I Heart Rimerunner: Drafting Mono-Red in Coldsnap

Martin Dingler, winner of Grand Prix: Cardiff, turns his attentions to the icy wastelands of Coldsnap… and injects a little fire into game! The notorious “draft the Big Green Monsters” guy has turned his back on the high-cost goliaths, favoring instead a mono-Red draft strategy that is both powerful and fun. Full pick orders, strategies, and sample builds, all available with a single click…

I remember Sam Gomersall report from his victorious Grand Prix experience in Hasselt, where he talks about how his “online Empire” crumbled because he kept drafting a deck that was so much fun that he compulsively drafted it all the time. Well, since Coldsnap came out I’ve been doing the same thing. I’m obsessed with this deck. I’m compulsed. I obsess a lot, and I know it isn’t healthy, but hey, it’s what makes me me. It’s also what led to me spending a night in a German mental institution.

No, actually, that was alcohol.

Anyway, triple Coldsnap is a draft format that lends itself towards trying to go for a certain strategy, even though it usually lends itself towards failing at this. Some people try to go for the Surging Sentinels deck all the time. Others prefer the wholesome goodness of the life combo deck (an archetype, by the way, which brought me my first draft win back in Urza’s block; of course, that wasn’t so much a combo deck, but simply a mono-white Jasmine Seer deck). Still others just love to blow stuff up, so they go for Martyr/Icefall.

Me? I go for mono-Red (or nearly mono-Red) every time. Obsessively. Compulsively. I think it’s mostly down to one card, mostly: Goblin Rimerunner. That sexy ability, that awesome hastiness, and he’s a warrior for Lovisa to have the hots for. Like I do. More on him later.

A problem with Coldsnap is that it’s a fairly simple and straightforward format and has been pretty much fully analysed in but a handful of articles, like Peebles’ definitive Definitive Draft Primer. So this is probably more a paean to this archetype so beloved by me than actual strategy, but goshdang it, I just love it so much that I need to shout it from the rooftops.

Sample Deck
I remember the days when “triple small set” seemed silly simply because everyone had many, many copies of random cards. The “collect me mechanic” makes this seem less silly in Coldsnap, except that most cards, especially the ones I want, aren’t collect mes. So decklists always look extremely silly. This is probably the best mono-Red deck I’ve drafted so far.

1 Karplusan Wolverine
1 Martyr of Ashes
2 Goblin Furrier
3 Goblin Rimerunner
3 Ohran Yeti
4 Thermopod

5 Skred
3 Surging Flame
1 Balduvian Rage

2 Highland Weald
3 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Snow-Covered Island
10 Mountain

I know I’m a lucksack getting five Skreds, but you’d expect some when you take them over everything. Seven snow lands is a pretty good number, you’ll definitely want at least six or you will be in deep trouble. Okay on to more important matters.

Pick Order
I remember the time when the release of a new set triggered tons of pick order articles, and I loved it. It feels like here is an ancient art form that has been lost to a lack of appreciation (philistines!) and constant yapping about how “it depends” and “it’s too fluid to be useful”. The release of Coldsnap, though, is the perfect time to bring it back.

Something else I never entirely understood was the omission of rare and uncommons from pick orders. Surely the point of pick orders is to tell people which card to take when faced with a choice, so why not include what to choose when faced between the choice of Skred or Rimescale Dragon? The choice may not come up often, but when it does it would still be good to know the answer.

High Picks

1. Skred

I had Stalking Yeti above this initially, but let’s face it, Skred is the engine that makes this deck run. Never ever ever eeever pass it. The reason Skred is so important is that it is your only good answer to Ronom Hulk, the bane of your existence. I have had nightmares of Ronom Hulks, in which I wake up screaming. Sure, you could splash other colors for answers to the beast, but that wouldn’t be the same archetype, really. Okay, it would be; in fact, as people realise just how amazing Skred is, the splash will become more and more of a necessity.

