Personally, I find it much easier to talk about a card in a vacuum rather than trying to assign a concrete value to it in relation to the other cards in a set. But as an avid drafter and a Limited enthusiast, I don’t need someone to tell me if a card is good or not… I can figure that out for myself. Rather, I need someone to tell me how good a card is relative to other cards in a pack. This I find the most useful, but almost no one writes about Limited pick orders anymore.
I remember back when Gary Wise used to write about his draft pick orders for his sets back on Sideboard.com. Those were some of my favorite articles. In this new age of Magic, with well-designed draft formats, it has become harder than ever to determine concrete pick orders. As a result, articles that aim at trying to determine a pick order for sets has largely grown out of style in recent years. For this reason I am bringing Limited pick orders back to life by giving you my personal picks for drafting Coldsnap.
Based on my own Coldsnap drafting experience, I present both my evaluations of cards and pick orders for Blue and Green.
1. Heidar, Rimewind Master — As a 3/3 body, this guy is hard to kill with the majority of removal spells in the format. Once online, his ability is beyond ridiculous, allowing you to control games with ease.
2. Adarkar Windform — a 3/3 flyer for five is great because it trumps almost all the other fliers in the format. Its ability can allow this to get through unblocked, and can threaten to send your opponent’s fliers to the ground if they intend to attack, allowing you to easily win air wars.
3. Krovikan Whispers — Such a swingy card. Definitely not a turn 4 play, unless you know it will win you the game right there. More likely you will use this late game in a board stall, when you can absolutely wreck your opponent by stealing their best creature for the few turns you need to win the game. Or if you need to remove something, steal a cumulative upkeep creature and don’t pay its upkeep.
4. Frost Raptor — In Limited, 2/2 fliers for three is par for the course. But it’s still the bread and butter of any Blue deck.
5. Rimewind Taskmage — This card is absolutely ridiculous. The only reason it isn’t higher is because of the four snow permanent requirement. If you can get it online, there isn’t any Blue card you would rather have.
6. Rimefeather Owl — This is a fat, fat flier. However, seven is a lot of mana for a non-Green deck in Coldsnap. You may never have the chance to cast him. And once you do, what’s to say it won’t just get tapped down or removed? For this reason I cannot justify placing this creature any higher.
7. Krovikan Mist — Much like the other cards in the cycle, this obviously gets much better the more illusions there are in play. Its cheap cost makes it an inexpensive way to make efficient flyers. And just like the others in the cycle, it goes down steeply if you don’t have many illusions.
8. Balduvian Frostwalker — As with most of the Blue cards in Coldsnap, the more Snow Lands you have the better this guy gets. Late game, all your Snow Lands become 2/2 flyers. The tempo swing this guy can bring allowing you to play creatures and make 2/2 fliers in the same turn is incredible.
9. Frozen Solid — Blue doesn’t get much removal, and this isn’t great, but anything that taps this can shut down. There is not much playable enchantment removal in this set.
10. Snow Lands — Blue wants Snow Lands in its deck the most out of any color. I may be valuing Snow Land too low on the Blue pick order, but most of the cards beyond this are not essential to Blue’s strategy toward it’s path to victory.
11. Vexing Sphinx — A creature that will swing for 4-12 damage in the air and then disappear. When it dies, you get to refill your hand once again.
12. Drelnoch — His ability is certainly annoying, forcing your opponent to decide if they want to block him early and not take the damage but give you two cards, or just take the three a turn and keep you from having cards.
13. Ronom Serpent — He is a fatty. Everyone who drafts Coldsnap will have at least one Snow Covered land unless your name is Erich*. And if they don’t have Snow Lands you’re probably winning anyway.
14. Rune Snag — This is a card you definitely want two or three of in your deck due to the tempo you can gain and its cheap cost, and the fact that Blue has very poor two- and three-drops overall. However, you don’t want to be handcuffed with too many of these in hand when what you need to draw is business. I don’t have it higher because late-game it’s a reactive spell, so it won’t bail you out of trouble.
15. Surging Either — Bounce spells are good in Limited. However, at four mana, this is quite expensive, and there are so many four- and five-drops in the set that it’s hard to leave that much mana open. Again, Blue wants mana acceleration so badly to ramp into its spells, otherwise it relies too heavily on reactive cards such as counterspells and weak creatures as two-drops.
16. Rimewind Cryomancer — I may be undervaluing this 2/3, but for four mana he seems a bit on the small side for his cost. His ability certainly may be annoying, but I feel the tapper is much, much stronger in general. At least he blocks 2/2s.
