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Winter Vintage Cube Polish Update – February 2024

Posted on Feb 16, 2024

Greetings, Cubers! For the last iteration of the Magic Online Vintage Cube, we introduced our plan to offer Vintage Cube more often, and with a new cadence that includes four major iterations a year, each followed by a smaller “polish pass” iteration the month after. We also discussed our plan to rotate more archetypes in and out of the Cube to keep things fresh and to offer a broader range of strategies throughout the year.

One thing we learned from the holiday run is that while it’s correct to offer more Vintage Cube, it’s not correct to run that much consecutively, particularly without any revisions. In December we ran a Spotlight Vintage Cube for two weeks preceding five weeks of the Magic Online Vintage Cube. Seven consecutive weeks of Vintage Cube, five with the same list, proved too much in a row. For future iterations, the “polish pass” of the December Magic Online Vintage Cube will be in January after a week or two off instead of the February slot it’s occupying this year, and we don’t plan to run a Spotlight Vintage Cube back-to-back with the Magic Online Vintage Cube again.

The iteration of the Cube we are sharing with you today represents the polish pass on the major revision we ran in December and January, which means there are no major archetype rotations and a smaller number of changes overall. The curation of a minor revision is focused on refining and polishing the archetypes introduced in the quarterly revision, as well as adding cards from sets that were released since that revision. Also, it allows us to correct course on some individual cards, whether cutting an experiment that didn’t pan out or bringing back a fan-favorite that met the axe last time. The goal is for it to feel like a better version of the previous iteration and not a significantly different play experience.

(For those of you maintaining tabletop versions of our Cube, waiting to build the minor revision to the major update is a nice way to keep the update work to four revisions a year in the face of a growing number of annual Vintage Cube iterations!)

So, what worked and what didn’t in Vintage Cube over the holidays? Check out the design comments in the changelist below for details on every swap we made and gear up for another run of the Magic Online Vintage Cube from February 21st through March 6th!

