Jeff Cunningham’s Coldsnap Review, Part 4: Black and Gold

ColdsnapJeff continues his examination of the Coldsnap cards with an in-depth look at the Black and Gold creations. Is Garza’s Assassin the new Kill Spell of choice? Is Grim Harvest a playable addition to the oft-forgotten Gifts archetype? Is Zur the Enchanter a card that Ghost Dad needs? Read on to find out!

Staple: This is going to see heavy play, e.g. Blue
Good: This is going to see play, e.g. Black
Fringe: This is going to see marginal play, e.g. Red
Maybe: This card might see play, but probably not, e.g. White
N/A: Let’s not kid ourselves, e.g. Green

Bomb: The only way to react to opening this card in Limited is by a comically exaggerated rubbing of the eyes, e.g. Ghostwriter
Good: A reasonable first-pick, e.g. Punky Brewster
Solid: Your classic good man, e.g. Step by Step
Playable: Some of the time you’ll run it, some of the time you won’t, e.g. Dinosaurs
N/A: Even a perfunctory knowledge of the game prohibits the inclusion of this card, e.g. M*A*S*H



Chill to the Bone

Constructed: Maybe. This kind of stuff always seems to turn up somewhere. Obviously doesn’t compare favorably even to Dark Banishing, let alone Last Gasp, Mortify, and Putrefy.
Limited: Solid. This only kills about 60% of Commons, and the price isn’t a steal. I mean, if you liked Rend Flesh, you’ll probably like this… Removal, as they say, is removal, but then again, is Dogpile removal? Think about it.

Does attend to some of the more troubling creatures for Black archetypes, namely Ronom Hulk. Also, instant removal seems especially good in this set, so that you can kill creatures after cumulative upkeep. Must be nice.

Chilling Shade

Constructed: N/A. I don’t think this will cut the mustard anymore. It’s not that much worse than Nantuko Shade, when you really get down to it, but Nantuko Shade wouldn’t even be very good in this (multi-colored) environment, with no Coffers. Options like Skeletal Vampire are just too much better. Of course, you knew all this already.
Limited: Playable. People keep talking about some Snow-Covered deck. I have yet to experience it first hand. This seems like filler to me.

Disciple of Tevesh Szat

Constructed: N/A. Too fragile to do anything where you would want it.
Limited: Good. Not terribly efficient, but fine enough against everything but Green. Very good in multiples, which isn’t an unreasonable expectation.

Feast of Flesh

Constructed: N/A. There was a time when people used Funeral Charm to good effect, but:

1. Creatures are better now,
2. Those type of decks don’t really exist any more, and…
3. This doesn’t have any bonus abilities.

Limited: Solid. The price is right, and once you get around three or four of them, they start to get good.

Grim Harvest

Constructed: Fringe. This does some interesting things in Greater Gifts. It only hard-locks with Yosei/Greater Good at eleven mana, but is still pretty functional at even seven or eight – and you can Gifts for it. Works well with Kagemaro too. Sure, there are other ways to lock, but this is just one card. I could see this as a bullet target in Gifts, even maindeck, against Control. (Try a Dragon, get it countered, get it back, get it countered, try a Sakura-Tribe Elder, get Harvest back, etc…) It’s clunky, which is the last thing the Gifts deck needs at this point, but if used creatively maybe it can clear up a slot or two for more mana-acceleration or something.

I’m still an advocate of Karsten’s original Sideboard plan, and this ought to prompt a second look at it. Is it really worth bringing in Death Denied, Soulless Revival, etc, when you can just bring in one of these?

Once Coldsnap is legal, I think my sideboard will look like this.

1 Grim Harvest
1 Hana Kami
1 Cranial Extraction
1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
1 Meloku, the Clouded Mirror
2 Indrik Stomphowler
4 Defense Grid
1 Life from the Loam
1 Putrefy
1 Mortify
1 Dark Heart of the Wood

Limited: Playable. In the late late game, this will be a pain to deal with, but I don’t think it’s the kind of thing to pick aggressively.

