Everything I Know About The Vintage Cube’s Return To Magic Online

As Vintage Cube returns to Magic Online, Ryan Overturf reviews the card changes and rates the winners and losers among the Limited archetypes.

Emeria’s Call, illustrated by Matt Stewart

The Halloween season has come and gone, and with it leave Innistrad drafts on Magic Online (MTGO). I had a great time in the triple Innistrad queues but for the next two weeks we’ll be observing a return of Vintage Cube to MTGO in preparation for the MOCS championship.

I shared everything that I knew about the MTGO Vintage Cube earlier this year, but there are quite a lot of updates being made to the Cube for this run. I offered some critiques of the Cube list at the end of the last run, and some of the updates are in lock-step with my thoughts, while others deviate significantly. On balance, I like the look of the changes, and today I’m going to go over how they’ll impact the environment. Let’s take a look at what’s changing by color.



Brightling Hallowed Spiritkeeper Emeria Angel Angel of Invention Fairgrounds Warden Angel of Serenity Enlightened Tutor Moat Spear of Heliod Terminus


Spirit of the Labyrinth Vryn Wingmare Eidolon of Obstruction Seasoned Hallowblade Skyclave Apparition Emeria's Call Lapse of Certainty Felidar Retreat Fight as One Oust

Brightling was previously the card in the Cube that had the worst ratio of text to relevance in the Cube, so I can’t say I’m sad to see it go. The creature updates here serve to make the aggressive white decks even more efficient, and Spirit of the Labyrinth, Eidolon of Obstruction, and Vryn Wingmare all have relevant text against much of what you can expect to play against in Vintage Cube. Mono-White Aggro was already an archetype that performed very well in the Cube and these changes only make the deck even more attractive.

Skyclave Apparition is likely the most relevant addition of the lot, given that almost all of your opponents are going to present attractive permanents for it to exile. Whether the Apparition is tagging a Mox, a Signet, a planeswalker, or a blocker, it’s going to be a nuisance for your opponent. Fast mana and ways to disrupt opposing fast mana are what a lot of Vintage Cube games revolve around, and any answer to fast mana also serves as a threat is something you’ll want to take notice of.

Lapse of Certainty will show up the white aggressive decks as well, though it’s considerably weaker than Mana Tithe. I wouldn’t value it terribly highly because it is rather inefficient, but I’m confident that it will end some games.

My number two Cube card from Zendikar Rising in Emeria’s Call is showing up as a massive upgrade for more controlling white decks over Angel of Serenity, and is also a card that I wouldn’t pick highly but would always play in my white aggressive deck. The other major upgrade for controlling white decks is Oust, which is incredible against cards like Joraga Treespeaker and plays pretty well against aggressive decks as well. Terminus just wasn’t a reliable tool against these strategies, and while it’s lower-impact, the consistency of Oust is a big deal.

Felidar Retreat and Fight as One look to be replacement level effects to me, but they both offer significant effects against opponents who present honesty, grindy decks. Vintage Cube isn’t really known for that sort of thing, which is why I don’t find these cards especially exciting, but I can imagine them coming up in some games.

Lastly, goodbye Moat.



Jace Beleren Search for Azcanta Thing in the Ice Gifts Ungiven


Jace, Mirror Mage Sea Gate Stormcaller Thieving Skydiver The Mirari Conjecture

I’ve been an advocate of this Jace swap in any Cube that previously featured a Jace Beleren, and I have to imagine that Jace, Mirror Mage fits best in such a hyper-efficient environment.

Gifts Ungiven is one of those cards that generally looks better than it is, and its removal for The Mirari Conjecture is a small push for Storm. I’ve played The Mirari Conjecture in Vintage Cube some, and it’s generally at its best when your Storm deck has a decent amount of interaction. It’s a little goofy and extremely niche, but it’s very fun when it works.

