Urza, Planeswalker and Urza, Lord Protector - Illustrations by Ryan Pancoast

Urza, Planeswalker and Urza, Lord Protector | Illustrations by Ryan Pancoast

Urza was one of the most powerful characters to ever exist in Magic’s story, so it makes sense that the cards representing him are also pretty powerful. The Brothers’ War gave us several new versions of Urza to build Commander decks around, but perhaps the most exciting one is Urza, Lord Protector.

There are a few different ways to build this Urza, including a deck that’s more focused on getting off its meld ability. I think Urza is slightly more powerful in the original Lord Protector form, so I’ve built a deck that can easily set up a game-winning combo around it.

So what makes this deck tick, and how can you customize it to fit your playstyle and groups? Let’s find out!

The Deck

Otawara, Soaring City - Illustration by Alayna Danner

Otawara, Soaring City | Illustration by Alayna Danner

This deck is pretty low to the ground in terms of mana cost, which is nice because you rarely feel like you can’t cast the spell you want to. You also won’t be casting a ton of bombs. This helps to keep you off other players’ radar while you set up your combos.

There are also lots of counterspells in this deck to help you stave off any game-ending threats. My advice is to avoid using them too aggressively early in the game. Your life total is another resource, so it’s okay to let some early threats on the board. Save your counters for cards that screw up your strategy or do too much damage to you.

The Commander

Urza, Lord Protector

This version of Urza has cost reduction that makes it incredibly powerful. It turns all 1-mana artifacts into Cheerios, allowing you to set up some pretty interesting combos. It also reduces the cost of instant spells which makes counterspells easier to budget for. You can also pay to meld this and The Mightstone and Weakstone together into the incredibly powerful Urza, Planeswalker if you’re lucky enough to have them on the field at the same time.

Urza, Lord Protector has lots of desirable commander qualities. It’s pretty inexpensive, so it can get out early and also be recast without too much effort. Another huge benefit is its cost reduction ability, which helps you to set up a board more quickly. Mana rocks like Arcane Signet or Fellwar Stone can immediately replace the cost of casting them! Best of all this Urza is also part of your combo, so you only need to find two other cards from your deck to set up a game-winning play.

Lord Protector brings more fun as your commander with the increased likelihood of melding with The Mightstone and Weakstone. You can likely find a time that works to create Urza, Planeswalker since Urza is always somewhat accessible. If you activate Urza’s +2 planeswalker ability, it still works with your combo. You don’t have to worry about that meld ability taking away your chance at winning the game.

Urza, Planeswalker is obviously a big target on any board, and not just because it’s double the size of other cards. You may draw more negative attention to yourself than you’d like if you decide to meld, but I still meld Urza every chance I get simply because it’s a ton of fun.

Control

This deck mainly wins through combos, so stalling the game for other players is important.

Counterspells like Delay and Negate are great ways to slow down your opponents while you set up your board. One of your best counterspells is Mana Drain, which can end up giving you more mana back than you spend to cast it.

Free counterspells are also a huge bonus because they let you spend more mana on your turn while staying  protected. Fierce Guardianship is great to keep Urza safe while it’s on the board. Force of Will and Force of Negation both give you some nice flexibility, allowing you to either cast them by exiling cards (or you can just pay for them, if you prefer).

Chain of Vapor

You also have some bounce spells like Chain of Vapor to help slow your opponents down.

Cyclonic Rift

Cyclonic Rift is one of the best bounce spells in the game and can significantly set your opponents back if overloaded at the right time. It’s also great for clearing out token armies.

Tormod's Crypt

Tormod’s Crypt is a great way to shut down a player’s graveyard strategy at instant speed. You can keep this on the board and wait for an opponent to try to reanimate or flashback something, then remove it from the game before they can.

Gitaxian Probe

Gitaxian Probe isn’t necessarily a form of control, but it helps you get a sense of what’s coming. Knowing what types of threats an opponent has in their hand means you can leave up mana for counterspells.

Stax

Stax cards can be controversial, but they’re a very effective way to slow down opponents.

Drannith Magistrate and Grafdigger’s Cage stop opponents from cheating out big creatures from their decks or graveyards, so they give you more time to set up your own board. Lavinia, Azorius Renegade works similarly, but it also makes mana rocks and mana dorks less effective. Bonus!

