An Introduction to Urza in cEDH

Engin Harman • March 17, 2024

Urza, Lord High Artificer by Grzegorz Rutkowski

In cEDH, a format ruled by multicolored decks, Urza, Lord High Artificer may look like a less competitive deck than it really is. In fact, it Urza is one of the only mono-colored commander that has been able to stand the test of time and prove itself competitive in the long run. 

Urza, Lord High Artificer. His name awakens nostalgic feelings. For a long time Urza was the main protagonist of MTGs deep lore and no other character stands for old school MTG as much as he does. After having one of the strongest Magic blocks ever named after him in '98 / '99, fans had to wait 20 years to finally get a dedicated Urza Commander with the release of Modern Horizons in 2019 - and what a commander it was. 

Urza's Pros & Cons

Urza, Lord High Artificer is a four mana 1/4 legendary human artificer with a ton of text:

  • He creates a 0/0 construct token on ETB, whose power and toughness are equal to the number of artifacts you control.
  • He lets you tap your artifacts to create blue mana.
  • He lets you pay (5) to shuffle your library, exile the top card and play it until the end of turn without paying its mana cost.

These powerful abilities allow us to do multiple things very efficiently. Obviously, Urza allows you to ramp like crazy. Every single artifact you have in play becomes a Mox Sapphire, which increases the value of even the most mediocre artifacts by a factor of ten.

Additionally, this ability can be used to break parity on some of the most powerful stax pieces, such as Winter Orb, Static Orb and Trinisphere, because Urza allows you to tap them to shut them off and not have them apply to you. 

On top of that Urza last ability is an infinite mana outlet, which allows you to win the game on the spot, if you are able to make infinite mana and play the right card in your 99. Finally, Urza also allows you to go for a slow yet scary combat route by creating multiple huge Construct tokens to slowly but surely crush your opponents.

Of course a commander with as many abilities as this one has to have a downside or two and for Urza that's mostly his color identity. Although blue is arguably the strongest color in cEDH, being confined by the mono-blue color identity really limits the potential of this deck. 

No unconditional tutors for draw engines or combo pieces, no Dockside Extortionist or Underworld Breach, no Silence-effects and just an overall highly limited card pool make it much harder for us to reach the olymp of cEDH.

Nonetheless, this commander is one of the few mono-colored decks that - in the hands of a skilled pilot - can actually hold its own in a cEDH pod and will be seen as a serious threat.

Is Urza Better With or Without Polymorph?

Over the last years two versions of Urza decks have established themselves in the cEDH meta: Polymorph (aka. Poly Kraken) and Control (aka. Power Scepter). These versions usually only differ in around 10 - 15 cards, but they differ a lot in the overall approach of brewing and piloting.

The Polymorph version of Urza forgoes some of the control, stax, and value pieces as well as all creatures to be able to reliably and repeatedly present combo wins with Polymorph and Proteus Staff. By Polymorphing Urza's Construct token to flip into either Hullbreaker Horror (or Tidespout Tyrant), this deck has access to 1-card-combos and can reliably present win attempts in the early game.

The Control version of Urza forgoes access to 1-card-combos, but plays more control pieces, more value engines and focuses much more on the mid- to late-game. Usually trying to win around turn 6 or even later. By not playing Polymorph or Proteus Staff this version of Urza can play powerful creatures like Gilded Drake, Phyrexian Metamorph, Forensic Gadgeteer, The Reality Chip and more that will accumulate immense value over the course of a game.

Mana Rocks - Everything is a Mox Sapphire

Remember Urza's ability to turn any artifact into a mana rock? Well, this leads to a unique way of evaluating mana rocks in this deck. We typically only need to ramp into Urza before mana production becomes absurd. As soon as Urza hits the field, each and every one of our roughly 30 artifacts becomes a mana rock in addition to whatever else it does. 

So our main focus with ramp is to be able to cast Urza ahead of curve. You can find all the usual suspects, such as Jeweled Lotus, Mana Crypt, Lotus Petal, Chrome Mox, Mox Opal, Mox Diamond, Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Fellwar Stone and Arcane Signet. We also have some more unique cards like Jeweled Amulet, which allows us to ramp into Urza, but also turns into a Mox Sapphire after Urza is in play. Grim Monolith and Basalt Monolith have a more complex role in this deck, because they not only ramp, but they are also part of multiple layered combos. 

The only staple mana rock we do not play is Mox Amber as it doesn't allow us to ramp into Urza and provides no additional value after Urza already is in play. Literally any other zero mana artifact like Welding Jar or Tormod's Crypt pulls more weight in this deck.

Mono-blue Tutors For Urza

Mono-blue has limited access to tutors and as the color pie dictates we can usually only tutor for instants, sorceries and artifacts. This is kind of suboptimal of course, because it limits our access to certain cards such as Rhystic Study, but as the core pieces of this deck are artifacts, our tutors still do a good job at making the deck more consistent.

Tezzeret the Seeker, Fabricate, Transmute Artifact, Whir of Invention and Reshape give us access to combo pieces such as Isochron Scepter, value engines such as The One Ring and control pieces such as Grafdigger's Cage.

