In the context of the StarCityGames Daily series, I wanted to do a Coldsnap review that was short, sweet, and to the point, focusing on the cards that Wizards has aggressively costed. In Part 1, I started at the converted mana cost of one and made it mid-way through three, so that’s where we’ll pick up here today. I didn’t realize that when using the name of the creature for the paragraph title wouldn’t also hotlink to the card, so I’ll correct that this time so you can click to follow along.
I was talking with Ben Bleiweiss after the Coldsnap prerelease, and he concurred that Ohran Viper is going to be one of the chase cards of the set. Which is a shame, since collecting four copies of a sleeper card is much easier, and I certainly want to get four copies of this card. Most everyone I’ve talked with agrees that an improved Ophidian is just nuts, chock full of handy abilities that are sure to make it a tournament staple, and when you add the casual coolness of being a Snake in the wake of Kamigawa’s Snake tribe and you’ve got a surefire winner. Mike Flores wrote an entire 2000-word homage to the Viper for MagictheGathering.com so I don’t need to retread that here. I want to point out what a great role this little guy plays in modern Green decks. Once upon a time, having reliable one casting cost mana creatures was a powerful advantage, but in the current Standard those creatures seem to more and more be an invitation for card-disadvantage from Pyroclasm, Wildfire, and Electrolyze. It seems that Green decks are more interested in accelerating to four mana creatures or above, making Sakura-Tribe Elder, Signets, and even Farseek more desirable. Ohran Viper is definitely a creature worth playing on turn 2, especially on the play where he can very nearly seal the game against some decks. His card-drawing ability can recoup both the one cost mana bug used to cast him and his own self before most mass removal comes into play.
StarCityGames got to sneak preview Vexing Sphinx before the prerelease, and Bleiweiss definitely warmed me to the card when he pointed out the timing of the age counters recouping the cards lost to the cumulative upkeep sooner than I had thought at first read. Here’s another three mana creature well worth accelerating out, a heckuva beating on which you’d be happy to graft a +1/+1 counter. Discarding cards during your upkeep hurts, but like his predecessor distant cousin Masticore, I think he’s worth it.
Jotun Owl Keeper
A 3/3 for three mana is already a pretty good start, but what’s nice about JÃ¶tun Owl Keeper is how he fits snug at the top of the mana curve for a white-weenie aggro deck, and acts almost like a Promise of Bunrei that swings. An excellent complement to Pride of the Clouds White/Blue decks.
This is a card that was obviously conceived as a card aimed at that segment of the casual crowd that loves Red’s “chaotic” nature, but somewhere along the way it got pushed. Lightning Storm is an instant that can target both creatures and players, two very important characteristics for tournament-level cards. Three damage for three mana, not so much… but the ability to charge that puppy on the stack is what makes it so potentially potent – and so dangerous. I find the design of this card fantastic, building off the flavor of both Land’s Edge and Chain Lightning, and the adrenaline rush of trying to figure out whether your opponent is holding more land than you and can throw the Storm right back in your face. For tournament play you can obviously build a deck to break the symmetry somewhat, utilizing Black for discard, or Green for land retrieval like Life from the Loam or even Groundskeeper.
Zur the Enchanter
In a lot of ways, Zur the Enchanter is an improved Thieving Magpie, giving you your extra card at the beginning of the attack phase rather than at the end of it… but instead of just ripping a random card off the top of your deck, he tutors for a particular card and puts it into play for free. We only need to glance behind us at Ghost Dad to see the value of an enchantment-based toolbox engine, but Zur gives us the added flexibility of fetching out stand-alone enchantments — Phyrexian Arena, anyone?
Sure, he’s not Flametongue Kavu, but FTK was insane and a card doesn’t have to be insane to be really, really good. There are plenty of great targets for Stalking Yeti’s sneaky ambush that doesn’t necessarily kill him, starting with Dark Confidant, Birds of Paradise, and Jushi Apprentice. You might even want to get a little tricky with Shining Shoal.
Vanish into Memory
You Made the Card! You Know How Good It’s Gonna Be! Making Vanish into Memory gold shaved off a mana cost, but then Ravnica hit and made multicolored decks easy as pie. You’re obviously going to love to nail a creature enchanted by a Moldervine Cloak with this card, but let’s not forgot how useful this will be as a discard outlet (Firemane Angel springs to mind).
I’ll stop at the four mana mark, since cards that cost more than this tend to be defined other than “aggressively costed.” Check in tomorrow when I get all artsy on ya.