Welcome everyone. I hope you made your way safely into 2020 and got to play a bunch of Vintage Cube during the holidays. Last time I covered a lot of basics philosophies when approaching the format, so today it’s time to get a bit more specific. I will talk about which cards are powerful enough to not only draft highly, but also build around. I will wrap up the article with some unconventional archetypes that might help you when the classics are not open – or just something to try out in the last days of the cube.Tinker is a good first pick, but it is not going to win the game on its own. When you pick an early Tinker, you need to find at least 3-4 cheap artifacts and a big payoff before the draft is over. The obvious cheap ones are mana accelerants while cards like Baleful Strix, Pia and Kiran Nalaar and Thraben Inspector also count. My preferred payoff is Myr Battlesphere because it’s also hardcastable, but any of Inkwell Leviathan, Blightsteel Colossus, Sphinx of the Steel Wind or even Mindslaver will do the job just fine. Tinker is good in any combination with blue which makes it very flexible.
This card is one of my favorite ways, besides power 9, to start a cube draft. When you have it early, you can prioritize Eldrazi, Griselbrand, Blightsteel Colossus and Woodfall Primus, and most of the time you’ll get there. To make the strategy more robust, Through the Breach and Arcane Artisan alongside Show and Tell can be high picks. If you are really ambitious, comboing out with Palinchron and Sneak Attack is a viable option for a cheeky Storm deck.
The natural (ab)use of Channel is with Eldrazi and huge artifact creatures, but Channel is even great with cards like Memory Jar and Upheaval. I’ve had most succes with Green-Black when picking Channel early because black lets me draft tutors to make my deck more consistent. Picking up good manafixing for Sultai also makes cantrips, Spellseeker and other powerful blue cards options for the deck.
I don’t pick Opposition super high personally, but if you do, it usually pairs the best with green to make your mana dorks relevant in the midgame. Token generators like Deranged Hermit and Biogenic Ooze rise in stock when you have Opposition in your deck, and so does green-blue fixing because you need to support a double blue card in your almost Mono Green deck. Tropical Island and Breeding Pool are the best, but feel free to speculate on any green or blue fetchland during the first two packs because the payoff of getting another virtual copy of your Tropical Island or Breeding Pool later is huge. Forest count also matters for Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary and Nissa, Who Shakes the World.
Another great way to start a draft, Kiki-Jiki makes you look for Pestermite, Deceiver Exarch, Zealous Conscripts and Restoration Angel (but remember that only Kiki-Jiki combos with Angel). While looking for the missing combo pieces, I suggest picking up blue-red fixing, mainly because of Kiki-Jiki‘s steep manacost combined with the desire for double blue cards, and cantrips for consistency.
Alternatives to the Tier 1 Options
Sometimes you open a relatively weak pack with no obvious build-arounds and no broken mana accelerants, so you have to get creative. Here are some perfectly reasonable archetypes that are important to keep in mind, because the above tier one options will not be available to you every single draft.
If I open a weak pack and see one of the above, I will seriously consider painting the town red (Danish saying). If you first pick a card for Mono Red, but get passed a build-around or Mox pick two, don’t be too stubborn to stay open. When no one else drafts Mono Red, you will get a great version of it regardless of making a few picks to stay open. The perfect Mono Red deck contains a lot of one drops, a few powerful three and four drops like Goblin Rabblemaster, Koth of the Hammer and Hellrider and burn to finish off the opposition. The manabase can usually include a couple of utility lands like Mishra’s Factory and Strip Mine and I would avoid splashes unless you open specifically Ancestral Recall or Time Walk and have three sources of blue.
Green-Black Graveyard Value
If I start the draft with Entomb or Griselbrand, but another drafter is also pickup up the Reanimator cards, I like going into a Black-Green Midrange strategy where the reanimation theme becomes secondary. Great cards for the archetype include Recurring Nightmare, Survival of the Fittest and sometimes you can fit in a small instant-reanimate package with Shallow Grave and/or Corpse Dance with preferably Emrakul, the Aeons Torn as long as you have a way to put it in the graveyard. If you are lucky enough to have Recurring Nightmare, creatures with great enter the battlefield triggers like Deranged Hermit, Bone Shredder and Thragtusk will perform great. Pack Rat and Liliana of the Veil are the best options to get cards into the yard, since they are great cards even on their own. You can also end up in this archetype if you start drafting Green, but learn that it’s not open for a full deck.
Blue-Black Steal Your Stuff
This deck is not really synergy-based, but it is incredibly fun when it comes together. Aside from wanting manafixing and acceleration to power out your sweet plays, the ninjas need some cheap, preferebly evasive, creatures like Baleful Strix and Looter il-Kor as enablers. Blue and Black will allow you to play disruption like Thoughtseize, Hymn to Tourach and various counterspells, and hopefully you will round out the deck with Control Magic and Treachery for good measure. Beating your opponent with their own stuff is a great feeling, and I haven’t drafted this deck for the last time this season yet!
Aside from the options I talked about last time and today, there are tons of options and room for personal preferences in this format. Different strategies work for different players, so make sure to only use my articles as inspiration rather than treating it religiously like a bible.