The most broken environment of all time? Maybe, but that hasn’t stopped us from enjoying our trip through Urza’s Saga courtesy of its Theme Decks. It’s our final go, and I’ve the grim prospect of facing down The Plague ahead of me. With a Green/Red beats-n-burn deck, can I outrace the contagion Sam’s brewing up?
Earlier this year, we reviewed the Theme Decks of Tempest, the big set from the year before Urza’s Saga. In one of our reviews, we told the story of “Astral Ways,” a custom set designed by a gentleman by the name of Mike Elliot. As we related, Mike eventually was hired on by Wizards for R&D, and his Astral Ways set provided a great deal of grist for the creative mill at this time in the game’s development. It contained “astral” creatures which could not interact on the battlefield with “normal” creatures, which laid the foundation for shadow creatures like the Soltari Monk and Dauthi Marauder. It had a collection of creatures that shared their abilities with one another and great stronger the more you hand in play, which eventually became the Slivers. It also contained one additional mechanic we didn’t touch on in our retelling, a keyword called planeshift.
It’s our third clash of four for Urza’s Saga, and this time Sam’s back with Sleeper, a White Weenie variant that makes full use of a range of sleeping enchantments. I’m in with The Plague, which puts all of its eggs in a single Pestilential basket. Which deck will come out ahead?
Although we hinted at the failings in the block helmed by Urza’s Saga in our opening review of Tombstone, thus far we’ve focused mainly on the positives of the set. Although held up as a classic example of Melvinism (in other words, devoid of flavour), cycling was a successful mechanic that has returned throughout multiple sets (coming back in Onslaught and Alara blocks, as well as the obligatory reprint in Time Spiral). Echo is a mechanic that Mark Rosewater has stated will likely be seen again. Growing and sleeping enchantments have reappeared in various guises, and contributed to making the memorable Sleeper deck. But in spite of his, in a sense we’re just avoiding the elephant in the room, for Urza’s Saga introduced more than its fair share of problems, too.
After the previous lackluster playtest, Tombstone is something of a persona non grata in the house. Just as we take note of the strongest of decks, so do we of the opposite of the species, since every deck in essence gets a “home and away.” Sam bites the bullet and slides Tombstone out of its box, ready to do battle against the mono-White Sleeper.
If you looked carefully at our review of Tombstone, you might have noticed a tiny wee fib embedded in the review. Like the best fibs, the degree of veracity largely depended upon your perspective, but this was more of the kind of fib that’s more of an incomplete rendering of the truth rather than any factual inaccuracy. In the review, we called Urza’s Saga “something of an ‘enchantments matter’ set.”
If you’ve been with us throughout 2012, you may recall we’ve dubbed 2012 to be the “Year of Firsts,” covering events such as the first set with Theme Decks (Tempest) to the site’s first full Block review (Mirage)- itself a first as the first set to have digital-only Theme Decks designed for it. As it happened, things took an unpleasant turn as we tackled the sunlit world of Lorwyn. Although we had high hopes for the first ever set that contained five Theme Decks, it was not to be- the set overall failed to live up to expectations for a number of reasons. Today’s set finds itself notable for having accomplishment on both sides of the ledger- many successes, sure- but also some very grave failings.