Urza’s Saga: Special Delivery Review (Part 2 of 2)
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?
Sam’s on the play for the opener, and begins with a Swamp. I play a Mountain, then tap it for a Goblin Patrol. Next turn, Sam lays down a Wall of Junk. I pay the Patrol’s echo durning my upkeep, then swing in for 2 with it to put Sam at 18. I then play a Hidden Spider and pass.
Now turn 3, Sam brings out a Rune of Protection: Black. I play a Shivan Raptor, attacking alongside my Patrol for 5. Sam blocks the Raptor with the Wall, which returns to her hand, but takes the 2 off the Patrol. Next turn, she replays the Wall of Junk, then adds a second one for good measure. For my part, most of my mana goes to paying the echo on the Raptor, and we repeat my last attack to leave Sam at 14 and with one Wall back in hand.
Sam replays the Wall of Junk on turn 5, then passes. I swing for 5, and this time Sam blocks both. Next turn she simply replays them, but I get in again when I add a Thundering Giant to the board. Sam’s Walls soak up 7 (the Giant and the Raptor), but the Patrol slips past for 2 more damage. At the end of my turn, she then Disenchants the Hidden Spider.
Now turn 7, Sam resummons a Wall, then adds a Voice of Grace alongside it. I cast Arc Lightning to kill the Angel, using the last point for Sam herself. I swing in again for 9, and Sam blocks the Giant with the remaining Wall. This cuts her in half, leaving her at 6 life. She looks to buy more time next turn by replaying both Walls. I attack with my trio of beaters, with Sam blocking the Giant and Raptor again. Left at 4 life, I then burn her out with an Arc Lightning and Shower of Sparks.
Our second match gets off to a ridiculously slow start, with Sam’s turn-4 Voice of Grace the opening play. We’ve both hit our land drops, though alarmingly I’ve found nothing but Forests, playing my fourth on turn 4. Next turn, Sam opens the attacking with a 2-point swing from her Angel, while I cycle a Slippery Karst to draw… a Forest.
Now turn 6, Sam attacks in for 2 more before playing an Opal Acrolith. I play yet another Forest. Sam follows with a Polluted Mire and another 2-point chop in the air, leaving me at 14. I cycle a Wild Dogs and pass.
Sam looks to put a merciful end to the game with a turn-8 Pestilence, then attacks for 2 with the Voice of Grace. Back to me, I finally find a Mountain and play it, letting me Arc Lightning out Sam’s Angel and throw the last point onto Sam. Realising she’s about to lose her Pestilence as there are no other creatures in play, she then triggers it with her last open Black mana. This puts her down to 18, with me at 11. Back to her, she next summons an Unworthy Dead, while I deploy a Torch Song.
Sam’s turn-10 Urza’s Armor promises her a brilliant combo if she can find another Pestilence. She then sends in the Dead for a point of damage. Over to me, I first Arc Lightning her Dead for 1, throwing the other 2 at her directly. Sam regenerates the Dead with her last Black mana source, so when I next play Wildfire the Dead have no chance of recovery. The Wildfire scours our manabases, but leaves me ahead- Sam’s down to three land, I’ve got five. Whatever plans Sam had for her turn are dashed, she draws a card and passes. Back to me, I then summon a Thundering Giant, waking up Sam’s Opel Acrolith. She uses it to block the Giant’s attack, turning it back into an enchantment to keep it alive.
It’s now turn 12, and Sam’s turn passes without incident. I attack in again with the Giant, but this time it gets Expunged. I then replace it with an Anaconda, whose swampwalk is just what the doctor ordered. This again wakes Sam’s sleeper enchantment, but seems worth it since I can get past her defense. Sam, however, has other ideas, as she sticks a Pariah on the Anaconda. Back to me, I send in the Anaconda to attack, which simply sees it kill itself as its 3 damage is redirected back to itself. I then summon an Acridian.
Sam manages to find a third Pestilence on turn 14, playing it immediately. Back to me, I refuse the echo on the Acridian, letting it instead be sacrificed. I then target her Acrolith with a 4-point Heat Ray. It’s a dreadful waste all around, but I do accomplish the goal of removing all creatures from the board- killing Sam’s Pestilence. Chagrined, she plays a Voice of Grace and passes. This time, it’s my turn for a blank.
Now turn 16, Sam attacks in with the Voice. She then Disenchants my ever-growing Torch Song, forcing me to pop it. Though it pains me to do so, I use it to kill off the Angel for 6. I then play a Goblin War Buggy (waking the Acrolith), then slap a Shiv’s Embrace on it to let it swing in for 4. Sam simply Humbles it, then blocks it with the Acrolith to kill it. It’s a backbreaking play, but I don’t have long to suffer- Sam finishes me off with a nice, fat Corrupt.
