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Commanding Wilds of Eldraine: Let it Go With Hylda of the Icy Crown


The jig is up, I'm afraid. Last week, I built a deck for my partner with a Commander who kind of looks like her and a deck I think she would enjoy, if she were to start playing.

But the reason I did that? This card right here.'

Hylda of the Icy Crown

See, Hylda of the Icy Crown bears a more-than-passing resemblance to another Ice Queen of (relatively) recent cultural significance. One Elsa from Disney's Frozen. And while Elsa herself is based on a much older fairy tale (and it's quite likely Hylda is based on that older, much darker version of the story), my almost-six-year-old saw Hylda and was, for a blessed couple of minutes, completely lost for words. Daddy's game made an Elsa card.

Now, I want my kid to play Magic, so I built her a couple of 40 card, simple decks years ago. One was puppies and fawns and the other was Unicorns. Neither is good, but she likes the pictures and I sleeved them with pink sleeves, so she's excited about it. This means, though, she knows what a deck is - and she knows my decks are much bigger and have a lot more pictures than hers. So, she asked me if I could build her an Elsa deck. Some of you may not understand why the only answer I could give in this situation was "yes," but that's okay. Just trust me when I say the only possible answer I could give her was an affirmative. I give you: Frozen, Magic-style!

Let's get something out of the way immediately - this is a deck designed to make my not-quite-six-year-old kid excited to play with Magic cards. That's it. That is the exclusive purpose. It is not designed to win (though it can). It is not optimized for mana (though it works). It follows no deck-construction rules about drawing cards (though it does) or interaction (though it will). It is a pile of spells Elsa would use, might use, or has used.

From a deck-building perspective, this is a theme deck all the way, where not a single card gets a pass because it's useful. Every card must be on theme, down to and including our Basic Lands (which is awesome, because they actually make Snow Lands).

Hylda's Crown of Winter

I started by adding Hylda's Crown of Winter. If we're going to have Hylda, we must have her crown. That got me thinking, though: at the beginning of Frozen (I have seen this movie at least 100 times, and the sequel just as many) Elsa is crowned queen. She gets a crown, a throne, and a ball (which we're going to call a scepter). Ah ha! In goes Crown of Empires, Scepter of Empires, and Throne of Empires! We also get Scepter of Dominance, Scepter of Insight, and Magistrate's Scepter.

Then I started searching for key words. For some reason, I started with "frost", but I quickly made my way to "ice" (which was annoying because without doing some tricky searching I was getting all the cards which had words like "malice" or "avarice"), "icy", "snow", "chill", "freeze", "glacier", and "winter". There are a bunch of them.

On the mana front, we got our Snow Basics, of course, but we also have a couple of dual lands which are Snow, plus Cave of the Frost Dragon, Mouth of Ronom, Scrying Sheets, Sejiri Shelter // Sejirii Glacier, and Dark Depths, which is hilarious because the idea of Elsa summoning Marit Lage is crazy.

Hylda, fortunately, functions as card draw, which is good because that's one thing we lack quite a bit. In play-testing, I found I was often tapping two Creatures each turn, and I'd normally split my triggers between drawing and making the big frost monster the Elemental. On the other hand, we do get Mysterious Tome because the other side is Chilling Chronicle, and that draws us a card every other turn. Cavalier of Gales Brainstorms when it comes into play (Gale is a character from Frozen II, and also Elsa rides a water horse that kind of looks like that in the same movie). That's about it, though, so we're going to lean on Hylda to keep cards moving. The Scry before we draw is really helpful, though; in early game we can use it to dig for much-needed Lands, and later we can push them to the bottom for action.

Cavalier of Gales
Ojutai, Soul of Winter
Frost Lynx

We do get a few potential bombs in addition to our army of Elementals. Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant is hanging around our ice cave, and it turns into an Equipment we really like. Ojutai, Soul of Winter is a big ol' Dragon which taps things down when it attacks. Thing in the Ice might get there. Tidal Force is pretty big. And Thousand Winds (another shout out to Gale) is a solidly-sized flier. While this isn't a particularly competitive list of win conditions, the deck taps so many Creatures down we actually might be able to force through some serious damage with a couple of these guys. (Not to mention all the Elementals. We make a lot of them.)

