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Upgrading the Urza's Iron Alliance Commander Deck


It's been a while now since the last time I tackled some preconstructed deck upgrades! Dominaria United came out roughly three months ago and the last set of deck improvements came shortly after. Now we're about a month removed from the release of The Brothers' War and following discussions of some awesome legends, Pauper, and some other oddities, it's finally time I dug right in and talked about the incredible precons for the set!

Both of this set's preconstructed decks go so perfectly after my old school player heart. Having been playing nearly a quarter of a century, getting a deck fully in the retro frame just rules. What's more, it features Urza at the height of the Brothers' War conflict. I know that might not appeal to everyone, but it's a love letter to those, like myself, who have stuck with the game for decades and I love it.

With every single card being in the retro frame, I wanted to do a neat twist on the usual upgrade style. Rather than just upgrade the deck with cards from the entire history of Magic, I instead wanted to put my focus on the deck's most notable feature: the retro frame. That means focusing on the releases that specifically utilize that particular frame. That includes the first ten years of the game, but also sets like Time Spiral Remastered, Modern Horizons 2, and The Brothers' War retro frame artifacts subset. There're probably a few promos and obviously the now-released Dominaria Remastered previews that dropped after prepping my lists and the majority of this article (so you won't see any in this one, but probably in Mishra).

Before we check out upgrades, we must look at the original preconstructed list. Let's have a look!

Urza's Iron Alliance Precon | Commander | Wizards of the Coast

Card Display

Okay, so, my early verdict? This deck absolutely rules. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Esper artifact decks. Sharuum the Hegemon is one of my favorite decks of all time, and I've been playing it for well over a decade by now. This deck hits several of the same notes, though it's much more aggressive than combo-control like mine. There're so many great all-timers in here, though. Not only does Sharuum herself make an appearance, but you also get some of my favorites like Tempered Steel, Steel Overseer, Master of Etherium, and Sai, Master Thopterist.

Sharuum the Hegemon
Tempered Steel
Marionette Master

This is the kind of deck I'd absolutely pick up and play if I wanted to get away from my usual Sharuum strategy and play a different take on Esper Artifacts. Thanks to the face card, this deck handily brings the beats. Turn after turn you'll be spitting out tons of tokens with Urza himself, but he's not the only one making tokens. Thopter Shop, Thopter Spy Network, Sharding Sphinx, and Sai, Master Thopterist will all be creating an endless slew of thopters to throw at your opponents' faces. Alela, Artful Provocateur also makes no shortage of faeries for all the artifacts you cast, and she pumps your thopters in the process.

Combine all of this with a bevy of support cards in various functions, and you've got an outstanding preconstructed deck. Many of these cards may not be worth that much, that's true, but I think the deck as a whole puts together and plays a tremendously fun experience. Regardless of whether or not the value is there, if it gives me tons of fun with my friends, that's all I really want at the end of the day. This deck does that in spades, and it's beautiful to behold.

We've looked at what the deck has to offer and provided a brief overview about what the goal is. Now let's dive into the depths of the game and pull some additional retro frame cards to put in here and upgrade this deck!

Urza's Iron Alliance Revamped | Commander | Paige Smith

Card Display

When working on upgrading this list, I narrowed my card pool to pull from down to the sets that actually utilize retro frame cards. In total, I pulled a little over 50 cards. Some were clearly better than others, others I pulled in because I thought they were neat and to see what synergies we could get out of them (Soulherder, for example). It was fairly difficult to make a lot of the cuts for this deck. At times it felt like pulling teeth, because the deck felt so great out of the box but there were so many other awesome cards that could easily fit in here.

For example, Generous Gift was cut when the deck already was utilizing Vindicate and I added in Banishing Light, which takes something out but doesn't give anything back. Aven Mindcensor could stop deck searching shenanigans and Phyrexian Revoker could shut down specific abilities. Greed, Opportunity, Shadowmage Infiltrator, and so on could easily provide heavier card draw, but then when you see cards like Thopter Spy Network and Thopter Shop, you wonder why you need that much card draw. I even thought about putting in Karn, Silver Golem when I normally try avoiding reserved list cards in my lists because he seemed to fit both thematically and works well with artifacts. Well, when most of the artifacts are already creatures, he's not so good.

