Evening by Caspar David Friedrich (1820-21).
Fblthp from Totally Lost by Aaron Miller.
With the release of Modern Horizons we Commander players were given a mess of new toys. Most players were excited about Urza, Lord High Artificer, The First Sliver, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, a couple of fancy new swords and a cycle of awesome new two-color lands. When I opened my box of Modern Horizons I wound up building around Pashalik Mons and Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, but the deck I was most looking forward to building was Heidar, Rimewind Master.
At some point in the past few years I wound up buying a Coldsnap booster pack. I probably picked it up on vacation. When I opened it, I had no idea what to do with the Snow-Covered Swamp and the handful of odd snow-oriented cards that I now had in my collection. The most intriguing card of them all was Heidar.
Heidar, Rimewind Master is a 3/3 Human Wizard with a fairly powerful ability. For two mana you can tap him and return target permanent to its owner's hand, but only if you control four or more snow permanents.
At the time I opened Heidar, I didn't own any snow-covered islands and had little interest in buying the cards I'd need to put together a proper deck for him. With Modern Horizons giving us easy access to snow-covered lands and a bunch of new snow permanents, I knew I was going to have to build this deck. I also knew that I'd be building it with the goal of making it both a janky theme deck and a deck with some ability to actually win games.
A Light Dusting
A light dusting of jank, that is.
One of the first things I did when building this deck was go through all of my Blue cards looking for anything that might fit into a snow theme. I was looking for cards with words like "cold", "frost" or "chill" in the card name.
I didn't want to include overtly bad cards in the deck but it became very clear that any cold-themed deck I built would wind up with lots of tap effect. Frost Lynx, Frost Titan, and Wall of Frost all made their way into the list and each of them can tap down an opponent's creature. Glacial Wall also made the cut. It's very on-theme and you'd be surprised how many things it can wind up blocking, especially in the early game. Icefall Regent, a 4/3 Dragon that taps an opponent's creature down, also found its way into the list. None of these creatures are snow permanents, but this is one of those decks where it matters to me that there are lots of on-theme cards.
I'm also running a bunch of enchantments that will tap down or even disable a creature. Deep Freeze will shut down a creature's abilities, making it a good (not great) solution for problem creatures on an opponent's board. I'm also running Encrust, which will shut down the enchanted creature's activated abilities. Enchantments that tap down a creature often have an ice theme, so we're also running Encase in Ice, Frozen Solid, Ice Cage, Ice Over and the brand new Winter's Rest.
To round out the non-snow permanents that are in the deck because they're on theme, I'm running the saga Time of Ice. This will also tap down creatures, but will eventually return all tapped creatures to their owner's hands. While that may not always seem like a great idea, there are times when that's what you want to do. A swol Managorger Hydra or Sunscorch Regent is sometimes better to bounce than to leave around.
Snow in the Forecast
With the release of a bunch of new snow permanents in Modern Horizons, it also made sense to throw some of those into the mix. Heidar might not be a snow creature, but he cares about you having at least four snow permanents. All of our Islands are snow-covered, but I didn't want to stop there.
Having a flying blocker can often be incredibly helpful but Adarkar Windform can let you bring some of your opponents' flyers back to ground. That's the kind of combat trick that can solve a future problem even if the flying creature's controller is sending it at someone else.
I have always been a fan of Strixes so when I came across Blizzard Strix I knew it had to join the party. It can blink another permanent when it enters the battlefield if you control another snow permanent, which we certainly will.
Chillerpillar is a card I was thrilled to open in foil. This 3/3 Insect can become monstrous for six more mana, two of which must come from snow permanents. It will get two +1/+1 counters, so you're basically paying nine mana for a 5/5, but you get a Mothra. How cool is that? Yes, I play bad cards, but I have a lot of fun with them and in a casual game Chillerpillar will get along just fine.
Iceberg Cancrix will let me mill a player for two cards when a snow permanent enters the battlefield under my control. That could be key if I can catch someone with a tutored card on top of their library, but more often than not it will be more annoying than anything else. An infinite ETB loop with a snow permanent could mill out my opponents, but I'm not yet pointing this deck in that particular direction.
