Mechanically Minded - Snow

(Cover of Winter | Art by Wayne Reynolds)

A Brief History of Snow

Around my neck of the woods, we’re in the middle of summer, but that doesn’t mean I’m opposed to writing about snow. Welcome to Mechanically Minded, the article series where we build EDH decks based around mechanics, all using the power of EDHREC. In honor of snow’s return in Modern Horizons, let’s build a deck around it!

See, snow is what happens when water droplets cool in the atmosphere, then fall to the ground in fluffy flakes. No wait. Not that kind of snow.

In Magic terms, snow first arrived to the game in 1995 with Ice Age and has since been used sparingly. Snow was referenced by a handful of cards in the next year’s set, Alliances, then most recently with 2006’s weirdo set Coldsnap (not to be confused with the Samuel Adams beer).

Technically speaking, snow is a supertype, not a mechanic. Like legendary, that means it doesn’t do anything unless specifically referenced. Therefore, most snow payoffs count the number of snow permanents, as is the case with Rimefeather Owl.

There are also snow lands, both basic and nonbasic. Basic snow lands function just like regular basics: they add one color of mana, they’re searchable with any Rampant Growth-type effect, they can’t be targeted by a Wasteland, etc. Nonbasic snow lands behave just like other nonbasic lands.

The tricky part is cards that ask for snow mana. Take this one, for example:

The symbol that looks like a snowflake is a snow mana. As stated in the reminder text, a snow mana “can be paid with one mana from a snow permanent.” So that means any snow permanent can pay the snow requirement for this card, no matter what color of mana it produces. For example, all three of these cards produce a snow mana:

Once you start playing with snow cards, you’ll get the hang of them.

And Now for the Snowmander

Usually I like to kick these articles off with a commander that embodies or supports our mechanic. However, for this one, I’d prefer to hold off on a commander until the end. Here’s why.

The only commander that specifically references snow is this guy:

No offense to Heidar, but I think we can do better. Plus, since snow exists in all five colors, I’d like to go that way.

There’s another draw to a five-color snow deck as well: snow mana. Since any snow permanent pays for a snow mana, we can get creative with our color selection. So really, we should go with all colors. Who then do we choose?

I and a lot of other players have made this guy our go-to generic five-color commander, and for good reason. He makes expensive spells easier to cast, he gives us all colors, and he’s easy on the wallet, too.

But wait. Let’s look to the newly released Core Set 2020 for help. Is there anyone there who might be a great snowmander?

Yes. Now this is what we need. For five mana, Golos, Tireless Pilgrim can search up any snow land we need, including the nonbasic ones. Furthermore, it gives us something powerful (and potentially game winning) to do at seven mana. And, since it’s colorless, we need not rely on drawing the right combination of colors; we can cast it with any five mana.

So, though Golos doesn’t carry any intrinsic synergy with snow, it’s probably the best five-color commander for fixing a five-color deck. Onward!

Fresh Snow

Modern Horizons might hold the world record for most keywords and mechanics in a single set. As such, it’s got tons of snow cards. To find them and many of the other cards we’re about to discuss, we’ll check out EDHREC’s handy Snow theme.

Here are three of the cards I’m most hyped for:

Let’s start with Dead of Winter, which is an absolute wrecking ball in our deck. I doubt we’ll cast it on turn three, but whatever. In many instances, it’s a one-sided Toxic Deluge without the life payment. Amazing card.

Next, Abominable Treefolk is a clear must-have for our deck. This guy scales with the game, has a nice effect on the board when it enters, and offers some fine evasion as well. Fantastic card.

Finally, Marit Lage's Slumber grants us access to the Marit Lage token, which is in my opinion some of the best art in the history of the game. Any card that lets us play with that token is going in my deck.

But really, aesthetics aside, it does potentially produce an indestructible flying 20/20. Sure, it’s susceptible to bounce and exile. I’m still willing to risk it, since this token closes the game in a hurry when left unanswered.

(Side note: Why isn’t Marit Lage a snow creature? The mysteries of life…)

Now those are just the headliners. Now let’s get into some of the role players from Modern Horizons. 

