I was sitting in my living room, trying to come up with a topic for this week’s column. I was hoping I could hold out for the StarCityGames.com Open results from Los Angeles, or maybe that something obscure would show up in the MTGO qualifiers. To say the least, I was stuck. Blocked. I booted up the laptop and just starting to type, hoping inspiration would hit me… and sat there looking at the screen for forty-five minutes. I needed help. So I did what every great author throughout history did: I hit up my Muse.
My wife learned how to play Magic when I did, but she didn’t stick with it long. She has yet to become a character in my Magical writing like Jamie Wakefield and his wife, and I doubt she will ever win a StarCityGames.com Standard Open, but she’s on the periphery enough to know what’s going on. So when she walked into the living room, I went for it.
Me: “I have no idea what to write about this week. Help me, Obi-Wan.”
Her: “Well, could you write about Magic New Year’s Resolutions?”
Me: “My resolution this year is the same as every year, to win a PTQ. I haven’t kept it in eight years.”
Her: “Are there any cards called ‘Resolve’ or something like that?”
Me: “Well, there’s Steely Resolve, which sucks – and Hero’s Resolve but I have no idea what that even does.”
Her: “What about icy cards? It’s cold outside. Ice Age?”
Oh, that’s genius right there. But… Ice Age doesn’t have a lot of relevance right now, beyond supplying Swords to Plowshares to various Legacy events. But Coldsnap…
Coldsnap: Better Than Coldplay
Coldsnap falls into that no-man’s land in Extended. It’s not old enough to be on the verge of falling out of the cardpool, but it’s not new enough for the last two years of new players to actually have any of the cards. When Coldsnap was legal in Standard, it supplied a lot of cards and a lot of winning decks that may be under the radar as we start up the Extended PTQ season. Nowadays, Dark Depths and Counterbalance get all the press, but there’s other great cards in the set. So this week’s column, inspired by the six inches of snow in my backyard (and my Muse), will be a love letter of sorts to those cards. There will be some Extended skeletons here, but mostly it will be my thoughts as I take another look at the set in context of a new Extended season.
And no, I’m not going to cover Dark Depths (which shot from a dollar rare to a 25-dollar rare thanks to Vampire Hexmage) or Counterbalance (which is a seven-dollar uncommon) in these pages. You’ll get plenty of coverage in the other columns on this site over the next couple of months, I bet.
The little White life-gainer that could. I really think Martyr of Sands was the most impacting card from Coldsnap when it was Standard-legal, with the combo with Proclamation of Rebirth ($0.99) gaining its owner dozens of life each turn. Obviously great against aggro strategies like Zoo and Affinity, the real question is, how might the deck stack up against other Extended bad boys like Hypergenesis or Dark Depths?
MartyrProc made an appearance around last year’s Extended tournaments, winning at least one PTQ. Last year’s versions switched between the Urza lands (for the mono-White version) and Temple of the False God; this year, of course, the Temple has rotated out, cutting down on the options. The real question, I think, is “will a manabase rooted in the Urza lands be able to also support Emeria, the Sky Ruin?” Seems like such a natural addition to a deck that wants to recur a creature every turn for massive life gain. Runed Halo was last year’s other big innovation, and I expect it to be a mainstay of any new version of the deck – and Path to Exile can take the place of Condemn. (No sense giving Dark Depths another 20 points to hack through.)
The only hiccup to this being a somewhat budget-friendly deck is the win condition. Last year’s model relied on the inevitability of Eternal Dragon and the multitudinous attackers of Decree of Justice, but both of those have rotated out now, as has Exalted Angel. The logical jump is to Baneslayer Angel, being a White card and continuing the lifegain theme, but you might be just as good with Iona (which would be a back-breaking blow to an aggro player already faced with having to do 80+ damage to you to kill you) or Akroma, Angel of Vengeance. There’s also out-there possibilities like Yosei, the Morning Star or Twilight Shepherd.
