As a Lands player, I’m always on the lookout for cool new lands, so when Urza’s Saga was spoiled, I was very excited. Now it’s been a couple weeks since we’ve been able to play with the card, so I thought I’d do a little write-up to share some thoughts on the card and help out anyone who is still wondering how it works in Lands.
This will be organized a bit like an FAQ – click the questions below to jump to that part of the article, or just read them all! If you prefer to watch it in action, check out Jarvis Yu’s video or some of the vods on my own channel.
- What is Urza’s Saga and how does it work?
- What does Urza’s Saga do for Lands?
- What artifacts should I search up on the third chapter?
- What are some drawbacks of playing Urza’s Saga?
- How does Urza’s Saga interact with Thespian’s Stage?
- Does Urza’s Saga replace Field of the Dead?
- How does Urza’s Saga interact with Blood Moon?
- What does a list with Urza’s Saga look like?
What is Urza’s Saga and how does it work?
Urza’s Saga is an Enchantment Land with the Urza’s and Saga subtypes. Pretty self-explanatory, right?
Wrong! This card is very strange, but here’s the basics. It is a land, so playing it takes your land drop, can’t be countered, doesn’t pass priority, all the usual land stuff. It is also an enchantment, so it can be destroyed by Naturalize. So far, it’s not much different than any of the artifact lands.
Where it gets weird is that it is a saga. This means that like every other saga, it gains lore counters – first when it enters the battlefield, and then as a trigger at the beginning of each main phase. In particular, when it first enters, the saga’s first chapter will trigger, giving it the ability to tap for mana (note that you can destroy it with this trigger on the stack, so that it never gets the chance to make mana). On your next main phase, it will trigger again, this time gaining the ability to make constructs. Then, at the beginning of your third main phase, it will trigger another time. When that trigger resolves, the land will die, but with the trigger on the stack you can sacrifice it for Crop Rotation or activate any of its abilities – none of that will stop the final trigger from resolving and giving you an artifact.
An important thing to remember is that you can only find artifacts with a literal 0 or 1 in the top right corner. Artifacts without mana costs (like artifact lands), colored mana costs, or X in their mana cost cannot be found. This is because Urza’s Saga specifies a mana cost and not a mana value (a mana cost, not a converted mana cost, for us boomers). In other words, you can’t find Engineered Explosives but you can find Triangle of War.
What does Urza’s Saga do for Lands?
Urza’s Saga the set gave us Exploration, and Urza’s Saga the block gave us Crop Rotation, so I think it’s safe to say Urza’s Saga did a lot for Lands. Urza’s Saga the card keeps this trend going and also does a lot for our deck. Most importantly, it provides a land-based threat that is self-contained and can be deployed early. It also has obvious synergy with Life from the Loam since, as a saga, it sends itself to the graveyard. And of course, it allows us to play a toolbox of 0 and 1 mana artifacts.
Unlike Field of the Dead, Urza’s Saga can make constructs as early as turn 2. These constructs aren’t small either – if you activate it twice and search up a random artifact, you will have 2 3/3s. Throw in a Mox Diamond and they’re 4/4s and you can have 2 of them as early as turn 3. This means we can present real threats and clock opponents without needing the Lage combo or having to get to 7 different land names.
Against creature decks, Saga puts up very real blockers to gum up the board. Against control, you can spew an early Saga to put them on the back foot and force them to deal with a pair of creatures that could very well kill them, all while you keep Loaming and developing your board. Against combo, you can use Saga to actually clock opponents quickly while Sphere and Wasteland delay their win. Turn one Saga, Diamond, Sphere is a pretty great start against most combo decks in the format.
Life from the Loam and Thespian’s Stage both work to make Urza’s Saga not just a one-off but a repeatable source of board presence. Loam recycles it so you can replay it, and Stage can copy it and, thanks to some weird layers tricks (see below), can end up as a land with the permanent ability to create constructs every turn.
