Reviewing The Most Recent Changes To The Magic Online Vintage Cube

The Vintage Cube has returned to Magic Online. Ryan Overturf analyzes the latest changes so you can make the most of the three-week Limited MTG experience.

Augur of Autumn illustrated by Billy Christian

You may have already heard, but in case you haven’t, I’m here to let you know that Vintage Cube is returning to Magic Online (MTGO) for three weeks starting today! I wasn’t positive that we’d see Vintage Cube between the releases of the two Innistrad sets this year with the releases being so close together, but I’m happy to see the format go live one more time between now and its inevitable return towards the end of the year. 

Today I’ll be going over the updates to the Cube to get you in fighting shape, but first I always like to link my inaugural Vintage Cube article here on Star City Games. It’s over a year old at this point so it’s slightly dated, but the fundamentals are good. It’s actually pretty rare that you’d see anything fundamentally shift in a Cube this powerful, though the relative strength of individual colors and archetypes are constantly in flux with these updates. 

The primary nature of the October 2021 changes is with regard to the release of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, though we are also seeing the addition of older cards as Carmen Handy grows into her role of curating the digital Cubes. You can find her writeup on the most recent update here. Now, without further ado, I’ll break down the changes to the Cube by color and what this means to you as a drafter. 



Sanctum Prelate Oblivion Ring Paladin Class Reveillark Legion's Landing


Adeline, Resplendent Cathar Cathar Commando Intrepid Adversary Karmic Guide Sungold Sentinel

Sanctum Prelate made it into the Cube in a very odd patch while the last run of Vintage Cube was live over Brimaz, King of Oreskos, and is one that I won’t miss. The play patterns are just horrendous, and Adeline more or less returns to form in a lateral substitution over Brimaz. 

Karmic Guide is generally at its best alongside Reveillark, so it’s something of an odd substitution. Neither is a terribly high pick in Vintage Cube with Mono-White Aggro and Azorius Control being the best white archetypes, but if I had to choose to include one I would go with the Guide. It performs well in all the same matchups that Reveillark does while being by far the superior pairing for Recurring Nightmare

The removal of Oblivion Ring might seem odd, seeing as it’s one of those cards that does enough without costing too much to maindeck, but it tends to be the case that the more near-identical versions of a card they’re willing to print, the less essential they are for powerful Cube environments. Borrowed Time wasn’t printed as a replacement for Oblivion Ring; it’s another data point in the fact that the passage of time has made Oblivion Ring much less exciting. 

Cathar Commando and Intrepid Adversary both cracked my Top 10 Cube Cards for Midnight Hunt and are the most significant additions with this update. Sungold Sentinel is also totally playable, but is on the replacement-level side of two-mana creatures for aggressive decks, whereas Cathar Commando is just solid for any white deck and Intrepid Adversary is in contention for the best two-drop for white aggressive decks. 

The removal of Legion’s Landing is a blow to those aggressive decks, both in reducing the total number of one-mana threats and it being in the upper half of those on power level. Losing a one-drop is more significant for those strategies than upgrading the two-drops, so on balance I’d say white got slightly worse here. This is perhaps deserved after the huge upgrade that white recently got with Palace Jailer being reintroduced to the Cube along with the addition of Solitude, though I will still miss the Landing. I would still expect Mono-White Aggro to be a regular performer in the Cube though. 



Impulse The Blackstaff of Waterdeep Looter il-Kor


Portent Memory Deluge Suspicious Stowaway

There’s not a lot changing in blue this time around, which shouldn’t be surprising. Looter il-Kor gets the obvious upgrade to Suspicious Stowaway, and Impulse gets the boot it probably should have gotten years ago. We saw Portent added to Legacy Cube recently by Carmen and I loved seeing it there and it’s nice to see here as well. 

Memory Deluge is going to be a much bigger deal for formats like Arena Cube, but it’s a serious card advantage spell that offers a good amount of selection for the price. I wouldn’t take it over a counterspell or a cheaper card selection spell, but I also expect it to overwhelmingly make my deck when I do draft it. 



Agadeem's Awakening Midnight Reaper


Infernal Grasp Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia

It was easy to justify putting Agadeem’s Awakening in a deck with the opportunity cost being so low, but I rarely saw doing so amount to much in Vintage Cube. Midnight Reaper also just doesn’t have the kind of support that you want for a card like that with some of the most powerful cards for sacrifice decks absent from the Cube. 

I think that Jadar falls flat in the way that the two cuts did, though I’m always in favor of lowering the curve. I’m really looking for Goblin Bombardment and some other cheap support before I give that one a close look. Infernal Grasp, on the other hand, is a nice get. You never know whether the opposition is hitting you with Containment Priest or Griselbrand, and a couple of catch-all removal spells go a long way in Vintage Cube. 



