The Kitchen Table #140: Coldsnap and Five
It's the time of the year when puppies sing, dogs and cats live together, and when flowers groove to the mystical tunes of DJ's peppering the skies with their anthems of love. The sun in unveiled, warming us with its mystery, while the branches of trees sway in rhythm to the anthems, and bees suddenly stop stinging, instead landing on people without any thought of self-defense, but merely of sharing. When a new Magic set is released, perfection is in the world for an all too brief period of time.
One of the trends of new sets is the large number of articles that evaluate said sets. For years now, this herald has chosen to reduce the stress on readers by reducing the number of cards referred to in his article. It's a much easier read when just the interesting cards are included, instead of them all.
Unlike other set reviews, this one focuses on Five Color. As a reminder, Five Color is a format where people play with all Vintage legal sets, with minimums of 250 cards and 20 cards of each color. We have our own banned and restricted list, and well as a few other rules, like easier mulligans. You can find all of the rules over at www.5-color.com
It's one of my favorite formats of all time, because it plays well. Casual players love it, while competitive players love its challenge.
I review all of the cards that I think might be good in a Five Color deck, while also occasionally discussing cards that might look good but aren't. We have an established history, so new cards are compared against a laundry list of older cards. As such, comparisons in formats like Five Color and Vintage are fairly easy to do for people who know the formats.
As a casual format, every card in this set is bound to be played in someone's Five Color deck, because that is just the nature of things. I am going to stick with the cards I feel are most playable in the format. Just remember, that even if I don't mention your favorite card, it doesn't mean that I necessarily think its crap and unworthy of your affection.
Without further ado, let's head into the review.
Like normal, the White cards are focused around adding options for aggro decks with very little else. There are scads of cheap creatures, and a few are interesting enough to mention.
Jotun Grunt – Although the Jotun Grunt's upkeep would make you believe that he'd be playable only later in the game, a lot of aggro decks burn through cards quickly. Contract from Below, Skullclamp, Windfall, Wheel of Fortune, and more will all fill up your graveyard with goodies while also filling up your hand. The Grunt is a great play either before or after one of these cards. However, since they are all now restricted, the likelihood of playing them has diminished, making the Grunt a worse card.
Kjeldoran Outrider – It seems like every set these days has a White to drop that competes for a spot in aggro decks. The Outrider is a 2/2 that, for one White mana, will trade with other two power creatures and stick around. Still, other cards like Mistral Charger and Kami of Ancient Law are hard to push.
Sunscour – I am not completely sold on the big pitch cards. On one hand, they are playable for really cheap, but on the other, they require two cards of the same color to be in your hand at the same time. In some deck builds, this will be easy. A lot of decks are packed with gold cards, split cards, and guild mana cards, which makes these requirements very easy. If you have a White heavy deck, the requirements for Sunscour is easy. If you do, then you'll really want to consider playing this. However, although it really hoses aggro decks and can be played for free, it costs you three cards to do so, which means you lose card advantage unless there are a lot of opposing creatures in play. If there are a lot of opposing creatures in play, then several turns have passed, and you could just play Wrath of God. Still, playing a Wrath for free and then using your mana to drop a major creature is a great momentum swing, and the Sunscour is not without some merit.
White Shield Crusader – If you play pump knights/clerics, this is better. Otherwise, skip it.
Coldsnap's Blue section feels weak. A permanent bouncer that is worse than Tradewind Rider. A recurable Counterspell that is worse than Forbid. There are bad creatures, bad card drawing, and worse exotic cards. There are a couple of interesting cards, however.
Arcum Dagsson – This is a very fragile and slow Tinker. However, any card that is printed that reads, “Tap: Tinker” has some serious potential. Sure, you have to sac an artifact creature instead of any old artifact, and sure, it's four mana for a 2/2 that has to stick around a turn before tapping. Still, we'd all play a 2/2, four mana creature that read, “Tap, sacrifice a bunny, deal fifteen damage to your opponent.” One shot could kill your opponent and two almost assuredly would. Arcum is similarly powerful. One Tinker puts you in a very good place, a second makes you amazingly likely to win. Any more than that and it's curtains for your opponent(s).
Flashfreeze – You'll rarely counter a Red spell with this, since Red is one of the least used colors, and the cards used in Red round out a deck instead of being central to it. A lot of Five Color players try to fit splashable countermagic into their decks, and Flashfreeze fits that bill. This card will counter any Green spell and lots of decks are Green heavy. Where this card shines is countering early mana fixing spells. Using Flashfreeze on, say, a Sakura-Tribe Elder or Kodama's Reach can get you a powerful early advantage. Unlike many conditional counters, you know your opponent will have at least 40 cards in his deck you can counter, and possibly more through gold cards, and usually even more due to the heavy emphasis on Green. As such, Flashfreeze may be very playable.
Vexing Sphinx – Aggro decks like cheap beaters, and the Vexing Sphinx is a 4/4 flyer for three mana. It may see some play in 1-2-3 decks. However, it costs two Blue mana, which makes it no longer splashable, unlike Serendib Efreet, for example. It also has that pesky cumulative upkeep, and you never make out with its disadvantage. (If you pay it once, you lost a card and the creature, and draw two. You have equilibrium. If you pay it twice times, then you lost three cards, the creature, and draw three. Therefore, you lost a card. This continues getting worse and worse.)
