The Weekly Chilled Build: The Wastelands of Coldsnap!

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StarCityGames.com!I arrived at the place I had been destined to go and found it a desolate wasteland. It was cold and deserted, an empty hall bereft of life…

No, I’m not writing fan fiction — that was what the Coldsnap prerelease looked like. There were almost no people, at least not compared to the packed tables of the Dissension prerelease. Where’d they all go? And what’s up with the deck I had to build in the interim?

I arrived at the place I had been destined to go and found it a desolate wasteland. It was cold and deserted, an empty hall bereft of life…

No, I’m not writing fan fiction — that was what the Coldsnap prerelease looked like. I don’t know how much attendance was down across the field, but the Ohio Coldsnap prerelease was a gigantic hall filled by a handful of people. Admittedly, it was Sunday, but even a normal prerelease shouldn’t be struggling to get its fifth sixteen-man flight up come Sunday at 3:00. (It never managed to get the people together.) Judges looked a little disconcerted by the crowds, which were nothing compared to a Dissension prerelease.

I thought maybe it might just be Ohio — which would be really weird, given how huge our Regionals and Champs are, but maybe it was an anomaly. And I kept that option open until I saw the traffic my Coldsnap article generated.

Without getting into specifics, my “First Coldsnap impressions” article was gigantic — easily four times the hits of a normal Ferrett-written article, and twice what you’d expect to see for a Prerelease report that deals with cards that nobody else has ever seen before.

And you know, people aren’t that desperate to read about cards unless they didn’t play them.

Thus, I feel reasonably confident that the Ohio experience was replicated across America. People simply weren’t playing Coldsnap on the day it came out, and I wonder why that is. There could be a number of reasons for that — perhaps the set wasn’t that sexy in the previews. Maybe people had something better to do. (I know I spent my Saturday prerelease day seeing a little-known art house flick called “Pirates of the Caribbean 2.”) Perhaps it’s that casual Magic players are geared for the tri-annual releases, and thus didn’t hear about it.

Or maybe people just don’t want to have to deal with four sets per year.

See, I’m against Coldsnap. It’s a really neat idea, making a sort of fantasy set as a follow-up, but Magic’s expensive enough. There are enough damn cards to buy and formats to master, and the cynical side of me wonders whether Coldsnap isn’t so much “We wanted to experiment with some fun new cards!” and more of a “We’re curious to see if we can get you to buy four expansions every year!”

Because let’s be honest: The Core Sets don’t sell that well, because aside from a couple of chase reprints, they’re comprised of cards that most serious players already have. The Un-sets are neat, but I don’t think they’re serious profit-makers. Thus, I’m sure Wizards is trying to figure out a way to expand the number of cards it can sell in a given year, and if Coldsnap does well I’m sure we’ll see the Hidden Tempest Block coming up next.

I dig that Wizards has to make money. Hell, I even told you why Magic Online charges full price for boosters and decks… And while I’m not happy about it, it’s a great idea from a profit perspective (and I want Wizards to make a profit so they can stay in business and keep making great cards). But there’s gotta be a breaking point at which the sheer weight of trying to keep up with new expansions drives away more people than it attracts, and I think we’re approaching this point.

They did a good job on Coldsnap. And heck, maybe attendance was up everywhere else. But I think it’s time to say, “Okay, we did this once, now let it go.”

Essay ends here. Now it’s time to build a damn deck.

My Prerelease Pool
Going into the prerelease, I remembered the rule of all fresh sets: Prerelease players tend to play by the rules of the last block.

I don’t know why this is, but prerelease players — not the most experienced by any means — usually follow the guidelines from the previous set. At the Ravnica prerelease, where three colors was really the ideal, I saw a lot of people squeezing their decks horrifically in an attempt to force it into a two-color Kamigawa-like build. Thus, I was pretty sure I’d see everyone going three- and four-color, even though the Judges’ FAQ I’d read didn’t indicate that mana-fixing was prevalent in this block. (I don’t like reading pre-prerelease spoilers, but it’s somewhat of a necessary evil when you have to set up the “Ask the Judge” database.)

