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What Does A Good Vintage Cube Draft Deck Look Like?

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Vintage Cube is extremely fun, but it can also be very daunting if you're not experienced with it.

Mana Drain
Oath of Druids
Smokestack

Magic is not a simple game, which makes trying to take in almost 30 years' worth of cards at once and build a cohesive deck quite the challenge. Many of the more obtuse cards from Magic's history can be quite complicated, as something like Oath of Druids or Smokestack is very different that what we see on Magic cards today.

But fear not!

Today I am here to guide you by example, by showing you all 19 decks I drafted during the #Cube4Charity event last weekend. Some were winners, some were not, but by going over each one and what's right and wrong about it we can get some clear, empirical examples of what to do (and not to do) when you are drafting the Vintage Cube on Magic Online.

Let's go!


Deck Rating: 8/10

Record: 3-0

Key Cards: Oko, Thief of Crowns, Leovold, Emissary of Trest, Trygon Predator

When it comes to Vintage Cube, typically you want to be playing unfair. Sneak Attack, Griselbrand, fast mana... the goal is usually to be doing something broken. However, playing fair is also possible as long as you follow the rules of the format.

Mesmeric Fiend
Tangle Wire
Spell Pierce

If you want to play fair, you must be able to disrupt your unfair opponents. Cards like Thoughtseize are at an absolute premium, but you can make do with disruptive creatures like Mesmeric Fiend and friends, mana denial like Tangle Wire, and countermagic like Spell Pierce.

Also note that most of the threats in this deck have some sort of disruptive element as well: Oko deals with creatures and artifacts, Leovold stops draw spells, Trygon Predator eats artifact mana - you need to win big or stifle your opponent's ability to do so.


Deck Rating: 7/10

Record: 3-0

Key Cards: Tinker, Through the Breach, Upheaval

Draft two see us embracing the other side of the coin, going for full broken shenanigans.

Mana Crypt
Mana Vault
Mishra's Workshop

Typically, the more broken mana you're lucky enough to open, the more broken you can slant, and Mana Crypt and Mana Vault are two of the best. Once you have the mana, you can do basically whatever you want. It's important to note that because these cards make a lot of colorless mana, you need to be very careful with your colored mana symbols. Mishra's Workshop is also a tough one, and we're just barely at the minimum number of artifacts here. When it works it is insanely explosive, but make sure it works!

Tinker

Of course, the best card here is by far Tinker, which is a deck practically in and of itself. We had multiple turn one Blightsteel Colossus this draft, so it's no wonder we went 3-0 with a deck that was fine but not amazing.


Deck Rating: 9.5/10

Record: 2-1

Key Cards: Eidolon of the Great Revel, Wasteland, Goblin Rabblemaster

This is almost the perfect example of what a Mono-Red Aggro deck should look like in the Vintage Cube.

Lightning Bolt
Mox Ruby
Wasteland

Two Moxen, a super low curve, and just enough disruption in Wasteland, Abrade, and Eidolon of the Great Revel. It is extremely important to keep your curve super low if you're going to play Mono-Red Aggro, and with 9 1-drops, 8 2-drops, and two Moxen, this deck will get out of the gate hard every game, with a few nice top end cards.

It's hard to have the perfect deck in Vintage Cube, as you could always have more Moxen, Black Lotus, or a splashed Ancestral Recall, but this deck is very good. Unfortunately, it fell in Game 3 of the finals to a turn two Iona, Shield of Emeria on red, but I would expect this deck to 3-0 more often than not.


Deck Rating: 8.5/10

Record: 3-0

Key Cards: Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Plow Under, Tangle Wire

Mana acceleration is one of the most important parts of the Vintage Cube, which makes green one of the Cube's best colors. You should be taking the 1 mana accelerators over almost everything, which will let you find the other pieces as you can. This idea of "value over replacement" is huge in Cube - Some cards are essential and irreplaceable, in this case turn one mana accelerators, while random four to 6 mana cards that win the game are a dime a dozen.

