The “Polish Update” To The MTGO Vintage Cube

The MTGO Vintage Cube is back with a “polish update” of under 40 cards. Still, there’s plenty to look at… and Ryan Overturf doesn’t like everything he sees.

Birgi, God of Storytelling
Birgi, God of Storytelling, illustrated by Eric Deschamps

Howdy, gamers! I hope everyone is excited for another two-week run of the Magic Online (MTGO) Vintage Cube! We’re getting a small update from the last run that they’re calling a “polish update” which is intended to iterate only slightly on the previous run without rotating any “packages”. With only 38 cards changing, things won’t bee too fundamentally different.

Chris Wolf provided some rationale on an individual card basis for this update on the mothership, which gives us some insight into how these polish updates will work. As always, I’ve ported the list over to Cube Cobra for ease of access. There are aspects of this update that I find inconsistent with the stated philosophy, but I’ll get to that in my write-up on the offending cards.

Let’s break the changelog down by color and take a look at what this first polish update has in store for us!



Archangel Avacyn Kytheon, Hero of Akros Ranger-Captain of Eos


Sunfall Leonin Relic-Warder Mana Tithe Novice Inspector Recruiter of the Guard

The most significant thing happening with white is a slight bump in the total volume of white cards, pushing back a little against the trimming that the color faced with the last update. A one-drop for a one-drop and a generally replaceable five-mana spell for another generally replaceable five-mana spell leave things largely where they were. Sunfall has some upside as compared to Wrath of God, but also costs an additional mana. Only some decks will want it, it’ll go late in drafts, and even then it’ll start in the sideboard often enough.

I love bringing Mana Tithe back. It’s a fan favorite that generates a lot of fun moments, which is better value than you can get from a lot of white cards in a powered Cube. Swapping Recruiter of the Guard in over Ranger-Captain of Eos is strange to me, given that Ranger-Captain has some charm similar to that of Mana Tithe. It does something that other white cards don’t do at a good rate, and Recruiter tends to live in the sideboard of my best aggressive decks.

There’s not enough changing here to impact how I would approach drafting white, which is what you would expect from the stated philosophy of a polish update. The Cube list currently skews Boros over Mono-White Aggro, and Azorius Control is as always the other option. A second Thraben Inspector is welcome for both archetypes.



Hedron Crab Intuition Lose Focus Mind's Desire Seal of Removal Shark Typhoon Unctus, Grand Metatect


Stern Scolding Phantasmal Image Memory Lapse Dress Down Tishana's Tidebinder Forensic Gadgeteer

I don’t think that anybody will miss Unctus, Grand Metatect or Seal of Removal, and Phantasmal Image definitely shouldn’t have ever been cut. I nearly tricked myself into putting Intuition in my Sword of the Meek decks multiple times and never actually found a great use for it, so I won’t miss that one either. Dress Down is a unique card that I’m sure some players will be very excited to see, and Tishana’s Tidebinder is a tremendously popular card, which makes it a great call, too. Memory Lapse over Lose Focus has big 8th Editionyou pick the card” energy and is a pretty minor swap in the grand scheme of things.

Shark Typhoon is a unique and crowd-pleasing effect that I’m surprised to see on the outs, though I will grant that the card is a little on the weak side.

The cut here that I would be adamantly against in a regular update and is baffling in a “polish” update is Mind’s Desire. If I love Mana Tithe for generating stories, then you can imagine how I feel about Mind’s Desire. There isn’t a single card that is more emblematic of what is exciting about Vintage Cube than Mind’s Desire. Anything can happen when you draft it as well as when you cast it! We don’t draft Vintage Cube because it’s the optimal environment to force midrange decks full of replacement-level threats and answers; we draft Vintage Cube in the hopes that we can assemble a machine that does something unique and outrageous.

What I particularly object to is the passive voice in the changelog regarding this cut. “Vintage Cube is more focused on creatures these days” is presented as an objective statement of fact that is out of anybody’s hands. When you’re curating a Cube, you determine what that Cube is about, and cutting payoffs for combo decks is a way that you reinforce a Cube being about creatures. A premise becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if you never question or work against it.