Mizzium Mortars Robber of the Rich Dreadhorde Arcanist Ancient Grudge


Wheel of Misfortune Laelia, the Blade Reforged Bloodthirsty Adversary Smoldering Egg

Ancient Grudge is by far the most powerful card on the outs here, but playing with red and green mana isn’t free. I like Robber of the Rich well enough, but it was ultimately replacement level. Red decks will miss Mizzium Mortars when facing down Courser of Kruphix specifically, but not much otherwise. I’ve seen many disappointing Dreadhorde Arcanists in 540-card Cubes and zero good ones, so good riddance there. 

Wheel of Misfortune has popped out and now back into the Cube relating to a bug.It’s more fun than good, but it’s plenty fun. Smoldering Egg is worth playing in controlling decks or even in Storm, but isn’t one that I expect to be valued highly at the table and is a card that I would hope to wheel if I were interested in it. 

Laelia, the Blade Reforged is one that I’ve been playing in the original Twobert since its release and has been great there. The bar is much higher for Vintage Cube and the card is more or less replacement level by virtue of being an aggressive three-drop, but it’s a great option to fill out your curve once you’re full up on ones and twos. 

Bloodthirsty Adversary is plainly awesome, and while I would have preferred to see it take the place of a five-mana creature — let’s call it Siege-Gang Commander — it’s still really nice to have a red threat that’s good on Turn 2 and has the ability to scale into the late-game as a topdeck. On balance these swaps don’t do much to alter the positioning of red decks in the Cube, but Bloodthirsty Adversary offers the most for being a cheap threat that can be a big swingy play when it needs to be. 



Turntimber Symbiosis Lotus Cobra Primal Command Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider Whisperwood Elemental


Augur of Autumn Birthing Pod Storm the Festival Tovolar's Huntmaster Wrenn and Seven

With the exception of Primal Command, all of the green cuts are cards that I happily maindeck. I hope you Birthing Pod fans are happy! Personally I don’t see the appeal of Birthing Pod in Vintage Cube, but it does certainly do more for archetype diversity than all of my Mono-Green Ramp darlings that are on the outs. 

I expect Wrenn and Seven’s time in Vintage Cube to be forgettable, though it remains to be seen whether it ends up being short. Nissa, Who Shakes the World is the consensus best five-mana planeswalker for Vintage Cube, though Vivien Reid is markedly better than whatever the next best option is. Wrenn’s +1 and -3 are fine, but their impacts on the battlefield are minimal relative to the format and we have to dream bigger than that. 

Tovolar’s Huntmaster is actually better than Primeval Titan in the current build of the Cube absent Field of the Dead and Dark Depths combo, so I have no qualms with its addition. Vorinclex has higher potential to do nutty things with planeswalkers as well as some other cards like Walking Ballista than Tovolar’s Huntmaster does so I don’t love that substitution, but the Huntmaster is one I expect to play. 

It’s pretty odd to me to add Storm the Festival in the update that removes Whisperwood Elemental because you really want some kind of sweeper protection if all you’re doing is flooding the battlefield with cheaper threats. I don’t plan on picking Storm the Festival highly or maindecking it in all of my ramp decks. If I’m going to spend that much mana on something that isn’t a sure thing, I at least want it to give me looks at Craterhoof Behemoth.

Augur of Autumn is the major update here, and one that I will draft highly for all of my green decks. Not over a one-mana accelerator, but over most everything else. A way to keep the cards flowing as well as clear lands off the top of your deck is most welcome in green decks, and I have nothing but good things to say about the Augur. 



Bloodbraid Elf Kaya, Orzhov Usurper Master of Death Pernicious Deed Qasali Pridemage Progenitus


Arlinn, the Pack's Hope Liesa, Forgotten Archangel Ludevic, Necrogenius Old Stickfingers Rite of Harmony Niv-Mizzet Reborn

This just goes to show that if you complain loudly enough, you can have Niv-Mizzet Reborn in any Cube! If that’s your thing, that’s cool, and ultimately the cost of featuring Niv in the Cube is one slot and a lot of these gold slots are replacement-level anyway. This is an incredibly low cost way to please a lot of players, and kudos to Carmen for doing so. 

I really don’t have much to say about the significance of any of these cards in Vintage Cube. While I believe that Bloodbraid Elf is considerably more powerful than Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope, I also don’t really want to play with any of these cards ever. I can see Rite of Harmony having a high ceiling, so I like giving that one a shot, but any deck that asks me to play a Savannah is fighting uphill. 



Field of Ruin Mastermind's Acquisition Kaldra Compleat Anguished Unmaking Blast Zone


Deserted Beach Haunted Ridge Shipwreck Marsh Overgrown Farmland Rockfall Vale

The most important thing in Vintage Cube is getting set up early, so I value these slowlands lower than fastlands, but I would also value all of the cards being cut lower than fastlands. It’s generally good to have more mana-fixing, and I expect these to be quality options that you can pick up late in the draft. The big winner with these lands is, of course, Niv-Mizzet Reborn, so I suppose they’ll be fan favorites as well. 

In reviewing today’s update and taking inventory of the slight blow to Mono-White Aggro and the hits to Mono-Green Ramp, I’m thinking that the most powerful card being added is… Portent… The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Happy drafting, gamers! I’ll see you in the queues.