My name is Peebles. Well, my full name is Benjamin Peebles-Mundy, but most people know me as Peebles, both on the Internet and in the real world. I’ve been playing Magic at CMU for 3 years now, and I’ve decided to try my hand at writing.
So, who am I to be telling you how to draft Coldsnap? I don’t really know, other than the simple fact that I’ve been drafting the set on the MTGO Beta essentially non-stop since the night it was released. I cleaned out my "draftdecks" folder when it got too full to find individual draft files, and I had to clean it out again a few days ago. Right now there are over twenty draft decks in the folder.
This article talks about the most important things, in my opinion, going on in Coldsnap. All of it requires that you understand one thing: Snow is more important than you can imagine. Snow-Covered lands are some of the best commons in the set, and if you have a favorite color combination, it’s not uncommon to first pick a snow dual out of the first pack.
Part 1 – Pick Orders:
I’m listing my pick orders in what I believe to be the order of most powerful color to least powerful color. The interesting thing about this set is that evaluations change dramatically if you are drafting an aggro deck instead of a control deck. Since the colors lend themselves more often to certain strategies, Black and Blue are written with control decks in mind, and Red, Green, and White are written with aggro decks in mind.
Black is the set’s deepest color, and its most powerful. To offset this, it is essentially the slowest color as well. You have tons of ways to dominate a late-game, from reusable removal to unblockable creatures to repetitive recursion. The only sticking point is that a fast deck with good early drops and some removal (or Rimerunners) can easily run you over before you get to that point in the game. Therefore your goal when drafting Black is to strike a balance between your late-game power and your ability to live to turn 5. This means that cards move up and down the more you have of a specific card; if you’ve got two Disciples of Tevesh Szat and zero Zombie Mushers, you’ll take your first Musher over your third Disciple.
1. Disciple of Tevesh Szat – This format is filled with little utility creatures, and while some of them contest a turn 4 Disciple (say, Orcish Bloodpainter), this guy will kill all of them – except Blue’s Rimewind Taskmage – if you can get him going. On the other end of things, the Disciple’s second ability can and will kill almost anything you want to, with Ronom Hulk being the most common and most important. And if you make it to the late-game with a Grim Harvest in your graveyard, -6/-6 every other turn essentially ends the game.
2. Zombie Musher – This guy does it all. He holds the fort against the fast assaults, he stops the giant fatties (except for Ronom Hulk), and he gets in there for an essentially-unblockable two if you so desire. Having a good defensive creature for the late-game is important, due to Black’s slowness. He really only starts to attack when you’ve got the board locked up and just want to end the game.
3. Feast of Flesh – The first Feast you cast will most often kill a utility guy like Boreal Druid, Disciple, Bloodpainter, or Squall Drifter. The second might do better for you and kill an actual threat like a Frost Raptor or a Taskmage. And if you get up to your third and beyond, it’s going to be very hard for your opponent to win. You can start taking these over Musher and Disciple if you already have a couple in your stack, but don’t be afraid to run just one. Killing that opposing Disciple to get your own active is a big deal.
4. Snow-Covered Swamp – Snow lands are insane. The only real punishment for playing them is Zombie Musher (and to some extent Ronom Serpent). The benefit, on the other hand, is extraordinary. The power of your average draft deck is directly proportional to the number of snow lands it contains. It can be hard to get as many as you’d like, but fewer than four usually means you’re going to have a hard time winning the draft.
5. Gutless Ghoul – The Ghoul does three things, and he does them well. His main purpose in life is to enable Recover on-demand. In the late-game you can topdeck one of your mediocre early drops and cash it in for Grim Harvest, upgrading it to Disciple or Musher or the like. He also lets you chump-block and gain life to win race situations with fliers or landwalkers. Lastly, he’s snow, and having 15+ snow permanents is a must in a UB deck.
6. Chilling Shade – The shade isn’t too impressive on turn 3, since you’ll want to be casting spells for the first couple turns (obv). But he’s snow (UB again), and in the late-game he’ll kill people fast. If you’ve been drafting snow lands appropriately highly, he can grow to 4/4 or 5/5 easily.
7. Grim Harvest – The trick to this card is that you have to know when to sandbag it for the late-game lock and when to just use it as a raise dead and let it get removed from the game. Against Black and Red decks, it usually makes sense to sandbag it, unless doing so will get you run over. Again, if you make it to the lategame with this card online, you’ll find it difficult to lose, since all of your creatures return to your hand instead of dying, assuming you have 3BB open.