Ice-Fang Coatl is a nice little value creature, especially if you dig Baleful Strix

You might think I’m kidding about Chillerpillar, but I actually think it’s pretty good. It’s a snow permanent that gives us something to do with excess mana. And a 5/5 with flying is no joke.

Then there’s Glacial Revelation, which I don’t think needs much explanation.

Finally, let’s cover a few of the set’s utility cards.

Arcum's Astrolabe is one of the best cards in our deck. It’s efficient, it gives us any color we need, and it counts as a snow permanent, too. Remember, that means that any mana produced by the Astrolabe counts as a snow mana.

On Thin Ice is obviously a nod to Chained to the Rocks, a card that would probably see more play if it wasn’t in Boros. Sure, it’s not as good as Swords to Plowshares or Path to Exile. It is, however, still an efficient removal spell that deals with most threats.

Rime Tender is a nice little ramp option. And yes, it can untap Arcum's Astrolabe.

Finally, here’s one I’m on the fence about:

Pro: It’s a snow permanent and a decent blocker that mills at a surprisingly fast rate. Con: We don’t have any other mill in the deck. Let’s include it in our first draft and see how it performs.

The OG Snow Cards

We’ve covered the new kids on the block; what about the classics from previous sets? Let’s take a look.

Rimefeather Owl is an easy inclusion. In addition to its almost always swole body, the ability to create additional snow permanents is excellent. Remember, that’s going to power up our Abominable Treefolk, Dead of Winter, and more. Also, at seven mana, Golos curves elegantly into it.

It’s easy to forget that Coldsteel Heart is a snow permanent in addition to being a really good mana fixer. It gives us any color we need, plus adds to our snow total. And don’t forget: No matter what color you choose, the Heart can always tap for a snow mana.

Dark Depths is another one of those cards we might forget is a snow permanent. I’ve already gushed enough about the Marit Lage token, so I won’t go there. Instead, I’ll just note that it combos beautifully with Thespian’s Stage (a card which we’re totally playing).

One note: don’t forget that Marit Lage is a legendary token. So if you somehow generate a token off both Marit Lage’s Slumber and Dark Depths, you’d need to sacrifice one of your tokens. Don’t make that mistake!

Now for the big boppers:

Notice that Rimescale Dragon and Rimefeather Owl both reference ice counters, which means they grant each other the same bonuses. That’s some nice cross-synergy right there, especially considering that the Owl counts ice counters on your opponents’ creatures as well.

A solid creature in its own right, Adarkar Valkyrie is even better in this deck thanks to its snow supertype.

And then there’s Diamond Faerie; it's difficult to cast, but likely worth the effort. We’ve got enough snow creatures to make the effect worthwhile. (What’s more, any creatures with those nifty ice counters now get the bonus, too).

Let’s round things out with three of my favorite snow cards:

Into the North is strictly better than Rampant Growth. There’s a cycle of ally-colored tap lands that are also snow lands, so we’ll definitely be using all five in our deck.

Rimewind Cryomancer is a secretly annoying card. My favorite application is to counter planewalker activations. If a player minuses for an ultimate, for instance, Rimewind Cryomancer prevents the ability from resolving and kills the planeswalker (since the opponent still needs to remove counters to activate the ability).

Cover of Winter is another card that can quickly become quite irksome. As long as you can keep it around, you can pretty much start swinging at players with impunity, then leave back any old junker (Iceberg Cancrix?) to block. I like the sound of that.

Playing the Deck

As with any five color deck, one of our top priorities is getting every color of mana online. Our commander certainly helps with that, then gives us something to do with all that mana. What’s more, Golos can flip more snow lands, which should pump the rest of our cards.

This is certainly a synergy deck, so I believe the more snow permanents we have out, the better. That might mean passing on creature trades or staying neutral in the early game. This is one of those decks that needs critical mass of material to function. Therefore, we’ll conserve as much snow as we can.

Our deck will likely win with some fortuitous Golos activations or gigantic snow beaters like Abominable Treefolk and Rimefeather Owl. A Marit Lage appearance can help, too.

The Final List

Until Next Time… 

Hope this deck helps folks cool off from the heat waves. Enjoy!

Kyle A. Massa is a writer and avid Magic player living somewhere in upstate New York with his wife, their daughter, and three wild animals. His current favorite card is Nahiri, Forged in Fury. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.