Some New Year Vintage Cube Tips
Happy New Year everybody! It’s been slow on the MTG front with all WotC offices out for their usual winter holidays, but they leave us behind one of our favorite winter pastimes, Vintage Cube.
After recently preparing for the Arena Open, it was a huge system shock to step into the more casual Vintage Cube environment.
Vintage Cube is faster and more punishing. We all have different ways of drafting. The biggest difference I have from others is that I don’t like drafting aggro decks when White Aggro has taken the top slot of the perceived “best decks”. I tend to avoid White Aggro cards because I don’t like a lot of them, and I haven’t found many good offramp strategies when it doesn’t pan out.
Since we’ll have it for a few more weeks, here are some tips I came up with for drafting Vintage Cube.
Signets are a lot weaker than they used to be.
There was a time when Signets were highly sought after. Ramp, fixing, they kind of did it all. Nowadays, mana is better with Triomes, and the format is faster. Three-drops are almost as strong as four-drops when you look at cards like Oko and Fable of the Mirror Breaker, but also you need to impact the board early.
I still like Signets when your curve goes from two to four, but if you have high-impact threes it’s better to play something proactive or reactive rather than develop mana on turn two. Tinker is a strong reason to include them, but generally I don’t want to be flooding out on Signets. I’d rather be playing more lands.
If I had it my way, I’d change the Signets out for Talismans because they’re “cheaper” in that you can play them on turn two and still get a mana out of them, which would vastly improve my tolerance for them, especially given you don’t get locked into their two colors and can be more flexible with your mana moving forward.
Card draw is weak, except for draw sevens.
I no longer wheel cards like Wheel of Fortune, but cards like Memory Deluge, Fact or Fiction, and even Sylvan Library are too slow in 2023. You want to spend mana that impacts the battlefield. Ancestral Recall is incredibly strong because it costs next to nothing and provides an enormous flow of cards for one mana.
Draw sevens are the most broken thing to do with fast mana like Black Lotus, Mana Crypt, and all the moxes. We now have Leovold, Narset, and Sheoldred to combo with them. Leave the old mopey card draw at home.
Interaction should be cheap.
Murderous Rider, Hero’s Downfall, Oblivion Ring, Maelstrom Pulse, and even Vindicate to an extent are too clunky in traditional midrange decks. It’s okay in low-curve aggro to have expensive removal because you’re already on board when you want to play these cards. These kinds of cards are too slow to recover in other decks. You’re not making a favorable exchange spending mana on these spells, so it’s likely you should be looking for other ways to manage the game.
Even cards like Cryptic Command, and dare I say it, Mystic Confluence haven’t impressed me lately because games are often decided before these cards are castable. Swords to Plowshares, Lightning Bolt, Dismember, and to a lesser extent, Fatal Push are the kinds of interaction you want to pull ahead and run away with the games early.
I don’t fight for white.
If you notice various White Aggro cards missing in pack one, try and bail out. The deck needs all the good pieces, and if you don’t get a lot of them you end up dipping into another color. White Aggro is overdrafted ever since I can remember Cedric using it to beat the crap out of everyone. I personally never draft White Aggro, and in general I don’t fight for whatever is the current “best deck,” which leads me to my next point.
Storm is becoming underdrafted.
With its raw power level, Storm is the strongest archetype in the Cube right now. A good Storm deck is so consistent and fast that it’s generally worth trying if you notice a few of the key cards in the early packs.
Underworld Breach is the strongest newer addition to Storm and makes it easy to combo off with something like Tendrils or Brain Freeze with just a Lion’s Eye Diamond. Lion’s Eye Diamond is another card that is criminally underdrafted since we have Yawgmoth’s Will, Underworld Breach, and Echo of Eons to use for a “combo.”
It may not last long, but I think Storm is in a good spot, and I was previously opposed to drafting Storm, either because I didn’t draft it well and just nosedived in with no offramp strategy, or more likely, tons of streamers loved to force it (thanks, LSV and Finkel). It led to many people going into drafts doing the same, ending up with bad versions, and losing a lot.
A bad Storm deck can’t win, so you have to carefully stay open in pack one and see if some of the more important cards wheel, such as the win cons, specifically Brain Freeze and Tendrils of Agony. It’s time to jump in if they come around. Lotus Petal’s addition provides more ways to generate mana for free with a card like Underworld Breach.
I overrated Oko.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still strong, and I still take it fairly highly, but it’s not on the same level as a power. Alphafrog even asked if it’s better or worse than Minsc and Boo, Timeless Heros. In my eyes, it’s clearly not as good. I’d scale Oko down a bit in the pick order. Oko is better the more fair Magic you play, but it doesn’t do enough against unfair decks that have massive turns where an Emrakul or Griselbrand is sneaked into play, Storm to combo off, or Splinter Twin combo you. I’ve rarely had games where Oko had a big enough impact to decide a game early.
There’s some newer broken cards that are going too late.
I still see Minsc and Boo pick eight sometimes, and in my eyes it’s currently a top 25 card in the Cube. This shouldn’t be happening. It’s the best planeswalker in the Cube, which says a lot. Yes, it’s better than Dack, Wrenn, Oko, and anything else you care to name.
Sheoldred is next up. Sheoldred is obscenely strong. Setting up draw sevens with it is very real, but also, it’s incredibly good against decks playing a lot of card draw. I get soloed by Sheoldred drafting fast-mana decks with Twister and Wheel of Fortune, whether it’s out of a combo deck or just a generic BW midrange deck.
Wrenn and Six is still strong. Although it’s not as powerful as Minsc and Boo, I often wheel it in pack one and it’s a card I’m excited to draft a lands deck around. I don’t mind drafting Omnath decks, another average card, but it’s kind of free because it’s not a top archetype. Wrenn isn’t brand new to the Cube, but it’s still newish and underdrafted.
Fury. Everyone loves Solitude, but I haven’t heard enough Fury praise. Fury makes aggro decks squirm and is an incredibly fast clock when hard cast. Fury’s most important feature, and why I prefer it to Solitude, is that it interacts with planeswalkers. It’s easy to come back from behind with Fury, and it’s quickly climbing my pick order. In fact, Grief often goes too late as well.
Black Lotus is the best card in the cube.
There used to be some discussion about what card is the best. Is it Ancestral? Sol Ring? Lotus? To me, it’s clearly Black Lotus now. There’s more support for it now, which is a weird thing to say, but between Yawgmoth’s Will, Underworld Breach, Lurrus, and all the strong new four-drops I named, Black Lotus takes the cake as the card I want to open most. Cube used to be more grindy, but these days just let me do something broken on turn one.
Here are some of my better decks from this season’s Vintage Cube.
First some Classic Storm Decks:
Sneak and Breach:
Lastly, the most beautiful screenshots you’ll ever see:
For me, Cube isn’t about maximizing win rate alone, it’s about playing Magic in the broken ways I enjoy playing it but also giving myself a good chance at winning. Maybe if I drafted a lot of Mono White I’d win 2-3% more, which is a lot, but I wouldn’t want to play, as Cube is a casual unwind.
My best advice for Cube is to find archetypes that you like drafting, draft them, and learn what cards are important, which are just role players, and find out where to pick up value in the draft. Learn your offroads and inroads for archetypes and you can win while having fun, your way.
Magic looks exciting in 2023, we have Phyrexia All will be One and Dominaria Remastered right out of the gate. I’m excited to get to work.
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