There Can Be Only Ones

This is a guest post written by Glenn Jones, courtesy of his new blog. If you’d like to contribute to, contact evan dot erwin at starcitygames dot com.

So here’s my first post on one of my favorite hobbies: cube design.

I like to design different cubes for pure entertainment, although I rarely build them after designing them because the fun of the exercise was in the design. Plus, it’s a lot of work to put physical cubes together! Among the ones I’ve designed in the past are an all-creature cube, a Spirit-themed cube (think Kamigawa plus other interactions/Spirits throughout Magic), and a mono-blue cube (with artifacts of course).

Designing cubes with concrete goals about the games and strategies players can create is very interesting and difficult, often very similar to designing a completely different game from conventional Magic. I’d really wanted to explore some directions that vastly changed the power level of cards after my work with the Spirit cube, and decided my next project would be an all one-drops cube. I wanted it to be small, a cube designed for 2-4 players at most and really only built for Winston/Solomon drafting, two of my favorite formats to play idly.

The idea of a cube where Sol Ring isn’t even good was very alluring, and the idea of making cards like Flame Jab and Scythe Tiger awesome was really attractive to me. I built the cube once on my way to the Memphis Open, to get a feel for the ideas, and trimmed it down to about 270 cards: 90 cards too many. I decided to let it sit for a few weeks, and then come back at it. That’s what I did yesterday!

One odd rule I set myself was “no X spells,” because I didn’t want all the games to be about Fireball and Feral Hydra while so many other strategies got overshadowed, and because those cards don’t feel like one-drops. I decided kicker was fine, as all of those cards were actually built to be cast for one mana enough of the time. Although a little cheating, it makes Sol Ring and such stronger, and I wanted to justify including them while not breaking them.

Here’s the list:


1 Carnophage
1 Carrion Feeder
1 Circling Vultures
1 Death’s Shadow
1 Duskwalker
1 Entrails Feaster
1 Festering Goblin
1 Fume Spitter
1 Guul Draz Assassin
1 Guul Draz Vampire
1 Plagued Rusalka
1 Quag Vampires
1 Shadow Guildmage
1 Slithering Shade
1 Vampire Lacerator
1 Zulaport Enforcer

1 Genju of the Fens
1 Quest for the Gravelord
1 Sarcomancy

1 Bone Splinters
1 Darkblast
1 Deathmark
1 Disfigure
1 Executioner’s Capsule
1 Ghastly Demise
1 Midnight Charm
1 Vendetta

Card Manipulation
1 Bloodchief Ascension
1 Phyrexian Reclamation
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Reanimate
1 Unearth

You might notice the absence of some cards that seem good, like Inquisition of Kozilek, Duress, etc. These cards are deceptively weak in a format where everyone can dump their hands quickly. In fact, black is one of the strongest colors in the cube thanks to its strong creatures and awesome removal, but it is limited by an intense vulnerability to both artifacts and Genjus.


1 Drifter il-Dal
1 Enclave Cryptologist
1 Faerie Squadron
1 Kraken Hatchling
1 Skywatcher Adept

1 Genju of the Falls
1 Wind Zendikon

1 Blue Elemental Blast
1 Hydroblast
1 Mark of Eviction
1 Mind Harness
1 Pongify
1 Psychic Purge
1 Seal of Removal
1 Unsummon

Card Manipulation
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Brainstorm
1 Curiosity
1 Preordain
1 Shared Discovery
1 Dizzy Spell
1 Mystical Tutor

1 Annul
1 Dispel
1 Disrupt
1 Divert
1 Force Spike
1 Mental Misstep
1 Spell Pierce
1 Turn Aside

I’m kind of worried about blue. It’s definitely only a support color, but it offers one of the best cards in the format—Ancestral Recall—and some of the strongest solutions to the Genjus. As my gut tells me that the Genjus are really strong, blue is more attractive as a result if I’m right. I also gave blue the color hosers but didn’t give them to red, because being able to attack red that way increases blue’s power level, while red doesn’t need to be picking on the crippled color.


1 Akrasan Squire
1 Auriok Glaivemaster
1 Caravan Escort
1 Cenn’s Tactician
1 Devoted Caretaker
1 Elite Vanguard
1 Goldmeadow Harrier
1 Icatian Javelineers
1 Icatian Priest
1 Infantry Veteran
1 Isamaru, Hound of Konda
1 Kitesail Apprentice
1 Mother of Runes
1 Mystic Penitent
1 Order of the Stars
1 Savannah Lions
1 Student of Warfare
1 Weathered Wayfarer

1 Genju of the Fields
1 Hyena Umbra

1 Condemn
1 Dispeller’s Capsule
1 Harm’s Way
1 Kirtar’s Desire
1 Mana Tithe
1 Path to Exile
1 Sunlance
1 Swords to Plowshares

Card Manipulation
1 Argivian Find
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Land Tax
1 Steelshaper’s Gift

White has a definite “equipment matters” theme but also offers you the ability to kill basically anything. It’s great as a beatdown and control color. I thought about just running ten more white cards than every other color and making it a color multiple players had to fight over, but didn’t like how that dynamic would play in Winston draft.


