Riley delves into one of the most busted Magic: The Gathering sets ever printed.
The other week, we looked at the most expensive cards in Urza’s Destiny and saw how these old sets really didn’t pull their punches when it came to power level. This week, it’s time for Urza’s Saga, and I tell you what, if you thought there were some heavy hitters in Urza’s Destiny, you’re about to be blown out of the water by some of the cards in Urza’s Saga. Almost 25 years after they were first released, these cards are still as broken as ever and, of course—as expensive as ever.
Market Price: $24.71
Anything that messes with opposing mana in Commander is likely to be a very controversial card, and playing Contamination is almost certainly going to make you a few enemies at any table (unless everyone is on mono-black, in which case: congratulations, you played yourself). Contamination is a really nasty way to hamstring everyone else’s gameplay and in mono-black decks already designed to sacrifice a lot of creatures—Tergrid, God of Fright, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, it doesn’t come with much of a downside. However, include the card in your deck at your own peril!
Market Price: $37.48
Exploration is obviously pretty popular in Commander, where it’s a great way to accelerate your mana in the early game or support synergies in dedicated landfall decks. Omnath, Locus of Creation, Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait, Titania, Protector of Argoth, the list goes on—all of these Commanders and want to play as many lands as they can, and unlike in other, land-light decks, Exploration doesn’t fall off in value as the game goes on. Finally, Exploration sees Legacy play, as well. Legacy Lands often plays Exploration as a four-of, which is unsurprising, given the deck is all about… playing lands.
Market Price: $33.80
Initially, I was surprised to see Lifeline on this list. It has a sweet effect, sure, although one that requires you to jump through a few hoops before you see results (especially when you realize it affects all players). On top of that, it costs five mana, so it’s not a valued piece you can reliably get out early. Why is it $40, therefore? And why hasn’t it been reprinted to bring down the price? I’ll give you one guess. Did you guess “the Reserved List”? Once again, the Reserved List comes along to inflate the price of a medium Commander card that sees fringe play here and there. As cool as some of the stuff you do with a card like Lifeline are (Riveteers Ascendancy, anyone?), $40 seems a bit steep for an effect like this.
#7 Argothian Enchantress
Market Price: $37.55
Argothian Enchantress is one of many “enchantress” cards that allow you to draw a card whenever you play an enchantment—this effect is largely known as an “enchantress effect”, due to cards like Argothian Enchantress and its predecessor, Verduran Enchantress. As you might imagine, EDH Enchantress decks want as many of these redundant effects as they can get their hands on, and so Argothian Enchantress remains extraordinarily popular in enchantment-based decks led by the likes of Sythis, Harvest’s Hand, Tuvasa the Sunlit, and of course Go-Shintai of Life’s Origin.
#6 Tolarian Academy
Market Price: $129.99
If you’ve never had the pleasure of playing with a Tolarian Academy, take it from me: this card is absolutely broken in half. It’s banned in every format and restricted in Vintage, and for very good reason: Tolarian Academy is absolutely, indescribably busted. Think of how many cheap artifacts there are, and then remember that plenty of artifacts can be used to untap other permanents, and you’ll realize soon enough that even in the early stages of a game, Tolarian Academy can reliably produce five to ten mana a turn. Or more. Seriously. This card is so overwhelmingly powerful, and despite not being playable anywhere outside of Vintage or Cube, it’s still around $130.
#5 Time Spiral
Market Price: $119.22
As far as wheels go, Time Spiral is definitely one of the better ones. Like any “free” spell, Time Spiral is capable of some pretty disgusting sequences, but in costing net zero mana it undoes one of the biggest drawbacks to playing wheel effects: you don’t end up being the first player to deploy their new hand. Now, with at least six mana to play with, you can put the seven cards you’ve just drawn to immediate use. This card is not cheap, hovering just under $150—but in decks like Nekuzar, the Mindrazer, or The Locust God, it offers a huge amount of power and more broadly remains an ideal addition to any deck looking to draw a lot of cards.
#4 Yawgmoth’s Will
Market Price: $198.34
Another absolutely broken card from Urza’s Saga, Yawgmoth’s Will is also banned in Legacy and restricted in Vintage, although it is still legal for play in Commander—something which, combined with its place on the Reserved List, means it’s a $200 card. Why? Yawgmoth’s Will essentially gives your entire graveyard flashback, but not just instants and sorceries like Past in Flames: permanents, as well, including lands. Any deck that can fill its graveyard with cheap cards, like Paradoxical Outcome in Vintage, will be well-served by a huge Yawgmoth’s Will turn. The best way to evaluate this card is to treat it like a three-mana sorcery that draws you twenty cards for a single turn.
#3 Serra’s Sanctum
Market Price: $270.57
Cut from the same cloth as Tolarian Academy, Serra’s Sanctum has a similar capacity when it comes to producing obscene amounts of mana, limited only by the fact that there aren’t quite as many zero mana value enchantments as there are artifacts. Nonetheless, any deck filled with enchantments will want to run Serra’s Sanctum, as it’s still a land that can tap for huge amounts of mana, and so is regularly included in EDH Enchantress lists, as well as the odd Legacy list as well. Of course, being on the Reserved List means it doesn’t come cheap, and even as a somewhat fringe card, Serra’s Sanctum is still almost $300.
#2 Gilded Drake
Market Price: $270.53
Another $300-or-so card, Gilded Drake doesn’t feel like it should be worth this much. But as a two-mana Mind Control that’s on the Reserved List, and as a cEDH regular, its price tag is reflective of some pretty high demand. Stealing an opponent’s commander for two mana and replacing it with a 3/3 isn’t a bad deal by any means, and can produce some pretty beastly swings in the cutthroat world of competitive Commander. Outside of the singleton format, however, and despite its continued legality in Legacy and Vintage—we don’t see Gilded Drake all that much.
#1 Gaea’s Cradle
Market Price: $964.16
The most expensive card from Urza’s Saga is also, arguably, the most famous, and certainly one of the most regularly exploited across multiple formats, Gaea’s Cradle is ridiculous when put to proper use, and is a cornerstone of competitive decks like Legacy Elves for a very long time. For the low, low cost of $1,000 or so, you too can flood the board with one-mana elves, all of which produce an extra mana thanks to the Cradle. A cEDH staple, a Vintage playable, and the backbone of an enduring Legacy deck, Gaea’s Cradle is an iconic and historical Magic: The Gathering card—with a price to match.