SCG Daily – Wanna Draft Coldsnap? – Part 1

I’m going to take two Dailies to do this. The first – today’s, for those of you that need it spelled out real clear – is going to cover several of the archetypes in trips CS that you may or may not know about, since the format is an awful lot like Constructed and there is an actual metagame you’ll need to learn how to deal with.

So ya wanna learn how to draft Coldsnap, do ya? Do ya??!

In my head I imagined that sentence being uttered by Ben Goodman, and it was much, much funnier than it probably appears on the page. My condolences.

I’m going to take two Dailies to do this. The first – today’s, for those of you that need it spelled out real clear – is going to cover several of the archetypes in trips CS that you may or may not know about, since the format is an awful lot like Constructed and there is an actual metagame you’ll need to learn how to deal with. The second is going to cover how to actually sit down and draft the aforementioned decks. One of the key skills in Coldsnap draft is knowing when you’re going to end up drafting an pseudo-Constructed archetype, and when you’re going to be drafting an amalgamation of good cards more or less like typical booster draft decks. Both types can be extremely good. While it’s tempting to wet oneself over 6x Krovikan Mist.dec, for example, something like Shuhei’s St. Louis concoction can sometimes be the most powerful of all. Similarly, Wessel Oomens managed to overcome all kinds of fanciness to take Malmo with a deck that basically amounts to B/U good stuff with the How Lucky Garza’s Assassin/Grim Harvest. Nevertheless, if you don’t know what kinds of different options are out there, it’s hard to focus on a plan. So I’m going to list out all of the major Constructed-style decks you can draft, bearing in mind that there’s nothing wrong with a basic solid normal Limited deck with a good curve, solid men, and removal spells. What I am not going to do is go through all the self-explanatory decks that basically consist of a bunch of multiples of a single spell, e.g. ripple.dec, Sound the Call, and all of those. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why any of those are good.

Without further ado (in no particular order):

1) Martyr/Icefall

This deck basically consists of Red Martyrs, Icefalls, a few burn spells, and mid-range Red men like Ohran Yeti and Thermopod. It also tends to splash spells like Frost Raptor, Squall Drifter, or Aurochs Herd that can survive Martyr and deal with/race flying creatures.

I am sure everybody knew I’d start out with this one, because I tend to get real excited about it and have been known to display signs of arousal when I start binning three or four creatures at a time because my opponent “knew” there was no way I could have four Red cards in hand. First, though, the question everybody asks when I start talking about this deck: Why Icefall?

To answer that question, start thinking for a minute about the format. Everybody figured out early on that they ought to start drafting Snow Lands really high. Well, why is that? Usually, it seems like, with a bunch of snow lands in play your cards have the potential to become more powerful than they ordinarily would be because you get to activate all those fun and exciting new abilities. Furthermore, those same cards tend to be a bit underwhelming when you don’t have snow mana, so you have to pick up the lands before you can start taking a bunch of the snow-intensive cards. Also, snow mana can make the rest of your deck better and more streamlined by providing fuel for Into the North, Rimewind Taskmage, et al ad nauseam.

All of which is to say that against a good number of opponents, if you can blow up all of their snow lands you find yourself playing against a Bad Deck.

The Icefalls are also really good in concert with Red Martyr because of a particular nuance of the format, which is that he trumps every major archetype except those featuring Large Green Men. Icefall, fortunately, prevents those beasties from ever hitting the table. You can also sometimes just live the dream and kill a Phyrexian Snowcrusher. That most definitely is.

But yeah. Besides the Recover ability having obvious synergy with the Martyr, Icefall is also important because it gives you enough Red cards to fill out the deck. You want at least 16-17 Red spells in your deck to ensure that you’re killing men with Martyr even into the mid-to-late game, and Icefalls tend to come around late. Additionally, while additional Red creatures would plop onto the table only to deplete your hand size and die when the time comes to Martyr, you can cast Icefalls at any point with the confidence that you will (probably) be able to get them back if you need more cards in hand to Martyr with. Finally, the card has really good synergy with Thermopod, who happens to be a giant hoss as well. Just be sure to pick up some way to deal with fliers in your second color if you don’t get DI Skreds or Surging Flames.

Strengths: Occasional free wins; abundant card advantage; extreme consistency.

Weaknesses: Some difficulty dealing with fliers and large creatures if the Icefall plan falls through.

This deck is lucky enough to have a bye against what could be the most broken deck in the format, also known as:

2) Kjeldoran War Cry

This deck is chocked to the brim with a bunch of little irrelevant wimpy White men, making it a popular choice amongst members of the Magic community. Usually you splash little irrelevant men of some other color, too. They can be bad – non-Red Martyrs, Wolverines, whatever – as long as they hit the table. You also need at least five or six War Cries to make it work. Basically you just turn guys sideways and cast War Cries, since every one after the first is going to be a giant bomb and will deal either ten damage or Wrath your opponent’s board. Usually, you can mop up some damage in the late game with Zombie Mushers or Boreal Griffins or some such. It’s important that you pick up War Cries before anything else, since the actual creatures in the deck are basically interchangeable. Gelid Shackles is also really strong, since you don’t really care about the Snow ability at all.

Strengths: Blistering fast; full of late picks; really difficult to deal with outside of Red Martyr and Frostweb Spider; high threat density since you really only need around fifteen lands.

