It’s A Zur Thing

Posted in Serious Fun on July 4, 2006

By Anthony Alongi

Readers like their preview card early in the article.

The best part is, the readers who are only here for the preview card will leave now, and I don't have to deal with them. (This is how crotchety old men think. You damn kids and your preview cards! Get on outta here, before ah git mah shotgun!)

Rules notes:

  • If you're a fairly new player, this is a good time to learn how to slow down the combat phase and do it right. See the rules for more information. The hints below are just that - hints. They won't give you the full story.
  • After you announce/tap Zur and any other attackers, stop. Chances are, Zur's ability is the next thing to go on the stack, before anybody does anything. The exceptions are very few and far between.
  • Of course, once the ability is on the stack, anyone can respond before it resolves. This does not stop you from resolving the ability; but a good, stiff Terminate would stop you from selecting Zur for an aura that you might bring out.
  • Once Zur's ability is resolving, nobody can do anything until the enchantment is out. This may be basic for a lot of players, but I'll rephrase: if you let Zur's ability resolve, and then see a Moldervine Cloak come out, Zur will be wearing it before your Char makes it.
  • Auras that Zur retrieves do not target. So you can put that Plumes of Peace on Multani, Maro-Sorcerer.
  • Auras that Zur retrieves must find a resting place(?). When I first wrote this, I thought that if the aura in question could not find a legal resting place, it would go into the graveyard. It turns out that's wrong though. If an aura that Zur tries to put into play can't possibly be put into play, it stays in the library. It does not go to the graveyard. (Then you shuffle your library.) That's because of CR 212.4e, which says: "If an Aura is coming into play from any zone other than the stack and there is no legal permanent for it to enchant, the Aura remains in the zone from which it attempted to move instead of coming into play."
  • All of these considerations have taken place before anyone declares any blockers. They even happen before the "spells and abilities" portion of the attack step.
  • No, you can't get Zur's Weirding with this. Which is a shame, but that's numbers for you.

Being Zur Of Yourzelf

There is only one question to ask when building a deck with Zur: what enchantments will you pack?

One question, thousands of possibilities. Zur is a terrific "Johnny" card, and I'd like to try to do it justice today by listing a wide range of cool possibilities. None of these are going to win any tournaments; we all know that. But that won't stop people from posting to the message boards to say so, ad nauseum. So as a public service before we start, I've give you the following super-smart quote you can use to copy and paste in the forums:

We have, I fear, confused power with greatness.
Stewart L. Udall (1920 - ), commencement address, Dartmouth College, June 13, 1965

Zur is a great card. He is not a powerful card for tournaments. But that has never been the point of this game, and I pity the lost souls that stop their analysis there.

But I don't pity them enough to spend any more time on them. Let's move on.

Zur Zhots

Because of the huge potential, I've narrowed down the choices for this article considerably. First, I ignored red and green. You want to play red and green with Zur, go ahead. It's certainly possible, and there are some great choices. But I'm not going there today.

So – choosing from the universe of Zur's three colors, here are four broad directions you can take.

Direction #1: Protect or enhance Zur

Probably the first priority in a Zur deck is making sure Zur isn't too easy to kill. He's already four toughness, which is nice. And as a black creature, he's exempt from a lot of black spot removal. But there's always another trinket you can put on top, and Zur's armor will be no different.

Shadow_LanceMy first two choices would be recent enchantments: Shielding Plax and Shadow Lance. The Plax, because it's one of the best auras ever printed, and a Zur deck might be tricky enough to trigger multiple comes-into-play opportunities. The Lance, because 3/6 is better than 1/4, and 5/8 is even better. With Zur getting cards into play simply by attacking, the activation cost is a lot more manageable.

For older cards, you could consider Unquestioned Authority, Shade's Form, Pemmin's Aura, or Empyrial Armor.

Here's an interesting boutique trick: Angelic Renewal. This used to be one of my favorite cards; it's a great way to tell the board the next creature of yours that dies, doesn't really. (So the next turn, you can fetch Planar Collapse.)

Two other enhancements worth consideration: Sleeper's Robe and Flickerform. The Robe, because Zur obviously wants to attack and it would be nice if he didn't keep running into really big dragons. The Flickerform, because there are such things as black dragons and you'll still want to attack into them. Note the Flickerform/Plax synergy, if you're using all of these in the same deck.

Direction #2: Gain creature advantage

Seal of Doom
Some very scary things can happen if you pick the right enchantments. Zur can change the battlefield in an instant – growing creatures here, destroying creatures there, and making others shift allegiance.

The most straightforward trick is Arrest, which simply removes the flying blocker (or anything else) that stands in Zur's way. A similar (but not quite as helpful) move would be Mark of Eviction, which would be more geared toward keeping a large, groundpounding creature sick and not counter-attacking.

You can also gain creatures on your side, instead of neutralizing others. How about Animate Dead, or Legacy's Allure, or Opal Caryatid.

Once you have creature advantage, you can maintain it with boutique tricks like Coalition Flag.

Of course, Pillory of the Sleepless is a victory condition, and Seal of Doom can get rid of creatures outright. But I'll finish this section with two finesse choices. Threads of Disloyalty can pick off a small, efficient creature (like a Simic Guildmage) and bring it over to your side. And my favorite idea is a three way tie: Genju of the Falls, Genju of the Fens, or Genju of the Fields. These enchantments create additional creatures that you can then enchant with Zur's ability during the next combat phase. (Don't let it worry you that the new enchantment will eventually fall off. That's why you'll be using Chime of Night.)

Direction #3: Play stupid tricks.

Phyrexian Arena
I'm going to keep this section short because they involve combos, some more dominating than others. But I can at least admire the combo player for getting his tricks via the combat phase, for once.

Most of these are well-worn. I'm just reminding you of those that cost 3 mana (or less) for each part.

Phyrexian ArenaConvalescent Care

Bottomless PitMegrim


Underworld DreamsPhyrexian Tyranny

Astral SlideLightning Rift

Intruder Alarm – bleah, whatever

Direction #4: Just find good things.

Here, it's just about finding quality cards. There are plenty of three-mana enchantments worth looking into – Ghostly Prison, Haunted Crossroads, Oath of Ghouls, Promise of Bunrei, Halcyon Glaze, Parallax Nexus,Standstill, Words of Waste (or War, or Wisdom), and a variety of other quality cards. Don't forget single copies of smart metagame choices like Aura of Silence, Back to Basics, Vile Consumption, Planar Void, and so on. Aura of Silence is particularly helpful against the banes of Zur's existence: Psychogenic Probe and/or Aura Flux.

And don't forget – Pernicious Deed costs three.

And The Winner Zurly Is…

If you really want to build a flexible enchantment deck, Copy Enchantment is essential. It does in a Zur deck what Clone would do in a normal creature deck. Don't let Zur leave home without it!

Anthony Alongi has been playing various Magic formats for over eight years, and has been writing for much longer than that. He writes the JENNIFER SCALES book series with his wife, MaryJanice Davidson.

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