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By: SteveJeltz, Rev. David Wright
Jan 08 2018 12:00pm
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 Vintage Cube: Overrated and Underrated. 

I'm about 28 drafts into the Vintage Cube with 7 trophies and fewer 1-2 and 0-3 records than 3-0s, maintaining a 69% win rate. With that kind of iteration, I've seen not only the cards that win games but the cards that fall flat. What interests me most isn't the obvious power cards like Sol Ring or even Sneak Attack, but the subtle ones, the ones that go late in a pack and yet still make the difference in games. Here are a few, along with a few more than I think get picked way earlier than they should. 

Overrated 

Brainstorm

Here's the problem with Brainstorm: everyone wants the fetches. If you get more than 2 shuffle effects in your deck, thank your lucky stars. Yes, there are other shuffle effects besides Scalding Tarn, cards like Vampiric Tutor or even Sakura-Tribe Elder, but far too much of the time, you're going to be Brainstorm-locking yourself for it to be worth your while. In contrast, Ponder and Preordain are straight gas, and will always make your deck.

Control Magic

Control Magic and its cousins are awesome bombs in most fair cubes. I'll gladly first pick a Control Magic, a Sower of Temptation, a Dragonlord Silumgar or especially a Treachery in the MTGO Legacy Cube. The problem with these cards in the Vintage Cube is that creatures, especially fair creatures, just aren't the primary win condition in every deck. Many decks, like Storm, run zero creatures. And other decks that win via creatures do so in one-shot kills that you can't interact with anyway. Like Through the Breach into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. The last problem with cards like Control Magic is that there are so many good artifacts and enchantments in the cube that everyone is maindecking cards like Nature's Claim. Save your Control Magics for Legacy Cube. But know that in fair cubes, even cards like overcosted Mind Control are straight gas.

Umezawa's Jitte / Sword of Fire and Ice

There are one and a half decks in the Vintage Cube that can make any good use from equipment. The white fair deck will gladly main deck one or two pieces of equipment and sideboard the rest. The half decks are mono red and I guess green ramp, though honestly, in green, Swords should never be your Plan A. As powerful as a Limited card as Umezawa's Jitte is, this just isn't what Vintage Cube is about. There's no combat tricks, few X/1s or X/2s that you would care about killing, and rarely are you in a race situation. If you're having problems with mana dorks, side in a card like Incinerate or Magma Jet. Don't bother with swords. So here's my caveat: I have lost to plenty of swords before, especially Sword of Body and Mind. In fair cubes where there are Mind Control effects, anti-blue swords are great. But in Vintage Cube, they're a Plan B or sideboard card at best, not a slam first pick.

Mishra's Workshop / Tolarian Academy

 Everybody wants signets. They routinely get taken picks 1-4 out of every pack. Everybody wants cards like Mana Vault, Grim Monolith and even Basalt Monolith. More than any deck in the Vintage Cube, the "Brown" deck suffers that every other drafter is picking off the cards that you need. I can't think of the number of times I've seen a Wildfire build fall flat because you can't get the critical mass of artifacts needed. While these two cards are powerful in real Vintage magic, here you just can't get enough of the pieces to make them payoff the way you can assemble mana dorks to turn on Gaea's Cradle. Take Tinker and Blightsteel Colossus and don't worry about these two.

Karn Liberated

The Karn father is a first pick slam control or ramp finisher in a fair cube. In this cube, its about the 7th most powerful thing you can do off of a Channel, but that's about it. Best case scenario: its a seven mana Vindicate. Vintage Cube isn't won on card advantage but on single play haymakers. While I have had this card played against me many times, rarely did it ever win the game and when it did the opponent was so far ahead it wasn't needed. If you need removal, take Path to Exile, or Terminate or anything. Sadly, only one Planeswalker is worthy of a 1-3 pick, and that's the Greatest Thief In The Multiverse, Dack Fayden.  

Underrated 

Pack Rat

I have lost to this card far more than I ever should. If you can't answer it, Pack Rat wins the game on turn-5, every time. The primary home for this deck is actually a shell I hate: the black / white disruptive aggro token deck. It can be a very powerful card for that deck if for no other reason than it gives you a place to trash all your other terrible cards! It's also a discard outlet for the Reanimator deck, albeit with an activation cost, but still at instant speed.

