Jeff Cunningham’s Coldsnap Review, Part 1: White

ColdsnapInvitational finalist and respected Internet writer Jeff “ffeJ” Cunningham returns to StarCityGames.com each day this week with an expert look at the new Coldsnap cards! Today’s article deals with the White cards in the game’s Winter-themed set… how do they fare in the modern Constructed (and Limited) arena? Is there power to be found amid the snow-capped peaks? The answers are only a mouse-click away!

When I was tapped by Craig Stevenson to write StarCityGames.com Coldsnap review I was excited but also a little apprehensive. For, you see, I am the ultimate new set sucker.

Over the years, I’ve honed my spot analysis to the point where it’s pretty good, but I am still the same wide-eyed kid at heart. I still pore over the rumors (probably to the detriment of my enjoyment of the set, but which child could ever resist peeking at Christmas presents early?) – I still am dazzled at every flash in the pan, and I still, sometimes, turn my nose up at the real goods. Sensei’s Divining Top? It’ll never catch on.

I’m also no mad genius. When I do well with a deck, it’s generally by knowing it inside and out; tweaking and tuning, not innovating. I’m not really going to break anything here. In fact, I only know two decks: Red/Green beatdown and Blue/White control. I’ve been playing them since the original Ice Age.

The upside of all this is that my opinions in this area do seem linked to those of the community at large. If I fell for Seedtime, so did you. This review, then, can be an assembly of these opinions; concise, and so, easy to question. It can function as a springboard to a higher tier of understanding. I can’t promise precision, but I can guarantee a base.

In addition to all the usual card-by-card Limited and Constructed appraisals and highlight reels, as the week goes on we’ll also look at the conceptual aspects of the set, preview Canadian nationals, and, who knows, maybe even share a few laughs, likely at the expense of this set’s usual bumper crop of pooper scoopers.

Onto the basics. “Coldsnap” is nooked tight between Ravnica and Time Spiral blocks and is set in snowy Tibet. Constructed ratings might be slightly harsher than usual, since Block isn’t a consideration.

Staple: This is going to see heavy play, e.g. Sakura Tribe Elder.
Good: This is going to see play, e.g. Kami of the Ancient Law.
Fringe: This is going to see marginal play, e.g. Desperate Ritual.
Maybe: This card might see play, but probably not, e.g. Devoted Retainer.
N/A: Even the casual players hate this sh**, e.g. Unnatural Speed.

Bomb: The only way to react to opening this card in Limited is by a comically exaggerated rubbing of the eyes, e.g. Flame Fusillade.
Good: A reasonable first-pick, e.g. Galvanic Arc.
Solid: Your classic good man, e.g. Bramble Elemental.
Playable: Some of the time you’ll run it, some of the time you won’t, e.g. Ordruun Commando.
N/A: Even a perfunctory knowledge of the game prohibits the inclusion of this card, e.g. Zephyr Spirit.


Boreal Griffin

Constructed: N/A
Limited: Good. Five-mana three-power fliers have traditionally been solid high picks. This is definitely on the low end of that scale – two toughness is more significant than occasional First Strike, and it doesn’t have any standout bonus ability – but it still qualifies.

Also of note is the fact that there are five common flyers in this set (three Blue, two White). That’s far more than you may think – because of the small set size, that’s about twenty commons flyers per draft, versus about twelve in all-Ravnica (not counting Drake Familiar or Drift of Phantasms).

Gelid Shackles

Constructed: Maybe. I can see this as a potential silver bullet in Ghost Dad (hits Meloku among others).
Limited: Solid. Especially good in aggressive decks, also works fine in slower matchups (W/U mirror). Removal is removal…

Kjeldoran Javelineer

Constructed: N/A – Part of me doesn’t quite want to write this one off: it’s a soldier, which could be relevant with Field Marshall around, it has reasonable stats for a one drop, and its ability is at least reminiscent of cards that were suitable in certain mirror matches – but it just has too many flaws to add up. I can’t imagine it ever being played.
Limited: Playable. A deceptive one-drop, since you’re obviously going to slow-roll this to the mid-game, and since it’s going to tie up a lot more than one mana. Once it gets even one counter you can start making favorable attacks. The best time to play it seems to be on turn 4 or 5 with another drop. All things considered, it still just seems a bit too situational to me to be a high pick.

