9th Place at Modern GP Columbus with Sultai Urza Midrange

Allen Wu

Allen Wu

Introduction

Urza, Lord High Artificer

A couple weeks ago, I finished 12-3 at GP Columbus with my own take on Urza midrange in Modern. That record was good for 9th place on tiebreakers, which is always a bit disappointing. At the same time, I took my third loss early, in round 11, so it was fortunate that I was even in contention in the last round.

In this article, I’d like to discuss where and why I deviated from the decklist that Team Lotus Box has been dominating the SCG and PTQ circuits with, give a brief tournament report, and offer some sideboarding and play advice.

Decklist

This is the Urza list that Zan Syed, Jeremy Bertarioni, Collins Mullen, and Edgar Malgahaes piloted to the top 8 of SCG Atlanta 2019.

Emry, Lurker of the LochGilded GooseArcum's Astrolabe

Watching the Urza deck on coverage, it was clear to me that it was the most powerful deck in the format. Because of 《Emry, Lurker of the Loch》, 《Gilded Goose》, and 《Arcum’s Astrolabe》, the Urza deck has most of the explosiveness of the traditional 《Mox Opal》 decks but none of the compromises. Instead of 《Ornithopter》s or 《Terrarion》s, it just plays good cards.

Oko, Thief of CrownsMystic Sanctuary

《Oko, Thief of Crowns》 and 《Mystic Sanctuary》 further shore up midrange decks’ traditional weaknesses in Modern. It’s hard to flood when your fifth land comes with a 《Mystical Tutor》, and Oko turns your extra 《Mox Opal》s into 3/3 hastes.

Cryptic CommandWhir of Invention

However, I felt like the deck didn’t fully take advantage of 《Mystic Sanctuary》. The only targets in Team Lotus Box’s list were 《Cryptic Command》 and 《Whir of Invention》, the latter of which only searches for the Thopter-Sword combo. While those targets are strong, 《Mystic Sanctuary》 gets a lot more powerful when you have access a diverse assortment of costs and effects. And despite all the fast mana in this deck, 3 《Cryptic Command》s is just an excessive number of 《Cryptic Command》s for Modern.

Thopter FoundrySword of the Meek

The Thopter-Sword combo also didn’t seem worth its vulnerability to both artifact and graveyard hate. The deck can get some natural mileage out of 《Thopter Foundry》 via 《Arcum’s Astrolabe》s and 《Mox Opal》s, but otherwise Whir, 《Thopter Foundry》, and 《Sword of the Meek》 are actively bad in isolation. And even the full combo is only okay without 《Urza, Lord High Artificer》 to make it infinite.

In all, I made the following changes:

I wanted to slim the deck down and make it more interactive, with the aims of making the deck more resilient to hate cards and of improving the Grixis Shadow and creature combo matchups (eg. Infect, Burn, and 《Devoted Druid》).

Snow-Covered Swamp

I also added a land, as I pretty much always do. Although it’s bad with 《Mystic Sanctuary》, I felt like not playing with 《Snow-Covered Swamp》 was just too greedy. Having the 《Snow-Covered Swamp》 makes it much harder for decks with 《Field of Ruin》 to take the deck off of black mana and being able to fetch for black mana without taking additional damage can be invaluable against Burn and Shadow (Being able to fetch for both 《Snow-Covered Forest》 and 《Snow-Covered Swamp》 actually came up against Brandon Burton, alias sandydogmtg. He was on Burn, as always. I stabilized game 3 in my match against him at 1 life and would have certainly lost if I’d needed to fetch for 《Watery Grave》 or 《Breeding Pool》).

Emry, Lurker of the Loch

The change I was most uncertain of was cutting the 4th Emry. However, in this build of the deck, Emry is primarily a 2-card combo with 《Mishra’s Bauble》. And while a 1-mana 《Archivist》 is absurd, I didn’t feel like the upside was worth the downside of 《Norwood Ranger》.

Because I essentially moved the sideboard to the maindeck, these changes also opened up a bunch of sideboard space. I used it to get some additional percentage in the mirror and against Grixis Shadow (With incidental gains against control, Tron, and Dredge).

In the end, I submitted this decklist for GP Columbus.

Grand Prix Columbus

I mostly attended GP Columbus to hang out with my friend Jake Koenig, who’s doing his PhD at Ohio, so I wasn’t that invested in the tournament. That said, I still had a lot of fun.

Shrieking AfflictionGraf HarvestVitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree

My favorite memory from the weekend was playing Mental Magic with Ari Zax’s Grixis Death’s Shadow deck. If you haven’t tried the format, I highly recommend it. It’s the complete opposite of normal Mental Magic, where both players have access to all the card draw and interaction that’s ever been printed. Everything in Grixis Shadow costs 1 black or 1 blue, so you have to get real scrappy to answer permanents like 《Shrieking Affliction》, 《Graf Harvest》, and 《Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree》. We played with the Legacy cardpool and 《Yixlid Jailer》 in play.

