What’s New In The Magic Online Vintage Cube

With five weeks of Magic Online Vintage Cube on the horizon for MTGO players, Ryan Overturf takes you through the big changes and strategy shift.

Lotus Cobra
Lotus Cobra, illustrated by Chippy

Hello, gamers! Today marks the end of the AlphaFrog Vintage Cube on Magic Online (MTGO), which has gotten me to do the most daily digital drafts that I have in a long time. Some philosophical and personal preferences aside, the Cube was excellent. As the sun sets on this alt-Vintage Cube, the “stock” MTGO Vintage Cube returns today for a five(!)-week run!

The Vintage Cube is getting another massive overhaul, with over 100 cards changing again. For the breakdown by the Vintage Cube’s current curator, check out Chris Wolf’s article on the mothership. I’ve also ported the list over to Cube Cobra for easier digestion. And for some crunchier analysis, let’s break down the ins and outs of the Cube by color and go over how I would approach drafting the Cube in light of these changes:



Adanto Vanguard Armageddon Boon-Bringer Valkyrie Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite Elspeth, Sun's Champion Ephemerate Iona, Shield of Emeria Karmic Guide Leonin Relic-Warder Recruiter of the Guard Restoration Angel Spectral Procession Student of Warfare Sun Titan Tithe Taker Wall of Omens Kenrith, the Returned King


Seasoned Hallowblade Samwise the Stouthearted Timeless Dragon Portable Hole Ranger-Captain of Eos Archangel Avacyn Wedding Announcement Kytheon, Hero of Akros Luminarch Aspirant Staff of the Storyteller

An aspect of this update is that we’ll see more fan favorites shuffled in and out of the Cube in the coming year. I am on board with cutting cards that I consider to be underperformers, like Armageddon, and cards like Iona, Shield of Emeria that nobody is actually playing in white decks. I generally prefer just cutting these cards entirely to the “packages” concept outlined by Ryan Spain, but there is a lot of creative and fun potential with packages. I’ll reserve full judgment until we see how this is handled in future implementations.

The most important notes for white are that the total number of white cards is down and there is a specific push away from Mono-White Aggro. I’m not a believer in Patchwork Automaton, but luckily Forth Eorlingas! is around to pave the way for the future of Aggro in Boros. This reduction in white cards also makes me more skeptical of weak or narrow cards like Sevinne’s Reclamation and Guardian Scalelord taking up slots, but there are still enough white aggro cards for me to believe in the color as a powerful aggressive option.

Ranger-Captain of Eos is a quality tool for these aggressive decks, and Staff of the Storyteller is just a solid, generally playable white card. When it comes to high-powered Cubes, I’m more the type to play a slow value card like Wedding Announcement reluctantly because it’s there, but the increased castability over Spectral Procession is a big deal if you can’t expect to be mono-white as reliably.

I’m slightly surprised to see Restoration Angel on the outs, but this changelog shouldn’t make Azorius Control any less of a powerhouse in the format. The biggest change in approaching drafting white is just to value white dual lands higher, because fighting over white is harder with fewer total cards available. I’ve already been picking up Sacred Foundry and Plateau pretty highly, but these changes push them up in the order higher still.



Baral, Chief of Compliance Consider Deceiver Exarch Dream Halls Fact or Fiction Hullbreaker Horror Opposition Pestermite Phantasmal Image Sower of Temptation Suspicious Stowaway Svyelun of Sea and Sky Thirst for Discovery Torrential Gearhulk Treasure Cruise Venser, Shaper Savant


Hedron Crab Thought Scour Hullbreacher Show and Tell Lose Focus Sai, Master Thopterist Tezzeret the Seeker True-Name Nemesis Thassa's Oracle Jace, Wielder of Mysteries Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel Unctus, Grand Metatect Intuition Kappa Cannoneer Gush Aether Spellbomb Astral Dragon

I expect everybody to be mad about at least one blue card being cut with this update, but I would bet that the cards I’ll miss aren’t the same as yours! While I like the card Dream Halls, I wasn’t a fan of the choices of cards used to support it in the Cube, so I don’t mind seeing it go. I play Fact or Fiction with a high degree of regularity and think it’s great in a 540-card Vintage Cube, and Phantasmal Image is an all-timer. There are plenty of other options for card advantage, but the two-mana Clone was a unique and fun effect.