On top of this, there are several nice silver-bullet artifacts you can run, which I’ll explore in the next section. For now, suffice it to say that Saga provides, in addition to the threat of attacking constructs, an additional layer of selection and flexibility.
What artifacts should I search up with Urza’s Saga?
Whatever your heart desires, my friend. Get your Chimeric Coils and Dark Spheres and lets go wild on some people.
On a more serious note, here are some the artifacts I’ve heard mentioned and my own thoughts on them (by no means gospel as things are still being tested).
Mox Diamond – Well, you’re playing this already so… just go get it if you want to keep your mana up, fix your colors, or what have you. Obviously extra good if you have Loam. Play 4 in the maindeck, ya dummy.
Pyrite Spellbomb – For my money this is the best artifact to search up other than Mox Diamond. It makes Saga capable of searching up removal or just drawing a new card off the top. Against matchups with Surgical, you can hold up Spellbomb to answer Surgical just like a canopy land. When you draw it naturally, you can just cast it as a Punishing Fire or cycle it, so its absolute floor is cycling for two mana. Play 0-1 in the maindeck.
Expedition Map – This is another way to help Saga give us redundancy and selection. Now Saga dies into a slow Crop Rotation of sorts – not a bad result. I’ve liked Map, but it is a bit slow and not everyone seems sold on it. If I had to choose two artifacts, I’d play Pyrite Spellbomb and the Map, but the Bomb would be cut before the Map. Play 0-3 in the maindeck.
Retrofitter Foundry – When Saga first hit the scene this card was very hyped. Having played with it for a while, I’m generally not impressed. It does enable you to gum up the board and spew artifacts to grow your constructs. But it’s also very slow and mana-intensive. Perhaps it’s worth playing if there is a lot of control in your meta, but consider that Expedition Map for Field of the Dead is probably just as good against control, while also having a lot more flexibility. Play 0-1 in the maindeck, maybe 1 in the sideboard if your meta has a lot of control.
Shadowspear – While our deck has very few creatures, so this card may seem like just a blank, it actually has some pretty great utility. First, it can provide trample to Marit Lage, allowing the witch mother to run over whatever blockers the opponent may have. Second, if you attach it to a construct, you can start gaining life, which can be quite a useful tool against aggressive decks like Delver. The ability to turn off hexproof/indestructible isn’t super useful but it can come up. Play 0-1 maindeck.
Pithing Needle – This is a great tool in a lot of matchups. Locking down Elvish Reclaimer, Knight of the Reliquary, Wishclaw Talisman, or whatever else can be very useful. Note that if your opponent lets the third chapter of Saga resolve, Needle will enter and name a card before they can respond. I say this to make you aware that you can tag their fetchlands (and so that you won’t let your fetches get tagged). Some people have played this in the main, but to me it feels like a sideboard card. Play 1 in the sideboard, maybe 1 in the maindeck if you’re feeling like you can rely on your opponents to let you hit their fetches.
Meekstone – A great card against the creature decks of the format; turns most of Delver’s threats into Lightning Bolts and keeps opposing Knights or True-Names tapped indefinitely. It has the downside of keeping our constructs tapped too, however. Play 0-1 in the sideboard.
Zuran Orb – This card is so cool and I can’t say I’ve played with it but it also doesn’t seem that good? Gaining life is fine but there are better things we can do (and if we just want life why not get Navigator’s Compass or something?). Still, I encourage you play with it and report back. Play 0-1 in the sideboard.
Soul-Guide Lantern/Relic of Progenitus/Tormod’s Crypt/Grafdigger’s Cage – I haven’t personally played with these but I also haven’t really missed them. If Uro picks up, then perhaps these can be worth playing. Play 0-1 in the sideboard.
Brainstone – I know some people have been excited about this. It has potential, but I haven’t played it myself. It does enable Saga to generate pretty solid card advantage, which is nice, and we are pretty good at clearing the top of our deck with either Loam or fetches or Crop Rotation. Worth Testing. Play 0-1 maindeck.
