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 47 Blue 48 Black 48 Red 48 Green 47 Multicolor 40 Colorless 42 Land 40
Akroma, Angel of Wrath Aetherling Black Knight Arc Trail Acidic Slime W/U : 10 Signets 10 Bounce Lands
Akroma’s Vengeance Aquamoeba Blood Artist Arc-Slogger Arrogant Wurm Absorb Ankh of Mishra 5 Mirage Fetch
Angel of Serenity Arcanis the Omnipotent Bone Shredder Balduvian Horde Avacyn’s Pilgrim Court Hussar Black Vise 5 Shard Tri Lands
Armageddon Augur of Bolas Carnophage Ball Lightning Avenger of Zendikar Dismantling Blow Chimeric Idol 5 Invasion Tap Lands
Baneslayer Angel Boomerang Chainer’s Edict Blistering Firecat Basking Rootwalla W/B : Coalition Relic 5 Vivid Lands
Blinding Angel Capsize Contagion Bogardan Hellkite Blastoderm Gerrard’s Verdict Cursed Scroll Barbarian Ring
Brimaz, King of Oreskos Careful Consideration Dark Banishing Bonfire of the Damned Call of the Herd Tidehollow Sculler Duplicant City of Brass
Cloudgoat Ranger Circular Logic Dark Ritual Chandra’s Phoenix Civic Wayfinder Mortify Fellwar Stone Dust Bowl
Condemn Cloud of Faeries Death Cloud Char Deranged Hermit W/R : Hangarback Walker Keldoran Outpost
Decree of Justice Compulsive Research Desecration Demon Demonfire Elephant Guide Goblin Legionnaire Icy Manipulator Krosan Verge
Doomed Traveller Control Magic Diabolic Tutor Dwarven Miner Elves of the Deep Shadow Warleader’s Helix Isochron Scepter Mishra’s Factory
Eight-and-A-Half-Tails Deep Analysis Doomblade Earthquake Fyndhorn Elves Boros Reckoner Ivory Tower Reflecting Pool
Empyrial Armor Divert Drain Life Firebolt Gaea’s Blessing W/G : Juggernaut Temple of False God
Eternal Dragon Draining Whelk Funeral Charm Fireslinger Genesis Watchwolf Loxodon Warhammer Terramorphic Expanse
Exalted Angel Fact of Fiction Gatekeeper of Malakir Flame Javelin Ghazban Ogre Mirari’s Wake Masticore Volrath’s Stronghold
Faith’s Fetters Forbid Ghastly Demise Flametongue Kavu Giant Growth Mystic Enforcer Mind Stone
Glorious Anthem Force Spike Hatred Fork Heartbeat of Spring U/B : Mirari
Humility Impulse Hymn to Tourach Genju of the Spires Hunted Wumpus Psychatog Nevinrals Disk
Isamaru, Hound of Konda Legacy’s Alllure Hypnotic Specter Goblin Rabblemaster Imperious Perfect Shadowmage Infiltrator Phyrexian Metamorph
Kami of the Ancient Law Man-O-War Juzam Djinn Goblin Ruinblaster Kodama of the North Undermine Pithing Needle
Knight of Meadowgrain Meloku, the Clouded M Kokusho, the Evening Hammer of Bogardan Kodama’s Reach U/R : Powder Keg
Knight of the White Orchid Memory Lapse Makeshift Mannequin Hellrider Krosan Grip Frenetic Efreet Scroll Rack
Land Tax Mental Note Mesmeric Fiend Incinerate Krosan Tusker Fire/Ice Serrrated Arrows
Mageta the Lion Merfolk Looter Mutilate Ironclaw Orcs Moment’s Peace Prophetic Bolt Smokestack
Mana Tithe Miscalculation Nantuko Shade Jackal Pup Naturalize UG : Solemn Simulacrum
Oblivion Ring Morphling Nekrataal Keldon Marauder Oracle of Mul Daya Trygon Predator Sundering Titan
Order of the White Shield Muddle the Mixture Order of the Ebon Hand Magma Jet Phantom Centaur Simic Sky Swallower Sword of Fire and Ice
Orim’s Chant Mulldrifter Pack Rat Mizzium Mortar Plow Under Gaea’s Skyfolk Tangle Wire
Oust Ninja of the Deep Hour Pestilence Mogg Fanatic Rampant Growth B/R : Thran Dynamo
Parallax Wave Opposition Phyrexian Arena Mogg War Marshall Ravenous Baloth Bituminous Blast Triskelion
Pristine Angel Opt Phyrexian Scuta Pillage River Boa Falkenrath Aristocrat Tumble Magnet
Promise of Bunrei Parallax Tide Profane Command Pyrite Spellbomb Rofellos, Llanowar E Blightning Wayfarer’s Bauble
Pulse of the Fields Power Sink Ravenous Rats Pyrokinesis Rude Awekening B/G : Winter Orb
Sacred Mesa Rainbow Efreet Recurring Nightmare Reckless Charge Saproling Burst Putrid Leech
Savannah Lion Repulse Royal Assassin Rorix Bladewing Scryb Ranger Spiritmonger
Seal of Cleansing Riftwing Cloudskate Sarcomancy Seal of Fire Strangleroot Geist Pernicious Deed
Seeker of the Way Rushing River Sinkhole Shrine of Burning Rage Sylvan Caryatid R/G :
Serra Angel Serendib Efreet Skeletal Scrying Siege-Gang Commander Tooth and Nail Fires of Yavimaya
Silver Knight Snap Smother Starstorm Troll Ascetic Stormbind
Soltari Priest Standstill Stupor Stoke the Flames Verdant Force Burning-Tree Shaman
Story Circle Stroke of Genius Terror Stormbreath Dragon Vine Trellis Others :
Valorous Stance Thieving Magpie Tombstalker Sulfurous Blast Viridian Shaman Spectral Lynx
Voice of All Tradewind Rider Tragic Slip Urza’s Rage Viridian Zealot Figure of Destiny
White Knight Trinket Mage Undead Gladiator Viashino Sandstalker Wall of Blossoms Anurid Brushopper
Wing Shards Uphaeval Unmask Violent Eruption Werebear Loxodon Hierarch
Worship Vesuvan Shapeshifter Vampire Nighthawk Volcanic Hammer Whisperwood Elemental Bant Charm
Yosei, the Morning Star Voidmage Prodigy Visara, the Dreadful Wildfire Wild Mongrel Lightning Angel
Waterfront Bouncer Withered Wretch Wildfire Emissary Yavimaya Elder Sprouting 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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