Five Legacy Decks That Could Play Snapcaster Mage But Don't


No other creature plays such an important role in Legacy and Modern alike. Snapcaster Mage truly is the most flexible creature in all competitive Magic and, for some reason, there are still some decks not playing him.

Snapcaster Mage: The Blue Tarmogoyf

Snapcaster Mage

I am sure that many Legacy players remember the time people found an excuse to splash Tarmogoyf in almost every deck some seven to eight years ago. Its big body provided enough punching power to warrant the inclusion in many different decks like Burn and red-green aggro decks, which turned into Goyf Sligh. Further, even some Merfolk decks decided to run the green monster.

Legacy has changed though. Running out big vanilla threats in Legacy is not enough nowadays. Such strategies were quite common back in 2010, often featuring Phyrexian Dreadnought and Terravore, but current Legacy decks put their faith into its creatures' abilities to have an impact on the board state. That is one of the reasons R/U/G Delver struggles to keep up the pace at the moment. Legacy is much more value oriented than it used to be and this is why Snapcaster Mage is such a powerful card.

Phyrexian Dreadnought Terravore

A simple question arises, however: What makes Snapcaster Mage so inherently potent. To be honest, he doesn't look spectacular at first glance. Converted mana costs of two, his blue color, his solid 2/1 body, flash, and his triggered ability add up to a sum of positive factors that outweighs every other creature in Legacy regarding floor and ceiling. For those who don't know what these terms mean: the floor of a card describes a card's worst value in a certain situation; meaning Snapcaster Mage can be a 2/1 for two mana with instant speed at worst, which is, to be honest, pretty good regarding a card's floor. The ceiling describes what a card is capable of. Mostly Snapcaster is used to flashback either a burn spell (the classic Bolt-Snap-Bolt-play) or a counterspell (keep in mind that you can play Snapcaster Mage in response to a discard spell, target a counter spell, and let the discard spell resolve in order to counter something more important later on during this turn), but being able to recast a sorcery or an instant spell opens up many lines of play; especially as an answer to oncoming threats.   

Because of the high floor and ceiling of Snapcaster Mage, I'd argue that there are many decks that currently don't run the two-mana blue wizard who could incorporate it to great effect. Why? Because after Wizards has dethroned Deathrite Shaman, the speedy blue Mage has definitely moved up a rank in the critter hierarchy. Nonetheless, do not take what follows too seriously; it is a way to spark a discussion and explore the Mage's potential. Here are five decks that could play Snappy but choose not to (at least yet).

Snapping Back Spells In R/U/G Delver

R/U/G Delver with Snapcaster Mage

Naturally the first deck on my list, as I think that this deck needs to remodel its core. First of all, Snappy is slightly too expensive for the current R/U/G Delver configuration. Going up to 19 lands, maybe even including a basic Island, should help flashbacking CMC 1 spells, which are really the only relevant ones. Similar to older U/W/R Delver variants, which ran Snapcaster Mage alongside Stoneforge Mystic and Geist of Saint Traft, flashbacking Stifle, Spell Pierce, Spell Snare or simply good old Lightning Bolt can be a backbreaking move. Snappy could join R/U/G Delver's reactive plan quite nicely since holding up mana and making the most of the early turns is the only way to win with this deck right now.

Nimble Mongoose

All in all, I could see a creature suite of a playset of Delver of Secrets and a mix of True-Name Nemesis, Snapcaster Mage, and Tarmogoyf being playable to some extent. This would mean that Nimble Mongoose loses its home, but in the current meta, the little snake eater looks a tad underwhelming.

Recycling in ANT

ANT with Snapcaster Mage

Wait, what? Yeah, ANT. This might be an odd proposition but it actually works. I tested Snappy a while ago in my sideboard and he was not too bad. Of course, his role in ANT differs from his regular routines. Generally speaking, he is a little Past in Flames that comes with a body that can block some of the most dangerous hate bears. I remember boarding it against Miracles and killing an Ethersworn Canonist in combat, which seems to be his floor potential in ANT. Flashbacking a previously countered or discarded ritual, discard or cantrip looks like a neat play and deserves at least a bit consideration. Snappy can also be playing during a combo turn to add some spice to difficult situations and a huge stack, while improving combo match ups at the same time.