Gutless Ghoul

Constructed: N/A
Limited: Playable.

Krovikan Scoundrel

Constructed: N/A
Limited: Playable.

Martyr of Bones

Constructed: Maybe. In Extended this might come up. Proactive sideboard cards are always nice; if the Graveyard thing doesn’t pan out like you expected, or it’s taking a while to, you at least have a beater in the interim.
Limited: N/A

Rimebound Dead

Constructed: Maybe. A one-mana Drudge Skeleton is almost tempting, but I just don’t see a place for it.
Limited: Solid/Good. Does some damage and then holds the ground cheap. Seems good in U/B.

Surging Dementia

Constructed: N/A.
Limited: N/A – No amount of these really seems good… Even if you have six or more, because then you’re drawing too many dead cards once they do empty their hand…

Zombie Musher

Constructed: N/A.
Limited: Good. This should be unblockable a good amount of the time, which is big in a format like this.


Balduvian Fallen

Constructed: N/A. The latest and not-greatest incarnation of Juzam Djinn to date. Not good enough in this highly competitive job market.
Limited: Good. On paper this thing looks ugly: tying up mana, and dying after a couple turns are two big Limited turn-offs. However, in B/R you’re playing more of an attrition game than any other archetype, and also have a lot more cheap throwaway guys than any archetype, which means your hand could be low near the mid-game. With a clear board, and an empty hand, this is a serious threat. Other than that, you’re still looking at damage they’re going to need to deal with somehow.


Constructed: Staple (sideboard). Ah, I remember these. From the time before you needed plans. You see water manas? Bring in them Pyroblasems. These are similarly straightforward and have obvious application in sideboards against Zoo and White Weenie. They’re cheap and they kill things, even big things. Extended play too.
Limited: Good (sideboard). If people tend to stay in allied combinations, this will kill at least something in 60% of the matchups. Probably best left for the sideboards, but definitely one you’ll be happy to bring in.

Gristle Grinner

Constructed: N/A. If Vulturous Zombie never saw play…
Limited: Playable/Solid. Better than your standard Sea Snidd, as it’s definitely nerve-wracking to try and trade with for someone who has more than one creature on the board.

Krovikan Rot

Constructed: N/A. I don’t see it happening at least in the near future. It’s too mana intensive, and narrow; only kills power two or less, and I need my own guys to be dying, when I have mana up? Exile Into Darkness seems better, and that hasn’t seen play since that Block.
Limited: Solid/Good. All these Recover cards seem to function the same way. They’re always a bit hard on the mana, and it always seems a little implausible to me to always have that mana up at the right times. That said, it’s a fine enough card on its own, and I can see it being annoying. Damage on the stack, kill that, get it back, etc.

Phobian Phantasm

Constructed: N/A. It’s funny, creature evaluation really has changed since the old days. I mention the fading stock of Juzam Djinns often enough (they come out, like clockwork, every three sets), but there are other categories too… the creatures that would have formerly been good in Skies-type decks, before the fallout of the cheap counterspells that made those decks work, and the Suicide Black decks, before the fall of cheap counterspells changed the face of the control decks they railed against. This falls in between, and just isn’t up to snuff. Might have been one time, but not now.
Limited: Solid/Good. If you’re hand is really aggro, you can drop this turn 5 or so and keep going. Other than that, this is a very respectable finisher. I can easily seeing it getting the last 9 or 12 unimpeded.

Rime Transfusion

Constructed: Maybe. It seems unlikely, but I can see it as a sideboard card in something. Maybe a bullet in ‘Dad? Puts a deck without removal on a short clock.
Limited: Playable. The one toughness is really relevant here. Even if you halve the list of potential blockers, this seems easy enough to trade with one-for-one, not even taking into account the standard risks of a Creature Enchantment. Might be good in G/B, where throwing it on a big guy just means they’ll have a short clock to muster sufficient Snow defense to kill it.

