Snakes have been around in Magic for a long time: all the way back to Nafs Asp, in Arabian Nights. We don’t think of Snakes as being a powerhouse tribe, but you might be surprised to learn how many powerful Snake cards have been lurking around in the nooks and crannies of this game, often providing sneaky, tricky interaction, striking at the opportune moment – much like a Snake in real life. Let’s have a look at some of the best Snakes from throughout Magic’s history!
10. Mystic Snake
Mystic Snake is an absolute beating of a card. A personal favorite of mine, as I play both it and Frilled Mystic in my four-color blink deck so as to blink them with Ghostly Flicker and Archaeomancer, Mystic Snake absolutely gets people. For some reason, it feels so much worse to get your spell sniped by a Mystic Snake than a regular counterspell, even though the random 2/2 it leaves behind isn’t usually as good as, say, the card you would draw off Cryptic Command. Still, there’s no doubt that ambushing someone with a Mystic Snake feels great for you, feels terrible for them, and is an experience I highly recommend.
Believe it or not – and given the state of Modern’s current one-drops, “not” is an absolutely fine answer – Hexdrinker used to be played in Modern. When Jund decks were looking to get leaner and meaner, trying to get themselves as close to the ground as possible, Hexdrinker was played as an early threat that would grow into an unstoppable beater. It didn’t survive, as there are slightly better 2/1s for one running around in Modern at the moment, but for awhile there, Hexdrinker was good enough to run with the big dogs in Modern. Or slither with them, at the very least.
8. Shigeki, Jukai Visionary
Shigeki represents my very favorite kind of Standard card: one that you don’t see very often, but when you do, it immediately feels like you can’t possibly win against the wild deck it’s the centerpiece of. Shigeki decks are always doing something ridiculous, but start off innocuous enough, just play some extra lands, nothing to worry about, mill myself a bit, no, no, chill, it’s fine – and then out of nowhere, they have 15 mana and you’re dying to some bulk mythic you can’t even remember the name of. It’s not a Constructed powerhouse by any means, but Shigeki always seems to have something to say for itself.
7. Seshiro the Anointed
Snakes aren’t the most popular tribe in EDH, not by a long way, but the diehard mono-green Snake fans out there all agree: the best choice to lead your long bois into battle is Seshiro the Anointed, no doubt about it. The suite of abilities on this card is absolutely nuts in the abstract: +2/+2, for starters, and an on-hit draw for each Snake? Those are some serious rewards for playing mono-green Snakes. The downside? Well, there are only 67 mono-green-legal Snake cards, and that’s including things like Nafs Asp and Coiled Tinviper, which are… not great, to put it mildly.
6. Winding Constrictor
If you want great, though, how about Winding Constrictor? The centerpiece of old Constructed decks in Standard, Winding Constrictor has settled into a comfortable retirement in EDH, helping anyone playing +1/+1 counter decks embiggen their creatures even more. Decks like Atraxa and Skullbriar are always ready for an effect like this, and while its Snake-ness doesn’t really ever some into play (it would be just as effective as an Fish or a Camel), Winding Constrictor is still very good at its job.
5. Ohran Frostfang
Ohran Frostfang doesn’t muck around. Green has to jump through some hoops to get card advantage, and Ohran Frostfang aggressively rams creatures right through those hoops and past blockers in order to draw a grip, every turn. Giving the team deathtouch and also an on-hit draw ability is quite the combo, and means that opponents are left with an impossible choice: trade off their creatures to the deathtouch and lose their board, or let you through to draw a ton of cards. Ohran Frostfang doesn’t make life easy for your opponents, and is a great inclusion in any green deck looking to exploit combat for extra cards.
4. Coiling Oracle
Another card I have a huge soft spot for, Coiling Oracle is just exactly the sort of turn-two play I like to make in EDH. Sometimes it’s a Rampant Growth, sometimes it’s an Elvish Visionary, but either way you get your value and can feel good about things. Plus, in a deck filled with blink effects, it’s the perfect way to make sure you have a good target for those Ghostly Flickers early on, and it makes sure your Eerie Interludes get you that little extra bit of value, as a sweetener. Coiling Oracle is a quiet and unassuming card, but it puts in a lot of work and there aren’t many two-drops I’d rather open with.
3. Lotus Cobra
Speaking of two-drops, here’s one that can provide you with the most broken, explosively quick starts: Lotus Cobra. Lotus Cobra is one of those mana dorks that can produce a lot – a lot – more mana than it cost to begin with, and can do it almost straight away. If you untap with a Lotus Cobra and play a fetchland, it’s already paid for itself – or, combine it with extra-land effects in order to reap even more mana from it each turn. In multiples, this card is absolutely sick, turning something as simple as an Evolving Wilds into a massive, free, uncounterable ritual card, and it won’t be long before Lotus Cobra is helping you slam those huge top-end beaters onto the battlefield.
2. Ice-Fang Coatl
Multicolor Omnath decks in Modern absolutely love this card. As an early value play to trade with Ragavan and keep the cards coming, you only need two basics out to have it be able to trade with absolutely anything at all. Kind of like Baleful Strix, it’s very difficult to end up down when you play Ice-Fang Coatl. Ambushing a huge beater, messing up combat and trading off – all while drawing a card – isn’t bad for just two mana. In fact, it’s so powerful that the Coatl sometimes sees play in Legacy, and when you think about the quality of two-drops in that format, you start to see just how strong Ice-Fang Coatl is.
1. Sakura-Tribe Elder
But for my money, the best Snake ever printed – and certainly my favorite – is the humble Sakura-Tribe Elder. The Elder isn’t afraid of anything: you play him out on turn two, block their attack to soak up damage, then fetch a basic. I love a good Rampant Growth, and here’s one that not only pads your life total a little bit, but also can be used, in a pinch, as an attacker in the late game. Sakura-Tribe Elder is one of the reasons I play Kessig Wolf Run in my boomer Scapeshift list, and I’m very rarely unhappy to see him off the top of the library, both early and late. Sakura-Tribe Elder: we salute you!