Darksteele Cube – MoJhoSto Cube!

Monday, February 14th – The craziness of Magic Online’s MoJhoSto casual format is too good not to try in real life, with random creatures, equipments, and spells – so of course Thea tries to make it happen with physical cards!

If you play casual games on Magic Online (or just read a lot of Magic sites), you’ve probably heard about MoJhoSto. It’s a freeform Vanguard format
that builds on Momir Basic and makes it much, much wackier.

Instead of having just a Momir Vig avatar, you also use Jhoira of the Ghitu and Stonehewer Giant. Jhoira lets you play instants and sorceries at
random, and Stonehewer slaps a sword (or boots, or … mask) onto each of your token creatures. Compared to Momir Basic, MoJhoSto gets the action going
earlier — you want to make a creature on turn 1 to have a chance at Paradise Mantle — and the addition of spells means that games don’t tend to get as
bogged down.

MoJhoSto Cartoon!

There are several primers on the format, and
I’ll leave you to those if you want more detail about MoJhoSto proper, and get down to business — this week, I’m going to talk about porting MoJhoSto
into real life with the Cube.

Ever since I heard about Momir Basic, I’ve been thinking about trying to play it with cube cards. It’s not as practical to play with the real card pool
— you’d likely have to proxy each card, and the game would slow to a logistical grind. But with the Cube, you can easily have your options at hand.
MoJhoSto was even more appealing to me, because I guessed that the addition of sorceries and equipment would help to prevent the long creature stalls.
Meanwhile, my husband Justin was enjoying MoJhoSto so much online that I finally decided to take the plunge.

Right away, I knew I’d need to modify the rules a bit. I didn’t want to make creature tokens, so I decided that all creatures would be treated as
legendary — if you made one that was already on the board, they’d legend out. From there, it was a short jump to do the same for equipment. Equipment —
especially the Swords and Umezawa’s Jitte — are so broken that I could easily see them dominating games of MoJhoSto. I joked that at least with
Umezawa’s Jitte, you could just keep making three-drop creatures until you legended it out, and then we realized that would be a good thing for all

In our games, the equipment-legend rule came up many times, and I think it smoothed the games considerably. Without it, you’d spend a lot more time
going through sorceries and instants for answers.

The other rules choice was to keep Stonehewer Giant working the way that it functions online, rather than the way it’s printed.

Stonehewer Giant Avatar

It’s bugged online and only creates equipment with a converted mana cost less than the cost of the creature. I figured that you don’t actually
want to make equipment any earlier, though, and the main effect online — that tokens don’t create equipment — doesn’t matter in my cube since there are
no zero-cost equipments.

Onto the logistics! I generated a list from my Cube of creatures at each cost, then generated a list of sorceries, instants, and equipment at or less
than each cost. As I mentioned last week, I have a database for my cube cards, so this was pretty easy. If you don’t, it’s still not too bad as long as
you have a list sorted by converted mana cost. You can get a sorted list from deckstats.net.

The spreadsheet

Get all of those lists into a text editor that shows the line number, as above. You’ll want to have them all open while you play.

After that, I sorted my (physical) cube by mana cost for creatures, instants and sorceries, and equipment. The whole set-up looks like this:

The setup

You don’t absolutely need to get the instants and sorceries out, since they won’t be in play. I sorted them anyway in case we wanted to check a
wording. Everything that can be played in the game is in piles like this, and everything else (lands, enchantments, planeswalkers, and other artifacts)
is put away.

The cards, sorted

The decks are made up of basic lands — just like in Momir Basic. I choose twelve of each type to keep things simple, but you could make strategic
choices as well. It’s not uncommon online to run extra mountains and swamps to fuel activated abilities, but you’d probably want to do the math on your
Cube before altering the land count.

At this point, you could get (mildly) fancy with a program that would take the choice of avatar and mana cost as an input, and give you your results.
I’ll probably do that the next time I cube MoJhoSto…. but for this trial run, I just used random.org.