Stromgald Crusader

Constructed: Fringe. This thing seems too good not to get played somewhere – Extended even – but I just don’t know how many Black and Aggro decks really exist. If there’s a Stromgald Scourge deck, this’ll be there.
Limited: Good. Efficient creature in a format where 2/1s, Protection from White, and Flying all mean something.

Tresserhorn Skyknight

Constructed: N/A
Limited: Solid/Good. So let me get this straight, Crypt Champion has Double Strike, Talruum Champion has double-First Strike, Goblin Flotilla has reverse First Strike, and this has, inverted First Strike?

Anyway, in Black you’re going to have removal to clear away the bigger blockers, which should make a five-power flyer, even for seven mana, in this format, a force to be reckoned with.


Killed on the river

Garza’s Assassin

Constructed: Fringe. (Jeff) Garza’s real assassin was poker, another killer that keeps coming back to claim more of our boys. I expect this to show up somewhere. It’s fine enough without committing life, but the option is always there to get filthy. The problem is that no one except Nassif builds those sort of janky mid-range Black aggro decks.
Limited: Good/Bomb. It’s already good removal stored in a beater, and you have redraw potential. Pace yourself and this thing will dominate the game.

Haakon, Stromgald Scourge

Constructed: Maybe. Could be a bullet-type deal somewhere in Extended. In Constructed, the logistics don’t work for me. Are you going to play it with Compulsive Research? What are the other Knights? Are you going to make yourself discard it? I suppose there’s always Bouncelands. The thing is, with all that fandangling, who cares? Unlimited Knights-in-hand is like a lifetime supply of Mayonnaise: mise, but it’s not going to do much by itself.
Limited: N/A

Herald of Leshrac

Constructed: Maybe. Interesting. Kind of like a free-use Helldozer, but it’s not going to lock anybody. Still, you’re looking at a lot of damage and some pretty annoying disruption. That said, I’m pretty skeptical about any seven mana creature seeing play that doesn’t justify its purpose damn well. Helldozer and Gleancrawler were Fringe block cards, and they even seem more plausible.
Limited: Good. Let’s assume you play this when they have six lands in play. That means it’s going to deal three, five, and then eight (they’ll probably chump block here if they can), while Time Walking them a turn. Seems good.

Phyrexian Etchings

Constructed: Maybe. “Do you want to come upstairs and see my Etchings? It’s foil.” Get enough counters on this thing where the card drawing’s become significant and you’re looking at a considerable amount of damage, before you even take the mana into account. I’m not really sure why you would steer your deck towards this instead of Arena. You could always play Bounce, and counters, but the whole thing just seems like a hassle (especially with the BBB cost).
Limited: Playable. In a really specific Black deck. Lots of removal, lots of cheap creatures.

Pimp My Sledge

Soul Spike

Constructed: Fringe. Incidentally works really well with Etchers above. Sylvan Lauriol with probably play one of these in his Black aggro deck, whatever that means. Given Aaron Forsythe comments on this card, it’s possible R&D has pegged this, like they had Firemane Angel, as the stone nuts (and, to be fair, that card has been a sleeper). I expect to see this around in moderation.
Limited: Playable/Solid. Kind of like a pimped out Kamahl’s Sledge.

Void Maw

Constructed: Maybe. It’s definitely interesting. The cost is fair and the Trample keeps it scary. There’s a lot of stiff competition around the six-drop, namely Skeletal Vampire and Adarkar Valkyrie. I can picture situations like this and a Pontiff versus a bunch of Saprolings, or a Skeletal Vampire, but I don’t see them coming up so often that I wouldn’t rather be the guy playing those cards instead of this one.
Limited: Good. It’s big, and with even one removal spell, could be damn near unkillable by creatures.



