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By: SteveJeltz, Rev. David Wright
Jan 03 2018 1:00pm
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Vintage Cube:

More Drafts and Archetypes

Craterhoof Behemoth Lingering Souls Sulfuric Vortex

Last week I covered two of the best decks and win conditions in the Vintage Cube: Reanimator and Grixis Goodstuff. Our Grixis deck ended up winning with the card Sneak Attack. I believe that the colors Blue, Red and Black are miles better than Green and White in the Vintage Cube since they unlock so many unique and powerful win conditions. When you're drafting the Vintage Cube, my strong advice is to pick your cards with the assumption that you'll be in these colors. All the time, for example, I might go P1 P1 Mana Drain into P1 P2 Badlands. Why? Because I assume I'm going to be Grixis.

Here's the downside to Grixis: in general, you should expect that when you draft the powerful blue, black and red cards that your fellow drafters will also know this is the optimal strategy. They're going to default to pick the best cards too. This goes beyond picking power. Assume, for example that you're not going to be able to draft a deck with four signets. It just doesn't happen unless you pick them over everything, picks 1-4 out of every pack. And while some may think that's a good strategy, I tend to find them to be overrated that I am content with 1 or 2 in most decks and will always take the real win conditions, tutors, and fixing, especially true dual lands and fetchlands over the Signets. This is the same reason, for example, I find the "Brown" deck to be undesirable: if we're all fighting over signets, drafting a deck that relies on a critical mass of artifacts to unlock its artifact payoffs, cards like Tolarian Academy, Mishra's Workshop, Tezzeret the Seeker and Wildfire just tends to fall short. So my Grixis strategy is to take the fixing, take the tutors, take the irreplaceable power cards and win conditions, like Tinker, Sneak Attack and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and then just trust that by the end of the draft your win conditions will come together.

But suppose you don't want to fight over Grixis. There are three other decks you can play in this Vintage Cube that are well-supported, deep in the colors, and powerful enough to win, even if most consider them inferior to the Tier 1 Grixis strategies. Sometimes drafting a Tier 2 deck, especially when you can read the draft to know your strategy is wide open, is absolutely the right thing to do. It's much better to have a Tier 2 archetype deck that comes together as a 9 or a 10 than a Tier 1 deck that only comes together as a 4 or a 5. 

Tier 2 Archetypes:

# 1 Green X Ramp.

Channel Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary Natural Order

The way you get into a green ramp deck is to take early one of the busted green cards or some of the best of the cards that are replaceable but are the best at what they do. The two most busted Green cards in the whole Vintage Cube are Channel and Natural Order. Past those two, you're looking for a critical mass of 1 and 2 mana ramp cards and then the real top end game-ending haymakers. 

The best green accelerants are: Mox Emerald, Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Joraga Treespeaker, Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch. But since there are 9 green one-drop accelerants plus 5 more green 2-drop accelerants, plus, of course, colorless accelerants like the Signets, Grim Monolith, Thran Dynamo, and Coalition Relic, you should always have enough if you prioritize them.

On the other end, the best cards to ramp into are: Craterhoof Behemoth, Ulamog, The Ceaseless Hunger, Primeval Titan and Terastodon. Additionally, their is one high-end spell you want: Tooth and Nail.

After your accelerants and payoffs, their are a couple of complementary pieces you can add. In the three drop slot are good sideboard cards that are strong enough to main deck in most decks like Manglehorn, Reclamation Sage, Courser of Kruphix and Eternal Witness. Ignore the 4 and 5 drops. You don't need any of them except maybe Garruk Wildspeaker and Acidic Slime. None of the others are high picks. In general, avoid midrange "fair" cards in the Vintage Cube except as a sideboard strategy.

Splashing is often correct in the green ramp decks, hence I called them "Green X". The most common splash color is blue for card draw spells like Compulsive Research, or for Counterspells or for Opposition which is its own lock-out win condition. The challenge of splashing for double blue cards like Opposition or Jace, The Mind Sculptor is that enough need enough sources of the secondary color. Sometimes to skew your mana base away from green to accommodate these powerful off-color cards ends up compromising your main strategy to the extent that it isn't worth it. Which do you want: more forests for Rofellos? Gaea's Cradle? Or off-color mana sources? Make sure its worth it to splash.