Nissa, Who Shakes the World
Tireless Tracker
Sylvan Library

Nissa, Who Shakes the World has been surprisingly very good in Vintage Cube, as it's one of the best things you can play early with ramp. It's also important that you are able to create a cascading advantage to go along with your ramp. Planeswalkers do this well, but card draw like Sylvan Library and Tireless Tracker work very well as well. And, of course, you need disruption, which cards like Tangle Wire and Plow Under provide.

Again, we also see Mana Vault and Mana Crypt, perfectly situated for this almost mono colored deck.


Deck Rating: 7/10

Record: 2-1

Key Cards: Splinter Twin, Nahari, The Harbinger, Sneak Attack

Some drafts you get a bunch of fast mana, and some drafts you don't.

Force of Will
Force of Negation
Glen Elendra Archmage

This deck does a lot of things right. It's got multiple good parts of the Splinter Twin combo (Splinter Twin/Kiki-Jiki and Pestermite/Zealous Conscripts), Nahiri and Emrakul, as well as good disruption in both Forces. However, some drafts you just don't see any power or fast mana, which leaves this deck looking more like it came out of the Legacy Cube rather than the Vintage Cube. The mana base is also fairly weak with zero dual lands.

Despite these shortcomings the twin deck is quite good in Vintage Cube if it is open, as you get to play a lot of disruption and a fast clock.


Deck Rating: 5.5/10

Record: 1-1

Key Cards: Reanimate, Entomb, Demominc Tutor

Reanimator can be one of the most powerful decks in the Cube, as it perfectly checks the "do broken things" box on your Cube to-do list. It's also fast and fairly easy to set up with the right cards.

Smuggler's Copter
Skullclamp
Lingering Souls

Unfortunately, this deck didn't get all the right cards. While it did have some of the best reanimation cards in Entomb, Reanimate, and Animate Dead as well as two of the best tutors to get them, there was a lot of filler. The deck took a small Skullclamp/token subtheme and added some disruption to it, but it ended up being a bit disjointed. The mana base was also pretty bad.


Deck Rating: 4/10

Record: 2-1

Key Cards: Tangle Wire, Plow Under, Bloodbraid Elf

This deck was a salvaged train wreck of a draft that came together into a decent Gruul land destruction deck in pack three.

Tangle Wire
Plow Under
Avalanche Riders

You see Tangle Wire in a lot of my decks because it's one of the more underrated cards in the entire Cube. There's something to be said for not letting your opponent play Magic and this deck does a decent job of that. The big issue is that if it doesn't draw Chrome Mox or Mox Emerald this deck is pretty slow out of the gates with so few one-drops.

Still, a nice salvage out of a tough draft.


Deck Rating: 8/10

Record: 0-1

Key Cards: Dark Confidant, Tangle Wire, Tidehollow Sculler

Another fair deck that looked pretty good but featured a rough first round exit.

Inquisition of Kozilek
Tidehollow Sculler
Mind Twist

This deck had a pretty good mana curve, mana base, and threatbase, with numerous discard effects asl well as heavy hitters like Gideon Blackblade. Tangle Wire makes yet another appearance as the major disruptive feature. Skullclamp can be awkward in decks like this as you can't afford to stifle your clock too much if you're bring aggressive, but the deck had enough discard and disruption to draw into to make it okay.

This one probably should have done better.


Deck Rating: 7/10

Record: 2-1

Key Cards: Teferi, Time Raveler, Fractured Identity, Splinter Twin

Another Legacy Cube Splinter Twin deck!

Library of Alexandria
Imperial Recruiter
Reveillark

Library of Alexandria is one of the more overrated cards in the Cube as it plays very poorly with fast mana and often leads to you falling very far behind when you try to use it, but this is the kind of deck that it wants to be in despite the awkward mana base. The deck had a very nice Splinter Twin package with multiples of each combo piece and multiple tutors, but was a bit lacking in overall power level with no fast mana or good power.