8. Rimebound Dead – A regenerating 1/1 guy would be good enough to put in your black decks just so that you don’t get hit on turns 2, 3, and 4. However, the fact that he’s a snow creature makes him good instead of just playable.
9. Chill to the Bone – The creatures you care about that this kills are Ronom Hulk, Disciple, Rimewind Taskmage, Orcish Bloodpainter, and a few rares. Of the commons, the only things that it kills that the first Feast of Flesh doesn’t kill are Taskmage and Hulk. As such, this card is pretty mediocre, but you’ll play 1-2 if you have them, since removal is removal.
10. Off-color Snow Lands – Snow lands are snow lands, and while you’d rather have on-color ones, you’ll still take these and play 2-3 of them.
11. Krovikan Scoundrel – He’ll usually get 2-4 damage in and then trade off with an opposing early drop. Given the slowness of Black, you could do much worse.
12. Surging Dementia – This is the first card on the list that you will regularly leave every copy of in the sideboard. Yes, you might get 12 and Mind Twist people, but that’s not ever actually going to happen. Even if you did get 12 and start Twisting for the win, you’d still have only 12 other spells in your deck to do that winning with, and 12 spells versus 23 isn’t a fair fight, even if your opponent is starting with zero cards in hand.
13. Martyr of Bones – This man lives to RFG Grim Harvest and break up the life combo deck. He doesn’t really do much more than that, though, and they will be trying their hardest to protect these pieces.
Blue is my favorite color in the set, because of its uncharacteristic ability to do everything. You have two of the best common fliers in the format, the best common utility creature, a huge common fatty, and a cheap common removal spell. However, you really need to pay attention to your snow count. If you’re planning on using Taskmage to its full extent, you’re going to want 1/2 of your deck to be snow permanents… otherwise it will be too difficult to get the requisite four into play without being very lucky.
0. Krovikan Mist – This illusion isn’t actually part of my pick order, since it goes wherever you want it to go. Circumstances will have to be strange for you to pick it over Taskmage, and you won’t likely be taking the first Mist over Frost Raptor or even a Snow Island. However, the payoff for running three or more is huge, since a double Mist draw is very strong and a triple (or more) Mist draw will end the game almost immediately. You just have to decide how much you want to go for it and try to get each and every one of these.
1. Rimewind Taskmage – When I said that Zombie Musher did everything, I was exaggerating; this guy actually does do everything. Like every tapper out there, he will hold off your opponent’s biggest threat and let your guys through when it’s time to end the game. Like Puppeteer, he can untap your blockers and let you re-use utility creature effects. And unlike either of those, he can act as Rishadan Port if your opponent is mana light, and even fix your own mana if you need two of a color and don’t have it yet. On top of that, he’s got two toughness, so one opposing pinger doesn’t negate him, and the first Feast of Flesh won’t kill him. And if you have nothing at all to do with him, he’ll turn off an opposing Frozen Solid. Just make sure you’ve got enough snow permanents… Omega Myr is not very exciting.
2. Frost Raptor – Flying is very good in this set, since there are very few common fliers and only one common spider. In addition, he’s very hard to kill after the first turns of the game, and since blue decks can lock everything up and win at their leisure, this guy will end the game even if your opponent has a removal spell in hand. Plus he’s a snow creature, so your Taskmages will be active.
3. Snow-Covered Island – Get that Taskmage active and protect your Frost Raptor. Oh, and make sure your huge fatty stays in play.
4. Ronom Serpent – If he was just a 5/6 wall for six mana, you would still play him since the only guys that get through him are Ronom Hulk and Zombie Musher. However, he’s actually just a giant 5/6 for six, since if he can’t attack your opponent’s deck is bad. 5/6 is enormous in this format, and there are very few ways to handle this guy once he goes on offense.
5. Frozen Solid – Frozen Solid is a very strong removal spell in this format, since it handles the bane of all Blue decks: Ronom Hulk. We’ve all seen this effect before, and it’s better than ever.