Phyrexian Snowcrusher is a Juggernaut and as such, it attacks each turn if able. It's a 6/5 but can be pumped. Icehide Golem is little more than a paperweight, as a 2/2 with no abilities. Sure, it can attack and block, but in a format where vanilla creatures are often left out of decklists it seems unlikely to last in this list for very long. I've got enough snow permanents that including this icy little Golem is probably unnecessary.
Time for Rime
Rime is a frost formed on cold objects by the rapid freezing of water vapor in cloud or fog. Rimewind is a reference to the Cult of Rimewind - an order of Wizards in Dominaria at the time of the Ice Age. When I came across them, I had no idea what these next three cards were all about, but they either were or they cared about snow permanents, so I gave them a look.
The first two are Rimewind cultists who have abilities that require you to control at least four snow permanents. Neither is amazing on its own, but Rimewind Taskmage can work with Heidar to give him an extra bounce activation. With infinite mana and a Rings of Brighthearth you could copy his untap ability and get an additional untap. By stacking your triggers correctly, you could bounce everyone else's board, but that's not this deck. Well... actually that is this deck, but not with Rings of Brighthearth.
Rimefeather Owl is the secret tech in this deck that should allow you to actually close out games. By playing a control strategy you should be able to make it into the late game. Rimefeather Owl has the ability to make other permanents into snow permanents and it has a power and toughness equal to the number of snow permanents on the battlefield. Yowza. This little Owl, which really should be a Strix, because Strix is a way cooler word than Owl, can close out games in convincing fashion if things play out right.
I was looking for a way to say that there were other cards that merited inclusion in this list, or rather, "Marit-ed" inclusion, but I realize that even my most loyal readers will eventually tire of bad puns and clever wordplay. Let's just say that my decks often have "achievements" that I want to unlock when playing them. The items on those checklists are usually weird combos or doing certain things with certain cards. They're like merit badges that I want to earn. This deck has one merit badge that's actually a "Marit" badge.
Marit Lage's Slumber and the legendary snow land Dark Depths both have the ability to pump out Marig Lage - a legendary 20/20 Black avatar creature token with flying and indestructible. If you can get Marit Lage onto the field and protect it, you should have a decent shot at doing some serious damage and possibly killing an opponent or two, if not winning the game.
Control and Combos
Since there's nothing worse than having your Rimefeather Owl or Marit Lage get hit with a Path to Exile or some other form of removal that exiles or puts it into your library, we need to run enough counterspell support to protect the big guy if we can actually get him out.
I'm running nine counters in this list, though it should probably be ten. I have at least one or two copies of Force of WIll in other decks and while this list might not warrant that good a card, I feel like I should have one in here.
Marit Lage and Rimefeather Owl aren't the only things worth protecting in this list.
Paradox Engine will untap Heidar and all of our other nonland permanents every time we cast a spell. If we're tapped out, we can suddenly have blockers but more importantly we can get multiple Heidar activations in a single turn and it will work great with Rimewind Taskmage.
Isochron Scepter and Dramatic Reversal combine with enough mana rocks to give you infinite castings of Dramatic Reversal, and an infinite storm count. If you have enough mana rocks to net an extra mana each time, you've got infinite mana as well. With Heidar, Rimewind Master on the field and able to tap, you can bounce all of your opponents' permanents. Often folks will just concede the game, but you should be able to close it out eventually if they make you play it out.
I should note that this deck definitely needs more mana rocks if it wants to more seriously go after a "Dramatic Scepter" wincon. I'm pretty sure there are underwhelming on-theme cards that could be dropped out in favor of mana rocks (I'm looking at you, Icehide Golem).
I build decks with the cards I have lying around, but for Heidar I actually ordered a bunch of older cards like Rimefeather Owl to fill out my list. I was fairly lucky when building Heidar because I had recently taken apart some more powerful decks and had some really good cards available to go into this deck.
