Drafting Triple Coldsnap

With two Grand Prix tournaments, in Malmo and St Louis, happening this weekend, and both featuring triple Coldsnap drafting for their Day 2 play, Nick Eisel brings us a timely article examining some of the tricks and traps of Magic’s newest Limited format. By now, of course, we’re pretty sure that Snow does, in fact, Matter… but what other information do we need to break through the ice?

Someone at Wizards has decided that we should replace RGD, which is arguably one of the best draft formats of all time, with Coldsnap for the upcoming Grand Prixes and one draft at Nationals. A dubious decision for sure, but nevertheless this means that anyone planning on attending these events needs to learn Coldsnap booster draft, and fast.

I played Coldsnap both days at the prerelease, playing the main event and a flight on Saturday and the Two Headed Giant on Sunday (with Adam Yurchik). Honestly, I don’t think the format is that much fun, and definitely nowhere near as skill-testing as Ravnica. It also sucks that there aren’t any cards worth any money, so that you can’t break even on drafts if you don’t win the packs somewhere else. Regardless, I’m going to spend the next two weeks (or more if there is interest) going over some things about the format that should help everyone attending the tournaments where it is being used, or merely those planning to play Coldsnap on Magic Online eventually.

The first question on everyone’s mind regarding Coldsnap draft is how highly they should be picking the snow lands. This is a great place to start talking about the format as a whole, as some people were comparing snow lands to bounce lands, which is just ludicrous. Yes, having snow mana helps with a lot of cards, but it is nothing like “drawing” another card for free like you do with bounces while also fixing your mana. A better comparison is actually to the Artifact Lands of Mirrodin Block.

To answer the question of how high these new lands should be picked, you want to take them as highly as possible so long as you are not passing something really strong. Cards like Skred, Zombie Musher, Ronom Hulk, etc fit into this category. It is also easy to end up short on playables in this format if you were too busy picking snow lands highly, so don’t take this idea too far. Once you realize that, you should be able to find a balance where you are taking them but not passing a premier pick for them, unless you are building around multiple Skreds or something else that needs a ton of snow mana. Remember too that you won’t be able to take every snow land anyway, since most of them won’t be in your colors.

Coldsteel Heart
Sure, this is an uncommon. But if you want snow mana, this card is the best possible way to get it. It’s acceleration, color fixing, and snow mana. What more could you actually want from this format’s version of a Signet? I picked this first pick first pack in a draft the other night, and was very happy in doing so since it will always make your deck. It helps tremendously with all of the possible snow abilities on your creatures.

Essentially, the message here is to pick snow lands highly, but not over the truly good cards.

General Thoughts

Since some other people are doing set reviews by color, I thought I’d just highlight some cards that I really like in the format, and answer questions that people may have. If there’s interest, I could see doing an article on archetypes for sometime next week.

Skred versus Surging Flame?
This is the big dilemma in my mind regarding the Red commons. I’ve seen many people who believe just taking Flame in an attempt to get as many as possible is the right call. I personally disagree with this philosophy, as if you are picking the lands aggressively Skred will be able to kill essentially everything in the mid-game. It’s nice that there are a lot of snow creatures to help out here too. In order for Ripple to be strong on the Flame, you need to have a number of things happen. First, your opponent has to have multiple X/2’s in play. Second, you have to actually Ripple into at least one more Flame. Third, you have to have some number of Flames in your deck in order to actually make this happen, which is hard since they are high picks. Honestly, I feel that having multiple Skreds in your deck is simply better, as they are cheaper and have the ability of taking down much bigger creatures.

While these are my initial feelings on the subject, I do want to mention that I’ve only drafted the format about six times as of this writing, and so most of this is based on those draft experiences as well as what I saw in Sealed. This is something I’d definitely like to see some thoughts on in the forums.

Goblin Rimerunner
This guy is amazing.

He doesn’t look like much when we’re used to playing with Thundersong Trumpeter, but believe me when I say that he is the top Red creature in the common slot. Having him out usually ensures that you will get through with all of your attacks, and you can also ruin a blocking situation by playing him and hasting him up to use his ability immediately. Think of Frenzied Goblin, except that you don’t have to risk him in combat when multiple blockers are in play.

Orcish Bloodpainter
This guy is fine, but certainly overrated at the moment from what I’ve seen. To use his ability he can’t even attack, and he also requires that you have creatures dying. Maybe if he had the help of something like Scatter the Seeds he would really shine, but as-is he is only a 2/1 with a medium strength ability. Certainly play him, but don’t go looking to grab multiples of him like he’s Spikeshot Goblin.