Ranger-Captain of EosGrand Abolisher

Ranger-Captain of Eos can be sacrificed to ensure your spells aren’t countered for a turn. Grand Abolisher also prevents players from countering spells on your turn specifically.

Ethersworn Canonist

Ethersworn Canonist limits the number of responses your opponents have, and it has the bonus of slowing down opponents on their own turns too. This card is especially effective against spellslinger and storm decks that rely on being able to cast a lot of spells in a single turn.

Aven Mindcensor

Aven Mindcensor stops your opponents from searching their entire decks, which can slow down other players who might also be looking to assemble combos. It also prevents players from effectively using fetch lands or searching for answers to your cards.

Tutors

Tutors can be a helpful way to set up a combo more quickly.

Enlightened TutorFabricate

Enlightened Tutor and Fabricate can help search up some of the necessary pieces since the combos in this deck largely use artifacts.

ReshapeTezzeret the Seeker

Reshape can also search up an artifact for you, and it drops that artifact directly onto the battlefield. Tezzeret the Seeker has a similar ability that can get you a lot of value in a deck with so many cheap artifacts.

Ranger-Captain of Eos

Ranger-Captain of Eos also doubles as a tutor, allowing you to find an Esper Sentinel for card draw purposes. More importantly it can find that Walking Ballista that’s part of one of your combos.

Card Draw

You can’t rely on tutors to get you the cards you need, so having a reliable source of card draw is also important.

Esper SentinelArchivist of Oghma

Creatures like Esper Sentinel and Archivist of Oghma are great ways to draw some extra cards. Both of these cards’ abilities are triggered relatively frequently in Commander.

Rhystic StudyMystic Remora

Enchantments are another great source of consistent card draw. Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora can both draw you a decent number of them because opponents don’t always have the extra mana to do what they want and prevent you from drawing cards.

Shorikai, Genesis Engine

Shorikai, Genesis Engine is a surprisingly good source of card draw because it also generates creature tokens every time you draw cards with it. It’s important to remember that Shorikai doesn’t have to be in creature form to activate its ability, and you can tap it the turn it comes in since it isn’t a creature unless crewed.

Brainstorm

Brainstorm pairs well with the number of fetch lands and tutors in this deck because you often have the option to shuffle your deck after playing this. You can just shuffle them away and find new ones if you don’t want to get stuck drawing whatever you put back onto your deck.

Ponder

Ponder is a similar card that allows you to shuffle as part of its ability, another great way to sift through cards you might not need.

Windfall

Windfall can serve as a way to draw cards and punish other players. You can cast it and force your opponents to discard if one of your them just tutored for a card or you bounced an important card back to their hand.

The Reality ChipMystic Remora

While they don’t technically draw you cards, The Reality Chip and Mystic Forge both give you the chance to play cards from the top of your deck. This can act as a form of card draw since you’re still getting access to extra cards and digging deeper into your deck.

Urza, Planeswalker

You can draw up to four cards with Urza, Planeswalker‘s +1 each turn if you’re lucky enough to meld into it. You can easily find cards you’re willing to discard for the added benefit of drawing so much if your hand isn’t empty.

The Mana Base

This deck runs nine basic lands to start of the colored mana along with some dual lands like Prairie Stream, Sea of Clouds, and Hallowed Fountain.

Command TowerMana Confluence

Command Tower is another great source of colored mana, as is Mana Confluence.

Otawara, Soaring CityEiganjo, Seat of the Empire

The Neon Dynasty legendary lands are a great cross between utility lands and sources of colored mana. Otawara, Soaring City and Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire both come in untapped if you just need the land. But they also both have good abilities that make them decent draws for later in the game when you already have enough land.

Utility lands that support artifacts are also good for this deck. Academy Ruins is a great way to get back some of your important artifacts from the graveyard. You’ll likely be able to get back any combo pieces that are removed or countered since lots of artifact removal focuses on destroying rather than exiling. Both Inventors’ Fair and Urza’s Saga can be used to fetch you an artifact that can help speed up the assembly of your combos.

This deck also runs a decent number of mana rocks. Arcane Signet, Azorius Signet, and Chrome Mox can all help you with mana fixing.

Mox OpalMox Amber

Mox Opal and Mox Amber are also useful as long as you meet the right requirements to activate them.

