As I write this article, I’m back from my two-month leave of absence and I’m really excited about writing again. For a while there, writing felt like a chore — probably because I wasn’t doing any regular work. I often write to escape work, and without any work to escape, writing transforms into work.
I now have a bunch of article ideas jamming into my head and I’m bouncing again when I think about writing for StarCityGames.
I had some friends over on the day that Coldsnap came out, and we played around with various decks in multiplayer and otherwise. I told one of my friends in passing that it would be really neat if he could build a Snow 250 deck, to which he just smiled and said no thanks.
He left a few minutes later, but the thought remained in my head. Wouldn’t it be neat to try out a Snow 250 deck, just to see what it’s like? Therefore, I decided to build a Five Color uber-casual deck designed around the snow theme.
As a reminder, Five Color is a format with a minimum of 250 cards, and twenty cards of each color, and all Vintage legal sets are allowed. We have our own banned and restricted list, which you can find over at www.5-color.com.
My deck is not designed to be a competitive Five Color deck. Instead, it’s just designed to be a fun casual deck. Because I am using the theme from Coldsnap to build the deck, the first thing I realized that I needed to do was limit myself. Therefore, nothing is allowed in my deck unless it meets the theme. However, anything that is in flavor meets the theme. So, as an example, I could play Ice Storm or Icy Manipulator, because they meet the theme, even if they aren’t snow themselves.
Without further ado, let’s head into the Snow 250 deck.
The first thing I did was pull out a player’s set of every Coldsnap common that I thought would fit the deck. Here is the list of cards I pulled:
Of the creatures listed above, I am fairly confident that I’ll want the Shade, Drifter, Centaur, Dead, Druid, and Taskmage. The Shade pumps with any mana in an all-snow-land deck, which I expect to have. The Rimebound Dead is a very cheap Drudge Skeletons, with the regeneration mana coming from anywhere. The Centaur is a fine 2/2 creature that, like the Shade, pumps from any mana source. The Druid makes snow mana, so he’s in. Lastly, the Drifter and Taskmage tap down creatures, as a mana-inefficient form of creature control. Still, creature control is creature control, and we’ll need a lot.
All of these six creatures are the obvious choices for the deck, so I toss them in easily enough.
I remain unsure about the remaining creatures. Sure, the Griffin flies and all, but the double-White mana in the casting cost – combined with a larger price that you would normally expect for a 3/2 flyer – makes me leery of it.
The other creatures are even worse. I may come back later if I need to. For now, however, I’ll stick with the six creatures that I’ve already pulled.
Of the non-creatures, the choices are little clearer. This deck won’t have much removal, so Chill to the Bone and Skred are excellent. I’ve seen the Skred do six damage to a creature twice in precon battles, so I have high expectations for it in this deck.
Into the North is the obligatory mana retrieval spell. Five Color decks need mana fixing seriously, and Into the North is one of the few ways that we can do so in flavor. The other in flavor way in uncommon and will be added soon enough.
Since the deck will be removal light, Frozen Solid and Gelid Shackles jump in value. I don’t like either one all that much in this deck, but at this stage, beggars simply can’t be choosers. Therefore, let’s add:
Ironically, one card in each color!
Now we have the backbone of our deck complete. Eleven cards have made the cut, with four of each in. That means 44 cards are in our deck. Now I look at the uncommons that I pulled out for the 250 deck. Here are the uncommons that I think work with my theme:
This time I’m going to start with the non-creatures, because they are much easier. Into the North was quite valuable earlier for its mana fixing, and Coldsteel Heart is even more important, since it can fix mana even if you don’t have Green currently. I only opened up two in three boxes, but this deck will assume that I have access to a full set of cards, so in they go.
However, I’m not sure about either creature enchantment yet. Both of them have something going for them, and getting a big flying beater with Glacial Plating or a solid size evader with the Rime Transfusion appears to be good. However, I’m not a big fan of creature enchantments and these don’t do much to address my concerns.
Therefore, for now, the only uncommon non-creature that I am including is:
Now, looking at creatures, you can see several obvious options. The best choice here is the Stalking Yeti. Remember that removal here is at a premium, and reusable removal is top quality nice. It also helps to flesh out or Red, which may be a little light at the end of the day.
Another card I absolutely want to find room for is Blizzard Specter. Flying creatures look to be about as rare as removal, so getting a nice one here is a plus. I love its bounce ability, and I’ve already taken to calling it Recoil Specter in my casual games (although, yes, I know, it doesn’t do both and your opponent chooses the permanent bounced, etc. It doesn’t matter, it’s still my Recoil Specter).
While on the subject of flyers, let’s take a look at Adarkar Windform. It’s a 3/3 flyer for five splashable mana that can send creatures back to the ground. Normally, I wouldn’t care, but in a deck with as little flying as I suspect we’ll have, sending down attackers into cards like Rimebound Dead sounds good to me.
