Angel's Grace is another intriguing option specifically for decks like Doomsday where they can't respond to casting it so they can't win the turn that they Thassa's Oracle. This is certainly something.

Further down the Top 32 we had honest to goodness SURVIVAL.

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As much as the power level of Bazaar aggro variants has grown over time, I still miss and love seeing Survival decks because I love the toolbox sequencing aspect of them, and getting to see sweet cards like Skyclave Apparition and Deputy of Detention. It's a real shame this deck doesn't see much play anymore!

Around the Web

  • Our good friend Andy Markiton posted some videos on BUG Midrange. Check those out here.
  • Our other good friend Justin Gennari posted a video on Combo Oath! Check that out here.
  • ANOTHER DOOMSDAY LEAGUE! QUICK, PRESS THE BUTTON!

The Spice Corner

Jegantha Golos Colored Workshops is some sweetness.

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THE MIGHTY RETURN OF ZIAS.

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Thanks for your continued support of the column and join me next week as we continue our journey into Vintage!

As always you can reach me at Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! In addition you can always reach me on the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the Vintage Streamers Discord.

Until next time!



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