8

Ever since cards like Arcum's Astrolabe and Ice-Fang Coatl were printed, there've been payoffs for having snow covered lands instead of basics, with an entirely new archetype being spawned (Snowko).

Hence there are reasons to run snow-covered lands instead of "normal" basic lands. Are there any reasons to run the regular basic lands instead of snow-covered lands? If not, then one might as well use snow-covered lands since it can conceivably bluff the opponent into thinking they're playing against a different deck, at least for the first turn.

7
  • 4
    small terminology point here: Snow-covered lands can also be basics. So the distinction is rather snow-covered basics vs "normal" basics. Your point/question still stands.
    – tehfurbolg
    Dec 23 '20 at 14:25
  • 4
    The main reason to run normal basics is that the snow-covered basics have ugly art... Dec 23 '20 at 15:21
  • Card Search +destroy, +nonbasic, +land
    – Mazura
    Dec 24 '20 at 3:39
  • 3
    @Mazura Snow-covered lands are basics.
    – Allure
    Dec 24 '20 at 3:56
  • 1
    @Mazura try "snow-covered" -- As in DenisS's answer, Icequake and Thermokarst are such land destruction spells, although neither are playable.
    – Allure
    Dec 24 '20 at 4:20
11

There are plenty of cards that hose snow lands, in addition to the cards that @tehfurbolg posted.

  • Avalanche is MLD that only targets snow lands.
  • Cold Snap deals damage to each player during their upkeep equal to the number of snow lands they control.
  • Freyalise's Radiance prevents snow permanents from untapping.
  • Icequake and Thermokarst are land destruction that has an additional effect if the targeted land is a snow land.
  • Legions of Lim-Dûl and Rime Dryad have Snow Landwalk.
  • Rimefeather Owl has it's power and toughness equal to the number of snow permanents on the battlefield.
  • Ronom Hulk has protection from Snow, which probably doesn't do much with snow basics but if the land gets animated then they can't block Ronom Hulk.
  • The recntly spoiled "Reidane, God of Justice" // "Reidane's Shield" from Kaldheim has a static effect that causes snow lands your opponents control to enter the battlefield tapped
6
  • 2
    My first reaction was "wow! I might want some of these cards in my sideboard!" but then I realize all of these cards are unplayable =/ Freyalise's Radiance & Cold Snap have the best effects, but the cumulative upkeep really is a killer.
    – Allure
    Dec 24 '20 at 1:09
  • @Allure Legions of Lim-Dul and Rime Dryad seem decent enough creatures for their mana costs. I'd play them in Limited, at least, if they were reprinted in a modern set.
    – nick012000
    Dec 25 '20 at 11:06
  • 3
    One new one from Kaldheim - Reidane, God of Justice // Reidane's Shield - could possibly be playable in Modern/Legacy D&T given the tax effect on the back face. Jan 14 at 11:13
  • @PhilipKendall saw that get spoiled last night and immediately thought of this answer, will update shortly
    – DenisS
    Jan 14 at 14:46
  • @Allure The cumulative upkeep gets painful - but your opponent having no land for 2 or 3 turns because Radiance has kept them all tapped isn't too expensive and can be very worthwhile - it doesn't have to last the whole game to be useful. Also remember most of these are pretty old, when the powerlevel of MtG had stabilized lower than the first cards, and lower than now after power creep.
    – Andrew
    Jan 18 at 15:51
5

I believe the possibility of "normal" basics being better than snow-covered basics is very slim, but it exists. Some cards require an opponent or, more specifically, the defending player to control at least one snow land. An example is Ronom Serpent. In these cases it would be better for you to control no snow lands, but I would say for the most cases snow basics are (slightly) superior over "normal" basics.

You can find other cards like this by searching for "defending" and "snow" on scryfall.

One exception to this are decks playing Field of the Dead; that cares about lands with different names, which makes it very appealing to not go to snow basics completely but run a mix of snow and normal basics. As of late 2020, this is definitely not just a theoretical concern in Modern as Field of the Dead is very commonly played in the Tier 1 Primeval Titan decks.

