Modern Horizons 2 has now officially released in paper and stores are returning to in-person events. I played in an FNM last week and was excited to play stock Burn just to have a return to normalcy. It didn't go well and I wouldn't recommend the deck, but win or lose I was happy. It was great seeing some old faces and I can't wait to go again.
Besides the topical difference of playing with a face mask, the tournament was run on an app called Companion. I could get pairings and even report using my phone which made the event run smoothly. More tournaments should use this app or a derivative in the future.
Since FNM was Modern, many of the players were familiar with the format's top streamers: D00mwake, Aspiringspike, and Kanister. They have had a significant effect on the metagame as they brew new takes on top strategies and play well. This may change how quickly the Modern format shifts in the future. A lot has changed since we last played paper Magic.
The format continues to evolve as we get comfortable with Modern Horizons 2 and we still have some time before the format narrows to a few decks. Today, I want to discuss a new pillar of the format that has me the most excited: Urza's Saga.
I decided to focus on Urza's Saga because my RIW teammate, Connon Mullaly, is playing a Team Unified Modern event next month. We were discussing what decks we liked, but needed to mind any card overlap.
We're both excited to play Urza's Saga, but there are plenty of ways to build as the card actually asks very little of you to be powerful.
I still like Stoneblade decks, but I want to broaden my horizons. Jeskai and Esper Stoneblade are lower to the ground compared to Azorius, which is important when Urza's Saga decks end the game quickly.
Amulet Titan is one of the strongest strategies to utilize Urza's Saga as creating constructs is very different from your Plan A of slamming a Primeval Titan. At the same time, adding a tutor for Amulet of Vigor raises the ceiling and floor on the average draw.
Here's a straightforward list piloted to a 3-1 finish by Monizo801.
Amulet Titan | Modern | Monizo801
- Creatures (11)
- 1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
- 2 Arboreal Grazer
- 4 Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
- 4 Primeval Titan
- Instants (4)
- 4 Summoner's Pact
- Lands (34)
- 4 Forest
- 1 Boros Garrison
- 1 Breeding Pool
- 1 Cavern of Souls
- 1 Golgari Rot Farm
- 1 Gruul Turf
- 1 Radiant Fountain
- 1 Slayers' Stronghold
- 1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
- 1 Vesuva
- 2 Misty Rainforest
- 2 Tolaria West
- 2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
- 3 Selesnya Sanctuary
- 4 Castle Garenbrig
- 4 Simic Growth Chamber
- 4 Urza's Saga
While this isn't a deck I would pick up cold, it's extremely rewarding to dedicate time to mastering the strategy. If I was playing a team Modern event, I would want a Titan expert on my side. I plan on watching streams from Kanister and Xwhale, aka Will Krueger, to learn the lines.
In general, I have found early Saga players running out their enchantment land too early. They have an idea of making a construct on the third turn, but ultimately decide to cast a spell from hand instead. Most Saga decks want to play the enchantment land later in the game because losing a land in the mid-game can be costly.
Amulet Titan takes advantage of Urza's Saga because it's perfectly reasonable to play it early; fetching Amulet of Vigor as soon as possible leads to broken turns with Primeval Titan. The triggers generate additional mana with more copies of Amulet on the battlefield; the more the merrier.
Red decks have picked up in popularity thanks to Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer. Early iterations of Amulet Titan featured Sakura-Tribe Scout as players shelved their Lava Darts in Izzet Prowess. Not only does Arboreal Grazer's 0/3 body generate an extra land drop immediately, but the 0/3 blocking a 2/1 Ragavan is very relevant. As long as Red is popular, I would hold on playing Sakura-Tribe Scout.
Another consideration in the current metagame is an increase of Blood Moon effects thanks to them immediately killing Urza's Saga. Dryad of the Ilysian Grove keeps your non-basic lands adding all five colors of mana if it enters the battlefield after the Moon is in play so there are reasons to slow-roll it.
Note the small tutor package in the maindeck of Amulet Titan because the archetype isn't interested in a large amount of artifacts on the battlefield outside of games with construct tokens. Most of the time, Amulet of Vigor is the correct target, so don't get cute. I'm not sold on Expedition Map, but some Amulet pilots swear by it. The upside is fetching Cavern of Souls against Blue, Urza's Saga to grind, and bounce lands to be linear.
Abundant Harvest is making waves in Titan recently. I have a feeling in the next few months we will see more Green decks playing a set of this powerful cantrip.
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and other Eldrazi that shuffle your graveyard into the library are seeing play due to an uptick in mill. If your deck is on the slower side or requires specific cards from your deck to win, I would consider one in the board.
The rest of the deck is fairly similar to previous iterations. A set as powerful as Modern Horizons 2 has the power to invalidate older decks due to the rest of the format increasing in strength. I felt this as I played Burn last FNM; there were a large amount of cheap spells being cast to keep up with the speed of Goblin Guide. Amulet Titan is here to stay and is a good choice.
The other front-runner to take advantage of Urza's Saga is combining some of the strongest standalone cards into the food shell. Urza, Lord High Artificer is a redundant way to create constructs next to Urza's Saga which makes it the perfect strategy to create arbitrary artifacts.
Here's a list from Neravius that 5-0ed a Magic Online League that was created by D00mwake.