If you find yourself in Columbus, I highly recommend The Eagle, Jenni’s Ice Cream, Hubert’s Polish Kitchen, and Jake’s scrambled eggs. I would not recommend Drunch.

As for the tournament itself, I played against the following matchups.

Round Against Result
Round 1-3 Bye
Round 4 Elves 2-0
Round 5 Tron 0-2
Round 6 Affinity 2-0
Round 7 Mirror with Whir and 《Goblin Engineer》 2-0
Round 8 Burn 2-0
Round 9 Grixis Shadow 1-2
Round 10 Eldrazi Tron 2-0
Round 11 Sultai Shadow 1-2
Round 12 Burn 2-1
Round 13 Azorius Control 2-0
Round 14 5C Niv with 《Utopia Sprawl》 2-0
Round 15 Bant Control 2-1

I punted games in 2 of my 3 losses due to unfamiliarity with the deck, which was just desserts for trenches testing.

Mystic Sanctuary

Against Tron, I found a line where I could fetch for 《Mystic Sanctuary》, put Cryptic back on top, cast Urza, crack Bauble, and draw the Cryptic on my opponent’s upkeep with exactly enough mana to cast it. But then I just forgot to put the Cryptic back on top before putting Urza on the stack, missing the trigger.

Engineered ExplosivesThoughtseize

Against Sultai Shadow, I shaved an 《Engineered Explosives》 because that was my plan against Grixis Shadow, where Explosives and 《Fatal Push》 both only answer 《Death’s Shadow》. But against Sultai, Explosives answers literally everything. I left in 《Thoughtseize》 instead, which is much worse against Sultai since it plays fewer counterspells and doesn’t play 《Gurmag Angler》. And then I lost game 2 with a 《Thoughtseize》 in my hand when Explosives would have killed 2 Shadows and won me the game.

So it goes. Poo-tee-weet.

Sideboard Guide

Grixis Shadow

Against Grixis Shadow

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Cryptic Command Cryptic Command
Mox Opal Metallic Rebuke Gilded Goose

In

Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy Veil of Summer Veil of Summer
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Fatal Push

(Unsure on the best mix of 《Engineered Explosives》, 《Metallic Rebuke》, and 《Fatal Push》, but I don’t want too many answers to only 《Death’s Shadow》)

Sultai Shadow

Against Sultai Shadow

Out

Cryptic Command Cryptic Command Thoughtseize Thoughtseize
Witching Well Mox Opal Metallic Rebuke Gilded Goose

In

Veil of Summer Veil of Summer Fatal Push Fatal Push
Nihil Spellbomb Nihil Spellbomb Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy

Eldrazi Tron

Against Eldrazi Tron

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Mox Opal

In

Disdainful Stroke Disdainful Stroke Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy

Mirror without Karn

Against Mirror without Karn

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives
Mox Opal Gilded Goose

In

Veil of Summer Veil of Summer Fatal Push
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute

Mirror with Karn

Against Mirror with Karn

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Gilded Goose
Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Mox Opal

In

Disdainful Stroke Disdainful Stroke Veil of Summer Veil of Summer
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Fatal Push

Burn

Against Burn (On the Play)

Out

Thoughtseize Thoughtseize
Engineered Explosives

In

Fatal Push Fatal Push
Mystical Dispute

Against Burn (On the Draw)

Out

Thoughtseize Thoughtseize
Engineered Explosives

In

Fatal Push Fatal Push
Assassin's Trophy

(《Engineered Explosives》, 《Assassin’s Trophy》, and 《Mystical Dispute》 all suck, not sure what mix I want)

Amulet

Against Amulet (On the Play)

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Gilded Goose
Fatal Push Fatal Push Witching Well Mox Opal

In

Disdainful Stroke Disdainful Stroke Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy
Damping Sphere Damping Sphere Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute

Against Amulet (On the Draw)

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Gilded Goose
Drown in the Loch Drown in the Loch Witching Well Mox Opal

In

Disdainful Stroke Disdainful Stroke Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy
Damping Sphere Damping Sphere Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute

(Stock lists don’t have 《Veil of Summer》 for some reason? For sure 《Drown in the Loch》 > 《Fatal Push》 if they do)

Humans

Against Humans (On the Play)

Out

Thoughtseize Thoughtseize
Mox Opal Metallic Rebuke

In

Fatal Push Fatal Push
Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy

Against Humans (On the Draw)

Out

Thoughtseize Thoughtseize
Cryptic Command Metallic Rebuke

In

Fatal Push Fatal Push
Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy

Tron

Against Tron

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Witching Well
Fatal Push Fatal Push

In

Disdainful Stroke Disdainful Stroke Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy
Damping Sphere Damping Sphere