The last uncommon creature that I think is highly playable is Wall of Shards. In multiplayer, the disadvantage is limited, while a 1/8 flying blocker for just two mana says, “Go West, Young Man,” to opposing creatures. Wall of Shards is a perfect multiplayer card. People will want to keep it around so that they can possibly get life, while at the same time you are never attacked because of its large flying booty. I play a lot of casual multiplayer, so I feel the need to play this.
There are some uncommons that haven’t made the cut. All Balduvian Frostwalker does is turn snow lands into 2/2 Blue flyers. I’m not that desperate for flyers, at least not yet. I’d toss in Frost Raptor and Boreal Griffin before this guy.
Rimewind Cryomancer may look interesting on paper, but an expensive creature that you want to use instead of attack or block with is not my style. Ick.
The two Phyrexian artifact creatures are, at best, merely okay. If I do play one, it will be the Snowcrusher. Still, for now, I’m leaving them out.
From the uncommon section, I’ve included five more cards, so we are now up to 64 cards overall in our deck.
Here is the list of rares that I think fit the new deck concept:
The Rimescale Dragon is an absolute must. Not only does it give us a nice Red addition to our deck, but its ability to both swing for mad damage while also locking creatures down is a double threat that we dare not ignore. Besides, I opened up a foil one in my second box, and it’s pretty.
Rimefeather Owl is the Broodstar of the deck. When I played it in a Coldsnap draft, it felt unfair, like Broodstar felt in draft. And that was when it was just 8/8 or so. With a deck that oozes snow permanents, it should be much, much bigger by the time it comes to play.
Diamond Faerie is hard to cast because it is in three colors: Blue, White and Green. However, once in play, it can pump all of our snow creatures – which is most of them – for just two mana. It can do it over and over again, making it a powerful force. The Diamond Faerie also is another flyer, and that’ll help our deck out. Besides, I also opened a foil Diamond Faerie. It’s not as pretty as the Dragon, however.
The last “We gotta play this” card is Heidar, Rimewind Master. Not only is he the chubbiest bouncer ever with a 3/3 body, but he is splashable, costing only one Blue in his mana… and his ability does not need any Blue mana. This makes him ideal for a Five Color deck. Although his ability is only useful if you have four or more snow permanents, by the time you cast him you’ll have five, since every mana source is a snow permanent.
Like the uncommon Phyrexian artifact creatures, the Soulgorger is not that playable here. I just don’t like it nearly as much as alternative cards that haven’t even been included yet.
Cover of Winter just isn’t my sort of card. I might look at it later, though, if I need to.
The Valkyrie flies, but I’m unconvinced about her ability. Like the cover, I may look at here again later if I need to.
I’ll look at rare lands later, when I look at all lands together. However, there is a land that doesn’t even tap for mana in Dark Depths, so I might as well consider it here. It’s not that good. Sure, you might eventually get the uber creature of doom, but to play a land that doesn’t even tap for mana is silly. This deck is going to have a hard enough time getting its mana to work without the silly Dark Depths getting in the way.
We’ve added another sixteen cards to the deck, bringing us up to 80. Now, what’s next?
The Rest of the Block
Here are all of the cards that fit specifically into our deck from Ice Age and Alliances. These all mention snow-covered lands and whatnot.
Drift of the Dead
Goblin Ski Patrol
Legions of Lim-Dul
That’s a lot of cards. I wanted to have a complete list for people to reference, though. Many of these cards can be quickly eliminated. Some, like Cold Snap and Melting, actually hurt snow lands, and we don’t want that.
Gangrenous Zombies are good. In fact, they are one of the best options of the above list. However, the requirement that you have double Black to cast them is a bit harsh, and when all you get is a self-sacrificing 2/2 ground creature, the effort isn’t worth the reward. If I were playing a mono-Black snow deck, I’d toss them in. Note that the same restriction is for Withering Wisps. If only the Wisps activated for snow mana instead of snow Black mana, we’d be in business.
Viscerid Drone is really great, especially in a deck with as little removal as this one. However, it’s a bit pricey, especially since you might not have more than one or two Swamps out most of the time. Therefore, I think you have to pass it by.
Therefore, our deck will have:
I don’t feel the need for ever drawing multiple Sunstones, and you often won’t need one, but its there if necessary. Winter’s Chill is just awesome when unexpected. Note that, in multiplayer, you can Chill someone who attacks all out against another player. That player still dies, because the Chill works at the end of combat. Then, the large army is decimated.
We’ve added another six card to our deck and brought our build total to 86 cards. Now, let’s look for flavorful cards from other sets.
I am not claiming that the below list is exhaustive by any means. It does, however, give you an idea of what sort of flavor cards are out there:
Tendo Ice Bridge
Sword of Fire and Ice
Of these, there are a few interesting options. There are two of the 0/7 walls for three mana here, and those are tempting. There’s a lot of ways to round out or Red if we need it.
However, of these cards, the ones I like the most are the removal, which we need. Therefore, for now, I’m adding:
However, there is more here to check out later, if needed.
We are now up to 94 cards. It’s time to flesh out our deck.
Rounding Out the Deck
Now I need to see where I stand, color wise.