17. Perilous Research — Being able to stack damage and then sac a creature to draw two cards can be good. Unfortunately, you won’t always find yourself in that situation, and you will be forced to sacrifice lands sometimes, which can set you way back on tempo.
18. Commandeer — Really only good against Red and Blue in this format. The lack of artifacts and enchantments in the set makes it rather underpowered. At best you’re going to two-for-three yourself when you pitch two Blue cards. Not optimal, but it could randomly provide a tempo swing in your favor. Too expensive for me to want to play in every deck.
19. Martyr of Frost — I’m personally not a big fan of counterspells in Limited. This guy, however, has the advantage of being able to beat down. But late game, when you don’t have many cards in hand, he’s just a 1/1 that your opponent can play around. I would definitely prefer to play Rune Snag for the surprise value if nothing else.
20. Jokulmorder — He is very fat, and he isn’t terribly expensive. So if you set up for him right, with an Island or two left in your hand when he comes into play, your opponent will be hard pressed to answer a 12/12 trampler.
21. Flashfreeze — I certainly wouldn’t want to maindeck this spell, although it could potentially be an awesome sideboard option against Red/Green decks.
22. Controvert — It’s a hard counter, but at four mana this card is so expensive that by the time you can get it online you could be taking heavy beats from faster decks. Don’t even think about recovering it either, as if you have the mana to do that, you’re probably already winning.
23. Arcum Dagsson — This creature is an overcosted 2/2 that has a not-so-relevant Limited ability. He may be sideboard worthy against opponents sporting multiple artifact creatures, but overall this guy should ride your bench.
25. Survivor of the Unseen — You’re paying three mana for a creature that has to stick around for one turn in order to draw a card just to break even. For less mana, and without having to pay an extremely expensive cumulative upkeep, you can play Perilous Research to do the same thing at instant speed and without any liability. Nor will it handcuff your manabase with cumulative upkeep.
26. Counterbalance — Would you play a spell that only worked 1/8th of the time at best? I didn’t think so.
Blue, more than any other color in Coldsnap, wants as many snow permanents as it can get. Many of the creatures become quite powerful when you have four or more in play. If you’re looking for a good pairing for Limited, what better color is there than Green? Green can help Blue with its two biggest needs: increasing the number of snow permanents, and acceleration. Green has both Boreal Druid as a snow permanent and snow mana for activations, as well as Into the North to help search out more snow lands and get them into play.
1. Resize — This card may be the most ridiculous card in the set. A pump spell that can be reused over and over is absolutely insane. Windmill Slam first pick.
2. Brooding Saurion — 4/4s for 4 with no drawbacks certainly are good. Be happy to open this one.
3. Ronom Hulk — Nothing gets past this guy. He will win you the game in three or four turns if not dealt with right away. Cumulative upkeep is hardly an issue, since it’s colorless to pay. Every green deck wants 2-3 of these for sure. I would say you want more than three in a deck, but the cumulative upkeep keeps you from having more than two in play at a time, so you don’t usually want to draw more than that. A 5/6 for five mana is incredibly strong, and having Protection from Snow is very relevant in this format.
4. Arctic Nishoba — This card is very, very strong if you have enough Green and White mana. If you can keep him around for at least four turns you are guaranteed a huge creature that they have to deal with, and some extra life when they finally do. If your opponent doesn’t, you win; the trample will cause massive headaches for defending creatures. Only lower than the Ronom Hulk due to a slightly prohibitive cumulative upkeep cost, and because it costs one more mana.
8. Boreal Druid — This is the bread and butter of any Green-based deck. Being able to accelerate a turn ahead is very important. Boreal Druid both being a Snow Creature and providing snow mana is quite good, and synergistic with any color as snow activations are typically quite strong. Every base-Green deck wants 2-3 of these guys to ramp up to it’s fat early. Not producing colored mana isn’t as big of an issue in this set, thanks to many of the spells only requiring a single color of mana to cast.
9. Snow-Covered Land — Every deck wants as many of these as they can afford to get. Some snow lands will go late, but others – such as snow duals – you may have to take earlier. However, based on the cards you are taking, such as cards that require snow activations or a certain number of snow permanents in play, snow lands can be very important to pick up. Therefore when you take snow lands will fluctuate throughout the draft. I would not be unhappy to take a few snow lands this high, because you are still guaranteed to get playables past eighth pick due to the overall power level of the commons.