Ronom Hulk is your arch-nemesis, and therefore the best cards to pick up as splashes are Chill to the Bone, Deathmark, Rimewind Taskmage, and Ronom Hulks of your own. In fact, you should pick Hulks highly even if you don’t plan to splash for them… they’re the best D-draft you could ever make. Undercosted fatties with protection from your deck are really really bad.

2. Stalking Yeti

Flametongue Yeti is easily the best Red card in the set. It just doesn’t answer the big problems the way Skred does. Other than that, it is just a fantastic card. It kills stuff, while leaving a nicely sized body that is snow to boot. Lots of snow means large Skreds. Large Skreds make the world go round. I haven’t even mentioned the oingy boingy.

3. Rimescale Dragon

A big dumb dragon that locks down their board and offers another snow permanent? Who would ever pass that for some random 1-mana burn spell? I would, for two reasons. One, this deck often wins by the time it hits seven mana, and two; it still can’t handle Ronom Hulk.

4. Goblin Rimerunner

This guy probably shouldn’t be this high in the pick order, but I just love him too much, and neutralizing a blocker is often vital to the continued beatdown of your deck. It should also have the ability “T, Ronom Hulks can’t block this turn.” Oh well, you can’t have everything.

Why do I love this guy so? Beyond the obvious clearly visible and ever-present je ne sais quoi, there are a few rational reasons. Men getting blocked sucks. An army being held off by one enormous blocker sucks even more. Then there’s that “S: gains Haste” ability that is just incredibly sexy and allows extra damage to come out of nowhere. Finally, how can you not love a snowboarding goblin? [Ah, the spirit of Paskins lives! – Craig.]

5. Mouth of Ronom

Snow lands power up Skreds, Rimerunners, Yetis, Thermopods etc. So this is far from a colorless land. Oh, and it kills stuff. It’s slow and useless against Hulks, but removal is removal and snow mana is important and it doesn’t take up a spell slot, so what’s not to love?

6. Surging Flames

This one keeps moving down the pick order and I kept wanting to move it down further still, as even when you have multiple copies it’s still rare that you actually want to ripple it, as that would require two truly worthy targets. Nonetheless, there are far too many annoying utility guys around to pass on this overpriced Shock.

7. Coldsteel Heart

Some people questioned Rich when he first-picked this. Those people clearly need to learn lessons about acceleration, snow mana, and color fixing in this format. Pick this highly and you ain’t gonna regret it.

8. Scrying Sheets

Card advantage is hard to come by. Chase rares are hard to come by. Snow lands are still important. Just don’t kid yourself that you took this over Skred because it is the better card. It’s solely for the money.

9. Balduvian Rage

You have little evasion and even less burn that can go… to the Face! Hence it is quite important to be able to finish the game in a hurry. The reason I rate this higher than the Serpent is the synergy with Thermopod, the immunity to first strikers, and the ability to just cycle this in the early game.

10. Lightning Serpent

Snakes on a Lightning Bolt! This is also a great finisher, and it deals X+1 damage rather than X-1. The other advantage is that it takes people even more by surprise, as you don’t need any creatures in play to hit hard with this bad boy. Just hope they attack you with all their Surging Sentinels. Unless you have infinite Rimerunners. Mmmm, infinite Rimerunners… Oops, I just soiled mys… Oops again.

11. Snow-Covered Mountain

Snow is important.

12. Thermopod

We all already know how incredibly sexy the haste ability is, and four points of power out of nowhere is often more than your opponent can handle. The true power of this card, however, lies in that other ability. For those who find it difficult to process information, this guy always produces snow mana. My favourite play is to play a Thermopod, then use a Rimerunner to make a creature unable to block, then sac the Rimerunner to give the Thermopod haste to swing for the win. Another great play is to use Thermopod in conjunction with Balduvian Rage or Chilling Shade to Last-Ditch Effort your opponent. Sacrifice outlets are fairly scarce in Coldsnap, and it’s always good to fizzle a Krovikan Whispers or Feast of Flesh.

The list goes on. And on. This slug is almost as good as a Rimeruner, except I frequently find myself cutting ‘pods 5+. I would never cut a Rimerunner. Did I mention how much I love Rimerunner?

