Can anyone remember a spoiler season as exciting as Shadows Over Innistrad? The recent triple Grand Prix weekend showcased escape rooms, preview cards, stunning cosplays, and even decent coverage for once.
With the release of Shadows just around the corner, there’s one card that’s brought the hysteria from Innistrad into real life.
In the spirit of the flavor, let’s step off the hype train for a minute and chip away at this Thing in the Ice instead of going full on Vampire Hexmage and smashing it loose. As a Modern specialist, I’ll focus on the card in my home format.
How good is a two mana Steel Wall? As far as stats go, this compares to a few other staples of the Modern format: Wall of Omens, Wall of Roots, and Spellskite. While I doubt any of us are excited about playing an 0/4 Defender, these guys all gum up the ground to prevent getting blitzed by aggro decks and four toughness happens to be a magical number for Modern. Outside of Wall tribal the additional text on each has them playing different roles.
Wall of Roots accelerates mana in Chord decks, Wall of Omens helps hit early land drops and win the long game, and Spellskite protects against removal and shuts down entire decks like Infect and Bogles. What does the Awoken Horror rider on Thing in the Ice provide?
Thing in the Ice is a surprisingly difficult card to pin down to one role. On one hand, it wants you to play a bunch of cheap spells and smack the opponent for seven as soon as possible. On the other hand, it stabilizes the board at every stage of the game, and will naturally flip sooner or later. What happens when I get my payoff and flip into the Awoken Horror?
My gameplan shifts gears. There’s an immense tempo shift that comes along with evacuating the board and transforming my 0/4 Defender into a monstrous 7/8. This is what they call in the biz, turning the corner.
Thing in the Ice simply put is an aggro-control card. Against aggressive strategies, aggro-control has the tools to slow the opponent down, go over the top, and win quickly. Against combo decks and control, the archetype puts on a quick clock and causes the opponent to stumble long enough to deal lethal.
Thing in the Ice lies in the exactly same vein - it’s a blocker early and a threat later.
Finding a Shell
Now that I know the type of deck I’m looking to put it in, what does rest look like? What kind of colors am I looking to play? Does Thing in the Ice slot into any existing strategy? One constant truth in Modern over the past couple of years, has been that fair decks like to play red.
Take a look at the black-green shell. Jund has had numerous cards banned from the deck since Modern’s inception, but red remains the go to third color.
Some form of Jeskai (UWR), Grixis (UBR), RUG, or straight blue-red have dominated Modern forever. Why is that? Lightning Bolt is just hands down, bar none, the best removal spell a fair deck in Modern can play.
Although, some feel that without Splinter Twin around, URx shell just isn’t viable. I’m here to tell you, don’t worry. The real combo was never Twin Exarch, but Bolt, Snap, Bolt, and a sea of Islands along with Blood Moon.
“I’ll cast Blood Moon. Would you like to concede?”
Blue Moon has been the go-to-deck for Twin refuges post ban. It has fought valiantly against the Tier 0 Eldrazi menace, and it’s poised to be an even stronger contender once Shadows Over Innistrad drops. Blue Moon looks to be the best deck featuring Thing in the Ice for a multitude of reasons.
I remember when I first played Blue Moon over a year ago, I didn’t understand why people put in cards like Vapor Snag or Boomerang, when they’re just card disadvantage! At least, until I returned an opponent’s creature back to hand with a Blood Moon out for the first time. The idea of answering any problem creature without having to play cards that might feel conflicting at times is a big gain. My eyes were opened. Thing in the Ice is also a threat that doesn’t require a splash.
Many variants of Blue Moon have splashed green for everyone’s favorite Lhurgoyf, or black for Tasigur and K Command. While splashes offer a suite of powerful cards, staying two colors allows Blue Moon to remain consistent.
Lastly, the two drop slot has historically been a hole in the curve of blue-red decks. Sure you can hold up countermagic or something like a Think Twice, but one of my favorite reasons for the green splash in Twin was it gave me something proactive to do on turn two.
Many have compared Thing in the Ice to Tarmogoyf and for good reason, they mirror each other in aggressive matchups. The ability to block early and clock quickly on one card is invaluable for just two mana.
Building a Deck List
Thing in the Ice incentivizes me to change the way I would traditionally build a Blue Moon deck. While there is merit to just replacing a win condition or two, and a couple flex slots with Thing in the Ice, I’ve set out to build the best Thing in the Ice deck rather than the best deck that plays Thing in the Ice. Keep that in mind as you look over the deck.
I want to be playing a lower curve and additional cantrips. Besides a lean curve being my preferred way of doing things, with the ever increasing speed of the format, cheap spells help bring out the Awoken Horror sooner rather than later. The most notable additions for this reason are Spell Pierces, Thought Scours, and a couple Burst Lightning.
Why Thought Scour though? There’s four main contenders for Serum Visions 5-8. Gitaxian Probe, Sleight of Hand, Thought Scour, and Peek. All of these options make sense, and I can see why others might opt for another or play a mix, but I like Thought Scour for three reasons.
- Thought Scour over the sorcery speed cantrips makes it easier to flip Thing in the Ice at the most opportune time. This can be a blowout against a deck like Infect, and opens up lines like bouncing one of my Snapcasters or Cliques targeted by a removal spell.
- Snapcaster Mage loves instants. The one drawback to counterspells is that they force you to hold up mana on the opponent’s turn. If the opponent doesn’t cast something I want to counter, instead of wasting my mana I can instead use Snapcaster to get value with a card like Thought Scour.
- Thought Scour allows for better use of the graveyard as a resource. The self-mill gives better options than the traditional Mana Leak and Roast, which are notoriously mediocre at times. It introduces Counterspell to the format, grants Roast the ability to hit flyers and kill creatures when most convenient, and gives Snapcaster Mage more targets to flashback.
The rest of the changes have been made to maximize the number of instants and sorceries, and minimize any creatures that don’t gain value by getting bounced back to hand. This should explain the lack of cards like Batterskull, Vedalken Shackles, Spreading Seas, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, and only two Blood Moon main.
With a pile of answers and what looks to be the most powerful blue card since Treasure Cruise, I know I’ll be brushing off the frost of Eldrazi Winter by sleeving up Blue Moon. Thanks for the read.