6. Rune Snag – Blue shares Black’s problem in the speed department… if you don’t have six mana available you don’t have much of a defense. Rune Snag helps you get there, since snagging your opponent’s two-drop will buy you a huge chunk of life and time. The second Snag is essentially a hard counter, and there are plenty of late-game bombs you’ll be happy to stop with just two mana, from Void Maw to the Rime-X rares to Sunscour.
7. Off-color Snow Land – Get that Taskmage active and protect your Frost Raptor. Oh, and make sure your huge fatty stays in play. Again, you’d rather have an on-color land, but in Blue more than anywhere else you’ll take and play all the snow lands you can get.
8. Survivor of the Unseen – The standard use for this guy is to upkeep him once and get two activations out if him, essentially building your own Counsel of the Soratami for five mana. However, this is a fine thing to do, since there are very few ways to get extra cards in this format. There are also two things that can happen that will put your opponent so far behind that they will have a hard time winning. He can come off the top in the very late game, and stick around for a bunch of turns, drawing plenty of extra cards. You’ll always know whether or not to pay his upkeep cost since you’ll see your draw step card before your actual draw step. He can also combo with Taskmage(s) to activate two or more times a turn, drawing an extra card at one mana per card.
9. Drelnoch – He’s somewhat small for five mana, and a lot of the time he’ll be another build-your-own Counsel as he slams into a 4/4 on the other side of the board. However, sometimes he’ll be an unblockable 3/3, and sometimes you’ll be able to get more than one charge of cards out of him. He really suffers from not being snow, though, since filling your deck with non-snow guys is a problem. Plus there’s the fact that for one mana more you can get +2/+3 on your fatty.
10. Surging Aether – Regress was not very good in its time, and that card had the benefit of being able to mess with Equipment mid-combat. As with most of the Ripple cards, there’s always the allure of living the dream and bouncing all of your opponent’s permanents, but that’s not going to happen. What will happen is that you’ll pay four mana for an Unsummon, and if you’re really lucky you might get to bounce another guy, in exchange for skipping your turn. On the other hand, there are a few cases where you’ll love to see this card. Bouncing your opponent’s Rimescale Dragon will get you an untap that they won’t be planning around. Bouncing Magmatic Core after it’s built up to a relevant point will buy you a ton of time. But most of the time, this card belongs in the sideboard.
11. Thermal Flux – You might get lucky with this card, and turn on a Chill to the Bone locked in your hand, ambush a Ronom Hulk mid-combat, or even counterspell your opponent’s Chill, all for just one mana. Most of the time, however, you’ll cycle it for one mana… but you won’t get your card right away, meaning that you’ll want to kill yourself when you draw it off the top in the late game.
12. Martyr of Frost – This guy doesn’t do much, since a non-snow 1/1 doesn’t do anything for Blue, and the threat of counterspelling something isn’t much of a threat when your opponent sees it sitting there on the table.
Red holds claim to the best draft common in Skred. Most people will pick these off of you, though, so be ready to fight over Red if you want to get involved. Unfortunately for the resident Red drafter, Red is not very deep in this set, so when anyone and everyone is taking the best two commons in the color off you, you need to be sure that you’ve got the color open on both sides. However, the cards that you do want to see are very strong, so if the packs break your way, you’ll wind up with a good deck, even if you don’t see more than one Skred or Surging Flame.
1. Skred – This kills everything, assuming you’ve built your deck right. The only card it can’t kill, by definition, is an opposing Rimefeather Owl. Oh right, it also kills everything for one mana, at instant speed.
2. Surging Flame – The ability to get lucky and hit four damage for two mana does not put this card ahead of Skred. The rule of thumb for Ripple is that to have a better than 50% chance of hitting a second copy you need to have five copies left in your deck when you cast the ripple spell, assuming you cast it "on-time". However, Shock for two mana is still a good deal, since it kills every utility creature and many evasive threats.
3. Snow-Covered Mountain – In Red, the main purpose of your snow lands is to enable Skred. However, they also make your Yetis, Thermopods, and Rimerunners all better, so you want as many as you can get.
4. Goblin Rimerunner – This card exists in a few different modes. It’s either a standard three-drop utility creature that doubles as a Gray Ogre, a 2/2 surprise attacker, or a removal spell on the turn you alpha strike. All of those are good things, and he’s a snow creature too. He’s at his best in Green decks, since you’ll want a way to make sure that you deal 20 on your Herd attack turn, as well as a way to run over the slower Blue and/or Black decks if you get a fast start.
