It Snow Game: Brewing Bant and Temur

Modern Horizons has deeply affected the format, and Core 2020 is now poised to emerge and shake things up further. But behind all that ruckus, a storm has been brewing—rather, I’ve been brewing up a snowstorm. Today we’ll look at my adventures with Ice-Fang Coatl in Temur and Bant.

Dreadhorde Snow

This shell combined a lot of the more recent cards I wanted to test, including Dreadhorde Arcanist, which I’d messed around with previously. Other newcomers included Wrenn and Six, a card I’d enjoyed thoroughly in GR Moon; Crashing Footfalls, a 0-cost spell to cheat out; and Prismatic Vista, Arcum’s Astrolabe, and Ice-Fang Coatl, the snow package.

I started with Temur for access to Lightning Bolt and threw in Skred for good measure.

Dreadhorde Snow, by Jordan Boisvert

Creatures (12)
Dreadhorde Arcanist
Tarmogoyf
Ice-Fang Coatl

Planeswalkers (4)
Wrenn and Six

Artifacts (4)
Arcum’s Astrolabe

Enchantments (2)
Blood Moon

Instants (13)
Thought Scour
Lightning Bolt
Skred
Tarfire

Sorceries (10)
Sleight of Hand
Faithless Looting
Crashing Footfalls

Lands (15)
Prismatic Vista
Misty Rainforest
Wooded Foothills
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Snow-Covered Mountain
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Island
Sideboard (15)
Damping Sphere
Reclamation Sage
Alpine Moon
Ancient Grudge
Surgical Extraction
Life Goes On
Feed the Clan
Anger of the Gods
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Between the cantrips and the wealth of one-mana removal, our turn one plan is to set up or disrupt opponents. After that, we’re slamming powerful follow-ups. Dreadhorde requires plenty of one-mana spells to be a threat as of turn two; against decks that might have Bolt, we’re better off leading with Tarmogoyf and drawing out more removal. Rounding out the curve at three mana is Blood Moon, which this deck functions under and which punishes opponents well-equipped to deal with our creatures.

Card Choices

I went with Sleight of Hand over Serum Visions because I think it’s better with Dreadhorde. Given an active Zombie, we’ll have time after combat to  make more plays, and Sleight is better at setting those up. Serum excels at setting up later turns.

Crashing Footfalls is showing up in midrange and combo decks alike alongside Electrodominance, As Foretold, Finale of Promise, and Dreadhorde Arcanist. The idea for including it here was to turn Arcanist into a source of pressure in matchups where we’d need to lay the beats; linear combo decks like Tron don’t care so much about a stream of value from across the table, but can die quick to a couple 4/4s, especially with Blood Moon in tow. Faithless Looting is here at 4 to enable this plan.

Tarfire is more of a vanity include than anything. Growing goyf to maximum P/T is a fun sub-game for me to play, no matter the deck!

Looking to the sideboard, the pair of Reclamation Sages stand out as clunky and ineffective compared with Force of Vigor or the number of other effective options for removing artifacts/enchantments in green. Their primary purpose, though, is to snipe Rest in Peace, which otherwise shuts down most of what we’re doing. Most of the Rest decks are control strategies, chiefly UW; against these, we want to ride one or two threats to victory so we don’t fold to sweepers. That Reclamation provides a body is extremely helpful. Life Goes On works with Arcanist and patches up our spotty Burn matchup.

Deck Issues

I was impressed with how well this deck could grind, as well as how functional its engines were despite their many moving parts. Astrolabe and Coatl helped a lot with this by cantripping while developing our gameplan. I think snow decks are bound to include these two cards; the Snake is snow’s main payoff, and Astrolabe is all but crucial when it comes to fixing mana and turning on deathtouch early. Because of that, snow decks enjoy an inherent consistency boost, a realization which informed my second, more combo-focused shell.

With all that said, hopping aboard the value train isn’t exactly novel or difficult to achieve in Modern. It seems like almost every deck has the tools to do so, including the blazing-fast aggro-combo decks of this season. Since Dreadhorde Snow folds to Rest in Peace just as Hogaak Bridgevine does, and is otherwise worse on pretty much every metric, the deck couldn’t work at the competitive level.

