“…The bottom line is this: haste is one of the most powerful underrated game-altering abilities a creature can have. In essence it attaches a Time Walk to your animal at very little extra cost. It thwarts the opponent's carefully plotted plans and throws combat math right out the window. Clearly if we all had our way every creature would have haste.”
Free time walks. What can we do with limitless free Time Walks?
What can't we do with limitless free time walks!
But let's back up. Let me catch you up to speed.
The inherent problem with creatures is that they're slow. Cumbersome. Lazy. They take a turn to get moving. It doesn't matter if you have a turn one Elite Vanguard on the play if they have a Lightning Bolt for it. This gives spells a distinct advantage: they happen immediately.
If your opponent doesn't have any creatures you can tap out to draw three cards with a smug little grin knowing that your life total is safe and you can dispatch any new threats next turn. That is… unless there's a creature with haste waiting in your opponent's hand. But what are the odds of that right?
Enter: Urabrask the Hidden.
A single resolved Urabrask will dictate the entire flow of the game. It puts the opponent precisely where they don't want to be.
Let's look at the card from the ground up.
For five mana you buy a 4/4. Those are some pretty reasonable stats if maybe about one size smaller than you could ask for a five-mana creature. Let's keep looking.
So first there's the fact that Urabrask itself has haste. Now we're talking! Haste is the best weapon against planeswalkers and two four-power haste creatures—Hero of Oxid Ridge and Vengevine—have been a backbone of aggressive strategies in Standard lately. Now those two creatures for all of their upsides have a fundamental flaw on the backend of their power: only two and three toughness respectively.
The small toughness differential might not seem like a lot but in format all about Swords that can be everything. Any creature holding a Sword—like say a Squadron Hawk—can trade with one of the other haste creatures.
But four toughness? Now we're talking! Let's see your Sworded Hawk block that! Urabrask rumbles through 1/1s with Swords Nest Invaders and looking toward the future Golem tokens and Porcelain Legionnaires alike!
Speaking of Squadron Hawks and Golem tokens let's set aside the rest of his first ability so we can savor it later and take a look at its second ability.
All of your opponent's creatures enter the battlefield tapped.
Every. Single. One.
If you've ever had the misfortune of being on the wrong side of Loxodon Gatekeeper in Limited you might have a good idea of how powerful this ability is—and he wasn't also a 4/4 with haste clocking your life total either! This kind of ability is deceptively powerful. You might not have any idea how strong this ability is yet—but just wait until you stare down the red Praetor.
The premier control deck of the format uses the belligerent bird to both buy time and take control of the game. Urabrask cuts off the first avenue which in turn severely damages the second.
Imagine this all-too-common scenario.
You're playing a red deck. It doesn't really matter what kind. It could be Mono-Red Beatdown. It could be Mono-Red Control. It could be some kind of R/G Beatdown deck. Regardless you're in kind of a rough spot. Maybe your Caw-Blade opponent managed to deal with your first few creatures; maybe you never cast any. Regardless right now it's your turn four and your spell just got Mana Leaked. Standard! You pass back and they cast a Jace and show you how clever they are by choosing to scry one.
Untap land Urabrask the Hidden. Attack Jace down to one.
Now what happens?
Up to this point maybe you've been thinking that Kuldotha Phoenix could just do the same thing. Decks like Wes Blanchard's Mono-Red Control which want a five-drop 4/4 haste recently have used Kuldotha Phoenix. And while those decks may have the capacity to return it it doesn't actually come up all that often. Urabrask blows Kuldotha Phoenix away in those decks.
Why? Check this out.
The default plan in this situation would probably be to play a Squadron Hawk and block… Except that's no longer an option because of Urabrask. Likewise Stoneforge Mystic isn't a good option either. They can expend their Jace and unsummon your Praetor then play some Hawks but they lose Jace by doing so and can't replay another one that turn. Tumble Magnet doesn't do anything because every other creature has haste—I'll get to that half of Urabrask's ability in a second; I want to save the best for last—so that's right out.
The only options they're left with is to play Gideon and kill Urabrask—in which case they better hope that you don't have another—or Condemn/Oust/Journey to Nowhere it and play a Hawk or cast Day of Judgment.
