Editor's note: This is the winning submission for the Internet Writing category of the 2006 Create Your Own Magic contest. For his efforts, Anthony was awarded a $1,000 scholarship and a one-on-one feedback session with the judges to discuss his entry.
I'd like to lie and say that I wrote this article weeks ago, but that would be untrue. In reality, I totally forgot about the contest until the night before I left for Atlanta, when I saw it written down on my "to do list." Of all the formats in Magic, Limited is my favorite. So, there is no better format for me to write a strategy article about than a Limited format. The format in particular, is Coldsnap. By now most of you have probably read multiple articles on the format, so I'm only going to talk about what I think is important and not waste your time with basic card evaluations.
From the few drafts I've done in this format, I've determined that there aren't any terrible color combinations such as in past formats. As long as you draft enough good cards and snow lands to make your deck work, then you should be fine. Personally, my favorite colors in the format are red, green and white. So far I've gone those colors in all of the drafts I've done except for one. Many other people think that white is one of the worst colors, but I totally disagree. Not only does white have a Pacifism
effect in the form of Gelid Shackles
, but it also has a Master Decoy
variant in Squall Drifter
. It also has good two-drops to round out the curve. The Kjeldoran Outrider
is especially good since there are a lot of bears in the format. Boreal Griffin
is also one of the best fliers.
Another issue which I think is important is the debate between Skred and Surging Flame. I think that the pick in this debate is most definitely Surging Flame. Surging Flame always deals two damage, whereas Skred has to have multiple snow permanents for it to be good. Taking Skred early means that you will have to pick snow permanents much higher, and that's not something I like doing. The nail in the coffin for this argument is that Surging Flame will always make the maindeck of a red deck, while Skred might have to be cut if you are light on snow. Although this doesn't always happen, it's something to consider as I dislike being in a position where I can't cast Skred since it will only deal one damage.
A card that I think is way underrated in the format is Goblin Rimerunner
. This guy is a 2/2 for three, and Gray Ogre
s are always playable. Of course, I wouldn't be saying that most people are undervaluing him if he was just a Gray Ogre. The most important part of the card is his tap ability, which stops target creature from blocking until end of turn. This is really good, especially in the red decks that it usually ends up in, where you use Rimerunner to stop the bigger creatures from blocking and killing your smaller creatures. The most common complaint that I hear about his guy is that "he's not a full Trumpeter." Yes, it is true that he can't stop creatures from attacking, but in a way he almost can. In most of the games that I've used this guy, my opponent had to keep back multiple extra blockers so that I couldn't use the Rimerunner to its full effect. The snow mana ability is also relevant in the late game when you can give it haste and mess up combat for your opponent. I think that this card is so good that I have even picked it over Gelid Shackles
On the topic of Gelid Shackles, I'd like to point out something very important about the card. In the first draft that I did with triple Coldsnap, at the prerelease, I passed this card in the second pack for a good creature. My reasoning was "that I didn't have enough snow permanents to make it good." Now I realize that I was way wrong, since the card is good even without the snow mana to activate it. Most of the white decks in the format are aggressive white-green or red-white decks – both of which are decks where the Shackles shine with or without the snow mana to activate it. The card is very similar to Rimerunner in that it lets your "bad" creatures get through for late damage, even though your opponent may have bigger and better creatures out. It's also important to note that the Shackles stop the creature from using activated abilities which is important against a lot of cards in the format (including the Rimerunner itself).
Another debate is how early you should pick snow lands. Personally, I would not pick them very early, but I pick them early enough so that I get them. A lot of times they make your deck better, but they are not better than good creatures or removal. I have heard stories about people first-picking snow lands, but I can't ever imagine doing that in pack 1. In the later packs, I can see myself first-picking a snow land, but only if I'm light on them and if there are no better cards for my deck. Usually, I draw the line for picking snow lands around third or fourth pick. Most times you won't get them much later than that if you are at a good table. An important thing to remember is that they are not as good as bounce lands. Although the two types of lands are constantly being compared, they are not similar at all. Bounce lands fix your mana and essentially let you draw a card, while all snow lands do is let you use snow-activated abilities.
Overall, I think that Coldsnap is a pretty open format. There is no best archetype in my opinion, and you can basically draft anything that you want. I still stick by my preference for green, white and red, but I've seen a lot of good blue-black decks too, so I may be wrong.
Until I write again,
-- Anthony Izzo