Like, Blue, there's not a lot here. There's more crappy discard, more tiny drain creature effects, and more regenerating undead. Ho-hum.
Herald of Leshrac – It's seven mana but at least it's splashable. It also single handedly wrecks your opponent for several turns by taking his manabase. Ultimately, you won't be able to pay the Herald's upkeep but, by then, your opponent should be dead. If you play something that costs seven, it should win you the game. The Herald can win you the game, but it may take a few turns to do it.
Phobian Phantasm – How many times does the Phantasm have to hit before it becomes a good card? Typically, I see a player paying the upkeep twice, getting in two hits and dealing six damage. With flying and fear, the creature is almost guaranteed to hit for three every attack. Is six damage worth the card and the upkeeps? Is nine damage worth a third upkeep? This is a card that I think people will need to experiment with to find out if it is any good. Note that if you Dark Ritual it out on the first turn, you can upkeep it and swing for three on the second.
Stromgald Crusader – Once again, if you already play pump knights/clerics, then this is better. Otherwise, move along.
Oh look, more direct damage. All we have here is first strike, lousy cheap creatures (when compared against the standard of all cards), and more. The problem is that this set is even weaker in Red than normal for Five Color, which is normally pretty weak. There are two cards that are interesting to discuss.
Icefall – If you play a dedicated Red land destruction deck, then Icefall is for you. It's a recursive Pillage for one extra colorless mana. This is a solid card in those decks. Otherwise, it just doesn't have the impact you might wish it did.
Green is often the Mecca for good cards. When other colors are bereft of good cards, Green usually has a ton. Will that trend continue here? We shall see.
Boreal Centaur – It's pumpable like Wild Mongrel, but it takes a specific kind of mana to do it. You can't make it larger than a 3/3, but a two drop that's 3/3 outside of Watchwolf comes with a heavy disadvantage, so that's still something. I think of this as a 3/3 that requires you to tap a snow mana to attack and if you don't then it becomes a 2/2. That seems more playable to me. Remember, no discarding of cards, like the puppy.
Boreal Druid – Honestly, a 1/1 creature for one mana that taps for colorless is really good, and the fact this makes snow mana is meaningless to me. It's another one drop that taps for one. It can wield a Bonespitter, be Rancored, and, of course, it is quite Clampable. All of that makes the Boreal Druid a solid card for many decks.
Hibernation's End – This is a bit on the expensive side. On the first turn, an aggro deck gets Isamaru. Second turn, probably Watchwolf. Third turn, maybe a Serendib Efreet. It allows an aggro deck to continue to pile pressure after the early cards are gone. However, it costs five mana and does nothing until the following turn, and that's pretty slow. Aggro decks want to have won the game by then.
Ohran Viper – This is the best card in the set. It's better than an Ophidian because not only does it deal its damage to an opponent, but it also has that awesome Basilisk ability. The fact that it costs two Green mana is not much of a disadvantage since so many decks lean into Green heavily. This is, simply put, an amazing card for Five Color.
There are no Gold cards worth mentioning. However, there are some casual friendly gold cards like Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper. Even Sek'Kuar isn't that great for Five Color. Still, you can expect to see Sek'Kuar at some point in time in one of my decks.
Coldsteel Heart – Lots of Five Color decks play Medallions, Signets and more. This costs the same mana, but you are guaranteed to get a color you need. That makes this pretty good in my book. It's no Fellwar Stone, but it may be better than those other options.
That was a very disappointing set. While there are some fun cards for casual and multiplayer, the Five Color aspect feels very light. Therefore, in order to give you guys a full article, let's add a new section to my Five Color reviews.
Abe's Deck of Happiness and Joy
As you may know, I have a huge highlander Five Color deck that I call Abe's Deck of Happiness and Joy. It's is well over eleven-hundred cards and counting. Remember, this deck is played in multiplayer. What cards from Coldsnap are going into the deck?
Adarkar Valkyrie – I like flyers and the recursion ability intrigues me
Ronom Unicorn – I like cheap creatures that can affect the early game and are useful later.
Sunscour – It doesn't matter how much it costs, every Wrath effect goes into my deck.
Wall of Shards – Can block Akroma and live. Cumulative Upkeep makes friends.
Arcum Dagsson – Even if it only goes off rarely, it's still a Tinker
Commandeer – Fun-to-play cards usually go into my deck.
Drelnoch – I like cards, and I like creatures.
Perilous Research – I like cards. My deck has a lot of things to sac.
Herald of Leshrac – Broken in multiplayer.
Boreal Druid – I like mana. Pretty much anything mana goes in my deck.
Into the North – Mana card.
Ohran Viper – It's that good.
Ronom Hulk – I am not playing this. Still, I want to, so I can say it has pro snow.
Blizzard Specter – Good for early or mid game, poor in late game though. Great creature to have after an Armageddon or Wrath effect cleans permanents off the board. It's amazing to play post-Upheaval.
Deepfire Elemental – Sure, let's play big creatures.
Garza Zol, Plague Queen – If it flies, has a high power, and has haste, then it becomes my new best friend.
Juniper Order Ranger – A very useful ability.
Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper – As mentioned above, I really like this guy.
Coldsteel Heart – Mana.
Dark Depths – A flavorful card like this has to get played.
I hope that you've enjoyed another journey through a set with Five Colored glasses on. This set may be uninspiring for Five, but there are some cards I want to try out in decks. Next week I'll write an article creating several decks around Coldsnap cards. Enjoy!