Polish Pass: The Return Of The Magic Online Vintage Cube

The MTGO Vintage Cube is back after a “polish pass” with subtle but meaningful changes. Ryan Overturf has all the details!

Elvish Spirit Guide
Elvish Spirit Guide, illustrated by Anna Steinbauer

Howdy, gamers! After a long day without the Magic Online (MTGO) Vintage Cube, it has returned for another two-week run! A minor “polish pass” has updated the Cube, which is what we can expect for future runs of the Cube. Only a handful of cards are changing, though a couple of cards will be making their way into the Cube for the first time.

A Note on Storm

Before we dig into the change log, I first want to address an aspect of the write-up for this update. Storm made its return to the Cube after a brief hiatus, and analysis identified it as an archetype with a sub-par win rate. Storm therefore received a new payoff in Elemental Eruption, some questionable mana generators, and a few extra cantrips. For the “polish pass”, MTGO acknowledged that these cards did not help Storm’s win rate, and these additional cards are mostly making their way out of the Cube, but not for anything that might better facilitate Storm.

It just creates something of a self-fulfilling prophecy that Storm will underperform if all you do is cycle Snap in and out of the Cube. This update would have been a perfect opportunity to give Empty the Warrens and newly minted Crackling Spellslinger a try, and Aminatou’s Augury also fits perfectly with the Dream Halls package. I know that the Daybreak team cares deeply about the Cube, but their curation leaves something to be desired regarding this fan-favorite and personal darling archetype.

Empty the Warrens Crackling Spellslinger Aminatou's Augury

Now that that’s out of my system, let’s take a look at the change log by color! I’ve updated my Cube Cobra page to reflect the update to help for ease of understanding as well.


No changes.

My last two Vintage Cube trophies were with mono-white, so I can’t really say there was anything I was expecting or hoping for with the color. Lion Sash was a standout in one of those decks, almost singlehandedly winning two of my matches, so I guess I’m just hoping they don’t do something silly like cutting that card again.



Portent Phantom Interference Snap


Simulacrum Synthesizer Smirking Spelljacker Stoic Sphinx

Portent and Phantom Interference are fine, though replaceable. Snap doesn’t quite clear the bar for “fine”. The cuts here are all good.

I’m intrigued by Smirking Spelljacker. It has a high ceiling and a decent floor. The big question is how well it can hang at five mana. I suspect it’s slightly worse than Mystic Confluence, but much better than the Torrential Gearhulk that we see now and again in the Cube. I’ll be picking it highly at first to see how it plays, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being more of a middle-of-the-pack card.

Stoic Sphinx is a fine card that I would hope to get late if I expect to play it at all. It exists in a similar space to Ebondeath, Dracolich. A five-power flyer with flash can close games quickly, but it’s far from my first pick for the job in Vintage Cube. I’ll plan to pick this one up on the wheel if at all.

Simulacrum Synthesizer has seen some Constructed success, so I get giving it a shot, though I expect it to fall flat. No immediate impact on the battlefield is rough, and few artifacts in the Cube actually trigger it. If you want to go over the top against midrange, though, pair this one with Cryptic Coat. Again, that’s not really what Vintage Cube is about, but it might come up.

I was actually expecting a comment on Akal Pakal, First Among Equals with this update. The card took Sai, Master Thopterist’s slot, and my experience has shown the card to be considerably weaker. I’m already a little on the fence with Sai, but Akal Pakal has fallen completely flat for me.



Bubbling Muck


Dark Petition

Dark Petition is admittedly a bigger deal for Storm than the odd cantrip, both because it always converts to exactly what you want and because you can get it late, as no other deck realistically wants a five-mana tutor. Bubbling Muck is a neat idea, but many Storm decks operate leaner on black sources because Dark Ritual and company give you so much black mana from a starting point of just having one Swamp. I like this swap, even if I would be going out of my way to remove a good chunk of the strictly aggressive black cards from the Cube.



Pyrite Spellbomb


Simian Spirit Guide

A pretty inconsequential swap on balance. I do like Pyrite Spellbomb well enough in the artifact decks, but it’s very replaceable. Simian Spirit Guide is far weaker than Lotus Petal for not having synergies with Underworld Breach and Yawgmoth’s Will, but it’s not a non-starter for Sneak Attack decks or even to pair with Mizzix’s Mastery. I’m not entirely convinced that Simian Spirit Guide is a better fit for this Cube than Strike It Rich, which I wouldn’t have a ton of confidence in either. What this swap mostly does for me is make me want to give the Spirit Guides a try in a Cube with the initiative that has a higher volume of potential “I win” buttons to hit with any kind of fast mana…



Courser of Kruphix Nature's Claim Invigorate


Elvish Spirit Guide Force of Vigor Garruk Relentless

Invigorate really should have been cut in the last update, but better late than never. I did get the pleasure of seeing it at four draft tables in a seat where I could verify that it went fifteenth every time, which was pretty funny. Nature’s Claim is solid, though, and I don’t understand the fascination with cutting Courser of Kruphix at all. That said, I’ve already written that the real problem with green and Courser decks in the current iteration of the Cube is that there is too much removal that doesn’t actually beat the aggro decks, yet completely annihilates green ramp decks.

Elvish Spirit Guide exists more or less in the exact same space as Simian Spirit Guide. Force of Vigor over Nature’s Claim will lead to less maindeck play of the slot, and more lopsided games when it does come up, though pitch-casting with a green card is actually more significant than any other color given green’s position in the Cube, and removing one of green’s more maindeckable cards in Nature’s Claim doesn’t actually help this matter.

I really liked Garruk Relentless in the Cube before they changed the rules of double-faced cards because it could cause draws with Fractured Identity, which was hilarious every time. You can transform a token now, so that novelty has faded and Garruk isn’t really up to the power level of the Cube otherwise. This small update is another strike against green, the color that was already struggling the most in the Cube.



Assimilation Aegis Showdown of the Skalds Abrupt Decay Escape to the Wilds Oko, the Ringleader


No More Lies Winota, Joiner of Forces Glissa Sunslayer Halana and Alena, Partners Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

These swaps are mostly replacement-level cards going in both directions. I kind of dug Assimilation Aegis, at least enough for it to see this run out, but No More Lies is certainly playable. Winota is random and weird, and, I would argue, a much worse fit for the Cube than Showdown of the Skalds, but as long as you’re not cutting Forth Eorlingas! you can kind of do whatever you want with Boros slots. Gruul slots are similarly flexible, though Halana and Alena, Partners, another four-mana threat in the color pair that has 1,000 four-mana threats, is a more notable downgrade from Escape to the Wilds, among the most distinctive Gruul cards.



Lotus Field


Fabled Passage

Lotus Field is among the weakest cards that has now seen multiple runs in the Vintage Cube, so I’m glad to see it go. I actually played it for the first time in the Cube recently in a deck that had a rough manabase to “fix” my mana, and the only thing it actually did was cause me to mulligan an otherwise great hand with only one other land. Good riddance. Fabled Passage is low-priority fixing in the context of the Cube, but it is at least an upgrade in the one-for-one comparison. If you’re playing in the Spirit Guide space, then I would offer that Gemstone Caverns has been sweet in my Vintage Cube, but as Lotus Field demonstrated, you can do worse than Fabled Passage.

Return to Center

On balance, I do believe that the last “return to center” update moved the Cube in a much better direction than it had been moving in previous updates, and while this “polish pass” misses the mark for me in places, it does at least maintain what has been working. Rest assured, you’ll be seeing me in the queues.


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