Thing in the Ice and Search for Azcanta were both playable, but neither was terribly exciting, and their removal for Thieving Skydiver and Sea Gate Stormcaller are the blue updates that I’m most excited about.

Thieving Skydiver is templated in a way that makes it weaker against Moxen than maybe some players would like, but I’m sure it’s going to have a Dack Fayden effect of reversing mana development and massively swinging a lot of games. The issue with the card is that it doesn’t just go into any deck that can cast it as well as Dack Fayden does, and amusingly will likely show up most often in Izzet or Azorius tempo decks. If you’re not in the market for a fragile flying creature it’s not necessarily a great card to start, but if your deck is trying to curve out with creatures then it’s one that presents a ton of potential upside.

Sea Gate Stormcaller is a little bit more explicit about looking to find a home in a tempo deck. Dom Harvey wrote a piece on the card during preview season that does a great job of outlining the cards strengths and limitations. While Dom’s article was focused on Constructed, the logic applies perfectly to Cube. Sea Gate Stormcaller is going to be a nice addition to a deck heavy on effects like Ponder, Lightning Bolt, and Thoughtseize.



Hypnotic Specter Vampire Hexmage Vampire Nighthawk Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni Nekrataal Phyrexian Arena Buried Alive Go for the Throat


Nullpriest of Oblivion Woe Strider Nighthawk Scavenger Sling-Gang Lieutenant Phyrexian Rager Midnight Reaper Agadeem's Awakening Bloodchief's Thirst

The obvious Nighthawk upgrade has been made, and my number one Zendikar Rising Cube card Bloodchief’s Thirst gets its due. Those were the easy changes. I’m curious to see how the rest of this plays out.

In my exit interview I was pretty big on cutting Yawgmoth, Thran Physician from the Cube and just accepting that the only sacrifice deck in Vintage Cube is Recurring Nightmare, but these updates make an attempt to juice the archetype instead.

With the exception of Phyrexian Arena, I won’t really miss any of the cards being cut, but I’m also not excited about most of the cards being added. I’m honestly surprised seeing Phyrexian Rager on the list, in no small part because I believe it mostly to be for Recurring Nightmare decks and, well, we can do better. Midnight Reaper and Woe Strider are cool cards, I just believe that very few cards for the sacrifice archetype aren’t outright embarrassing as high picks in an environment with power.

Agadeem’s Awakening has the upside of having incredibly low opportunity cost, and I’ll try to experiment with it some, but it looks a lot more like a Legacy/Modern Cube card to me.

Nullpriest of Oblivion is actually slightly more confusing for me than Phyrexian Rager given that the card really only offers any sort of effect that I’d be interested in when kicked. Two-mana 2/1 versus six-mana Reanimate gives me a serious “two bad deals” vibe. It’s another card that I love for Cube, just not this Cube.



Bonfire of the Damned Magus of the Moon Terror of the Peaks Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast


Shatterskull Smashing Earthshaker Khenra Rampaging Ferocidon Experimental Frenzy

I’ve said previously that red suffers some in this Cube from having too many replacement-level cards and too high of a mana curve, and the cuts here aren’t removing anything worth saving. I do think that Shatterskull Smashing and Experimental Frenzy are largely more of the same, but I’m a fan of the other updates.

Earthshaker Khenra is a solid two-drop, and Rampaging Ferocidon is actively exciting given positive interactions against Splinter Twin combo as well as a lot of creatures that are traditionally great against red decks like Kitchen Finks and Thragtusk. In all likelihood, it’s near the top of the pick order for Mono-Red Aggro.

I still believe that red is hurting for another one-drop or two, but these creatures definitely improve the situation for the red aggressive decks.



Master of the Wild Hunt Den Protector Tooth and Nail Vivien Reid Vivien, Monsters' Advocate


Hexdrinker Nissa, Vastwood Seer Turntimber Symbiosis Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury Birthing Pod

I’m happy to see Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate go, though I actively like three of the cards being cut here and the fourth is Tooth and Nail, which I had always assumed was a huge fan favorite. I scored a big win with Moat being cut, though it looks like Eureka will be staying in the Cube for the time being.

