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Hmm. Sounds like fun.
I haven't played enough with as3 yet. But can't you do re-parenting of clips in as3?
If that's true, couldn't you set up some 'parents' for the 'depth layers' in a fixed z-order sequence and move child clips between them? I'm not sure if its possible, but I'd be keen to know if its a workable solution too.
Personally, I think the new depth system introduces more problems than it fixes.
One advantage in AS3, though, is that you can move a DisplayObject from one DisplayObjectContainer to another.
 Oops, GWD already mentioned this, so I'm basically re-iterating what he said [/edit]
So based on your setup, it might be helpful to make different container clips for each "layer" as you described it. Then you can simply move the rows into the different containers, and the containers are at different depths.
Hmm sounds worth a try...If I set up a new empty container for each and every cube slot that should serve to hold the depth open for the cubes that I could move into and out of the appropriate containers later. Will let you guys know how it works out ;)