Coldsnap was an ambitious set, built on a MaRo-driven myth of a lost set. It was created to make Ice Age into a real block, but it fell short of most of its design goals. The designers wanted us to like Cumulative Upkeep, but few of the cards were even playable in draft. They were constrained from building truly great spells because their three mechanics - upkeep, snow permanents and pitch cards - were respectively boring, narrow and inherently overpowered. As a result, we got cards that made designers happy, but did not excite players. That's not to say that Coldsnap doesn't have money cards; it is a relatively rare set to find, because there was such little demand for it and it did not tie into larger block play. This week, we'll look at some of those power cards with an eye to getting you more value, from your own binder or mining gold from junk boxes.
Our first card has two great things going for it: she's an angel and she reanimates things. Adarkar Valkyrie is a fan favorite in Commander because she blanks most Wrath effects and can straight-hijack opposing creatures. That she can hit for four a turn in the air while doing this is no small feat, either.
This card jumped due to speculation when mana burn went away, but it has failed to do anything relevant in the meantime. The problem is that there is just nothing really worthwhile to do with red mana during your upkeep. It's like a slower Thran Turbine that promises you that it can do some Really Cool Things, if only you can find the right card for it! Unfortunately, its best application is probably things like pumping Shivan Dragons. People value these at over three bucks, but they tend to sit in binders and I never really see them get traded. They have low online sale volumes, so I would steer clear of Braids unless you get them in a collection.
This lowly enchantment becomes a terrifying soft lock when combined with Sensei's Divining Top. It formed the backbone of a strong Extended deck and varies in popularity in Legacy. Although Mental Misstep nearly killed the archetype, it has seen a bit of renewed interest with the recent banning. Counterbalance is usually held in check by Merfolk, a deck that preys on CounterTop by utilizing game-breakers like Lord of Atlantis and Aether Vial.
Most people know that this card is a power uncommon, but I think you'll still find many who undervalue it.
Dark Depths is the card that people dream of when speculating. It was a junk rare until Vampire Hexmage was spoiled and people realized how great a 20/20 monster was. It shot up from a buck to $30 overnight on hype and it has only been slowly dropping. It sees no Legacy play of note and it's banned in Modern, leaving people only casual Spikey decks for the card.
The existence of the Dark Depths phenomenon can negatively influence people when it comes to Magic speculation. It's sort of like our tulipomania. Knowing that once, an out-of-print card like this (or Grove of the Burnwillows, or Sword of the Meek) was a serious tournament-breaker and shot up $30 overnight can lead people to do foolish things, all in the name of not losing out on the next big thing. My general advice is that if the market seems like it has already realized how good the card is, it's not worth picking it up. Stocking up on preorder planeswalkers is usually a bad idea, no matter how much Jace appreciated. We have got to think with our wallets and not with our envy when speculating, and Dark Depths and its related phenomena tend to throw people off.
This guy is a heck of a combo engine, but he is hard to pull off and doesn't really reward players. It saw play in a really cool Solar Flare deck that would discard-play him and then recur Court Hussars to draw a lot of cards. However, that was a slow, Standard combo and all the other knights in Magic are terrible - I've looked too many times, myself. Haakon is kind of the lord-daddy of Suicide Black knight strategies, so if you have to charge up those Knight of Stromgalds and the like, this is a pretty good guy. Recursive black weenies has been a historically good strategy.
His name, by the way, is pronounced "hoh-ken," which rhymes with "broken." If only it were true.
I am surprised that this has come up in value the way it did. Ohran Viper is nothing special, but its two abilities, while unoriginal, are powerful. I'd like to explain its price bump because of Modern; this is a great turn-2 play, though the decks that can accelerate it out won't have much to do with the extra cards, and Zoo can kill it with just about everything. That it doesn't even benefit from First Strike makes it worse than Deathtouch. Still, green card advantage is hard to find, and Commander players view this guy as a staple.
Rite of Flame, now banned in Modern, has taken a big value hit. It shows promise in Legacy right now because Past in Flames is an incredible Storm engine and Rite fuels it so well. The only play that Rite currently sees is in Legacy storm decks and Vintage Belcher decks, which doesn't exactly make for a thriving market.
I'm just as shocked as you are. I have no idea why this is up this far, but I am going to be extra-vigilant about picking them up out of junk boxes now.
Zur is part of one of the most powerful Commander decks. On his first hit, he grabs Necropotence and the player usually draws up a grip of seven counterspells. The next turn, that player casts Time Warp and hits with Zur again, getting something like Second Chance and Necro'ing down to 5 life. Then that player uses Mistveil Plains to recur Second Chance, and that's game! It's a cheesy strategy but it is in good colors and people like to Voltron up their Zur with neat Auras, too.
That wraps up our look at Coldsnap! There are plenty of gems for vigilant traders to discover in this "forgotten" set. Join me next week, when we tear into Time Spiral, one of my favorite blocks of all time! Until next week,