You just cut their options in half. No other card in Standard can begin to do as much as Urabrask has here. And that's just against Caw-Blade!
Not only does Urabrask have haste but he also takes it away from the unworthy creatures on your opponent's side of the board! The Vengevines in Naya and Bluemanji lose a lot of power when they enter tapped! Those decks are generally all about setting up for one big Vengevine turn but when they have to wait a turn for those Vengevines to do anything they become a lot worse. And as for trying to use Vengevines to efficiently block over and over you can forget about it. Similarly for Hero of Oxid Ridge.
But that's not the end of it. If there are any Cunning Sparkmages running around you shut those off for an entire turn. You no longer have to fear tapping out into an active Basilisk Collar. Some red decks bring in Mark of Mutiny to deal with Baneslayer Angel to buy the one extra turn they need but if you land an Urabrask first you can have a proactive way of stopping the lifelinking 5/5.
Surprise Goblin Chieftains? Stay at home thank you. Skithiryx? Come back tomorrow. Splinter Twin–Deceiver Exarch has been receiving a lot of hype but the combo shuts off when you have an Urabrask on the table. Urabrask is a proactive answer to a red deck's worst problems.
And then there's the other part of Urabrask ability I said I'd get back to. I wanted to save the best for last.
Oh yes the Fervor ability.
If you've been following along so far this guy probably sounds pretty good. And he certainly is. If he ended there I'd still play him in some decks. But giving haste to everything else pushes this card over the edge of good and right into absurd.
There's a new rule: you can never let your opponent untap with an Urabrask the Hidden.
I don't care if you have Condemn the next turn; it's not going to be good enough.
Imagine this sequence of plays in Mono-Red Control:
Turn two mana artifact. Turn three you innocuously choose to pass. Turn four Urabrask attack for four. But your opponent feels reasonably safe. They want to get some Squadron Hawks down to start blocking next turn. What's the worst that could happen after all?
Turn five Inferno Titan. Attack you for thirteen.
If you're so inclined you can also kill their Hawks. Does it even matter at that point? The Caw-Blade deck needed that extra turn to Day of Judgment or block or something. Urabrask isn't just Time Walk he is Time Stretch! You skipped what they did on their turn and jumped ahead an extra turn of your own in the process!
You see not only does Urabrask speed the attack step up to where you will be next turn not only does he hand out mini Time Walks every time you cast a creature but he also makes your opponent play a turn behind. All of their creatures enter tapped! At the very least Urabrask steals half a turn from your opponent. More often you're going to bleed turns from your opponent for the rest of the game.
At this point maybe you're wondering if Urabrask is any good in traditional red beatdown decks. The answer is a resounding yes! He does all of the same things that he did when he was in the control deck except he instantly puts your opponent under pressure. He still steals away their ability to block but he also sends in your slower creatures immediately.
How many times have you drawn a Plated Geopede in the late game and sighed because your opponent has a turn to prepare for it? With Urabrask in play all of your creatures are immediate threats. Each Geopede you draw represents at least three extra damage if not more because you're sitting on fetchlands. For your opponent it's a completely nerve-wracking experience. It becomes nearly impossible for them to attack knowing that creatures could spring into the red zone at any time.
Could he possibly be better than something like Hero of Oxid Ridge? If you're in the market for a top-end finisher absolutely! Hero's battle cry is only marginally relevant in a deck with a handful of creatures and Urabrask's abilities both far outclass Hero's ability to shut off blocking.
While Urabrask does cost one more a lot of Red decks are playing more and more lands making consistently reaching five a very realistic possibility. Plus don't forget about Koth's -2 being able to slam Urabrask and another creature onto the battlefield out of nowhere changing the math from a single 4/4 Mountain into a 4/4 Urabrask plus another creature. Having a hand full of them can be a problem but you can start by trying two copies in your deck and go from there.
Of course haste means far more than just attacking. One of the real secrets to Urabrask is that he turns on all of your tap abilities immediately.
Once upon a time about ten years ago there was a deck that used a three-mana multicolored enchantment to give all of its creatures haste. This of course was Fires of Yavimaya. Keep in mind this was a three-mana enchantment which only had a slight side benefit. Fires wasn't anywhere close to a 4/4 that Time Walked your opponent's creatures. And that was also pre-Fauna Shaman.