Martyr of Ashes
This card was just ridiculous at the prerelease, since all of the bad players would overextend into it. You could sit back, cast it, blow it up on turn 6 or so, and then win. How good it’s going to be in actual draft is still up in the air, since a good player will never let you get more than two-for-one with it, and it requires that you have a lot of Red cards in your hand. I’m still undecided on this one, and plan on doing a lot of drafting this week so I will have a better idea of exactly how good it is. Anyone with input is welcome to share in the forums.

Lightning Serpent
While this is a Rare, I mention it only because it has insane synergy with Grim Harvest. I’ve had it multiple times and it shouldn’t be tough to win after casting Serpent for the third time, unless your opponent has something out like Disciple of Tevesh Szat to shut it down permanently.

Ronom Hulk
This is a good Green creature, right? I’m sure most of you like him, but I’m also sure that you probably are underrating him at the moment. This guy is nigh unstoppable in the format, unless he gets Chilled to the Bone or runs into an Arctic Nishoba. I think I’d take Resize over him, and even then it might be better to take the Hulk.

Krovikan Mist
This guy has been generally underrated as well, which is good since he is mediocre with two copies and amazing when you get four copies or more. It helps if you have an Adarkar Windform or two to support these guys.

Surging Dementia and Surging Sentinels
I can’t imagine a Dementia strategy working at a table full of competent players. This is simply because they should be hate drafting them if there isn’t anything else in the pack to choose, and also because someone else could attempt the same thing and screw both of you over. The real reason this is too risky a strategy to try when you’re not goofing around is because Surging Dementia itself is horrible unless you get seven copies or more. Another reason is that the format is pretty fast and if you don’t get your combo off right away you will have all of these dead cards in your deck.

Surging Sentinels is a slightly different story, as it is perfectly playable as a 2/1 first strike for three mana, and gets better as you draft more of them. I wouldn’t go out of my way to draft these guys, but I also wouldn’t neglect them if they were coming around in the middle to late picks.

Kjeldoran War Cry
I really like this card. Casting two of these in one turn is akin to an instant speed Overrun without the Trample, and the third copy will then be completely ridiculous on a future turn. I could see drafting a UW fliers deck with only War Crys in the spell slot, with perhaps one or two Gelid Shackles.

Rimewind Taskmage
This card gets my vote for most underrated card in the set. Ben Peebles-Mundy and I were talking the other day, and he said he has been drafting UB control with a lot of success on the beta, and that this guy was a key ingredient. He is so versatile as he can act as a tapper, untap a blocker, reuse Disciple of Tevesh Szat, Rishadan Port someone, or be used as a color fixer. Sure, you have to get four snow permanents online first, but that shouldn’t be hard if you are picking the lands high and end up with at least five, as well as a bunch of other snow permanents. I took Ben’s advice and tried this guy out, and found him to be every bit as good as I imagined.

Disciple of Tevesh Szat
Speaking of this guy, he is quite good, albeit a bit slow. All this means is that if you end up with multiples of this card, you want to make sure you have some early game to back him up. He is also vulnerable to Bloodpainter or opposing Disciples, so make sure you have some way to win that battle. Feast of Flesh helps a lot in this department.

Ronom Unicorn
Julien Nuijten did his White review earlier this week, and mentioned that he liked Kjeldoran Outrider better than this guy. I just wanted to say that I agree with this analysis to a point. Once you have an Outrider or two, I’d rather start taking Unicorns as Gelid Shackles, Frozen Solid, and Surging Strength are all very playable in the common slot.

Krovikan Whispers
This card is amazing in the format. As long as you have a Bloodpainter or Gutless Ghoul or something, you can make sure that the upkeep doesn’t get too high that the Whisper will kill you by sacrificing their guy. Perilous Research is also very good, for the same reason here.

I’ve been wrecked by this card a couple of times, and also used it to good effect. It is especially strong in BR, since Gutless Ghoul will let you recur it when you choose to if you need to destroy a land at a key point. The whole Recover mechanic in general is very strong for Limited, and makes for some skill testing situations.

That’s all I’ve got for now, and while I do think Coldsnap is alright in general, I am very annoyed that it is replacing RGD as it is much easier than that format.

Nick Eisel
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