We are now approaching a month into world of Modern Horizons, and its influence on Modern so far has been impressive. The set has reshaped the Modern landscape with an influx of powerful cards. It is easy to see the widespread impact of Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Altar of Dementia, followed by the banning of Bridge from Below, but other archetypes have been born as a result of the Modern-focused set.

In particular, a fresh take on the once-powerful Ironworks Combo has begun to make waves in the format, adopting cards from Modern Horizons. That deck is Grixis Urza. This week, I examine why Grixis Urza is one of the best strategies to play in Modern at present and why the strategy offers consistency similarly to its predecessor, Ironworks Combo.

Let’s begin by evaluating the namesake card, what it does, and why it is making waves in Modern.

Urza, Lord High Artificer received plenty of excitement when it was previewed, with most of the anticipation centering around Commander. Cards with a heavy artifact synergy always pique the interest of Modern players however, so it was only a matter of time before Urza got a shot. There is a lot to unpack with Urza, and many ways to build around his powers.

Fast-mana always gets attention in Modern, with Mox Opal being a prime example. Urza offers a different take on fast mana, allowing artifacts to pay for more artifacts—even creatures with summoning sickness. (Grand Architect has a similar ability but never proved strong enough for Modern.) Urza’s enter the battlefield ability isn’t something to shy away from either, as it provides an excellent win-condition if you play enough artifacts. We have seen this kind of power before with Master of Etherium in traditional Affinity builds, which can snowball very quickly if left unresolved.

On top of these abilities, Urza also combines powerfully with Thopter Foundry and the once-banned Sword of the Meek. Sword of the Meek hasn’t seen extensive play since it’s unbanning back in 2016, but Urza looks to change this notion. Urza’s mana ability allows Sword of the Meek to pay for its own sacrifices to Thopter Foundry, which means infinite thopters and life. But the thopters are also artifacts that tap from Urza, creating infinite mana that can be spent on Urza’s final ability, which harks back to Temporal Aperture. By infinitely activating Urza’s last ability, you can cast your whole deck. Urza offers plenty of potential, and players have only scratched the surface so far.

Sword of the Meek also hasn’t made a huge impact in Modern because there hasn’t been a reliable way to put the equipment in the graveyard. Another new card from Modern Horizons just so happens to answer that question:

Goblin Engineer looks fairly innocuous by Modern standards, at least compared to the currently-banned Stoneforge Mystic. Goblin Welder has done some work in Legacy combo decks without being too powerful. But Goblin Engineer gets a bonus tutor to put Sword of the Meek where you want it to be, in the graveyard.

In addition to fueling the combo, Goblin Engineer provides resilience by recurring artifacts that get destroyed, such as Ensnaring Bridge. The tutor effect also pulls out silver bullets to fight specific decks. The mana is comfortable thanks to Mox Opal and additional Modern Horizons newcomer, Arcum’s Astrolabe.

Grixis Urza is beginning to see success in high profile tournaments and on Magic Online. This became evident a few weeks ago when Brian Coval took the strategy to the finals of the SCG Team Open in Pittsburgh.

Grixis Urza

Creatures (9)
Goblin Engineer
Urza, Lord High Artificer
Scrap Trawler

Spells (6)
Serum Visions
Whir of Invention

Artifacts (26)
Mishra’s Bauble
Mox Opal
Arcum’s Astrolabe
Mind Stone
Thopter Foundry
Sword of the Meek
Ensnaring Bridge
Grafdigger’s Cage
Ichor Wellspring
Nihil Spellbomb
Pithing Needle
Pyrite Spellbomb
Tormod’s Crypt
Lands (19)
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Prismatic Vista
Darkslick Shores
Spirebluff Canal
Steam Vents
Watery Grave
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Mountain
Snow-Covered Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Dead of Winter
Fatal Push
Galvanic Blast
Leyline of the Void
Sai, Master Thopterist
Surgical Extraction
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

As you can see from Coval’s list, one copy of Pyrite Spellbomb as another win condition. We have seen Pyrite Spellbomb and Scrap Trawler in Ironworks Combo, but here it provides an insurance plan of sorts. There are instances where having infinite life and thopters isn’t enough. If you are able to activate Urza’s last ability infinitely, you can play Scrap Trawler and Pyrite Spellbomb and alternate sacrificing Sword of the Meek and Mox Opal, pinging your opponent continually, bringing each back with the Scrap Trawler trigger.

Although the Pyrite Spellbomb and Scrap Trawler combo is effective, Grixis Urza has plenty of other lines to victory. That could lead this strategy to more success than Ironworks Combo thanks to its various lines of attack, whereas Ironworks Combo was mostly linear. Even if  Grixis Urza proves more resilient than Ironworks Combo, the variety of lines of play hopefully will not create the tedious gameplay that Ironworks Combo and previous “Eggs” deck have been known for.

Grixis Urza also benefit from being able to leverage Chalice of the Void, which could be powerful in this metgame dominated by Faithless Looting and Ancient Stirrings. Izzet Phoenix looks to be the de facto strategy in Modern after the banning of Bridge from Below, and Chalice of the Void is an excellent deterrent against the Izzet tempo strategy. In addition, Ensnaring Bridge and Grafdigger’s Cage remain excellent disruption against the other aggressive and graveyard strategies running around Modern.

Stony Silence and Karn, the Great Creator are the best disruptive answers for Grixis Urza. Although artifact hate has been featured less in sideboards recently due to the impact of Hogaak, that could change heading into Mythic Championship IV Barcelona next weekend. Sai, Master Thopterist offers the alternative path to victory out of the sideboard.

Grixis Urza looks to be in a solid position leading up to the Mythic Championship in Barcelona, and I expect to see a strong showing of the strategy at the high-profile event. Despite being an intricate strategy, Grixis Urza provides plenty of answers to the questions of the format, and offers a more consistent gameplan than its predecessor, Ironworks Combo. Despite the success, we are only scratching the surface of what Grixis Urza is capable of, which is a scary thought in itself. I’m excited to see where Grixis Urza goes from here, and the various iterations which will come as a result.

Emma is a writer and Modern enthusiast based in Suffolk, England. She has been involved in Magic since Khans of Tarkir’s release back in 2014, but won’t shy away from Cube and MTG Arena. Follow her on Twitter @emmmzyne to join in on the conversation!

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