Beyond that, this is in my mind far too big a swing for a polish update. Not only does it impact an established archetype, it also causes a lot of collateral damage to cards that are remaining in the Cube. The second-order effects of removing Mind’s Desire make cards like High Tide and Candelabra of Tawnos, already very situational cards, far less appealing without one of their most powerful pairings. I both hope to see Mind’s Desire returned to the Cube and to not see cards with such deep roots targeted in future polish updates.



Contagion Putrid Imp Vampire Hexmage


Cut Down Unearth Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia Preacher of the Schism Bitterblossom

It’s pretty weird to me to see Massacre Girl sticking around, but in general I don’t have strong feelings about any of the black cards leaving or entering the Cube. I do think that Vampire Hexmage offers a better dream than Jadar or Bitterblossom, but I also rarely see that dream realized in that way.

Cut Down has about the same impact as Contagion without any of the charm, but is a fine swap if you’re trying not to rock the boat. Unearth is neater, and it might give Monastery Mentor a needed shot in the arm to be a more consistent player in the Cube. I would expect the card to go late, though, with only a handful of other cards like Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Snapcaster Mage being especially appealing targets.

Admittedly, the issues that black has in Vintage Cube can’t really be addressed with a minor update. The Sacrifice support entering the Cube will be about as effective as it always has been, but it makes sense to me to not take a bigger swing in a polish update.



Najeela, the Blade-Blossom Birgi, God of Storytelling Earthshaker Khenra Experimental Synthesizer Rite of Flame Valakut Exploration


Shrapnel Blast Goblin Rabblemaster Broadside Bombardiers Goblin Cratermaker Mishra's Research Desk Mine Collapse Bitter Reunion

Rather than cutting Najeela, I would have much preferred to see Zurgo Bellstriker added and possibly a few other Warriors to really push the card, with a polish update being a great opportunity for changes like that. This is fairly minor as compared to Mind’s Desire, but Radha’s Firebrand and Nishoba Brawler living to fight another day without Najeela does have weird optics.

I love Mine Collapse and Bitter Reunion making their way back in, and I’m obviously a fan of Broadside Bombardiers! The call to try Mishra’s Research Desk over Experimental Synthesizer also seems perfect for a polish update. Just a small tweak to a similar card that maybe finds a home with Urza’s Saga feels right. Rite of Flame and Valakut Exploration were pretty well duds, so I don’t think anyone will miss them.

Goblin Cratermaker has generally been weak for me about everywhere that I’ve played the card, and Shrapnel Blast is among the weirdest cards making their way in. The artifact boost was a success of the last update, but specifically the artifact decks with aggressive slants were weak, and other cards being cut from the Cube acknowledge this. It’s fairly minor to have Shrapnel Blast in the Cube, but when the changelog involves cutting one of red’s coolest, most distinctive cards in Birgi, God of Storytelling, it is a bit upsetting to see.

Broadside Bombardiers and Mine Collapse both add real tools for Mono-Red or Boros Aggro, so I do think that red aggressive decks are somewhat improved by these changes on balance. I was bigger on red control decks and Pyrokinesis during the last run, but this shot in the arm could even things out.



Eternal Witness Life from the Loam Ojer Kaslem, Deepest Growth Oracle of Mul Daya Spelunking Oath of Druids Wild Nacatl


Worldspine Wurm Cavalier of Thorns Oath of Druids Legolas's Quick Reflexes Regrowth Manglehorn

The update to green here is a very mixed bag. I’ll start with the good: Worldspine Wurm and Oath of Druids are back for some fun cheaty strategies. Even if I don’t love Oath myself, it’s a unique and very Vintage effect that just seems right to have in the list. Manglehorn is also a very powerful form of artifact hate, which is good to have around when the Cube is pushing artifacts harder than normal. I don’t find the card particularly fun, but it’s not remotely as offensive as Hullbreacher. Cutting Ojer Kaslem, Deepest Growth is also just correct, as it was among the weakest green fives to ever grace the Cube. Life from the Loam is definitely more charming than Ojer Kaslem, but it also has a way of going very late in drafts and living in sideboards.

And now for the bad. Oracle of Mul Daya certainly isn’t what it used to be, but it lends a meaningful hand to the Lands strategies in this run, specifically playing very well with bouncelands. Beyond that, it’s just a fine card on rate that has a way of making decks, which neither Cavalier of Thorns nor Legolas’s Quick Reflexes can boast. I did also like Spelunking with bouncelands, but in fairness, that card is far narrower than the Oracle.