5. Ohran Yeti – A 3/3 for four is fairly large in this set, and the threat of the ability is quite potent, since all of Red’s best creatures are snow creatures. Oh yeah, he’s also a snow creature for your Skreds.
6. Thermopod – Another creature that seems to do everything, Thermopod is usually a main win condition in a removal heavy red deck. He hastes into the fray at six mana, upgrades Skred, fizzles Feast of Flesh, and, most importantly, enables Recover. Most of the guys that "enable" Recover actually add a mana to the Recover cost of your card (i.e. Gutless Ghoul) if you’re planning on sacrificing with damage on the stack. Thermopod, on the other hand, reduces that cost, making Recover much more powerful with him in play. Remember that since he’s a snow creature, his Prospector ability makes snow mana if you’re extremely desperate.
7. Martyr of Ashes – Unfortunately, the Martyr isn’t something that you can splash, since its strength depends on Red being your main color. This isn’t helped by the fact that red is relatively shallow. However, the ability can wreck your opponent if you set it up right, especially if they’re playing white. He’s also pretty good against Black, since you want to kill Disciple, and he’s fine against other Red decks since their guys are fairly small. Against Green it’s hard to fire him off for enough, and against Blue the only guy you can expect to hit is Taskmage.
8. Orcish Bloodpainter – Not the world’s best pinger, the Bloodpainter is still just that: a pinger. He makes all of your creatures trade up one point of power, kills opposing utility creatures, and, of course, enables Recover at no cost. Unfortunately, his small size is a liability, and he can’t attack if you want to threaten an ability that you will use rather rarely.
9. Off-color Snow Land – At this point there isn’t much to say. Any snow land will give your two guys haste and turn on Ohran Yeti’s ability, as well as boost Skred.
10. Karplusan Wolverine – You won’t catch anyone off-guard with his ability, but it is sometimes useful. If your opponent has a one-toughness utility creature, he’s unblockable or a removal spell. He’s also a snow guy, so he’s not useless if you’re desperate for snow permanents. But he’s still a 1/1 for one that won’t often be anything other than that.
11. Goblin Furrier – Red’s version of Krovikan Scoundrel is worse in almost every way. Besides the fact that it doesn’t die to a pinger, the Furrier can’t fight against the best creatures in the format and lives in a color that is not nearly as desperate for early game trades… even if his ability would let you make those trades.
12. Icefall – I have played against people who Icefall me every turn starting turn 4, until they run out of Icefalls. Usually this lasts for a while, since someone set to get every Icefall will in fact get every Icefall. However, land destruction is just as bad as it’s always been, and Recover isn’t enough to save this card. Despite running into the Icefall deck in about 10 drafts, I have only lost one or two games to a stream of LD.
13. Rite of Flame – It’s a sorcery ritual. That makes less mana. Oh well. Maybe if it had been a Snow Sorcery or something like that…
Green has two huge things going for it. The first is Ronom Hulk, which is just a giant fatty that most decks are going to have a hard time dealing with. The other is Aurochs Herd, a.k.a. Cow Tidings. The Herd is another one of those rare ways to get extra cards in this format, and chaining Herds will often kill any opponent as long as they don’t kill you first. These two fatties are helped by two very strong acceleration spells and a good early game. Good green decks in this format will be able to put on a lot of fast pressure, and then break the opposing deck’s back with a chain of Aurochs.
1. Aurochs Herd – Imagine a 4/4 trampler for six that drew you a card when it came into play. Now imagine that you could guarantee that that card wasn’t a land. In fact, you can guarantee that it’s another fatty that will draw you a similarly awesome card when it comes into play. That’s the deal with the Herd. You want to have four or more of this card in every Green deck, since you want to draw one to chain in the late-game. When your early drops start to get outclassed and your opponent starts to stabilize, drop a bunch of tramplers and swing for 40.
2. Ronom Hulk – If 4/4 for 6 is a large-sized man, then 5/6 for 5 is enormous. In addition to being enormous, he has protection from all the best stuff in this format, making dealing with him a huge issue for your opponent. Frozen Solid, Chill to the Bone, Skred, and an on-board Disciple or Taskmage can kill him, but not much else will be able to stop him.