Blizzard Specter

Constructed: N/A. If you got to choose the permanent, then we’d be talking. As is, just seems like another Abyssal Specter to me (albeit one that triggers Sheets). I don’t see it standing out.
Limited: Good. On the upper ends of Good. Turn 4 backed with a bit of removal, or even if it just goes unchecked, this thing will be a major pain.

Deepfire Elemental

Constructed: N/A. Four toughness is a bad number in this format for a six-drop. Against the decks where you need this thing to stick, it gets Charred right on out. Also has a lot of competition.
Limited: Bomb.

Juniper Order Ranger

Constructed: Maybe. Had this existed in Ravnica Block, I think it would’ve got a lot of consideration for its favorable interactions with Skeletal Vampire and co, and also with Saprolings/Vipers. Whether this potential will translate into Standard is a little iffier, but it certainly seems worth thinking about.
Limited: Bomb. One for you, one for me.

Vanish into Memory

Constructed: N/A. There are more efficient, important, cards in White Weenie already. This card’s application is so narrow that I can’t see it really fitting in anywhere.
Limited: Solid/Good. It’s not quite functional enough to be awesome – I can see it sitting in hand, not quite doing anything amazing, being too expensive to leave up for when you want it – but when it works well — i.e. saving a creature, and cycling through three cards in the midgame, it’s huge.

Wilderness Elemental

Constructed: Maybe. The problem is that Burning-Tree Shaman is almost as good as the Wilderness Elemental when the Elemental is at its (practical) best, and is way better when the Elemental is at its worst. So there’s not much point in an aggro deck that wants to play cards like this bringing out other beaters, like the Shaman, for this card. It still has potential as a Sideboard card, maybe in Extended against certain matchups, but I don’t see it making a dent.
Limited: N/A

Diamond Faerie

Constructed: N/A
Limited: Good/Bomb. Is it worth splashing for? Probably, if you get it early enough, and pickup Snow lands.

Garza Zol, Plague Queen

Constructed: N/A. Aside from the extra bit of toughness (which is relevant) I don’t know why you wouldn’t play Niv-Mizzet, which has to be a scarier sight across the table.
Limited: Bomb. A great fit for the colors; you’ll slow the game down with three colors worth of removal early, and then recoup it all with the card drawing.

Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper

Constructed: Maybe. It’s a solid card for a fair price, but that stuff doesn’t fly, especially in aggro decks, at the five-mana mark. It’s possible that it has combo or sideboard potential that I’m missing.
Limited: Good. It’s a bit fragile and you’re not going to want to trade it, which lowers its functionality. Also, if you’re playing Green, you’re not going to have any shortage of guys to play turns 5+ that you are going to want to attack with.


Constructed: Maybe. With the Ravnica lands, the mana cost isn’t all that prohibitive, and so is worth considering. A 2/4 for three ain’t bad, but in the kind of deck you’d want to play this in (a lot of burn), you’re giving your opponent a target for Mortifys (etc) that they didn’t really have before. Between the mana, and an ability that doesn’t quite add up to me, I don’t see it.
Limited: Playable… if you can support it somehow?

Zur the Enchanter

Constructed: Fringe. It’s a good card. Like a Shadowmage, but instead of drawing cards, you can get bullets, and put them into play for free. The only problem is that I can’t figure out any way to use it. Maybe in a modified Ghost Dad deck that relies on a more spartan spirit package? In any case, it has potential.
Limited: Good. Even if you only have a Gelid Shackles or two, this is fine, if you can support it.