Regrowth over Eternal Witness is baffling. Eternal Witness is the more powerful card of the two, and to the extent that Regrowth is playable in 2024, it tends to be as a Storm card. Perhaps as something to play in conjunction with Mind’s Desire…

It’s hard to imagine playing Regrowth in a deck in the current list that doesn’t have Time Walk, and even in such decks, it will be pretty common that you’d happily play Eternal Witness in that slot were it available. It is true that green is long on three-mana creatures, but that doesn’t mean that two-mana sorceries that don’t impact the battlefield are the answer.

This update leaves green more or less where it was before, with Flash being the big winner. I’m holding out hope that we’ll get Monster Manual in the future.



Questing Druid Soul of Windgrace Molten Collapse Vial Smasher the Fierce


Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast

Questing Druid is cool, but not especially powerful for this environment, which is also about where Vial Smasher the Fierce lands. Soul of Windgrace also couldn’t hang on power, and Molten Collapse is neither cool nor powerful. I could go either way on how cool Daretti,Ingenious Iconoclast is, but it’s hard to argue that the card isn’t powerful. Good swaps here all around.



Anduril, Flame of the West Heart of Kiran Patchwork Automaton Roaming Throne Skysovereign, Consul Flagship Sundering Titan Wurmcoil Engine


Kaldra Compleat Syr Ginger, the Meal Ender Chromatic Star Relic of Progenitus Kozilek, Butcher of Truth Talisman of Indulgence

Patchwork Automaton was terrible, and most of the cards leaving here are convincingly below rate for the Cube. The one cut that is odd to me for a polish update is Roaming Throne. Even if you decided that the card won’t have a permanent home in the Cube, it was easily one of the more fun and popular additions with the previous update. Cutting it for something as drab as Chromatic Star is a move against the net fun that the Cube can generate.

Kaldra Compleat definitely feels like a Vintage Cube staple as a companion to Stoneforge Mystic, so it’s good to have that one back. I also generally like just having all of the Talismans, especially if Paradoxical Outcome must stay in the Cube for whatever reason. Relic of Progenitus gets on base, and Syr Ginger is a generally playable two-drop.

The one card that is a little weird to me making its way in is Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. It’s not best-in-class at anything that it does, and suffers more from not being an artifact than Wurmcoil Engine or Sundering Titan do to the signs of age that they are showing. Having anti-Brain Freeze tech is a flimsy justification for the slot, especially in an update that removed Ranger-Captain of Eos.

Generally speaking, the extra Talisman and Relic of Progenitus are great pickups for the artifact decks, which were already the big winner of the last update. I’m as high on Tolarian Academy as I’ve ever been, though I have found Talismans have felt much weaker in decks that aren’t pushing artifact synergies due to the strength of the average two- and three-drop being way up, as well as the presence of cards like Nature’s Claim and now Manglehorn making them something of a liability.



Mishra's Factory


City of Traitors Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth

City of Traitors should never have been cut, though it’s very odd to me both abstractly to cut Mishra’s Factory and to specifically cut it over Mutavault. There was an argument for Mutavault if Najeela stuck around, but being an artifact and a better blocker tends to matter more than being every creature type in Vintage Cube. Losing out on a colorless land is one of a number of strikes against mono-color aggro decks, though that’s nothing new with the rest of the update. The days of Boros over mono-white or red are and have been upon us.

The writeup regarding this update cited that seven consecutive weeks of some form of Vintage Cube was likely too much, and that doing five weeks without an update definitely was. I do like leaving the door open to updates, though I’m not sure that I agree that the runtime was much of an issue. The more that the Cube is peppered with delightful cards that go in a range of decks that offer players aspirational pursuits, the longer players will happily continue playing with the same list.

The Mana Tithes, the Mind’s Desires, the Birgis – they’ll keep players coming back. The stakes of MTGO Vintage Cube Drafts aren’t high enough for most of us to get heavily invested in nickel-and-diming opponents with Cut Downs, but firing up a queue to figure out what we can get up to with a Roaming Throne will surely keep us invested. I’m hopeful to see future updates reflect more of a “dream big” philosophy.