Kjeldoran Outrider

Constructed: Maybe. There sure are a lot of better two-drops running around these days, but, again, it’s a Soldier.
Limited: Solid. One of the most important things to consider for Limited evaluation of a new standalone is the texture of its mana curve, and the relevance of tempo. In Onslaught block even vanilla two-drops were very good, since they were in short supply, with Grey Ogres being the order of the day. In Mirrodin Block, everyone had excess Myrs to accelerate, and then trade, and were doing more powerful things anyway, so aggressive two-drops weren’t very good at all.

At first blush, Coldsnap seems fairly straightforward in terms of manacurve (like 9th Edition), so that brings would put the value of general two-drops at an average, or slightly more involved, role than usual. However, Coldsnap also doesn’t seem to be heavily dictated by tempo (like Onslaught was), and so you lose a little bit of value in two-drop there. There’s also definitely no shortage of two-drops, in any color, so there’s no need to draft them aggressively.

This is one of the better ones, making it a solid pick.

Kjeldoran War Cry

Constructed: N/A
Limited: Playable/Solid. A respectable trick, that becomes powerful in multiples.

Martyr of Sands

Constructed: Fringe. I would be surprised if this didn’t see some play, perhaps as a sideboard card in control decks. In particular it seems to fit right in with some sort of U/W card-drawing/Soulscour strategy SB, if that should come to exist. In certain decks, this is routinely 9-15 life, and a blocker to boot. I’m just not sure how many decks are base White, and have room for cards that aren’t proactive, though.
Limited: Playable. Same sort of thing; every now and again this is going to fit ok into a U/W flyer deck, but in general a card with more impact on the board is favorable.

Ronom Unicorn

Constructed: Good. What do I need to tell you about Kami of the Ancient Law that you don’t already know?
Limited: Playable/Solid.

Squall Drifter

Constructed: N/A – Again, I’m tempted not to write this off, what with various incarnations of Skies existing, but I just don’t see it happening.
Limited: Good. Highly functional; when you don’t have the mana or incentive to tap, you have evasion to assure damage.

Sun’s Bounty

Constructed: N/A
Limited: N/A

Surging Sentinels

Constructed: N/A – I don’t see it happening. I like to hit my set as much as the next guy, but I doubt even Gary T would raise this gutty.
Limited: Playable/Solid. On it’s own, this guy is a worse Nightguard Patrol; decidedly mediocre. However the Ripple ability is somewhat relevant.

Coldsnap is a small set that will only be drafted by itself, so you’ll see the same commons much more often than you’re used to. Also, as mentioned, Surging Sentinels is not an attractive card and so will often come late. It’s not unreasonable to plan to get four or more of these guys (there’s going to be an average of about six per draft), which is about where they become Solid.

Swift Maneuver

Constructed: Maybe. Unlikely, but the effect isn’t irrelevant, and it cycles.
Limited: Good. A reliable two-for-one that always at least cycles.


Glacial Plating

Constructed: N/A. Just plain too slow.
Limited: Solid. Too slow to be anything special, but the guy does get pretty big pretty fast.

Jotun Grunt

Constructed: Maybe. Everyone’s first instinct is Dredge, but, let’s face it, those Dredge guys have better things to do and more important cards to do them with. I can’t really think where yet, but I can imagine this coming up in the right circumstances – say in a control deck or matchup where the recycling aspect functions as ability.
Limited: Playable. I hesitate to call this playable, but a combined six cards in graveyards is easy, and twelve, not unexpected. That’s eight, maybe twelve, damage they’re going to have to either take or deal with somehow, which isn’t so bad. Still, as with most low-end playable cards, the main problem is just that its application is too situational.

