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Jeff Zandi is a five time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events. Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.

 

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This Space For Rent

The Southwestern Paladin
A Twelve Pack of Cold Ones
by Jeff Zandi
August 14, 2006

In the middle of one of the hottest summers in memory, what could be better than a refreshing, icy new set of Magic cards? Tired of roasting in the summer heat? Then pull up an easy chair and enjoy a twelve pack of cold ones with your favorite forty-two year old Magic buddy, the Zanman!

After having played with these cards for a few weeks in booster drafts, the thing that is on my mind now is how to make the most of Coldsnap in constructed formats. The twelve cards I have chosen are cards I think will be very useful in constructed play. I know that some Coldsnap cards are particularly good in Standard constructed right now, while Champions block is still legal. I am more impressed with the Coldsnap cards that will be good two months from now, when Champions block is gone from Standard.

The worst things about Coldsnap for constructed play are the very same things that make the set good to draft with. The Ripple mechanic, entirely useful in forty card decks, is nearly useless in sixty card decks.

(especially sixty card decks without Sensei’s Divining Top) The use of snow covered mana producing permanents adds real depth to Coldsnap limited play, but severely limits the usefulness of a great number of Coldsnap cards in constructed formats. While there are some attractive constructed strategies involving the use of snow lands in constructed, these strategies require playing a lot less of the very efficient pain lands from Ninth Edition and the wonderful dual lands from the Ravnica block.

TWELVE COLD ONES

Ohran Viper
I know this pick is no surprise to anyone,
but let’s give credit where credit is due. Ohran Viper is a great creature for all kinds of decks. The only limits on the use for this awesome creature involve his casting cost. A double green mana cost means that Ohran Viper will be limited to beatdown decks most of the time. Nothing wrong with that, though. Ohran Viper is so good because he is easy and quick to play and creates a serious problem for your opponent from the moment he hits the board. If your opponent has no creatures, then he faces the problem of you drawing cards when your viper is unblocked. If your opponent does have creatures, he faces the problem of needing to not only block your Ohran Viper, but to block it with a large enough creature to kill your viper. Your opponent can’t use a much less important creature, like a wall or a small creature, to deal with Ohran Viper, because their creature dies while your snake just keeps on bringing it. I think I could write an entire article about Ohran Viper and how much trouble this card can cause for your opponent. If I did write that kind of article, I think I would title it “Snakes Are A Pain!” and I would try to get Samuel Jackson to dramatically read the article for some kind of webcast. Just thinking out loud here.

Rune Snag
Mana Leak-like counter magic is not very interesting to limited players booster drafting Coldsnap, but it’s plenty interesting to constructed blue players. When you have four Rune Snags in your constructed deck, you have a card that may actually be better than the original Mana Leak. With four copies in your deck, your first Rune Snag will probably find its way to your hand pretty early in the game, just in time to counter an opponent’s key spell when he doesn’t have two extra mana to spend. Later in the game, when Mana Leak becomes less useful, your subsequent copies of Rune Snag actually become better and better. It will be really fun to see players respond when they are forced to play around your two untapped mana almost as if the original Counterspell were still legal! This card should also make mirror matches between blue control decks just plain annoying for both players.

Stalking Yeti
Flametongue Kavu is one of my favorite creatures ever, and Stalking Yeti does everything that Flametongue does and more if you have some mana producing snow permanents in play. While Flametongue Kavu may have some advantages over the Yeti, the Yeti gives you the opportunity to gain some additional card advantage. You can play the Stalking Yeti, target one of your opponent’s 2/2 or 1/1 creatures with the Yeti’s coming-into-play ability, then play two colorless and one snow mana to return the Yeti to your hand, and you’re ready to repeat the process as many times as you need.
I think Stalking Yeti will be played, as often as not, in decks that do not to use his activated ability. Stalking Yeti’s 2RR mana cost (Flametongue Kavu cost 3R) unfortunately limits him to decks with a heavy red mana base.
Flametongue Kavu was highly splashable, as blue/black “Flaming Psychatog”
players would attest.