10. Karplusan Strider — Three power is the magic number in Coldsnap, therefore having four toughness allows this creature to hold many of the creatures available. It cannot be bounced, controlled, or killed by Black or Blue spells, making this creature a great defender.
11. Sound the Call — This card, at worst, is a Gray Ogre. Each subsequent call gets better. If you intend on taking Sound of the Calls then each subsequent Sound of the Call you take will become that much better. This pick will certainly go up if you already have three or four Calls in your pile. Otherwise it will become almost irrelevant by pack 3, and you’ll want to pass them up over other cards.
12. Boreal Centaur — Again, the quality of this card will depend largely on the amount of snow mana you have. If you have been drafting well, you will have plenty of snow mana available. In that case, this card is quite strong.
13. Surging Might — This card could be higher than this depending on how many Surging Mights you already have. But if you run too many of these, then you risk not having enough creatures to put them on. Find a fine balance and get a few lucky ripples and you may end games quite quickly. The majority of removal in this set is not very good at taking out large creatures. Be wary of Chill to the Bone. It is much safer to play these on Snow Creatures.
14. Into the North — Farseek this isn’t. Of course, it is still very strong. If you only have 2-3 snow lands in your deck you don’t want to run more than two Into the Norths, or else you risk drawing your snow lands and then later have nothing in your deck to search for. The more snow lands you have, the better this becomes. It can also search for the snow duals.
15. Simian Brawler — Wild Mongrels long-lost cousin. A solid addition to any Green deck. Also, the threat of being able to pump at will can allow you to bluff a land and attack into creatures you have no right attacking into. It can deter attackers on defense, too.
16. Frostweb Spider — The majority of flyers in Coldsnap have two power. This shuts them all down completely.
17. Steam Spitter — When blocking two-power flyers just isn’t enough. This guy is very solid. He would be higher, but the five-slot should be reserved for cards that win you the game, rather than help you not lose. However, five toughness is great, and the Firebreathing ability is handy if you are in Red.
18. Bull Aurochs — not a bad card, and with a few of them out, or with Surging Might enchanted on any Aurochs, the trample could add up very quickly. Sadly, 2/1s quickly get outclassed by other creatures, and the one toughness makes it very vulnerable to Black and Red removal.
19. Panglacial Wurm — I’ve I’m going to spend seven mana on a creature, I could do worse than a nine-powered trampler.
20. Allosaurus Rider — You can discard two Green cards early to get him in play, but then you have a small creature. Or you can wait until you can cast it and get a big creature, but it’s seven mana for something that doesn’t even trample. Bombaliciously big late game, but a little expensive to be that good.
21. Aurochs Herd — Not a great card for the cost, but it is pure card advantage. Don’t be unhappy to run 1 or 2 in a deck. [I’d rate this guy MUCH higher… – Craig.]
22. Martyr of Spores — in a heavy Green deck, this guy can be just like an extra pump spell. However, his power wanes late game, and he is very vulnerable to both the pingers and all the cheap Black and Red removal. Also lacks surprise value.
23. Hibernation’s End — This card looks like a new Aether Vial. In reality it’s not at all. On turn 5, the last thing you want to do is to tap out to play an enchantment that doesn’t do anything right away. And then for the next three turns you are going to be paying mana for something that will put in insignificant creatures. Your opponent, on the other hand, without making himself hiccup on turn 5 and then being short mana every turn thereafter, will promptly resume beating you down after he thanks you for giving him a Time Walk.
24. Mystic Melting — I don’t feel there are enough artifacts and enchantments in Coldsnap to warrant a maindeck inclusion. Great sideboard option.
25. Freyalise’s Radiance — Could be a good sideboard option if you aren’t running a lot of snow permanents.
26. Sheltering Ancient — Could be playable if you have a way to Freeze Solid or Pacify one of their creatures. Otherwise completely unplayable, as their creatures will quickly get out of hand.
Green has the biggest creatures out of all the colors and has some incredible pump spells. However, unless you have acceleration in your Green decks, you will often find yourself one step behind your quicker Blue and White opponents, who have fliers and tappers to out-tempo you. Therein lies Green’s greatest weakness: a lack of removal and lack of true evasion. For this reason, Ronom Hulk becomes that much better as a creature with its “evasion,” of sorts. Also, the spiders can help to hold off an air force to allow your bigger creatures the time they need to finish the job. In addition to fliers, tappers can become a nightmare for the Green player. Therefore the color Green in Coldsnap very much wants to be paired with a color that can provide both evasion and removal spells.
* Unless you are my friend Erich who manages to not draft a single Snow Land, stranding my two Ronom Serpents!