On March 30th, the Sisters of the Flame held our 3rd Old School draft, diving into uncharted territories with a set that was never meant to be drafted in the first place — Ice Age. Ten Sisters assembled on a beautiful Manhattan rooftop overlooking the Hudson where we shot the shit, cracked 22 year old cardboard, and ate gummies “of questionable nutritional value” as Sister Danny would put it. Sister Seth organized the entire event, procuring the packs, securing the location, and donating incredible prizes to the prize pool.
The framework of the draft was the same as our first one: each person gets a sealed starter to open as their sealed pool, then we get 5 or 10 minutes to organize and plan (and order pizza). After that, we draft 1x Chronicles booster followed by 3x Ice Age boosters. 40 card decks. Ante is in effect.
I open my starter and the smell of that ink and paper that has somehow survived in this tiny time capsule brings me right back. Unfortunately, after the stupor of my nostalgia wanes, I realize my rares are horrendous and most of my colors looks pretty weak, except for red which provides me a couple good burn spells. But the weakness of the pool overall is made up for by one single card that I had in my uncommon slot: Icy Manipulator.
Red seems to be my best bet and some of my black is playable like Moor Fiend and Kjeldoran Dead. We move on to the boosters and start with the Chronicles pack. “All I want to do is pull an Elder Dragon” Seth says, moments before opening a Chromium. I’m sitting next to Jeff and he cracks his pack to find a Nicol Bolas. My god, what am I going to do with all these dragons flying around? Finally, I open my pack and also find myself greeted by that most well-read of Elder Dragons, Nicol Bolas. “Should we do it?” I ask Jeff. “I think we have to” he responds. Being in the same exact colors as your neighbor isn’t ideal but all these cards are garbage so who really gives a shit? Considering I was already leaning red and black, Bolas cements me fully in UBR and I start grabbing anything that’s blue and playable.
When the dust had settled, I ended up with this beautiful deck. Blue gave me 4 wizards to control the game, Red provided some multipurpose burn (Pyroclasm, Meteor Shower, and 2x Lava Bursts!?), and Black filled in the gaps with the regenerators and a Gangrenous Zombie, another Pyroclasm on a stick. All of that was topped by 2 awesome bombs, Icy Manipulator and Nicol Bolas. If I could survive to the late games, they would be mine.
We paired up and settled in for 5 rounds of Ante Ice Age 40 card Old School as Richard Garfield intended just as the gummies of questionable nutritional value began to take hold.
Round 1: Sister Adam
Could I have asked for a better Sister to start my day with? Adam was on a pretty control heavy BR deck with the black providing a ton of pain inducing enchant creatures and the red coming through with the burn, all topped off with some beefier creatures.
Game 1 took about 40 minutes to play since every threat was getting burned on both sides. There were so many answers to threats that I really don’t remember much of what happened in this game. All I know is that I was eventually able to whittle him down for the win.
Game 2, however, was an incredible roil of twists and turns. My opening hand looked promising with a couple wizards and the mana to cast them. Unfortunately, they were met by 2x Seizures which completely shut them down. I drew a lot of nothing for a few turns while he built up an army of 3 creatures and started beating me down. Luckily, I pulled one of my “bombs”, Icy Manipulator, and with a couple Lava Bursts, I was able to stabilize.
My next play turned the tides of war. I was able to drop a Kjeldoran Dead, then Pyroclasm (regenerating it) followed by a Meteor Shower to divide the damage and wipe his board. Of course, he proceeded to rip his bomb creature, Balduvian Hydra, and I was back in the danger zone. I had 2 life left to his 15 when I top-decked Nicol Bolas and was able to get in for a hit. I had 1 blocker on board and 1 card in hand but if he couldn’t kill me or deal with Bolas, he was toast. I pass the turn and he draws his card. “Oh my god,” he says. He taps his mana and throws down a Game of Chaos. I look down at my hand. “Hydroblast.”
Round 2: Sister Seth
Having drafted Old School with Seth recently, I knew these games were going to be slogs of control mirrors as he has a penchant for trying to do kooky dumb shit. We also both hoped that we might get to see two Elder Dragons annihilate each other since he had a Chromium in his 40.
Game 1 was certainly a slog and some of his tricks like Binding Grasp on my Illusionary Forces did some major damage. Thank god for cumulative upkeep (said no one ever except me just now). Seth essentially had every counter and pseudo removal spell one could hope to squeeze out of Ice Age. The game went on for what felt like hours before his answers eventually puttered out and allowed me to win.
Game 2 of this matchup was incredible and memorable even through the gummy haze. It was rough for me in the early game where he dominated the board and was able to get me down to the low single digits while he was still at 15. He had The Wretched on board and I threw out a desperate Essence Vortex just to play something. He took the 5 damage going to 10 to keep his Wretched on board as he set up to go in for the kill. He dropped a few creatures, now having lethal on board and passed the turn to me. I squinted as I flipped the top card.
Lava Burst. X=10.
Round 3: Sister Jeff
Since Jeff and I had sat beside each other during the draft, we knew we were both rocking Nicol Bolas. To my surprise, he had also splashed white for a few removal pieces. Game 1 was similar to my last match, both somewhat control heavy decks that drew the game out for a very long time. It was a lot of back and forth but I eventually took the game.
Game 2 was more of a nail biter. I had sided in my Hydroblast and a pretty killer hate card I had taken in the draft just in case, Wrath of Marit Lage, which taps all red creatures when it comes out, and doesn’t let red creatures untap, ever. That meant I had to wait for him to drop his Nicol Bolas before casting it as if I didn’t, he would get a hit in and I’d be discarding my hand anyway. I had the enchantment in my opening hand so I kept it. Sure enough, he dropped Nicol Bolas and I immediately dropped the Wrath. With an Icy Manipulator out as well, I was able to control the board enough to get in hits with my Phantasmal Mount and eventually take the game. I won a Pyroblast from the ante which became a coveted sideboard staple for the rest of the day.
Round 4: Sister Ian
Ian and I were both 3–0 when we sat down which meant I would be in for quite a match. Tragedy struck as we shuffled up for Game 1 and flipped our ante cards. He revealed a land; I revealed my Icy Manipulator. Of course, he then proceeded to steamroll and destroy me, winning my Icy which immediately went into his deck. This was my first game loss of the day and of course it lost me one of the best cards in my deck.
That led to the harrowing board state I saw in Game 2 in which he had out an Icy Manipulator, Ice Floe, and Elder Druid, which is essentially an Icy on a stick. With no land destruction or artifact destruction, I Lava Burst the Elder Druid and hope for the best. Luckily, I hit a patch of creature after creature and he drew around 5 lands in a row. I was able to Alpha Strike through the Icy and Ice Floe for the win.
Game 3 started with him ante-ing his Ice Floe. Ah, one less shenanigan to worry about. Unfortunately for him, this game quickly went in my favor as I was able to Zuran Enchanter his hand away and then drop a few Moor Fiends and go to town.
Round 5: Sister Erik
The first 4 rounds of the day saw me going up against mostly control decks with maybe 1 or 2 larger creatures, similar to my deck. But Erik was on RG fatty beats and that provided a whole new challenge. He also had around the same amount of red burn spells I did but with one killer addition that he had luckily drafted in his colors: Stormbind.
All 3 of our games followed a pretty similar pattern. We would burn out all of each other’s early game threats with Pyroclasms and Meteor Showers. His late games were way more solid than mine though because he had gone after the Green fatties that nobody else had, like Scaled Wurm and Shambling Strider and I could only Lava Burst so many things. On top of all that, his Stormbind basically had a clock on me which meant he could just block everything and discard to burn me for 2 every turn.
My Wrath of Marit Lage did help to nullify some of his red creatures so I focused my lava Bursts on his big Green boys. The gods were with me that day as Nicol Bolas continually showed up during my darkest hours. Hydroblast also became a lifeline against some of the red burn that would have been game ending. I took a game, he took a game, and I finished it up, barely taking the match on the wings on my Elder Dragon.
Going undefeated and snatching 1st place won me a Jester’s Cap, Ice Age Icy Manipulator (take that Ian!), and a copy of Scrye Magazine from June 1995 featuring the brand new set coming to your local hobby store: Ice Age. Also, as is now the custom, we drafted by standings the incredible prize pool that everybody had donated cards to, stamped and signed.
I walked away with a suite of Unlimited Old School staples that all went straight into my current Old School deck: Icy Manipulator, Disenchant, and REB. One step closer to the dream of every card in my deck being a prize card.
My only regret is that I didn’t get to play all of the people in the room because some of the decks seemed wild! Of special note was Sister David’s UG Polar Kraken Ramp deck. He was actually able to drop a Kraken on turn 5 or 6 in one game and that made his deck completely worth it.
Another wild ride I only got to hear about was that Jack pulled the only Necropotence in the room and built his deck around it, then lost it in ante!
Nothing can quite match the feeling of opening old cardboard and what better set to draft with than one that even most Old Schoolers don’t know the ins and outs of. Ice Age often gets the cold shoulder as a weak set, but that’s only when compared to the other sets of the time. By itself, Ice Age is a beautiful and well-balanced set and even without having been designed for draft, it provided an awesome experience and some interesting interactions.
We’re already planning our next draft and if it ends up being Ice Age heavy, I will not complain in the slightest.
-Sister Paul, Sisters of the Flame