Black: 16 (With Recoil Specter counting here)
With the Diamond Faeries unassigned, and able to help either the White or Green camps.
It’s obvious that I need a few additional cards to help round out our deck, so let’s start.
I need some more White, and I haven’t used the Boreal Griffins, yet. Although I find them a tad expensive, they are flyers and help with my White, so I’m tossing them in.
While we’re at it, I want to toss in a few more flyers, just in case they are needed. Therefore, I’m throwing in Frost Raptors.
Since I added eight more flyers, I feel comfortable tossing in Glacial Plating. They’ll help my smaller creatures compete with the big boys in a multiplayer table, and I feel that I’ve pushed flyers enough that I am now comfortable including them.
I’ve now rounded out my White, so I turn to Black. The best Black card that I have from Coldsnap that is unused is Gutless Ghoul, but I’d prefer something else if able. I try to scour the cards available and see what else is left in Black, but the pickings seem awful light. Because I’m going light on Black, the Gangrenous Zombies are out. That leaves me with the Gutless Ghoul, which I include, but with hesitation.
After that comes Red. I have several options here. After due consideration, I decide to go with the Ohran Yeti. Its ability to give first strike to any snow creatures appears to be quite useful in a deck completely full of snow creatures, and he’s a splashable 3/3 creature too.
For my Green card, there are several options. The Frostweb Spider is a bit underwhelming to me. However, the 0/7 Wall of Ice looks really nice. I’d prefer not to run non-snow creatures if I didn’t have to, but I think I have to. The creatures in this deck aren’t that large, and some nice sized walls could really help with that. The Wall of Shards can do everything, so in goes the Wall of Ice.
This brings us up to 118. I need just a few more cards, so let’s take a look.
Phyrexian Snowcrusher is the bigger creature that my deck needs, so I feel that it is time to toss him in.
I really would like to find room for Icy Manipulators. I have two tappers already plus the Gelid Shackles requires a mana to keep the shackled from attacking. Therefore it seems like a lot of my creature control already involves a lot of mana. On the other hand, Icy Manipulator plays well with Winter’s Chill. I decide that a deck this light in removal best not get too choosy about who it takes to the dance.
Since I still fell a bit of a need for beef, I’m tossing in the unusable Ronom Serpent. It’s not going to attack very often, but it is a 5/6 creature. Note that the Rimefeather Owl can help it attack by turning an opposing land into a snow land.
The Rime Transfusion will also help with the beef concern, so I’m throwing it in.
Lastly, I’ve decided to break down and toss in the Balduvian Frostwaker. Getting a flyer might not be all that bad, after all.
Chill Haunting adds a touch more removal to the deck, so it’s in. We don’t have any recursion, (yet, see below) so it doesn’t hose us.
I also might as well toss in Adarkar Valkyrie. I put in the Chill Hauntings for removal, but the Valkyrie can still fit into a deck with 250 cards in it, especially since the Valkyrie reanimates the just-killed instead of the long dead.
Now we are at 146 cards.
Next I decide to add a card based on its artwork. This deck is screaming for card drawing, and there is a card with art that fits. Gush.
Obviously this deck will want four each of all five lands that I’ve taken to calling the “Snow Slows.”
After this, the question becomes — what else? Well, with as little mana fixing as this deck has, I feel that I have to include a full set of Thawing Glaciers. The deck needs it.
Next, the question we need to ask is if the deck can afford Mouth of Ronom or Scrying Sheets. Normally, in a 250 deck, I’d play less lands, but this deck needs more mana since it has so few fixers. As a result, I believe that we can play both cards. In other words, these cards are taking the place of what would normally be business cards, so I am comfortable with them tapping for just colorless.
Again, we need mana fixing, so there’s no reason not to play a full set of Tendo Ice Bridges. They’ll only produce colored mana once, but that should be enough to get the game started.
After this, we have added 36 lands, and have room for another 64. These will be all Snow Covered basics. Let’s take a look at a quick breakdown.
We have more Blue cards than any other color, so I am emphasizing Islands over other choices.
And now, we have a deck! The Snow 250 is complete. The full list will be below in an appendix.
I hope that you enjoyed out little trek through all things snow. Join me next week when the thaw creeps in.
- 4 Wall of Ice
- 4 Adarkar Valkyrie
- 4 Adarkar Windform
- 4 Balduvian Frostwaker
- 4 Blizzard Specter
- 4 Boreal Centaur
- 4 Boreal Druid
- 4 Boreal Griffin
- 4 Chilling Shade
- 4 Diamond Faerie
- 4 Frost Raptor
- 4 Gutless Ghoul
- 4 Heidar, Rimewind Master
- 4 Ohran Yeti
- 4 Phyrexian Snowcrusher
- 4 Rimebound Dead
- 4 Rimefeather Owl
- 4 Rimescale Dragon
- 4 Rimewind Taskmage
- 4 Ronom Serpent
- 4 Squall Drifter
- 4 Stalking Yeti
- 4 Wall of Shards