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By: SteveJeltz, Rev. David Wright
Dec 18 2017 2:00pm
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Demystifying The Vintage Cube

 

 Force of Will

The Best Format Ever! goes live this coming Wednesday, December 20th and is running until the release of Rivals of Ixalan, January 15th.

 

That’s right: it's the MTGO Vintage Cube time!

 

What Is The Vintage Cube?

 

If you've never cubed before, a Cube is a draft format of singleton cards representing a selection from magic’s history. Most recently we had the Modern Cube this past summer featuring only cards legal in the Modern format. In contrast, the Vintage Cube features cards from the entirety of Magic’s history, from Alpha to Ixalan, and also includes the most powerful cards in Magic’s history including Vintage-only cards like the fabled Power 9. Tell me it's not awesome to crack your pack 1 pick one and find yourself staring at a Mox or a Black Lotus.

 

And generally speaking, this is exactly what you should do. Take the power. Play the power. For a cheat sheet, I'll even include the Top 10 cards you should never pass under any circumstances (unless you open a pack with more than one of these- trust me, it happens).

 

Ten Cards You Should Never Pass in The Vintage Cube (in relative order of power):

 

  1. Black Lotus

    Black Lotus

  2. Sol Ring

    Sol Ring

  3. Ancestral Recall

    Ancestral Recall

  4. Mox Sapphire

    Mox Sapphire

  5. Mox Ruby

    Mox Ruby

  6. Mox Jet

    Mox Jet

  7. Mana Crypt

    Mana Crypt

  8. Time Walk

    Time Walk

  9. Mox Emerald

    Mox Emerald

  10. Mox Pearl

    Mox Pearl

 

I admit it: #s 9 and 10 are actually debatable. And believe it or not there are circumstances where I will pass an off colored Mox for other specific cards that I might need more to complement my deck in packs 2 and 3, especially if it's an ultra efficient effect like Demonic Tutor or a card that my archetype lives or dies by like Tinker or Yawgmoth's Will. But we’ll discuss those exceptions later…
 

What Cards are In The Vintage Cube?

 

The MTGO Vintage Cube is comprised of 540 singleton cards. Because each player opens 45 cards in the course of a draft and there are always exactly 8 players in an MTGO Vintage Cube draft, that means in any given draft you and the other 7 players in your draft pod will only see 360 of the 540 cards or 2/3rds of the total card pool. This can be important to remember if you're hoping to finish a specific card combination, like for example if you have a Splinter Twin and you’re wondering where the Deceiver Exarch rambled off to.

 

In addition to being a kind of Hall of Fame of Magic’s all time most powerful cards, the Vintage Cube is designed towards specific archetypes. You would benefit to know what some of these archetypes are before drafting since it may help explain what certain cards are doing in the Cube and what cards to expect based on what you see. For example, in the last episode of Limited Resources, Marshall Sutcliffe and LSV made the inference that if you see a card like Gifts Ungiven, it's good to recognize that it's not just there as a quirky draw card. Recognizing that “Reanimator” is a well-supported archetype in the Vintage Cube helps you spot that if you see a Gifts Ungiven then you should be expect as well to see an Unburial Rites so that you can search for only 2 cards, since the card says up to 4 cards, and then dump both the Unburial Rites and the fattie of your choice, say a Griselbrand, in your graveyard at the end of your opponent’s turn so that you can untap, pay your 3W and enjoy the company of your new demonic friend.

 

Color Breakdown

 

One of the big surprises of the Vintage Cube is that the 5 colors are not distributed evenly. Actually the total number of colored cards is far less than you’d think! The most frequently appearing color in the Vintage Cube is actually colorless!

 

Here's the breakdown by color:

 

White: 70

Creatures: 38

 By CMC: (Frequency)

 1: 4     2: 9     3: 11     4: 4     5: 5     6: 2     7: 3     8: 0     9: 1

Planeswalkers: 5

Instants: 6

Sorceries: 10

Enchantment: 9

Artifact: 1

Land: 1

 

Blue: 75

Creatures: 23

 By CMC: (Frequency)

 1: 1     2: 6     3: 5     4: 4     5: 2     6: 3     7: 1     8: 0     9: 1

Planeswalkers: 5

Instants: 26

Sorceries: 15

Enchantment: 4

Artifact: 0

Land: 2

 

Black: 70

Creatures: 25

 By CMC: (Frequency)

 1: 1     2: 6     3: 5     4: 5     5: 1     6: 3     7: 2     8: 2     9: 0

Planeswalkers: 2

Instants: 14

Sorceries: 20

Enchantment: 8

Artifact: 0

Land: 1

 

Red: 67

Creatures: 30

 By CMC: (Frequency)

 1: 8     2: 4     3: 6     4: 4     5: 7     6: 1     7: 0     8: 0     9: 0

Planeswalkers: 5

Instants: 14

Sorceries: 14

Enchantment: 4

Artifact: 0

Land: 0

 

Green: 68

Creatures: 39

 By CMC: (Frequency)

 1: 9    2: 10    3: 7     4: 4    5: 4     6: 1    7: 1     8: 3     9: 0

Planeswalkers: 5

Instants: 3

Sorceries: 11

Enchantment: 9

Artifact: 0

Land: 1

 

Multicolor: 101

Azorius: 10 (5 Lands)

Dimir: 10 (5 Lands)

Rakdos: 10 (5 Lands)

Gruul: 10 (5 Lands)