2
  • "for the most cases snow basics are (slightly) superior" - most / all cards that care about other players' snow lands seem to be bad. If that is accurate, unless you're personally playing those cards, the opposite of what you said would be true: for most cases playing snow basics would be slightly worse for you (or the same). Meaning, to give the best chance of winning, you shouldn't add them to your deck unless you have some synergies with them.
    – NotThatGuy
    Dec 24 '20 at 9:22
  • 2
    @NotThatGuy There is value in making your opponent believe you are playing Snowko (or similar) when you're not, as it means they may make suboptimal plays. Given that none of the anti-snow cards are actually played in competitive Magic, the effective downside of snow lands is zero, so the small amount of positive deception value means playing snow lands is favoured. Dec 24 '20 at 13:29
5

@DenisS has given a good list of in-game reasons.

There is an out-of-game reason as well, namely cost. Regular basic lands have been printed so many times that they are in bountiful supply and quite cheap (unless you splurge and go for the full art ones). As of 2020, Snow-covered basic lands have only been printed in three sets (Ice Age, Coldsnap, and Modern Horizons), and thus have actual cost per card.

In 2020, this was at least a 10x price difference. A set of 500 regular basic lands sold for around $20, so $0.04 per card. Meanwhile, a set of 50 snow covered basic lands sold for around $25, so $0.50 per card. While not enormous, it's also not a trivial replacement. This is an extra $5 - $10 per deck (depending on how many basic lands you run). If you have no use at all for the snow mana, it's probably not worth it.

Additionally, there are many fewer art options for snow-covered lands. If you like pretty lands (Ravnica are my personal favorite) or if you like having lands that match the theme of your deck, there's not much to pick from in the snow-covered variety. As of 2020, Including secret lair drops (which are vastly more expensive), there are only 4 different art options for a snow-covered land (as each set only did one type of art for each), where basic lands have hundreds of art options.

5
  • 2
    I believe it is just about confirmed we're getting snow lands in Kaldheim, so the price difference may come down a lot. Dec 24 '20 at 13:36
  • I was gonna add this to my answer before you put this in, because it's absolutely a concern. +1
    – DenisS
    Dec 24 '20 at 16:55
  • @PhilipKendall they kind of have to, since they've brought back the snow symbol for mana as seen in the Blessing of Frost spoiler.
    – Andrew
    Dec 24 '20 at 18:18
  • @Andrew My understanding is that Blessing of Frost is strictly a leak rather than official at this stage. But if it's a fake, it's a very, very good one. Dec 24 '20 at 18:34
  • 1
    The challenge of talking about prices is that it does change with new printings; that's why I wrote much of my answer in past tense with reference to 2020 in particular. That said, I don't expect snow covered lands to ever reach parity in price with basic lands. There's just such a monstrous difference in supply.
    – Zags
    Dec 25 '20 at 22:34
1

There no real reason to use normal basics (there are things that you could argue on a technicality are reasons such as the cards listed in other answers that destroy snow permanents - but none of those reasons are applicable in usual play). It's like arguing that Forest is better than Tropical Island because Tropical island dies to Tsunami. It's technically true, but mostly irrelevant.

In fact there is a reason to always use snow basics in any format that allows them: As soon as you play a non-snow basic you've immediately revealed to your opponent that your deck does not contain Arcum's Astrolabe, or Ice-Fang Coatl, or anything else that references snow. Sure the uncertainty won't last long, but it may change decisions made in the first few turns that change the course of the whole match.

In other words strategically (except possibly in an open deck list tournament) you should always use snow basics if you really care about getting every possible last tiny sliver of advantage.

2
  • 1
    There are reasons to play Forest instead of Tropical Island though - to avoid cards such as Wasteland, Field of Ruin and Blood Moon, and to have search targets against cards such as Assassin's Trophy and Path to Exile.
    – Allure
    Dec 25 '20 at 20:46
  • @Allure Yes, there are. Which is why my analogy did not reference those cards. Those examples do not apply to snow-covered lands as they are still basics.
    – Tim B
    Dec 28 '20 at 15:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.