Happy Wednesday, gamers, and welcome to a week that I have been looking forward to for over a year! Vintage Cube Supreme Draft makes its triumphant return to Magic Online (MTGO) today! Supreme Draft isn’t for everyone, but if you’re like me, you’ll be jumping right back into the queue after you finish your matches until you realize that it’s somehow way past your bedtime all week. Playing with power is fun, and playing with a lot of power is a lot of fun!
For a crash course in Vintage Cube Supreme Draft I’d recommend my article that preceded the first run of this style of event in 2020, and it would also likely be helpful to check out my article on the most recent MTGO Vintage Cube updates. The fundamentals that I expected to matter in the format held up in my experience during the first run of Vintage Cube Supreme Draft, though with a number of updates to the Cube over the past year as well as actual play experience, I believe I have plenty to say without simply rehashing that piece. Let’s go over the Cube by color in terms of what I learned and what has changed.
White isn’t unplayable in Vintage Cube Supreme Draft, but that’s about the highest praise I can give the color. Aggressive white decks, even with an emphasis on prison cards, just can’t keep up with the multiple-Moxen monstrosities that you’ll run into in this format. Monastery Mentor and gold cards like Teferi, Time Raveler are going to be some of the only white cards that I will be giving a second look. Amusingly, white has leveled up in the Cube over the last year. The upgrades just don’t translate into Supreme Draft, which functions much more similarly to Vintage Constructed.
I love me a Palace Jailer and a Solitude in a regular Vintage Cube draft, but they’re much less appealing here. I will say that Solitude can actually play if you’re opponent is getting up to a Reanimator or Splinter Twin strategy in much the same way that I value Force of Will very highly in Supreme Draft, but needing a second white card to pitch and the fact that many opponents will be winning with few if any creatures make the card much less desirable than normal.
Trying to force an aggressive deck is something of a fun “hard mode” way to Supreme Draft, but given that you’ll need some pretty specific tools and that you’ll want to pick power every time you see it, it’s going to be difficult to make a deck like this work consistently. Supreme Draft demands too much from your individual business spells to settle for Thalia.
A lot of the story of the last run of Vintage Cube Supreme Draft was Hullbreacher and assorted draw-seven combos. The absence of Hullbreacher means you can’t literally do that, but the dominance of blue goes far beyond just one card. You’ll have to look to Narset, Parter of Veils if you want to lock people out with draw-sevens, but it turns out a ton of fast mana makes locking your opponent out of these draws good but unnecessary. I do still pick Narset highly, but I also pick Timetwister highly independently.
I was slightly surprised to not run into many Splinter Twin-style decks during the last run, though this does make sense in retrospect. The blue decks tended to look much more like the style of blue decks that I like to draft in Vintage Cube normally with a bunch of counterspells, card advantage, and dubious strategies to actually close games. These are the best-performing decks when you can actually draft them, but seven other players wanting to draft the best color makes this difficult in traditional drafts. Supreme Draft removes the need to fight other players for the best blue cards, though. It just makes sense that the best style of blue deck shows up more and performs when the obstacles to drafting it vanish.
You don’t need to focus that much on actually winning if you can keep your opponent from getting off the ground. A handful of my decks were just stuffed with cheap counterspells and relied on finding a lone copy of Tezzeret the Seeker to close at some point somehow. Given that you’ll be playing a bunch of artifacts regardless of what you’re trying to draft, Tezzeret is great in Supreme Draft, though some of the card’s charm was due to comboing with Hullbreacher. At any rate, my point is less that Tezzeret is good and more that you should worry more about card advantage and interaction than closing.
On that note, I expect Hullbreaker Horror to be a bit of a menace during this run. Not on the level that Hullbreacher was due to the significantly higher mana cost, but a ton of fast mana coupled with disincentives to play both creatures and removal, as well as incentives to play with a bunch of counterspells, will allow Hullbreaker Horror to completely dominate many blue mirrors. Some games will be too fast to get a seven-drop online, so I wouldn’t play a bunch of copies, but I’d more happily play one Hullbreaker Horror than any number of Pestermites.
In much the same vein that I didn’t see much Splinter Twin in the last run, I also saw less Reanimator than I expected. Again, these decks that require multiple cards to set up a win are going to run into awkward draft decisions when a Mox is in the same pack as their specific payoff and are going to do worse against counterspells. In Supreme Draft Bolas’s Citadel is just a more reliable card to play to than Griselbrand, as scooping up Moxen sets you up for busted Tinker decks as well as higher ease of just hard-casting the thing.
