The Future of the Magic Online Vintage Cube
Posted on Dec 14, 2023
Hello, fellow MTGO players and Vintage Cube fanatics! Ryan Spain here, your friendly Creative Director and passionate curator of the Magic Online Vintage Cube. Today I will lay out our plans for the Cube in 2024 and beyond, and tomorrow Cube Design Consultant Chris Wolf will unveil the full winter update that goes live next week. Executing on the plan I’m about to share with you required an uncut sheet’s worth of changes, so you won’t want to miss Chris’s overview of the update and helpful breakdown of the incoming archetypes! You’ll also find design comments on every change we made for this iteration, a fan-favorite addition to Cube updates we introduced earlier this year.
Vintage Cube Upheaval
It has been an exciting first full year under Daybreak Games for our game, and for the venerable Magic Online Vintage Cube in particular! When Daybreak games officially took over the game—and stewardship of the Vintage Cube along with it—shaking up the Cube list this spring was a nerve-racking decision, but I believed strongly in the reasoning. The tree needed shaking, and doing so would generate the community discussion and data needed to help us establish which changes should be reversed and which had improved the experience. Our first two iterations had over 100 changes each, and after taking it relatively easy with the fall update, tomorrow’s changelist will be another long one—not because the plan didn’t work, but because it worked quite well! We learned a lot, demonstrated our responsiveness to missteps and our commitment to our community involvement, and most importantly, we made a significant net improvement to the fun factor of the Magic Online Vintage Cube by most measures and opinions. All of this informed the Vintage Cube cadence and revision plan for 2024 that I want to share with you all now.
More Cards Than Slots
While the Vintage Cube feedback and participation levels suggest we are doing more good than harm, you can’t make that much change without breaking some hearts along the way. Many players saw us cut personal-favorite cards and strategies this year, but we did so with the reminder that we could always bring back worthy cuts for a spin in future updates. Nobody is wrong about what they find fun, and the Magic Online Vintage Cube serves the play experiences of a wide variety of cube enthusiasts. However, offering a variety of less-consistent and/or narrow cards and archetypes is difficult within the “best of the best” framework of powered Vintage Cube, where a fair number of must-include cards are locked in before you even begin.
There are two obvious ways to rotate more cards back into the mix, both of which are on the table for our 2024 updates. The first is to continue making more changes per iteration than the Cube has had in the past. The initial thought was that after big changes early under Daybreak, the list would settle back down into a changelist cadence of about 20-35 cards per quarterly update as it had historically. This rate of change would make it hard to support regular throwback inclusions, so we will have to make larger updates if we want to have old friends over to play regularly.
Fortunately, the other obvious way to rotate a wider variety of cards back into the cube aligns with a different common player request, and also with our lean-into-uniqueness philosophy for running Magic Online under Daybreak: Run. More. Vintage. Cube.
More of an Excellent Vintage
After individual add-and-cut suggestions, the most common piece of feedback we receive from Cube fans is that they want more of it! Frankly, we are with you on this. The primary role of the Vintage Cube in the Magic Online event lineup under Wizards of the Coast was to reinvigorate interest in draft at the end of a Standard set’s lifecycle, when interest in drafting it had inevitably fallen off. For Magic Online under Daybreak, Vintage Cube is an important differentiating feature of our Magic experience—much more main event than sideshow—and we felt it was time to start scheduling it as such! We looked at our 2024 Magic release calendar for additional Vintage Cube windows with a simple goal: offering Vintage Cube once a month in 2024. If you give us credit for a single day in a month, we got there, with 20 total weeks of Vintage Cube in 2024 touching on all 12 months!
Bookmarking the recently launched Magic Online calendar will be a great resource for planning your Cubing in 2024!
“You could just run Vintage Cube 24/7/365,” I hear some of you suggesting. Never say never, but we aren’t there yet. First, it is already a test of the demand for Vintage Cube to expand it to the 20 weeks we have planned in 2024. Second, while Vintage Cube is more main event than sideshow, Standard and other draftable releases are also still main events, and ones that are important to the card-collecting ecosystem. It’s appropriate for the focus to be on the latest set at its launch, and offering a competing Vintage Cube draft queue at the same time would run counter to that goal.
Revising Revisions with a Package Solution
We now had a plan to offer more Vintage Cube than ever before, but unless we were willing to stand pat between quarterly updates, offering up more Vintage Cube runs than ever before also meant signing ourselves up for more Cube updates than ever before. As anyone who has done it knows, it’s a lot of work to develop and maintain a quality Cube, and each revision, even a small one, takes effort. On the other hand, additional updates also represent excellent opportunities to introduce variety, revisit archetypes, and experiment with any Cube-worthy new cards that have become available.
Most enthusiasts would gladly take an unchanged Vintage Cube over no Vintage Cube, so standing pat will remain an option, but our goal is to offer something new whenever we bring back Vintage Cube. To help make such changes easier for future designers, Chris Wolf and I are working on defining a series of “archetype packages” in the spreadsheet tool we use to manage the contents of the Magic Online cubes. By tagging cards with the archetypes they support and ranking them on rough power level, a designer can filter a set of cards down to a list of cards that should enter the Cube in support of an archetype, or leave it when the archetype is rotating out.
Putting It All Together
Given all the goals and parameters in consideration, we arrived at this plan for the cadence and updating of the Magic Online Vintage Cube moving forward:
- Offer four major updates of the Magic Online Vintage Cube each year - in 2024, that's March, June, August and December.
- Offer a second run in the month after each major update that represents a polish update that doesn’t change any significant archetypes from the major update.
- When possible before the next major update, offer a third run with either another minor update to the last major, or the first run of a guest Vintage Cube.
This plan will bring a lot more Vintage Cube to MTGO during the year and enable the regular rotation of archetypes, but with a manageable amount of change for both the players and the Magic Online team.
The Winter Update
The iteration of the Vintage Cube starting a five-week run next week is the first installment with a change list guided by this philosophy. Those of you who have been following along this year will be familiar with Chris Wolf, the Magic Online Vintage Cube trophy leader turned Vintage Cube consultant turned Vintage Cube Designer! Chris won the Vintage Cube trophy race in the spring—the first major overhaul of the Cube under Daybreak—and I discovered him on the MTGO Discord server actively sharing his opinions on the format in general and on the latest update in particular.
I liked the way he was thinking, and I reached out to him on Discord to discuss the Cube further. We had an interesting, fruitful initial conversation, and he became more and more involved in the Cube's design from there, ultimately providing some heavy lifting for the big summer update and the smaller fall update this year. The result was a Chris-driven summer update that produced the most well-received iteration of the Magic Online Vintage Cube we’ve ever had! Given the success of the summer and fall iterations, I largely handed the reins to Chris for the winter iteration after sharing the plan above with him.
I think the result of that effort represents another Magic Online Vintage Cube high-water mark, but you can judge the list for yourself tomorrow when Chris breaks down the changes in an article of his own, and then judge it with a draft when it goes live next week on December 20th using the free Vintage Cube Entry Token we are granting to all accounts, as is our Vintage Cube holiday tradition!
Thanks for reading, and we hope you enjoy the winter update to the Magic Online Vintage Cube! Let us know what you think of the changes over at our Discord server!
Author: Ryan Spain Creative Director