Five Legacy Decks That Could Play Snapcaster Mage But Don't
- Robert Swiecki
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
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.
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
|2Flooded Strand||4Delver of Secrets / Insectile Aberration||4Brainstorm|
|2Misty Rainforest||3Tarmogoyf||4Force of Will|
|2Polluted Delta||3True-Name Nemesis||4Lightning Bolt|
|2Scalding Tarn||2Spell Pierce|
|3Tropical Island||2Spell Snare|
|2Diabolic Edict||1Dread of Night||2Engineered Explosives|
|1Hymn to Tourach||2Liliana, the Last Hope||1Nihil Spellbomb|
|1Surgical Extraction||1Throne of Geth||2Throne of Geth|
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.
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
|1Badlands||4Lion's Eye Diamond||3Duress|
|1Bloodstained Mire||4Lotus Petal||1Grim Tutor|
|1Misty Rainforest||2Past in Flames|
|1Swamp||1Tendrils of Agony|
|2Underground Sea||1Ad Nauseam|
|1Rain of Filth|
|2Abrupt Decay||1Bayou||2Dread of Night|
|2Echoing Truth||1Flusterstorm||1Hurkyl's Recall|
|1Karakas||2Snapcaster Mage||1Tormod's Crypt|
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.
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
|1Flooded Strand||4Delver of Secrets / Insectile Aberration||4Brainstorm|
|2Misty Rainforest||3Snapcaster Mage||2Dismember|
|4Polluted Delta||4Street Wraith||2Fatal Push|
|2Scalding Tarn||4Force of Will|
|2Underground Sea||1Snuff Out|
|4Watery Grave||2Spell Pierce|
|1Diabolic Edict||3Dread of Night||1Engineered Explosives|
|1Hydroblast||2Hymn to Tourach||2Liliana, the Last Hope|
|1Nihil Spellbomb||2Surgical Extraction||2Throne of Geth|
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.
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
|2Island||4Delver of Secrets / Insectile Aberration||4Brainstorm|
|2Misty Rainforest||1Grim Lavamancer||4Daze|
|1Mountain||3Snapcaster Mage||4Force of Will|
|2Polluted Delta||2True-Name Nemesis||4Lightning Bolt|
|4Scalding Tarn||3Young Pyromancer||3Spell Pierce|
|3Pyroblast||2Sulfur Elemental||2Sulfuric Vortex|
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.
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
|1Bayou||1Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite||2Abrupt Decay|
|1Bloodstained Mire||1Grave Titan||4Brainstorm|
|4Polluted Delta||1Iona, Shield of Emeria||4Entomb|
|3Scalding Tarn||1Tidespout Tyrant||4Force of Will|
|1Abrupt Decay||2Echoing Truth||1Flusterstorm|
|2Massacre||2Pithing Needle||3Show and Tell|
|2Snapcaster Mage||2Surgical Extraction|
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.
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.