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The Ice Cave

Hello again, all, and welcome back to the Pond!

Today I'm in the mood for Breaking another Stupid Rare, and I promised that it would be another attempt at breaking Ice Cave, the first ever subject of this feature.

The last time Ice Cave had a going over, the Type II environment was entirely different. Since then, the Masques block has been replaced by Odyssey, and a whole bunch of different decks rule the roost. Before I get too far ahead of myself, let's take a look at Ice Cave:

Ice Cave 3UU
Whenever a player plays a spell, any other player may pay that spell's mana cost. If a player does, counter the spell. (Mana cost includes colour.)

Chances are that you've already seen the 3 glaring weaknesses in this card.

1) It costs 3UU. This is a lot of mana, and you need at least 2 Blue mana to play it. This is at odds with the 5-colour deck it would seem to fit.
2) Any player can use it. This card has exactly the same effect on you as on your opponent, so you must build the deck around it before it even begins to help.
3) Mana cost includes colour. Your rival could be playing anything, and having access to all 5 types of mana at once is a very tricky task.

However, if you have an Ice Cave in play, with enough mana to support it, you can theoretically counter every single card your opponent plays, and beat them to death with a lone Eager Cadet if needs be!

The first consideration you need to make when building a deck around Ice Cave is mana. You need to have access to all the colours your opponent has access to, and you need to have more mana than them, so that after countering their spells you have enough left to play your own. With this in mind I considered the following mana-producing creatures.

Birds of Paradise
Plus points: Can provide any colour, costs G.
Minus points: Can't directly damage an opponent.

Utopia Tree
Plus points: Can provide any colour, 2 toughness.
Minus points: Can't directly damage an opponent.

Llanowar Elves
Plus points: Costs G
Minus points: Only provides 1 colour.

Quirion Explorers
Plus points: Provides any colour your opponent has access to.
Minus points: Can't provide mana for your spells.

Quirion Elves
Plus points: You choose the colour it provides.
Minus points: Less useful against 3-colour decks.

Plus points: Becomes 4/4 at threshold.
Minus points: Only provides G.

In the end, I decided that reliability was key. The two Quirion cards were not reliable enough for an already unstable deck like this. Birds of Paradise and Utopia Tree went in, and I took Werebear too. 5 attacks by a Threshold Werebear wins you the game, and the extra 1 colourless mana over the Llanowar Elves should be no problem.

The original plan I had for this deck was to make it mono-Green, with Pulse of Llanowar and the mana producers helping to provide Ice Cave's cost. However, Ice Cave just didn't come out of the deck quickly enough, so I moved towards a Green and Blue deck. Blue is excellent at drawing cards, and this change helps with the payment of Ice Cave's mana cost as well. Drawing Ice Cave is critical to the deck's success. The deck has to be really heavily built around it, so if it doesn't come up, any decent deck will smash you good. Thus we need lots and lots of card drawing. The more efficient the better! Here's another string of comparisons;

Plus points: Gets you 2 cards deeper into the deck.
Minus points: You risk picking the worse of the 2 to draw.

Sleight of Hand
Plus points: Gets you 2 cards deeper into the deck.
Minus points: Sorcery.

Fact or Fiction
Plus points: If Ice Cave is one of the top 5 cards in your library, you've got it. If not, you can draw a guaranteed 3 cards, plus help with Threshold.
Minus points: Expensive

Careful Study
Plus points: Gets you 2 cards deeper into the deck. Also helps with Threshold.
Minus points: Doesn't actually alter the number of other cards in your hand.

Plus points: Slows the game down. Gaining 3 cards for 3 mana is incredible.
Minus points: Can help your opponent.

Circular Logic
Plus points: Can be played as you discard it.
Minus points: Only one card.

Plus points: Draws 3 cards.
Minus points: Expensive.

Plus points: Looking at your opponent's hand helps with deciding what to counter.
Minus points: Only one card.

Plus points: Constant card drawing.
Minus points: Needs constant input of cards and mana.

