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By: xger, Xger
Apr 07 2016 11:00am
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Coldsnap had a fake introduction, with Wizards announcing the set as the final set in Ice Age block, found in an old filing cabinet. What Wizards didn't expect was that players actually believed them. Of course, Coldsnap is not the conclusion to Ice Age and was just filling a space in the set release timeline. Let's dive in! If you want to jump past the introduction, click here. To jump to the fiscal analysis, click here. 

Introduction to the Article Series:

To jump to the set background, click here. To jump to the fiscal analysis, click here.

Over the course of this year, Wizards will run flashback drafts that are from the Modern sets. One week for each format. The flashbacks will stop when there is a prerelease or release going on. More info here.

Here is the upcoming schedule:

Format Dates
Triple Coldsnap 4/6-4/13
Break for Shadows over Innistrad 4/13-5/4
Triple Time Spiral 5/4-5/11
Time Spiral, Time Spiral, Planar Chaos 5/11-5/18
Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, Future Sight 5/18-5/25

First, I will do a fiscal analysis. While a lot of players will play just for the fun of it, knowing what cards are worth something is a good plan. Since none of these formats are competitively valued anymore, there really is no reason to pass on a $30 card. Even if it is terrible and useless in limited. Further, knowing what common and uncommons are worth the effort to sell could be useful.

However, just a rote listing of pricing is only so helpful. A lot of the cards, particularly core sets and the older sets, just don't have the supply to adequately meet demand. That means some of the cards might tank quickly when there is a sudden surge of supply. Some of these sets have probably never had flashbacks, or it has been many years. That means the market reaction might be extreme or subtle. It is also unknown how many cards will enter the system—if the drafts are popular, the effect is greater.

To give the most useful information, I am going to track the value of the sets already given a flashback as well as the time just prior to the flashback. Hopefully this will give some idea of the fiscal value of the flashback draft. Of course, it is still going to be a lottery most of the time.

Second, I will give some brief drafting advice. This will come either from my own experience and memory (if I actively drafted the set) or from what articles I can dredge up. Likely, it will be both, but will probably lean more towards the articles.

With that, let's get started:

Coldsnap History and Background:

As stated earlier, Wizards announced the set on the premise that is was a lost design file recently uncovered and was always intended to be a part of the Ice Age block, and not Homelands. Despite what Wizards thought was obvious, players believed it for a time, and later on Mark Rosewater had to announce that it was not actually a lost design or anything of that sort. It was just a fun gag. But, it did mean the return of Ice Age mechanics, including introducing snow permanents, eventually including them in Modern.

snow-covered plainsbraid of firesnow-covered forest

Because Wizards actually wanted the Ice Age feel to work, there was special needs for limited. Of course, this started with bringing back mechanics, themes, and characters. But it also meant dealing with the rarity of Ice Age and Alliances packs--Coldsnap would be played in isolation, so some themes needed reworking. It also meant drafting triple small set, something rarely endorsed by Wizards. Those combined to have a different rarity balance than normal (60 commons, 55 uncommons, 40 rares) and including mechanics that encouraged multiple copies of commons.

thrumming stonefeast of fleshrite of flame

I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of the very powerful cards in the set, though the primary ones are combo pieces. Dark Depths alongside Vampire Hexmage results in an early 20/20 indestructible creature! Counterbalance and Sensei's Divining Top combine for a soft control lock, making for very painful (and slow) games. The Martyrs also are popular combo and casual cards.

martyr of ashesdark depthscounterbalancemartyr of sands

As for story, it primarily revolves, ironically, around the island thawing. A group mages, however, are trying to usurp power and cover the island in their icy magic. The leader of the mages was Heidar, Rimewind Master who was very upset about the results of the Ice Age story. Lovisa Coldeyes, friend of Jaya Ballard, Task Mage, plays a role in Heidar's scheming.

heidar, rimewind masterlovisa coldeyes

As for MTGO, the only notable part is that Coldsnap was the first set where it was constructed legal online before it was in paper. MTGO V3 was promised and delayed again.

Fiscal Value of the Flashback

Prices for the individual cards are from MTGOTraders sell price on Tuesday the 5th. Set trends are from MTG goldfish. 


Top 10 Rares
Name Price
Dark Depths $25.09
Zur the Enchanter $5.18
Scrying Sheets $4.79
Thrumming Stone $3.06
Braid of Fire $2.92
Haakon, Stromgald Scourge $2.83
Ohran Viper $1.82
Arcum Dagsson $1.76
Commandeer $1.75
Fury of the Horde $1.44


Top Uncommons
Counterbalance $13.33
Mishra's Bauble $6.15
Lightning Storm $1.40
Coldsteel Heart $1.00
Perilous Research $0.48
Worthwhile Commons
Snow-Covered Island $0.71
Snow-Covered Mountain $0.51
Martyr of Sands $0.50
Martyr of Ashes $0.42
Rite of Flame $0.37

Coldsnap is very interesting fiscally. There is a rather large spike with Dark Depths occupying a lot of the rare value, but there are very valuable uncommons in Counterbalance and Mishra's Bauble. Then, there are a considerably high number of decent value commons, many of which will likely maintain long term value. Of course, some of these prices are likely due to constrained supply because low amounts of Coldsnap were opened.


This chart shows the inflection point of the rares--here, between the 11th and 12th rares. That means that 11 rares in the set are priced higher than the average rare ($1.40), which is very high, and luckily, only about 40% of that value is in Dark Depths, meaning there are a number of decent cards. The real question is how much will the prices fluctuate. Dark Depths is a niche card banned in Modern, so its value may drop with a boost of supply. The other rares have more varied uses or are good commander options, so the prices may not fall as much.

A lottery rate of 0% will mean the set is balanced, and 100% will mean a single card accounting for ~70% of the rares total value (70% is an approximation of the percentage of drafts that will not have the top value rare).

Coldsnap's Lottery Rate: 80%

Coldsnap might have a large drop if it is heavily played, as it wasn't widely opened previously. This time around, the prices will probably drop with a correlation to the amount of flashbacks that fire. But, Coldsnap might not really fire that much because it simply wasn't a well-liked draft environment and is a set that has little contemporary impact (players do not talk about Coldsnap like they do Mirrodin or Ravnica).

Set Trend Pack Value Average Draft Value
Coldsnap has had a slow but steady increase, climbing about 13%.  $3.37 With Commons $10.11
$2.70 Without Commons $8.09
N/A Without lottery rares N/A

Well, this is a first, the average value of three Coldsnap packs is higher than $10, meaning the long term EV would be positive, without prizes! A lot of that value comes from Counterbalance and Mishra's Bauble pushing the average pack value of uncommons to $1.30. The commons value is nearly 70 cents, and is spread out, so it should be more feasible to recover more money. I would not expect the average value to stay above $10 for long, however.

Flashback Trends:

  Before Price After Price Percent Change Change Since Last Article
Eighth Eidtion $101.20 $110.08 8.8% 2.7%
Blood Moon $35.00 $25.52 -27.1% 3.2%
Mirrodin $94.90 $72.84 -23.2% 6.8%
Oblivion Stone $35.00 $19.56 -44.1% 9.2%
Darksteel $68.60 $60.25 -12.2% 1.8%
Aether Vial $5.60 $4.93 -12.0% 4.7%
Fifth Dawn $106.00 $100.56 -5.1% 7.3%
Serum Visions $2.80 $2.78 -0.7% 4.1%
Champions $75.50 $59.86 -20.7% 8.4%
Sensei's Divining Top $3.50 $3.82 9.1% 6.7%
Betrayers $63.20 $51.57 -18.4% 3.0%
Goryo's Vengeance $28.86 $19.09 -33.9% 1.6%
Saviors $61.10 $61.01 -0.1% 1.9%
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds $15.50 $10.06 -35.1% 0.3%
Ninth Edition $102.40 $75.01 -26.7% -0.1%
Adarkar Wastes $12.96 $4.09 -68.4% -26.8%
Ravnica $78.20 $53.19 -32.0% 7.2%
Dark Confidant $12.59 $10.82 -14.1% 12.6%
Guildpact $41.60 $28.01 -32.7% -6.2%
Orzhov Pontiff $8.40 $4.32 -48.6% -32.0%
Dissension $74.50 $62.51 -16.1% N/A
Infernal Tutor $36.66 $27.25 -25.7% N/A

This is an interesting week. Everything prior to Ninth went up on the table, which could be from expected the Modern bannings and some of the response. The pent up tension from Eldrazi and the response from the announcement probably has played quite a role. Of course, the older flashbacks are now a month or more behind us, so historical norms and trends are also likely playing a role. The older small sets are also coming close to returning to the pre-flashback price, so the overall impact long term will probably be positive.


Don't forget to look at articles here on PureMTGO. Here is a search link for Coldsnap articles. Old articles on the draft format: 

  • Here's an article from PureMTGO by Pete Jahn
  • Here's an article from SCG by Nick Eisel

So, I've drafted Coldsnap, so I don't have any brief snippets to share. Enjoy the drafts!

As always, I appreciate any comments! Still working on the card pop-ups. Unfortunately, I am quite busy and not an HTML expert, so it is posing quite a problem for me. I'll keep at it though.


xger21 on MTGO.


thanks by PanteraCanes at Thu, 04/07/2016 - 13:22
PanteraCanes's picture

Thank you for the history on this. While I have been playing for a long time it is only within the last 6 or 7 years I have really started to pay attention to the stories and other stuff. So it was nice to get some of the history.

I will admit I came here for write up on drafting the format. Don't know how much of that is in your wheel house. Also it would really bump this article to a large size. Though the history and prices are important to me as well. So I still gained something from the article even if it wasn't part of my original search. I will try and check these out more.

If you want more of a take on by Cheater Hater at Fri, 04/08/2016 - 00:32
Cheater Hater's picture

If you want more of a take on the draft format, you can either check out the links at the end of xger's article or check out my article, the Modern Flashback Series. I feel like the three Flashback-centric article series have each carved out a niche for themselves: I write about the draft format and the design of the set, xger writes about the history and finance of the set, and Joshua Claytor has draft recaps and gameplay videos. That way we each cover similar topics (making Thursday the Flashback day on PureMTGO) while not duplicating all the same information.

thanks by PanteraCanes at Fri, 04/08/2016 - 09:18
PanteraCanes's picture

Thanks. I did notice the links at the bottom for older content. Though I had already found those via google. I don't know if it is possible but maybe you could link your articles together? I think I found your article later as this one was at the top of the article list so for me personally I was able to find it faster. Part of my comment was also to point out that even though this wasn't what I was originally looking for I still liked it. Then I went and looked at the older ones in the series.

I appreciate that you like by JXClaytor at Fri, 04/08/2016 - 09:22
JXClaytor's picture

I appreciate that you like the articles, I'll do a better job of tying the past and the current ones together, who knows maybe year of Modern flashbacks becomes a regular thing? :D