Asmo-Urza | Modern | D00mwake, 5-0 MTGO Modern League
- Creatures (25)
- 3 Ovalchase Daredevil
- 3 Street Wraith
- 3 Urza, Lord High Artificer
- 4 Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar
- 4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
- 4 Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer
- 4 Thought Monitor
- Instants (2)
- 2 Galvanic Blast
- Artifacts (13)
- 1 Aether Spellbomb
- 1 Pyrite Spellbomb
- 3 Mox Amber
- 4 Mishra's Bauble
- 4 The Underworld Cookbook
- Lands (20)
- 1 Mountain
- 2 Island
- 2 Flooded Strand
- 3 Steam Vents
- 4 Scalding Tarn
- 4 Spirebluff Canal
- 4 Urza's Saga
D00mwake went on a tear with this deck last week and has plenty of videos covering his journey to 5-0ing multiple leagues. It didn't seem to matter what the supporting cast of cards were as long as Asmo, The Underworld Cookbook, and Urza's Saga were involved.
I like this version in particular because it plays to my strength of being a goodstuff deck. The opponent can sideboard in Rest in Peace to fight Ovalchase Daredevil making a food each turn combined with The Underworld Cookbook, but Urza's Saga and Urza don't care about the graveyard.
There are plenty of hatebears such as Kataki, War's Wage and Collector Ouphe to hate out artifacts, but Asmo is able to make creatures deal six damage to themselves by sacrificing two food. Six damage is a lot more than five as it's able to take down Primeval Titan and there aren't currently many Reality Smashers thrashing around. Remember the opponent will gain life if you target a creature with lifelink because the creature is the one dealing damage to itself.
Ragavan is the primary reason to play Red. Treasures play a similar role as food in this deck; random artifacts play well with Urza and his Saga. Ragavan is also a legend which means Mox Amber is able to more reliably generate mana.
The main downside of Ragavan in this deck is it can be hard to pave the way for the monkey to damage the opponent. I would be interested in playing three copies.
Red is a good color to pair with Blue because Asmo requires Black or Red mana. Three colors is tempting, as Teferi, Time Raveler leaning into Jeskai would provide additional legends for Mox Amber, but I would advise against it. If you think of Urza's Saga as a third color you will realize Izzet Asmo was a three-color deck all along.
Even though Asmo doesn't have a mana cost it's still a Red and Black legend to enable Mox Amber. It can be targeted by Aether Gust, stolen by Archmage's Charm, and destroyed by Engineered Explosives X=0.
It's also tempting to play the Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek combo as a Dimir Base to go alongside Asmo, but I would also advise against that. It takes a lot of work to go infinite with Urza and a combo kill's main draw is to win games against fast, uninteractive decks. If you want to play a combo I would go with Underworld Breach, Grinding Station, and Thassa's Oracle.
Since the Asmo-Urza shell is interested in having a lot of artifacts on the battlefield it's reasonable to play more tutor targets in the maindeck. We don't have a single artifact strong enough to win the game like Amulet of Vigor; the default is The Underworld Cookbook as it enables Asmo to be cast.
Most versions of this deck don't maindeck Pithing Needle, but it could be a consideration. Since Needle names a card as it enters the battlefield once it's selected by Urza's Saga the opponent doesn't have a chance to respond. This can trick unsuspecting opponents with fetch lands or Aether Vials on the battlefield.
Soul-Guide Lantern can be a maindeck way to interact with an opponent's graveyard that can cycle. It plays similar to Mishra's Bauble with Emry, Lurker of the Loch as a way to draw an extra card each turn.
Metallic Rebuke is the default counter in the sideboard as there are many artifacts to convoke. There are times you need to make inorganic plays to keep the resources up, so Kanister has tried fitting Counterspell into the deck as it plays well with Urza, Lord High Artificer. I'm not sold on Metallic Rebuke, but it might be a necessary evil.
Note the large amount of Aether Gust in the sideboard. This is to interact with Primeval Titan and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove without being thwarted by Cavern of Souls or a surprise Veil of Summer. I have noticed Veil's stock is currently low, but this may not last forever.
Since this version is Izzet there isn't room for Wear // Tear or Prismatic Ending to remove Stony Silence and other pesky permanents. I'm very high on Wear // Tear in general as it can destroy Urza's Saga for a single mana and another two mana can interact with a construct as well.
Hurkyl's Recall is a testament to the power of mirror match and other food derivatives. Expect to face the mirror and be ready for haymakers like this in post board games. Recall is a great way to win games you fall behind against massive constructs. This is a helpful card in the board because Golgari Food decks are more linear and powerful; hate cards are required to keep them in check.
There are still improvements to be made to this archetype, but artifacts are back on the menu in Modern and it will be important to stand up to the hate.
So far Urza's Saga is not strong enough to warrant a ban. Modern Horizons 2 has plenty of powerful cards to try. The last three weeks featured the hive mind learning about the strength of new blockbusters: Urza's Saga followed by Asmo followed by Ragavan. We're currently in an adjustment period so it's too early to call where the format settles.
I'm sure we all know at least one person who was devastated by the Mox Opal ban in Modern so it's a big win for them to have decks to get excited about. I'm not sure Affinity will be tier 1 as it was in the past, but it's certainly strong enough to take down an event. Hardened Scales and Lantern Control also provide a niche that has been reborn.
That's all I have for today. Modern is very exciting and I'm happy to be back to in-person events. I have more ideas for decks to play than I do actual tournaments and that's a good place to be.
Thanks for reading!