Undoing Snow

Of course the Narset-founded creation of Pitch Blue piqued my interest—I am Day’s Undoing‘s most vocal supporter, ever. But my experience slinging the sorcery led me to pinpoint a couple beefs with established shells. For one, they weren’t generating enough of a board advantage to make full use of the reset; they also felt quite slow in my testing. Finally, I picked up on some consistency issues: without Narset around, Undoing was just bad. My solution was to add dorks for the first two points and Teferi, Time Raveler for the last, giving up some of the great-on-paper free spells for cards that actually plug the deck’s holes.

Undoing Snow, by Jordan Boisvert

Creatures (11)
Noble Hierarch
Ice-Fang Coatl
Vendilion Clique

Planeswalkers (8)
Narset, Parter of Veils
Teferi, Time Raveler

Artifacts (4)
Arcum’s Astrolabe

Instants (10)
Path to Exile
Force of Negation
Remand

Sorceries (7)
Sleight of Hand
Day’s Undoing

Lands (20)
Prismatic Vista
Flooded Strand
Misty Rainforest
Hallowed Fountain
Breeding Pool
Temple Garden
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
Geier Reach Sanitarium
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Plains
Sideboard (15)
Rest in Peace
Damping Sphere
Kitchen Finks
Gut Shot
Nature’s Claim
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The snow package helps a lot in this deck, which could both use the consistency and the survivability fronted by Ice-Fang Coatl. Coatl also turns sideways for a reasonable amount with Hierarch on the battlefield. Rounding out the creature suite is Vendilion Clique, which not only combos with Narset by permanently tucking an opponent’s card, but serves as our primary win condition.

Card Choices

Here’s Sleight of Hand again, but for different reasons. Compared with Serum, which admittedly does a nice job of setting up the combo, Sleight makes the combo more reliable while going off. We can undo and then find the pieces we need to chain another Undoing, or dump our hand into play before the next reset. The immediacy of Sleight also helps when we’re under pressure, letting us find Path to Exile or Force of Negation for an opponent’s critical turn. And it has the extra benefit of letting us dig while opponents happen to have a Narset of their own.

A more overt inclusion is Teferi, Time Raveler. Teferi-Undoing is of course worse than Narset-Undoing, which lets opponents draw just one card to our seven. But casting the sorcery on an opponent’s end step using Teferi’s plus mostly eliminates its drawback, and often has a similar effect; I’ve frequently drawn 7 on the end step only to then plant Narset and Undo again, putting away the game. The walker’s minus also helps us survive and digs further into the combo. With both walkers in play, draw-step Undoings leave opponents totally handless, as they’ve already drawn for turn. Finally, instant-speed Undoing has the benefit of disrupting graveyard combos, even if it won’t literally end an opponent’s turn as it would ours.

Remand is a flex spot that gives us a mix-up option with Coatl. It’s especially potent against linear combo and big-mana shells, while fairly useless against aggro-combo. Mikokoro and Geir Reach are both nuts with Narset in play, especially the latter; each are legends, and so only appear at 1.

Finally, the sideboard. Our colors and gameplan let us run some of the best two-mana hosers in Modern, and in huge quantities. Finks is here pulling double-duty as a floater against midrange and lifegain against aggro. Gut Shot exists for enemy planeswalkers and small creature decks.

Deck Issues

Between its powerful ambitions, resilience to hate, and ability to pack so much itself, I found the Bant deck much stronger than the Temur one. But a little more tuning might go a long way. I lost a game to Hogaak in which I stuck two Rest in Peaces and ended up getting beaten down by a bunch of menacing Neonates; having even a vanilla 2/2 in play would have won me the game, but we don’t have access to anything like that in the mainboard. Perhaps something like Tarmogoyf is necessary in the main, and could also improve the other aggro matchups.

Here to Stay

Ice-Fang Coatl is certainly good enough for Modern, and apparently not going anywhere. I anticipate the snow package will remain a solid include in decks looking for what it offers: consistency and increased survivability against efficient beaters. How have you tamed the Snake?

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