13. Ohran Yeti

This guy should let you own combat, as all your men should be snow and you should have snow mana. Okay, replace should with “does” in that previous sentence. All your men does be snow. Seriously.

14. Other Snow Lands

This is probably the best reason to stick to one color: You can play each and every off-color snow land you pick up and your deck will still be more consistent than Kelly Digges on the pull.

Medium Picks

15. Martyr of Ashes

Most of your guys aren’t particularly tough and don’t fly. Hence this is usually not the best answer to opposing big guys. On the other hand, this can, on a good day, answer everything up to and including the incredible Hulk. Not to mention the fact you are playing mono-Red and that’s where this gal truly shines. She’s just usually not important enough for your primary game plan to take over any of the above. She is still not to be underestimated for her power to utterly annihilate certain White and/or Green decks that can, on occasion, run you over.

16. Phyrexian Ironfoot

It’s snow, it’s big for its cost and it’s got pseudo-vigilance. Sometimes it’s annoying that this ties up your mana, but you can always, y’know, not attack with it. Even though that’s no fun.

17. Greater Stone Spirit

This guy is slow, but he is an answer of sorts to the stuff of nightmares. Plus you just gotta love a guy who gives out stone hands to those in need. He’s like a saint. Food’s important and all, but I’m sure what would really help the starving people of Ethiopia is a set of Stone Hands each.

18. Earthen Goo

Many people underrate this gooey goodness. Sure, sometimes you can screw yourself by playing this on turn 3 and ruining your ability to develop your board. Sometimes, however, you play it turn 3 and it just owns and can be ridden to victory. When it’s been around for four turns it can even take on Hulk “the Ronom” Hogan head on in a wrestling match. I should also point out that the upkeep is somewhat less of a drawback in a mono-Red deck. Duh.

19. Phyrexian Snowcrusher

I have no idea how good this really is. It’s big and snow and it might just force the Hulk to stay home. For a turn before he runs headlong into him. Seems like the very definition of big and very, very dumb.

20. Karplusan Wolverine

This can be deceptively good. I played in a draft at one point where I had a bunch of one-toughness utility creatures like Squall Drifter and Boreal Druid, and eventually died because I could never afford to block his three Wolverines. That was a draft gone wrong on his part, though, so don’t take these too highly. I still generally play one or two just to power up my Skreds from turn 1.

Low Picks

21. Goblin Furrier

For those who haven’t realised the sad truth of the small set we are presented with, in most colors there are very few options for creatures at every given point in the mana curve. This is the only red two-drop and that’s the only reason he doesn’t go straight to the unplayable pile. However, he does tend to end up there if your deck isn’t stuffed to the gills with burn.

22. Orcish Bloodpainter

Unexciting stuff, and unlike the Furrier he faces some tough competition in the three-mana slot. Makes the deck frequently, but boy is he boooring.

23. Fury of the Horde; Karplusan Minotaur; Lovisa Coldeyes; Thrumming Stone; Balduvian Warlord; Cryoclasm; Mishra’s Bauble; Magmatic Core

Pure filler in my book.

24. Good Cards in other colors

You might want to pick these ever so slightly higher. However, that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the true mono-Red drafter, now would it?

25. Braid of Fire; Jester’s Scepter; Dark Depths; Phyrexian Soulgorger; Rite of Flame

These are awesome. In a set with as much depth as Coldsnap it is very useful to have cards in the draft that you can just ignore for being unplayable.

N. Lightning Storm

I hate this card. Hate it with a passion. Hates it, hates it, hates it. I also believe it to not be very good. It’s just not worth the risk. I never pick it, except possibly as a hate-draft because I hate playing against it as much as I hate playing with it. I’m probably undervaluing it, but I don’t feel comfortable with it in my deck, hence the non-classification. Do what you want with this card, but remember that you may be spoiling somebody’s fun with this stinking pile of llama excrement. What, you didn’t know that when a llama goes number 2 it creates a Lightning Storm?