The big miss for me, though, is cutting Venser for the third Unsummon in the Cube. I will grant that Urza’s Saga makes Aether Spellbomb more playable on average than Snap and Seal of Removal, but it is wild to me to cite Venser as an underperformer while cutting it for the third version of an effect where the first is dubious.

I imagine that far more players will miss Splinter Twin and friends, but I actually think they’re pretty weak in Vintage Cube, especially as compared to the other options in blue. My feelings about Opposition are similar, but I’m more fine with that one hanging around because it takes up exactly one slot and people love it. I have found Treasure Cruise to be among the weaker blue cards in Vintage Cube, given that it takes actual setup, and Baral, Chief of Compliance; Torrential Gearhulk; and, most of all, Svyelun of Sea and Sky were clearly just mid.

I am delighted at the return of Tezzeret the Seeker and the introduction of Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel. Malcolm has been consistently impressive for me and subsidizes Flash in an elegant way. Astral Dragon also seems like a neat tool on that front, even if I think a Cube of this size should feature both, not one or the other, to make Flash work with any consistency. I also like Gush as a fringe Storm card that those decks can pick up late. Lose Focus is just solid nuts and bolts.

True-Name Nemesis and Show and Tell are both powerful cards in the right circumstances that I find to be great fits for the Cube, even if they’re not the highest picks. Thassa’s Oracle is incredibly narrow and I mostly only play it if I have Brain Freeze, Underworld Breach, and Lion’s Eye Diamond, but it is at least value added in those decks. Jace, Wilder of Mysteries is below rate for the Cube, but it also draws cards and costs less than five mana, so it’ll show up and win some games, I’m sure.

The artifact aggro stuff just isn’t that strong, though I could see Kappa Cannoneer exceeding my expectations alongside Retrofitter Foundry. The goofy thing about improvise in Vintage Cube is that many of your artifacts mostly tap for mana anyway, but there are some neat ways to cheat the cost here.

Hullbreacher was the only full-on miss for me featured in the AlphaFrog list, and I can’t say that I’m thrilled to see it here. There are few cards that I would draft over it, though I hope to not have to make that choice the next time Vintage Cube comes around. I also expect to see a lot of Hedron Crabs on the battlefield, and I’m hopeful that I’ll just be able to use my graveyard against those players and win easily, but I could see a couple of Crab activations deciding a lot of Vintage Cube games. It’s an interesting experiment, and I am at least curious about that one, if apprehensive.

I have some big feelings about this update to blue, as I’m sure many do, but at the end of the day, changing blue in Vintage Cube stands to have less of an impact than any other color. Blue is still the best to ever do it, and a lot of powerful and fun cards are still present in the Cube. I will continue to draft blue cards early and often.



Bitterblossom Call of the Ring Custodi Lich Infernal Grasp Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia Kitesail Freebooter Liliana, the Last Hope Massacre Wurm Murderous Rider Oona's Prowler Wishclaw Talisman


Doomsday Dreams of Steel and Oil Bitter Triumph Tourach, Dread Cantor Deep-Cavern Bat Contagion Massacre Girl Virtue of Persistence Rain of Filth Beseech the Mirror

Black gets a less impactful changelog than white or blue, and I would expect it stays in about the same position on-balance. Reanimator is the good black deck, storm is the fun black deck, and you can play black control decks.

I love seeing Call of the Ring making its way out, though I do have some concern about the number of weaker black cards in the Cube and the fact that the bottom of the barrel isn’t leaving when that has been black’s consistent problem in Vintage Cube for years. Sure, Murderous Rider and Liliana, the Last Hope weren’t draws to black, but they were the sort of cards you could just play and be fine with in any black deck, as opposed to the weak attempt at black creature-based decks with cards like Evolved Sleeper, Misery’s Shadow, and Rankle, Master of Pranks.

