Last updated on December 14, 2023
Replicating Ring | Illustration by Olena Richards
Colder weather is approaching rapidly (in the Northern Hemisphere at least), so what better time than now to talk about snow cards? Their return in Kaldheim was well-received by fans and with good reason.
Something that sets a lot of snow permanents apart is how they require snow mana (mana generated by snow cards) to play them or to activate their abilities. It’s more than an additional supertype: snow can also be a strategy by itself, enabling new and interesting game styles.
Dark Depths (Coldsnap) | Illustration by Stephan Martiniere
“Snow” (previously known as snow-covered) is a supertype that works as an identifying characteristic for permanents and spells. The only real functionality is related to mana generation: any mana generated by snow permanents counts as snow mana. This snow mana is used by specific cards to pay either their casting cost or ability costs.
Quite a few cards care about other snow cards with either hostile or support effects. Lots of snow cards work outside of the context of decks focused on the snow supertype, but the best of them tend to work better while paired with each other.
Sculptor of Winter is far from the greatest mana generator, but it’s a solid way to keep your mana in a snow deck. It’s especially good if you have Glittering Frost enchanting something like a bounce land so you can generate around 6 mana in one turn. It’s obviously not the strongest play, but it’s a nice way to play a snow deck.
Blessing of Frost is good for similar reasons to Sculptor of Winter. Most snow lands are either basic or taplands, so the mana base for a snow deck can be a bit narrow. This card lets you turn non-snow lands into snow lands while adding some extra mana. It’s great support in snow decks.
Rime Tender is basically a better version of Sculptor of Winter since it lets you untap any snow permanent, not just lands. Almost any card that lets you untap permanents can be considered good, even if it has limitations like this one with the snow type. There are ways to make any permanent snow to properly make use of this card.
Plenty of versions of Banishing Light have appeared lately, and it’s definitely a useful enchantment, whatever you think of it. On Thin Ice is a similar card, except it only casts one mana. It’s easier to destroy since it can also fall to land destruction, but there aren’t that many people who play ways to destroy basic lands.
Graven Lore would be a decent card in any regular deck since it lets you draw three cards for a relatively decent mana cost. In a snow-focused deck, it’ll also let you scry for five before you draw. It’s no Ancestral Recall, but it gets the job done.
Phyrexian Soulgorger is a great card in any deck that can keep up with its cumulative upkeep cost. The best part is that if you don’t really want to sacrifice any of your other creatures, this card can always get rid of itself. As a big fan of old Phyrexia, I also have to give kudos to this card for truly feeling like a threatening massive Phyrexian horror, unlike things like Dragon Engine.
Thermopod keeps up with the sacrifice theme. Having a free sacrifice outlet is always a good thing, even if getting a single red mana isn’t always the best. It gets a bonus since most sacrifice decks are Rakdos (), so this card fits right in.
This card’s abilities make for an amazing combination. Ohran Viper’s low power, high toughness stats are great. Taking damage from it doesn’t make much of a difference, but blocking it requires losing a relatively strong creature. This means you’re likely to get a nice number of hits in, which in turn means a decent card advantage.
If you played the Kaldheim Standard, you know this card can be extremely annoying. Spirit of the Aldergard was probably at its best during its time in Standard, but it can still safely find a place in dedicated snow EDH decks.
If there’s one creature that has become iconic of Dominaria’s Ice Age, it’s Marit Lage. This massive creature only exists in token form, but it has two iconic cards. Marit Lage's Slumber is the newer and weaker of them, but it’s still a great card in any snow deck.
Shimmerdrift Vale is a more than decent card on snow decks and a good color-fixer in any deck. Coming in tapped makes it a hard sell when there are other better mana fixers, but snow lands have a narrower pool of options.
There were some really good snow cards during Kaldheim’s Standard rotation, so there’ll naturally be a few staples from it. Ascendant Spirit is a great early game drop, but its level-up-style abilities make it a great drop for when you have enough mana to dump on it as soon as it hits the field.
The main problem when building a snow deck is that the pool of snow lands is pretty small. Basic snow lands are great and get the job done for the most part, but you absolutely need a more varied mana base in formats like EDH.
There are two cycles of snow dual lands. The first are from Coldsnap and are the worst of the two since they’re simply tap lands. The second cycle came during Kaldheim and are much better because they have basic land types, allowing you to get them with fetch lands or Farseek.
Icebreaker Kraken is basically a very in-the-face finisher for snow decks. This card aims at entering and swiftly taking an opponent down. This turns into a less useful card in multiplayer games because you’ll maybe take down a single opponent. A card this big will also put a pretty big target on your back, but it’s still an amazing and powerful card.
This may be no Mutavault in terms of power, but it’s not a terrible replacement for it either. Transforming it into a creature can be hard in non-snow decks (for obvious reasons), but Faceless Haven can prove useful as a creature thanks to its vigilance.
The most restrictive part of Arcum's Astrolabe is that you need snow mana to cast it. Once it hits play, it’s a really good card. For a single mana, you draw a card and get a consistent way to fix your mana colors. This can be a solid card in almost any deck if you have ways to get past the restrictive casting cost.