Manic Vandal  Leonin Relic-Warder 

Everyone plays artifacts. There's almost a hundred artifacts in the cube out of 540 total cards. Most are either accelerants or fatties. All three of these cards are main deck worthy and have an amazing hit rate, far better than their creature kill cousins, Bone Shredder, Nekrataal and Duplicant.

Izzet Charm

I love utility cards. And I love Red / Blue. You unlock so many possible win conditions in red / blue that this card can be a Shock on a mana dork, a Spell Pierce, or a Faithless Looting at instant speed such that I've used this with Shallow Grave to win the game. And it comes down early enough that it will always be a relevant card for you even when its only a loot effect. This one and the next one are my favorite utility cards in the Vintage Cube.

My #1 favorite card in the Vintage Cube. It does it all! Shocks! Shatters! Raise Deads! Raven's Crime! You ALWAYS get your 2-for-1, and there's never a game that at least two of its abilities won't be relevant. Plus, in a pinch, use it as a discard outlet on yourself to set up an Animate Dead. Value!

Geist of Saint Traft

Who would have guessed? Even though most fair cards fall flat on their face in the Vintage Cube, because there are so few blockers out there, Geist of Saint Traft represents a fantastic clock for a white-blue tempo deck. It may even be better than True-Name Nemesis. Add on the ability to carry a Sword, and this orphan from the Legacy and Modern Cubes over-performs relative to its power as a unique kind of threat. 

Bonus: Top Five Rivals of Ixalan Cards for Pauper

1. Secrets of the Golden City: Pauper has plenty of Draw 2s, but precious few Draw 3s. Compulsive Research and Mulldrifter are the closest we get. But a conditional Draw 3 with the downside of only being a slightly more color intensive Divination might be just enough to push this card into play.

2. Dusk Legion Zealot: SAT Analogies time: Dusk Legion Zealot is to Phyrexian Rager as Ravenous Rats is to Chittering Rats.

3. Grasping Scoundrel: Somewhere on the fringes of Pauper is a mono black aggro deck filled with cards like Carnophage and Pulse Tracker. This is the Elite Vanguard for that deck. 

4. Moment of Craving: Sorin's Thirst is a mono-black fringe sideboard card since its a cheap way to recoup life vs. aggro. This card fills the same niche but is easier on the colored mana.

5. Fanatical Firebrand: Once upon a time there was a little punk named Mogg Fanatic. He could attack for 1, sacrifice for 1, and with the beauty of Damage-on-the-stack, he always did both. Fanatical Firebrand is the spiritual descendant of Mogg Fanatic. We haven't seen Goblins in competitive play for a while, but this little guy could be a nice toolbox critter for that deck.

HM: Mutiny: Raw power this is the biggest blowout card of the set. One mana. Kills TWO of their creatures. The problem of course is set up cost. How many decks play multiple small creatures on early turns that will let you smash them into each other? Stompy? Elves? That might be it. Remember that Lightning Bolt exists and while it does, its always a better one mana play. But if you like blowouts, this is the card for you.

4 Comments

Pack Rat by TheWolf at Mon, 01/08/2018 - 17:57
TheWolf's picture
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Pack Rat is probably my favourite card in the whole cube. It does exactly what you said it does, and has won me so many games if I see it P1P1 I usually take it.

Great article, thanks for by MichelleWong at Tue, 01/09/2018 - 03:25
MichelleWong's picture
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Great article, thanks for sharing your views.

I liked yours, too! The by CottonRhetoric at Tue, 01/09/2018 - 16:29
CottonRhetoric's picture

I liked yours, too! The timing was a funny coincidence and I'm glad we didn't overlap any.

I'm curious to try Pack Rats now -- tbh I've never seen it accomplish anything in cube.

Mutiny isn't a two-for-one; by Cheater Hater at Tue, 01/09/2018 - 22:50
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Mutiny isn't a two-for-one; the damage only goes one way.