Still, a decent look at a good archetype with some singularly powerful cards like Teferi and Fractured Identiy.


Deck Rating: 6.5/10

Record: 1-1

Key Cards: Tolarian Academy, Metalworker, Smokestack

Another salvage from a rough draft, this deck was actually pretty awesome.

Smokestack
Mana Crypt
Tangle Wire

With a large contingent of artifact mana supporting a prison-style suite of Winter Orb, Tangle Wire, Smokestack, and Wildfire, this deck was very good at grinding away an opponent's resources while sitting under a planeswalker.

Swamp

The biggest issue was the mana base, as we took a loss in round two to drawing two swamps and one mountain to go with our Mana Crypt and dying with five great uncastable cards in our hand. This is a very good lesson in mana bases in Vintage Cube - There are a TON of colorless mana sources so you really want to avoid playing offcolor lands if possible!


Deck Rating: 8.5/10

Record: 0-1

Key Cards: Opposition, Noble Hierarch, Lotus Cobra

While a little heavy at 5 mana, this deck was very good. Opposition is one of those cards that is insanely powerful but hard to cast and use, as there are almost no blue decks where it would actually be good. But when it works, you usually lock your opponent completely out of the game as all of your mana creatures lock down their lands and threats.

Deranged Hermit
Sword of Body and Mind
Tangle Wire

This deck had all the good mana acceleration, good threats that also made creature tokens like Sword of Body and Mind and Elder Gargaroth, and of course Tangle Wire to go with all those tokens!

Unfortunately, it lost to a good red deck in round one, but this is a deck that I would expect to 3-0 more often than not.


Deck Rating: 1/10

Record: 0-1

Key Cards: Thief of Sanity, Dack Fayden, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

This first true trainwreck, this deck was a disaster.

Thief of Sanity
Dack Fayden
Kolaghan's Command

The idea was to be a disruptive Grixis deck based around good threats like Thief of Sanity, but there just wasn't enough good disruptive elements and all the red cards that were drafted would have been better in a more aggressive deck.

A true catastrophe that gave me a merciful 0-1 exit.


Deck Rating: 2/10

Record: 0-1

Key Cards: Mishra's Workshop, Sun Titan, Wurmcoil Engine

Another tough one. It was an attempt and a big artifact deck, but blue was cut off and there weren't enough tools to keep it mono-colored.

Mishra's Workshop
Wurmcoil Engine
Lodestone Golem

Decks like this always have a puncher's chance as they can just cast Lodestone Golem on turn two or Wurmcoil Engine on turn three, but this deck is lacking basically everything - it's not overtly powerful or doing anything super broken, nor is it interacting or disrupting well at all.

A true train wreck.


Deck Rating: 8/10

Record: 1-1

Key Cards: Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Natural Order, Strip Mine

Aside from the power artifacts, two of the best mana accelerators in the whole Cube are green.

Channel
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary

Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary of course wants you to be playing a ton of forests, but when you do, he can provide for some truly disgusting openings. Even more broken, and perhaps one of the most powerful cards in the entire Cube, Channel makes for some really fast games. Unfortunately, this deck picked up Channel in pack three, so it wasn't able to fully maximize it. When you Channel you want a ton of big, game ending colorless cards like Eldrazi or Sundering Titan so you can cast them on turn two. We had our Karns but were a little light in that regard.

Still, this deck was very good but unfortunately fell to some very fast Emrakuls in round two. If you're playing a deck like this you still need to have disruption or go really fast! And yes! Splashing for Goblin Rabblemaster off of three almost free red sources is great! There isn't a ton of removal in the Cube and a turn two Rabblemaster can clock a combo opponent very fast.


Deck Rating: 5/10

Record: 0-1

Key Cards: Oath of Druids, Through the Breach, Shallow Grave

Oath of Druids is an extremely powerful Cube card, but it is very hard to use effectively. Not being able to play any middle of the road creatures is tough, and this deck was full of filler while also lacking the tutor effects to maximize the Oath.