The vast majority of our interaction comes in the form of tapping things down. Sometimes we supertap them, like Frost Lynx (where the Creature doesn't untap the following turn. And can't you see Elsa keeping one of those around?), sometimes we get the new version where the Creature gets a Stun counter (it does the same thing, it just puts a mechanic on it so it can be more flexible), and sometimes we just tap something for a turn. We also have a few Enchantments like Encase in Ice which tap something down when it enters and leaves it tapped until the Enchantment is dealt with.

The vast majority of the tappers are versions of the same basic structure: pay some mana and tap something down. We have things like Flood (there is one at the end of Frozen II) and Air Servant (one more nod to Gale), which tap specific kinds of Creatures but can do so over and over. Frostbridge Guard can tap something every turn, as can Icy Manipulator. We have our Frost Lynxes which tap upon entering, and a number of spells which tap things down, often two things. Most of these spells are designed to be tempo plays for limited (keep that in mind, by the way, if you ever play draft: tappers are very strong in draft. I once won an FNM on the back of a pair of Frost Lynxes which managed to tap down their big blocker just enough to keep them from killing me and allowing me to punch through!), but they work wonders for us, drawing us cards and dropping our icy friends.

There are a few specific things worth mentioning. The first is some of our cards are what the game calls "Hate cards". These are card designed to pick on a specific color or strategy, and often appear in the target's enemy color. That means Blue gets a lot of rg hate. So, we have Permafrost Trap, Flashfreeze, and Ray of Frost, all of which care about Red, Green, or both. Ice Out is a fortunately-named counterspell. Chilling Trap is too perfectly named to not be included, though we only have two Wizards and Hylda isn't one of them (she is, randomly, a Warlock). Magistrate's Scepter is quite interesting, because if we can get that to pop off we really could win the game. Snow Fortress is an old Wall, but it's actually decently strong and Elsa built one of these while she sang "Let It Go", so we're including it (even if it doesn't look the same). Tideforce Elemental is great for us, and we all know Elsa becomes the bridge between the Elements and humanity at the end of Frozen II, able to control water as well as ice, so it stays.

Ray of Frost
Winter's Chill
Snow Fortress

Then, finally, there's Winter's Chill. This goofy old card is an Instant from Ice Age. It's worth looking up the Oracle text on it, but basically it works like this: before blockers but after attackers, you cast this spell. X can't equal more than the amount of Snow Lands you control. You can choose X attacking Creatures. Their controller, for each Creature, can choose to do nothing, pay 1, or pay 2. If they pay 2, the Creature attacks as normal. If they pay 1, the creature doesn't deal any combat damage, nor does it receive any. If they do nothing, the Creature is destroyed. It's wild, but c'mon! It's called "Winter's Chill!" It has to be in here.

I will certainly build this deck for my kid. I will sleeve it in icy blue sleeves and get an appropriate icy blue deckbox to keep it in. I will have it decorated with a number of Frozen-themed stickers. And I will teach my kid how to play Commander with it. I might even play it at my Commander night; I think it will be fun to pilot, even if it's not terribly strong. Sometimes that's not the point, though, is it?

When have you made a theme deck? How tightly did you hold to the theme? Do you play with a kid or a parent? Let me know on socials!

Before I go, I would like to join the chorus of voices sharing gratitude for the life of Sheldon Menery. I never got the pleasure of meeting him, but I am deeply indebted to him for bringing the format I love to the masses. Until his last day on this planet, he championed fun, casual play, and he never stopped being an active part of the community he loved. I mourn his loss and wish his family and friends as much peace as they can find in these difficult days. You were a friend to all of us in the Commander community, Sheldon, and you are missed terribly.

Thanks for reading.

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