3. Into the North – Rampant Growth is a pretty big deal, since not only does it accelerate you and fix your mana, it gives you access to Snow Lands. You’ll notice that Snow Forests are much farther down the green list than the corresponding cards in other colors. This is because Into the North finds them on demand, and because green is the color that least needs Snow Lands. The bonus on Into the North is that it can also get the Snow Duals, Mouth of Ronom, and Scrying Sheets if you have them.
4. Simian Brawler – As I said before, 3/3 for 4 is fairly large in this format, and a 3/3 on turn 3 feels like cheating against the slow Blue/Black decks. Plus there’s the fact that he’s not just a 3/3 for 4, since he can grow on demand, making combat with him very tricky and late-game alpha strikes harder to figure out than normal.
5. Boreal Druid – Another very strong acceleration spell, this one is worse than Into the North because it doesn’t fix your mana at all and because the only on-curve thing it accelerates you into that Into the North doesn’t is Sound the Call. However, he’s a snow creature and he makes snow mana, pushing Snow Forest even farther down the list.
6. Bull Aurochs – Against Blue/Black decks, dropping a Bull on turn 2 and a second on turn 3 is usually a win if you have a Rimerunner, Skred, Flames, or something similar in hand. Additionally, he is another Auroch to get when you run out of Herds, and he’ll add about 10 more damage to your final Herd alpha strike.
7. Surging Might – Some decks will have a huge problem with a 4/3 trampler or a pumpable 4/4 on turn 3, and others won’t. If you’re lucky, you might even hit a second Might, but as usual you shouldn’t count on it. You just need to make sure you don’t run into the most demoralizing play: a Surging Flame (or similar) on your Bull after you’ve rippled into three Mights. It may make sense to board these out if your opponent is packing a lot of Frozen Solids, Gelid Shackles, Chill to the Bones, or other cards that will give your opponent a two-for-one.
8. Sound the Call – A 2/2 for 3 isn’t too bad in this format, and if you can cast a second one of these on the next turn, a lot of slow decks will be in trouble. Beyond that, there isn’t much to say.
9. Snow-Covered Forest – There isn’t really much to do with snow mana in green. You need to make sure you have just enough of these guys to find when you cast Into the North, but the North will probably be going for an uncommon land or your secondary color anyways.
10. Boreal Centaur – I have found this guy to be much worse than I’d initially expected. Pumping him is a large drain on your early mana, and Grizzly Bears, while fine, isn’t too much to get excited over. The main attraction for this guy is that you can build a 5/5 with a Surging Might, and a 5/5 is a lot for many decks to deal with.
11. Frostweb Spider – There are very few fliers in this format, so a spider isn’t in huge demand in your average Green deck. Additionally, you should almost always be on the offense in Green, so you aren’t looking for a defensive guy. However, it’s nice to have a couple of these guys in the sideboard so that you can bring him in to shut down opposing Frost Raptors or Surging Sentinels.
12. Off-color Snow Land – If the on-color lands were so low, the off color ones are even lower.
13. Martyr of Spores – This on-board trick just isn’t worth it. The only time you should consider running him is when you have a Resize in your deck, since a double pump from the Resize plus the pump from this guy can add up to a ton of damage out of nowhere.
White is, by far, the weakest color in Coldsnap. The strength of White comes from the ability to kill your opponent on turn 4 or 5 with a double War Cry attack, but this can be stopped in multiple ways. Since you’re usually tapped out in the early turns from playing as many guys as possible, it’s really easy for Martyr of Ashes to wreck you. In general, your creatures and spells will be outclassed by your opponent’s if you don’t run them over immediately. I know that some do not agree with me, but I dislike white so much that I will pass a Sunscour or Adarkar Valkyrie if I open it in the first pack, unless the pack doesn’t contain any top commons or uncommons.
1. Kjeldoran War Cry – This card is the key to success in any White deck. Your goal is to use the first as a combat trick, and then to use the second and third as a global +5/+5 to kill your opponent in one attack. Pick them over everything, because without them you will find it extremely hard to win.
2. Squall Drifter – This Master Decoy flies and is snow. On the other hand, his one toughness means he’ll drop to Bloodpainter, Disciple, and the first Feast of Flesh. Still, tappers are tappers, and when this guy doesn’t have anything productive to do, he gets in for an evasive point.