Card draw is essential in any deck and I'm probably not running enough of it in this list, but Rhystic Study and Consecrated Sphinx will go a long way toward making up for that. They are also great reasons to run all the counterspells I'm running, as they are well worth protecting. Mystic Remora is also in the list and is particularly good with Heidar. He can bounce it to my hand when the cumulative upkeep gets too onerous. Blue decks want to play at instant speed and Leyline of Anticipation and Vedalken Orrery will both let us do that.
While I couldn't dig up a Thought Vessel, I'm running Reliquary Tower and Nezahal, Primal Tide as ways to have no maximum hand size. Nezahal might not be a snow creature but I like to think the depths it swims in are pretty cold.
Training Grounds will drop the cost of activating Heidar down to a paltry one mana. That might not seem like much, but when you're struggling to play what you want to play but also leave up mana for counterspells and last-minute Heidar activations that kind of cost reduction can really help. Cyclonic Rift needs no introduction. It is in nearly every Blue deck for a reason, and it can save your life or buy you a little extra time like few other cards in the format.
It's not uncommon for me to build lists that try to put a foot in both camps. This list is decidedly casual with its inclusion of cards like Glacial Wall and Frost Lynx. It has a clear and obvious theme it adheres to pretty well. It also runs some combo pieces and seriously powerful cards that many casual players would find un-fun and game-breaking. It's up to you how you play the deck, and if the deck is playing in a combo direction at a casual table, you've got to assess whether it's worth bouncing the board and making everyone miserable just to get a win.
Let it Snow | Commander | Stephen Johnson
- Commander (1)
- 1 Heidar, Rimewind Master
- Creatures (19)
- 1 Adarkar Windform
- 1 Balduvian Frostwaker
- 1 Blizzard Strix
- 1 Chillbringer
- 1 Chillerpillar
- 1 Consecrated Sphinx
- 1 Frost Lynx
- 1 Frost Raptor
- 1 Frost Titan
- 1 Glacial Wall
- 1 Iceberg Cancrix
- 1 Icefall Regent
- 1 Icehide Golem
- 1 Nezahal, Primal Tide
- 1 Phyrexian Snowcrusher
- 1 Rimefeather Owl
- 1 Rimewind Cryomancer
- 1 Rimewind Taskmage
- 1 Wall of Frost
- Instants (16)
- 1 Arcane Denial
- 1 Cancel
- 1 Counterspell
- 1 Crippling Chill
- 1 Cyclonic Rift
- 1 Dissipate
- 1 Dramatic Reversal
- 1 Flusterstorm
- 1 Frost Breath
- 1 Long-Term Plans
- 1 Muddle the Mixture
- 1 Mystical Tutor
- 1 Nullify
- 1 Rewind
- 1 Swan Song
- 1 Unwind
- Enchantments (13)
- 1 Deep Freeze
- 1 Encase in Ice
- 1 Encrust
- 1 Frozen Solid
- 1 Ice Cage
- 1 Ice Over
- 1 Leyline of Anticipation
- 1 Marit Lage's Slumber
- 1 Mystic Remora
- 1 Rhystic Study
- 1 Time of Ice
- 1 Training Grounds
- 1 Winter's Rest
- Artifacts (12)
- 1 Arcum's Astrolabe
- 1 Chronatog Totem
- 1 Coldsteel Heart
- 1 Glaring Spotlight
- 1 Icy Manipulator
- 1 Isochron Scepter
- 1 Paradox Engine
- 1 Sky Diamond
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Vedalken Orrery
- 1 Worn Powerstone
If you were to tweak the deck I think it's clear that you would probably want to pick one direction and go with it. If you're into janky casual games you could drop out some of the pricier cards and run more on-theme stuff. Thing In The Ice isn't in the list yet, mostly because I didn't have one lying around and forgot about it until I had already placed my order from CoolStuffInc.com. There's lots of room for more jank if that's your thing.
A more competitive deck might have more counterspells, more card draw and definitely more mana rocks so that the Dramatic Scepter combo is easier to land. Heidar will never really be cEDH-viable but there is absolutely room to move this list in that direction if that's what you want to do. You'll never have to apologize to other competitive players for winning with Heidar, assuming you can even manage to win with him at a cEDH table.