Through the Breach
Entomb
Shallow Grave

Thankfully it had a nice secondary plan of sneaking out an Eldrazi with either Through the Breach or Shallow Grave. Shallow Grave is super cool as it's one of the few ways to reanimate an Eldrazi Titan, as you can put the shuffle trigger on the stack and then cast it.

This deck had some good things going on but had far too much filler.


Deck Rating: 6.5/10

Record: 0-1

Key Cards: Oath of Druids, Channel, Vampiric Tutor

If at first you don't succeed!

Oath of Druids
Channel
Eureka

This deck is much better than the previous one. With much better mana as well as triple tutors for Oath of Druids and Channel, it is far more consistent. There's still some filler here, as well as a bit too much fatty density, but it's a much better look. Eureka is often a challenging one in Cube because it can often come back to bite you, but it made sense in this deck.

Having all these tutors for your best cards in combo decks is huge, but this deck lost round one to a cool mono blue control deck.


Deck Rating: 6/10

Record: 1-1

Key Cards: Tolarian Academy, Upheaval, Bribery

Sometimes you end up just short a few cards.

Tolarian Academy
Black Lotus
Mishra's Workshop

If this deck was 35 cards it would have been awesome. There's tons of good fast mana, three pieces of power, as well as some of the most powerful blue cards in the Cube in Bribery and Upheaval. This deck is capable of producing a lot of mana very quickly and making some really powerful plays.

...Unfortunately it also is splashing for Rakdos Return and playing Spellseeker for only High Tide and the aforementioned Rakdos Return due to lack of playables. This is not a good place to be.


Deck Rating: 7/10

Record: 3-0

Key Cards: Tangle Wire, Mind Twist, Karakas

Another fair Orzhov deck, but while this one has worse mana and a slightly worse curve, it also has some better fast mana as well as the surprisingly powerful Karakas. Sometimes Karakas is just a Plains, but look at our last few decks and it's not hard to see how embarrassing Karakas makes cards like Channel and Oath of Druids look.

Stoneforge Mystic
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Kitesail Freebooter

Add this to some decent creatures and reasonable disruption and you've got an effective if unexciting draft run. As long as you're disrupting your opponent well enough you'd be surprised how much work a motley crew of white creatures can get done.


Deck Rating: 8/10

Record: 3-0

Key Cards: Eureka, Oath of Druids, Vampiric Tutor

Eureka is often considered one of the "trap" cards in the Cube, in that it's a lot of work for a card that can often lose you the game more than it wins it. But when drafted correctly it can be very good.

Ashen Rider
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Elspeth Conquers Death

Of course, like most Oath of Druids decks we've got the high-quality boom booms like Griselbrand and Progenitus, but more important for the Eureka plan is that we have big threats that deal with our opponents' threats when they enter the battlefield. Ashen Rider, Elesh Norn, Massacre Wurm, Terastodon, and Sheoldred, Whispering One all effect our opponent's side of the board and can deal with the things they put in. Furthermore, we've got decent removal in Banishing Light, Parallax Wave, and Elspeth Conquers Death that is castable, but also great off of Eureka.

This deck may look like a pile, but when you put it together with a few tutors you're doing exactly what you want to be in Vintage Cube - powerful things.

Lessons Learned

Whew that was a lot of drafts!

Oath of Druids
Tangle Wire

It's easy to see the two main trends of the Vintage Cube. You either want to be doing broken things, or trying very hard to stop your opponent from doing broken things. If you want to be successful in Vintage Cube it's best to keep both of these things in mind. If you try to just play decent midrange cards and curve out with okay creatures, your either likely to crushed as your opponent goes over the top of you, or be disrupted from doing what you'd like to do by a heavy disruption deck.

Vintage Cube is a powerful place, be prepared and have fun!

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