Melting Ice: Flipping Thing in the Ice in Legacy
A 7/8 creature for two mana that does not see play in Legacy? That is totally unheard of! But that is currently the horror's fate. I think it is time to melt the ice.
When I first saw Thing in the Ice / Awoken Horror spoiled in Shadows over Innistrad, I was rather convinced that this monster would find its way in Legacy. That was more than two years ago, and the kraken has had little to no playtime at all. It has remained frozen and has been stored safely in binders rather than decks. But is the horror truly unplayable in Legacy or simply underrepresented and overlooked? Let us first look at the most obvious pros and cons without going into too much detail:
- It is blue: In terms of Legacy, this is definitely a pro. You can pitch it to Force of Will and most decks have the potential to play it.
- It costs one colored and one generic mana: Be assured that the Thing will not demand any special treatment with regard to mana bases.
- The Stats: The Thing is a solid blocker that can hold back the most relevant threats on the ground. Transformed, it can apply the final hit easily.
- It bounces well: Awoken Horror's ability is extremely powerful. There are only a couple of playable horror creatures that do not get bounced back to their owner's hands, of which Phyrexian Revoker is the most common one.
More important than the pros are the cons that apparently keep the horror away from Legacy's playground:
- It dies to removal: This is true for almost any creature, but Thing in the Ice's vulnerability can weaken an entire game strategy. Entering the battlefield with four counters, the active player is oftentimes tempted to play their spells having the horror's triggered ability in mind.
- It is a bad topdeck: Drawing the Thing late in the game certainly does not put a smile on the active player's face. It takes a while to flip it in the late game.
- It gets blocked easily: Without evasion, the horror is not a merciless attacker. Instead, it puts its faith on its bouncing ability.
Why It Deserves a Chance
At first glance, it seems like the cons outweigh the pros. Nonetheless, there are ways to successfully incorporate the frozen horror. It is important to approach Thing in the Ice not as a game-ending beater, but rather as a utility spell that has the potential to push through some damage. In that sense, the flipped kraken isn't just a conventional critter as it serves as an effective removal spell. Looking at Thing in the Ice from this perspective, it functions as low-cost global removal with suspend and a large body. It cannot be countered by Flusterstorm and is more or less safe against discard spells, especially against Dark Depths and its indestructible token. Leaving one or two ice counters on the Thing provides an instant-speed answer to Marit Lage Token. Other problematic cards are Empty the Warrens, Bitterblossom, and Bridge from Below, while bouncing Narcomoeba and Ichorid are equally satisfying.
Who Can Profit from Thing in the Ice
Thing in the Ice sees some play in Modern in blue-red aggro-control builds with tons of cantrips and reactive spells. Apart from some minor main and sideboard appearances in Legacy's blue-red Delver, the awoken horror has not really been swimming in Legacy's depths. I am sure that creating a deck around the Awoken Horror would be a mistake since one does not build decks around removals but on actual and realistic win options.
Two decks that could incorporate it are Miracles and, of course, ANT. Admittedly, both follow strategies that are on opposite sides of the meta spectrum. Both can support Thing in the Ice regarding mana requirements and cantrip density. In Miracles, the kraken occupies the position of a classic one or two-off mass removal spell. Having a critter that can close out games fast is a neat side effect, especially when time is almost up. In Storm, however, it acts as a more realistic win-con since most players do not expect many creatures except Xantid Swarm in Storm's sideboard. Against Dark Depths, everything that plays Chalice of the Void, and even in BUG control decks, Thing in the Ice can be a big roadblock and an actual route to victory.
At the moment, I play three krakens in my sideboard and they have been performing well under diverse circumstances. This tech, however, is not entirely new and has seen some play two years ago, but I think it is time to revisit and re-evaluate the situation. Here is my current ANT deck:
|15Lands||23Sorceries||22Instants and Artifacts|
|1Badlands||3Duress||4Lion's Eye Diamond|
|1Bloodstained Mire||1Grim Tutor||4Lotus Petal|
|1Island||4Infernal Tutor||1Ad Nauseam|
|1Misty Rainforest||2Past in Flames||4Brainstorm|
|4Polluted Delta||4Ponder||4Cabal Ritual|
|2Scalding Tarn||4Preordain||4Dark Ritual|
|1Swamp||1Tendrils of Agony||1Rain of Filth|
|3Thing in the Ice / Awoken Horror||1Bayou||2Echoing Truth|
|2Abrupt Decay||1Empty the Warrens||1Flusterstorm|
|1Hurkyl's Recall||1Karakas||1Tormod's Crypt|
As I have already mentioned, Miracles can incorporate Thing in the Ice as well. Here are two more decklists that use the frozen kraken. The first is a possible Miracles deck and the second is a Blue-Red Control brew. Keep in mind that the Thing should not be considered as a game-ending creature, but rather a fancy removal spell because it can mess up a deck's threat density.
|2Arid Mesa||2Thing in the Ice / Awoken Horror||4Accumulated Knowledge|
|4Flooded Strand||4Snapcaster Mage||4Brainstorm|
|2Scalding Tarn||4Force of Will|
|2Volcanic Island||4Swords to Plowshares|
|1Thing in the Ice / Awoken Horror||1Engineered Explosives||3Flusterstorm|
|2Back to Basics||2Monastery Mentor||3Pyroblast|
|2Surgical Extraction||1Vendilion Clique|
|3Grove of the Burnwillows||3Thing in the Ice / Awoken Horror||4Brainstorm|
|4Polluted Delta||4Force of Will|
|4Scalding Tarn||2Lightning Bolt|
|4Volcanic Island||4Punishing Fire|
|2Jace, the Mind Sculptor|
|2Abrade||3Blood Moon||1Echoing Truth|
|2Shattering Spree||2Surgical Extraction|
A Nice Play
I played against BUG control at a local event last week and after winning the first game, I decided to bring in some flippers. Unfortunately, my one and only Tendrils of Agony was seized and extracted, but it did not stop me from casting Ad Nauseam with three blue and one black mana floating. Luckily, I found two krakens with enough juice to play them and heated things up with two discard spells. Passing the turn with zero cards in my opponent's hand, Snapcaster Mage in play, and swinging for lethal the turn afterwards was a comfortable and rather common way to end the game that worked out in my favor.
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