Glacial Chasm reads:

Cumulative upkeep—Pay 2 life. (At the beginning of your upkeep, put an age counter on this permanent, then sacrifice it unless you pay its upkeep cost for each age counter on it.)

When Glacial Chasm enters the battlefield, sacrifice a land.

Creatures you control can't attack.

Prevent all damage that would be dealt to you.

Wondering what the strategy to use this card is? In a 2-player game, the game is essentially over regardless who controls the card. Please give me your insight, thanks.

  • 8
    What do you mean by 'the game is essentially over regardless who controls the card'
    – diego
    Sep 19, 2016 at 2:56
  • 6
    Even as a very, very casual Magic player, I can see that the game isn't over when this card is played: I can cast spells at my opponent, or they can do stuff to remove Glacial Chasm from the table. I'm sure all other sorts of obscure ways exist as well :-) Sep 19, 2016 at 4:18
  • 1
    I'm voting to reopen, because while I think it may have not been worded clearly, the author appears to be confused why a player would use such a card; it doesn't sound that different from the "what is the point of blinking a creature", or "Why would I want to increase the costs of creatures that I cast?" questions.
    – GendoIkari
    Sep 19, 2016 at 14:59
  • Agreed, it doesn't seem to be primarily opinion-based: it's not asking "is this good" or "what is the best possible deck for this", just "I don't understand why you'd play this, what can it do?"
    – Cascabel
    Sep 19, 2016 at 16:48
  • 1
    I edited to clarify and also included Glacial Chasm's current oracle text (the text from its gatherer entry), rather than what's printed on the image you'd used. Note that the oracle text often includes updates to make cards easier to understand, so when you're looking at older cards and getting confused, it's a great idea to look in gatherer. (There are also sometimes rulings that can help you out, though not in this case.)
    – Cascabel
    Sep 19, 2016 at 16:52

6 Answers 6


It's a little hard to tell from your question, but it sounds like it might be worth making sure you understand what the card does.

First off, "Cumulative upkeep - Pay 2 life". The definition from the comprehensive rules is:

702.23a ... “At the beginning of your upkeep, if this permanent is on the battlefield, put an age counter on this permanent. Then you may pay [cost] for each age counter on it. If you don’t, sacrifice it.” ...

So the first upkeep after you play this, you'll pay 2 life, the next you'll pay 4 life, then 6 life, and so on, until you decide not to pay and sacrifice it instead. So assuming you start at 20 life, and aren't gaining any, the longest you can keep it is three turns, at which point you'll have paid 2+4+6=12 life, and paying 8 more would kill you. You could also sacrifice it after less than that if you don't want to pay that much life.

In the meantime, it's preventing all damage that'd be dealt to you. So if your opponent is trying to kill you with damage, which is reasonably common, you're pretty much invincible for three turns. If it prevents more damage than the life you've paid to hold onto it, you've come out ahead on life (though you'll be down two lands).

So, is that useful? Could be, in the right sort of deck.

If your deck is one that struggles to survive until it sets up for victory, that could be quite helpful. Maybe a couple turns of preventing damage is all you need, and then you can kill your opponent before you even have to worry about not being able to pay the upkeep. Maybe all you really need is to prevent damage for one turn, and then you'll be able to stop what your opponent is doing some other way, and can sacrifice it before you even need to pay life. If you're in situations like this, you don't care at all about whether your creatures can attack, and you may not even have any creatures.

On the other hand, if you don't manage to get ready to win the game in time, you'll eventually have to sacrifice it and your opponent will be able to hit you again - and you'll have been paying life, so you'll be in worse shape to survive.

In all, this is a pretty niche effect. On top of that, it's an old card that can only be played in formats with all kinds of other powerful old cards, so it faces pretty stiff competition for inclusion in serious decks. There are plenty of other ways to stave off defeat for a couple turns (including dealing more directly with threats), and often it's better to try to win faster than to try to just delay your opponent.

But, nonetheless, it still sometimes sees play in legacy lands decks like this one. That's a deck built around using lands to provide effects, so it's actually a bit of an upside that Glacial Chasm is a land: it can be searched up with Crop Rotation or brought back from your graveyard with Life from the Loam. It'll still only be useful in certain situations, so it's just a one-of in a sixty card deck, and many lands decks don't include it at all. But some do, so there you go: sometimes useful.

