Thinking Outside the Cube

Are you tired of the same blue Vintage Cube decks? The same green Legacy Cube strategies? Then you’re reading the right article!

8 years ago, I was Cubing for the first time. My friend had a shoe box (literally) with what we called a Cube. It was mostly the cards he owned that he liked—nothing had been balanced, and I’m not even sure there were an even number of cards in each color.

Yet, it was really fun. We got to draft decks we played in the past. There was an Enduring Ideal in the Cube and 80% of the time you played it you killed yourself because you didn’t have the combo and the protection—fun times!

Seriously though, what I enjoyed the most in that Cube was the nostalgia, getting to play with Wild Mongrel, Morphling, Royal Assassin, Exalted Angel, Jackal Pup, and Icy Manipulator again! (One could say I was not even born when these cards were played, but hey, I like to feel like an old-schooler, okay?)

But I see why Cubes are the way they are in 2016—a balanced environment is a lot more interesting and challenging when you play it over and over. I liked our old nonsense Cube because we drafted it so rarely that even though our options were limited, and either great or terrible, we had a good time once every few months. I’m sure that after 25 times we would be extremely bored.

That’s when, about 2 years ago, I wanted to bring back that idea and fix the issues. To adjust the replayability and, now that I own more cards, try to balance it some—but keep the nostalgia intact!

Has-been Cube

360 cards with the following criteria:

  • Used to be played in Standard or Extended throughout the history of Magic.
  • Is not played anymore in tier 1 Modern, Standard, or Legacy decks.
  • Banned cards don’t count.

Basically, cards that aren’t played anymore, made obsolete by power creep.

Everyone that picks up my Cube gets a flashback and says something along the lines of “Arrogant Wurm was great, madness was so fun to play!’’