3. Gelid Shackles – The Shackles are not an Arrest, no matter how much you want them to be. The main things that they do are turn off the small utility guys like Rimerunner and Taskmage, and stop the huge defenders from allowing your opponent to stabilize. If you’re lucky enough to have an extra snow mana lying around every turn, you’ll be able to build your own Arrest, but usually you’ll find the opposing guy attacking you.
4. Kjeldoran Outrider – This guy is a great attacker because he auto-hides the War Cry in your hand. Sending two of him into a turn 4 Zombie Musher doesn’t set off warning signals in your opponent’s mind, since you can just pump twice and drop another bear. This means that you can often trick your opponent into walking into the first War Cry. He’s also a great defender because, well, he’s got pumpable toughness.
5. Ronom Unicorn – More bears for your War Cry are always a good thing, and this bear is a handy way to kill a Frozen Solid, Shackles, or an uncommon card like Magmatic Core.
6. Surging Sentinels – Remember the statistics: to have a 50% chance of hitting another Sentinel on turn 3, you’ll need to have five more of them left in your deck. Therefore you shouldn’t really plan on hitting too often, but you’ll still have this guy in your deck because he attacks well. If you do get lucky and get 3-4 of these guys out on turn 3, you’re still in trouble unless you have the War Cry to back them up immediately. Zombie Musher, Disciple, Ohran Yeti, Martyr of Ashes, Simian Brawler, Boreal Centaur, and Kjeldoran Outrider will all stop these guys before they get out of hand unless they’re attacking as 5/4s on turn 5.
7. Snow-Covered Plains – White is the other color that doesn’t need snow mana a whole lot. You need to make sure you have enough for your Shackles, but that’s about it.
8. Boreal Griffin – A 3/2 flier for 5 is just fine, maybe even good. The problem is that a white deck shouldn’t be planning on having a turn 5 and beyond, since if the game isn’t ending around that time, it’s going to be very hard for the white deck to win.
9. Swift Maneuver – One of the few combat tricks in the set, this one is mediocre because of the small amount of damage it prevents and the fact that you just want to be swinging, playing guys, and casting War Cry.
10. Martyr of Sands – He’s a guy for War Cry, and he’s the only one you can run out on turn 1. You can also build the Life combo with him and Grim Harvest, but that’s not for the faint of heart.
11. Off-color Snow Land – Any snow land will activate Shackles, but you want as much White mana as you can get for Outrider and to make sure that you can just dump all of your guys on the table.
12. Kjeldoran Javelineer – Cumulative Upkeep on this guy is just too much to ask. You need all of your mana every turn to play guys and cast War Cry.
13. Sun’s Bounty – This is not Pulse of the Fields. One card for four life is not good enough to run, even if you might be able to gain more when your creatures die.
Part 2 – Uncommons:
There are a few uncommons that you will take very highly in this set. Most of them won’t be picked over the best of the best commons (Skred, Taskmage, and Disciple), but you should be picking them very highly.
White-Shield Crusader – A great bear for the aggressive deck, since he gains evasion and can pump on his own if you’re hurting for something to do with your mana. The Protection from Black is also huge. Pick him around the same level as Shackles/Outrider.
Jotun Owl Keeper – This guy is worth his cumulative upkeep, since you can let him die and then War Cry the birds he makes. He’s also very large for his size. Pick him just behind War Cry.
Kjeldoran Gargoyle – This isn’t a White card, since it doesn’t fit the White plan of "bear, bear, bear, bear, War Cry, War Cry." On the other hand, it’s an amazing splash for a Blue, Black, or even Red deck, since it’s a big flier with a great ability.
Adarkar Windform – An illusion that helps with Krovikan Mist, the real point of this guy is that he’s a 3/3 flier that may even send opposing fliers into your Ronom Serpents if they try to attack. He’s also a snow creature. Pick him just above or below Frost Raptor, depending on your curve.
Krovikan Whispers – A bomb, assuming you can pay the upkeep. Since UB is a very common archetype, that shouldn’t be hard. In UB, pick this card over every common. In Ux, pick it just below Taskmage or Frost Raptor.
Balduvian Frostwaker – Extraordinarily small, this guy will still turn your lands into 2/2 fliers, assuming you’re drafting them. He puts your snow lands at risk, though, so be careful that you don’t accidentally lose your Serpents to a removal spell, or have anything like that happen. Pick him below Frozen Solid.
