Cube: The Third Format – A Beginners Guide to Vintage Cube by Rob Catton
It has been a while since I last wrote an article for Manaleak, but I really had the urge to write about everybody’s favourite part of Christmas and the New Years (right?) – Vintage Cube!
This particular cube is only up on Magic Online a couple of times a year, and most people agree that it is the ‘best’ one, as it features all the most powerful cards that magic has to offer. If playing turn 1 [card]Jace the Mindsculptor[/card] or attacking with [card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/card] on turn 2 is your thing – this is the cube for you.
As the title of this article says, I think that cube lies somewhere in between Constructed and Limited as a third format. It obviously has close ties with limited as it is a draft, but the fact is that if you approach cube like you would approach a normal limited format, you will struggle to find wins.
Instead, you should be trying to actively draft a deck, or archetype. This way you can take advantage of the cards which are normally quite poor, but given synergy are incredibly strong cards.
Here are my top 3 archtypes, which I have ranked from top to bottom according to which ones I feel are not only the most powerful, but also perform the best when you only get half the “payoff” cards (this is an important aspect of a deck, because some decks don’t work at all unless you get absolutely everything from the draft pool).
Archetype 1: “Draw 7 Combo”
I have called this archetype draw 7 combo as there is a lot of crossover between storm and other combo-ish decks like [card]Sneak Attack[/card]. The one attribute they all share is the love of draw 7’s. These decks typically have a lot of fast mana, be it from [card]Dark Ritual[/card] and [card]Seething Song[/card], or from mana artifacts like Moxes and [card]Grim Monolith[/card] et al.
The power of this deck really lies with how much you can simply ignore your opponent, and make them work to stop what you’re doing. By just playing a deck which wins with something completely non interactive like [card]Tendrils of Agony[/card] or [card]Sneak Attack[/card] in an Emrakul and [card]Griselbrand[/card], you can flat out ignore even the largest threats like [card]Primeval Titan[/card] or [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card].
Here is an example decklist for a “Draw 7 Combo Deck”.
I chose to share this particular storm deck as it is probably the most interesting one I drafted, though not the most powerful. Take note of the cards here, they will be the ones you want to find when drafting this deck.
Taking advantage of [card]Fastbond[/card] in combination with 2 Draw 7’s, this deck can make a lot of mana very quickly, even though it only has 2 mana artifacts. [card]Yawgmoth’s Will[/card] is an incredibly key card, turning [card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card] into a straight up [card]Black Lotus[/card].
My favourite interaction in this deck, though, is the [card]Palinchron[/card] + [card]Clones plan[/card]. Using [card]Fastbond[/card] to accrue a large amount of lands, thanks to all the card draw, [card]Palinchron[/card] comes in and untaps the 7 lands you used to cast him, meaning you break even but have +1 Storm. Now, using a [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] or [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card], we can copy the [card]Palinchron[/card] and end up ahead on mana (2 mana or 3 mana to untap 7 lands).
Thanks to the [card]Palinchron[/card]s activated ability, [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] can now “go infinite” by returning itself for 4 mana, and casting again for 2 mana.
This is a good example of making a deck work despite not getting passed the rituals or moxes normally needed for a storm deck to function.
Archetype 2: Big Artifacts
There are a lot of payoff cards for the Artifact deck, which means that even if there is another drafter on this deck you may still be able to end up with a decent deck. One of the weakness’s, however, is that strong cards like [card]Sol Ring[/card] and [card]Grim Monolith[/card] are in high demand, meaning other players on separate archetypes will likely snap these up – so don’t expect them to always table!
This is one of the fastest decks in the cube, but it wins with a huge board presence rather than spells – a distinction from the storm deck. Here is an example deck list.
This deck is far from perfect, as it has a lot of filler ([card]Phantasmal Image[/card], [card]Pithing Needle[/card], [card]Looter Il-Kor[/card], [card]Jace Beleren[/card] etc), but it highlights the power of [card]Tolarian Academy[/card], which makes [card]Turnabout[/card] an actual mana ritual, making casting [card]Inkwell Leviathan[/card] or [card]Blightsteel Colossus[/card] a real thing.
Some cards which are missing from this deck are [card]Grim Monolith[/card], [card]Metalworker[/card], [card]Lightning Greaves[/card], [card]Goblin Welder[/card], [card]Mishra’s Workshop[/card] and [card]Tinker[/card] to name a few. The inclusion of these cards would make this deck into a solid 2-1 or 3-0 deck.
Again, making things work when you don’t necessarily get passed the right cards is a crucial skill to have when cubing; [card]Dragonlord Atarka[/card] is not even close to being a ‘normal’ card for this deck, but given the mana-fixing from the lands and the big mana strategy, it becomes a solid playable. Make sure you keep an eye out for backup plans.