Color Card Out Color Card In Design Notes
White Archangel Avacyn White Mana Tithe Five mana is a significant investment these days and white still has some good options in that slot, so we will swap out the flashy Angel for the cheap, interactive spell that many of you have been missing!
White Kytheon, Hero of Akros White Novice Inspector Thraben Inspector has been a Vintage Cube mainstay, and this functional reprint allows for an effective second copy while still adhering to the singleton restriction.
White Ranger-Captain of Eos White Recruiter of the Guard While the Captain is a great way to combat the fearsome Underworld Breach combo, at 1WW it ends up in fewer decks than Recruiter of the Guard. So we are walking back this change and taking the improved tutor effect over the combo defense.
Blue Hedron Crab Blue Stern Scolding The increased support for the Lands archetype had its fans and its detractors, but even the fans were skeptical of the narrower support cards like Hedron Crab, so we are pulling back in that department for this polish pass. Some players were able to live the combo dream of Hedron Crab/Fastbond/bounceland, so we will cross that off the bucket list and swap it out for Stern Scolding, a one-mana counterspell that hits roughly 70% of creatures in the Cube.
Blue Intuition Blue Phantasmal Image While Intuition did some good things with Sevinne's Reclamation and Underworld Breach, it was ultimately a little too narrow. Phantasmal Image is a fun, powerful card that has been sorely missed by some, so we're bringing it back.
Blue Lose Focus Blue Memory Lapse Lose Focus didn't underperform, but the nostalgic Memory Lapse feels like a better Vintage Cube fit in the 1U-Counterspell department. Sometimes a pseudo-Time Walk is even better than Counterspell itself!
Blue Mind's Desire White Sunfall Storm can lose a payoff and still function, so we will bench Mind's Desire for now and rebalance the colors a bit with the swap. Vintage Cube is more focused on creatures these days, so a Wrath effect that exiles everything and leaves behind an artifact that turns into a threat could be good enough at five mana. Let's find out!
Blue Seal of Removal Blue Dress Down Seal of Removal has been reasonably effective in its results, but can feel unexciting to run and cast, so we will swap it out for a different interactive, self-sacrificing enchantment. Dress Down is more narrow, but it is a great foil to The Initiative, and is not too shabby against any creature whose major value is in its enters-the-battlefield effect. It can also prevent negative ETBs on your own creatures from triggering as well, plus it has a decent floor of cycling for two mana. While we do not expect it to be an all-star in the Cube overall, we expect it will have some all-star interactions, especially for a late-pick card.
Blue Shark Typhoon Blue Tishana's Tidebinder There's nothing wrong with the powerful, shark-spitting natural disaster, but we want to give Tishana's Tidebinder a trial run. There are lots of powerful abilities to be countered in Vintage Cube, and leaving a reasonable body behind gives this card enough potential to warrant the test drive.
Blue Unctus, Grand Metatect Blue Forensic Gadgeteer Unctus is one of the biggest misses of the last update. Forensic Gadgeteer arrives just in time to tag in for Unctus with an on-theme alternative for fueling artifact strategies that also goes infinite with Basalt Monolith!
Black Contagion Black Cut Down Contagion was lackluster outside of some potent individual interactions, plus we are cutting one of its best interactions in Vial Smasher, the Fierce. So we are bringing in Cut Down for the role of cheap, consistent, small-creature control.
Black Putrid Imp Black Unearth Narrow discard outlets like Putrid Imp are becoming less necessary for supporting reanimation strategies as more options continue to see print. As fellow Cube enthusiast S7ra7egis7 likes to say, "Impin' ain't easy!"
So instead of supporting reanimation with a weak discard outlet, we'll add the LSV-suggested Unearth, a card that has been sitting on the "maybe" list for a while. The quality and number of targets for the effect have both gone up in the Cube, so it's definitely worth a shot!
Black Vampire Hexmage Black Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia Vampire Hexmage really only has one purpose these days - to combo with Dark Depths. It can still get rid of Planeswalkers, but as a sorcery-speed BB, it wasn't great for that purpose. It's the card we should have cut for Tourach, Dread Cantor last time. So we are bringing Jadar back to bolster cards that love regular token fuel like Yawgmoth, Gut, and the next card on this list.
Red Birgi, God of Storytelling Red Broadside Bombardiers We are cutting a medium Storm "setup" card for a new kid on the block, Broadside Bombardiers. Even without building around it, the Bombardiers can drop into any aggressive red deck and contribute. But with a steady stream of token fodder, the game will end quickly if the Bombardiers live to attack a few times.
Red Earthshaker Khenra Red Goblin Cratermaker Domain had an effective win rate overall, but we are trimming some of the archetype's narrower cards in this polish pass - in this case from the "Warriors Matter" sub-theme. C For the same base stats and cost, Cratermaker gives red an additional piece of artifact hate and small-creature control while being one of the few cards that can take out an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn!
Red Experimental Synthesizer Colorless Mishra's Research Desk The Experimental Synthesizer experiment largely failed to deliver, so we will try a different one-mana artifact this time. This might also be a short stint, but we must take some shots. The ability to cash in the desk at end of turn should help its case.
Red Rite of Flame Red Mine Collapse Community opinions on Mine Collapse have been divided, but the decks that want that effect really care about it, so we are bringing it back for a marginal ritual.