Duress and Thoughtseize are good, but they’re just not remotely on the level of counterspells. Every topdeck is live to be something incredibly busted, and even if your opponent’s hand only has one busted spell to take, you’re still at the mercy of the top of your deck with these options. This is true normally but is less important because the ceiling for decks is lower and drafting is more about making do with the cards you’re dealt than establishing what the absolute best possible thing is. In Supreme Draft, though, you need to understand what the absolute best things going on are because every player will have very consistent access to these tools.
Tendrils of Agony and Storm broadly run into compounded versions of the Splinter Twin and Reanimator issues with how much your deck has to focus on those things, but Storm does at least gain from the fact that casting a bunch of moxen is an incredibly good way to cast a lot of spells in one turn. Relative to those combos Storm does gain quite a lot in Supreme Draft, though it also had a lot of ground to gain. I enjoy drafting Storm decks and I’m sure I will draft at least a few this week, though I will say that I’m looking to have Storm as the payoff for a consistent Bolas’s Citadel deck more than I’m trying to fill a deck with a bunch of Dark Rituals and hoping for the best.
Red is kind of horrible in Vintage Cube Supreme Draft. Splinter Twin was one of few supposed strengths for the color, and both that style of combo and Sneak Attack suffer from the abundance of counterspells that you’ll invariably run into. Using Sneak Attack to get a Hullbreaker Horror going is pretty filthy given that the Horror can then bounce itself with any spell, but I’m less confident in this style of deck than one that is just trying to sit on its hands until it’s Hullbreaking time.
There has been one major change to red in the last year that I’m sure is going to be a big deal this week, though. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
With creatures being so broadly bad and counterspells being naturally disadvantaged against one-drops, Ragavan is going to steal a lot of cards and games this week. Ragavan is the single biggest reason to play Volcanic Island in Supreme Draft, and I’d absolutely hedge on a Volcanic Island out of a weak pack to leave myself open to drafting a good Ragavan deck.
I established that green is rancid in Vintage Cube Supreme Draft in my original article on the format, and I don’t have much to add here. This was just absolutely correct in practice. The one card that I was willing to hedge on in Fastbond turned out to be a total dud in a world where many decks just pack multiple Moxen and can skip the fiddly nature of trying to play extra lands advantageously. When it comes to green, if it’s not Oko, Thief of Crowns, I don’t want it. Even that entails scooping up some Tropical Islands, so I’m not huge on Oko either.
Leovold, Emissary of Trest was among the more appealing gold cards last time, though Leovold is no longer invited to the party. If a card is multiple colors that aren’t blue, you can more or less ignore it this week. With Ragavan drawing me to Volcanic Island, I will say that Dack Fayden is the most appealing gold card still in the Cube.
Other gold planeswalkers such as Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver definitely still play; just make sure you’re not stretching your mana too much. Supreme Draft decks can fairly commonly end up with a lot of “colorless” mana sources when it comes to Sol Rings and off-color mMxen. Overwhelmingly, I’d take Counterspell over most any gold card.
Going to rescind my praise for Relic of Progenitus last time given how poorly any win condition that required any setup was and say to just stick to the usual suspects here.
Signets are okay, but I don’t want a ton of those unless I have specific artifact synergies like Tinker going on. They go down in value considerably once basically every deck has multiple Moxen.
Blue dual lands will be important for a lot of decks, and Tolarian Academy is completely broken in Supreme Draft. I’m expecting a lot from newcomer Urza’s Saga for being an incredibly low-maintenance win condition.
Finally, we come what is in all likelihood the most underrated card in Magic today:
Over the course of the last three weeks I’ve seen Library of Alexandria consistently disrespected going late in the Vintage Cube queues, and in the last run of Supreme Draft few of my opponents ever played one. Some of my easiest wins came from my decks sporting multiple copies, and it’s just comically easy to overpower your opponent with Library and Moxen.
I’m really not sure what to tell a player who doesn’t get it, outside of the fact that you can just cast spells with the land if you’re unable to draw cards or drawing extra cards isn’t what the game is about. Maybe people are just drafting decks with spells that have too many pips and are too difficult to cast, but none of this is Library of Alexandria’s fault.
I am happy to take the free wins where I can get them, but I would be remiss if I didn’t speak to how absurd it is to see Library of Alexandria going fifth pick or later. Some number of decks will have difficulty taking advantage of a colorless land and not every deck is the best at leveraging the card, but I refuse to accept that four players at the same table are correctly playing decks that don’t want Library. Some of y’all are blowing it.
Supreme Draft isn’t for everybody, and I imagine the fact that the format really gets pushed to its extreme is a turn-off for some. There’s far less room to be creative and successful with so many picks being more or less forced towards the most powerful cards in the Cube if you want to materially participate in the games at all. Personally, I’m always trying to draft the best deck I’ve ever drafted, and Supreme Draft produces completely absurd decks and I just can’t get enough of it.
I’m ecstatic that the format has returned and I’ll see you in the queues.