My number one choices are Careful Study and Standstill. Careful Study will, for one mana, get you 2 cards in exchange for the worst 2 cards in your hand and also get you nearly halfway to Threshold. Standstill has impressive synergy with this deck. Your opponent doesn't want to play anything, because that would mean you getting 3 cards for just 1U, and if they continue to not play anything then wait until you can eventually slap Ice Cave down! Having another 3 cards won't help if they can all be countered! I will also play Fact or Fiction, because nothing draws more.

Pulse of Llanowar is pretty much a given in this deck. Play it the turn before Ice Cave and all your lands are painless 5-colour lands.

The final problem facing Ice Cave is the fact that, due to its high mana cost, your opponent will manage to drop some threats before the lock comes into place. To remedy this, there are plenty of cards that can bounce those pesky cheap drops back to your opponent's hand. Unsummon is the best for this deck in my opinion. The best feature is the U cost, meaning you can play it with ease and still have mana for countering. Aether Burst was very close, but too many times I had to bounce back my own creatures to match the numbers. Next is Memory Lapse. Not only does it return any card, it negates their next draw phase. The only problem is that you have to play it as the spell is being cast. Lastly, a few Rushing River. The higher cost is regrettable, as is the mana-hampering kicker cost, but it's great at taking out artifacts and enchantments.

Here is the deck. As seems to be a regular feature with my decks, the land count appears low. This is justified because in the early game you will have mana producers, and later on Pulse of Llanowar means that all your lands can provide any colour. Also, 70% of the spells cost just 1 or 2 mana. Here's the finished product;


4 Birds of Paradise
4 Utopia Tree
4 Werebear

4 Ice Cave
4 Careful Study
4 Standstill
4 Unsummon
4 Memory Lapse
3 Fact or Fiction
3 Pulse of Llanowar
2 Rushing River

10 Island
10 Forest

For anyone interested in playing with this eyesore, here's what a game beginning might look like.

Opening hand = Forest, Forest, Island, Unsummon, Standstill, Pulse of Llanowar, Birds of Paradise (All draws randomly selected by Apprentice)

Turn 1
Draw Werebear, play Forest, play Birds of Paradise.

Turn 2
Draw Careful Study, play Island, play Werebear, play Careful Study, draw Island & Ice Cave, discard Island and Standstill.

Turn 3
Draw Memory Lapse, play Forest, play Unsummon, play Pulse of Llanowar.

Turn 4
Draw Island, play Island, play Ice Cave.

Turn X
Play cheap mana producers, counter everything you can, bounce everything you can't, attack with Werebears when you reach Threshold.

To give you a glimpse into my marred psyche, this deck is now MY deck. I play it wherever I go, and it's doing far better than I could have hoped! Even worse, the kill card used to be Last Stand. The idea was that Last Stand is one of the few cards that your opponent won't be able to counter (get thee behind me, Urza's Rage!) and with lots of forests it creates a humiliating saproling army to get the victory. Last Stand was only removed due to lack of space.

This deck's named after Jenova, the Final Fantasy creation that… well… lives in an Icy Cave. Plus Jenova sounds cool. The best feature of the deck is the cost, at about $80. The only 'money rares' are the Birds of Paradise, and Ice Cave is cheaper than many uncommons!

Until next time, happy gaming! If you want to comment about anything, or send me your deck for a tune-up, the address is back one page.

That is all.


3.07.02 Addendum  

I’d just like to make a correction to the latest Breaking Stupid Rares article. I chose not to play Aether Burst, because I thought that it read;

Return X target creatures to their owners' hands, where X is one plus the number of Aether Burst cards in all graveyards as you play Aether Burst.

However, it actually says;

Return up to X target creatures to their owners' hands, where X is one plus the number of Aether Burst cards in all graveyards as you play Aether Burst.

You should now consider all the Unsummon that were in the final list to be Aether Burst instead, and the deck plays more smoothly as a result. My thanks to Gary Munch and Bootsy2002 for pointing out this error.

Well, until next time, happy gaming! If you want to comment about anything, or send me your deck for a tune-up, the address is back one page.

That is all.




Copyright 2001 Pojo.com

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