Red Valakut Exploration Red Bitter Reunion Another narrow Lands archetype card departs for Bitter Reunion, which performed well in previous iterations and is an example of the kind of modern discard outlet pushing cards like Putrid Imp to the bench.
Green Eternal Witness Green Regrowth Green is crowded with three-mana creatures and is light on noncreature spells in general, so Eternal Witness hits the bench in favor of the classic non-creature version of the effect for now.
Green Life from the Loam Green Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth Life from the Loam has a place in some decks but has been a bit narrow and lackluster, so it is making room for a utility land that plays nicely with Dark Depths, Rofellos, Nissa, and Knight of the Reliquary.
Green Ojer Kaslem, Deepest Growth Green Worldspine Wurm Ojer had its chance, but it was ultimately a little too weak and conditional. We pulled Worldspine Wurm last time for concern of being "unfun powerful" with Flash, but community feedback in support of the combo has us reuniting them in this iteration.
Green Oracle of Mul Daya Green Cavalier of Thorns As more and more powerful creatures have been printed, the Oracle has gone from "early pick" to "a little slow, small, and expensive." Cavalier of Thorns should perform a similar role in supporting the Lands archetype while also providing fodder for Uro and a beefy body to boot.
Green Spelunking Green Oath of Druids Spelunking was pretty clunking ... uh, clunky. We originally cut Oath of Druids as a marginal, tough-to-build-around card. But because it takes up just a single slot in the 540, the opportunity cost to include plus its iconic status make it worth bringing back.
Green The Weatherseed Treaty Green Legolas's Quick Reflexes The Weatherseed Treaty is also leaving as a marginal card in the Domain archetype. Green is low on interaction and Legolas's Quick Reflexes seems flexible and powerful, so we will give it a shot!
Gruul Questing Druid Red Shrapnel Blast We were hoping for a lot more out of Questing Druid, but it proved difficult to put to effective use. We will try a different experiment with Shrapnel Blast in an iteration with solid artifact support for Red.
Rakdos Molten Collapse Black Bitterblossom Valki's inclusion stole a monocolor slot for Rakdos, so we are giving one back to Black here. Molten Collapse is reasonable but unexciting, and a lot of people missed Bitterblossom, so we are bringing it back. As with Jadar, tokens have a lot of uses beyond the sacrifice archetype, and the nostalgia factor is always a plus.
Rakdos Vial Smasher the Fierce Rakdos Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast You have to try potential cards out to understand if they belong, and Vial Smasher the Fierce was not a smashing success. We are walking this one back and returning the iconic Iconoclast to the mix.
Multicolor Najeela, the Blade-Blossom Red Goblin Rabblemaster Najeela has fans and did some cool things, but we are trimming Domain's Warrior sub-theme overall. Najeela will bow out so we can bring back the ol' Rabbledabble.
Multicolor Soul of Windgrace Black Preacher of the Schism On LSV's recommendation, we are trying out Preacher of the Schism. A 2/4 deathtouch for 3 is already a fairly reasonable rate. But it also gives you 1/1 lifelink tokens when behind on life and draws you cards when ahead. Note that the second ability also triggers when attacking a planeswalker!
Multicolor Wild Nacatl Green Manglehorn More Warrior cuts in favor of an additional piece of artifact hate for green, and one that keeps being annoying to the artifact player even after its ETB effect.
Colorless Andúril, Flame of the West Colorless Kaldra Compleat Andúril didn't see much play despite the highest density of aggressive legendary creatures the Cube has had, so we're bringing back Kaldra Compleat - one of the community's most requested cards we cut from the last iteration.
Colorless Heart of Kiran White Leonin Relic-Warder The "Robots" package wasn't successful enough to warrant a return in the next major revision to this Cube in March, so some of the worst performers are being polished away here. We are adding back another way for white to answer artifacts, which are at a high level in this iteration even by Vintage Cube standards.
Colorless Mishra's Factory Colorless City of Traitors Mishra's Factory is familiar and iconic, but even the mono-colored aggressive strategies benefit more from a boost in mana than the possibility of making extra attackers and blockers out of their mana base.
Colorless Patchwork Automaton Colorless Syr Ginger, the Meal Ender While Patchwork Automaton wasn't terrible, it's a dream best lived in a non-singleton format. Syr Ginger, the Meal Ender doesn't grow quite as quickly, but Ginger's starting power and lifegain option make it a card that can go into many more decks.
Colorless Roaming Throne Colorless Chromatic Star Roaming Throne deserves a nomination for the Screenshot Award but wasn't powerful enough to earn must-include status. Chromatic Star doesn't serve any specific purpose but is one of those "glue" pieces that just brings things together nicely.
Colorless Skysovereign, Consul Flagship Colorless Relic of Progenitus While Skysovereign did more work than Heart of Kiran and added another dimension to Workshop decks, it didn't warrant keeping. Bringing back Relic of Progenitus provides some additional ways to interact with graveyards, and it's hard to go too wrong with cheap artifacts that replace themselves in Vintage Cube.
Colorless Sundering Titan Colorless Kozilek, Butcher of Truth Despite the prevalence of Triomes, Sundering Titan is making it into fewer and fewer decks these days. With a myriad of infinite mana combos and the potential counterplay to Brain Freeze, O.G. Kozilek is in a good spot for this iteration.
Colorless Wurmcoil Engine Rakdos Talisman of Indulgence We're saying "See you later" to another old friend in Wurmcoil Engine, which has been underwhelming lately even while doing its thing. With Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast returning to the mix, we're adding back the Talisman of Indulgence for support.