Here's a green ramp deck I drafted:

#2 Mono Red

Goblin Guide Koth of the Hammer Fireblast

Mono Red is a strange bird. None of its cards are so strong that they are correct to first pick them. And yet as a deck it is much more powerful than the sum of its parts. Or at least it can be. The mono-Red player isn't doing anything inherently broken. Maybe the best they can boast is a sick three drop on turn-2 off of a Mox Ruby, like Sulfuric Vortex. And yet through no merits except for raw speed, especially based on its ability to punish slow starts, (and occasionally induce them), Mono Red is a viable Vintage Cube deck. 

There's one more hidden advantage to drafting mono-Red as well: no one else wants your cards. As an archetype, Mono Red tends to be underdrafted because many cube aficionados consider it boring. And the actual cards in your deck are so narrowly aggressive that they don't really slot well into anyone else's strategy. If no one is in Mono Red, its not uncommon at all to see cards like Goblin Guide, Sulfuric Vortex or Hellrider with 3 cards left in a pack. Especially in League. Because no one else wants them. So as long as you're not fighting for cards, its smooth sailing. 

How do you get into Mono Red then since none of the cards are first-pickable? Two simple ways, actually. First is that you force it. Pack 1, Pick 1, you see that Goblin Guide, and you say, "I'm in. Let's watch the world burn!" The other way you get into Mono Red is that you backdoor in. Your original strategy dries up. But you've already got a Lightning Bolt, there's an empty pack for you, and what do you know, an eighth pick Koth of the Hammer. Go for it. Maybe Mono Red saves your draft. Mono Red is good like that. 

Here's what you're looking for when you draft Mono-Red:

All the One Drops: Goblin Guide is the best, followed by Firedrinker Satyr, Grim Lavamancer, Zurgo Bellstriker, Falkenrath Gorger, Monastery Swiftspear and Jackal Pup. If you can draft at least 4 of these 7, that makes your odds of having a one-drop in your starting hand very high.

Power Fours: Koth of the Hammer and Hellrider are excellent. Avalanche Riders is serviceable. Fiery Confluence is the best non-creature spell. I tend to be down on Chandra, Pyromaster, but its decent out of the sideboard against green and white x/1s and to stop blocking.

Sulfuric Vortex and Fireblast: You're the only one who wants them and they are irreplaceable. Fireblast is a free spell that shortens your goldfish time to win by a turn and Sulfuric Vortex is a relentless way to both ensure damage and stop the one sideboard strategy to beat you in lifegain. 

Land Destruction: You are the deck that wants Strip Mine, Wasteland and occasionally even Rishadan Port. In the same vein, I always maindeck Manic Vandal since killing a signet is the same as killing a land.

Creature-Lands: Mutavault and Mishra's Factory fit great in your strategy and can live through sweepers. Its usually safe to run 12-14 mountains and 2-4 colorless utility lands.

Some two-drops: The best is Eidolon of the Great Revel, but Abbot of Keral Keep, Young Pyromancer and Harsh Mentor will all make your deck.

Burn: This is the most generic element of the deck. Lightning Bolt is great, but honestly its not much different than Searing Spear or Char. Just fill out your deck with any burn spells you draft.

Equipment: I tend not to prioritize equipment, but you can play a Sword or Umezawa's Jitte. They're just not as high picks as the critters.

What to avoid: 5s and 6s. You're not a Thundermaw Hellkite deck. Nor are you an Inferno Titan. I don't mine either in the sideboard, but remember that your power is in speed not in splashing mythic rares.

