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Polishing the Latest Magic Online Vintage Cube, October 3, 2023

Posted on Oct 02, 2023

Greetings! Ryan Spain, here, Creative Director of Magic Online. The feedback on the last Vintage Cube update was overwhelmingly positive, with many calling it their favorite iteration of the MTGO Vintage Cube ever! We have the Vintage Cube trophy champ Chris Wolf to thank for the heavy lifting on the update, and when I told Chris we would be running the Cube back in October with no changes, Chris asked if we could tweak it some more.  

We decided we had time to make some adjustments if we kept the changes small and didn't fundamentally alter any of the archetypes or themes. Chris jumped at the chance to put some polish on this outstanding iteration, and I'm glad we had the time for it. There are only 19 changes compared to the 100+ we made last time, but they are thoughtful improvements that refine this iteration of the Cube and elevate it to an even better place. Thanks, Chris! Tell the people how you approached this update ... 

Thanks Ryan! First of all, I want to say how happy I am to be working on this project, and in an official capacity as well, so you‘ll be hearing more of me in the future! Be sure to join the discourse in the Cube channel of the MTGO Discord, as I‘ll be lurking and looking for your feedback. You can also find me on Twitter, as well as Matt Grenier‘s Modern Vintage Cube Discord, where you‘ll find many more Cubeheads like myself to chat with and learn from. 

Originally, no changes were intended for this iteration, but I just couldn‘t hold myself back from lobbying with Ryan and he granted me a couple. I believe last season‘s overhaul was necessary for the overall health of the Cube and thankfully well-received in general, so we can slow the change down a little now. That being said, there‘s still some fat to trim and improvements to be made. Ryan also has some amazing ideas in store for the future, and I can‘t wait to tackle the Winter iteration, but for now, let‘s focus on the changes we made to this one! 

Color Card Out Card In Design Notes


Elspeth Conquers Death 

Prismatic Ending 

As the game becomes more centered around the lower points of the curve, ECD loses value. While it will likely always be fine, I'd rather go with something different this time around. Prismatic Ending has been looking for a chance to get in, so let's lean more into "multicolored white" removal. 


Gideon Jura 

Glimmer Lens 

Gideon is solid in an environment heavily centered around Monarch and Initiative, but that isn't currently the case. Additionally, people have been asking for another Rebel for Otharri, and they shall receive! I personally believe Otharri doesn't need any help and is pretty broken as is, but Glimmer Lens is a nice card either way, so we'll give that a go. 


March of Otherworldly Light 

Unexpectedly Absent 

We did a good job of containing White in the recent overhaul, so we'll give it back some of its best removals with Unexpectedly Absent, which is right up there with the best of them if you can support the double-W cost. 


Blue Sun's Zenith 

Lórien Revealed 

Zenith doesn't have many homes in the Cube, and there's plenty of ways to win a game of Magic if you're already making infinite mana. The land cyclers from LTR on the other hand are amazingly flexible Cube cards, offering fetchland-like mana fixing, pay for free spells requiring on-color discard, and just casting them as the face-value spells they are in the late game.  


Frost Titan 

Svyelun of Sea and Sky 

We knew Frost Titan wouldn't be an absolute banger but thought it could hang well enough to justify completing the titan cycle, but it isn't good enough anymore. Instead, we'll give Blue another midrange threat to help it further in playing to the board effectively. 


Shelldock Isle 

Seal of Removal 

Shelldock Isle has felt slow in recent years, and with Flash and Dream Halls now firmly in the mix, we have introduced more potent versions of this effect. Seal of Removal doesn't look potent at first sight either, but in Cube it's often the least flashy cards that put in the most work. You'll appreciate the strength of this card when you're trying to Channel an Emrakul into play while your opponent has a Seal casually lying around. 


Braids, Arisen Nightmare 

Phyrexian Fleshgorger 

New Braids has not been particularly impactful. She can still hang with the right entourage, but a lot has to go your way for it to work out. Phyrexian Fleshgorger comes in at the same cost plus a big alternative and gives Black some needed life gain to help mitigate the damage Black frequently does to its own life total. 


Noxious Gearhulk 

Troll of Khazad-dûm 

Gearhulk didn't do enough for six mana, even with its multi-dimensional nature in being an artifact, while the troll has emerged as the premier land cycler. Besides all the good stuff mentioned in discussing Lórien Revealed, the troll adds "reanimation target" to the list. It's no Griselbrand, but self-discarding is powerful when you just need something worthwhile in your graveyard. 


Soul Transfer 

Sheoldred's Edict 

While I'm still of the opinion that Black needs plentiful exile-based removal, three mana, sorcery, and BB have combined to ask a hefty cost of players, so we'll explore how this edict effect plays, with the intention of eventually homing in on the best removal options. 


Birgi, God of Storytelling 

Squee, Dubious Monarch 

With Mizzix's Mastery & co. in the mix, we can pull back on some of the red combo enablers and add another cheap, hasty, snowballing beater that keeps coming back for more. 


Jeska's Will 


Jeska's Will is a nice flexible card in theory, however in practice, both its modes are quite hard to use effectively. This is another powerful land cycler--I'm excited to Shallow Grave this one into play for a surprising finish with my Rakdos Midrange/Reanimator Decks! 


Acidic Slime 

Outland Liberator 

Slime did a great job for many many years but has been close to retirement for a couple now. At five mana, you just get so much more in Vintage Cube these days. Liberator is cheap, effective at what it does, and can run away with a game if left unchecked. Plus, it's another step in the direction of fleshing out Green's midsection. 


Avenger of Zendikar 

Sylvan Safekeeper 

Green added some beefy ones last time and can spare some top end. We'll bench the big guy and go small instead with the Sylvan Safekeeper. It's another way to go off with Titania as well as fortifying your Dark Depths combo and protecting vital creatures. 



Workshop Warchief 

Thragtusk has been quite narrow in its applications in recent years, and while Warchief is a similar card, the ability to Blitz it in to kill a Planeswalker is a valuable difference.  


Dragonlord Atarka 

Arc Trail 

Dragonlord was fine; this is more of a further attempt to balance out colors a bit more, and Gruul got a nice big boy added as well. Arc Trail is an underappreciated red removal spell. Chipping in for some damage while killing a creature with the possibility of a 2 for 1 is pretty nice, as well as another good way to fight White mages. 


Huntmaster of the Fells 

Kogla and Yidaro 

Huntmaster has been one of the major under-performers for a while now, so we'll say goodbye the iconic Werewolf for now and add this flexible option in Kogla and Yidaro. 


Crystalline Giant 

Agatha's Soul Cauldron 

Crystalline Giant was a fine stand-in for something else we wanted, but also a fine cut for pretty much anything, since it's rather generic. We gave Reanimator some juicy ones last time around, so we're giving other decks tools to fight them more effectively, as well as letting people cook with the Cauldron. 


Foundry Inspector 

Mirage Mirror 

Foundry Inspector was intended to be part of the Sensei's Divining Top + Mystic Forge combo, but ended up feeling a bit narrow outside of that. Plus, we already have Helm of Awakening and Urza, Lord Protector to enable that combo. Mirage Mirror adds another interesting way to combo with Dark Depths, among other applications. 


Sword of Fire and Ice 

Lightning Greaves 

Apologies to all the die-hard Swords fans out there, but not even Fire and Ice holds up anymore. Lightning Greaves was requested a fair amount, although we'll be keeping a close eye on it, since the play pattern might turn out to be too annoying.  

Chris Wolf, Vintage Cube Trophy Champion                                             Co-Author Ryan Spain