The Joy of Drafting

I remember how not all that long ago I went into every draft with an open mind and no preconceived game plan. I was the ultimate in flexibility. I was an open vessel that would go with the flow and mix metaphors like nobody’s business. That’s all changed recently, as in Ravnica block I always draft Green (WUUURMS!), and in Coldsnap I always draft Red. Why is that? Two reasons: one is the nigh-impossibility of signalling due to either the multicoloredness or the depth and flatness of the power curve. The other is that certain archetypes are just more fun to draft and play.

I love drafting as much as the next frood, but there is a fine balance that needs to be struck between drafting a deck that’s fun and drafting a deck that’ll win. It’s unfortunate if you end up with a deck you aren’t comfortable with whenever you’re drafting something other than your default strategy, hence you lose no matter how good the cards you’ve been passed may be. How do you best strike the aforementioned balance? The key is to be comfortable with all viable archetypes, so that you can move into any opportunity arising.

In a nutshell: don’t draft obsessively, no matter how joyful your favourite strategy is. Even if you keep winning with an archetype it still helps to be flexible, just ask all those people drafting blue at GP: Cardiff. I miss being flexible, but I can’t help myself. I’m hoping Time Spiral will set me free from this. Do yourself a favor and stay flexible. Anyway, I now need to go online and get my fix of mono-Red.

My last PTQ Top 8

I remember the latter days of Invasion block, and although the block was superb in every way I was sick of it by the end. Ravnica is almost the same. Hence I will not tell y’all about the swiss rounds of current PTQs as I usually do, but I’ll get into the top 8 drafts. Suffice it to say that I was carried to the Top 8 of a recent 28 player (!) PTQ in Manchester by two Guildmages, two Wurms, and a Dragon.

So I sat down at the Top 8 table, intent on drafting Red no matter what, like I’m Dan Paskins or something. Of course, Dan Paskins was there too, as well as my esteemed editor (who I’m sure is going to regale you with a more in-depth account of the whole event – congrats Craig, you really are on fire). [Cheers, Mr Dingler. I’m not planning on a report, unless the forums cry out for one. – Craig.]

Unfortunately there weren’t any Skreds going round, so my deck ended up not only being nowhere near mono-Red, it also kinda sucked. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but it really couldn’t deal with Hulks. Here’s the deck:

1 Karplusan Wolverine
1 Rimewind Taskmage
3 Chilling Shade
1 Goblin Rimerunner
1 Phyrexian Ironfoot
1 Blizzard Specter
2 Zombie Musher
2 Ohran Yeti
2 Thermopod

1 Skred
3 Feast of Flesh
1 Surging Flame
1 Krovikan Rot
1 Grim Harvest
1 Balduvian Rage

5 Swamp
2 Mountain
3 Snow-Covered Mountain
2 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Swamp
2 Highland Weald
1 Frost Marsh
1 Boreal Shelf

Relevant Sideboard:
3 Krovikan Scoundrel
1 Martyr of Bones
2 Karplusan Wolverines
1 Ronom Serpent

I was forced to pick a second color early, and moved into Black. With hindsight I should’ve picked Deathmark and Chill to the Bone higher. Ten snow lands is of course mad, and the Chilling Shades become retarded that way. I decided I could go for the Blue splash as I had so many Blue snow lands I was ready to play anyway. This deck has a lot of abilities requiring snow mana, so the Thermopods really shone.

In the quarterfinals I played against Dan Paskins, and he crushed me game 1 with Ronom Hulk. Game 2 I overran him and he saw no Hulk. Game 3 was a race, but his G/R deck couldn’t deal with my Chilling Shade and five snow lands. In the semis I played Craig the champ, and he had three (count ‘em!) Ronom Hulks in his deck… and saw plenty of them. What is this mythical “chance” of which you speak?

That’s it for today. If you’re bored of whatever you’ve been doing in your Coldsnap drafts (and who isn’t?), then give mono-Red a go. It may not amuse you as much as me, but… whatever, dude.



darkheartothorny on MTGO and StarCityGames.com forums