So I knew precisely what I planned to do: people had gotten used to thinking that “three colors” was the way to go, so I was going to go for the consistency of two colors…. Unless got extremely lucky with my mana and cards, of course.

Fortunately, I didn’t. When I opened my five packs, what I saw looked precisely like this:

And here’s what leapt out at me:

Sunscour! OMG, mass removal!

Allosaurus Rider… Okay, it’s not that great. But Arctic Nishoba and Ronom Hulk are huge!

Aw, man, I didn’t get the triple-Surging Flames that I’d been hoping for… But a triple-Goblin Rimerunner? Yeesh, that’s total aggro! Plus, I get some removal in the form of Martyr of Ashes and Magmatic Core!

…But man, Magmatic Core’s expensive. And slow. But remember the Honden of Infinite Rage at the Kamigawa prerelease that you blew off? Do not forget the law of reusable removal!

Double Surging Aether is nice, but wow are the creatures weak here. Except for the Ronom Serpent, but I don’t want to build a deck around that.

In the words of AWESOM-O: “Lame! Totally lame!” I was blinded for a moment by the glare of the totally awesome double Chill to the Bone, but paying four mana — two of it Black — for Disciple of Tevesh Szat, a creature that is fragile and doesn’t affect the board all that much, is not worth it. And Martyr of Bones is the worst of the cycle, man.

Juniper Order Ranger? Oh, crap, now I have to decide.

The problem, of course, was that I had two decks: White/Green and White/Red. White/Red was a nice little aggro deck, and certainly nothing could block when I had the triple Rimerunner out, but aside from that it lacked evasion. And looking at the gigantamous Green creatures that I’d cracked, I was assuming that the two damage from a Surging Flames or even a huge Martyr of Ashes wasn’t going to make a whole lot of difference against, say, the common Aurochs cards.

On the other hand, White/Green was full of big, clunky creatures, but it had no combat tricks. None. Okay, I could make something larger with the War Cries if I had to, and Luminescence might be an add if someone was playing Red or Black, but if something ugly hit the board I had no choice but to try to race it or hope to God that I plucked my Sunscour.

I spent the entire time looking between the two: Beef, but no removal. Removal, but no beef. It was like Sophie’s Choice, only without the Nazis and the children and the concentration camps.

Eventually, I went with the Beef, figuring I could side into the removal if I needed it. And here’s what I went with:

2 Boreal Centaur
2 Kjeldoran War Cry
Allosaurus Rider
Jotun Owl Keeper
Kjeldoran Gargoyle
Kjeldoran Javelineer
2 Bull Aurochs
Frostweb Spider
2 Squall Drifter
Arctic Nishoba
2 Kjeldoran Outrider
2 Into the North
Juniper Order Ranger
Ronom Hulk
Ronom Unicorn
Woolly Razorback

Arctic Flats
2 Snow-Covered Forest
8 Plains
6 Forest

Surprisingly, it worked out rather well. The mana was really consistent (the two Into the Norths might have been a problem if I drew all three snow lands, but the one time that happened I pitched it to the Allosaurus), and the deck had two basic modes, either of which worked well:

With Sunscour In The Opening Grip:
Play out just enough dorks to stall until my opponent commits too much to the board to try to overwhelm me (which, given the dearth of decent removal in the block, was often enough), then Sunscour with an Arctic Nishoba or an Allosaurus Rider in my hand. Woolly Razorback was a key card in this strategy, since putting him out guaranteed that my opponents had to start wasting removal or building up a bigger army.

Without Sunscour In The Opening Grip:
Play out a bunch of dorks until I can get Jotun Owl Keeper. Hold the Owl Keeper for four turns. Then play double Kjeldoran War Cry and attack in the air for sixteen damage.

The funny thing was that I’d forgotten was it was like to have turn 2 matter. In Ravnica Block, I’ve gotten used to fast-forwarding past the first three turns — you lay a Signet, then a bounceland, and develop your mana for more explosive later turns. Whereas “turn 2 dork, turn 3 dork, turn 4 dork dork” is a surprisingly effective stratagem here. It’s kind of nice to have something that isn’t “turn 2 dork, turn 3 dork that gets Seal of Doomed, turn 5 beef that gets instantly Faith’s Fettered.”