White 47Blue 48Black 48Red 48Green 47Multicolor 40Colorless 42Land 40
Akroma, Angel of WrathAetherlingBlack KnightArc TrailAcidic SlimeW/U :10 Signets10 Bounce Lands
Akroma’s VengeanceAquamoebaBlood ArtistArc-SloggerArrogant WurmAbsorbAnkh of Mishra5 Mirage Fetch
Angel of SerenityArcanis the OmnipotentBone ShredderBalduvian HordeAvacyn’s PilgrimCourt HussarBlack Vise5 Shard Tri Lands
ArmageddonAugur of BolasCarnophageBall LightningAvenger of ZendikarDismantling BlowChimeric Idol5 Invasion Tap Lands
Baneslayer AngelBoomerangChainer’s EdictBlistering FirecatBasking RootwallaW/B :Coalition Relic5 Vivid Lands
Blinding AngelCapsizeContagionBogardan HellkiteBlastodermGerrard’s VerdictCursed ScrollBarbarian Ring
Brimaz, King of OreskosCareful ConsiderationDark BanishingBonfire of the DamnedCall of the HerdTidehollow ScullerDuplicantCity of Brass
Cloudgoat RangerCircular LogicDark RitualChandra’s PhoenixCivic WayfinderMortifyFellwar StoneDust Bowl
CondemnCloud of FaeriesDeath CloudCharDeranged HermitW/R :Hangarback WalkerKeldoran Outpost
Decree of JusticeCompulsive ResearchDesecration DemonDemonfireElephant GuideGoblin LegionnaireIcy ManipulatorKrosan Verge
Doomed TravellerControl MagicDiabolic TutorDwarven MinerElves of the Deep ShadowWarleader’s HelixIsochron ScepterMishra’s Factory
Eight-and-A-Half-TailsDeep AnalysisDoombladeEarthquakeFyndhorn ElvesBoros ReckonerIvory TowerReflecting Pool
Empyrial ArmorDivertDrain LifeFireboltGaea’s BlessingW/G :JuggernautTemple of False God
Eternal DragonDraining WhelkFuneral CharmFireslingerGenesisWatchwolfLoxodon WarhammerTerramorphic Expanse
Exalted AngelFact of FictionGatekeeper of MalakirFlame JavelinGhazban OgreMirari’s WakeMasticoreVolrath’s Stronghold
Faith’s FettersForbidGhastly DemiseFlametongue KavuGiant GrowthMystic EnforcerMind Stone
Glorious AnthemForce SpikeHatredForkHeartbeat of SpringU/B :Mirari
HumilityImpulseHymn to TourachGenju of the SpiresHunted WumpusPsychatogNevinrals Disk
Isamaru, Hound of KondaLegacy’s AlllureHypnotic SpecterGoblin RabblemasterImperious PerfectShadowmage InfiltratorPhyrexian Metamorph
Kami of the Ancient LawMan-O-WarJuzam DjinnGoblin RuinblasterKodama of the NorthUnderminePithing Needle
Knight of MeadowgrainMeloku, the Clouded MKokusho, the EveningHammer of BogardanKodama’s ReachU/R :Powder Keg
Knight of the White OrchidMemory LapseMakeshift MannequinHellriderKrosan GripFrenetic EfreetScroll Rack
Land TaxMental NoteMesmeric FiendIncinerateKrosan TuskerFire/IceSerrrated Arrows
Mageta the LionMerfolk LooterMutilateIronclaw OrcsMoment’s PeaceProphetic BoltSmokestack
Mana TitheMiscalculationNantuko ShadeJackal PupNaturalizeUG :Solemn Simulacrum
Oblivion RingMorphlingNekrataalKeldon MarauderOracle of Mul DayaTrygon PredatorSundering Titan
Order of the White ShieldMuddle the MixtureOrder of the Ebon HandMagma JetPhantom CentaurSimic Sky SwallowerSword of Fire and Ice
Orim’s ChantMulldrifterPack RatMizzium MortarPlow UnderGaea’s SkyfolkTangle Wire
OustNinja of the Deep HourPestilenceMogg FanaticRampant GrowthB/R :Thran Dynamo
Parallax WaveOppositionPhyrexian ArenaMogg War MarshallRavenous BalothBituminous BlastTriskelion
Pristine AngelOptPhyrexian ScutaPillageRiver BoaFalkenrath AristocratTumble Magnet
Promise of BunreiParallax TideProfane CommandPyrite SpellbombRofellos, Llanowar EBlightningWayfarer’s Bauble
Pulse of the FieldsPower SinkRavenous RatsPyrokinesisRude AwekeningB/G :Winter Orb
Sacred MesaRainbow EfreetRecurring NightmareReckless ChargeSaproling BurstPutrid Leech
Savannah LionRepulseRoyal AssassinRorix BladewingScryb RangerSpiritmonger
Seal of CleansingRiftwing CloudskateSarcomancySeal of FireStrangleroot GeistPernicious Deed
Seeker of the WayRushing RiverSinkholeShrine of Burning RageSylvan CaryatidR/G :
Serra AngelSerendib EfreetSkeletal ScryingSiege-Gang CommanderTooth and NailFires of Yavimaya
Silver KnightSnapSmotherStarstormTroll AsceticStormbind
Soltari PriestStandstillStuporStoke the FlamesVerdant ForceBurning-Tree Shaman
Story CircleStroke of GeniusTerrorStormbreath DragonVine TrellisOthers :
Valorous StanceThieving MagpieTombstalkerSulfurous BlastViridian ShamanSpectral Lynx
Voice of AllTradewind RiderTragic SlipUrza’s RageViridian ZealotFigure of Destiny
White KnightTrinket MageUndead GladiatorViashino SandstalkerWall of BlossomsAnurid Brushopper
Wing ShardsUphaevalUnmaskViolent EruptionWerebearLoxodon Hierarch
WorshipVesuvan ShapeshifterVampire NighthawkVolcanic HammerWhisperwood ElementalBant Charm
Yosei, the Morning StarVoidmage ProdigyVisara, the DreadfulWildfireWild MongrelLightning Angel
Waterfront BouncerWithered WretchWildfire EmissaryYavimaya ElderSprouting Thrinax
Esper Charm
Doran, the Siege Tower

For white and colorless it was hard to respect my boundaries, because for some reason the options were really slim.