Weaknesses: You flat-out concede to a Red Martyr, and if you hiccup at all a Disciple of Tevesh Szat will definitely do you in. Sometimes, too, you don’t get the War Cries, and then you don’t have a deck.

3) Into the North/Boreal Druid decks

It may seem odd to some people that I categorize this deck by its mana acceleration, when in truth it will seem to be more of an Auroch deck. Basically, you want to accelerate into either buyback Aurochs or Ronom Hulks. You can even use Ronom Serpents if necessary. Mouth of Ronom and Scrying Sheets are both absolutely ridiculous in this deck, as is Panglacial Wurm, since they turn your late-game otherwise dead Into the Norths into relevant spells. The thing about mana acceleration usually is that you can’t pack too much of it into a deck or you will run out of gas once you cast two or three giant spells. Fortunately, with Aurochs Herd, you’ll never actually run out of gas. This means that you can fit as many Boreal Druids and Into the Norths into your deck as you can get so you can start cranking the bull out as early as turn 4, or turn 3 if you’re really, really lucky. If you fail to get Herds, all of the acceleration is still extremely good just because no other deck in the format has it. You just have to compensate by finding some way to activate your Into the Norths in the late game, since Boreal Druids will always at least be 1/1s. The thing about this format is that decks tend to deal damage in huge chunks, just because there are so many moderately-sized creatures like Ohran Yeti, Simian Brawler, Rimehorn Aurochs, etc. that are inherently difficult to block. This deck can rapidly amass enough power to hold off any attempt at racing only to end the game with a single swing for twenty-odd points of damage.

Strengths: Mana acceleration still comes later than it should; Aurochs allow for card advantage; easy to splash a third color because of Into the North; disproportionately high amount of snow permanents.

Weaknesses: Can peter out in the late game; can do absolutely nothing if it fails to draw acceleration.

4) Life

Grim Harvests, White cards, and Martyr of Sands. You end up winning with fliers, fatties, or by decking the opponent. That is the theory, anyway; I have never actually been able to win games with this deck, but players I trust assure me that it’s very good. You can somewhat hybridize it with the War Cry deck, which is nice, and you can eventually get idiotic things going like Disciple of Tevesh Szat/Grim Harvest, which is obviously incredibly fair. It’s also full of late picks, since for whatever reason no one likes to take Grim Harvest. The problem I’ve found with this deck is that 1) it’s really easy to hate out with cards that you can incidentally pick up without even trying (Martyr of Bones, Rune Snag, Icefall, etc.) and 2) some decks can actually beat you from 100+ life. I have watched Chris Fennell swing for fifty points a turn with an Auroch deck.

… I guess I’ve already covered strengths and weaknesses, so we’ll move on to

5) Snow

This deck can come in a variety of forms, but I’m going to single out the U/B build because it’s had the most success and is also, in my opinion, easily the strongest. I guess this is not technically as specialized as the other four decks I have mentioned, so it feels a little weird to be talking about it, but the deck truly does feel like Affinity when it gets going. Basically, you draft snow permanents (particularly lands) aggressively as hell to take advantage of the insane Rimewind Taskmage, and the aggressively-costed Rimebound Dead and Zombie Musher. Being able to activate Frost Raptor is also rather ridiculous, and don’t even get me started on how idiotic Adarkar Windform or Phyrexian Ironfoot are when you’re able to activate their abilities. The first time you untap Riptide Survivor or Disciple of Tevesh Szat with the Taskmage, you’ll see what I mean. It’s actually impossible to exaggerate how highly you have to pick snow lands in this deck, though. You can get some of your quality playables very late – Martyr of Frost, for example, is fine in this archetype – but you absolutely positively have to have a ton of snow. For one, you’ll have DI activated abilities. Also, though, you really want to be able to use Chilling Shade effectively in the late game since you’ll get them potentially as late as 13th pick (they’re only really good in your deck) and there is actually no way to beat a giant flyer in this format. Pick Mouth of Ronom, Scrying Sheets, and Coldsteel Heart above basically everything except the Rimewind Taskmage himself, because he’s so essential to the deck functioning smoothly and he’s also one of the only good ways to deal with Ronom Hulk.

Real quick aside on Ronom Hulk: he is actually That Good. This guy should never be in a pack after the third pick, and any time I see him later than that I can assert with authority that someone has made a mistake. At least once in St. Louis I dealt forty points of damage in a match with a Hulk, as my opponent watched with a full board of guys who were simply unable to do anything at all. The people who talk about his prohibitive upkeep cost just don’t get it. If paying the upkeep is going to be a problem, just don’t cast him yet. Empty that hand. There are times when it’s correct to turn 3 that guy out there – yep, I’m that lucky – but sometimes you’ve got to calm down. I have no idea if he’s better than Aurochs Herd, since those guys are actually That Good as well, but it must be nice to have to make that choice.


Strengths: Is probably the most objectively “powerful” non-ripple deck in the format; contains several difficult-to-answer threats (Frost Raptor, Zombie Musher); potential for the most ridiculous bombs (Rimefeather Owl, Scrying Sheets, Heidar, Herald of Leshrac, Garza’s Assassin, Garza Zol)

Weaknesses: Hates hates hates Ronom Hulk; vulnerable to Icefall; requires a prohibitively high amount of snow permanents.

Tomorrow: How to actually start drafting decks now that you’re aware of what is out there. Drafting the format is strange, especially with the seeming gambit of trying to go all-in on Ripple spells and the like when the packs just might crap out on you. There is a trick to it all. Stay tuned.