That's right. Urabrask turns on your Fauna Shamans immediately. The card's largest weakness is that it needs a turn to live—but Urabrask skips that little problem. Imagine this sequence of plays: Urabrask the Hidden untap Fauna Shaman discard a creature go get Blade Splicer cast it attack you for eight. Your opponent had certainly better hope the creature you discarded wasn't a Vengevine!
Urabrask also makes all of your Birds of Paradise free and Kuldotha Forgemaster able to activate the turn it comes down—and that's just a handful of the abilities it speeds up for you. The older the formats you traverse the more ridiculous the possibilities Urabrask opens up.
Where to begin? Well there are plenty of nuggets hidden above. Urabrask fits nicely into several archetypes. But I'm far less interested in putting Urabrask into an existing archetype than I am in giving him a home of his own. What do I mean exactly? Take a look at this:
- 1 Molten-Tail Masticore
- 1 Moltensteel Dragon
- 1 Myr Superion
- 1 Precursor Golem
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Cunning Sparkmage
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 1 Hero of Oxid Ridge
- 2 Joraga Treespeaker
- 4 Lotus Cobra
- 4 Mul Daya Channelers
- 1 Sylvan Ranger
- 4 Vengevine
- 4 Urabrask the Hidden
Urabrask may be legendary but that doesn't stop you from playing the full four in a deck like this. You always want to be able to cast one when you can and you have Fauna Shamans to pitch him to if necessary.
There are some really cool additions from the new set scattered throughout. The deck still needs some tuning to determine what is necessary and what isn't and it's possible some new cards may be cut for more Precursor Golems but some things I'm sure are insane. For example Moltensteel Dragon after an Urabrask is often immediately game over out of nowhere. Never let your opponent untap with an Urabrask indeed!
If you have any suggestions for the deck I'd be happy to take them in the forums. Please feel free to post away with your thoughts on the deck or Urabrask in general and I'd be happy to talk with you about this powerful Praetor!
And now a quick aside I want to mention before I wrap up for the week.
Last week Wizards of the Coast announced that the Community Cup would once again be returning. I was invited to participate last year and it was a phenomenal experience and it's certainly some of the most fun I've ever had doing something Magic related.
When the announcement went up it invited people to e-mail Wizards recommending players they should pick. Well word quickly got out and various people began to rally their legion of supporters to get votes.
From experience I can say this tournament is truly at its core a big “thank you!” to the people who have made Magic Online a success whether it's being a grinder or just helping out in the forums. It's important one or two big-name Magic Online grinders are there for numerous reasons and I'd be very surprised if Brad Nelson or Bing Luke didn't end up on the squad. I'd love to see either of them there fighting for us.
But amidst all of the suggestion-gathering I want to point out someone who might otherwise get lost in the shuffle: StarCityGames.com columnist and Magic Online grinder Reid Duke. He's been around the Magic Online scene for a while crunches Magic Online data every week in his column and also just plays a ton of Magic Online. He's seen a ton of online success recently winning one PTQ and making Top 8 of several others.
You can suggest as many people as you would like to Wizards for this so you can still tell them you want to see Brad Bing and many other players. Just at least consider giving a nod to Reid too. He's a nice guy and a dedicated Magic Online player and I would love to see him rewarded for his effort.
With that all said thanks for reading! I'll see you all in the forums as we talk about Urabrask. I'd love to get your take on him! If forums aren't your thing feel free to e-mail me at Gavintriesagain at gmail dot com or send me a tweet.
Talk to you soon!
I received a lot of feedback from last week that people enjoyed listening to the audio I provided. Whether because they were in the car on a plane or just wanted to multitask it provided them a great additional way to enjoy my articles. I'm going to try and make this a regular occurrence.
Frontloading my article with the audio puts a lot of emphasis on it and until I have the technique hammered out I'm going to put it at the bottom in a bonus section each week. Feel free to provide me any feedback you have on the audio and let me know if it's useful to you. I know there are a couple stutters here and there and I apologize for those in advance; I recorded four times and edited a bunch to try and make it sound as crisp as possible.
With that said you can listen to this article by clicking here. Enjoy!