Dork dork. I am the Swedish Chef, baby.

In any case, I eventually went 3-1 with it, winning several casual games along the way. Here’s a brief synopsis, if you care:

Round 1:
My opponent had a decent deck with a bunch of Aurochs, but wound up overextending into a Sunscour after a looong game that took thirty minutes. I wiped the board at five life when he thought he had me, and then laid an Arctic Nishoba that cleaned up shop.

The second game ran to extra turns, and my opponent made a drastic mistake: In an otherwise-stalled board, with my Sunscour long burned, he tapped out to cast a Rimescale Dragon on turn 1 of extra time. I attacked, and — inexplicably — he blocked, and of course I had the combat trick to destroy it. He lamented this poor move, which frankly probably would not have made the difference anyway; I was holding Luminescence, which meant that his final attack for the win (with a gigantic Lightning Serpent) would have been blunted. But I didn’t know what he had in hand, so perhaps he could have turned this 1-0-1 round into a draw.

Still. Bad move. I felt bad, because you could see his shoulders slump.

Round 2:
First game, I got ass-pounded. He cast a second-turn Earthen Goo off of a Rimescale Druid (as I bitched about in last week’s article), which meant that he had a tramply thing that was always one point tougher than anything I had on the board. I had a man on turns 2 through 6, and I took the damage at first, but eventually I had to emergency Sunscour on turn 6. Then, since he’d just been building up his hand, he killed me.

I sided into the White/Red package, hoping to draw removal, but I mulliganed to six and got stuck on two lands for seven turns. Seven. Interestingly enough, I probably had the best possible game you could have when you were stuck at two lands, clearing the board twice with a Sunscour and a gigantic Martyr of Ashes — but my opponent, having seen the Sunscour in the first game, refused to commit one creature more than he absolutely had to. Despite taking away four of his creatures, he still creamed me.

Stupid deck. I consoled myself by playing a few games in between rounds, which of course I won now that it didn’t count.

Round 3:
This was an inexperienced player, and I killed him. He built his deck well enough — he had the card pool I opened, so I knew what he had, and I agreed with his colors — but his play was the sort where he zapped things on turn 3 just because he had the removal. Still, even accounting for his mistakes, I knew what he had in hand (since he played it all the moment he got it), and I knew what removal he’d wasted (“How would that spell have affected the board now?”), and I’m pretty confident in saying that even if he’d played well I still most likely would have beaten him.

Round 4:
A win and I’m in. Fortunately, this guy was reasonably good, playing a Blue/Black deck of some sort that terrified me because, well, he had removal and Counterspells. I’d watched him playing in the rounds before, and he basically just creamed the competition with tempo.

Fortunately, I outmaneuvered him in the first round, doing the ol’ “Lay down critters and watch him try to outmass me” trick, and he got me down to four before I Sunscoured and laid the Allosaurus Rider, which he killed. Then I laid the Arctic Nishoba — my real plan – and he got out a few blockers, but the Trample and the threat of a lot of lifegain once it died pretty much sealed the deal.

The second game was one of those semi-unfair games wherein we both mulliganed and started with action-light hands, but I drew larger creatures than he did. There wasn’t much he could do short of mulliganing to five.

The End Sum-Up
Admittedly, this wasn’t the best test of a deck, but I’m still reasonably confident this deck is at least adequate. It’s got a Wrath of God, a darned good early game, and a couple of huge, hulking beasts for finishers. Then again, I didn’t see anyone with Gelid Shackles or bounce that they drew when they needed it, so perhaps I could be wrong.

But you’re a mouthy bunch. I’m sure you’ll all tell me how I should have built it in the forums, and I’m sure you’ll have good points to make.

The Weekly Plug Bug
Having just finished up a three-week storyline rife with violence and death (or, at least, little deaths), now Home on the Strange is taking some time to explore single-strip funnies.

This week’s first strip deals with sex and science, and how science will affect your relations with your wife. It’s a common nerd mistake, and I’ve made it too many times to count, so maybe you want to read it so you never make it yourself.

No, you like eet.

Signing off,
The Ferrett
The Here Edits This Site Here Guy