Solve the Equation, Mystical Tutor, Merchant Scroll and Muddle the Mixture allow us to tutor up whatever else we might need from our instant and sorcery arsenal like Dramatic Reversal, Cyclonic Rift or Force of Will.

The Best Counterspells for Urza 

Blue is the color of control magic so we play a decent amount of interaction. As a general guideline you should make sure that your interaction pieces can help you stop opponents and also protect your own win-attempts.

Of course Force of Will, Force of Negation, Pact of Negation, Fierce Guardianship, Mindbreak Trap, etc. see play in all Urza lists. The rest of the counterspell arsenal however is very much dependent on the specific meta, setting and play style. 

In the more proactive combo focused lists, cheap, soft, and narrow counterspells do the trick, so your Spell Pierces, Miscasts, Dispels, etc. In the more grindy control focused lists, wide and hard counterspell are needed to stabilize the game, so we play cards like the original counterspell and some more meta dependent pieces of interaction like Trickbind and Spell Snare which help to deal with Dockside, Oracle and Underworld Breach.

The Best Stax For Urza

Additionally Urza plays some very strong stax or control pieces with cards like Grafdigger's Cage (not in Polymorph lists), Torpor Orb, Karn, the Great Creator, Static Orb, Back to Basics, Counterbalance, Trinisphere, Winter Orb and more.

Note, that the amount of stax pieces and counter magic and the specific spells you play highly depends on your meta and playstyle. In a tournament setting my advice would be to reduce the amount of stax for more tutors and combo pieces, because 75 minute rounds can hurt the more control focused gameplan.

The Best Value Engines in Urza

Limited card draw in the command zone and limited tutors to grab Rhystic Study or Mystic Remora have been the biggest issues for Urza for a long time, but in 2022 and 2023 we received some incredible upgrades in the form of artifact based card draw.

The Reality Chip is a great value engine and combo piece in Urza. Not only does it give you critical information for your control gameplan, but it also allows you to dig very deep into your deck. Combined with Sensei's Divining Top it allows you to draw 1 card for 1 mana, which is insane in a deck that produces as much mana as Urza does. Add Counterbalance to the mix and you have yourself a card draw and control engine that is almost impossible to get through.

The One Ring is already incredibly strong on its own, but Urza gets to play some additional enablers that make it go BRRRRRR in all kinds of ways. Just imagine having The One Ring and Unwinding Clock on the field at the same time. All of your artifacts produce mana, so you have a ton of mana available at any point, but you also get to draw 10 cards in a single turn cycle. 

That's not it though. Urza also plays Manifold Key and Voltaic Key. On their own these cards are pretty mediocre, but in Urza they just tap for mana and untap your Monoliths, which makes them pretty good already. With The One Ring however they go absolutely nuts. These cards have enabled a whole new route of winning for Urza: STORM. 

You can easily storm off with The One Ring and some untap and bounce effects. Unwinding Clock, Manifold Key, Voltaic Key, Rings of Brighthearth to double activations, Tezzeret the Seeker's +1, Dramatic Reversal, all the bounce spells to reset your pieces, and all the artifacts that tap for mana allow you to pivot from control to storm in an instant. 

Forensic Gadgeteer is the newest inclusion for Urza and boy is it a good one. This three mana Vedalken basically turns Urza into Jhoira and Birgi. Every artifact you cast now creates a Clue token and those Clue tokens can either be used as Moxen repeatedly or you can just tap and sacrifice them to draw a card. 

So now every time you cast an artifact you either get a Mox Sapphire (the Birgi part) or you can cantrip (the Jhoira part), which allows you to dig deeper and deeper into your library and enables crazy storm turns. That's not it though, because Gadgeteer is also a crazy combo enabler. It goes infinite with Basalt Monolith and is part of multiple other combos that will be explained in the next section.

On top of the card draw we also have some really strong creature based value engines. My favorite of those are the clone-effects and Phyrexian Metamorph stands out as the strongest of these, because it is cheap, tutorable and can copy almost anything.

Imposter Mech, Phantasmal Image and Flesh Duplicate also all do a good job in copying impactful pieces like Dockside, Tymna, Kraum, Tivit, Kinnan, Grand Abolisher, etc. Beyond that we can play value pieces like Displacer Kitten, Consecrated Sphinx and Faerie Mastermind to grind in the midgame.

The Best Combos For Urza in cEDH

Alright, we covered the mana rocks, control pieces, value engines, but how do we make infinite mana? That's the main goal of this deck, so let's look into the most important combos:

Hullbreaker Horror

Hullbreaker Horror is basically a 1-card-combo. You put it into play and cast any spell to bounce an artifact back into your hand. You recast that artifact and bounce another artifact back into your hand. In response to each bounce you just tap those artifacts for mana - either with their own mana abilities or with Urza's ability. 

This is a rather unique quality of Urza. We don't actually need to loop mana rocks. Any two artifacts that produce more mana then they cost to cast allow you present a loop to go infinite with Hullbreaker Horror. Tidespout Tyrant does the same thing, but is a worse card overall. It costs more, doesn't have flash and doesn't come with built-in protection.

