I've always had a soft spot for Magic cards that reference their own card name. It's cool to embrace the obvious design that comes with up to four copies of a single card being playable in most kinds of decks and formats.
Sadly, the Commander rules are very strict about keeping a single copy of a given card (few exceptions exist) in your deck, which has relegated most of these designs to the bowling gutter of Magic history.
There are some pretty famous ones, but the one I most intuitively think of is this one:
It's my nickname for cards that reference or enable other copies of themselves. They're usually commons or uncommons that end up in draft chaff piles, and I always feel sorry for them, because they're a lot cooler than they are competitive, by and large.
Well, over the years, cards like these just kept getting printed. New versions, new designs, new angles. I could only see so many of these before falling into the deep end.
It finally hit me like an attacking Squadron Hawk.
What if you only played with these cards? What would it be like to draft such a set? How would it change signals and strategy? How would it change everything?!
I find Magic experiments like this very engaging, so I went to work on thinking of all the ways one could contemplate...
The Kindle Cube!
The first thing to do is work out the different kinds of these cards that exist and see what's on offer. There are way more of these than anyone will remember on their own, as many are not cards that get swept up in the vortex of popular card conversations, so I won't include everything that's reasonably viable for the project.
I'll begin with what I'll call the classic creature template. When this card enters the battlefield, go get more of them. This is the usual Squadron Hawk variety we all know and love.
While these are a great starting point, I don't think they're necessarily universally needed. Many of them are going to play like weaker versions of the others, so there will be some experimentation required to see what color needs what.
Another version of the cards we're looking at is a lot like the above cards but with a little something different or extra involved in getting your extra copies:
The trade off is that you get more power in exchange for not getting all your copies at once. These make for nice variations, though because so many of the cards in this style are common or uncommon, the rares may necessarily create immediate balance issues. Cards like Elvish Clancaller and Growth-Chamber Guardian may be too much for the average army to keep up with.
There are some creatures that don't care about finding other copies of themselves in terms of their abilities but that reward you for having as many as possible if you can make it happen by other means. I think these are worthy of consideration as well:
If you mix these kinds of designs with more interesting abilities, you get more strong contenders for inclusion:
As far as creatures go, there's no shortage of possibilities in this space. Many of them will snowball during "live the dream" scenarios, so we have to find a way to offset all this exponential creature power with equal parts answers.
This forgotten design from Morningtide has no shot in the singleton regime of our Commander-infused Magic world; however, in a Cube like this? Yowza.
Not all Kindle-inspired designs were from the era of Kindle itself. Coming much later, this removal spell may not have aged well with the times, but it'll be right at home picking off creature after creature in this format.
As much as I've always found these to be a ridiculous design, this may be the one Magic context in which I'd be willing to forgive them. Not all the signals in this Cube need be copies of the same card! Sometimes if you see two different cards that just happen to love each other, that's just as good!
These types of cards don't just make creatures and kill them, either; there's cards to be drawn, people!
Blue could probably be supported as a strategy just off these cards. The good news is, it doesn't have to be. Behind all the obvious inclusions and considerations for The Kindle Cube are a host of cards that fit the bill well and are absolutely going to turn this format even further on its goofy head.
Look at these crazies:
Basically, every card in this Cube has to be dialed in correctly to get desirable outcomes for all the cards included. Some of those numbers are going to be really, really hard to find. Mirror-Mad Phantasm, for instance, could be entirely too good for this Cube or not worth having a single copy; it just depends on what combos emerge. I suspect this will be one of the first pieces to keep an eye on in terms of causing unforeseen combos and strategies.
He's mad, I tell you!
In any engaging Magic challenge it's important to have an opportunity to "live the dream." Putting four or so Yidaro in the Cube should ensure a gold trophy for someone someday. Some other good "dream win" candidates might be these:
So, we've got our gimmick, we've got great opportunities for new ways to do Magic strategy, we've got a lot of fun at the ready. But what about the players who have the most fun by ruining the fun of others? Shouldn't the haters get some tools, based on what we're doing?
This is obviously too hateful, right? Even just a single copy? ...Right? (You can't see me, but I'm getting an evil look in my eyes.)
One thing I always felt kind of lame about was when cards like these were templated to absolutely crush a giant swath of things, but in practice, they usually just hit one problematic target. Not in this Cube, pal! This is a Cube where you can expect a half dozen Charmed Strays to go missing out of nowhere. Reliably.
What's old is new again (but probably still busted). I don't know what this will do, but I'm going to give someone about twelve copies to find out for me.
I love any Cube that goes this far. This may be the first Cube I've built that goes too far. Is that even possible?
No! It isn't!
I want more Kindle Cube! More! Now!
Yes! Again! More!
Weird sideboard tech, too?! I love it! More! Take it up another notch!
Look at these! They fit too! Take it further! More! More!
Okay, I think we went too far.
The Indestructible Danny West