I had to look up what Dreams of Steel and Oil does, and the fact that you can’t even target yourself with the card to set up a Reanimate puts it firmly as one of the weakest black cards in the Cube as well.

I haven’t been convinced of Beseech the Mirror in Cube just yet, with it being one of those cards that is more powerful in Constructed, but I do like giving it a shot here. Doomsday falls in a similar camp, and while I’m not a believer in Doomsday Cube decks as of now, I won’t be able to resist trying it. The reintroduction of Shelldeck Isle is a big deal on that front, and I’m hopeful that I can get up to some busted things with these cards. This is also a spot where Thassa’s Oracle does get more mileage. Notably, the scaling back of aggro does make paying half your life to Doomsday much less scary.

Contagion is more of a sideboard card than anything, which I don’t love alongside the trimming of aggressive support. I’m also bigger on Massacre Wurm as a hammer and Reanimator target than I am on Massacre Girl as a Midrange black card, but it is at least true that Massacre Girl has the potential to be contextually more powerful by answering larger creatures for less mana.

I love the Virtue of Persistence call, because maindecking spot removal in Vintage Cube is often a dicey proposition. You definitely want it sometimes, but there are also combo decks that spot removal can be completely dead against. The modality here goes a long way in making sure that the card always does something, and sometimes you get to actually live the dream and make use of both halves.

I will also say that Bitter Triumph is a massive upgrade for black in the spot removal department. I think it’s my Cube card of the year, and I’ve been picking it very highly in the AlphaFrog Cube and expect to do the same here. Depending on where Doomsday lands, this update either slightly or majorly improved black’s place in the Cube.



Bitter Reunion Char Desperate Ritual Dire Fleet Daredevil Goblin Guide Goblin Rabblemaster Imperial Recruiter Incinerate Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker Kumano Faces Kakkazan Light up the Stage Mana Flare Mine Collapse Mizzium Mortars Nahiri's Warcrafting Pia and Kiran Nalaar Pyretic Ritual Runaway Steam-Kin Splinter Twin Squee, Dubious Monarch Sulfuric Vortex Thundermaw Hellkite Zealous Conscripts


Inti, Seneschal of the Sun Flame Slash Birgi, God of Storytelling Earthshaker Khenra Soul-Scar Mage Najeela, the Blade-Blossom Phyrexian Dragon Engine Tribal Flames Trumpeting Carnosaur Voldaren Epicure Goblin Engineer Pyrokinesis Delayed Blast Fireball Experimental Synthesizer Pyrite Spellbomb Breya's Apprentice Rite of Flame Radha's Firebrand Valakut Exploration Gut, True Soul Zealot Rampaging Ferocidon Embercleave Flametongue Kavu

Red has been a worse aggressive color than white for a while now in Vintage Cube, and downgrading Goblin Guide, Sulfuric Vortex, and Goblin Rabblemaster to Soul-Scar Mage, Rampaging Ferodicon, and Najeela, the Blade-Blossom isn’t helping on that front. I like Inti, Seneschal of the Sun and Earthshaker Khenra, but not nearly as much in a Cube where Mono-Red Aggro is becoming a less viable option. Little Ryan also didn’t get his Broadside Bombardiers for Christmas! Once again, the future of Aggro is Boros. Don’t sleep on Plateau.

A handful of red’s weaker cards in Incinerate, Char, Light up the Stage, and Nahiri’s Warcrafting are leaving, which I’m definitely a fan of. I do think that Mine Collapse is better than Pyrokinesis, though. Both of them are mostly only aggressive cards, and it’s simultaneously true that a Mountain is generally more expendable than a red card and that Mine Collapse is actually castable for mana in winnable games, where Pyrokinesis really isn’t.

