Urza, Chief Artificer - Illustration by Bartlomiej Gawel

Urza, Chief Artificer | Illustration by Bartlomiej Gawel

The Brothers’ War highlighted one of the most iconic in-lore events in Magic’s history: the great battle between Mishra and Urza, that ended with Urza using the Argivian Sylex to devastate Dominaria and end the war. The set gave us not one, but four new Urza cards befitting this story.

While only the meld card depicts Urza at his full strength as Urza, Planeswalker, the other cards tell the story of Urza throughout the rest of his life. One of the most interesting is Urza, Chief Artificer, the card printed with the Commander deck accompanying the set. It depicts Urza at the head of Yotia’s artifice program, building an army of machines to take on his brother. Just like the deck we’ll be looking at today!

The Deck

Archbound Javelineer - Illustration by Eric Deschamps

Arcbound Javelineer | Illustration by Eric Deschamps

Commander (1)

Urza, Chief Artificer

Creatures (31)

Arcbound Javelineer
Esper Sentinel
Baleful Strix
Blade of the Oni
Drannith Magistrate
Ethersworn Canonist
Lion Sash
Surge Engine
Armix, Filigree Thrasher
Chief of the Foundry
Liberator, Urza's Battlethopter
Losheel, Clockwork Scholar
Master of Etherium
Sai, Master Thopterist
Skorpekh Lord
Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Urza, Lord Protector
Lodestone Golem
Myrel, Shield of Argive
Urza, Prince of Kroog
Whirler Rogue
Bronze Guardian
Ethersworn Adjudicator
Platoon Dispenser
Cyberdrive Awakener
Kappa Cannoneer
Sharding Sphinx
Angel of the Ruins
Thought Monitor

Instants (12)

An Offer You Can't Refuse
Path to Exile
Slip Out the Back
Swords to Plowshares
Dovin's Veto
Go for the Throat
Grand Crescendo
Teferi's Protection
Whir of Invention
Hagra Mauling
Return to Dust

Sorceries (5)

Feed the Swarm
Their Name Is Death
Emeria's Call
Organic Extinction

Artifacts (12)

Pithing Needle
Sol Ring
Arcane Signet
Azorius Signet
Cranial Plating
Dimir Signet
Orzhov Signet
Talisman of Dominance
Talisman of Hierarchy
Talisman of Progress
The Mightstone and Weakstone

Enchantments (5)

Tempered Steel
Efficient Construction
Phyrexian Scriptures
Thopter Spy Network
The Flesh Is Weak

Lands (34)

Adarkar Wastes
Ancient Den
Arcane Sanctum
Ash Barrens
Buried Ruin
Caves of Koilos
Concealed Courtyard
Darkslick Shores
Darksteel Citadel
Deserted Beach
Fabled Passage
Goldmire Bridge
Inventors' Fair
Island x3
Mistvault Bridge
Plains x3
Raffine's Tower
Razortide Bridge
Seachrome Coast
Seat of the Synod
Shattered Sanctum
Spire of Industry
Swamp x2
Temple of Deceit
Temple of Enlightenment
Temple of Silence
Underground River
Vault of Whispers

This deck has a simple concept: overwhelm the opponent with an onslaught of metallic warriors. Almost all of the creatures in this deck are artifact creatures, and it seeks to exploit that to its full potential. Aggro isn’t what comes to mind when looking at an Esper () deck, but there’s plenty of punching power behind these machines.

Backed up by cheap interaction and powerful keywords like affinity, this deck will let you show your opponents why artifice has such a long history on Dominaria, and why many feared the armies of the genius Urza.

The Commander

Urza, Chief Artificer

Urza, Chief Artificer is a natural fit for this deck. The large number of artifact creatures helps with its first ability. Affinity for artifact creatures is a huge boon to this card. It's easy to play Urza on turn 4 or 5, even without ramp spells. It also cuts down on the commander tax since that cost is also reduced by affinity. This helps negate one of the innate weaknesses of expensive commanders.