For example, suppose it’s my turn 2 and I want to make a creature. I’d go through the normal game play actions — tap my lands, discard a card — and
then consult the list of two-drop creatures and one-drop equipment to see how long the lists are. I see that I need to generate a number between 1 and
59 for the creature, and between 1 and 4 for the equipment. I get my numbers — let’s say 53 and 4, respectively — and look them up in the lists. I get
a Vampire Hexmage wearing a Skullclamp (albeit briefly), and that’s my turn.

Before playing a game, my guess was that the combination of cube-quality creatures, bomby equipment, and no equip cost would mean that you’d rarely
Jhoira unless you were behind on board. In fact, there are some variations at the end of this article that are aimed at lessening the impact of

A Game Walkthrough

The modifiers for all three avatars mean that you start with nine cards and nineteen life. Justin wins the die roll and opens with Twinblade Slasher. I
play a Wild Nacatl (off a swamp, of course) and it’s back to Justin. In a skillful maneuver, he winds up with Fireslinger and Basilisk Collar. Gulp.

On my turn, I make a Stormfront Pegasus and Darksteel Axe, and swing for two with the Wild Nacatl.

On his turn, Justin chooses “sorcery” and gets Upheaval, Slave of Bolas, and Volcanic Hammer. He chooses Slave of Bolas on the Pegasus to attack for

I Momir out a Stillmoon Cavalier, but Justin shoots it in response to the equipment trigger, and my equipment turns out to be another Darksteel Axe,
leaving me with only a Wild Nacatl in play.

Justin plays a Thrun, the Last Troll (a Cube debut for us!) and Darksteel Axe. I play a sorcery, and Justin uses the Fireslinger to shoot the Wild
Nacatl in response. I get Black Sun’s Zenith, Night’s Whisper, and Plow Under — a pretty underwhelming selection. I chose Plow Under and take Justin
off green and red mana, and then play a Birds of Paradise to close out my turn.

It’s possible that wasn’t correct, since Justin can kill any one-mana creature I play. My reasoning was that I might end up with a must-answer threat
like Mother of Runes or Grim Lavamancer that would allow me to resolve a bigger creature the next turn, but it’s possible I should have saved the card.

Justin pings the Birds and attacks me down to seven with Thrun, the Last Troll and Twinblade Slasher, then makes an Elite Vanguard to keep
regeneration/pump mana open.

I have to find an answer, so I sorcery and choose between Pyroclasm, Vindicate, and Rift Bolt. I choose Pyroclasm, but Justin is able to pump the
Twinblade Slasher so that only the Elite Vanguard and the Fireslinger die. The board is still lethal, so I make a two drop — Rofellos, Llanowar
Emissary — and Bonesplitter. For once, I was hoping for anything but Skullclamp!

Justin Jhoiras for a sorcery, hoping to win the game this turn with spot removal. He gets my dream draw of Barter in Blood, Wrath of God, and Bribery,
and plays nothing. He swings with just the Twinblade Slasher and I trade. That might not have been correct — I could have just taken one and had a
creature left on the board. My concern was that some removal (like Innocent Blood) would be more effective if I made the trade.

On my turn, I play Hystrodon and equip it with Umezawa’s Jitte (finally!). My happiness is short-lived as Justin plays Pianna, Nomad Captain and an
Umezawa’s Jitte as well. He attacks with the Troll and I go to one. My logic there is that Hystrodon might be useful if I can manage a Sword of…
anything, really.

I play Steel Hellkite and another Umezawa’s Jitte. Steel Hellkite is a fantastic creature for me right now, but Justin’s Basilisk Collar and Pianna and
six-power troll mean that I have to block both on my next turn to stay alive. I get two counters on the Jitte, but one caveat is that because you don’t
get a chance to respond to equipment coming into play, you’re forced to use the counter with that trigger on the stack or risk losing them to another

As Justin plays a two-drop next, that effect doesn’t matter right away. He gets a Hearth Kami for a second or two and a Skullclamp, and passes the
turn. I play Consecrated Sphinx and Basilisk Collar (legending out Justin’s Collar) and pass it back. My theory was that a six-drop would be best at
helping me stall, either through life gain (Exalted Angel, Kokusho) or multiple bodies (Wurmcoil Engine, Grave Titan).

