Army of One

Adam KleshCommunity, Design

Hi, I’m Adam, and I’ve been playing Magic for over twenty years. I also enjoy creating things, and I’ve spent much of my spare time designing custom cards, mechanics, and sets. I also love to create new ways to play Magic and building new and exciting decks for unexplored formats. I enjoy winning, of course, but I prefer to win in creative ways.

The format I’d like to talk about today is one I created myself. It started as a thought experiment: What if the rule of four didn’t exist, and you could play as many copies of a given card as you wanted? What if every creature in your deck was the same creature? What would be the best deck?

I call this format Army of One. You play with decks of 60 cards, 20 of which are copies of a single creature card. The other two-thirds of your deck is singleton – you may have as many basic lands as you’d like, but you can only add single copies of nonbasic lands or spells. Most importantly, your Army of One is the only creature card you can include in your deck; the rest of your deck must be made up of lands and non-creature spells.

Some caveats:

  1. Your deck can only create tokens if your Army of One creates them. For example, you could only use Mobilization if your Army of One were Captain of the Watch (or another creature that makes 1/1 white Soldier tokens).
  2. Use Commander rules for color identity. If your creature is only green, you can only use other green cards or colorless cards.
  3. Any cards that let you name a specific creature card (Runed Halo, Gideon’s Intervention, Nevermore, etc.) and cards that let you exile all cards of a specific name (Counterbore, Surgical Extraction, etc.) are banned. This includes creatures. (You can’t use Meddling Mage as your Army of One.)
  4. You can use a legendary creature, if you’d like, but all rules governing the use of legendary creatures are still in effect here.
  5. Thrumming Stone is banned. It’s just way too good in this format.
  6. The ban list is still in its infancy, and I’ll need to do plenty of playtesting to get it right. Use your noggin. If a card feels broken, bring it up with your group, and let me know, too! (

That’s it! Building a deck for this format is an interesting thought experiment in itself. You need to think about what other people might be playing, and try to work around that. You could even build a deck like this:

20 Goblin Guide
18 Mountain
22 Assorted burn spells

This is one of the simplest ways to build. Just jam a deck full of one-drops and basic lands! You should usually have a creature on turn one, two more on turn two, and two or three on turn three. Goblin Guide is really strong here, as well.

Keep in mind that a deck like that is pretty easy to upend. Board wipes will probably be common in this format, and anything that can kill your creatures early can be troublesome. If you’re more of a control player, you have some other options.

How about this?

20 Dinrova Horror
1 Conjurer’s Closet
1 Displace
1 Dimir Signet
1 Ghostly Flicker
1 Illusionist’s Strategem
1 Living Death
1 Mana Leak
1 Mimic Vat
1 Flaying Tendrils
1 Damnation
1 Mox Diamond
1 Chrome Mox
1 Crux of Fate
1 Sickening Shoal
1 Soul Foundry
1 Whelming Wave
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Counterspell
1 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Underground Sea
10 Swamp
10 Island

Dinrova Horror is a strong card.  It costs six mana, but if you can stay alive until you can start casting them one after another, you should be in pretty good shape. This deck really takes advantage of its Army of One by abusing its enter the battlefield effect.

Of course, you could always just go for the combo kill. Magus of the Coffers works well with Umbral Mantle to give you infinite mana once you get six Swamps. I’ve loaded the deck up with board wipes and card draw to get to the combo, and then a few ways to spend all that mana to kill your opponent in one shot.

20 Magus of the Coffers
1 Umbral Mantle
1 Beseech the Queen
1 Jet Medallion
1 Planar Portal
1 Expedition Map
1 Wayfarer’s Bauble
1 Mutilate
1 Damnation
1 Ambition’s Cost
1 Damnable Pact
1 Consume Spirit
1 Night’s Whisper
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Drain Life
1 Read the Bones
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Cabal Coffers
23 Swamp


I got to play a few games with these decks, and I think there’s potential in this format to create something really strong. I’d like to thank @wobbles on Twitter for playtesting with me this week and giving me some good ideas.

If you have any sweet Army of One ideas, hit me up on Magic Online (MadOlaf), Twitter (@madolaf), or via email ( Let me know if you’d like to playtest your deck, or if you’ve created a new format of your own! I’m always up for a good conversation about Magic design.

Header design: Justin Treadway
Header art: “Magus of the Coffers” by Don Hazeltine