Triangle of War – Only mentioning this card because it’s super cool. Make Marit Lage fight their creatures! Play 0 but if you play 1 you’ll be my hero.
Mishra’s Bauble – Honestly, no one is playing this but also they shouldn’t. If you’re just trying to draw a card, you should play Pyrite Spellbomb since it can also kill things. Play 0.
What are some drawbacks of playing Urza’s Saga?
The biggest drawback of the card is the space it takes in your list. It is good in multiples and good early, so playing just one is ok but probably not optimal. So then you have to think about how many colorless lands you can really play, and what you’ll have to cut. Different answers have been given to that question – see the decklist section for more discussion.
The other drawbacks are that (1) it sends itself to the graveyard; (2) it is an enchantment; and (3) it is somewhat mana intensive. Sending itself to the graveyard means that it puts you down a land when it dies. You can often find Mox Diamond with it so that you don’t lose mana, but that’s not always an option and you don’t always have Loam to get it back. As an enchantment, it is a prime target for opposing Force of Vigors, which can be a bit back-breaking when they tag your Mox and your Saga. It also enables your opponents to turn things like Disenchant into land destruction (though does anyone play Disenchant anymore?).
The card is also quite mana-hungry. To get the full two constructs, you need to spend effectively 6 mana over two turns. Six mana over two turns for a pair of constructs and a 1 mana artifact isn’t a bad deal, but it can be clunky when you want to cast other spells and have to choose between constructs or Sylvan Library, for example. In the early turns when you want to drop lock pieces or be porting your opponent, your mana can be somewhat strained.
These drawbacks are far from making the card unplayable, but they’re things to keep in mind.
How does Urza’s Saga interact with Thespian’s Stage?
When Saga was spoiled, I was blowing up my judge friend’s phone with questions. Every interaction was more confusing than the last, but to answer the main question – yes, you can end up with a land that can create constructs forever and will not die to being a saga.
To explain how this works, imagine Thespian’s Stage as a troupe of actors, and the play they’re learning is the story of Urza’s Saga.
When Stage first copies Saga, the actors have just started learning and can’t actually do anything except be actors. In real magic terms, this means that you will have an Urza’s Saga with 0 chapters and thus with no abilities (except the Thespian’s Stage ability). At this point, the actors can’t even figure out how to tap for mana. Note that this is true no matter how many chapters are on the Saga you’re copying. Stage copies only the text printed on the card, not any abilities the card may have gained. Thus it will always be a blank saga to start out with – your actors don’t have any clifnotes.
Then, when you hit the first main phase of your turn, the actors learn the first chapter of the Saga. At this point, your land will gain a lore counter and, in the process, gain the ability to tap for mana. Good job, actors!
In the next first main phase, your actors are really getting into it and now they can build constructs just like Urza used to! Like the original Saga, the Stage-Saga will gain another lore counter at the start of the main phase and thus gain the ability to make constructs just like a normal Saga could.
But now here comes the tricky part. When your Stage-Saga hits your first main phase for the third time, your actors are so engrossed in the Saga that they are willing to die to stay true to the story. In the game, this means that if you don’t copy a new land, the Stage-Saga will get its third counter and go the graveyard just like a normal Saga would.
But you don’t have to do this. Instead, while the third chapter trigger is on the stack (or at any point before it resolves), you can use Stage’s copy ability to copy another land that is not a saga. If you do this, you will now have a land that has (1) all the abilities of the land you copy; (2) the usual Stage ability to copy other lands; and (3) the abilities Stage gained while it was a Saga. Because of how layers work, Stage will have ‘gained’ abilities, not just copied them, and thus it will keep those abilities as it turns into other lands. Your actors are now a traveling troupe, playing Urza’s Saga at different locations. If you choose to copy a fresh land with the third chapter trigger on the stack, you will even get to search up an artifact for your troubles, all without sacrificing your Stage (since it will not be a saga when the third chapter ability resolves). The result is that you could well have a basic forest that can make constructs. Kinda neat!
Does Urza’s Saga replace Field of the Dead?