Giving your artifact creatures menace is also a fantastic ability. You’re looking to overwhelm your opponents with a large number of tokens, which is hard enough to block. Adding menace makes it even harder for them to do anything about Urza’s armies. You can only have so many good blockers.

But the text that makes Urza so powerful is the last ability. Creating a Construct every turn is absurdly powerful. It takes no effort for these to be free 5/5s, and they get way bigger. Each Construct making its kin larger and reducing Urza’s cost makes this deck spiral out of control if Urza isn’t answered immediately.

Urza’s not just cheap and it doesn’t just make it hard to block; it also provides an army all on its own for a triple threat of a commander.

Token Makers

Let's start by looking at the cards that grow the ranks. While the list already has a ton of artifact creatures, you’ve also got plenty of support to make tokens.

Sai, Master Thopterist

Sai, Master Thopterist makes a Thopter every time you cast an artifact and turns extra tokens into cards late-game.

Efficient Construction Whirler Rogue

Efficient Construction is basically Sai but a little more expensive and harder to interact with. Whirler Rogue also brings in a fleet of Thopters while providing a bit of unblockable damage.

Thopter Spy Network

Thopter Spy Network pulls double duty as a token producer and a source of card draw. It’s trivially easy for this deck to meet the requirement of an artifact in play.

Platoon Dispenser

Platoon Dispenser also falls into the army plus card draw camp, giving you a mana sink for the late game. With 30 creatures in the deck you’ll rarely worry about triggering its draw ability.

Sharding Sphinx Myrel, Shield of Argive

You've also got Sharding Sphinx and Myrel, Shield of Argive as slower but snowbally token makers. It only takes a few turns for the Sphinx to go out of control. Myrel is a little slower, but it's a one-person army if uncontested. Its ability also helps protect Urza and our other threats from counterspells and instant-speed interaction.

Artifact Upgrades

Now that you’ve got your swarm of tokens you need to make them bigger and better with all sorts of upgrades.

Tempered Steel

Tempered Steel is a classic card that adds an obscene amount of power to the board almost instantly, turning your measly Thopters into massive brawlers.

Urza, Prince of Kroog

Urza, Prince of Kroog also serves as a massive pump effect. Its second ability can be a useful mana sink, especially with some of your artifacts with strong ETB effects.

Chief of the Foundry Master of Etherium

Chief of the Foundry and Master of Etherium buff your artifacts, but they do so more fairly.

Skorpekh Lord

You’ve also got Skorpekh Lord, which only gives +1/+0 but it also gives the team menace.

The Flesh is Weak

The Flesh Is Weak buffs your team while debuffing opposing forces. Providing +1/+1 counters across your team while shrinking most of your opponents' creatures can revolutionize a battlefield. While you have noncreature artifacts, you’re not running them for bodies so much as their effects, so the -1/-1 has a minimal effect on your team.

Cranial Plating

There’s also an armory of equipment to arm your artificial warriors. Cranial Plating provides insane attacking power for one mana, and its instant-speed equip ability makes it hard for opponents to evade.

Lion Sash Blade of the Oni

Lion Sash buffs a creature while acting as graveyard interaction, and Blade of the Oni just turns a creature into a big beater.

Cyberdrive Awakener

Cyberdrive Awakener tops off the cybernetic upgrades as a top-end threat that gives all your artifact creatures flying. If your opponents thought that the 10/10 Construct with menace was hard to block before, this one blows straight past their defenses. Turning your noncreature artifacts into a secondary army makes this a fantastic finisher.

Reinforce the Plating

Your armies need some defenses if you want them to survive the war.

Cryptothrall Bronze Guardian

Cryptothrall provides hexproof to all your other artifact creatures, making your opponents remove that first and taxing their removal. Bronze Guardian fulfills a similar role, giving your team ward 2 while serving as a threat itself.

Losheel, Clockwork Scholar

Losheel, Clockwork Scholar is a powerful addition to the deck. Preventing combat damage to your attacking artifact creatures increases the value of your attacks and makes blocking even harder for your opponents. Its second ability also provides another constant source of card draw and is especially powerful in conjunction with Urza.