I’ve already stated my distaste for artifact aggro, and I’m not a believer in most of the domain stuff either. Once you can make five colors of mana, you’ll find way more powerful spells to cast than Tribal Flames. Goblin Engineer is solid, though, and the Goblin Welder decks have actually been my preferred red decks in Vintage Cube most recently.

The return of Birgi, God of Storytelling is welcome for Storm decks, and Delayed Blast Fireball is an awesome anti-aggro card. I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot, which, paired with the watering down of aggro, is concerning for me as a beatdown fan. I’m generally interested in red controlling and combo decks, but this is a low point for Mono-Red Aggro decks in the MTGO Vintage Cube. I expect the success of such decks to lean heavily on Fury and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer.



Arbor Elf Birthing Pod Deranged Hermit Elder Gargaroth Finale of Devastation Force of Vigor Hornet Queen Invasion of Ikoria Joraga Treespeaker Oath of Druids Regrowth Survival of the Fittest Thrun, Breaker of Silence Utopia Sprawl Workshop Warchief Worldspine Wurm Wrenn and Realmbreaker


Arboreal Grazer Sentinel of the Nameless City Nishoba Brawler Ojer Kaslem, Deepest Growth Scapeshift Nature's Claim Gruff Triplets Lotus Cobra Sakura-Tribe Scout Prismatic Omen Spelunking Once Upon a Time Tarmogoyf Dryad of the Ilysian Grove Wild Nacatl Court of Garenbrig Avacyn's Pilgrim The Weatherseed Treaty

Oath of Druids is the loudest green card on the outs, but it’s an unreliable tool and one that I consider fine to cut. I like Joraga Treespeaker more than all of the other green one-drops coming in, and I want Finale of Devastation in all of my Gaea’s Cradle decks, but even still, I consider this update a slight improvement for green.

This has nothing to do with the bounceland and extra land stuff, mind you. It’s just that Lotus Cobra is busted and should never have been removed, and Once Upon a Time is an awesome tool for the Gaea’s Cradle and land combo decks. Court of Garenbrig is also a cheap monarch enabler, and all of this makes me keener on drafting green.

Some really weird things would have to happen to get me excited to cast Wild Nacatl in Vintage Cube, and I’m much bigger on playing artifact mana than getting tricky with bouncelands, but they are at least an interesting experiment. I feel like Horn of Greed would have been a high-value slot to really try to push the archetype, but there’s something worth trying there as is.

I’m not a believer in Prismatic Omen, Scapeshift, and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, but maybe there’s enough going on there with Field of the Dead to do some sweet things every tenth draft or so. In general, Gaea’s Cradle remains the name of the game when it comes to green.



Soulherder Urza, Lord Protector The Scarab God Thief of Sanity Assassin's Trophy Fiend Artisan Vraska, Golgari Queen Kogla and Yidaro Magma Opus Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger Kitchen Finks Knight of Autumn Sigarda, Font of Blessings Voice of Resurgence Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy Cruel Ultimatum Inspired Ultimatum Leovold, Emissary of Trest Sphinx of the Steel Wind


Valki, God of Lies Questing Druid Tameshi, Reality Architect Shorikai, Genesis Engine Kaito Shizuki Witherbloom Command Mosswood Dreadknight Territorial Kavu Fire Vial Smasher the Fierce Molten Collapse Renegade Rallier Qasali Pridemage Torsten, Founder of Benalia Bring to Light Soul of Windgrace Thopter Foundry

Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast and Leovold, Emissary of Trest were both great, though it has been a while since I’ve actually played a Leovold, so I’m mostly on board with these swaps. The outs are many of the weakest or otherwise replacement-level gold cards in the Cube, and my only note on removing Urza, Lord Protector is that I would have removed The Mightstone and Weakstone for either five-mana Lotus as well.

Valki, God of Lies is weak to cast, but Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor is worth the price of admission. The Bring to Light combo is powerful, and Bring to Light in general is a cool addition as a toolbox card. There’s a lot that I don’t like about Triomes, but specifically facilitating Bring to Light is something that I’m 100% on board with.

