December is when competitive Magic is mostly paused, and players get the time off to enjoy with friends and family … or play Vintage Cube on Magic Online! Cube, and the powered one specifically, is one of my favorite ways to play Magic, so it’s only natural that I plan on playing a ton of it this holiday season. Today I will go through some of my ways to approach the draft portion, my analysis of the metagame and give you a general understanding on what’s important in this format.
Acceleration is Key
The theory behind acceleration being good is as old as time. If we work under the assumption that everyone has a high power level of cards, playing them out faster can get you an edge. The top of the crop consists of the moxen, Black Lotus, Mana Crypt and Sol Ring, but make no mistake that all the Signets are also high picks. My general rule of thumb is that I want my Signet to be at least one of my colors unless I have a lot of colorless mana costs on my cards. Note that green decks with plenty of mana elves available value artifact ramp a lot less, so it’s not uncommon to pick a premium card like Natural Order or Craterhoof Behemoth in pack 2 or 3 over an off-color Mox.
Fixing is at a Premium
Spending early picks on good fixing like the original dual lands and fetch lands will drastically improve your deck’s ability to cast your spells and not have them rot in your hand. They can also enable splashes for powerful cards like Ancestral Recall, Mind Twist and Demonic Tutor if you pair an early dual or fetch with the opposite later in the draft. An example could be drafting Verdant Catacombs for your Mono Green deck (which will synergize with Lotus Cobra and Avenger of Zendikar for example), open Mind Twist and all of a sudden just need to add 1 Swamp to your deck to splash the powerful black spell. Less obvious examples are something like Windswept Heath in your Blue-White deck where you hope to draft Tundra or Hallowed Fountain and have functionally two copies of the dual land. Speculative picks like these will make more sense the more drafts you get under your belt.
Combos and Counters are Great
In a format like this where board states can get quite complicated with multiple planeswalkers, having an “I win” button is a great feat for your deck. Sneak Attack is one of the best build-arounds since you know you want huge Eldrazi and can prioritize them later in the draft. The same goes for Splinter Twin and Entomb which both give you a clear vision for your future picks. The other way around is a bit more risky where you start with and speculate on Ulamog, Deceiver Exarch or Sheoldred, Whispering One as those cards are a lot weaker if you don’t manage to assemble the specific combo pieces you want.
Because combos are great, so are generic answers to combos – counterspells. All the way from Force Spike to Miscalculation and Mana Drain, counterspells are welcome additions to any blue deck. If you draft Force of Will, be weary of the blue count in your deck since five mana for the hardcast is a lot more than three compared to Force of Negation, which is a perfectly playable card even with a sketchy blue count.
Spot Removal is Worse than Normal
In normal limited formats, spot removal is at a premium to buy time against attackers, clear blockers and break a board stall, but in Vintage Cube it’s different. While the best ones like Swords to Plowshares and Lightning Bolt always make the cut, the less powerful ones usually don’t if you have a great deck. Part of what makes spot removal a bad strategy, aside from the fact that they’re reactive instead of proactive, is the huge amount of creatures with powerful enter the battlefield triggers like the Titans and Myr Battlesphere. Having a few removal spells in your sideboard, however, is not a bad idea for when you face the mono-colored creature-centric decks. Which brings me to…
Remember to Draft Sideboard Cards
The best decks in your draft pod will be powerful monstrosities that you will want some help from your sideboard to fight. Graveyard hate like Relic of Progenitus and Scavenging Ooze will improve your odds against Reanimator, sweepers like Pyroclasm and Anger of the Gods work wonders against swarming aggressive decks and hand disruption on a stick like Mesmeric Fiend, Kitesail Freebooter and Tidehollow Sculler are awesome against the fragile combo decks with no removal spells for them. Having a good 40-card deck is great and all, but if you manage to have impactful sideboard cards on top, you are in a great shape to take down the trophy.
Don’t be Afraid to Draft Mono Red
My last tip might be a bit unexpected if you’re unfamiliar with this Cube, but stay with me here. Out of a weak pack with no good acceleration, no power nine, no great build-around like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Sneak Attack or Griselbrand, picking one of the pictured cards with plans of going Mono Red is not a bad strategy. When you’re the only red drafter, you will easily get all the one-drops, all the efficient burn spells and hopefully a little land destruction like Wasteland and Strip Mine which go well with one drops on top. Mono Red is the police-deck of the format that wins against most average draws, crushes slow draws and only loses to great draws and should be not only respected, but also considered as an option when firing up a Vintage Cube draft.
I think that covers most of my philosophies that I apply for drafting this great Cube. If I missed anything, feel free to reach out and ask. I would also love to see screenshots of your decks!
Also, if you want to start your own Cube, now is the best time to do so.