  • 16
    I want to emphasize how powerful Glacial Chasm can be in Legacy Lands. Since you can recur it with Life from the Loam, and recur Life from the Loam with Dredge, you can do the following every turn: Sacrifice Chasm instead of paying for the upkeep cost, then Dredge Loam instead of drawing a card, then cast Loam to get back Chasm (plus possibly other lands), then replay Chasm. That way, you can get the benefit every turn without having to pay any life.
    – murgatroid99
    Sep 19, 2016 at 18:11
  • Recommend removing your one-of caveat. If the deck is designed around sitting beyond Glacial Chasm, there will likely be more than one in the deck to lock down combat damage and direct damage. Drawing into, or searching for, another copy, is a benefit: resets the Cumulative Upkeep, and you can sacrifice the first to the second. Sep 23, 2016 at 23:54
  • @DrunkCynic When I said it was a one-of, I meant in the specific deck I linked to. When I wrote that, I searched on MTGGoldfish with the default time period (last few weeks) for legacy decks playing Glacial Chasm. There were only two, and both played it as a one-of. There are now nine, and it's a one-of in all of them too, with no extras in the sideboard. A deck designed entirely around Glacial Chasm would play more as you say, surely, but Legacy Lands doesn't seem to tend to. It has other things to defend against, it needs to be able to cast its spells, and so on.
    – Cascabel
    Sep 24, 2016 at 0:09

Glacial Chasm all but nullifies combat and direct damage as long as it's in play.

However, there are more ways to win - for example, you can mill your opponent's deck.

The other consideration is that it only has its effect while it's in play. So if your opponent has one out, you can look for a way to remove it - red has a couple of land destruction spells, blue has a few "return land to hand" ones.

Strategically, presumably you play this because you can suffer a few turns worth of life loss in return for having a break from taking and dealing combat damage, which would suggest that you use it while you're setting up something big. Maybe you have a lot of direct damage cards. Maybe you need a few turns to get your combo together in hand. Maybe you want to spend a lot of life on the cumulative upkeep, because you have a card that lets you swap life totals when you're down to nearly nothing and something that will deal just enough damage to finish your opponent off.


Glacial Chasm is actually a very useful card for a few reasons, there's many ways to abuse the effect of that card, and removing a land, while possible, is still one of the harder things to do in Magic.

Let's start with the downside to Glacial Chasm, paying increasing amounts of life each turn due to cumulative upkeep. If played at full life this would give a 4 turn clock 2, 4, 6, 8 life before you have paid your 20 life. Cumulative upkeep costs give you the option to not pay and sacrifice the Chasm. There are other ways around this cost, most notably the card Eon Hub if you don't have an upkeep to pay in, you don't have to pay, or using Crucible of Worlds to let you replay the Chasm each turn after not paying the cost, that will get expensive in terms of sacrificing other lands, so you may want a way to play multiple lands each turn, such as Exploration. One thing to be aware of, though the card is rarely played this way, someone putting Paradox Haze on you will cut your clock in half, giving you an extra upkeep, Eon Hub would skip both upkeeps however. You can also temporarily mitigate this effect with cards like Transcendence or Phyrexian Unlife, you still have to have enough life to pay the cost, you cannot pay your way into negatives.

Now the second effect - Sacrificing a land, this is a one time cost to play the card, unless you are in some way replaying the card to get around the upkeep cost. It's pretty minor compared to the other effects on the card.

The third ability - Creatures you control can't attack - This only matters to you if your deck wants to attack, combat is only one of the ways to win in magic, if you're using Chasm, this is not likely the way you are trying to win.

The fourth ability is what makes the card useful - Prevent all damage that would be dealt to you. Reducing opponent life to 0 is the most common win condition, this card removes that as a win condition, if you handle the upkeep cost. And note this effect prevents damage from any source, not just combat like the restriction prevents for you.

You still have a lot of win conditions available, and since you're building the deck knowing combat won't be your win, you're building around this restriction. You still have other win conditions:

You can even win with combat, if you can remove and replay the Chasm each turn, like mentioned with Crucible of worlds, you replay on your post combat main phase, letting you attack when you want to. You just need to be aware as long as its' gone you are vulnerable still to non-combat damage at instant speed.

  • Transcendence and a cannot lose the game effect would let you pay pretty much indefinitely.
    – Andrew
    Nov 23, 2018 at 15:56
  • My previous comment is incorrect. Trancendence would trigger and fail to lose the game infinitely, so a player removed one of the cards creating that loop (say naturalizing Trancendence) it would cause a mandatory loop draw.
    – Andrew
    Feb 28, 2019 at 16:06

Memory is a little fuzzy, but this card appeared in one of the Magic: The Gathering magazines, after someone paired it with Soul Echo to get pseudo-invincibility. Either the magazine or possibly another source then clarified or stated a ruling that you cannot pay life that you do not have, nullifying the combination. But it was interesting nonetheless.

Soul Echo reads:

Soul Echo enters the battlefield with X echo counters on it. You don't lose the game for having 0 or less life. At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice Soul Echo if there are no echo counters on it. Otherwise, target opponent may choose that for each 1 damage that would be dealt to you until your next upkeep, you remove an echo counter from Soul Echo instead.

I don't know if the paying of life rule/clarification existed prior to the combination or not.


Use Eon Hub. Skip upkeep all together, so it's free to keep.


I actually use Glacial Chasm in a casual deck of mine. It is a Sultai aggressive mill deck that can plough through an opponent's deck by turn four or five and usually by turn seven if I'm playing defensively with the few creatures in the deck (tarmogoyf, nighthowler). Glacial Chasm can often times let me survive the additional turn or two I need to finish off my opponent's library.

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