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Insider: Sifting for Specs #2

This is the second article in a series devoted to looking at some older cards that have potential, but seem to just be missing something to make them desirable to the playerbase. The first article in the series can be found here. As I discussed in that article, my main focus is going to be on older rares with a single printing, as I’ve always found them to have the most upside.

Obviously, Reserved List options are the most desirable; we’ve seen enough random RL jumps that it’s very possible the buy-in on some of the RL options may still be too high. We’d need them to settle back down to the bulk range for consideration.

That being said, I do not want to limit myself fully to bulk rares, but I will set a limit of cards that retail on TCGplayer for no more than $5 to keep things interesting. I will maintain the same format I used in the first article for consistency. Today we will focus solely on the Ice Age, a set with a large print run where a lot of the rares are pretty cheap, with the most expensive card in the set being Necropotence.


Marton Stromgald is one of my pet favorites. I had a Commander deck built around him long ago that was incredibly aggressive, which made it good for winning games but bad for having fun with friends. It is a Reserved List rare from Ice Age and its price has definitely waxed and waned.

It’s actually been slowly rising since July 2020 where it used to sit at $3 and now is nearing $6, though plenty of played copies are available below $5. This card has a relatively unique ability and it’s power scales very quickly. The decks that feature this card typically want two things, lots of attacking creatures and ways to keep Marton from dying, by either making him unblockable or indestructible.

What it needs to break out:

  • A really powerful red or artifact token generator that spits out a lot of tokens quickly.

Glacial Crevasses is a card I’ve seen prove to be very powerful in certain Commander decks. It’s a very powerful repeatable Fog that costs no mana to activate. I’ve mainly seen it in aggressive red decks that operate on minimal mana and tend to make enemies at the table quickly, however, it’s also very abusable with decks that can play lands from the graveyard.

I’m especially interested in it right now because while nothing has been spoiled, many of us think that the upcoming Kaldheim set will include a return to snow-covered lands. It is very important to note that it requires a Snow-Covered Mountain to activate so it tends to get less relevant and desirable in decks that play more colors.

What it needs to break out:

  • At least 1 set that heavily promotes using Snow-Covered Mountains in some fashion, whether it be by benefiting by playing snow-covered lands in general or one that promotes playing mono-red heavily, similarly to how the Torment set promoted playing black heavily.

Infernal Darkness is very much like a poor man’s Contamination, with the difference being that it costs 1/15th of the price and the upkeep is cumulative so it’s harder to lock people out of the game. That being said, it doesn’t require you to maintain a creature to sacrifice each turn, and it can stall a board just as easily. It’s more of a short-term stall unless you can repeatedly bring it back.

What it needs to break out:

  • It needs a way to reduce or eliminate the pain from the cumulative upkeep. I would expect that if Ghen, Arcanum Weaver becomes a more popular commander that it would fit well in that style of deck as you’d also have access to Solemnity.

This card is very similar to the previously mentioned Infernal Darkness in that it fits well into a prison-style deck, but it’s also equally good in a 5 color or a “chaos” themed deck. Its potency obviously drops when your opponents play a lot of colors, but it’s extremely powerful again mono-colored decks.

It is important to note that its ability is a replacement effect so lands with multiple land types can still produce multiple colors, just different colors. It’s also important to note that it only affects lands with land types, so City of Brass can still tap for mana of any color.

What it needs to break out:

  • A shift in Commander to a lot of mono-colored decks or at most dual-colored decks.

I apologize if you’re noticing a trend here, but it looks like Ice Age seemed to have a lot of cards to mess with people’s mana and I didn’t even include Reality Twist. At one point this card neared $2, but has again returned to bulk status. Unlike the other cards mentioned earlier, this one hurts everyone’s lands equally and can very easily slow down a game and lock players out though. Note that nowadays, people play a lot more mana rocks in EDH, which can help them get out from under this card.

That being said, its ability is very powerful and it seems like it fits very well in decks that can both a) produce a lot of mana to keep paying the upkeep cost, and b) produce that mana from not lands. When I have seen this card played, it tends to be in mono-green Elf decks which meet both the criteria.

What it needs to break out:

  • A commander that promotes a lot of non-land mana production or a way to eliminate or repeatedly pay the cumulative upkeep easily.

Conclusion

As I mentioned in my previous article, this series is best with community involvement. I’d love to hear people’s feedback on cards they think would be good for this series, I only ask that they also let me know why they think the card has potential. You can reach me on our discord chat or leave a comment below.

Post categories: Commander, Free Insider, Ice Age


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David Schumann

David Schumann

David started playing Magic in the days of Fifth Edition, with a hiatus between Judgment to Shards. He's been playing Commander since 2009 and Legacy since 2010.

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