Turntimber Symbiosis was my number three from Zendikar Rising, and it’s one that I’m sure that I’ll play a lot in my mono-green decks, though most everything else going on here is largely replacement level, with Freyalise being an active downgrade from Vivien Reid.

Birthing Pod is going to be one to watch here, given that a number of the other updates revolve around its inclusion. Woe Strider and some of the other black cards are pretty clearly hoping to facilitate Pod decks, and Pod is among the better effects to pair with Recurring Nightmare. I personally believe these decks tend to exist in the space of being incredible for Legacy Cube and a little underpowered for Vintage Cube, but an early Birthing Pod is something to look out for in terms of an easy build around that has the potential to pay off in a big way.

Artifacts and Multicolor


Sphinx's Revelation Edric, Spymaster of Trest Fiend Artisan Trostani Discordant Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God Sword of War and Peace Lightning Greaves Sword of Light and Shadow


Geist of Saint Traft Prime Speaker Vannifar Casualties of War Gaddock Teeg Omnath, Locus of Creation Niv-Mizzet Reborn Lotus Petal Gilded Lotus

I’m on board with cutting Sphinx’s Revelation. I previously advocated cutting Yorion, Sky Nomad for Geist of Saint Traft, though I suppose Yorion can play in the Pod strategies and Sphinx’s Revelation is pretty weak in Vintage Cube anyway.

I personally like Edric, Spymaster of Trest pretty well, though if we’re trying to gas the Pod decks, then Prime Speaker Vannifar is an obvious card to add. It is odd to me to see Fiend Artisan on the chopping block though, given that it’s another Birthing Pod with legs. You’re going to see some great screenshots of Casualties of War blowouts, though more often players will quietly concede with the card in their hand.

Gaddock Teeg replaces Trostani as the “oops, I drafted Selesnya” card, and Nicol Bolas makes way for the comparably difficult-to-cast but much more powerful Omnath, Locus of Creation. I’m pretty low on Omnath for Vintage Cube given that you’ll have to crack all of your fetchlands to cast it, but if it goes late enough I’m willing to give it a try and challenge my assumptions. I don’t intend to do any such thing with Niv-Mizzet Reborn though, as the card more plainly does nowhere near enough to make up for the difficultly of casting it.

The three Equipment being cut were all generally pretty weak, though notably there won’t be any protection from white Swords in the Cube anymore. Somebody lobbied hard for white in this update.

Gilded Lotus can be excellent in decks that can generate a steady stream of cards, and it’s easily a better five-drop than Niv. I don’t value it super highly in Vintage Cube given that there is a lot of cheaper fast mana and the startup cost for these effects tends to be paramount in this environment, but I expect to play with and against it a fair amount.

If you would have asked me if Lotus Petal was already in the Cube I would have said that it obviously was. Apparently it was not, but rest assured it’s a very high pick. I will always look to play it over a land in my aggressive decks, it’s great at powering out combos, and if I draft a control deck that doesn’t want it, that is likely because I drafted poorly.

Winners and Losers

Some of the updates are more impactful than others, though all together they’re pretty significant. I believe the following to be the impact of these changes:

  • Big Winners: Mono-White Aggro and tempo decks in any combination of Jeskai colors all gain a ton of efficient tools. I generally already liked both of these strategies, and will look to draft them often in this run.
  • Small Winners: Mono-Red Aggro and black sacrifice strategies gained some tools, but I believe them to still have some structural and fundamental weaknesses, respectively. I’m tentatively putting Birthing Pod decks in this category, but I’m willing to believe they could actually be big winners.
  • Losers: Moat and people who like Moat.

All in all, I’m excited to see the updates to the Cube in action. I’ll see you in the Draft queues.