You’ve also got Grand Crescendo and Teferi's Protection to insulate you against board wipes, or the most fearsome threat this deck faces: an overloaded Vandalblast.

Card Draw

We’ve already looked at quite a few cards that incidentally draw you cards, but there are a few more options that draw you even more.


Skullclamp doesn’t need much introduction as an insanely powerful card draw engine. It works especially well with all your cards that spit out Thopters.

Thoughtcast Thought Monitor

Thoughtcast and Thought Monitor both become way cheaper with your artifact count. It’s easy for these cards to draw you two mana for , which isn’t quite Ancestral Recall but is close enough.

The Mightstone and Weakstone

There’s also The Mightstone and Weakstone, which works as card draw but also removal and ramp. It’s mostly here to meld with Urza, Lord Protector.

Disruptive Defenses

There are a handful of disruptive cards here to slow your opponents down and help give your forces the time they need to bring about victory.

Esper Sentinel

Esper Sentinel taxes your opponents or gives you cards, both of which are good. It’s especially powerful with the artifact lords. Paying one is pretty reasonable, but nobody will pay three or four mana.

Ethersworn Canonist Lodestone Golem

Ethersworn Canonist puts a stop to plenty of shenanigans, grinding some strategies to a complete stop until they can answer it. And you’ll rarely impact by its ability thanks to your high artifact count. Lodestone Golem serves a similar role, taxing most cards your opponents play while leaving you relatively unhindered.

Drannith Magistrate

Drannith Magistrate rounds this little party out by shutting down anything that’s not honest Magic.

Thalia, Heretic Cathar

You’ve also got Thalia, Heretic Cathar, a nifty little card that slows your opponents down by making lands enter tapped while enabling your aggressive strategies, tapping down their creatures and making blocking even harder on top of Urza’s menace.


Interaction is a must to deal with hate cards, so there’s a handful of spot removal in the deck.

Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile are just two of the best creature removal spells ever printed, and Go for the Throat isn’t too bad either.

Feed the Swarm

Feed the Swarm offers some flexibility, removing creatures or enchantments.

Return to Dust Angel of the Ruins

You’ve got Return to Dust and Angel of the Ruins to take care of artifacts and enchantments. Return to Dust is just a clean two-for-one while the Angel is a powerful three-for-one that can also provide fixing and land drops in the early game.

An Offer You Can't Refuse

There’s also a suite of countermagic. An Offer You Can't Refuse is one of the best 1-mana counterspells.

We’ve got the timeless classic Counterspell as well as Dovin's Veto in the 2-mana spot. You’ll especially want to keep these around to deal with wraths and Vandalblasts.

You’ve also got three incredibly powerful sweepers. Phyrexian Scriptures, Their Name is Death, and Organic Extinction all destroy nonartifact creatures. Sure, some of your creatures will get caught up in the spell, but these are mostly just discounted Plague Wind. Wrathing an opponent’s board while leaving yours untouched make these three some of your best finishers.

The Mana Base

Sol Ring

There’s a solid foundation of ramp here to start with. You’ve got the eternal staple Sol Ring.

You've also got all four Signets in the deck: the three Ravnica Signets plus Arcane Signet, and all three of the on-color Talismans. It’s an efficient suite of ramp which gets you to Urza quickly.

The mana base also has two modal double-faced cards in Emeria's Call and Hagra Mauling. The flexibility these offer the deck makes them indispensable, letting you keep a low land count while still hitting land drops.

There are seven artifact lands here: all three of the on-color lands from Mirrodin alongside the Bridges from Modern Horizons 2 and Darksteel Citadel. These buff your Constructs, make your affinity cards cheaper, and provide some extra bodies when Cyberdrive Awakener hits the battlefield.

Spire of Industry Glimmervoid

You’ve got two gold lands in Spire of Industry and Glimmervoid that tap for all your colors of mana as long as you control an artifact, which is (again) really easy in this deck.

Inventors' Fair

Inventors' Fair can provide you a small amount of lifegain while letting you tutor up a relevant artifact later in the game or find disruptive pieces like Ethersworn Canonist or a finisher like the Awakener.