Selesnya: 10 (5 Lands)

Orzhov: 8 (5 Lands)

Golgari: 10 (5 Land)

Simic: 10 (5 Lands)

Izzet: 10 (5 Lands)

Boros: 10 (5 Lands)

Esper: 1

Grixis: 1

Sultai: 1

WUBRG: 1

 

Colorless: 89

Non-Creature Artifacts: 55

By CMC: (Frequency)

 0:11     1: 4     2: 19     3: 11     4: 5     5: 3     6: 1     7: 1     8: 0     9: 0

Artifact / Colorless Creatures: 18

By CMC: (Frequency)

 1: 0     2: 3     3: 1     4: 2     5: 1     6: 2     7: 1     8: 1     9: 0    10: 2    11: 1    12: 1    13:1    15: 1    XX: 1

Lands: 14

Planeswalkers: 2

 

You’ll notice a lot looking at the differences of color. Not all colors have the same amount of cards in them. Blue, the most popular color, is the deepest. Red and Green are the shallowest.

 

There are far fewer creatures in the Vintage Cube than you might imagine compared to other draft formats. And the color distribution of who gets the creatures is wildly uneven. White and Green are loaded with creatures with 38 and 39 each while Blue and Black hardly have any.

 

The most abundant color in Vintage Cube however? Colorless! This should be your big hint as to the core strategies you’re looking at in cube. There are a whopping 68 artifacts in the Vintage Cube and nearly every color strategy has a way of interacting with them.

 

Notice some of the redundancies in the numbers I listed above:

 

Nineteen Colorless 2-drop artifacts: Including all ten Signets, Grim Monolith and Pentad Prism. This format must really want you to be ramping from 2 to 4.

Nine Green one-drop creatures: Unless you’re in Green. Then you get to jump from 1 to 3.

Eight Red one-drop creatures: There is a good reason Red is the best aggro color in Cube.

Twenty-six Blue Instants: Do they have it? Do they have it?? They always have it. There are twelve Counterspells in this Cube.

Fifty multi-color lands: Each pair gets the same 5 pieces of fixing: Fetchland, Shockland, True Dual, Fastland, and Man-land.

and one to be careful with…

Eleven white three-drop creatures: In a format where everyone is going two-to-four, why the heck does white need eleven 3-drops? Unless you’re playing really effective hatebears, white aggro is rightly considered one of the worst strategies and the basis of the weakest color in the Cube.

 

What Can Each Color Do?

 

The core strategies, win conditions, and toolbox of each color in the Vintage Cube also varies dramatically from color to color. You should know when you start picking cards of a specific color what the color can do so that you’re not going down a rabbit hole of a strategy that you think is supported by the Cube card list but isn’t. We’ll go in a different color order this time:

 

Black:

Toolbox: Disruption / Discard, Spot Removal, Sweepers, Tutors, Rituals, Reanimation

Supported Strategies: Reanimator, Storm, Midrange / Good Stuff

First Pickable Cards: Demonic Tutor, Mind Twist, Thoughtseize

 

Blue:

Toolbox: Counterspells, Card Draw, Control Magics, Artifact Synergy, Power 9

Supported Strategies: Storm, Artifact Deck, Combo, Control / Good Stuff

First Pickable Cards: Ancestral Recall, Mana Drain, Snapcaster Mage, Time Walk

Green:

Toolbox: Mana Dorks, Artifact / Enchantment Removal, Fatties

Supported Strategies: Green Ramp, Midrange

First Pickable Cards: Channel, Craterhoof Behemoth, Joraga Treespeaker, Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Sylvan Library

 

Red:

Toolbox: One-Drops, Burn, Artifact Synergies / Removal, Sneak Attack, Land Destruction,

Supported Strategies: Mono-Red Aggro, Wildfire, Splinter Twin, Sneak Attack, Storm

First Pickable: Splinter Twin, Goblin Guide, Sulfuric Vortex

 

White:

Toolbox: Hatebears, Unconditional Removal, Sweepers, Armageddons,

Disruptive Aggro, Control, Reanimator, Midrange

First Pickable: Balance?, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite? Honestly, not much.

 

Most Overlooked Cards:

Mana Vault Shelldock Isle Zealous Conscripts Izzet Signet

We’ll go over the individual archetypes and the key pieces of each next week, but for now, here’s five underrated cards INHO that tend to go later than they should:

5. Mana Vault - The most powerful of the non-Black Lotus artifact ramp cards. The ability to go from 1-to-5 is so powerful you should be first-picking this card nearly always.

4. Kolaghan's Command - My favorite Shatter in the Cube. It does it all. Smelt artifacts. Pick off Llanowar Elves. And for value’s sake, Raise Dead or Raven's Crime.

3. Shelldock Isle - The cost is so low, the upside is so high, and the rate that a game has a player with 20 or fewer cards left in their library is so frequent, you will get your value.

2. Zealous Conscripts - This card wins games out of nowhere. Stealing win conditions, killing / ultimating opposing Planeswalkers, and it’s a Splinter Twin piece to boot.

1. Izzet Signet - The best mox in the best color pair with the most artifact synergies. Honestly, this card is probably better than both Mox Emerald and Mox Pearl if you know you’re in Blue and Red.

 

That's it for this week. Next week I'll be going over the best archetypes in the Vintage Cube and the key cards in each of those archetypes. 

Keep having fun out there,

SteveJeltz