Drafting Coldsnap With Stu

England’s finest Constructed mind, Stuart Wright, turns his eye to triple Coldsnap draft. Today’s article sees Stu share a number of winning strategies that have served him well at high-level events and on Magic Online. There’s something for everyone in this comprehensive article… is there a deck style for you?

Although lots of people have talked about Coldsnap Limited, they don’t tend to agree on much. I feel this format is a lot better than people give it credit for, as there seems to be plenty of skill, and ripple and the like don’t wreak games as much as some people would have you believe. However, you do have to take into account that the small number of cards in the set means that you can expect certain commons pretty reliably, and decks often end up with lots of duplicates. This makes the format more like constructed than normal; you can draft the same deck again and again.

I will go over the decks I like to draft, decks I have found to be good, but of course other people may do well with different decks. It can often be hard to tell what are the “real” best decks to draft, because you need to play a lot of games with players of equal skill to work this out. For example, if you are the best player in your group and you always force U/W and keep winning, there is little incentive to change – you might well think u/w is the best deck. However, if you instead forced G/R you might well win as much, if not more, but the change from an 80% to 85% win-rate is hard to notice without a very long-term view. In case anyone cares, I went 2-1 at English Nationals, 3-0 in my one PTQ top8, and 23-2 on Magic Online, from three Sealed Premier Events and seven drafts (not counting a lot of matches on the beta).

Snow "Control" B/R/U

This was the first type of deck I drafted a lot, and it has a lot of powerful cards, some of which other players won’t rate. I would aim to draft only two colors, but a splash is certainly acceptable if you have powerful cards or a number of the snow duals. If you are going to splash anything, normally the card that tempts you is Skred or other Red removal. Black is generally not worth a splash, as most of its best cards are BB to cast, like Disciple of Tevesh Szat. Zombie Musher is fine, but unless you have a lot of free Black sources in snow lands I wouldn’t splash him. The most important cards for this type of deck are cards that let you make the most of your snow permanents, such as Skred and Rimewind Taskmage. In order to power up these sorts of cards, you want to take snow lands very high, over any reasonable cards that will make your deck. Cards like Goblin Rimerunner and Ohran Yeti, while good, are not as important as snow lands, and you will almost always end up with too many playables in a CCC draft. This means you might well end up first picking them out of weak boosters, and taking them second to fifth in others. Assuming you have cards to go with them, you can’t ever have too many, and because of the high overall power level you will see cards like Orcish Bloodpainter tenth-plus to fill out your deck. I’m not a great fan of Krovikan Mist in this sort of deck, as you need to pick them quite high to get enough… and it isn’t snow. Of course, if you see lots floating around, start picking them up.

Pick Order

These are all pretty changeable, depending on what cards you already have, how many four drops, what colors are major/minor, etc. I’m going to list the cars in the rough order I would pick them, but cards on the same line are all pretty close, with different lines having more of a gap in power level.

Surging Flame; Rimewind Taskmage
Snow lands
Disciple of Tevesh Szat; Frost Raptor; Martyr of Ashes; Zombie Musher
Chill to the Bone
Grim Harvest; most of the playable creatures (including Survivor of the Unseen)

Martyr gets a lot better the more you base your deck around him, and I will cover that sort of deck later. You only really want one Grim Harvest, with the second only being fine, so you don’t need to take them too high. They are better than this ranking would suggest – the same with Survivor of the Unseen, which is massively underrated so you will see it late a lot. Card advantage is hard to get in this format, so even if you have to pay a lot of mana (five for two, nine for three), it is still worth it. When I say snow lands, I mean on-color ones – off-color ones aren’t quite as good. You can afford one or two, but no more, and even fewer in a three-color deck.

Sample deck:

This deck is probably about as good as it gets. Thermal Flux is fine when you have this many good cards; it helps you if you get unlucky and don’t draw that many snow permanents.


If you end up drafting Black and Red, you will often end up with quite a reasonable beatdown game plan. Without the more controlling cards from Blue, you want to be more aggressive, with more two drops and using cards like Goblin Rimerunner and Orcish Bloodpainter to force through damage. The deck below has a lot of one-drops and Grim Harvest; it aims to force through early damage, then finish people off by recurring creatures.