I open my account for our final match with a Pouncing Jaguar, while Sam simply plays a Polluted Mire. I then pay the Jaguar’s echo, then attack in for 2. Sam simply plays an Unworthy Dead.
Now turn 3, I get in one more shot with the Jaguar before its main purpose becomes tying up one of Sam’s Swamps. To my surprise, Sam swings in with the Dead for a point of damage, but then plugs the hole in her defense with a Wall of Junk. Next turn I swing in for 2 to force Sam’s hand, but she clearly has a change of mind and lets it pass to go down to 14. She then fires back with the Dead for another scratch before unloading a Pestilence.
I go in again with the Jaguar for 2 on turn 5, but have nothing else. Sam counterattacks with the Dead for 1. Back to me, I send in the Jaguar again for 2 and this time Sam triggers her Pestilence twice to kill it off, now having enough mana to regenerate the Dead twice to survive it. We both drop 2 points in life, then I summon an Argothian Wurm. Clearly confident in having an answer, Sam lets it resolve. Her next turn is a blank.
Now turn 7, I swing with the Wurm for 6. Sam Humbles it, then looks to block with her Dead- an unworthy end to my mighty Wurm! Instead, I Heat Ray the Dead to kill it, and while Sam is able to regenerate it the fact that it’s removed from combat means my Wurm survives the exchange. Back to Sam, she returns fire for 1 with the Dead and passes, leaving me at 14. Next turn I attack in again with the Wurm, and this time Sam simply Expunges it. I play a Cradle Guard and pass. For her part, Sam summons a Voice of Grace.
After paying the echo on the Cradle Guard to begin turn 9, I swing in for 4 with it. Sam opts to block with the Wall of Junk. She then counterattacks with the Voice of Grace before adding Urza’s Armor, and with that the game is effectively over. Next turn I play a Goblin War Buggy, then attack with it and the Guard. Sam blocks the Buggy, taking 4 from the Guard (reduced to 3 thanks to the Armor). Down to 7 life, she sends in her Angel to put me to 10 then resummons the Wall of Junk.
I send in the troops on turn 11, and Sam simply Pestilences to wipe the board, even her Dead. That puts me at 6, and there’s nothing I can do to stop her from killing me with it next turn. I concede the game.
Thoughts & Anaysis
Urza’s Saga has proven a most delightful review for us, with a couple of surprises fittingly in store from the most broken set in the history of the game. Although we were initially disappointed by the poorly-constructed Tombstone, standout hits Sleeper and The Plague have more than ensured a memorable visit. We’re already looking forward to the next set of decks sometime down the road when we circle back around again for Urza’s Legacy, and that’s the sign of a successful preconstructed environment.
Special Delivery occupies something of a middle ground when put into this context. The echo mechanic was a novel twist on the archetype, but at the end of the day the deck itself is a fairly generic Green beats/Red burn construction. That said, the way echo plays out does force you to plan ahead a bit more than you otherwise might, since each echo creature is in actual fact a two-turn commitment. Much of the intricacy of the deck was in trying to anticipate when I’d need to bring my burn on-line, and making sure I didn’t hinder myself too much with echo payments.
As a whole, the deck felt steady and reliable, but in a rather unsexy, workhose-like way. Both cycling and echo are rather pedestrian mechanics as far as flavour goes. For all its faults in actual execution, the strategy at the heart of Tombstone was particularly clever: cycle away some big creatures early to reanimate them back. Special Delivery has no such flair or flourish.
Of the four Urza’s Saga decks, Special Delivery seems to be the one most capable of burst-damage starts. Consider an opening Pouncing Jaguar, second-turn Goblin Patrol, and third-turn Goblin War Buggy, putting your opponent down to 12 life by their third turn provided they’ve found no blockers. Playing nothing else, that’s a turn-5 kill, and the splendid burn package the deck offers gives you some ability to see this through either by removing blockers or simply finishing off your opponent.
Overall, a middle-of-the-road deck that has its moments, and a fun twist on the stock archetype for fans of the beats-n-burn build. Special mention must also go to Wildfire, for giving you the chance to play massive, game-changing, back-breaking effects not often found in preconstructed Magic.
Hits: Echo gives the deck an opportunity for quick, aggressive starts, and lets it operate on less mana; as a result, somewhat more resistant to mana screw; Wildfire a fantastic inclusion
Misses: Doesn’t really add a lot to the stock archetype, though a case might be made that as only the second-ever Red/Green precon (following Stronghold’s The Spikes), it was more of a precursor than a follower; somewhat pedestrian gameplay, particularly in comparison to its set-mates
OVERALL SCORE: 4.05/5.00