1 Birds of Paradise
1 Elvish Lyrist
1 Elvish Scrapper
1 Fyndhorn Elves
1 Granger Guildmage
1 Joraga Warcaller
1 Jungle Lion
1 Llanowar Elves
1 Llanowar Mentor
1 Mtenda Lion
1 Mwonvuli Ooze
1 Nettle Sentinel
1 Nimble Mongoose
1 Noble Hierarch
1 Pouncing Jaguar
1 Quirion Ranger
1 Rogue Elephant
1 Scavenger Folk
1 Scute Mob
1 Scythe Tiger
1 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk

1 Genju of the Cedars
1 Rancor

1 Crumble
1 Hornet Sting
1 Nature’s Claim
1 Oxidize

Card Manipulation
1 Glimpse of Nature
1 Noxious Revival
1 Sylvan Tutor
1 Utopia Sprawl
1 Worldly Tutor

I like green. Robust creatures, a little mana-fixing, and a healthy amount of artifact destruction mean that green decks are going to be pretty playable. It was the easiest color to design, because I knew exactly what I wanted. You’ll note I didn’t include pump spells—I don’t think that creature trading is going to be very good in the format, and green’s creatures are already pretty solid. Most games will come down to jockeying for board advantage against opposing removal and equipment, which pump spells won’t really assist. I may be wrong, at which point we’ll revisit the issue starting with Mutagenic Growth.


1 Bloodfire Dwarf
1 Bloodhall Ooze
1 Dragonmaster Outcast
1 Frostling
1 Goblin Guide
1 Goblin Patrol
1 Gorilla Shaman
1 Grim Lavamancer
1 Kris Mage
1 Magus of the Scroll
1 Martyr of Ashes
1 Mogg Fanatic
1 Skitter of Lizards
1 Spikeshot Elder

1 Devastating Summons
1 Genju of the Spires

1 Crush
1 Overload
1 Burst Lightning
1 Chain Lightning
1 Death Spark
1 Firestorm
1 Flame Jab
1 Forked Bolt
1 Lava Dart
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Seal of Fire
1 Searing Touch
1 Shard Volley

Card Manipulation
1 Gamble

Red’s definitely got the best removal, but it’s not amazing at attacking and has no strong card manipulation available, relying on advantages gained by Death Spark, pingers, and the like. Firestorm is certainly one of the biggest bombs in the format however, and red is both really good and very dangerous. Green is likely to be the color that plays best against red, although black may have that honor thanks to Death’s Shadow and the ability to keep it around, not to mention the nigh-unbeatable Bloodchief Ascension.


1 Blazing Torch
1 Brittle Effigy
1 Cursed Scroll
1 Leonin Bola
1 Pithing Needle
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
1 Shuriken
1 Viridian Longbow

1 Horizon Spellbomb
1 Mana Vault
1 Sol Ring
1 Springleaf Drum
1 Wanderer’s Twig
1 Wayfarer’s Bauble

1 Basilisk Collar
1 Bonesplitter
1 Flayer Husk
1 Trusty Machete

Card Manipulation
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Skullclamp

These are just all awesome cards, although their value has changed from previous formats. The decks reliant on equipment and kicker creatures will consider Sol Ring and Mana Vault, while other decks will consider them unplayable. The Vault may wind up being bad enough to cut entirely, which will probably lead to Sylvok Lifestaff making it in. The fixers give players the option of splashing in powerful cards, although time will tell how viable fixing actually is in the format given the low land counts I expect most decks to run. Skullclamp and Cursed Scroll are certainly two of the very best cards in the format, but all of these are reasonable.


1 Figure of Destiny
1 Oona’s Gatewarden
1 Tattermunge Maniac
1 Wax/Wane

There wasn’t a playable U/W hybrid, and the R/B ones were all basically worse versions of existing black and red cards, so I choose to eschew them and just do the R/W instead. These are pretty basic choices, with Figure one of the best creatures and Wax/Wane one of the more versatile spells against the Genju.

I’ll hopefully be building this over the next few weeks, and I’d like to find some time to play with it leading up to and at the Invitational. I’m going to be working on an all-old face cube and an all-new face cube in the near future, but I’d love to hear any quirky ideas for cubes or see others that you guys have worked on. I know Alex Bertoncini has a fun combo cube and a tribal cube, and lots of players have built peasant cubes that are really gas.

Feel free to post here or tweet them to me, @SecludedGlenn on Twitter.

- Glenn Jones


3 Comment(s)

  1. Could you share your Spirit-themed cube list, please?
    I’m in the middle of very similar cube design project and currently exploring Kamigawa block, so I really want to see a different perspective.

    Thanks in advance.

    Wilhelm | May 13, 2011 | Reply

  2. I love this idea. I’m more of a traditionalist when it comes to cubing, but I bet this is fast to set up and easy to keep track of. I will definitely build one of these as a quick play variant to normal cubing. Couldn’t you find better artifacts though?

    And as for your U/W one drop…..Zealous Guardian is way better than people give him credit for. How many other one drops have flash? Seems like a fantastic surprise card.

    Kingofweasels | May 21, 2011 | Reply

  3. Interesting. One question, though: how many lands do you run in your decks in this cube?

    overkill_78 | Jul 12, 2011 | Reply

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