Justin gets a Wilt-Leaf Liege (with Skullclamp), which takes the Troll out of lethal damage range in combat with the Sphinx. I gain four off the Jitte
in response, and then chump with the Sphinx.

I double-sorcery on my turn, choosing Slave of Bolas (apparently the most popular sorcery) and then Upheaval. Unfortunately for me, I had already
played a land, so I could only use a floating mana to make a one-drop. I passed the turn with Jungle Lion and no lands.

Justin makes the slightly better Isamaru, Hound of Konda, and passes it back. I attack for two and then get Student of Warfare, with no plains. Justin
is up a land and makes a Fledgling Djinn and Skullclamp, then attacks with Isamaru. I know I won’t be leveling the Student any time soon, so I chump.

All I can do on my turn is play a two-drop, but I get pretty lucky with Mistral Charger and Basilisk Collar— only 10% of the cube two-drops have
flying. Unfortunately, Justin answers with the equally pitch-perfect Viridian Shaman into Bonesplitter, destroying my Basilisk Collar. He attacks with
Isamaru and the Djinn, and I trade the Pegasus.

Either of Justin’s creatures is lethal now, and my poor Jungle Lion is no help. There are few three-drop creatures that do the job, but sorceries give
me more chances. I hit Pillage, Earthquake, Stupor — and that’s game. Darn you, X-spells!

While this game was never particularly close, it had some moments that could have gone either way, and a few interesting interactions due to the rules
we set up.

One realization I came to while playing is that the Cube probably has a comparatively high number of counterspells compared to the game as a whole. The
reason I think that is that whole categories of instants aren’t represented in the Cube — life-gain, direct damage only to players, and most
stat-altering effects, both black and green. Therefore, the ones that are in those categories should be at a higher concentration. That makes me think
that countering spells as a strategy might be more viable here, probably to protect a dominant board position.

Another thing that came up while playing is that you’ll sometimes choose not to make a creature to protect your own Sword or Jitte. You really just
can’t make up a format where those aren’t the best.


Here are some variations that I thought about, but haven’t tried.

  • You could run your cube nonbasics
    (probably interspersed with basics unless you have a huge land section). The problem there is that lands are notoriously difficult to
    answer, and certain answers like Faith’s Fetters and Pithing Needle aren’t in the pool. I decided against this one, but it would definitely make it
    feel more Cube-like.
  • You could dial down the dominance of equipment
    . I’ve thought of several ways to do that, and I’m sure you’ll think of others. One is to only create an equipment sometimes, probably by rolling a
    die. I think that might end up being too swingy, but for some it might be the right level of chaos.
  • Change the threshold for making equipment
    . This is another way to get the same effect as #2; for example, you could only make equipment that cost less than half the converted mana cost of
    the creature. In that case, you wouldn’t start making Skullclamps until turn 3, and Sword of Fire and Ices until turn 7. That doesn’t stop the
    equipment from being bomby, but it would slow the game down a bit. I’ll probably try this one out the next time I MoJhoSto.
  • Make the equipment come into play unequipped
    . This option’s there if you really want to nerf equipment. This is another variation I’ll likely try. It has a poor interaction with shroud
    creatures — but other than that, the tension of having to take a turn to equip here and there is a good one.
  • Make equipment function like an aura, and have it go away when the creature does
    . I think this would work as well — the equipment still outclasses an actual aura since it’s more difficult to kill a creature in response in this
  • Alter Stonehewer Giant’s ability so that it can make any non-creature permanent, rather than just equipment
    . I haven’t tried this one, but it seems like a reasonable way to get enchantments and planeswalkers into the game, and to dilute the amount of
    equipment once again.

I hope you enjoyed this — I had a lot of fun making it happen. Let me know if you try it, or if you play another variant Cube format.