Having snow mana sources can be a great advantage for Draugr Necromancer’s ability. Don’t let that stop you from playing it in EDH! There’s tons of mana rocks that can generate any color, and this card specifically fits right in with a decent Prosper, Tome-Bound decklist.
Blood on the Snow is another good card in regular decks that gets much better in snow-focused decks. The ability to cast a board wipe that lets you choose between creatures or planeswalkers for 6 mana is decent, not perfect. Casting it for snow mana also lets you bring back a creature or planeswalker from your graveyard. The important part is that the card you bring back can be any card, or just cards put there with the board wipe spell.
There sure are better mana rocks, but Coldsteel Heart has the advantage of being a snow artifact. It’s a must-have for any deck that plays cards that need snow mana (you wouldn’t know of any, would you?). All things considered, it’s far from the worst rock out there.
I’d personally recommend this card more as part of the 99 in a zombie deck than as a commander. Narfi, Betrayer King can be a useful lord, and it’ll pay off if you’re playing enough snow mana sources. It’s not good enough to build a whole snow zombie deck around it.
I think Moritte of the Frost can be a fun card in the right deck, but it ends up being limited by its mana cost. It makes up for that by being snow and by entering the field with two +1/+1 counters if you copy a creature. It’s far from a bad card, but it could be better.
If you want to build a snow-focused deck, this is your best possible commander. Jorn, God of Winter has a more than solid effect on early turns or more aggressive builds, while Kaldring, the Rimestaff is a safer and extremely useful recursion tool.
Adarkar Valkyrie may have a high mana cost, but it makes up for it with its extremely useful ability. This is a safe inclusion in most EDH decks and especially ones focused on sacrifice strategies or LTB/ETB effects.
This card’s abilities may seem expensive at first, and you wouldn’t be wrong to think that. Svella, Ice Shaper’s first ability can be extremely good in any deck that can copy tokens. Even if you can’t take advantage of the mana tokens, you can still use its second ability in any deck with a reasonable amount of mana. It’s a great inclusion in many EDH decks.
At this point, I think it should go without saying why mana dorks are great. Boreal Druid may not be as good as dorks who make colored mana, but it has the advantage of being a snow permanent. It’s another must-have in any snow deck.
Search for Glory is already a great fit as a tutor in most decks that play white. The ability to also search any snow permanent makes it great for snow decks because it can go from being a ramp card to a tutor that finds something like Icebreaker Kraken.
I’ve already mentioned how Ohran Viper is a great card thanks to its two abilities. It doubles down on that and gives those two abilities to every creature you have. You’ll either draw tons of cards or take out a ton of your opponents’ creatures.
The sheer number of times I’ve had my Arena game ruined thanks to this pain of a card is absurd. Blizzard Brawl is the objectively better version of Prey Upon, and any deck with enough snow permanents will make it shine brightly. Make sure you’re the one playing it because you’ll otherwise end up hating it.
There are many decks where this card may fall a bit flat, but Replicating Ring can be an incredible way to get absurd amounts of mana sources if you have a proliferate deck. It’s a must-have in any snow deck thanks to the mana limitations they have.
Marit Lage’s original card is possibly the most well-known snow card in the game. Dark Depths by itself is a threatening and imposing card, but there’s a fun combo with Thespian's Stage where the copy technically doesn’t come into play, so it already has no counters and immediately places the Marit Lage token into play. You can have an indestructible 20/20 in play on turn three or four if you play your cards right.
The best way to pay off snow it by using cards that work well with them. Some, but not all, are snow cards themselves.
Dead of Winter is an amazing board wipe for relatively cheap that also spares most if not all your creatures. It’s just an incredible card in a snow EDH deck.
Rimewind Cryomancer’s ability can be particularly useful to keep your opponents’ commanders at bay.
The first snow cards showed up as basic lands during Ice Age. Then Coldsnap, Future Sight, Commander 2019, Modern Horizons, and Kaldheim all featured the snow supertype to varying degrees. I’d say Kaldheim was the set to best utilize it by far.
Snow is mostly a descriptive supertype. Its main purpose is to identify cards as snow for the effects of other cards that care about the supertype. The most important distinction between snow and non-snow cards would be when it comes to mana. The mana from snow lands and any other snow cards is considered a specific type of mana that’s used to pay for some card’s casting or ability costs. This can make snow strategies a bit restrictive without the right mana base.
There used to be a misconception that snow creatures and spells could exclusively be played if you paid their mana values with snow mana. This would’ve made the archetype more restrictive and harder to play, and it threw snow into obscurity a bit. Greater access to the internet and a refresher of the rules with Kaldheim have fixed this.
Adarkar Valkyrie (Coldsnap) | Illustration by Jeremy Jarvis
I’m unsure when it comes to snow cards and their appearances throughout the game. They’re really flavorful and extremely fun to play with, and I wish they’d get more support than they do. I also like that they’re something that’s only featured once in a while. An overexposure to snow cards would make them boring. An EDH precon focused around them could be fun to get though.
Do you like snow cards? Do you use them in focused decks, or do you sprinkle it around? Let me know in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord.
Have a good one, and I’ll see you next time!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: