Tuesday, 21 February 2023 12:45

Let's have a word (that is, many words) about the overly-wordy Ice Cauldron

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Artwork from the MTG card Ice Cauldron. Artwork from the MTG card Ice Cauldron. WOTC/DAN FRAZIER

Between rules text, reminder text, and flavor text, sometimes it seems like Wizards of the Coast tries to cram as much text as possible onto a Magic: The Gathering card.  While, after nearly 30 years, the company has gotten pretty good about making things as concise and clear as possible, many older cards have a wall of text to read.  And, even then, you might not completely understand exactly how the card is supposed to work.

One of the most infamous and longest of one of these text block cards is Ice Age's Ice Cauldron. And that's despite the artifact only doing two things:

Variable ColorlessTap: Put a charge counter on Ice Cauldron, and put a spell card face up on Ice Cauldron. Note the type of mana and amount used to pay this activation cost. Use this ability only if there are no charge counters on Ice Cauldron.  You may play that spell cards as though it were in your hand.
Tap, Remove the charge counter from Ice Cauldron to add mana of the type and amount last used to put a charge counter on Ice Cauldron to your mana pool. This mana is usable only to cast the spell on top of Ice Cauldron.


Things don't get much simpler with the revamped Oracle card text:

Variable ColorlessTap: You may exile a nonland card from your hand. You may cast that card for as long as it remains exiled. Put a charge counter on Ice Cauldron and note the type and amount of mana spent to pay this activation cost. Activate only if there are no charge counters on Ice Cauldron.
Tap, Remove a charge counter from Ice Cauldron: Add Ice Cauldron's last noted type and amount of mana. Spend this mana only to cast the last card exiled with Ice Cauldron.


In short, the cards lets you partially pre-pay for a specific card, allowing to you spread out the converted mana cost over a couple of turns.  You don't have 11 mana available to cast a Polar Kraken?  Use Ice Cauldron to pay five now and six later, or however you decide to split up the cost.

The card, however, it is asking you to keep track of a bunch of things and is a nonstandard way to move cards around. 

Today, you don't see too many cards like this for that reason. And not many are given reprints. Still, it had a profound effect on Magic cards going forward. Not too many MTG cards can claim that -- especially ones with enough words to fill a small book.