Thopter Shop
Wreck Hunter
Bronze Guardian

Similarly, a lot of the existing cards rule as well. Scholar of New Horizons, Sanwell, Avenger Ace, Wreck Hunter, Wire Surgeons, and Bronze Guardian - each of these is an awesome new card, but doesn't fit my personal preferences. Scholar of New Horizons feels extra weak in a deck with so few Plains, and Wreck Hunter is a little too reliant on a lot of stuff dying which feels highly variance-prone. Throwing in a Weathered Wayfarer helps a lot and gets you a richer variety of lands to pull from in the process. I also don't care for using the encore effect on Wire Surgeons when you could just keep getting your creatures back with something like Hanna, Ship's Navigator.

I like Sanwell, Avenger Ace well enough, but he just feels a little weak on his own. The deck features a solid number of artifact creatures, but the fact you don't put it into your hand and rather have to cast it then and there feels limiting. Similarly, Kayla's Music Box feels tremendously risky in a deck filled with card draw effects, as if the Music Box goes, so too do all the cards exiled. Bronze Guardian is a solid beater that gives your creatures protection, but Indomitable Archangel is already there (and, frankly, you can just slip in Padeem from the Mishra precon if you really want more of the effect). Lastly, I know Hexavus is meant to be a cool throwback to Tetravus and Pentavus, but really, there's no way to manipulate the counters here, so I'd honestly just rather play straight up Levitation instead.

Some other great cards I included are classics. Counterspell, Demonic Tutor, and Wrath of God felt obligatory, and if you don't want to drop the cash on a Tutor, just grab a Diabolic Tutor instead. Damn also works well as an extra wrath, but doubles as some spectacular spot removal. Devout Witness is an outstanding multi-removal spell, especially if you just discard artifacts to get back with something like Hanna, Ship's Navigator or the all-time classic Karmic Guide. Palace Jailer provides not only great removal, but keeps the game going with attacking and card draw. Even if an opponent can steal the monarch from you, you're usually spewing so many tokens it's not hard to take it right back.

Hanna, Ship's Navigator
Ertai, the Corrupted

Speaking of tokens, I've also added in a couple of powerful ways to utilize them in glorious fashion. You may or may not be familiar with this little card called Opposition. It's an incredibly powerful card and can be an absolute house in Cubes. It's less great in Commander when you have four players to contend with, but when you make as many tokens as this deck does, it's not hard to start tapping things down left and right. It's also flavorful as it features Urza himself, and speaking of, you can also use your tokens to fuel Urza, Lord High Artificer's Mind's Desire effect. Finally, while I tried to keep as few Phyrexian cards as possible out of this list for flavor reasons, I couldn't resist putting in Ertai, the Corrupted. Sacrificing creatures is trivial when you're making Thopter and Construct tokens turn after turn, and being able to repeatedly counter spells is more than worth it.

Ultimately, what I like about this is that a lot of these cards going in are small upgrades, and more importantly that actually cutting cards from the original precon was exceptionally difficult. What that shows to me is just the outstanding level of quality a deck like this provides. There's some great upgrade options out there for however you like to play your artifact aggro deck, and there's even more fantastic options if you eschew the retro frame too (Anointed Procession, anyone?). Regardless of how you build it and rework it, though, I highly recommend that you pick up Urza's Iron Alliance and take it for a spin. No matter what you do with it, you're absolutely going to have a great time playing with it at your next Commander night.

I'll be back in two weeks to cover the Mishra precon as well! Why the break? Well Dominaria Remastered is coming out and we've already seen there's a couple common downshifts, so I'm going to take a breather to talk Pauper for a moment instead. Don't worry, though. I'll be back with the equally awesome Mishra's Burnished Banner soon enough, so stay tuned!

Paige Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

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