Sample deck:

G/R Beatdown

This type of deck can either be short-range beatdown, with lots of little creatures and burn aiming to finish quickly, or it can build up its mana to make larger creatures (such as Aurochs Herd) in an endless stream. These decks do overlap quite a bit, so you can take your time working out which way to focus your deck. I prefer drafting lots Herds and Boreal Druids, but you still need an early game, and having Bull Aurochs lets you have a bit of early pressure and then a late-game helping with the final push. If you have a number of Into the Norths then you can consider splashing a third color, and often you won’t end up with many Red cards to start with making it easier to support another color. Cards like Juniper Order Ranger can be very powerful when you make lots of Aurochs Herds. This deck doesn’t need snow lands quite as much as the deck before it, but fewer of your creatures are snow, meaning if you have Skred you still need snow lands to power them up. I don’t like Sound the Call that much, but it does fill a potential hole in your mana curve which is more relevant if you have more Boreal Druids than Into the Norths.

Pick Order

Skred; Aurochs Herd
Ronom Hulk; Surging Flame; Into the North; Boreal Druid
Snow lands
Martyr of Ashes; Bull Auroch; Goblin Rimerunner; Boreal Centaur
Other reasonable creatures depending on curve – note: there are lots of four drops open, so take them later

Sample deck:

You might have noticed that these decks often have Lightning Storm, which I consider a lot better than most other people. You don’t really want to use it kill creatures, but if they miss land drops you can use it fairly safely. The best use is to stop playing lands, building up and kill people with it. You can easily pitch two lands to it to do seven, and hold one back for their land.

White War Cry

This deck is all about drafting as many Kjeldoran War Cries as possible, and lots of creature to go with them. White has a lot of two-drop creatures to go with this plan, and any other color could be paired with this. Green gives you Aurochs, which have trample, allowing a better "Overrun" style effect. Blue provides flyers, and War Cry makes winning races pretty easy. Red gives you removal, and with it a bit of reach – creatures like Goblin Rimerunner fit well with this game plan. I don’t really like White that much as a color in this set, so this is the only sort of deck I’m happy drafting. You need to make sure you have enough creatures when you have lots of War Cries, because you already have a bunch of cards that have the potential to be useless. If White is really open you can end up mono-White, but ideally I would end up with my only White cards being six War Cries. If I open an Adarkar Valkyrie, this is the sort deck I would try and draft; if I opened a Sunscour, I would just pass it on – it really doesn’t fit into a normal White deck, and I’d rather take Skred over it.

Sample deck:

Martyr decks

Red Martyr

Other people have talked about the Martyr of Ashes / Icefall deck, which is fine, but you don’t need Icefall to play it. The Martyr is fine on its own; with enough Red cards, you can reliably sweep the board and as long as you have other removal to deal with flyers control the game in general. The deck below shows an almost mono-Red deck with this game plan. Even if you only get two-for-one with a Martyr, that is still pretty good and slows them down. Of course, having Icefall when you have loads of Martyrs does give some quite insane decks where you “no-permanent” your opponent. As a bonus, the White decks with loads of two-drops really struggle to beat this type of deck.

White Martyr

This deck is a little more interesting, and much less likely to come up in a normal draft. The basic plan is to draft all the Martyr of Sands and Grim Harvests you see, and then lots of other White cards, including a Jotun Grunt. With seven mana, you can loop the Martyr so you cast and use it every turn, gaining 15-21 life each time. Quite a few decks can’t ever do this much damage, and then you just use the Jotun Grunt to deck them. There are a few problems, with lots of sideboard cards like Icefall giving you trouble, but I have made the finals of a draft with sort of deck, so it can work. You can’t really force this deck – you might as well pick up late Martyr, so if your White deck goes badly wrong you have another plan. A good example of this deck would have something like six Martyr of Sands, three Grim Harvest, seventeen lands, and fourteen other White cards… which you won’t cast often.


While I’m sure there are other decks you can draft, these decks are the ones I’m happiest drafting. I feel they are the most powerful. All the decks above come from MTGO drafts I have played.

Until next time,

Stuart Wright