Notable Coldsnap Black Cards — Constructed
1. Deathmark (Uncommon)
2. Stromgald Crusader (Uncommon)
3. Grim Harvest (Common)
4. Soul Spike (Rare)
5. Garza’s Assassin (Rare)

Notable Coldsnap Gold Cards — Constructed
1. Zur the Enchanter (Rare)

Coldsnap Black Common Pick Order — Limited
1. Disciple of Tevesh Szat
2. Zombie Musher
3. Rimebound Dead
4. Chill to the Bone
5. Feast of Flesh
6. Gutless Ghoul
7. Krovikan Scoundrel
8. Chilling Shade
9. Grim Harvest
10. Surging Dementia
11. Martyr of Bones

Canadian Nationals Preview #4: Roundup

Richard Hoaen: A fact as alarming as any global warming or overpopulation statistic: as of Worlds this year, Richard Hoaen will be the only Canadian pro. He’s known for his Limited abilities but he also has a knack for Constructed that results haven’t quite revealed yet. An obvious favorite.

Prediction: National Team

Sebastian Denno: A dark horse. A founding member of Vancouver’s rising generation of Paquette-school players. Hungry, parentless, card-rats. Street urchins possessing a sort of guttural play style that could only have been forged in the trenches. Their invites could only have been wrenched from the PTQs of Hard Knox.

Prerelease. FNM. Cube. More cube. MTGO. Apprentice. Workstation. Testing. Testing. Wednesday night at Mishra’s. Friday afternoon at Lucky’s. Sunday morning at some strip mall, crunching Little Sevvy’s Craw Wurm deck with pimped-out Affinity. The rest of the time spent packing stolen goods at Jordan’s or doing a 9-5 at Value Village just to make ends meet.

Pros are fat. Fear the hungry. This could be Seb’s weekend.

Prediction: Top 8

Jeff Cunningham: I honestly don’t know if I’m going to make it out to Ottawa. The flight’s just too expensive to justify the prizes. I also have to update my site.

If I do go, I’ll just predict a Top 16 and leave it at that. Canadian Nationals… has never been especially kind to me. It’s a very… visceral tournament… very much, a tooth and nail struggle. I am not sure if I still have the fight left in me.

Prediction: ??

J. Evan Dean: Charismatic international sideboard reporter extraordinaire J. Evan Dean has flirted with Magic success: Top 8 at last year’s Nats, and a Top 64 finish in Honolulu.

Some people never got over Vietnam, or the night their band opened for Nirvana. J. Evan Dean never got over Honolulu.

Sated, he has allowed himself to become Magically flabby.

Additionally, I have incentive to see Dean fall. He has been privy to all of my mid-Pro Tour conceits. It is to Dean that I vent, with no lack of emotion, my round-by-round frustrations. Mild-mannered Dean always listens, pauses, and then offers his standard reply before walking away: “awkward.”

After an 0-4 at PT Charleston I’m going to have to decline Evan’s request for a repeat.

Predicted Finish: 2-4 drop

Derek Denholm: MTGO regular, and last year Top 8 competitor, this kid’s got Doug Potter talking. Anyone that plays MTGO enough has to be decent, right?

Predicted Finish: Top 16

Jason Howden: Two-time Nationals Top 8er, Jason Howden’s rapsheet reads like a death row inmate’s:

  • Headbutting an opponent
  • Threatening then-14-year-old Murray Evans after getting bluffed by him
  • Private rules enforcer for pros at Grand Prix

Recently, though, he has settled down, and married his high school sweetheart, Holly. Together they have opened up a card store in Winnipeg.

I do wonder what remains of Howden, though, after the fire that propelled him to his earlier finishes has been extinguished?

Predicted Finish: 4-5 drop

Michael Ferneyhough: Fresh off a Top 24 at GP Toronto, Ferney’s hot. Limited is his strong suit. If he gets a good Constructed deck, watch out.

Predicted Finish: Top 16

Mark Zadjner: Bless’d?

Predicted Finish: Top 12

Aeo Paquette, Gab Tsang, David Rood: Gone WoW’in.

Aeo Paquette in fact once skipped a Pro Tour to play in a MTGO prerelease.

Predicted Finish: N/A

Tomorrow: Blue, Conceptual Review, and Wrap-Up.