Some of the cards on the way in are also quite weak. Soul of Windgrace, for example, wasn’t overwhelming even in Dominaria United Limited. The Thopter Foundry combo will win games, but the way that neither half is of much use outside the combo makes it something I would approach with caution. To the extent that I agree that Assassin’s Trophy has a steep downside, it at least has upside. I can’t say the same of Witherbloom Command.

The other big hit making its way in is Torsten, Founder of Benalia. Torsten does only go in creature cheat decks, but the card proved to be higher-impact than I expected it to be in the AlphaFrog Vintage Cube. Picking up extra lands to facilitate playing a normal game just puts the card over. That said, I am bummed to see Monster Manual, another workhorse from the AlphaFrog list, not make its way in.



Talisman of Resilience Talisman of Impulse Talisman of Hierarchy Talisman of Indulgence Talisman of Unity Agatha's Soul Cauldron Kaldra Compleat Mindslaver Mirage Mirror Relic of Progenitus Solemn Simulacrum Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger


Skysovereign, Consul Flagship Nettlecyst Heart of Kiran Patchwork Automaton Shadowspear Currency Converter Unlicensed Hearse Sword of the Meek Coveted Jewel Manifold Key Soul-Guide Lantern Roaming Throne Cityscape Leveler

The colorless column is unique in this update, in that all of the cards leaving the Cube are good! Well, I wouldn’t actually go to bat for Solemn Simulacrum, and Mirage Mirror is pretty narrow, but these other mana rocks and haymakers were all quite playable. Unlicensed Hearse is the loudest downgrade from Agatha’s Soul Cauldron, though admittedly the complexity of the Cauldron is a fair mark against the card. I’m also on board with downgrading Relic of Progenitus to Soul-Guide Lantern because the maindeckability of Relic has hosed one too many of my Storm decks over the years!

I am dubious about Heart of Kiran, Shadowspear, and Manifold Key without Time Vault, but these cards are all playable and will make decks by virtue of being colorless. While I hope to have better things to find with my Urza’s Saga than Shadowspear, just being another one-drop does matter. I had to sit with the Cityscape Leveler over Ulamog swap, with Ulamog having the much higher ceiling, but I believe that the artifact synergies that Cityscape Leveler provides make this swap a nice little quality of life upgrade.

Both Coveted Jewel and Currency Converter were awesome in the AlphaFrog Vintage Cube, with Currency Converter being an early pick for me to facilitate grindy games with Reanimator decks. Reanimator was more supported in that environment, but realistically the card is strong in almost any non-aggro deck.



Bazaar of Baghdad Graven Cairns Mana Confluence City of Traitors


Restless Bivouac Sunken Ruins Simic Growth Chamber Golgari Rot Farm Gruul Turf Shattered Sanctum Haunted Ridge Restless Vents Selesnya Sanctuary Stormcarved Coast Deserted Beach Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle Shelldock Isle

Bazaar of Baghdad is another one of those cards that I’m sure a lot of players aren’t happy to see go, but that performs quite poorly in practice. I prefer Mana Confluence in my Boros decks over Restless Bivouac, but I’m less attached to that one. I can’t quite get my head around the City of Traitors cut. While I suppose it makes some sense with the cuts to mono-colored aggro decks, City just does a good enough Mox impression to justify inclusion even if it does have a drawback.

There’s not a lot else to say about the lands coming in that I haven’t already covered, though I am happy to see Restless Vents making it after a couple of weeks of seeing Lavaclaw Reaches in the AlphaFrog list. We’ll consider that the Lavaclaw Reaches farewell tour!

I’m happy that we have the Vintage Cube back for such a long stretch, and it’s awesome to hear that we’ll be getting the Cube more often in the coming year. I’m a little cold on this run’s changelog, but I’m holding out hope to see what shake-ups we’ll get around the packages concept in future runs. What I really hope to see are versions of the Cube that are less “March Vintage Cube” and something that pops a little more, like “Old-Border Vintage Cube” or “Vintage Cube: Combo Edition”. Long changelogs with more focused visions could make for some truly awesome play experiences.