Balduvian Fallen – The main benefit of this card is that he’s gigantic, and can start blocking right when you play him. His upkeep will lock you at four available mana (assuming you continue to play lands), which is enough to cast all of your spells. Pick him around the same level as the first Feast of Flesh.
Krovikan Rot – White decks and Blue decks have a very hard time beating this card. It’s pretty good against the other three colors too, but its true strength lies in combining it with Disciple. When you can make all but the biggest of creatures 2/x on demand, Krovikan Rot becomes a bomb. Pick it over Disciple if you have a Disciple or two in your stack already; otherwise pick it at the same level as Zombie Musher.
Stromgald Crusader – Protection from White is much worse than Protection from Black, and being a 2/1 means a much different thing to Black than to White. Pick him around Chilling Shade.
Phobian Phantasm – An illusion to help with Mists in UB, the Phantasm is not actually a three-drop. Playing him on turn 3 locks you off of all of your most powerful spells (Disciple, Musher). However, when you have the board mostly stabilized, he will attack unhindered every turn. Pick him around Gutless Ghoul.
Stalking Yeti – Another bomb, assuming you have snow lands…and you’d better have snow lands. Take him over every Red common.
Greater Stone Spirit – Once he’s in play, by virtue of being able to cast him, you’ll be able to give at least two creatures +0/+2 every combat, and even pump their power as well. Since he’s also large to begin with, the game should end very soon after you play him, since combat becomes nigh-impossible for your opponent once he’s in play. Pick him around Surging Flame.
Magmatic Core – The Core is insane in a control deck and very mediocre in aggro. The Core will take 2 or 3 turns before it starts to do anything, but once it gets rolling it will be extremely hard for your opponent to keep any guys on the board. If you have a Zombie Musher, you can keep it around indefinitely, or you might be able to split the damage among your team to stop any of them from dying. Pick it around Surging Flame if you’ll be able to exploit it, otherwise don’t bother.
Arctic Nishoba – Gigantic fatty. Absolutely huge. Still, he’s worse than Herd and Hulk, but better than every other Green common.
Resize – Green’s own bomb. The lack of combat tricks in the format means people will walk into this, and once they do they’ll have to worry about it a second time if they ever want to try to contain your creatures. Pick it over every Green common.
Rimehorn Aurochs – You will either use this to make your Auroch alpha strike lethal, or trade your guys off profitably. Either way, the effect is very powerful, assuming you can activate it multiple times a turn, which isn’t a guarantee in Green. Pick it just below Ronom Hulk.
Coldsteel Heart – Mana fixing, acceleration, and snow all rolled up into a two-mana package anyone can play. Take it over everything that isn’t a top 2 common in whatever color you’re drafting.
Mouth of Ronom – This time it’s a colorless burn spell and a snow land in one package that anyone can play. Assuming that being a colorless land won’t cripple your mana, it’s better than everything except Skred, Taskmage, and maybe Disciple. If the colorless factor will hurt you a lot, take it below the top 2 commons in each color.
Phyrexian Ironfoot – This card is tailor-made for UB. It’s a fast defensive creature that’s impossible to get through unless you’re a Simian Brawler or a six-drop. It’s also a snow permanent for Taskmage. And when you start to have some extra mana lying around, it’s a 3/4 vigilance attacker. If you already have a few Disciples, Mushers, and Taskmages, take it over any common. Otherwise pick it at around the same level as Zombie Musher.
Blizzard Specter – Same old thing: a 2/3 flier for 4 is very strong in this format. However, he’s clearly more than a 2/3 flier, since he’s snow and he has a very strong ability. Knowing whether or not to bounce something takes a little bit of experience with the card, but you will often make fast decks bounce something and make slow decks discard. Pick this card where you pick Ironfoot.
Deepfire Elemental – This guy is another great finisher for a Red control deck, but you need to make sure that you evaluate his ability correctly. Unless you’re mana flooded, he will only kill creatures that cost less than four, and if you want to kill a two-drop or a three-drop, you’ll have to spend most of your turn doing so. Still, there are some great two-drops to go after, like Taskmage, and the world is filled with three-drops, from Rimerunner to Gutless Ghoul to Bloodpainter. He’s also insane against White (assuming you’ve got the tools to live to untap with him) and against SoundTheCall.dec. Pick him below Skred and Surging Flame if you’re control and will be able to live to use him. Pick him below Ohran Yeti if you’re aggro, since you’ll want to do other things with your time and mana.
