Card Spotlight: Ice Dragon's Prison
- Thomas Rose
Ice Dragon's Prison is one of my favorite cards of the last year. It became a favorite mainly because it has such an interesting effect. Initially I didn't realize just how strong it would be. I picked up a single copy for my cube, but I certainly regret not buying a set for Constructed too!
New releases in 2020 saw some devastating combo decks take control of the metagame. The likes of Linkross and Halqifibrax catapulted fast-paced Adamancipator, Dragon Link, and Ignoble Knights to the top. Opening turns were all about making as many moves as possible and setting up impenetrable defences or taking care of your opponent's hand before they got to play. Then, in December, updates to the Forbidden and Limited list had a huge impact. Despite a relatively small number of changes, the overall dynamic of the game shifted dramatically. Games are no longer decided on the first turn. This opens the doors for more controlling strategies such as Eldlich, Zoodiac, or even Paleozoic—now with three Toadally Awesome.
With this more controlling gameplay comes an increase in the viability of trap cards. We see a return of old favorites such as Torrential Tribute and Solemn Strike, but also a new contender: Ice Dragon's Prison.
On release, Ice Dragon's Prison didn't make much of an impact. As an ultra rare from Rise of the Duelist you could get a whole playset for about €10. It's important in times like those when the metagame is highly combo based to keep an open mind to newly released cards that may find their place in a slower format. If you can pick them out ahead of time, then you stand to make a considerable saving compared to waiting until they start seeing play. These days that €10 wouldn't come close to picking up a single copy. It's remarkable how the market can shift in the wake of a new ban list!
Ice Dragon's Prison really breaks the mold for what makes a playable trap card in modern times. It has just one effect, it can't be activated from your hand, nor even has any extra value once it hits the graveyards. While there isn't a huge amount of text on the card, it still presents a wealth of options for how to use it. The only requirement is a monster in your opponent's grave that can be special summoned, so it's almost always useable in response to an opponent's removal effect. However, the options for what you can do with it go far beyond a simple summoning effect.
Use case 1: D.D. Crow. One of the oldest hand traps in the game is still going strong. Removing key pieces from the enemy graveyard at spell speed 2 has proven time and time again to be a game-winning move, when timed correctly.
Use case 2: Monster Reborn. It's not a subtle play, and you won't get to use the effect, but sometimes all you need is a bit more damage in the battle phase. Alternatively, you can pick up a link 2 for some good Apollousa fodder.
Use case 3: Karma Cut. Whilst not quite as flexible as the original banishing trap, it doesn't require a discard. Many decks are based around multiple monsters with the same type, so there are plenty of opportunities to use Ice Dragon's Prison as a monster-removal tool. One significant advantage over Karma Cut is that the monster removal does not target. This is particularly relevant in a format with easy access to Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon, which reliably arrives alongside at least one Dragon in the graveyard.
Each of these effects are powerful in their own right, and the range of options gives the card great versatility. That's just the start though. The real fun begins when you get to combine multiple purposes. To get optimal value from Ice Dragon's Prison you should wait for a moment when not only is there a monster in the enemy graveyard that needs to be taken care of, but when you're also in a good position to take advantage of the extra body or removal.
Almost any deck that can afford to play traps cards could consider running some copies. Those with many traps, like Paleozoic or some Burning Abyss variants, can even gain access to it through Trap Trick. Unfortunately for the Altergeist deck, however, which would be one of the usual suspects for that kind of gameplay, it cannot be used on the same turn as Altergeist Multifaker. (Unless of course it is an Altergeist monster being summoned from the opponent's grave.)
If the format continues to take shape around the slower pace of play that we're currently seeing, then I think we should expect to see a lot more of this card over the coming year. Remember to keep an open mind to how the format may shift in future when evaluating newly released cards—you might save yourself a lot by spotting the next big thing. Which other cards do you think are going to take the spotlight this year?
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.