Archetype 3: The Fair Deck
The best fair deck in the cube is usually going to end up being base blue, as counterspells are the best way to keep all the unfair decks in check. Cards like [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card] and [card]Dismember[/card] are fine vs half the unfair decks, but what about if you are paired up against a deck with no creatures? Or even no non-land permanents? Hand disruption and counterspells are the only interaction left, beyond minor exceptions like [card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card] or [card]Lodestone Golem[/card].
This archetype is by far the safest, as you can really just win the game with a simple counterspell vs a storm deck. You are looking to slow down the tempo of the game, and win by amassing card advantage, and pushing through with a threat backed up by your disruption.
Here is an example decklist.
The 4 C’s – Counterspells, cantrips, card advantage and creatures that provide card advantage; this deck is quite slick. I think instead of the Ugin at the top end I would prefer a big flier like [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card], but Ugin really does hammer a few decks.
Typically, the base blue control deck will be using white or black as the secondary colour, to gain access to some harder removal. Personally I prefer white, as cards like [card]Banishing Light[/card] or [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] are great catchalls, and often better than cheaper creature removal like [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card] or [card]Path to Exile[/card].
As crazy as it sounds, [card]Mana Leak[/card] or [card]Remand[/card] are slam dunk first picks over more expensive counterspells like [card]Cryptic Command[/card]. It is so easy to lose because your countermagic only came up on turn 4, so you couldn’t stop your opponents [card]Show and Tell[/card] or [card]Entomb[/card] into [card]Reanimate[/card].
The most important thing to remember when drafting a fair deck, is how many pieces of interaction you have. Be it countermagic, hand disruption like [card]Vendilion Clique[/card], mana denial like [card]Wasteland[/card], permanent removal like [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] or [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] (a maindeckable card!), you need to have interaction abundant – the cheaper the better.
There are still more archetypes to explore including MonoGreen Ramp, MonoRed Aggro, UB Reanimator, UR Splinter Twin, MonoWhite Creatures, but a lot of those are quite simple to draft and I have already ranted on for too long about specific archetypes. Instead, here is a brief guide of what to avoid drafting, and how the colours match up.
Draw 7 Combo
Base Blue Fair Control Deck
UR Splinter Twin
DO NOT DRAFT:
Anything Naya coloured and fair
Ok, maybe you CAN draft MonoRed, but its just so miserable when your opponent is doing cool busted things, and you have [card]Goblin Guide[/card]. All in all, you should obviously just draft what makes you happy – these lists are just what you should and shouldn’t draft if you want to win (MonoRed can maybe be swapped over if you get passed something like [card]Sulfuric Vortex[/card]).
The last thing I want to touch on, is a list of cards you should not be passing. A good amount of these are colourless, because it is usually acceptable to pass an [card]Ancestral Recall[/card] if you are not in blue (and you have no fixing, and its pack 3…).
The obvious ones are the power 9, with the exception of [card]Timetwister[/card]. This card is quite niche, as you need a combo with it for it to be decent, or just extremely fast mana.
Below is a complete list of cards you should not be passing Pack 1 Pick 1, and you also shouldn’t be passing most of the time regardless of what pack it is.
Library of Alexandria
Jace the Mindsculptor
- You have heard it a thousand times, but take mana fixing. You aren’t often short on playables in cube, so make sure you use a few picks on lands. Splashing is often important, as well as taking off colour duals so you can make fetches better (for example taking a badlands so your Marsh Flats can now fetch White or Red).
- Sideboarding really matters! I often end up siding at least 3 cards per game, as there are a lot of sweet sideboard cards in the cube, for example [card]Pithing Needle[/card] or [card]Phyrexian Revoker[/card].
- If you play fair, have interaction. If you have some random pile of creatures that dont interact with your opponent, and no interactive spells, you are almost a dead cert to not win the draft.
- Play the right amount of lands, and its often 16. Games are over so soon in this cube, for one reason or another, you not only can’t afford to flood out in the early game, but you also probably won’t last long enough to hard-cast your 7 drop. This means stay away from cards like [card]Elesh Norn[/card] or [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card] UNLESS you have mana ramp or a bunch of counterspells to buy time. Otherwise, it just won’t happen.
- Last but not least, get drafting! The Vintage Cube is only up on Magic Online for another week, finishing on January 6th. It’s only 10 tickets or 100 Play Points to join a queue, so make sure you don’t miss the boat! If you do, it will be up later in the year.
Hope this was helpful!
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- Winners will be picked from between now and 15/01/16, and all the winners will be announced on 16/01/16.
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[schema type=”review” url=”http://www.manaleak.com/” name=”Cube: The Third Format – A Beginners Guide to Vintage Cube by Rob Catton” description=”This particular cube is only up on Magic Online a couple of times a year, and most people agree that it is the ‘best’ one, as it features all the most powerful cards that magic has to offer. If playing turn 1 [card]Jace the Mindsculptor[/card] or attacking with [card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/card] on turn 2 is your thing – this is the cube for you.” ]