Phyrexian Etchings
Necropotence defined an era in constructed Magic. In denial, Wizards of the Coast took every measure imaginable EXCEPT banning Necropotence in a vain attempt to rein in the power of that amazing card from Ice Age. Ten years after Ice Age, the “lost lost” third set of the block brings Phyrexian Etchings to a generation of Magic players who have not experienced the thrill of drawing lots of cards at the end of their turn. Let’s compare the two cards. While it is true that Necropotence had no upkeep cost, much less a cumulative upkeep, Necropotence turned off your regular draw step each turn. Phyrexian Etchings requires you to pay a cumulative upkeep of black mana, a steadily growing amount of mana each turn, but allows you to keep your regular draw each turn. Veteran players of Necropotence know that one thing you can count on is having plenty of land to play. This information is very important in assessing the usefulness of Etchings. In order to keep paying the cumulative upkeep, you will need to be able to play a black mana producing mana source each turn. The extra cards you will be drawing from the Etchings will ensure that you have a land to put into play each turn.
Phyrexian Etchings requires you to lose two life for each age counter that is on the card when it goes to the graveyard. Necropotence requires that you sacrifice one life for each card that you eventually draw using the card. Is Etchings making you lose twice as much life as Necropotence? If you only draw one card from Etchings, the answer is yes. However, the more cards you manage to draw with Phyrexian Etchings, the better it gets for you. After two turns, you will have drawn three cards with an extra cost (the cumulative upkeep you have now paid for two turns) of three black mana and a loss of four life points if Etchings goes to the graveyard before your next turn. After three turns, you will have drawn SIX extra cards with a potential life loss of six points, and after four turns, you will have drawn TEN extra cards with a potential life loss of eight points. Is Phyrexian Etchings as powerful as Necropotence? Certainly not. The power of Necropotence dominated Standard and Extended constructed formats for several years. I believe Phyrexian Etchings is probably the best passive card drawing engine since Necropotence, and will be a very interesting card for years to come.

Perilous Research
Have you been enjoying your aggressive blue/red deck this summer? If so, then Perilous Research is going to be right up your alley. Here’s the plan:
one of your creatures is about to die in combat, damage is on the stack, you play Perilous Research drawing two cards and then sacrificing your creature. In time, I think Perilous Research is going to prove itself to be very useful in a way not too different from Ravnica’s Compulsive Research (weird, it’s almost like this card might have just missed the cut in the Ravnica block to land into the hands of the Coldsnap development team). Compulsive Research is clearly the better card in the early part of a game, but Perilous Research works well most of the time. Where Compulsive Research causes you to keep a land in your hand that you might need to discard, Perilous Research encourages you to sacrifice land that you have played earlier but might no longer need.


Allosaurus Rider
All of the new pitch spells from Coldsnap are
fun to think about playing, but Allosaurus Rider might be the most serious contender for use in constructed play. Allosaurus Rider fits perfectly in mono green Elf decks, providing some serious beef to a normally weenie-intensive deck strategy.

Just remember, Allosaurus Rider is not a turn one trick, more like a turn three or four trick when a big Elf Warrior that doesn’t cost any of your mana is just what you might want. I can’t think of any deck other than Elves that would really want to discard two green cards in order to play Allosaurus Riders. In the Elf deck, Allosaurus Rider is pure gold.

Karplusan Wolverine
This card is a quality 1/1 that will certainly make the cut in aggressive red decks for the next few years. This little Wolverine hits like a larger creature, dealing a point of damage to a creature or player whenever he is blocked. Simple to play and deadly efficient.

Scrying Sheets
Believe it or not, I almost wan
ted to leave Scrying Sheets out of my top twelve, and the reason is simple. Scrying Sheets is useless unless your deck is full of snow permanents. Scrying Sheets SHOULD be an incredibly powerful card, but it is a powerful card held back by the kinds of cards that will have to surround it in a constructed deck. Frank Karsten recently rolled out a series of Standard decks that could take advantage of Scrying Sheets.
Almost all of the decks had one thing in common, they were mono colored. The easiest way to abuse Scrying Sheets is to simply change all the lands in your deck (nearly forty percent of the cards in your deck if you’re playing by the rules) to snow lands. Of course, the very immediate result of doing this is to reduce your deck’s ability to consistently play spells of more than one color. Replacing the very useful Ravnica block dual lands as well as the Ninth Edition pain lands with snow lands seems like a very real backwards step where efficiency is concerned. While Coldsnap does feature a set of friendly-colored lands that can produce one of two different colors, these lands have to be put into play tapped. In short, the strategy of replacing the lands in your deck with snow lands will set back severely the quality of your mana base. The best way to play lots of snow lands without hurting the quality of your mana base is to play a mono colored deck.
Antonino DeRosa recently spoke out on Scrying Sheets behalf, stating that Scrying Sheets is about a lot more than just drawing extra cards. DeRosa believes that properly building decks around Scrying Sheets involves using both a snow land mana base as well as a mix of the best snow permanents from Coldsnap. Here is the point: Decks that can use Scrying Sheets effectively can gain a huge card advantage over their opponents while at the same time greatly amplifying the usefulness of other cards in your deck that rely on snow permanents. Unfortunately, a deck that makes great use of Scrying Sheets turns into something that looks like a Coldsnap-only deck in a hurry.
Unless this fall’s Time Spiral block mysteriously includes snow covered permanents, Scrying Sheets will be ultimately too difficult to use effectively outside of certain mono colored strategies.