Here's a less-than-ideal Mono Red deck I recently drafted:


So much is wrong with this deck. 18 Lands is too many, but we're short on playables, forcing us to play some very dubious cards like Chandra, Flamecaller, Lightning Greaves, and Guttersnipe with only 3 cards to trigger its damage. While we have a Hail Mary sideboard plan, the deck overall is a train wreck. This is what happens sometimes when your original deck dries up, you backdoor into Mono Red, and the quality is there, but you still end up about 4 solid playables short of a deck. Even if the worst 4 cards in the deck were replaced with stuff like Searing Spear or Lightning Strike, two very low end playables for most other decks, they would have been very happy filler for us. Somehow we escaped this draft with a 2-1 record.

Moral of the Story: Mono Red is big risk / big reward. Sometimes its wide open. If you're the only one in it, you are going to have a formiable machine. Sometimes you back into it to save your draft. Sometimes you're just in the mood to watch it all burn. Usually it shouldn't be your Plan A since there is no individual cards that are so strong that they are the "correct" picks in your pack 1 picks 1-4, but its a deck that the sum is a lot better than the parts.

Tier 3 Archetypes:

The White Decks. 

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Ravages of War Geist of Saint Traft

Generally, the white based decks come in three varieties: Mono White Aggro, which is typically worse than the best Mono Red Aggro decks; Blue-White Tempo, which seeks to stick a hard to touch threat like Geist of Saint Traft and them keep the opponent from sticking anything relevant; or White-Black Disruption Aggro, which also is most often a token deck. Theoretically, there is also a White-Green Hatebears deck, but I've yet to see it in practice. 

I recently  started a draft with Mox Pearl into Mind Twist, so for the sake of posterity, here's an example of a White-Black Disruptive Aggro deck:

*Lands were not submitted with this deck, so I read the recap, added the lands that were missing, and just went from there!

Personally, I hate this kind of deck in the Vintage Cube because its far too "fair" for my liking. Why do I want to care if I can make a 2/2 every turn if my opponent is playing Channel into Eldrazi or Tinker into Blightsteel Colossus. But I decided to go for it, to see how we could do.

A secondary note: this kind of deck is one of the few homes one could justify odd duck cards like Braids, Cabal Minion or Smokestackce you are flooding the board with tokens. 

And for your amusement, here is my misadventures in playing White / Black Disruptive Aggro:

Match 1, Game 1: I drop a Turn 1 Soldier of the Pantheon. They play a Turn 1 Sol Ring. Ugh. I feel bad already. Opponent goes Turn 2 Chart a Course, discard Griselbrand into Exhume. Ugh. I play Spectral Procession. They draw 7 cards and play Liliana of the Veil, discarding Iona, Shield of Emeria, play Looter Il-Kor, and swing with Griselbrand going back up to 20. I play Parallax Wave, target Griselbrand and hope for a miracle. They draw 7 more cards. I attack them down to 6. They play Bazaar of Baghdad, discarding Grave Titan and play Living Death. Ugh. I Parallax Wave the two fatties, swing into a zombie token, and play a Mirran Crusader. Parallax Wave goes away. Creatures back. Cry.

Match 1, Game 2: I cast Inquisition of Kozilek making them discard Exhume, revealing Island, Swamp, Thirst for Knowledge, Liliana of the Veil, Grave Titan and Yawgmoth's Bargain. I play Legion's Landing and Mishra's Factory. Then I play Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, making an Ally token. They end-of-turn Thirst for Knowledge, discarding Grave Titan and Iona, Shield of Emeria. Then on their Turn 4, they Frantic Search into... Liliana of the Veil? I guess there is a sliver of hope. I attack them down to 6. They Unburial Rites their Griselbrand, but I have Anguished Unmaking. We win a game?

Match 1, Game 3: They mulligan to 6, but have a Turn 1 Imperial Seal. Tutors are never good. They play Looter Il-Kor. We counter with Stoneforge Mystic, fetching our Sword of Body and Mind. They swing, discarding Island, playing Izzet Signet and Chart a Course only to draw 2. We play Knight of the White Orchid and accelerate up to 4 lands. They loot another Island, play a Sol Ring, and a Memory Jar. We equip the sword, swing for 5, and mill them for ten.., including Griselbrand and Iona, Shield of Emeria. Gulp. They Frantic Search, loot, crack the Memory Jar, play LED, Rakdos Signet, and Grim Tutor for Living Death. We're now locked out of playing white spells. They swing but forget to give Putrid Imp flying, taking us to 1. Realizing they have no recourse for my Sword of Body and Mind, they concede. We'll take a punt. We'll take whatever we can get with this deck.

