Urza block

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The Urza Block is a Magic: The Gathering block centered on the exploits of Urza Argive. It consists of the expansions Urza's Saga (October 1998, pair of gears), Urza's Legacy (February 1999, hammer) and Urza's Destiny (June 1999, Erlenmeyer Flask).[1][2]

Urza's Saga[edit]

Urza's Saga
Two gears
ReleasedOctober 1998
March 29, 2010 (MTGO)
Size350 cards (110 commons, 110 uncommons, 110 rares, 20 basic lands)
KeywordsEcho, Cycling
Mechanics"Free" spells, Sleeping and Growing Enchantments
DesignersMike Elliot (lead), Richard Garfield, Bill Rose, Mark Rosewater
DevelopersMike Elliot (lead), William Jockusch, Bill Rose, Mark Rosewater, Henry Stern, Beth Moursund
Development codeArmadillo
Expansion codeUSG
First set in the Urza block
Urza's Saga Urza's Legacy Urza's Destiny
Unglued Anthologies
Rath Block Masques Block

Set history (Urza's Saga)[edit]

Urza's Saga has a storyline and thematic feel that suggest an artifact-based set, although the set was originally designed to be an enchantment-themed block. According to Mark Rosewater the decision to make the storyline of the set a story about Urza was made only when the design of the set had advanced beyond the point where the mechanical focus of the set could be shifted.[3] Rosewater considers it to contain some of the most powerful artifacts (and artifact-related cards) ever released, with many cards now banned in tournament formats.[4]

Storyline (Urza's Saga)[edit]

The story of Urza's Saga and the later sets in the block are prequels to the former Tempest, Stronghold, and Exodus sets, explaining the aftermath of the Brothers' War as seen in the Antiquities expansion.

Whereas other sets have all five colors of cards referencing the same story, Urza's Saga has each of the five colors showing a different part of the storyline. Green cards detail the conflict on Argoth, which would lead to the events of the Ice Age expansion. Black cards reveal Urza's failed attack on the plane Phyrexia. White cards document Urza's period of recuperation in Serra's Realm. Blue cards explain Urza's founding of an academy on Tolaria and his temporal experiments. Red cards show Urza's alliance with Shiv.

Shiv, Phyrexia, Tolaria, and Serra's Realm are some of the most iconic settings in Magic: The Gathering. Most of the story of this set is written in the book Planeswalker, though the battle of Argoth is from the end of The Brothers' War and the founding of Tolaria and alliance with Shiv are found in Time Streams.

Mechanics (Urza's Saga)[edit]

Urza's Saga introduced the mechanics of cycling and echo. Cycling cards allow a player to discard that card and pay a mana cost to draw a new card, effectually replacing the card with a new one.[5] In Urza's Saga, the cost for cycling is always two colorless mana, but other costs were used when it appeared in subsequent blocks. Echo is a mechanic that requires the player to pay the casting cost for a permanent again on his/her next turn, or it must be sacrificed. Urza's Saga contained a number of "free" blue spells that allowed the player to untap the same number of lands as the card's converted mana cost upon resolution, freeing land for other use.[5]

Urza's Legacy[edit]

Urza's Legacy
Urza's Destiny common symbol
ReleasedFebruary 1999
June 21, 2010 (MTGO)
Size143 cards
(55 common,
44 uncommon,
44 rare)
KeywordsEcho, Cycling
Mechanics"Free" spells, Sleeping and Growing Enchantments
DesignersHenry Stern (lead)
DevelopersMike Elliott
William Jockusch
Bill Rose
Mark Rosewater
Development codeGuacamole
Expansion codeULG
Second set in the Urza block
Urza's Saga Urza's Legacy Urza's Destiny
Unglued 6th Edition (Classic)
Rath Block Masques Block

Set history (Urza's Legacy)[edit]

Urza's Legacy is the first set to feature premium cards also known as foil cards, inserted randomly into boosters and replacing the card normally found in that rarity slot.

Storyline (Urza's Legacy)[edit]

Urza's Legacy continues the prequel storyline started in Urza's Saga, following Urza's quest to fight Phyrexia's godlike master, Yawgmoth, and his plans to conquer his home world, Dominaria. After an attempt to manipulate time goes catastrophically wrong, Urza searches for more allies as he builds a skyship to lead the war against Phyrexia. While he is away, the people of his Tolarian Academy have to battle a Phyrexian infestation on the island itself. The story of this set is recounted in the book Time Streams.

Mechanics (Urza's Legacy)[edit]

Cycling and echo were expanded upon in Urza's Legacy, including with echo permanents that were non-creatures.