Isochron Scepter and Dramatic Reversal

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Isochron Scepter + Dramatic Reversal is one of our main A+B combos. Both pieces can be tutored for very reliably and we don't even need a ton of mana rocks in play, because any artifacts that produce 3 mana in total are enough to go infinite. With Urza in play that just means any 3 artifacts.

Grim Monolith or Basalt Monolith and Power Artifact

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Grim Monolith / Basalt Monolith + Power Artifact are our cheapest and most compact non-storm options to go infinite. In a meta game where most decks rely very heavily on sitting on a Rhystic Study or Mystic Remora all game, these are great, because you go infinite without casting infinite spells. The biggest downside these combos have is that Power Artifact is basically untutorable.

Basalt Monolith and Forensic Gadgeteer


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Basalt Monolith + Forensic Gadgeteer is a fairly new and also very compact non-storm option to make infinite mana. Although it's also untutorable, Forensic Gadgeteer still provides infinitely more value than Power Artifact.

Basalt Monolith + Rings of Brighthearth

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Basalt Monolith + Rings of Brighthearth is a combo that not all decks play, because of its steep mana cost, but it has recently grown on me, because both pieces can be tutored for very reliably, it's a non-storm combo and both pieces layer well into existing combos and synergies.

These are the main combos to make infinite mana, but there are a few more incidental combos that might not be our main gameplan, but come up often enough and show the immense value Forensic Gadgeteer has in this deck:

Winning With Urza or Why Urza Doesn't Play Thassa's Oracle

Infinite mana is usually the end goal for Urza, but how exactly do we close out the game? The easiest and most straightforward way would be to exile your library with Urza and cast Thassa's Oracle, but that's pretty suboptimal, because it wastes a slot for an unnecessary wincon. By gaining access to our whole library via Urza we can assemble a win with the cards that are already in the deck and provide value outside of solely being wincons.

Don't play it!

So this is how we do it today (March 2024):

  1. Create infinite mana.
  2. Activate Urza until you hit Codex Shredder.
  3. Keep activating Urza until you find a way to loop Codex Shredder activations (e.g. Isochron Scepter + Dramatic Reversal or Hullbreaker Horror).
  4. Mill your opponents' libraries.
  5. Cast Faerie Mastermind and activate it once so they deck themselves.

Another option to win are spell loops like Twister-Loops or Dual-Scepter-Loops. These allow you to use your 99 to create an unbeatable boardstate by bouncing all of your opponents' permanents, stripping their hands, staxing out the board and making infinite Construct or Swan tokens to attack for lethal damage on your next turn. The main issue this line has is that it relies on a lot of spells to be available to you and it also can't win the game, if time was already called in a tournament setting.

A final option is Bribery. Polymorph lists like to play this card, because it allows you to steal a creature to have fodder for the Polymorph effect or for value, but its versatility goes way beyond that. You can for example use Bribery in your end game to steal an opponents' Dockside Extortionist, use the mana and the Goblin to resolve a Polymorph, cheat Hullbreaker Horror into play, go infinite, dump the mana into Urza and finally recur the Bribery to steal a Thassa's Oracle.

Final Thoughts - Adapt or Die!

Urza is a go to deck for people that step into cEDH, because of how (in)famous the character is in the lore. I chat with new players almost every day and this is in my opinion the most important advice I can give new Urza pilots:

  • Control is hard! You need extensive meta knowledge to know when to interact, what to interact with, which counterspell to use and what stax piece to tutor for. On top of that we lack colors and tutors, which makes mulligans so much harder, so you need to know not only your deck incredibly well, but also your opponents'.
  • Constantly adapt! You can start playing with the primer list, but you need to adapt it to your meta (turbo / midrange / stax), your setting (friendly games / tournaments) and your personal playstyle (proactive / reactive). If you don't adapt, your control pieces will be dead, your list will not provide what you want and ultimately your win rate will suffer.
  • Nothing is set in stone! cEDH Urza lists have gone through a lot of changes over the last few years so don't be afraid to test new approaches. Be creative and be open to changes, but make sure to track your games and share your results with the Tolarian Academy so we can all learn together.

Speaking of the Tolarian Academy. Make sure to join our Discord Server. We are one of the largest, most active, most dedicated and most helpful commander-specific groups in the cEDH community. 

cEDH Polymorph Urza No Polymorph Decklist 

cEDH Urza No Polymorph Decklist

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Commander (1)
Artifacts (28)
Instants (22)
Lands (27)
Enchantments (5)
Creatures (9)
Sorceries (6)
Planeswalkers (2)

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cEDH Polymorph Urza Decklist 

cEDH Polymorph Urza Decklist

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Commander (1)
Artifacts (30)
Instants (26)
Lands (28)
Sorceries (9)
Enchantments (3)
Planeswalkers (1)
Creatures (2)

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
View this decklist on Archidekt

Additional Urza Resources - The Tolarian Academy

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Engin Harman aka. Eisenherz is a long time cEDH brewer, tournament player and content creator. He is most known for his in-depth primers and educational YouTube videos.