UrzaTron, UrzaTron. As we mentioned last time, one of three decks that collectively make up a full third of the Modern metagame. Of course, being a competitive deck, it costs a fortune. It runs Karn Liberated, Grove of the Burnwillows, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and a fair number of mid-price cards like Oblivion Stone, Spellskite, Wurmcoil Engine, and Eye of Ugin besides. If that’s the support structure, the combo at the heart of the deck must be incomprehensibly expensive, right?
As was the case with Birthing Pod, no. The core combo is actually dirt cheap. If you’re fine with white borders, it can be yours for a grand total of $6.00.
Some variation or another on this deck has existed since Antiquities, and whatever the frills, it always amounts to the same thing:
- Generate tons of mana
- Cast cards that would normally be prohibitively mana-intensive
Now I don’t know if you all noticed, but it turns out Emrakul isn’t the only card that’s pretty powerful, but costs a lot of mana. When I was in high school, sometime around the McKinley administration, we used the UrzaTron lands to power a super-secret strategy, the intricacies of which can only be understood by the most shrewd and innovative Magic players.
Did you get it? I can walk you through it if you want.
That being said, we’re not gonna put red in our deck today. You don’t need me to tell you how to pop a Banefire in someone’s face. In fact, we’re going to leave the whole red-green archetype out of the column today. We’re not going to talk about mono-blue UrzaTron either… honestly, it’s pretty close to a budget deck as-is. Replace Remand with Delay or Mana Leak, get yourself a Mindslaver and an Academy Ruins, and you’re pretty much 80% of the way there.
So… what are we going to talk about? We’re only about a fifth of the way through the column, and we’re apparently not going to discuss either of the competitive versions of UrzaTron. Instead, we’re going to build an entirely new UrzaTron deck that’s not currently seeing play in Modern.
The way I see it, an UrzaTron deck needs two things to work: early-game disruption, so you can stay alive while you set up your lands, and a barrage of high-mana threats for once the lands are in place. Ideally, those threats will be versatile enough to serve as early- and mid-game nuisances, as well as late-game massive threats, depending on how much mana you have to power them.
And oh, hey, look at that. Now if only black had some options for early-game disruption.
You ever wonder why Cryptic Command is so expensive? It’s not because the world was clamoring for a four-mana counterspell with a cantrip. (If you don’t believe me, feel free to look up the price of Dismiss, see how it stacks up.) No, Cryptic Command is expensive because it’s a versatile card. It has a role to play in just about any situation where it’s drawn and can be cast. It does so many things that the odds of it being a dead draw are lower than any other card in your deck, even if none of the things it does are terribly powerful on their own. There aren’t a lot of tempo cards with three colored mana in the cost that see a lot of play; Cryptic Command makes it worth your while.
That’s the role Profane Command plays in this deck. 99% of the time we’ll be using the first three abilities, but that alone gives us spot removal for our opponent’s creatures, recursion for any creatures we lose along the way, and most importantly, a Fireball to hurl at your opponent’s face when your lands are online.
I might be mistaken, but I feel like I remember a time during Avacyn Restored spoilers when the Internet thought Killing Wave was going to be A Thing. Board sweepers in black always receive a little attention, and everyone had an eye on Killing Wave. Everyone was disappointed, of course, since Killing Wave failed to really catch on in any meaningful capacity.
The problem is, they were thinking about it wrong. Killing Wave doesn’t belong in the same category as, say, Damnation. Killing Wave is more comparable to Cruel Edict, or Tribute to Hunger. Played right, it will force your opponent into one or two sacrifices, and a little loss of life. They’ll keep their best creatures, of course… the only way Killing Wave could ever act as a full board wipe would be if you could somehow pump so much mana into it that it would be impossible for your opponent to keep all their creatures, because they simply won’t have enough life to spend.
Since generating lots of mana is pretty much this deck’s whole bag, you can see why this card might be of use to us.
Hythonia the Cruel
You heard me.
Every set has that one mythic with no apparent place in the metagame. The effect is powerful, but it’s too costly to ever see any use. So it hovers around a dollar or two just on the strength of rarity, and on the off chance that somebody might eventually build a really good Lorthos, the Tidemaker deck.
One day, Lorthos. One day.
Hythonia is shaping up to be that mythic in Theros. Sure, everybody would like a board wipe that leaves a seven-power creature on your side, but nobody wants to spend fourteen mana on it, even across two turns. (Especially across two turns, since an extra turn will give your opponent a chance to respond.)
As with Killing Wave, don’t think of Hythonia as a board wipe in and of herself. Hythonia is here as a semi-versatile threat. For six mana, you have a 4/6 deathtouch. If you have your lands online, the full threat comes out.
How to Play the Deck
The big mistake in running this deck would be to think of it in the same way as the existing UrzaTron decks. Red-green Tron runs like a red-green deck… it overpowers the opponent with as much speed as it can, tries to dump out lands as fast as possible, and swing out with giant creatures. Blue runs like a blue deck… it plays tempo cards to push the game back a turn at a time until it can lock down the board.
This deck is run as mono-black control. It doesn’t want three Urza lands on board by turn three. It wants a Swamp out first, so you can drop some turn-one disruption. It wants creature removal in hand for the turns that follow. It wants Urza lands online by mid-game, so it can start responding only after your opponent’s threats have been taken care of.
Now, as always, this is designed to be a budget deck. Accordingly, I don’t include any cards that cost more than $10 a pop. Whenever possible, I try to go even cheaper. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one card that would improve the deck exponentially.
The big problem you’ll run into with this deck is all those double-blacks in the mana costs. Thirteen lands out of twenty-four produce colorless mana, and Solemn Simulacrum can’t carry all the weight on its own. (That’s probably why it’s so solemn.) Urborg not only fixes that, it also opens the door to additional ramp cards like Crypt Ghast, Magus of the Coffers, or (if you’re feeling flush) Nirkana Revenant.
If you wanted to adapt this deck to a higher budget, you wouldn’t have to stop at Urborg. Colorless, cross-Urza threats like Wurmcoil Engine would improve your odds, as would color-specific control cards like Damnation or Thoughtseize. For today, however, we’re gonna take it as-is.
So what have we lost? A little speed and maneuverability. Red-green has Ancient Stirrings and Sylvan Scrying on its side. Blue has a full stable of counterspells and card advantage. Neither of these are losses to ignore.
What have we gained? Black has tutoring ability on its side. If you’ve got your lands online, and you’ve got an Increasing Ambition in your hand, you can just fill your hand with win conditions, which is nothing to sneeze at. But more importantly, it has relentless hand-disruption and creature removal. Modern is a creature-based game, and nothing eats creatures like black.