Juniper Order Ranger – This guy’s main problem, beyond the fact that he forces you into the accepted worst color combination in CCC, is that he’s very small for his cost. A 2/4 in Green isn’t anything to write home about. However, if you have two guys to play on turn 6, or a few evasion creatures in hand, he’ll be a pretty big problem for your opponent. Pick him below both Outrider and Boreal Druid.
Part 3 – Archetypes:
The Control Deck: This deck is usually UB, with a potential Red splash for Skred and Flames. You can dominate games with your utility guys, since you’ve got a tapper and a pinger that you can reuse with Taskmage. You have the best ways to gain extra cards on your opponents (Grim Harvest) that can also turn into a late-game lock with Disciple. You have the best evasive creatures in Frost Raptor and Zombie Musher, and you have the best removal in Disciple, Feast of Flesh, Frozen Solid, and the splashed Skred/Flames. Your biggest problem is getting run over by the faster Green and Red decks, so make sure that you have plenty of early drops and defensive creatures. Don’t be afraid to trade off Mists and Scoundrels aggressively, and make sure you have a few Rimebound Dead and as many Phyrexian Ironfoots [Ironfeet? – Craig] as you can get your hands on. You also need to pay attention to your snow count as you draft, since you’re going to need a bare minimum of one third of your deck to be snow, and you’d ideally have over half of your deck be snow. Also note that UBr can splash Magmatic Core and Stalking Yeti easily, since Taskmage makes each cost 4R instead of 2RR.
The Aggro Decks: There are two flavors here: balls-out White aggro and Green/X. The White aggro overview is pretty much built into my White pick order; play as many guys as you can as fast as you can, and then give them +3/+3 or +5/+5 in one attack and win. The Green deck is a little trickier. Green’s best pairing is Red, for two reasons. First, you get the removal everyone else wants, as well as Rimerunner, which does exactly what you want: remove blockers from the picture. Second, you get efficient creatures in Ohran Yeti and Thermopod to put mid-game pressure on. The idea behind the G/x deck is that you want to play Bull Aurochs, Sound the Calls, and Simian Brawlers and try to run your opponent over by removing blockers any way you can. This might make it all the way, but usually falls short of 20 damage by 6-10 points. At this point in the game, you start to hold back, and play the Aurochs game. The Aurochs game goes like this: Herd, go. Herd, go. Herd, go. Herd, Bull, go. Attack with 4 Herds and a Bull for 34 damage. The basic idea here is that you go for the fast assault, and if/when it fails, you chain Herds and overwhelm your opponent.
The Combo Deck: Listed in the Grand Prix: Malmo coverage, you can try to build an "infinite" life combo with Martyr of Sands and Grim Harvest. Play the Martyr, sac it for 15 life, and cast Grim Harvest on it. Then play it, sac it, recover the Harvest, and go again. Since you’re gaining 15 life a turn, you can win at your leisure, either with evaders (Boreal Griffin, Squall Drifter, Zombie Musher) or by decking (play 41 cards, Jotun Grunt). However, you need to make sure that you don’t lose your Harvest, and you also need to hope you don’t hit someone with 3 Black Martyrs in their sideboard.
Part 4 – Ripple:
The math behind Ripple is fairly straightforward. Assuming that there are 30 cards left in your deck, the chances of missing with five copies of your ripple spell left in the deck are (25/30)(24/29)(23/28)(22/27), which is a little over 46%. This means that to hit a ripple spell more often than you miss, you need six copies, so you’re going to need to get lucky to get more than the average four copies of any one card per draft.
Personally, I really dislike Ripple, since a lot of games are lost when your opponent hits a Ripple that he was not favored to hit. The problem with ripple is essentially that it never leaves someone happy: either you are rippling and hit, which you "deserve;" you are rippling and you miss, which sucks; your opponent is rippling and hits, which sucks; or your opponent ripples and misses, which he "deserves."
So that’s everything that I know about CCC draft. If you have any questions about a card evaluation, pick order, or even a rare I didn’t mention, ask away in the forums. I generally tend to be around late-night Eastern Time, so that’s when I’ll be around to answer questions. Also, feel free to hit me up on AIM if you have a quick question. I look forward to writing again, assuming something interesting pops up.
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM