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CardName: Making Snow and Nonsnow Viable Cost: {C}{S} Type: Pow/Tgh: / Rules Text: Snow as a theme is quite popuar despite being very parasitic, because it is evocative. One weakness of snow-themes: Including Snow Basic Lands has no cost. Flavour Text: Set/Rarity: Conversation None

Making Snow and Nonsnow Viable
Snow as a theme is quite popuar despite being very parasitic, because it is evocative.
One weakness of snow-themes: Including Snow Basic Lands has no cost.
Updated on 12 May 2018 by SecretInfiltrator

History: [-]

2018-05-08 09:01:38: SecretInfiltrator created and commented on the card Making Snow and Nonsnow Viable

Disclaimer: For Limited there are plenty of cool tricks. While ideas to make this pleasing in Limited are okay, I'm wondering how to improve deck building decisions for Constructed with a snow theme.

Snow as a theme is quite popuar despite being very parasitic, because it is evocative. Hence many people want to make snow sets.

One weakness of snow-themes: Including Snow Basic Lands rather than normal (Nonsnow) Basic Lands into your deck has no cost. While I have plenty of cool (Heh! ^^) mechanics lined up to use with the snow supertype, there needs to be a counterbalance.

The counterbalance is usually to include hoser cards to disincentivize palying snow as a theme. But directly hosing a theme you want to encourage leads to less pleasing design. I want to encourage playing nonsnow basic lands rather than discourage playing snow cards.

To break it down:

  • Boreal Centaur gives you a bonus for playing snow. You are rewarded for your theme. => You are in control. Good feels.
  • Rime Dryad gives you a bonus for your opponent playing snow. They are punished for their theme. => Control is split. Bad feels.

There are two options:

  1. Remove snow basic lands and make snow mana/snow presence something less easily achieved.
  2. Use snow basic lands to play into expectations.

Expectations are something important. I want to work with the assumption that snow basic lands are available for Constructed in unlimited number: Under that condition (we are using option 2 as a design parameter that cannot be altered) are there any elegant solutions that don't fall into the feel-bad trap to encourage weighing snow basics vs. nonsnow basics rather than defaulting to snow basics?

Have cards care more about snow nonbasic/nonland permanents, or have more colored mana costs in the casting/activation costs of abilities to encourage using nonbasic fixing. Alternatively you can have effects that key off of "activating a nonmana ability of a snow permanent" to encourage nonbasics, but all of them are inelegant.

I've never been a really big fan of snow with the way it's implemented in MTG.

Alternatively, you could just not print snow basics in your set to keep it out of Standard Constructed.

Since sow lands are already a thing; you'd really annoy people if you made a snow-set and omitted them. It'd be like making a mirrodin set without artifacts. But, well, you do want to avoid anything insane like "affinity for snow".

How about snow-brid mana? Mana costs that can either be colour-or-2-snow? Would need to be careful what you put it on, as it allows colour-pie breaks. But unlike phyrexian pain-mana, it doesn't wreck the mana curve. And it then is more efficient to use normal mana, so a few decent non-snow lands (maybe storage lands? hibernating supplies of mana seems in theme) and you're golden.

But yeah, you don't want snow hosers. Just roll with it, is my recommendation.

Personally, I think the biggest problem is the existence of Snow-covered basics. There's nothing wrong with 'adding Snow comes with no cost' if the land sheet includes completely different cards with different executions.

For example, replace the basic land slot with the Boreal Shelf cycle. Now we have a cycle of snow lands that come with a drawback in Standard (they enter the battlefield tapped.) But they aren't strictly better than the other cards printed in standard (presuming you don't print the Stone Quarry cycle anywhere else.)

Or leave the dual etb lands in uncommon, and make a new cycle of common snow mono-lands, and a cycle of rare snow lands too. Are players having a problem buildind a mono-colored mono-snow deck? Good. That's the point! Otherwise, we need to keep designing cards that hose snow lands because snow lands are too good, and that's super annoying.

Potential for mono-color land slot land
Snow Land
­{t}: Add {c} to your mana pool.
­{1},{t}: Add {r}{r} to your mana pool.

I'm sure there are better ideas than this one for the common cycle. But this would do in a pinch.

As an aside, I find this card to be kind of funny:

Snow Machine
Snow Land
­{t}: Add {c} to your mana pool.
­{2}: Add {c} to your mana pool.

Better Common Land Cycle
Snow Land
~ enters the battlefield tapped.
­{t}: Add {r} to your mana pool.
Cycling {s}

Also, if you presume that players in Standard will be a bit limited by the amount of snow land choices they're willing to put in their deck, then suddenly Snowlandcycling becomes a good tool in your design box.

Drift Wizard
Snow Creature - Human Wizard
Snowlandcycling {2} ({2}, Discard this card: Search your library for a Snow Land card, reveal it, and put it into your hand, then shuffle your library.)

quote by Vitenka:

How about snow-brid mana?

Snow-brid mana is a basic mechanic I already have slotted up. But as I mention in the OP it's easy to make snow matter. The issue is that making snow matter is without trade-off.

I'm not searching for more ways to make snow matter. I'm searching for ways to make nonsnow not be eclipsed ina snow environment. Any mechanic that just makes snow basics an always superior choice to nonsnow is therefore not useful to the purpose of this thread.

And it then is more efficient to use normal mana, so a few decent non-snow lands (maybe storage lands? hibernating supplies of mana seems in theme) and you're golden.

I'm explicitly talking about basic lands. If your solution only works with nonbasic lands, then it's not a solution.

I'm searching for solutions that work within the design parameters given. I'm entirely capable of changing the parameters if that seems impossible and already have solved the issue outside those parameters to my satisfaction.

I agree with you that that is what snow needs to make it work. I don't know if it's possible but I like that sort of challenge :)

I suspect that if wizards revisit snow they will cut the gordian knot or slaughter a sacred cow somehow, e.g. by changing the rules for basic snow lands.

But ok, let me go through the possibilities that occur to me. This is going to involve some which are on the edge of your parameters, I think that's unavoidable, but I think it's still useful to show examples coming as close as possible, as opposed to ignoring the requirements entirely.

One possibility is not having the traditional snow lands freely available. I think that's the current state of the rules -- the basic lands are reprinted each set, but the snow lands are not standard legal unless they're printed. So they could print ANOTHER set of basic lands (or non-basic lands with any number allowed) with a drawback, e.g. ETBT snow plains, or only print a snow wastes etc. Modern would still be a free for all of all-snow lands in any deck that wants them. I think that's not really satisfying but it may be what happens.

Another is to accept all-snow-lands as the default for any deck that wants them, or leave them out entirely, but have snow tribal, creatures that care about you having other snow creatures.

Another possibility would be to explicitly care about NON snow. Either have "frost" creatures which need EXACTLY ONE snow mana (so you need a mix). Or have snow creatures that need snow mana and thaw creatures that need non-snow mana. So people need to decide which combination they go with.

I'm sure I considered some other snow idea recently but I can't remember what it is.

One possibility is to presume that basic snow lands won't be drafted. That they will be treated like Wastes in Oath of the Gatewatch, there for the taking.

I mean, if we presume that Basic Snow Lands is a thing (and we aren't bound by financial considerations) then I like this strategy. It forces the issue. If your solution to Snow doesn't work under these conditions, then I'm not sure you have a very good solution to snow in the first place.

If we're presuming this is the setup, then I think I'd start looking for ways to give bennies to players who don't use snow 100% of the time. For example, printing an Anti-Rimewind Taskmage.

Anti-Rimewind Taskmage
Dry Creature
­{1}, {t}: You may tap or untap target permanent. Activate this ability only if you control four or more non-snow lands.

Other spells can be designed to take advantage of players who are playing an even mix of cards:

Partially Frozen Golem
Artifact Creature - Golem
~'s power is equal to the number of non-snow lands you control, and its toughness is equal to the number of snow lands you control.

(Huh. It turns out the asterisks don't appear in this field. I'm too lazy to look up their html number [but too picky to not write out this overlong explanation] so just presume the Xs are asterisks.)

I could go on, but I presume you get where I'm going.

??? You totally had to draft Wastes. That's why there were so many different ways of producing colorless mana

There seems to be some confusion about how basic lands work in draft. My base assumption is that forn Limited land stations only contain the five cards that share their name with a basic land type in unlimited number.

All other basic lands are not available in unlimited number in Limited. (This is how it has been in both Coldsnap and Oath of the Gatewatch as far as I know; Waste and Snow-Covered Mountain had to actually be drafted).

This is why I am searching for explicit solutions for Constructed. In draft the land situation is pretty much self-correcting due to this.

The Anti-Rimewind approach exists, but is very brute force; explicitly calling out "don't play with my theme" is usually not a good idea, though it might work.

I ponder myself something like this:

Season's Turn {2}{b}
As an additional cost to cast ~, discard a land card.
Search your library for a snow card, put it into your hand, then shuffle your library. If you discarded a snow card, search your library for a nonsnow card instead.

This at least encourages mixing and matching snow with nonsnow.

Another thing going through my head:

Moraine Stalker {3}{g}
Creature - Yeti
When ~ ETBs, choose a basic land type. Search your library for up to two cards of that type with diffferent names, reveal them and put them into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

A more subtle application of Partially Frozen Golem would also be to include Awakened Amalgam.

Oh, or this isn't ideal either, but how about hosers that scale with how many snow lands the opponent has (or with a fixed cut-off). They might even be prominent snow spells themselves. Using hosers to communicate a desired metagame is usually not great, but at least then you would be clearly communicating "play one or two snow lands but not four or five" not "you should play snow except maybe you shouldn't except you should really".

@Jack V, I think what he's looking for is positive reinforcement for playing nonsnow lands, rather than negative reinforcement for not playing snow lands.

@Secret, I like the updated idea of Partially Frozen Golem and Season's Turn. I'm not as sold on Moraine Stalker, but in a set that would be surrounded by multicolor sets, I can see it being a good fit and a nice way to encourage running non-snow basics.

Riffing off of the themes of Season's Turn, you could do a lot with nonsnow -> snow, snow -> nonsnow as a theme for {g}{b} and maybe {u}.

Frost // Thaw

{g} // {3}{g}


As an additional cost to cast Frost, sacrifice a nonsnow land.

Search your library for a snow land and put it onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library.


As an additional cost to cast Thaw, sacrifice each snow land you control.

Search your library for that many nonsnow lands and put them onto the battlefield tapped. Then shuffle your library.

Not a very good design, but focusing on seasonal changes themes like a good way to encourage playing both types of basic lands in a deck.

As a general theme though, it'll be a bit harder to implement this sort of idea in colors ({w}, {r}, and {b}) that don't involve land shenanigans, unless you specifically reference non-snow mana - but then, you'll get headscratchers of "why would this be in a set that has snow mana?". There's no mechanical reward for playing with non-Snow right now, and given how playing with non-Snow is the default anyway, any Snow-themed set that doesn't encourage you to play with Snow lands and makes will end up feeling like a dud. To encourage people to play with snow lands (for most people, that means buying a whole subset of new basic lands that have an expiration date), you need to provide a strong reason to. So you'd have to encourage snow at the same time as encouraging non-snow if you want to make nonsnow basics not strictly better in any design.

Again, this is solely an issue of Snow being a terrible mechanic to begin with. I'm honestly not sure why people like it so much.

@Dude: Ah! I never drafted during Oath of the Gatewatch. I just saw the results... that most stores would have a giant pile of Wastes next to their basic land piles in their stores. That was different from Snow-Covered Lands, since I never saw stores just handing the snow lands out. I made the (wrong) presumption that that meant players had free access to as many wastes as they wanted.

I still think giving players unlimited snow lands in limited is the clutch answer, though. Otherwise, you either end up with useless limited chaff, or insane constructed cards, or something that nobody wants. Wizards does it this way because they are restricted by the cost of printing so many new free lands for players. We aren't.

If wizards sold packs of 5-of-each-art full-art snow lands; people would buy them.

Even if there wasn't a promise of an upcoming snow set.

But yeah; I think the answer i "How do you make non-snow important in a snow set" is... "Why would you want to do that?"

Sure, not every deck archetype would use snow, you'd want a couple that didn't much care one way or the other. But those decks don't see a disadvantage from snow land. So what's the actual issue?

The actual issue is that snow basic lands are only meaningful different from nonsnow basic lands if there is a reason to weigh them against each other.

If you can replace every nonsnow basic land with a snow basic land without notable downside you have "strictly* better basic lands"

*) by commonly used standards

They already are that, yes.

I guess you could add some in-set cards that care about non-snow-land and non-snow-mana. Maybe a faction that's trying to thaw everything out.

But it really feels like pushing against the direction you want to go. You want snow, and ice, and terrifying abonmbinations and warm cocoa and...

Otherwise it's like making a dragon set and putting, I don't know, morph creatures in as a big theme; that all care about non-dragons on the battlefield. Why would you even do that?

Snow basics were a mistake. They shouldn't have had the Basic type.

So I tried out a few designs in temporary storage that would care about non-snow mana.

First, outside of a snow environment my cards look like normal cards with a wacky add-on clause for what would seem a narrow situation.

Now two of the cards I nerfed if snow was involved. This just looks ugly, and like I said, outside of the a constructed environment with snow, the card functions normally without any nerfing.

The other design referenced only non-snow, with no option for snow use (though a snow land could source green mana for the activation cost). This looks like one of those old Magic cards with an arbitrary restriction that serves no purpose beyond inelegance.

EDIT: Clearly, Hot Basic Plains/Island/etc. are the answer and you need a hot vs. cold set.

This doesn't directly address the basic issue and it kind of falls under that hosing camp, but... What if 'hating snow' (freezing stuff) was made into a theme of its own that also 'happened' to hose that particular archetype?

I really couldn't nail it down, but there might be something there with these examples:

{1}{b} Sorcery
Destroy target creature if it's snow. Otherwise, put an ice counter on it and return this spell to its owner’s hand. (Permanents with ice counters on them are snow.)

{2}{u} Creature 1/4
{t}: Put an ice counter on target permanent. (Permanents with ice counters on them are snow.)
{t}: Exchange control of target land you control and target snow land an opponent controls.

{w} Instant
Target permanent becomes snow until end of turn. Activated abilities of snow permanents can’t be activated this turn.
Draw a card.

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