Jeweled LotusLotus Petal

Jeweled Lotus is a great way to get Urza, Lord Protector out on the field early or to recast it once its mana cost has been increased by commander tax. While not as effective, Lotus Petal is another good source of quick mana if needed.

The Strategy

The strategy relies on assembling your combos as quickly as possible. Don’t be afraid to mulligan a few times if your opening hand doesn’t include anything to help set them up. The low mana value of most cards in this deck means that you can get by with fewer lands. Getting Urza, Lord Protector out earlier is a good way to help speed things up since it reduces the cost of most cards in this deck.

You should use your counterspells to slow down your opponents’ progress while you’re looking for your combo pieces. You might want to hold off on playing your stax cards right away because they could put a big target on your back. They’re definitely helpful to have down when you’re ready to set up your combo, especially the ones like Grand Abolisher.

Once I have my combo set up, I typically demonstrate how it works to my opponents and ask them if they have a way to respond to it. If they don’t have a response I then explain how the combo wins me the game. This can be a more considerate way to win a game using an infinite combo since your opponents won’t be stuck watching you play by yourself for a while.

Combos and Interactions

This deck includes two game-winning combos. The first results in you drawing your entire deck and playing Thassa’s Oracle. To pull this off you need Sensei’s Divining Top, Urza, Lord Protector, and either Mystic Forge or The Reality Chip.

Sensei’s Divining Top costs nothing to play with Urza on the field. You can activate its ability to draw a card and then put it on top of your deck. Using Mystic Forge or The Reality Chip, play Sensei’s Divining Top from the top of your library again for free thanks to Urza, Lord Protector’s cost reduction.

You can continue this until you’ve drawn your entire deck, then play Thassa’s Oracle to win. It might be smart not to keep an opening hand with the Oracle since you don’t have a way to get it back from the graveyard if you’re forced to discard it.

The other combo in this deck involves Isochron Scepter, Dramatic Reversal, and any mana rock that taps for three mana, like Mana Vault.

Imprint Dramatic Reversal onto Isochron Scepter and then activate it. This untaps all your mana rocks and Isochron Scepter itself. You can then tap Mana Vault to pay for another Dramatic Reversal, netting you one mana in the process. This allows you to create infinite colorless mana.

With so many mana rocks in this deck you’ll likely be able to tap even more each time, possibly giving you infinite white, blue, and colorless mana. You can cast Walking Ballista at a high enough cost to eliminate each opponent with this infinite mana. This also works if Walking Ballista is already on the field because you can pump mana into it to give it more counters.

Budget Options

This is a very expensive deck in its current form. The quickest way to drop the price is to replace Jeweled Lotus, Mana Crypt, and Chrome Mox with cheaper mana rocks like Thran Dynamo or Mind Stone. That saves you around $300 to $400 from the price of this deck without breaking a sweat.

Similarly, Force of Will and Fierce Guardianship are very expensive and can be replaced by other counterspells. Pact of Negation can be a good substitute, especially if you know you’re going to win before your next upkeep.

Ancient Tomb may be more reliable, but you can save a lot of money by swapping it out for Temple of the False God.

You can probably also make do without so many fetch lands in this deck, so replacing them with basic lands or cheaper fetch-like lands like Fabled Passage or Evolving Wilds is a good option.

Other Builds

If you’d like to make a version of this deck that doesn’t center around combos, you can leave it largely the same and take out some of the combo pieces like Isochron Scepter. Instead, you can add in big creatures like Ulamog, Ceaseless Hunger or Emrakul, the Promised End.

You can also lean more heavily towards an Urza-centric build and include other copies of Urza in the deck. Adding in Urza, Prince of Kroog, you could retool the deck into an Azorius soldiers-type build. You can include Anointed Procession to help create more tokens with Urza, Planeswalker and other soldier-making cards like Finale of Glory.

Commanding Conclusion

Mystic Forge - Illustration by Titus Lunter

Mystic Forge | Illustration by Titus Lunter

Urza, Lord Protector can be a very powerful commander. Powerful combo builds like this one can even stand up to cEDH builds if you’re looking for a higher level of play. This build isn’t the most fun to play against, of course, so it might be worth checking in with your playgroup about it. In a more casual setting, this is likely not the deck to pull out.

Would you build Urza differently? Which version of Urza is your favorite for Commander? Let me know in the comments or on Draftsim’s Twitter.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to seeing you on the next article!

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