Jotun Owl Keeper

Constructed: Good. Bullsh** they woulda printed this thing back in Ice Age times. On paper this card looks good, and no doubt, once upon a time, it would have been worth heroin millions. Magic has changed, though, and the Juzam Djinns of yore are laughable by today’s modern standards.

It’s a good three-drop, no doubt about it. The question is whether the on-color weenie decks are too tight as is, with their slots are reserved for other cards more specifically relevant to their gameplans. (The control decks just have better things to do.)

Nevertheless, I do expect to see this card somewhere, whether instead of Paladins, or becomes involved in certain Sideboard plans.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in Extended either, where a card’s individual value (i.e. it’s single-handed potential to win the game) has increased importance, because of the format’s more advanced attrition, and prevalence of more freeform “Goodstuff” decks.

Limited: Good/Bomb. A low-level bomb, mostly on the back of its efficient cost, this card beats down early and then leaves you with some number of flyers once you dump it. Even if they kill it, you cash in. I like those odds!

Kjeldoran Gargoyle

Constructed: N/A. “Taylor Putnam once said ‘I don’t believe in Exalted Angel, but I’m afraid of him.’ Well, I believe in Exalted Angel, and the only thing that scares me is Kjeldoran Gargoyle.”- Doug Potter
Limited: Good.


Constructed: Fringe. Seems like a reasonable board card versus any sort of burn deck, and potentially better versus the right kind.
Limited: Playable (sideboard). Good trick versus a Red/Black deck.

Ursine Fylgja

Constructed: N/A
Limited: Solid. This thing might as well be, say, a 3/6, which ain’t bad. As they say, though – ‘they’ being anyone with an iota of Momir experience – once you start getting into the upper echelons of mana curve, you start wanting “bodies with minds to match.”

The five-drop is also typically quite congested.

With frinkin' laser beams on their heads

Wall of Shards

Constructed: Good. Has obvious potential in any control strategy in which the opponent’s life-total is either literally or practically irrelevant. It’s cheap, blocks everything, and most aggro decks either can’t kill it (Red-based) or will be forced to keep in removal to kill it, rather than more disruptive cards. The one downside is that it gives them a target (game 1) for otherwise potentially dead removal spells, but most removal spells do double duty these days anyway (i.e. Putrefy).

I expect to see this in Extended also.

Limited: Playable. Borderline application; if you’re trying to deck your opponent, or if they’re coming out of the gates fast – that sort of thing.

White Shield Crusader

Constructed: Fringe/Good. Its only real home is WW (or Boros), and it’s worth mentioning that there are a number of other good two-drops in those archetypes specifically. This probably has some Extended playability.
Limited: Good. In Ravnica, this would be low-level playable, but Coldsnap is much more traditional, so you can expect to have this out by turn 2 in most cases.


Adarkar Valkyrie

Constructed: Fringe/Good. One Mortify on a big guy of theirs with this in play, and they’re in a real tough spot. Whether this proves better than Skeletal Vampire, or other options, remains to be seen.
Limited: Bomb.

Cover of Winter

Constructed: Maybe. If you’re playing all Snow mana, and you can keep playing it, this can lock out some decks without Enchantment removal. You could also attack in the air, and just freeze the ground for a few turns. Hey, it could happen. McWorld.
Limited: N/A. I can’t imagine having enough Snow mana to be able to maintain this to the point where it would be worthwhile. Situational at very best.

Darien, King of Kjeldor

Constructed: Maybe. Again the lack of a Block format definitely hurts this card’s chances. That said, I can imagine it being “okay” versus a deck that doesn’t have removal, either by milking it with painlands, or by just sitting on it at a high life. I’m probably being too generous.
Limited: Good. Low-end. Especially so in a U/W flyers-type deck. While this remains in play, if you’re at a reasonable life, you become very difficult to attack profitably.

Court Marshall Mathers

Field Marshal

Constructed: Maybe. A living Glorious Anthem ain’t bad, but it remains to be seen whether or not there are nearly enough suitable Soldiers out there. Even then, as I recall, when there were plenty of good Goblins, still no one really played Goblin King.