Urza’s Saga could replace Field of the Dead if you want it to. Because of the interaction with Stage, Saga can be used to create a creature every turn and thus provide the same kind of threatening inevitability that Field does, all while being available a lot earlier and asking much less in the way of setup. Plus Saga’s creatures are just bigger – 4/4s and 5/5s vs 2/2s. For more arguments in favor of cutting Field for Saga, watch Jarvis Yu’s stream.
That said, I’m not personally 100% sold on the idea of cutting Field. Unlike Saga, Field can create multiple creatures in a single turn, which can often be the difference in bailing you out of a bad board position. Field also has the potential to make zombies the turn you draw it, requires no mana investment, and does not ask you to have a free Stage for it to be effective. Copying Saga with Stage and then copying a fresh land means taking several turns and a minimum of 6 mana to get a permanent source of constructs; that’s a lot of mana in the early game and a lot of time in the late game where every top-deck can matter. So while I would probably play 3 Sagas before the first Field, I think the potential upside of one Field is worth not playing the 4th Saga.
How does Urza’s Saga interact with Blood Moon?
Urza’s Saga has an odd interaction with Blood Moon, Spreading Seas, and other effects that turn a land into a completely different land. When these effects hit Saga, it turns into an Enchantment Land – Saga Mountain (or Island, or what have you). But it also loses all its other relevant saga abilities. This means that its max chapter is no longer determined by the text of the card, but instead defaults to zero. Then, since its number of lore counters is greater than or equal to the max chapter number, it goes to the graveyard as a state-based effect.
The details may be a bit tricky, but the bottom line is – Blood Moon destroys Urza’s Saga upon resolution.
What does a list with Urza’s Saga look like?
Ok, so maybe you’re sold on the card, maybe you’re not, but at the very least you’ve heard enough to need some actual lists. The crucial question for these lists is: what do we cut for Saga? To this there are more or less 2 different answers. You can cut Rishadan Port, since it is another colorless land. Or you can cut nonland threats like Sylvan Library/Valakut Exploration since Urza’s Saga increases your threat density and thus makes those kinds of threats less necessary. Below are a series of decklists to give you a sense of what people are trying (apologies for the differing formats, but people like to post their lists in different places). If necessary, open the images in a new tab to make them bigger.
Here are some examples of the first school of thought, where we shave a few Valakut Exploration but ultimately still play a decent suite of value enchantments alongside Sagas:
The common theme in these lists is that you don’t really get to play Port. Some are playing a single extra Ghost Quarter instead, which is an interesting alternative.
Next we also have the Library-less lists like the semi-experimental one Jarvis Yu played on his stream:
And this other option from Monroe on the Lands discord:
These lists are going harder on Saga (playing the full set) and leaning on it together with the traditional Lands package to carry them. They don’t have value enchantment engines, but the thinking is that with Saga, you don’t need them.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention another super cool piece of technology due to alli – BUG Saga Lands, a list that leans heavily on artifact synergies and Academy Ruins along with Urza’s Saga!
The interaction between Academy Ruins and Baleful Strix is pretty great, and Saga can find Nihil Spellbomb here for what is likely the best 1cmc graveyard-hate artifact there is.
Wrapping up – where does Urza’s Saga fit?
Of course, none of these lists are definitive or set in stone. What is clear is that Urza’s Saga is a powerful effect and one that Lands is uniquely suited to take advantage of. That said, I’ve played maybe 30 or so matches with the card, so I can hardly claim to know all of its ins and outs.
I do expect that it will eventually be staple of our deck, but whether it settles as a 4-of or just a 1-of or gets cut completely will depend a lot on future testing and the way the metagame shapes up. For now, let’s keep trying to do cool stuff with it see where the saga of Lands takes us!
EDIT: as of February 2022, 3-4 Saga is effectively stock in almost all Lands builds. The most common targets are Expedition Map, Pyrite Spellbomb, Shadowspear, and Pithing Needle, more or less in that order. See these articles for recent lists.