Rimescale Dragon
This is one of the cards from Coldsnap that really makes me want to play with snow permanents like snow lands. A 5/5 flyer for seven mana can change a lot of games, but one that can also tap target creatures and keep them tapped for the rest of the game is something altogether different.
Unfortunately, the only way to use Rimescale’s tap ability is to use mana producing snow permanents. Rimescale Dragon teams up very well with Scrying sheets and lots of snow mountains to produce quite a lethal mono red deck.

Controvert
Counter spells that cost four mana have not historically become particularly popular in constructed Magic. Controvert might be able to beat that trend for two reasons. Today’s Standard constructed format, while fairly fast, is slow enough for a four casting cost counter spell to matter. Controvert’s primary usefulness, however, is in its ability to be returned to your hand using the card’s Recover ability. True, you can only recover Controvert when
(a) a creature goes to your graveyard and (b) when you have 2UU available to spend, all at the same time. Despite the clunky nature of Controvert’s Recover ability, I think blue control mages will find this card’s reusability useful enough.

Blizzard Specter

I fell in love with this creature the first time I booster drafted Coldsnap.

We were all confused, as everyone is the first time they open Coldsnap boosters, about how to clearly identify the rarity of the cards. The commons look like uncommons, the uncommons look like commons and the rares have so little gold coloring on them that they look like uncommons. Anyway, I drafted a Blizzard Specter about six or seven picks into my first Coldsnap pack, only to get another one in the third Coldsnap booster. I was amazed to learn that this very powerful creature was only an uncommon. When Blizzard Specter hits your opponent, you get to choose to either make your opponent discard a card or return one of their permanents (they choose which permanent) to their hand.

Jotun Owl Keeper
Here is a card that I promise you no one else is excited about! There is one basic rule when it comes to cumulative upkeep, and every veteran of Ice Age knows it: it’s BAD. Why would you ever want to play a card that makes you spend your precious mana resources not just when you put the card into play, but at a continually increasing rate during your upkeep going forward?
Several cards from Coldsnap have answered that question: when you get something back later for your troubles. Jotun Owl Keeper is a perfect card for white weenie decks, and possibly even for blue/white control decks.

First of all, you get a very efficient 3/3 for three mana creature. Yup, you do have to pay a cumulative upkeep of either blue or white mana. Let me ask you a question, what eventually happens to virtually every creature you ever put into play? They eventually get killed and go to the graveyard. When this happens, do you usually get one or more free 1/1 flying tokens? I didn’t think so! The best part of this card is that when you decide not to pay the cumulative upkeep cost, the rules of cumulative upkeep help you come out even a little bit more ahead. You see, the rules for cumulative upkeep state that the FIRST thing that happens is Jotun Owl Keeper gets an age counter, THEN you decide whether or not to play the cumulative upkeep cost for all of the age counters that are on the card. If you paid two mana last turn to pay the cumulative upkeep, but you don’t want to pay this turn, your Giant will first receive a third age counter, then, when you decide not to pay this turn’s cumulative upkeep cost, the Jotun Owl Keeper goes to the graveyard and you get THREE free 1/1 flying tokens. This is the kind of high quality uncommon creature that doesn’t come along very often, a beatdown creature for controllish decks that gives you more than you pay for.

SUMMING IT ALL UP

Down the road a few years, when we all look back at the Summer of 2006 and the “long lost” expansion set known as Coldsnap, we will see the set as it really should be viewed. Time will give us all the power of perspective. In the future, when we look back at Coldsnap, we will see it as neither the best nor the worst expansion in the history of Magic. The fact is, we probably won’t think very much of it at all, because in many ways, Coldsnap will always be the little orphan expansion set. The best common in the set, for constructed play, might be the Mana Leak-like Rune Snag. On the other hand, you better grab Coldsnap while you can, while you are somewhat interested in it and before you become entirely consumed with September’s release of Time Spiral. There is a very real chance that Coldsnap cards will be among the hardest to find in Magic simply because not enough people open enough packs to provide enough of the desired singles.

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
jeffzandi@hotmail.com
Zanman on Magic Online
 







 

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