Our week with Vintage Cube Supreme Draft has come to an end, and while the format wasn’t for everybody, I personally enjoyed it immensely. I spent enough time in the queues to 3-0 six drafts, but I’ll leave it to you to extrapolate exactly how much that means I actually played. At any rate, the decidedly more tame eight-player queues are back on Magic Online (MTGO) for the next three weeks.
A few updates were made to the Cube before Supreme Draft launched, and I touched on them slightly last week. I was half-expecting further updates to be made this week, given that there are several cards from Commander Legends that weren’t added that I believe would improve the Cube, and also given that the removal of Mystic Confluence and Fiery Confluence seem to be related to the cards not functioning as intended on MTGO, which I had hoped would be resolved, but alas. After getting the opportunity to play with the changes (albeit in Supreme Draft) I have more thoughts to offer on them.
Benevolent Bodyguard and Qasali Pridemage over Fight as One and Gaddock Teeg
These two changes amount to very little, though I will say that both Benevolent Bodyguard and Qasali Pridemage are cards that I would be significantly more likely to play if I could cast them than Fight as One and Gaddock Teeg. There are no fundamental shifts here, just some moving around of some of the filler-level cards.
Benevolent Bodyguard is nice to have around if you’re trying to set up a Sword of Body and Mind or something similar, and Qasali Pridemage generally provides more relevant upside than Gaddock Teeg without preventing you from playing powerful cards of your own outside of forcing you to produce green and white mana. Pridemage is a card that I previously advocated for as about as good things get for Selesnya in Vintage Cube.
Krark, the Thumbless over Fiery Confluence
Fiery Confluence was a very high pick in aggressive and more controlling red decks alike. It also moonlighted as the win condition of more ambitious Thousand-Year Storm decks. Again, I can’t imagine removing the card if not for the UI issue. I hope to see it return for the next run.
I didn’t see Krark, the Thumbless on the battlefield often during the week of Supreme Draft, but I must admit that it absolutely crushed me the one time that I did play against it. The card looks a little goofy and honestly kind of weak at first blush, but it performs admirably in a burn-heavy deck. Given enough mana and enough time Krark will double all of your spells after returning them to your hand however many times it takes. This is going to play poorly with cards like Counterspell, but incredibly with Ancestral Recall and Lightning Bolt. You won’t always be able to give up the tempo that losing flips will cost you, but winning flips is inarguably very powerful, and I fully intend to give Krark a shot when I draft red aggressive decks.
Something to keep in mind playing with and against Krark is that he’s really good against counterspells. The opponent has to choose whether to counter the spell with the trigger on the stack, and the spell will still be copied on a successful flip even if the original was countered. This manifests itself in really weird ways in game, but suffice to say that I believe Krark is a welcome addition to the Cube.
Opposition Agent over Plaguecrafter
I won’t mince words here: Plaguecrafter was one of those cards that you only played if things went horribly awry during the draft. Hopefully this is goodbye forever to it and Gaddock Teeg.
Opposition Agent, on the other hand, is pretty easily one of the best black cards in the Cube. It’s not quite on the level of Demonic Tutor, but to the extent that I believe in abstract pick orders, I’m currently of the belief that Opposition Agent is the third-best individual black card in the Cube behind Demonic Tutor and Mind Twist. Vampiric Tutor and Entomb muddy the waters some, and I’d let Bolas’s Citadel enter the conversation, but that’s about it.
I’m guilty of creating mental shortcuts when I think about cards before I play games with them, and until I saw Opposition Agent prompt a concession from a player cracking a fetchland, it didn’t really click for me how good it actually was. Additionally, it is completely devastating against all of the following:
The wording of the card also lets you do cheeky things like ramp yourself by using Path to Exile on an opponent’s creature. I’m sure that’ll come up, but mostly it exists to mess up your opponent’s cards.
Opposition Agent’s existence actually makes me a bit colder on green decks given that Green Sun’s Zenith and Natural Order are generally among their better cards, and a flash creature that works as a gotcha and a hatebear otherwise is a huge problem.
I find Opposition Agent to be extremely reductive on gameplay, but could see coming around on it some after drafting the Cube if only because black could use a few more heavy hitters. I don’t love that the card exists, but would recommend going out of your way to play with it while this iteration of the Cube is live.
Commit // Memory over Mystic Confluence
Commit isn’t a new card, and honestly I love it and don’t really know why it was cut from the Cube in the first place. It’s much closer to a Maelstrom Pulse / Memory Lapse split card than it’s given credit for, even if it is somewhat on the expensive side. Couple that with the ability to completely break the game by casting Memory when you’re ahead on mana or have the ability to stop opponents from drawing extra cards, and you’ve got a certified heater on your hands.
Mystic Confluence is also great though, and much like its Fiery counterpart I hope to see it returned to the Cube as soon as possible.
Hullbreacher over Jace, Mirror Mage
The absence of Palace Jailer from the Cube and none of the powerful monarch cards from Commander Legends making the cut suggests to me an aversion to including any monarch cards in the Cube. There are a number of ways this can be justified and I don’t have any major objections to that, but I have nothing but major objections to Hullbreacher.
I would love to see stats for the week of Supreme Draft, and would bet that Hullbreacher ranks absurdly highly in terms of winningest cards in the Cube. On top of the various combos, Hullbreacher also just causes a lot of hands to fold just by being on the battlefield. I can personally attest to a number of Turn 1 or 2 Hullbreachers prompting a concession on the spot.
This will be less true in the more traditional Draft environment, but Hullbreacher’s existence makes playing a ton of cards in the Cube much more stressful. Having your Harmonize Counterspelled is rough. Giving your opponent three Treasures on top of that is demoralizing.
Ultimately that’s the issue that Hullbreacher presents. It doesn’t just combo with your own cards; it also combos for you with your opponent’s cards. The Cube already had some of this with Leovold, Emissary of Trest and Narset, Parter of Veils, but those cards are some combination of harder to cast and maintain while also not having flash. They did more stopping opponents from drawing extra cards than obliterating them for trying.
Beyond that, Hullbreacher’s Treasure tokens make the Timetwister combos even more devastating. Leovold and Narset are generally whatever against things like Mono-White Aggro because you don’t do much in the way of drawing extra cards and you can often rely on the creatures you’ve already cast to close the game if your opponent manages to pull off the combo. Hullbreacher, on the other hand, gives you a free seven mana when you combo, which will commonly allow you to close the game with your new seven-card hand.
It’s honestly just weird to see a new version of existing cards that are already great that’s as much better than its predecessors as Hullbreacher. You could say that punishing players for drawing extra cards is pushing back against the right things, except that the card also rewards you for doing the exact same sorts of things and presents relatively game-state-agnostic combos that have a high potential to outright end the game.
I do agree with the approach of giving new cards a shot in Cube, though after this run I would like to see Hullbreacher get the Time Vault treatment. It’s just consistently too good, and I’m expecting to draft it over a nonzero number of Moxen in the coming weeks.
Gripes about Hullbreacher aside, I’m happy to have some good old-fashioned Vintage Cube back on the schedule. Before I go I also want to shout-out Jim Davis and Jonathan Brostoff and their #CUBE4CHARITY event this weekend. A bunch of awesome people will be streaming Cube and raising money for good causes, so definitely check that out.