A potential skeleton for a budget-friendly MartyrProc deck for the new Extended:
4 Martyr of Sands
5-6 other creatures
Why no Emeria? I worry about the ability to find seven of the 10-12 Plains that will, no doubt, end up in the deck without Eternal Dragon. If testing proves out that it’s supportable, it’s a great addition; if not, there’s always Flagstones of Trokair or one of the manlands like Stalking Stones or Gargoyle Castle or Urza’s Factory. Martial Coup is a perfect replacement for Decree of Justice, acting as a creature generator and a sweeper once you get a set of the Urza lands firing. Wrath of God is the most expensive item on the list, but a real necessity when you consider the aggro options that are running around in Extended right now.
Scrying Sheets ($1.49)
I was always a fan of the card advantage supplied by Scrying Sheets. In a control deck without access to the traditional card-drawing color of Blue, Scrying Sheets can help you (at the very least) draw past land, and into business spells – and this increases as you add in other Snow cards. Cards like Mouth of Ronom and Phyrexian Ironfoot are still good value in Extended, and there are a lot of tools available to a (let’s say) Red-White control deck running Scrying Sheets at the backbone. Sure, you can’t draw into a removal spell when you need it, but the combination of snow mana with Arid Mesa would provide a solid mana base, most of which can be picked up with the Sheets. Plus it gives you a place to use Skred, if you need an additional removal spell.
Speaking of Skred, how did this fall out of favor? I guess when you only target creatures AND you have to fight against Lightning Bolt, then you end up on the short end. It also might hurt that none of the current creatures that are around have high enough toughness to need a burn spell with a little more range – and, the ones that do, like Progenitus and Marit Lage, are unaffected by even a humongous Skred. That being said, I’ve seen Zoo decks that aren’t even running Lightning Helix anymore, so I guess the big unkillable creatures are making everyone run a little tighter on the removal.
Haakon, Stromgald Scourge ($2.49)
I remember the first use for Haakon – as a discard to Smallpox that would eventually let you cast Court Hussars out of your graveyard all day long. Eventually it got turned around to be the machine-gunning Nameless Inversion enabler that we might think of now, but there’s no reason you couldn’t combine both somehow in Extended. Smallpox gives you a way to kill off Progenitus, and Haakon-Nameless should handle just about everything else. It could be wrapped up into the old Solar Flare skeleton, or straight into mono-Black, combining Smallpox with the rest of Black’s discard and The Rack, and using Haakon-Nameless to clean up anything that makes it into play. Possibly something like this:
Rare Cost Summary:
Haakon, Stromgald Scourge ($2.49 x 2 = $4.98)
Kokusho, the Evening Star ($12.49 x 2 $24.98)
Damnation ($11.99 x 2 = $23.98)
Liliana Vess ($5.99 x 2 = $11.98)
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth ($5.99 x 2 = $11.98)
You don’t need more than two Damnations, but man when you need it, you NEED it, so the Lilianas should help you find what you need. Smallpox, Stupor, and Augur of Skulls will keep your opponent’s hand empty, and The Rack will do what it does best. It’s possible you might need a different Knight in the place of Black Knight, something with flying to block Marit Lage in perpetuity – looks like Stromgald Crusader is the only choice, unless you want to pay seven mana each turn for Tresserhorn Skyknight.
Vexing Sphinx ($0.75)
One last guy that I think is underrated, and was probably underrated back then as well. Sure, the downside of having to discard cards to him is pretty brutal, and he might have been a lot better when UG Madness was still around, but a 4/4 flyer for three mana should not be overlooked so quickly – and he does his part in the end to help you recoup those lost cards you kept discarding to keep him alive. He survives Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix, which is a pretty decent thing in and of itself. I don’t know what type of deck he would anchor, but if there’s a Blue Skies type of deck to be found in Extended, he would fit in. And there are still Madness cards in Extended – cards like Fiery Temper, Dark Withering, and Reckless Wurm – combined with some measure of Unearth? Who knows. It could be interesting.
Thanks for being snowed in with me. And I hope you’ll start thinking about what else might be hiding just outside of the periphery of this new Extended format.
Until next week…
dave dot massive at gmail and davemassive at twitter and facebook