Urza's Destiny[edit]

Urza's Destiny
Urza's Destiny common symbol
ReleasedJune 23, 1999
Size143 cards (55 commons, 44 uncommons, 44 rares)
KeywordsEcho, Cycling
Mechanics"Cycling from play" creatures, "Reveal" mechanic, "Lobotomy" cards
DesignersMark Rosewater[6]
Development codeChimichanga
Expansion codeUDS
Third set in the Urza block
Urza's Saga Urza's Legacy Urza's Destiny
6th Edition Portal Three Kingdoms
Rath Block Masques Block

Set history (Urza's Destiny)[edit]

Urza's Destiny was the first Expert-level set to be printed under the then-new 6th Edition rules changes; the most notable change seen on cards is the text of creatures. Whereas a card like Llanowar Elves would be given "Summon Elf" in previous sets, it would now be given "Creature - Elf".

Storyline (Urza's Destiny)[edit]

With the skyship Weatherlight completed, Urza now works on a eugenics program to create a perfect crew for it, as well as engineering a race of soldiers to fight the Phyrexian invasion. One of his geneticists, Gatha, defects, and uses his knowledge to improve the Keldon race. Meanwhile, the Phyrexians create the plane of Rath as a staging ground for the invasion.

Mechanics (Urza's Destiny)[edit]

Urza's Destiny continued to expand on some of the mechanics introduced in Urza's Saga. It had a number of creatures and auras with abilities that trigger when put into a graveyard from the battlefield. There are also a number of permanents that can be sacrificed to draw a card, reminiscent of the cycling ability.

History and impact[edit]

Urza's block ushered in a new era of combo decks. The period of play after the release of Urza's Saga is often referred to as "Combo Winter" by both players and Wizards staff.[7] Standard and Urza Block constructed decks were so fast that they could often win before turn three. Several articles on the Wizards of the Coast website MagicTheGathering.com discuss various tournaments in which players would mulligan down to half their starting hand size just for the perfect initial hand. A ban on several of the set's most powerful cards followed. The joke of the era was that "the early game was the coin flip, the mid game was the mulligan, and the end game was the first turn."[8]

In all, The Urza block has had more cards banned from tournament play than any other block. Over the course of the block's history, 16 different cards have at one point been banned in at least one DCI sanctioned format, nine of which debuted in Urza's Saga (Stroke of Genius, Time Spiral, Windfall, Yawgmoth's Will, Goblin Lackey, Voltaic Key, Gaea's Cradle, Serra's Sanctum, and Tolarian Academy).[9][10]

Notable cards[edit]

Notable cards from Urza's Saga included Gaea's Cradle, Goblin Lackey, Morphling, Show and Tell, Tolarian Academy, and Yawgmoth's Will.

Memory Jar is a notable card from Urza's Legacy, in part because it was one of the cards banned the fastest.[11] One notable card from Urza's Destiny is Yawgmoth's Bargain.


Urza's Saga won the 1998 Origins Award as "Best Card Game Expansion or Supplement".[12][13]


  1. ^ Miller, John Jackson (2001), Scrye Collectible Card Game Checklist & Price Guide, p. 520.
  2. ^ Moursund, Beth (2002), The Complete Encyclopedia of Magic The Gathering, p. 720.
  3. ^ Rosewater, Mark (October 24, 2003). "Ask Wizards - October, 2003". dailymtg.com. Retrieved August 6, 2012.
  4. ^ Rosewater, Mark (November 10, 2003). "Make no mistake". dailymtg.com. Retrieved August 6, 2012.
  5. ^ a b New Features of Urza's Saga by MTG.com, Official Rulings
  6. ^ Rosewater, Mark (February 23, 2009). "Cycling Round the Track". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  7. ^ Tocher, John (2003). "The Last Days of Combo Winter". The Sideboard. Retrieved August 6, 2012.
  8. ^ Rosewater, Mark (July 26, 2004). "On Tour Part 1". dailymtg.com. Retrieved August 6, 2012.
  9. ^ "Banned / Restricted Lists for DCI-Sanctioned Magic: The Gathering Tournaments". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
  10. ^ "Banned and Restricted List". January 3, 2005. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
  11. ^ Buehler, Randy (November 14, 2003). "Extended Thoughts". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  12. ^ "Origins Awards". boardgamegeek. 1998. Retrieved August 6, 2012.
  13. ^ "Origins Award Winners (1998)". Academy of Adventure Gaming, Arts & Designs. Archived from the original on October 31, 2007.

External links[edit]