Match 2, Game 1: On the draw, we Inquisition of Kozilek revealing Rishkar, Peema Renegade, Kitchen Finks, (Hazoret, the Fervent), Thragtusk, Master of the Wild Hunt and Mountain with currently only a Mountain in play. We could win this game! Turn two I play Mox Pearl into Orzhov Signet. After another Mountain on their side, I Mind Twist them  for 4, leaving only Master of the Wild Hunt in hand. Forest, go. I Tidehollow Sculler their last card and play my sword. I get to see their whole deck and they never recover.

Match 2, Game 2: They go Forest-Forest-Rishkar, Peema Renegade. We go Soldier of the Pantheon into Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Tidehollow Sculler, revealing Mountain, Fauna Shaman, Primeval Titan and Thundermaw Hellkite. They play out their dragon and swing. We swing back for 8 and grab our sword with Stoneforge Mystic. They play Fauna Shaman and swing for 5. We equip our sword and swing back. They play and equip a Sword of Light and Shadow to the dragon and swing for lethal.

Match 2, Game 3: I play Porcelain Legionnaire into Orzhov Signet and Honor of the Pure. They play (Selesyna Signet) into Reclamation Sage, destroying my creature. Bad choice. I Mind Twist away their remaining four cards. I fetch my Sword of Body and Mind with Stoneforge Mystic and swing with Mutavault. They have Manglehorn for my signet, making me happy I didn't play out my sword. I play a Shambling Vent and swing with Mutavault which trades off. They play a Master of the Wild Hunt. I equip my sword, swing and mill 10. They find a Nature's Claim for Sword. Fortunately, the make an ill-advised attack, trading off Manglehorn for Wolf token and walk their Master of the Wild Hunt into my animated Shambling Vent. I swing back for 5 and break their signet with an Anguished Unmaking to keep them off mana. It's enough. How am I 2-0?

Match 3, Game 1: They play Turn one Island, Black Lotus, pass. Must be nice. We play a Mother of Runes which gets Force Spiked. They drop a Chandra, Pyromaster. We play Seeker of the Way. They play Deceiver Exarch to tap us down. We play Legion's Landing, swing, play an Ophiomancer, and Strip Mine their Swamp to keep them off tutor mana. Chandra eats our Vampire token and thier Phyrexian Metamorph copies our Ophiomancer. We swing with everything but Ophiomancer to flip Legion's Landing. We find our Sword of Body and Mind with Stoneforge Mystic but they have endless snakes. They Burst Lightning our Ophiomancer and Treasure Cruise. They play Splinter Twin. Infinity Faeries. Scoop.

Match 3, Game 2: We lead with Tidehollow Sculler, which gets Dazed. I Strip Mine their Island. We trade resources. I zap their Young Pyromancer, they zap my Soldier of the Pantheon, I play Phyrexian Revoker to shut down their Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. I may be slightly ahead on board, but I'm way behind on cards. Next down comes Jace, Architect of Thought. Next they find Dragonlord Ojutai. My Parallax Wave gets Cryptic Commanded but at least I take out Jace #2 on their attack.The ending is not that eventful: Dragonlord Ojutai finishes me off. 

Result: 2-1

My conclusion: Don't play fair decks. This is Vintage Cube. All your power is in doing broken things and then being able to disrupt their broken things. Speaking of which, I wonder why Disrupt isn't in any cube.

Aggro decks are fun, especially mono-red, but honestly, your cards are so much weaker than your opponents. All you can hope to do is race. 

But if that's your idea of fun, keep doing it. The Vintage Cube is here for fun. Do what feels fun to you. Or as I always say... 

Keep having fun out there,

SteveJeltz