(Drowns for 《Veil of Summer》, 《Ancient Stirrings》, nonsense like 《Thought-Knot Seer》; should maybe board in 《Mystical Dispute》s over fast mana but I think I like the fast mana better; Dispute > Drown if they don’t have Veils for some reason)

Vengevine

Against Vengevine (On the Play)

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Witching Well
Metallic Rebuke

In

Nihil Spellbomb Nihil Spellbomb Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute
Tormod's Crypt

Against Vengevine (On the Draw)

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Witching Well
Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Metallic Rebuke

In

Nihil Spellbomb Nihil Spellbomb Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute
Fatal Push Fatal Push Tormod's Crypt

(Maybe Veils are fine, depending on how they sideboard)

Dredge

Against Dredge

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives

In

Nihil Spellbomb Nihil Spellbomb
Tormod's Crypt

Azorius/Bant Control

Against Azorius/Bant Control

Out

Fatal Push Fatal Push Mox Opal Gilded Goose
Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives

In

Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy Veil of Summer Veil of Summer
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Disdainful Stroke

Azorius Stoneblade

Against Azorius Stoneblade

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives
Witching Well Mox Opal Gilded Goose

In

Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy Fatal Push
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Veil of Summer

Bant Stoneblade

Against Bant Stoneblade

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives
Witching Well Mox Opal Gilded Goose

In

Fatal Push Fatal Push Veil of Summer
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Assassin's Trophy

Jund

Against Jund (On the Play)

Out

Mox Opal Engineered Explosives Metallic Rebuke Gilded Goose

In

Veil of Summer Veil of Summer Fatal Push Fatal Push

Against Jund (On the Draw)

Out

Mox Opal Engineered Explosives Metallic Rebuke Gilded Goose
Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives

In

Veil of Summer Veil of Summer Fatal Push Fatal Push
Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy

(Not sure about Trophy vs. Explosives)

Infect

Against Infect

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Emry, Lurker of the Loch
Witching Well Cryptic Command

In

Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy Fatal Push Fatal Push
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute

(Unsure about cuts)

Storm

Against Storm

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Gilded Goose
Witching Well Mox Opal Cryptic Command Emry, Lurker of the Loch

In

Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Fatal Push Fatal Push
Damping Sphere Damping Sphere Nihil Spellbomb Nihil Spellbomb

(Actual no idea what to cut, depends a lot on how they sideboard too)

《Devoted Druid》 Combo

Against Devoted Druid Combo

Out

Cryptic Command Cryptic Command
Witching Well Gilded Goose

In

Fatal Push Fatal Push
Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy

(Some Disputes are probably good if they have Oko and/or countermagic)

Titanshift

Against Titanshift

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives
Fatal Push Fatal Push

In

Disdainful Stroke Disdainful Stroke Assassin's Trophy
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute

Red Prowess

Against Red Prowess

Out

Witching Well Mox Opal Metallic Rebuke
Thoughtseize Thoughtseize

In

Fatal Push Fatal Push Nihil Spellbomb
Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy

(Maybe Spellbomb > 2nd 《Cryptic Command》?)

5C 《Niv-Mizzet Reborn》

Against 5C Niv

Out

Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives Engineered Explosives
Fatal Push Fatal Push Mox Opal

In

Veil of Summer Veil of Summer Disdainful Stroke
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Assassin's Trophy

(Could see more Trophies or Strokes over the 《Witching Well》 or a 《Gilded Goose》, depending on their build)

Bogles

Against Bogles

Out

Mox Opal
Witching Well

In

Assassin's Trophy
Assassin's Trophy

Simic Merfolk

Against Simic Merfolk

Out

Witching Well Mox Opal Cryptic Command Metallic Rebuke
Thoughtseize Thoughtseize

In

Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy Fatal Push Fatal Push
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute

(Maybe Veil if they have a ton of countermagic postboard)

《Hardened Scales》

Against Hardened Scales

Out

Cryptic Command Metallic Rebuke
Witching Well Mox Opal

In

Fatal Push Fatal Push
Assassin's Trophy Assassin's Trophy

Tips and Tricks

Conclusion

This is the best Modern deck I’ve played in some time and also the most fun. I love flexible midrange decks like this one. If you’re a fan of Jund, this is the best Jund has ever been and will ever be in Modern, including the period where it had 《Deathrite Shaman》.

Thanks for reading, and best of luck.

Allen Wu (Twitter)

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Allen Wu

Allen Wu Allen Wu is a pro player from United States. One of America's powerhouses made his way onto the scene via Magic Online's PTQ which is arguably one of the hardest ways to qualify. After winning Grand Prix Albuquerque in 2016, he joined Wizards of the Coast's "Play Design" team and worked on Magic's development. After returning as a player, he won Pro Tour Magic 25th Anniversary with his teammates Ben Hull and Gregory Orange. Seeking growth and victory more, he joined Hareruya Pros in the 2018-2019 season. Read more articles by Allen Wu