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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Jan 08 2018 1:00pm
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Still a week left in the Vintage Cube—how is the metagame shifting? How can you capitalize on that?

Here are my picks for cards that people aren't quite evaluating properly. 

Underrated: Mesmeric Fiend & friends

Mesmeric Fiend   Tidehollow Sculler

To be very clear: no, they are not as good as Thoughtseize. But in a format where your opponent's deck so often hinges around just a few key cards, it is worth pursuing ways to disrupt them, which is exactly what these three offer.

Also consider how little removal sees play in Vintage Cube: their effect is not even as temporary as you might expect. Very often the game ends with these guys still on the battlefield. 

Overrated: Hymn to Tourach

Hymn to Tourach

Every time I watch somebody stream Vintage Cube, the chat goes crazy when they see a Hymn. They correctly recall how powerful it is in every other format, and expect it to be here too. Is it BAD in Vintage Cube, no, but I can think of five discard spells better than it (the above three, Thoughtseize, and Mind Twist).

Yes, I would take a Brain Maggot above a Hymn in the same pack, but before you question my sanity:

  • Against most of this format's good decks, it is better to pinpoint their one great card than two random ones.
  • Two black mana is hard to cast in most decks.
  • Decks that are heavy-enough black to reliably drop this early are not very good in Vintage Cube. 

Underrated: Mana Confluence

Mana Confluence

Most people agree this card is playable. Few seem to think it's great. The more I play with it, I wonder if it might not be the best land in the format?

To explain: most decks in Vintage Cube benefit from splashing. You start with red for Sneak Attack and green for ramp. Then you add white for Enlightened Tutor, and you can't very well pass the Ancestral Recall you opened in pack three, can you?, and all of a sudden you have a four-color deck.

Or perhaps you're drafting a standard UBR storm deck, but you start salivating at the ways Fastbond combines with your Draw 7s and Yawgmoth's Will, or you couldn't open a Mana Flare or High Tide and want to cast Mirari's Wake....

You can complete most mana bases with duals and fetches, it's true. But no one single land does as much for your base as this one.

If you're worried about the life loss—don't. Excepting the rare aggro mirrors, this is not a format decided by increments of life totals. It's a format decided by whether you Shallow Grave your Emrakul before they Splinter Twin their Pestermite. It doesn't matter who's at 14 versus who's at 8 when it happens. 

Overrated: Rishkar, Peema Renegade

I have played against this guy SO MANY TIMES. I can understand why: on paper, he promises a Worn Powerstone with two beefy bodies. In reality... he is a three-mana (Llanowar Elf). Period.

A deck that plays this guy also plays multiple one-mana elves, meaning by far his most common use is putting a counter on someone who could already make mana. Then he taps for mana himself, making his larger body moot. And if you ever do stop needing his mana, freeing yourself to attack with him... you probably just cast an Avenger of Zendikar and this 3/3 body doesn't seem so impressive anymore.

Yes, there's the dream of putting a counter on Wall of Roots for double-up mana, but you're much better off picking a faster and more reliable card than Rishkar. 

Underrated: Show and Tell, Eureka

Show and Tell  Eureka

One year ago, a lot of people played with Show and Tell. Its potential was incredible, and its success in constructed was well established. They started finding that it wasn't so great in cube. Their turn one Island / Mana Crypt / Show and Tell into Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre would either be outclassed by the opponent's Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or, just as demoralizing, stolen by the opponent's Sower of Temptation.

People correctly identified it as overrated.

A weird thing happened to it this year, though: people were so wedded to its status as overrated that they deemed it COMPLETELY UNPLAYABLE. I'm here to tell you that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Should you blindly jam this every time you can, no, of course not. People were not wrong when they warned you against that a year ago. But consider these two points:

1) This is basically risk-free against storm, red aggro, or white aggro. They will drop something in the 3- to 5-mana range, which, while not meaningless, they were surely about to cast anyway, and is going to pale next to whatever you dropped.

2) Against other decks, there are ways to mitigate the risk. You can peek at their hand first with a Gitaxian Probe. Or you can pilfer their hand with any of the four cheap targeted discard spells mentioned above. Even if that means waiting until you have five mana—don't people already do that for Through the Breach

Overrated: Fastbond


As said, Fastbond is quite bonkers next to Draw 7s and Yawgmoth's Will.

It is not bonkers, or even sort-of good, anywhere else.

"All of your lands are moxen" is quite alluring, and the life loss is often irrelevant—but the card disadvantage isn't. Mox Diamond is a much closer analog here than are the actual moxen, and people understand why typical decks don't want Mox Diamond, right?

In a regular deck, the best case scenario looks something like a Turn One Garruk, Primal Hunter. The most common scenario is emptying your hand to cast the only card you have left, perhaps some piddling elf or Scavenging Ooze, then passing the turn with three untapped lands while praying to the topdeck gods. 

Underrated: Beast Within

Beast Within

People correctly noticed that targeted removal doesn't do as much in Vintage Cube as in other formats, so they wrote off Beast Within with the rest of them.

For the most part, they are right. Beast Within shouldn't be shoehorned into any random green deck. (If you do need removal, Song of the Dryads in the same color and cost is far better.) But there is one deck in which this truly shines: Oath of Druids.

Most Oath decks fail because they wait around for their opponent to drop a creature, and when that finally happens, it's something they can't really afford to let attack for a turn while waiting for their Oath to trigger. So I propose trying the following:

Drop an Oath on Turn Two. Your opponent will play around it by not casting any creatures, thinking themselves very clever. But then you destroy a land with Beast Within, and their new 3/3 token enables your Oath in spite of their schemes. Who is clever now!! 

Overrated: Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver 

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

I'm attacking a sacred cow here, so I must make it clear that old "Splashiok" is correctly rated as a powerhouse in other formats. In Vintage Cube, what does it actually do? Exile 9 cards without affecting the board? This is good against storm, as it maybe weakens their Timetwisters by removing key pieces of their combo, but against most decks, this is exactly as powerful as shuffling your opponent's library. (Unpowerful.) 

In addition, it sometimes gives you a 2-3 mana creature. (Also unpowerful.)

It reliably gains you some life, as most opponents re-prioritize everything when the terrifying Ashiok drops. (For the third time, unpowerful.)

It's not unplayable, but in most matchups, it's one of the weakest cards of your 23. It's comparable to (Pack Rats): what was once a top-tier bomb did not survive the transition to this new context. The only difference is, with Pack Rats, people figured that out quicker. 

Underrated: Timely Reinforcements

Timely Reinforcements

I do not propose that this card is great. But I do propose that it deserves more than it currently gets, which is solely sideboard against aggro, and often not even that.

For you see, there is one other great use for this card: Necropotence decks. It's cheap, it's splashable, it represents 6 additional draws, and the three bodies it usually provides help protect your still-dwindling life even further. Try it! Your opponent will never see it coming.

You may be wondering whether Necro decks are viable in the first place. To this I say: they aren't tier one, but they are tier two, wildly fun, and worth experimenting with. And now you can bring the right tools when you do! 

Well well keep having fun cubing and trying different things. Love, Cotton