I've enjoyed being able to share the stories of my decks' first few games here, but it's important to remember that one or two games may not provide an accurate view of how a deck is going to perform. Variance is real. If "the proof is in the pudding", only a really consistent deck will tell you how tasty, or how frosty, your pudding really is from a sample size of just a few games.
I was able to play a couple of games with my Heidar, Rimewind Master deck prior to writing this column. Both were at casual tables and I was even able to win one of them.
The first match saw the table trying to keep an Avacyn, Angel of Hope deck from winning. There was a pretty good Feather deck in the game that got Sunforger out and was causing all kinds of trouble, but the game was lost when I got caught with my pants down. I had a Cyclonic Rift in hand but tapped out to re-cast Heidar at a time when I thought the Feather player had a way to stop Avacyn from swinging with a Worldslayer attached. As it turned out, he either didn't or chose not to stop the Avacyn player and everyone but the Avacyn player lost everything. With no permanents, we begrudgingly conceded to the Avacyn player. It seemed silly to play it out.
The second game, played a week later, was at a weaker table. Two of the players were very new to the format. It was a five-man pod and the other two players were great tablemates and good players but weren't playing overly competitive decks.
Early on I found myself drawing a Fabricate with a Dramatic Reversal in hand and decided to tutor for Sol Ring rather than go after the combo. The kids didn't need or want to lose like that. They wanted to have fun, though my deck apparently didn't get the memo and drew me into almost all of my counterspells before we got to the late game.
We again had a Feather deck at the table, and I let him swing some pretty decent damage around the table before enchanting it with an aura that would keep it tapped down. He hadn't yet gotten to me and I figured I was probably next. I had no flying blockers yet so it was preemptive self defense. He took it well and I chose to play a Time of Ice a turn or two later to guarantee that he wouldn't be shut out for the rest of the game. Two turns later all tapped creatures were bounced by my Saga and he was later able to get his commander out and swinging again.
I had gotten out an early Rhystic Study and my extra card draw was keeping me from missing land drops, so I was able to stay alive, counter the more serious of the threats, and let everyone actually enjoy and play the game. I didn't want the newer players to be miserable so I mostly continued to play defensively.
The all-star of the game wound up being Rimefeather Owl. When it came out I had enough counterspells to protect it and I had enough snow permanents to make it at least a 13/13. I focused on putting ice counters on all of my stuff and then played a little politics. I was pretty sure I could kill anyone so I got the Feather player to swing at one opponent in exchange for letting him live for an extra turn. He was my biggest threat at the time, so my deal let me swing out at the guy across from me. If the Feather player had gone back on the deal or had refused, I had that Dramatic Reversal in hand so I could have had blockers if I needed them by untapping my gigantic Owl in response to an attack.
I was able to close out the game pretty easily at that point. It was nice to be able to win a game, though in retrospect I do think my deck outclassed the other decks at the table. You don't always know these things going into a game, but I'm pretty sure nobody walked away with "bad beats" or the feeling of having been pubstomped.
If the proof is in the pudding, I think this deck definitely has the capacity to hold its own at casual table and even in a semi-competitive meta. I doubt it would be much fun to play against cEDH decks even with an upgrade, but that's true about most decks.
There has never been a better time to build Heidar, Rimewind Master.
We've got a new set of snow-themed cards from Modern Horizons, Snow-Covered Islands are relatively easy to come by, and most metas are casual enough that the deck should be able to compete and be fun to play even if you're not running the stronger cards in my current list.
It's early July and having a cold-themed deck might be just what you need to get through what is sure to be a hot summer. Having a Mono-Blue deck that is a little out of the mainstream also appeals to lots of EDH players, myself included. I'd choose snow-themed Heidar over another Coldsnap Blue legendary, Arcum Dagsson, every single time. I might not win as many games (Arcum is very, very strong), but I won't have everyone roll their eyes every time I break out the deck and that's something I care about.
It's worth noting that there are snow permanents in colors other than Blue. If you've built and played snow decks in other color combinations, please leave a comment! I'd love to hear what you played, how much fun they were and how well they performed. Also let me know if you know of any frosty Heidar tech that I missed in today's article.
That's all I've got for today. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!