Past in Flames Ethersworn Canonist

In the end I had to cut the two Snapcasters from my sideboard due to space issues, but they might make a return if things change again.

Snapcasters and Shadows

U/B Shadow with Snapcaster Mage

It is yet another tempo deck, another one with harsh mana requirements but also a deck that is extremely new to the Legacy scene; or at least in the spotlight for the very first time. Potentially, Snappy could provide better late game draws, flashbacking Thoughseize or a Ponder to grow a Shadow or find that missing piece of interaction. I would say that it's  rather unlikely that Snapcaster will find his place in Shadow tempo but on the other hand I would not rule it out entirely. Making Snappy work might be a bit of a stress on the mana base but as long as players are developing Shadow strategies, Snapcaster will be ready to take his seat at the table.

Death's Shadow Ponder

Again, I am a huge proponent of running a consistent mana base because that is what allows you to play spells most of the time. Adding more lands to tempo decks runs the risk of watering down of its main elements; since, naturally, they are not midrange decks and usually operate on few lands. On the other hand, making consistent land drops pushes forward the engine and opens up room for innovations.

The Two Mana Mage in U/R Delver

U/R Delver with Snapcaster Mage

Blue-Red Delver played Snapcasters before Khans of Tarkir and the insanely powerful Delve spells and prowess creatures were printed. Without Gitaxian Probe, U/R's creature line-up took a big hit because Stormchaster Mage and Monastery Swiftspear are rather weak creatures when left alone without heavy artillery in form of cantrips and burn spells. Snapcaster fixes U/R's poor late game strategy because it can easily punch through for two damage and recast a Lightning Bolt or another interactive spell like Stifle. I could see U/R going a control route with less burn but more counter spells, Wasteland, and some bigger creatures that can hold the position like True-Name Nemesis or Young Pyromancer.

Lightning Bolt True-Name Nemesis

Nevertheless, a faster approach with the classic burn-heavy set up could also play one or two Snapcasters to simply gain some traction in the longer run.

The Snappiest Card For U/B Reanimator

U/B Reanimator with Snapcaster Mage

This might be yet another strange choice but hear me out first. U/B Reanimator's postboard games usually are tricky to navigate. There is always the threat of running into a Surgical Extraction when going off too fast and having to deal with problematic permanents like Rest in Peace, Grafdigger's Cage or Nihil Spellbomb when taking too much time.

Reanimate Brainstorm

While most players are aware that Show and Tell is part of UB's sideboarding strategy, Snapcaster operates under their radar. Going to combat and flashbacking a cantrip or, even better, a reanimation spell makes Snapcaster a real option in UB's board. Once more, the deck's land base could be a problem. Some lists only play 14-15 lands and support their land counts with two to four Lotus Petal. Going up to 17 lands and cutting the Petals, which get weak in the late game and in most of the postboard games (at least from what I can tell playing Storm), could help supporting the little monster of flexibility.

Any blue deck can play the best blue wizard, and it slots nicely into a lot of strategies, so don't forget it when deckbuilding. These examples may not all be the best in slot choices, but it shows the card's flexibility and power across different strategies. What decks do you think Snappy slots into? Be sure to let me know in the comments!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.

1 Comment

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Svenyboy(02.09.2018 18:04)

When it comes to Snapcaster it's clear to say: It's best use is a reactive game, in response played. If you play it in your turn, Snapcaster's ability is weakened a lot. All the decks which are mentioned are "proactive" decks, especially those which play Young Pyromancer or try to combo. So Snapcaster is not an optimal card for these. In Rug Delver which plays a reactive game, having 3 mana in play is a little bit to much (sometimes just not what the deck does or want) so Snapcaster will be a dead card when trying to Tempo your opponent.