Also, you could argue that some cards were not even played back then, or that some of my choices are still played. Still, I did the best I could to keep to the criteria.

Roar of the Wurm, Zuran Orb, Darksteel Colossus, Anger, Buried Alive, Astral Slide, Frogmite and such were all cards I wish I could’ve put in the Cube because they’re so awesome, but they just require too many enablers or too much synergy, and it’s impossible to have it all in just 360 cards. Sometimes there would technically be enough, but if someone in the Draft is also incidentally taking the few discard enablers, you’ll end up not playing your Roar of the Wurm too often.

Even though I like where my Has-been Cube idea took me, one of the primary goals ended not really working as intended. I want to be able to reconstruct every old archetype, and I doubt it is feasible in a Cube. From that realization comes my newest concept.

Gauntlet of History

We’re cutting the Draft portion, which is one of the most exciting part of Cube—but don’t leave yet.

U/G Madness, Affinity, Necropotence, Jund, Faeries, Astral Slide, and Pros-Bloom—how could I possibly get to play these decks the way they were?

I’ll build as many old Standard dominating Magic decks as possible—at least 8—and everyone will pick one at random to play 3 rounds.

I will still establish some rules to keep it somewhat fair, so that every deck has a chance.

There won’t be fundamentally broken decks. Affinity won’t have Skullclamp, and I’m not going to build Broken Jar—4 Tinker, 4 Memory Jar, and 4 Mana Vault in the same deck is just wrong.

The same goes for exceptionally terrible decks—whatever red deck that was playing Dwarven Trader will not be making it into the gauntlet. There were some Standard formats that were much less powerful than others…

The sideboards will be as versatile as possible, not as built. There won’t be 10 artifact removal in Affinity’s sideboard, yet, I’m also not going to play a card that the archetype has never ever played.

Finding the best lists will be quite the challenge, I’ll pick lists that Top 8’d high profile tournaments, likely the ones that look cleanest (i.e., no weird 1-ofs).

I’ll track the winning record of every deck and use that to adjust the gauntlet by either putting more sideboard cards in other decks against the winning strategy or by completely replacing it with another deck.

I listed a number of potential contenders above. Here’s a more extensive list by formats:

  • The Deck (Alpha-The Dark)
  • Necro (Fallen-Ice Age-Mirage)
  • Pros-Bloom (Mirage-5th)
  • Stompy, 4c Mono-Black, U/W/R Control, U/R Control (Ice Age-Mirage)
  • Mono-Red (Mirage-Tempest)
  • Wildfire Artifacts, Sped Red, Stompy (Tempest-Saga)
  • Accelerated Blue, Ponza, Stompy, Replenish, Bargain, Tinker (Saga-Masques)
  • R/G Fires (Masques-Invasion)
  • Psychatog, U/G Madness, Squirrel-Oppo, Trenches (Invasion-Odyssey)
  • Wake, Mono-Black Control, Astral Slide, Goblin Bidding (Odyssey-Onslaught)
  • Affinity (Onslaught-Mirrodin)
  • Tooth and Nail (Mirrodin-Kamigawa)
  • Solar Flare, Ghost Husk, Heartbeat, Zoo, U/R Tron, Owling Mine, Ghazi Glare, Gifts (Kamigawa-Ravnica)
  • U/R Dragonstorm (Ravnica-Time Spiral)
  • Reveillark, Quick’n’Toast, B/G Elves (Time Spiral-Lorwyn)
  • Faeries (Lorwyn-Alara)
  • Jund (Alara-Zendikar)
  • Cawblade (Post-Ban) (Zendikar-Scars)
  • Delver (Scars-Innistrad)
  • Aristocrats, Junk Rites, Bant Hexproof, U/W/R Flash (Innistrad-Return to Ravnica)
  • Mono-Black Devotion, Mono-Blue Devotion, U/W Control (Return to Ravnica-Theros)
  • Abzan (Theros-Khans of Tarkir)

Which 8 decks would you choose if you had to make my gauntlet? And if you could build one for every format, which 22 would they be?

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