Buried Ruin

Your last value land is Buried Ruin, which lets you get an artifact back from the graveyard, a useful bit of recursion and resiliency to help combat your opponent’s removal. Beyond this you’ve got a robust suite of duals and tri-lands to fix your mana.

The Strategy

This is a pretty straightforward deck: play Urza, Chief Artificer as soon as possible and protect it so it can snowball the game by deploying massive Constructs each turn. It’s pretty easy to get Urza out on turn 3 or 4 thanks to its affinity for artifact creatures. This means 2-drop creatures into 3-drop creatures results in a turn 4 Urza. The ramp pieces also work in place of artifact creatures.

Developing a board presence beyond Urza is also crucial. It can win the game unchecked, but that’s not a reliable strategy. You want to flood the board with your other artifact creatures to make the most of Urza’s menace and Construct ability. This also helps you keep casting Urza over and over since affinity for artifacts can reduce the commander tax if it gets removed.

You want to pair your disruptive elements alongside the army to help slow your opponents down. It’ll be much harder for them to effectively disrupt you and advance their strategy with Lodestone Golem and Ethersworn Canonist. This deck is about applying fast pressure and keeping it up while remaining resilient and finding plenty of gas with your card draw.

The biggest thing you need to be looking for out of an opening hand is a bit of ramp and a clear line to either Urza or some interaction to slow the game down until you can get Urza out. Hands that aren’t going to do either of these things are worth tossing back, especially with a free mulligan.

Combos and Interactions

This deck doesn’t have much in the way of combos. You do have Urza, Lord Protector and The Mightstone and Weakstone to create a powerful melded planeswalker, though that’s a fairly small synergy.

You’ve also got Whir of Invention as an incredibly flexible artifact tutor with a lot of good hits. Pithing Needle is a powerful target, as are the stax pieces like Ethersworn Canonist. You can also grab Master of Etherium or Chief of the Foundry for surprise damage or to ruin an opponent’s attack. Another idea is to cast Whir for X=0 to grab an artifact land in case you’re desperate for land drops or fixing.

Rule 0 Violations Check

This is a pretty honest and by-the-books deck that doesn't require much in the way of a Rule 0 conversation. But some players can get antsy about stax pieces, especially Drannith Magistrate, so it might be worth mentioning those at the beginning of the game.

Budget Options

This deck costs close to $300, so some budget options are useful. One of the easiest downshifts you can make is removing Urza, Lord Protector. It's in the deck for some value and flavor but can easily be replaced by another card like Foundry Inspector or Etherium Sculptor, which reduces the cost of artifacts for way less than $30. Removing this Urza also lets you ditch The Mightstone and Weakstone for a cheaper ramp option like Worn Powerstone or Midnight Clock.

Esper Sentinel also boasts a pretty high price. You can swap it out with Mystic Remora for a similar taxation effect, but you lose out on the valuable artifact type. You could also look at Thalia, Guardian of Thraben for this spot.

You could also make some cuts to the mana base if necessary. Inventors' Fair isn’t strictly necessary, and some of the dual lands could be replaced with lands that enter tapped for cheaper alternatives.

Other Builds

You could build Urza, Chief Artificer in a few different ways. It could be easy to lean harder into the stax themes to build a devastating Esper deck that'll drive your friends away from you.

You could also go for less of a go-wide strategy and lean deeper into Esper’s more innate control tendencies, building a deck designed to defend Urza even more than this one and let it steamroll the game, backed by an endless barrage of counterspells and removal.

Commanding Conclusion

Their Name Is Death - Illustration by Evan Shipard

Their Name Is Death | Illustration by Evan Shipard

The might of the machines is unrivaled. This deck will level your table beneath a metallic onslaught, bringing organic lifeforms to their knees beneath the unmatchable brilliance of Urza, Chief Artificer. It also takes an interesting stance on Esper, making it more aggressive than one might expect.

What do you think of the deck? How would you build this Urza? Let me know in the comments or over on the Draftsim Discord.

Now go forth and make some Constructs!

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