The Gripping Effect of Snow Mana in MTG
The Plains whistle as the freezing winds dance through the last blades of grass, the lake a cracked mirror reflecting a cold sky, the tepid wastes moan their eerie sound, the mountains bubble with the heat of the earth through caps of white, the forest is still, leaves clinging to life. Winter has come to this plane, the land cold and bitter, the mana produced from it is similarly shaped. In Magic the Gathering we have seen on a few occasions the gripping effects of snow, so encompassing is it that even the sorcery's, creatures and lands don its title.
So it got me thinking, with mana so tied to the land in which produces it, could the snow super type then effect the color pie as well? A filter that changes the mana to reflect the land it comes from? I do believe this to be true, and after scouring the multiverse through both time and space I have come to see the effect the deep cold has on the color pie. This change takes form in two ways, that of the flavorful and the philosophical. A metaphysical change that seeps into everything. So join me intrepid Planeswalker as we discuss snow and the color pie.
Flavor or themes are an important part of Magic the gathering and something that it does better that most card games. The concept behind flavor is that it showcases an idea, character or bit of story through all of its elements. The art, card name, and even the effect of said card all work together to convey an idea, a topic I will discuss more of in the future. When we look to each and every one of the cards who contain the snow super type we see three common themes. Those are survival, mysticism, and death or the end of a cycle. Winter is a time of little resources and of harsh conditions, making survival a common theme across cards of this type. Cards like Alpine guide or cover of winter are some great examples. Take for instance Cover of Winter.
As we see it has a cumulative upkeep of one snow mana each turn, as if the blizzard is pressing in on them, growing more fierce every turn, and yet through their resourcefulness they are able to use the blizzard as cover. The name and effect working towards this idea. If they can survive they are able to begin stacking age counters utilizing the snow to prevent damage. The planes of the multiverse are often a dangerous places and yet when the snow blankets the land one must be extra cautious to survive, for if the yeti's don't get you then the ice will. The card 'on thin ice' prompting us to respect the land for it will turn on you at any minute. The art conveying solitude, the effect reminding us that this figure is lost for good, and the flavor text the final cue. “He cursed the wind. He cursed the cold. But by stepping on the ice, he cursed himself”.
Now I don't want you to think all I have seen in these places are those trying to simply survive in the frigid wastes, no there is something else here too. I have seen the magic that lies beyond our reality. The mystical traits found in these frigid lands. I have seen the sky open up, stars gaze down upon me with colors long forgotten dancing free. There are those that tap into the mana of the land and see the snow as something more. Those like the Sculptor of winter or frost Augur. The latter taking visions from the bitter frost and a great example of flavor shaped by snow mana. An augur for one is an ancient roman priest who would interpret the will of the gods through signs, in their case birds and in this one, ice.
The card effect representing the result of those visions. So if this priest of snow and ice can see into the veil, then perhaps it is thinner here than in other places. Winter brings with it the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, a time when the night lasts the longest. The night, in all of its shimmering glory holds significant mystical value, a time when the stars and moon can speak to us in ways we have yet to understand, but can feel deep within. The card Arctic Treeline showcasing the thin line between our world and that of the one beyond. The art more than an aurora borealis, it is rather a glimpse into the place where gods sleep. The flavor text then reinforcing this idea. “When the Light of Starnheim shines here, every frost-edged needle glitters with the reflected glory of the Cosmos.”
With the veil so thin there is then another effect on how the color pie is manifested, which led me too witness how death is portrayed in the case of snow in Magic the Gathering. Often times we witness the lingering dead, unable to move on and beholden to the land. As if the cold itself has staved off death or perhaps it is something more. A link between realms, one bread through the other forms of flavor, that of mysticism and survival. In many a frozen waste you will find angels who guide or call the dead, the Valkyrie. Such as Hailstorm Valkyrie or the card Adakar Valkyrie. The latter but one reason why the dead don't stay dead long.
If we dissect the card we see why, for one the name Valkyrie is based on Norse mythology, and is said to guide the dead to Valhalla, while here it takes another approach guiding the dead back to the land of the living, as we see stated in her flavor text which reads, “She doesn’t escort the dead to the afterlife, but instead raises them to fight and die again.” which is interesting to see for white, as it usually has more respect for the dead, but in these cold and forgotten lands everyone must do their part even the deceased. This flavor text is then backed up by her effect, which allows you to tap the card when another creature dies in order to bring it back to the battle field to fight another day.
As you can see there are three recurring themes backed up by the flavor of the cards who share this type, survival, mysticism and death, If we were to see this deep cold take hold on another Plane we could be sure that these themes would be present as well. Now, flavor is the concrete representation of the color pie across the multiverse, but what about the philosophies manifested in frost?
While our first half of this discussion is based on evidence represented by cards our next one is built on theory and imagination. While there are many cards with the snow mana type there just isn't enough evidence to claim with certainty the effect it has on the philosophies of each color. That said I believe there is something here to be uncovered. If we talk about mana in its literal terms it's something that comes from the land, and when that land is weighed down by cold, and expressed through silent calm, then I believe it does have an effect on the mana it produces. Each member of the color pie in turn is effected by these traits, and a version of itself is produced. As if it's the opposite of the summer months when life is exploding in exuberance and mana spills out in excess.
In the case of white there is a sedentary effect on the color. Typically it's a color who is already slow to action and based in societal structure, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to state that it would shed any excess from its beliefs, opting to then focus on strengthening its core ideology. A practical version of the color that aims to survive, with a hopeful optimism for the future. In this way White would have a strong focus on community above all else, a hunker down and wait kind of version of itself. Gone would be an exuberance and the laurels of a vibrant society, trading it in for a life of simplicity, of near hibernation. What's more is that religion in this case might be replaced by a more raw version of itself, simply put hope. A hope for the coming summer of a time when vibrancy will shine once more.
Blue is a colour who is one to have an eye on the future but in the case of snow mana I would say that it would have no choice but to look back, reflecting on the year that has been. With winter being the end of a cycle, it would then be a time where the future is obscured, and in that way the past becomes more important to self discovery and reflection. Blue would then be weighed down in contemplation rather than future perfection. Blue would lean into its contemplative and calm side to an extreme, frozen as it were in time. Of course it would still spend this time gazing beyond, but it wouldn't be a looking into its plans for the future, no it would be more grounded in the past and present.
Black is the one color who can take a handful of nothing and make something of it, there is a reason we see death so integral to the lands that black snow mana touches, and while this is thematic there is something that can be learned from this. Black then leans into its resourcefulness to an extent not often seen. It leans into a primal version of itself, one that will do anything to survive in these inhospitable lands. Turning to to foul magic and dark deeds. What's more is that this idea behind the end of a cycle falls perfectly into Black's vision of death and its closeness too it, and while it will do anything to survive it can accept death as simply another place it can thrive.
Red then learns to slow down the frantic movements of its heart. To find calm. This does not mean it sheds its impulsive, or emotional nature its just that perhaps such notions do not come on with such ferocity. There is a stillness here and in some ways red can harness a contemplative nature it would have missed. For action done with little thought can only lead to death in these places. This does leave Red feeling anxious though, as if it's forced to stop an ever beating heart. It will long for what it cannot have and this will eat at them, but with little choice they press their feelings down even if the effect is may leave them raw for it.
Green is interesting in that it's a color who finds beauty in the land no matter its shape, which leads into how its philosophy is shaped as well. In this way Green is near unchanging if not revellrous in its position. Indeed it is true that green takes on new forms but it would be the one color who can thrive in any condition, for its body and mind will always adapt to the lands it finds itself in. Just as we see with the card Rime Tender which reads. “Fools view winter as the season of death because they cannot see the life underneath.”
Through flavor and philosophy the color pie is changed to suit the snow that produces it. From literal terms like that of survival, to more abstract ways like that of the mystical ties to other worlds beyond our own. It is a time of calm, of solitude and reflection and in this way the color pie is forced to adapt to these traits. In many ways humanity was never meant to step foot in such frigid lands, our bodies still unaccustomed to its harshness. The blanket of snow across icy hills holds us hostage, reminding us that nature is in control. Even now as I look out the window, fresh snow on the ground I contemplate the end of a cycle, a time where death takes the land and how it won't be long until spring will grow new life in its corpse.
I hope you enjoyed this often overlooked aspect of the color pie. If you enjoyed this article then be sure to check me out in any of the links below, or become a site member, that way you can be notified when the next article goes live.
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