Might be good in Extended, and is sure to be popular at kitchen table games across the world.

Limited: Playable/Solid/Good. This ain’t Onslaught; there are hardly any common playable Soldiers in the set. I guess it still isn’t that hard to get a bunch of Surging Sentinels and Kjeldoran Outriders, so this thing could still be good.


Constructed: Fringe. The pitch cost suits the card well, as the deck that probably wants a Wrath most is going to be drawing a lot of cards as well. There’s definitely a deck here – maybe a more classic U/W, maybe a Firemane Angel variant – but whether it’s any good in Standard remains to be seen. I am not personally not convinced.
Limited: Good/Bomb. Your classic Wrath. Probably slightly better than usual in this set since, as mentioned, it seems slow-paced and straight-forward.

Woolly Razorback

Constructed: N/A. Stop trying to make Wakestone Gargoyle happen. It’s not going to happen!
Limited: Solid/Good. Classic moats.

Notable Coldsnap White Cards — Constructed
1. Ronom Unicorn (Common)
2. Wall of Shards (Uncommon)
3. Jotun Owl Keeper (Uncommon)
4. White Shield Crusader (Uncommon)
5. Adarkar Valkyrie (Rare)
6. Martyr of Sands (Uncommon)
7. Sunscour (Rare)

Coldsnap White Common Pick Order — Limited
1. Squall Drifter
2. Boreal Griffin
3. Swift Maneuver
4. Kjeldoran Outrider
5. Gelid Shackles
6. Ronom Unicorn
7. Kjeldoran War Cry
8. Martyr of Sands
9. Kjeldoran Javelineer
10. Sun’s Bounty
? Surging Sentinels…?

Canadian Nationals Preview #1: The Dying Maul

Murray “the Mauler” Evans is my former protégé, a player whom I once lauded for having the most heart on the Pro Tour. Just over a year ago, he made two Pro Tour Top 8s in close succession.

How is it, then, that the Murray Evans story has become one of bitter tragedy? That the Maul’ has become nothing but a bloated caricature of his former self?

Overconfident in his own abilities, Murray began to shirk testing duty in order to play Warcraft and Poker. The results were devastating.

Worlds 05: Murray shows up without testing. Refusing the suggestions of friends (“feeble-minded buffoons”), Murray elects instead to conjure a foul homebrew.

The result is a Llanowar-Elfin’, Confiscate-totin’, Wildfire-splashin’, Mimeofacture-cappin’ trainwreck, the likes of which caused Josh Ravitz, Murray’s Round 5 opponent – his last opponent of the tournament before dropping – to seriously wonder about Murray’s mental state.

If only Josh had acted on this glimmer of intuition.

PT Prague: Murray shows up without testing and 0-3s. Having fallen in with a bad crowd, he spends the evening not joyfully moneydrafting as usual, but by attending an upscale bordello, “like the one in Eyes Wide Shut.”

Various reports from the evening would confirm the worst: Murray’s vow of chastity had been drunkenly disregarded.

And the money was going. Fast.

PT Charleston: After a few disappointing GPs, Murray decides to stop over-testing, and just show up to a Pro Tour cold for once.

However, having booked his ticket at the last minute on a suspect travel website, when Murray arrives at the airport Thursday afternoon he is informed that his plane is overbooked and his spot occupied! Short of waiting a day, his only option is to fly into an airport 500 miles from Charleston!

He does and, once there, with the bus station closed, he is forced to hire a limousine to drive him to Carolina for the bargain price of $500. He arrives at 7:00am Friday morning, just in time for the Pro Tour… and quickly 0-4s.

Quite simply, Murray is experiencing one of the steepest nose-dives in the history of the Pro Tour. He is my friend, and I wish him the very best, but as a commentator, I cannot help but imagine that the long fall down will continue this August in Ottawa.

Predicted finish: 0-3 or Disqualified.

Tomorrow: Red and Artifacts.